#3 – What do I call myself?

September 25, 2010

#3: What do I call myself?

Pete Masterson advised I pick a publisher name, one I’d be doing business as (DBA) since my intention was to have a commercial publishing firm do the actual hands-on printing and distribution work. This need was unexpected, but, I understand is relatively standard. Fortunately I’d learned of the need before my visit to the Livermore library. The Bowker volumes there offered a mind-boggling record of publishers whether or not a DBA firm. Easy enough so far, right?

Pete advised I not use the DBA name I’d used in my earlier consulting work. Also recommended I not use my actual name as part of the DBA name selected. After a few days trying to imagine something catchy, and without noticeable success, I narrowed the list of potential DBA names to about 50. The Bowker listing search cut that number to about twelve. My wife cut it down to 5. The ones we really found attractive were either already in use or had negative regional implications. A coin flip selected “Alamo Hills Press.” It’s now been approved and filed by the Contra Costa County registry as a legitimate (and taxable, I find) doing-business-as (fictitious) name.

#2 – Is my proposed title unique?

September 20, 2010

The self-publishing journey involved exploring relatively unknown realms and issues.  Two key element of my story needed to be resolved.  The first, was my intended title unique, or would I run the risk of controversy with some author who had chosen the same title?  Thanks to the multiple search engines available on the web, that search took the better part of a day. It turned out my title was unique so far as the web was concerned.  There were numerous references to “Dangerous Waters” but “In Dangerous Waters” had apparently not been claimed before.

The second stage of the same search involved searching Bowker’s international registry “Books in Print.”  “Just check the library.  They all have copies,” was the advice received from friends.  Not so, in our area at least.  Only the main library in downtown San Francisco, and the new library in Livermore were listed as having copies.  Livermore was closer so problem solved. A simple search of the Bowker collection confirmed that no other author or publisher had duplicated my proposed title as of the 2008 edition, the latest published.

Clueless in Moraga

September 19, 2010

Clueless in Moraga

It’s official.  There’s no discussion.  I should be on display in the Smithsonian next to the dinosaur exhibit.

While I watched my 15-inch deep television with a slot for videotape, I made a list of electronic gizmos advertised, gizmos I don’t understand.  We still get TV ads.  Bruce has not figured out how to install the DVR thingy so we can skip ads.

Droid – Short for “android,” but I guess not.

Twitter – Light laughter.

MARCUS PSP – No idea what it is, but it costs only $9.99.

Blackberry – Text messaging and phone combination.

Portable Play Station – In my opinion, a shopping bag full construction paper, scissors, and paste.

I tried “Making My Own Web Page in One Evening” as promised by the GoDaddy domain company.  Now I have a domain that says I am a dog trainer, not an author.  I definitely did something wrong.

Then there is our new toaster oven, bristling with knobs and dials.  The instruction booklet is as thick as a People magazine.  All I want to do is make toast.  So far, I’ve converted two slices of bread into charcoal.  I gave up on the third slice and ate it barely warm.  A new downer in my life – Defeated By Toaster.

Maybe Bruce and I can share the same Smithsonian display space.  He can’t figure out the DVR instructions and I cannot figure out anything else.

My self-publishing journey – step 1

September 16, 2010

Since my last posting you probably wondered if I’d forgotten all of you.  Not so.

Earlier in the Spring I announced my intention to end the fruitless search for an agent for my novel “In Dangerous Waters.”  The novel is complete.  I think it’s a good story, and most of my critique group seem to agree.

Self-publishing (dealt with in several terms, I find) has become increasingly popular, even in the case of some big name authors.  I took a short course on the topic and did some reading.  If others can do that, why can’t I?  I can, and will.  Or more directly, as I post this, I have – begun the steps, that is.  I’m not “published” yet but soon will be.  I’d like to share some of that excursion with you.

Since the BLOG provides a convenient path to tell you of my experiences, I plan to post several times, usually as relevant events occur in the self-publishing process as I experience them.  I welcome your questions on any related issue.

For starters, let’s look at my first active step.  The class and reading proved some background, a place to pick up some of the terminology and an overall understanding of how the self-publishing process compared with the tradition path.  They also convinced me I needed experienced help if I hoped for a book in hand, and eventually available in e-book format as well.

A member of the CWC Mt. Diablo Branch, through the “Back Fence”, recommended I contact Pete Masterson, himself a published author, who specializes in formatting content for authors as well as managing the entire process from raw draft to book in hand.  Pete is well-regarded and past president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (that may not be the exact title.) Pete and I hit if off right away with a phone call and a lengthy discussion.  He appeared pleased I’d done much of my homework, would be a cooperative client, and had a good idea of what was ahead of me, but simply needed some experienced help.

So we began.

A Journey Down Mount Everest

September 12, 2010

As I was walking up a steep hill this morning,  it occurred to me that writing a book is like climbing a mountain.  You huff and puff to the peak, nurturing your baby into something you can be proud of, and all the while you think, by the time I get to the top my baby will have grown into a complete novel, and it will be a quick jaunt downhill.  But when you get to the top and witness the sheer precipitous slope on the far side,  you realize that getting your manuscript published is going to be no easy feat.  This leg of the journey is likely to be even slower and scarier.  What if you fall?  What if you twist your ankle?  Who will take care of your baby then?  And, of course, many agents and publishers will only consider your work if you don’t do multiple submissions, so you most likely will have to take one step at a time.   Sometimes I feel like I’ve undertaken a long and arduous journey down the tallest peak of Mount Everest.  Anyone got a sled?

He Wore, She Wore…How to Use Clothing Choices to Intrigue Your Readers

September 6, 2010

I am not now, nor will ever be, one of those people who would watch the Academy Awards  just to see what the stars are wearing.  Nor would I flip to an article written by the “fashion police” entitled Best and Worst Dressed.  So it shouldn’t be too surprising that when reading a novel and I come across either variation of “he wore” or “she wore,” the  prepare to  skim function of my brain kicks into overdrive.  However, there are other times when I will actually be intrigued by clothing choices.  This occurs when the way a person is dressed informs either the character ‘s predicament or their personality.  In other words, their appearance is relevant to the plot or contributes to character development. 

In the excerpt below from my young adult novel, BETWEEN SHADOW’S EYES, I intentionally used clothing and description to create an impression that there is something a bit odd about the character. (You will note I did not use the passive words such as “he wore” or “she wore).”

A flowing black-and-tan sari had replaced her “Save the Redwoods!” T-shirt and khaki pants.  She, well, she floated toward me.  That was the best description I could come up with for her smooth gait.  Her chin swept side to side as she approached my car as if her head was loose about her neck.  Something about the combination of her mannerisms and her physical appearance set my nerves on edge.  With that pale skin and wispy blonde hair, she could have been a ghost herself. 

Here are a few other examples where clothing descriptions would speak volumes about the plot or character:

A young girl awakes with sharp objects poking into her scalp.  She has slept all night in her dad’s old fishing hat that is littered with destination pins…clues to her father’s past.  (Intrigued?)

A young sergeant shows up to a military hearing in a tank top and holey jeans.  (Is this guy in trouble or what?)

A prom queen has discovered what the girl she beat out in the contest is wearing to the big event and has selected the exact same outfit to wear.  (Don’t you hate her already?)

The clothing choices in the above scenarios are not description for the sake of painting a picture.  These examples provide insight into the storyline and the character’s mental state.  The girl who wears an uncomfortable hat to bed is probably distraught if she is willing to inflict pain to keep his belongings close to her.  Why?  Has her mother just informed her that the man she presumed to be her father was actually her step-dad when her mother presented her with this hat now deceased biological father ?  If you are in trouble in the military, do you really want to piss off your commanding officers by thwarting a time-honored dress code?  What kind of person who’s already won an honorary position thumbs her nose at her competition in such a vindictive manner?  I want to read on and find out.  Do you?


My Greatest Weakness Happens to Be the Worst Writing Flaw

September 1, 2010

I have the worst possible weakness for a writer. I have a hard time with beginnings. It’s not writer’s block. In fact, I have no problems launching any new endeavor ___ whether it is a short story, blog or a chapter in a novel. I usually know exactly what needs to happen to carry the plot forward, I am solidly grounded in my character’s point of view, and as you turn the last page there will be a nice tidy arc all present and accounted for. This is true for short stories, chapters and novels. Endings are my forte.
The issue is that my opening paragraphs are, well, lame. I am not exaggerating when I say I have rewritten the opening chapters of novels hundreds of times and it still isn’t stellar. Since the publishing world is what it is and agents and editors only want to see the first few pages of a manuscript, I’m always getting a late start out of the gate. I don’t blame these discerning readers. When a potential customer is leafing through the book, they will do the same thing. These would-be book purchasers scan the first few paragraphs and if they like what they see, they are more likely to travel to the cash register or click the “buy” button on their computer.
No one wants to flip to the end of the novel and have the ending ruined. But how many times have you read a book only to see the conclusion (if there even is one) meander into the ozone? I despise lousy endings and I resent that writer’s get away with it because endings aren’t held to the same standards as beginnings. If I were an agent, my submission process would require the author to provide both the opening pages and the last page. True, you might not be able to tell if the final scene will give you warm and fuzzy satisfaction, but I bet you could get a better idea if the writer is made of the right stuff. You’d also circumvent a lot of “looky-loo” submissions from people who haven’t yet finished their book and are prematurely shopping their novel.