Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The most exciting news since the Tomato was found to be edible.

Among the myriad of eZines I receive daily one arrived in my in-box that piqued my interest. One link lead to another until finally I discovered a free program that will convert text that you have written and let you read it on almost any ereader. I also discovered another free program called Kindle for the PC.

My mind went into full overload when I thought of the possibility that I could download the free Kindle and the text converter program and then read my book on the Kindle.

Therefore, I did exactly that. Here is how I did it.

Click on the Kindle for the PC link. This brings you to an Amazon page offering a free download. Download the free program and after it has completed open it up. I saved it to my desktop. Next click on this link, Calibre for Windows and download the free program. Set this up on your desktop.

The Kindle for PC program is strait forward. You can Google free novels you want to read. Keep the program closed for now. Open the Calibre for Windows program.

• The first thing you want to do is to convert your written text into HTML, PDF or TXT document format. (If you use Word 7, then saved the file as a WEB Page. Word 2003 will save it as an HTML page.)
• After converting my file to HTML, I saved it to my desktop.
• Using my clicker, I dragged the file on top of the Calibre icon. The Calibre program opened it and added it to the program.
• Once the document is added click it then click the Convert eBook button at the top of the Calibre window. The program converts your file.
• When the program is finished converting your file click on the button titled Save to Disk and save it. I saved it to my desktop.
• (Can you feel the excitement?) I found the file that contained my converted text and clicked on it. This opened up the Kindle reader and my book appeared. The arrow keys allowed me to flip pages.

So how does it look?

Some notes: One of the questions I answered during set up was what type of reader do I have. I selected Kindle 1 or 2. The program now knows to convert your text for this reader. If you own another reader then select the proper one. You can also use the reader that comes with this program. The help button on the Calibre program will guide you through the steps to convert your manuscript to kindle format.

If you own an eBook reader, this program will help you set up an email address and download it to your machine. Have fun.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Evolution of page one of a WIP

My topic today covers the first page of your WIP. More specifically, what does it look like today as compared to when you first penned it? I saved copies of all of my versions and will post the first page of my first draft, first major edit and the final version (I hope).

I was shocked how different each of my versions read. I suppose I could classify them as worst, better-worse (yes, I coined a new word) and best. It took all the courage I had to cut out my beloved mirror scene and make other edits necessary to tighten up the manuscript.

Without going into specifics, I will let you tell me which version you like best. We can discuss in detail the reason I chose for each revision in a later post. In addition, I ask you to tell me about your first and present drafts. You can email them to me and I will add another post highlighting your examples or you can past them into the comments section (chicken way out). Why did you make the changes and has it tightened up your beginning page? In reality, this is about my journey to improve my writing skills. Have fun:

First Draft (worst):..(No laughing allowed)

The Dark Side of the Medallion

Chapter One

Jennifer emerged from Swanson’s Department store and went to the curb, looking for her father’s car. A cool, moist breeze tugged her hair, whipping it across her face. Turning her head toward the ocean, she saw dark clouds gathering.

Oh great, a rain storm, she thought. Walking back to the small shelter, offered by the door opening, she watched the storm gathering overhead.

Lightning flashed, illuminating the already darkened sky and town. The crash of thunder rolled across the sky, reverberating down Main Street. Raindrops fell slowly at first. Blown around by the wind, they visited every brick, window and door of Swanson’s. Jennifer thought the rain paid special attention to her face and hair.

“Unfair!” she cried, as she quickly entered the store.

Placing her bags beside her, she retrieved a tissue from her purse and patted her face. Her hair was wet, clinging to her neck. For now, all she could do was to toss hair back and forth. To her friends she was known simply as Jen. Standing five feet eight and 3/4 inches tall, she was considered tall and graceful. Jennifer had an athletic body and worked hard at maintaining it. She played tennis on the girl’s tennis team, swam on the swimming team and had for the past two years studied Karate. Beside her beautiful face and smile her other striking features were her bright red, long hair and deep expressive green eyes. Tomorrow she would celebrate her 21st birthday with family and friends. For the past three years, she attended the local J. P. Simmons University of Archeology. Her grandfather, Dr. Henry James Standford, founded the University. Dr. Simmons was regarded as a leading pioneer in Central and South American Archeology. He was also a lifelong friend of her grandfather and he named the university to honor his memory.

Jennifer was following her family’s example. Both her father and mother were archeologists and taught at the local university. Her father, Dr. William Paul Standford was Head of the Ancient Egyptian Department and her mother Phyllis, taught ancient languages and art. When her dad was in his last year of college, he fell in love with a young woman of French ancestry, who was majoring in art. Shortly after, they graduated, he asked her to marry him and she went with him on his first of many digs to Egypt and South America. Over the next several years, she documented many of the excavations they were working on through her drawings. She also took up photography and learned how to develop her own film in the field.

First edit: (better-worse)



Jen’s inquisitive green eyes carefully observed the girl facing her. They focused on the long shoulder length red hair that hung evenly on both sides of her face. The girl’s long fingers moved down her dress, smoothing the sides. Tall--at five feet nine inches--and athletic in statue, looking like a fashion model, Jen noted. A thin gold chain sparkled against her beautiful black evening gown. Jen’s eyes followed the dress past her shapely waist and down to the hemline, just above a pair of smart looking black heels. Stylish--organized and neat—excessively so, could this be a flaw in her personality? The girl in front of her smiled contentedly. She treasured a secret, feeling she had reached a special point in her life. Full of adventure this one, ready to take a step into the unknown. Satisfied at her appearance in the mirror, Jen stood back, turned, and entered the formal dining room.

“Happy Birthday Jen,” her grandfather greeted her. “How does it feel to be 21 years old today?”

“Good evening grandfather...just feeling wiser not older. What did you do today?”

“That’s a very political answer to my question,” he chuckled. “Most of the day I spent editing my life story and reading a new book on the tomb of Menhotep, keeper of the king’s royal horses.”

This Egyptian archeological reference was common dialogue in the Standford family home. Every member of her immediate family was an archeologist. Her grandfather, Dr. Henry James Standford founded the J. P. Simmons University of Archeology. The next day Jen was to graduate from the university with the class of 2008. Her father Dr. William Paul Standford chaired the Ancient Egyptian Department and her mother Phyllis taught ancient languages and art. Jen’s Uncle, Dr. Henry Standford, also an accomplished archeologist, promised upon her graduation to let her join him in Egypt and begin her fieldwork.

“Menhotep...goodness they discovered his tomb less than seven months ago and there is a book already in print?”

“The archeological community moves fast when they want to.”

The house lights flickered several times reminding Jen of the heavy rainstorm outside.

Last edit: (best)


At the stroke of midnight, the sentinel’s eyes blazed with power, forming a shield of protection around the Standford family home—pushing the supernatural hailstorm out to the street. The guardian remained on alert until early morning, when her ears detected the high screech of a hunting falcon.
# # #

“Rats,” expelled from Jen’s mouth. “Taint fair, tonight’s the last night I can go dancing before leaving the country.” Turning around she looked at Miss Lickey, stretched out at the end of her bed.

“You are the laziest cat I know.” Moving closer she reached out and scratched under her chin. “I suppose you were up all night looking for mice.”

An eye opened. Jen smiled and returned her attention to the tempest.

The lone streetlight illuminated fresh cut grass, her mothers’ prized pink roses and motionless trees in her yard. This view was in deep contrast to the waves of frozen rain tap-dancing on the street in front of her house.

Something moved in front of her driveway. Jen blinked her eyes several times and looked out her window again. Three apparitions formed—floating at the entranceway of her home—staring at her, beckoning her to join them, singing to her a song of death. The wind tore at their black hoods, cloaks and stringy hair giving them the appearance of scarecrows caught in a hurricane. Jen shivered when lightning illuminated their weathered faces and boney arms. The three wraiths emitted a green mist from their mouth, reached out their right arm at the same time and pointed to her. The vapor began traveling in her direction.

“What the,” escaped from Jen’s mouth.

The roar of a lion exploded behind her and she froze like a museum statue. Jen watched a red glow bath the three hags and then they dissolved into the storm. A hideous cackling entered her mind breaking her rigidity and dropping her arm toward the windowsill.

“Yowza,” she said as her hand brushed against something furry. Looking down she saw only an empty ledge. Spinning around she looked at Miss Lickey still resting on her bed. What just happened? Did I really see three ghostly women, and hear that bellow, she thought. She walked to her cat and leaned down, “you didn’t’ make that loud growl, did you?” The cat stared at her. What an absurd question to ask a small cat. Jen smiled, “If you want your dinner, you had better shake a leg to the kitchen before it closes for the night.”

Miss Lickey’s head lifted, she yawned, stood, jumped from the bed and headed out the door. Jen followed her downstairs and entered the music room.

“Happy Birthday Jen,” her grandfather greeted her. “How does it feel to be 21 years old?”

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Today’s post is short but exciting. Actually, I knew this information for many years because I am a YA of yesterday that reads certain YA of today novels. However, it is always nice to see in print a confirmation. I grew up reading all of the Wizard of OZ books. Later I read The Hardy Boys mystery series and Nancy Drew, Tom Corbett Space Cadet, Rick Brant adventure series and Tom Swift Jr. The list goes on and on. The article by the Los Angeles Times made me happy because in my heart I wrote my novel, Mysterious Gift, as a crossover between the YA of yesterday and the YA of today. You can read the full article here.

Speaking of young adult books, yesterday's Automat link to an LAT (Los Angeles Times) piece on the rising popularity of YA novels among adult readers was so heavily re-tweeted that it's worth a separate link. "Authors may gear their novels toward the junior and senior high crowd, but adults are snapping up the books, often about misfit teens or fantasy worlds.... Attracted by well-written, fast-paced and engaging stories that span the gamut of genres and subjects, such readers have mainstreamed a niche long derided as just for kids. Scroll down to Young Adult Lit comes of age and click it. How does your YA novel stack up...will an adult be interested in reading it?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ten ways to deal with setbacks.

Today’s blog post covers a different analysis on rejection. Written from a business viewpoint, this article by Calvin Sun—can act as inspiration—for aspiring writers who have or will receive rejection letters. The article originally appeared in the Tech Republic Windows XP newsletter of March 11, 2010. Before you ask, I have the author’s permission to reprint his article. As you read this article think how this applies to a writer who has just received a rejection.

Ten ways to deal with Setbacks:

1: Step back and reflect

You may think the world has ended, but it has not. Rather than get upset and emotional about what’s happened, stop what you’re doing. Reflect on what’s happened and start to think about how you will adapt to this news. You will be better able to deal with the situation if you take this moment to stop and reflect.

2: Find a confidante

Finding someone to talk to, about your concerns and reactions can help. Even if that person cannot do anything, the fact that he or she listens can help your state of mind. Also, remember the old saying “One hand washes the other.” When that person has an issue, you can, and probably should, reciprocate. Avoid friends who merely will lecture you or lay a guilt trip on you. Yes, maybe you should have done things differently; but now is not the time to dwell on those matters.

3: Stay positive

I complained that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.

Looking at the positive side of things can be difficult. However, as the proverb suggests—things usually—could be worse. You didn’t get that one contract, but do you have others that seem promising? You had problems with the presentation, but what parts did go well. I am not saying you should be a Pollyanna or hide from reality. However, focusing on the opportunities you still have or on what went right would be far better for your mental well-being than focusing on what you lost or what went wrong.

4: Focus on the future more than the past

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…
Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
No, these two sayings do not contradict each other. Reflecting on past events is important. If you made mistakes that led to your setback, realizing that fact is important to reduce the chances of making the same mistake again. However, reflecting on the past is different from beating yourself up about the past. Engaging in “if only…” thinking, if it involves saddling yourself with guilt, will not help you.

5: Learn from the experience

It is important to learn from your experiences—but that is tough to do if you are mired in self-recrimination. Try, if you can, to view the situation as an outsider. Do not say, “What can I learn?” Say instead, “What can a disinterested observer learn?” “What did this person (i.e., you) do effectively? What could this person have done differently?” This approach lessens the chance that you simply start making yourself feel guilty. Once you have gathered your conclusions about the matter, you can begin to do something constructive.

6: Be careful regarding blame

Maybe you, or someone else, did do something wrong. Avoiding that same mistake in the future is important. However, simply blaming someone else, or even yourself, does not help. For this reason, it is better to focus on “Next time do it this way instead” rather than “You &&#&$! You shouldn’t have done it that way!”

7: Find a way to benefit

Try to find a way that something good can come out of the setback. One classic example is Titanic. After that disaster, among other things, lifeboat guidelines were changed so that minimum numbers were based on passenger capacity, not weight of ship. In the same way, see what changes are appropriate. Should you change a procedure or policy? Should you change your own approach or strategy? Having something good come out of a setback, lessens its sting.

8: Write about your experience

One way others can benefit from your problem is to read about it. In addition, the more analysis you can put into your thought process, the more the reader will benefit. Did you ever clobber a production database by loading it with test data? I did once, and I lived to tell about it. In fact, I even wrote about it for TechRepublic.

If you do write about a setback, remember to make the situation as broad as you can. I hate to say it, but readers probably will not care about your own emotional reactions. They might care about the lessons you learned and how those lessons might apply to them. By the way, I am not advocating that you deliberately mess up, or create a problem, just so can write about it.

9: Teach others

Do not limit yourself to just writing about lessons you learned from a setback. Volunteer to speak about the issue, if it is appropriate. If you are teaching a class, consider using your own experience as an example. Students will appreciate the real life information.

10: Remember that failure isn’t final

Before winning two Super Bowls, John Elway lost three of them. Before winning the 2004 World Series, their first since 1918, the Boston Red Sox had lost their four previous ones. Even though you might have experienced a setback, it is not the end of the world.

Calvin Sun consults with clients to address and resolve organizational issues and writes and speaks on this topic. His Web site is . You can also find him on Twitter. Read his full bio and profile.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What category does your book fall into?

Most of you know that my first novel is finished and I am in the throes of seeking an agent. In the past three months, I have sent out nine query letters. Five agents sent me a nice letter saying we would not be a good fit. Three agents remained silent and one agent, (who according to his blog/website, always replies to query letters), has not answered. I used the five agents who responded as positive information. The more I thought about it the more I convinced myself that I was not querying the correct genre.

I reviewed the five agent sites and discovered that I misunderstood the genre they were really looking for. Most of them said they were looking for science fiction or fantasy, not science fiction/ fantasy. I am writing sifi/f and asked myself; self, is there a difference between sifi/f and science fiction and fantasy. The answer was yes, there is a difference. The answer was also on each agent’s information page. The “and” word means they represent either science fiction or fantasy, not the two combined. The terms commercial fiction, literary fiction and mainstream fiction were also on their info page. This is what they were looking for. I was confused. The only answer was to research each term. This is what I found.

Commercial fiction (CF): Commercial fiction is not a genre; it is a canopy covering many subgenres, like mystery, romance, legal thriller, western, science fiction, fantasy and so on. This type of novel is plot driven, attracting a broad audience and tells the reader that they can expect hooks, action, kick ass protagonists and fast moving plot. These novels are not strong in prose and character buildup. The reader also knows that all conflicts will be resolved prior to the end. Bestselling authors would be John Grisham, Sidney Sheldon, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich and Danielle Steel.

Literary fiction (LF) is character driven and appeals to a smaller, more scholarly audience. A work of literary fiction may fall into any of the genres. However, what makes it different are such things as excellent writing and originality of thought and style that raise it above ordinary writing. LF also contains multi-layered themes, long descriptive narration and bigger than life characters (the author takes his time and many pages developing his characters, propelling them into three-dimensional people. The author of this type of writing often breaks traditional writing rules offering the reader a strong narrative voice, multi-POVs and eloquent story lines. Examples of literary fiction are Cold Mountain, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath. Popular authors of literary fiction would be John LeCarre, Barbara Kingsolver, and Toni Morrison.

What happens if your writing crosses both the Commercial and Literary fiction lines; sits on the fence and attracts a larger audience? Is there such a beast and if so what is it called? The answer is yes, there are many books that cross both CF and LF. The answer is below.

Mainstream fiction is a term publishers and booksellers use to describe both commercial and literary works containing a universal theme that attracts a broad audience. Usually set in the 20th or present-day 21st century, these books deal with family issues, coming of age initiations, courtroom dramas, physical and mental disabilities, social pressures, political intrigue, etc. Regardless of genre or category, most of the novels on the bestseller list, are mostly mainstream, including authors such as Sue Grafton, Michael Crichton, or David Guterson.

Do you know what fiction your novel is?

Monday, March 1, 2010

EBook sales do not influence your hardcover book sales.

Penguin USA says eBook sales rose by more than 300 percent, and as projected; they had 10,000 titles available electronically by the end of the year. Rather than cannibalizing hardcover sales, Penguin's current inference is that low-priced eBooks are most attractive to readers who previously were primarily paperback buyers. "If we're right about that," Penguin CEO, Makinson said, then "the author is really not disadvantaged by the transition" from print to digital. What do you think of this statement? Are authors who have a hardcover book for sale losing money because of the low eBook prices? To read the full article, go to and sign up for the free newsletter. Publisher’s lunch brings you the latest in publishing news. This is where many top agents get their current information.