Friday, December 31, 2010

Catching Up

Still revisiting the year-end bookkeeping so everything will be ready for the accountants to do W-9s.

EASTERN SHORE LIFE AND LURE went back to press for the third time, to correct problems with the cover, but that's about all I did this week.

Galleys went out to Terry L. White for VIENNA PRIDE.

New books are up on the Website for January.

Have the best of success for all of us in the coming year.

arline

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black-eyed Peas for New Years - Recipe

Maggie Dix’s Heart-Healthy Black-eyed Pea Soup

2 ½ cups dried black-eyed peas (1 pkg)
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. imitation bacon flavored pieces
1 handful of dried cholesterol-free (No Yolks) dumplings
Dash of salt
Pepper to taste

Water to cover plus one inch. If water has cooked away, add water to cover plus 1/2 inch and bring back to a simmer before adding dumplings.

Place all ingredients except dumplings in a 2 quart pot. Cover with water. Boil fast for 15 minutes, then simmer until peas are tender. Add dumplings. Cover and Simmer 10 more minutes. Serves four. This works equally well with lima beans or other dried beans.

Traditionally, one uses cubes of ham and ham fat for the flavoring, but Maggie's recipe tastes almost as good and helps cut down on the cholesterol.

Maggie Dix is not an author, but is the artist who does our covers. We just couldn’t leave her out

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Free Promotional E-Books sites - Writing tip

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU FALL FOR.

I received an e-mail today from an author telling me she could get free promotion for her book if she'd send a copy to a site that gave e-books away for free. It's only one copy and the site has lots of traffic and they "pay 70%." Isn't that good? she asked.

It didn't seem to occur to her that the "only one copy" of her whole book would be copied and given out as many times as someone clicked on the button, all while earning her nothing. I did wonder how they could pay 70% of nothing, for if they were giving the books away free, then sales would earn nothing. After checking the site, I discovered that the payment was for advertising, which they were perfectly will to sell me, if I'd give them my books for -- well, for nothing.

The author is the copyright holder. I cannot legally stop her from doing this and creating a site where people can get for free, what I'm trying to sell on various distributor sites so as to make her money. Worse, this web site isn't even a "pirate" because they ask permission of the authors and so what they're doing is perfectly legal.

Now, if they have her permission to post her book, and if she sends it to them it constitutes permission, they have a perfectly legal right to give it away as many times as they want to. Setting it up in competition with any and all legitimate outlets that pay us.

This is not promotion folks -- it's just another way for a web site to take advantage of authors, especially inexperienced and self-published authors.

This web site has been recommended on some of the authors lists as a good place to promote and authors appear to believe they are a legitimate market.

Please, please don't fall for this kind of scam.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No Wrong Way to Do It - writing tip

Someone responded to my blog on outlines, by emailing me to ask how I could write a story without knowing what was going to happen first?

That's a good question. Well, I never have a detailed outline, or even a Triple-O. But I do know what the main character wants and usually what the general outcome will be. If I know that, I can sit down and write and the sub-conscious will take over and create the obstacles and bleak moment that shape the story.

If toward the end of the story, I find I need a "telling detail" to foreshadow something that happens later, I just go back and put that in.

Other, and usually more productive, people have to know all the details before they start. THEY never end up with drawers full of half-finished projects where they lost the thread, either, but we all do it however we can. One way or the other, it's born in us. It may be a "right-brain" thing.

I'm reminded of that old question from Psych 101, where the professor said, "A kid is lost in the woods. I can give you beaters to comb the brush, or a helicoptor to try to spot him from the air, which would you choose?"

About 90 percent of the class chose the beaters. Those of us who took the arial view were told we were "right brain" creative people, but lacked logic, because the woods might be too dense to see our kid from the air, while the beaters would search every inch.

The "beaters" were told they were "left brain" people who had little imagination. They looked at life logically and took things one step at a time, but they lacked the ability to see the whole or the end result, rather than just the first immediate next step.

I don't believe those who are "left-brain" lack in creativity or imagination. I know some wonderful writers who are able to outline in detail and who write two to five books a year. I also know how hard I've tried to do that and how flat my efforts have fallen.

The important part of this tip is -- there's no wrong way to do it. Write using whatever method works best for your individual talent. Don't force yourself into a mold created by someone else's expectations of how it "should be" done.



Monday, December 27, 2010

Ginger Cookies - recipe


Brenda Boldin’s Ginger Cookies

2 cups self rising flour
(OR 2c. flour, 1tsp. baking powder, ½ tsp. baking soda, ½ tsp. salt)
1 tsp. ginger
11/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup sugar
½ cup shortening
½ cup molasses
1 egg yolk

Mix sugar and shortening; add molasses and egg yolk. Sir in dry ingredients. Roll on lightly floured surface, 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes. Bake on lightly greased cookie sheets at 350-F or 177-C degrees for 10 minutes.

Cool before removing from cookie sheet.
Makes approx. 30 cookies.

Contributed by Brenda Boldin, author of the Alex Masters Series, Dead Birds Don’t Sing, Jailbird, and A Bird by Any Other Name...Alex Masters is back, calling herself “Lexi” now, and working a real job in her brother’s software company. Money disappears, disks go missing, then a dead body turns up, and once again Alex/Lexi is suspect Number One.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Will be taking a few days off.

Happy Holidays, everyone. May each of you be blessed and enjoy success in the coming year.

See you on Monday.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Continuity needs work - writing tip

A former student e-mails: I received a comment in a critique that the "continuity needs work." What does that mean in terms of a short story? I can't see anything I did wrong, but don't want to argue.

Answer: In simple terms, continuity is not getting the horse behind the cart. People shouldn't arrive at their destination before they leave. If someone answers the phone, it should ring first, not after it is answered. If someone lights a cigarette, they should put it out before they light another. No one should go upstairs when they already ARE upstairs. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen all of those happen, and in published work, too!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Italian Cookies - Recipe


Ray Morand’s Grandma Carchia’s Italian Cookies

5 cups white flour
3 Tbsp baking powder
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp flavoring (anise, lemon, orange or vanilla)
½ cup oil
½ cup milk

Beat eggs, sugar, baking powder and flavoring. Gradually add flour up to 3 cups. Add ½ cup milk. Mix well and gradually add rest of flour, then milk mixing as you go. Pour ½ cup oil over mixture. Knead well about 20 times.

Pinch off a ball about one inch in diameter. Roll into long rope and tie in a knot or cross rope over itself. Bake about eight minutes at 400-F or 204-C degrees.

Icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp milk
5 drops food coloring
¼ tsp flavoring (your choice)

Combine all ingredients and drizzle over cookies as they cool.

Contributed by Ray Morand*, author of MODIFIED.... The year is 2106 and the human race finally united under one world government, but a slave race of Artificial Intelligence Clones want their freedom and genetically engineered soldiers were created to combat them. The Space Marines are fighting a losing battle and one genetically engineered female Navy Seal may be the secret to winning the war.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Winter Solstice - annual poem


Gifts

God’s gifts are all around us
He sends us, peace, life, snow, cardinals aflutter in winter sunshine
Friends bring books, ceramic pigs, and pecan pie coffee
We are blessed with a caring circle, who
Gift us with love, and life renewed

A man whose heart is generous,
Steady, willing, he smiles and offers:
A strong arm to stir chocolate chips into stiff dough,
Patience, music – sweet good-night kisses
And treats to a gray cat, first thing in the morning

A woman without a country
heart is open as a Chesapeake sky
Dynamite in a small package, eh?
The love in her heart, warms each of us
She offers caring, cheesecake, and a rich turkey-rice soup.

A son returned from a long cold journey
Bleak years led to open arms, and joy untold
Able hands offer service, a caring heart, forgiveness
Friendship, kindness – he blesses our life with
Cookies that smell like Christmas.

A man, who gives much to all those around him
Friendship, patriotism, the bite of sharp Swiss cheese,
Sunshine, generosity, understanding, prayers of Grace
He never waits to be asked, he comes
In times of need and says, "What can I do?"

Apple cake and life are the gifts of her hands
Flowers bloom and thrive in her care
She gives humor, bright smiles, and warm yellow squash
Sun-baked and fresh from the garden
In a full and busy life of service, she still finds time for friends

So many gifts touch our lives
Not the kind that are bought in stores,
But gifts of generosity, of caring, of kindness,
Gifts sent by God, brought by friends and family.
Each of you is a gift, a blessing and a joy untold

– Arline Chase, Winter Solstice 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

On Outlines - writing tip

Question: Do you use an outline? I've been trying to use the kind of Roman Numeral and letter outline I was taught to use in school, but can't get it to work in a story. I read your synopsis blog and someone told me that is an outline, though it isn't at all like I was taught. Is that an "outline?"

Answer: Yes and no. A synopsis is what is meant when an agent or publisher says, "Send me an out line with three chapters. For that purpose, "synopsis" and "outline" are the same.

An outline can also mean a plan for your story. Some use a scene list. Or a chapter by chapter plan. Some writers "just sit down and write." I'm one of those. If I plan a lot ahead of time, then something else happens when I sit down and write, so it's a waste of time for me to plan.

Those writers who swear by them can't imagine "flying blind" with the story and want to know every detail before they begin writing. They write detailed, sometimes scene-by-scene outlines and most writing courses advise anyone to use that method.

When I taught writing, I always taught students to outline, because that is by far the easiest way to write, if you can do it that way. I taught the Triple -O method of outline.

Here it is:

Triple-O Outline in three parts.

Every story is about someone who wants something and whether they get it or not. Any story plot can easily be broken down into three parts: Objective; Obstacles; Outcome, sometimes referred to as the Triple-O Outline. There are hardly any new plots, so don’t be discouraged if “it’s been done.” The challenge for any writer is to make the characters so fresh and interesting that the reader forgets they have seen the plot before.

Plots for short stories should be short. If too much action is incorporated, the story will grow longer and longer and may become unwieldy. If too many obstacles occur, the reader could grow impatient and give up.

Be careful not to confuse “back story” (information needed to explain the character's personality and problems to the readers), with current plot action. Whatever has happened before the real action begins is “back story.” Be careful not to confuse explanatory action, with a plot turning point. A plot turning point is always when something CHANGES.

To use a classic example, in the story Cinderella her mother’s death and her father’s remarriage are all “back story.” The mean way the rest of the family treats Cindy is explanatory action used to set up the objective. Because the Objective for Cinderella, is that she wants to go to the ball. Until Cinderella decides she wants to go to the ball nothing has really happened, everything is going on as usual. Remember, plot always happens when something changes.

When the character knows what he or she wants, that is the objective and the objective is always the beginning of the story, the beginning of the plot. Now the character has a problem to solve – how to get what s/he wants. Once there is a problem statement, it’s time to get on with the story.

If there is no problem, nothing is happening, and there is no story. Stories are about overcoming something. If there is no “overcoming” then there is no satisfaction to the reader at the end.

Here are The Triple-Os

Objective: The objective (some call it object, but I like objective better) is what the character wants. Once your character knows what s/he wants, s/he has an objective. Cinderella wants to go to the ball. Her sisters are going and she darned well wants to go, too.

Obstacles: Whatever stands in the character’s way of getting what s/he wants are plot obstacles. There's an old writer's axiom called the "rule of three" that tells us not to include more than three things in any one sentence. For hundreds of years three has been a magic number in our culture. Genies grant three wishes, Cinderella had two ugly sisters, there are usually three turning points or complications in a story plot, with the last one resulting in the crisis/bleak moment (some people call it the “black moment” and Carla Neggers calls it the “big gloom”), just before the resolution. So it is unwise to plan more than three obstacles in any plot.

Cinderella’s obstacles are not the ugly step-sisters, the way she is treated by her mean and jealous step-mother, or her father’s inability to see through his new wife. These are her obstacles:

1. She has nothing to wear.

2. She has no way to get there.

3. She has a fairy-godmother (who solves the first two), BUT she must be home by midnight or the magic wears off!

As with most story plots, obstacles one and two are overcome, but obstacle three leads to what I like to call the bleak moment. In every story there is (or should be) that moment when it looks as if all is lost. For Cinderella, that moment happens when she’s in the Prince’s arms and the clock strikes 12. She runs, for she knows that when the clock finishes striking, she will be standing there in rags. For Cindy, the party is over and she’ll never see the prince again. (Bleak moment.)

Outcome: The outcome is simply how your story ends. Every story has an outcome. Some are happy, some sad, but whatever the outcome the main character or his or her circumstances should change because of it. In our sample story, the Prince finds the slipper. Truly smitten, he searches for Cindy until he finds her. And the Outcome, of course, is they marry and live happily ever after.

Not every story has a happy ending, of course, but there must be a resolution and the story will be better received if that resolution is satisfactory to the reader. Take the movie version of Titanic. (Another Cinderella, story plot.) Unlike Cindy, Rose is rich, but she is also a victim of her family and of her abusive fiance. Here, quoted from the movie, is Rose’s problem statement:

"I saw my whole life as if I'd already lived it...an endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches...always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter. I felt like I was standing at a great precipice, with no one to pull me back, no one who cared...or even noticed."-- Rose DeWitt Bukater

Rose’s Objective: Is to escape the life she lives and a loveless marriage so that she can find freedom.

Rose’s obstacles:

1. Her family and fiancé who punish her when she doesn’t conform
2. Depression that leads her to consider suicide.
3. The ship’s sinking and Jack’s death (bleak moment)

Rose’s Outcome: Though Jack dies, Rose is rescued and goes on.

Rose is Cindy in reverse. She’s a girl who has everything, money, position, and a millionaire fiancé. Yet Rose is severely depressed and feels confined by her life. Then she meets Jack, a free spirit. Instead of going to the palace ball, they dance with the peasants in steerage. Even though Jack dies when the ship sinks, Rose goes on to dump her fiancé, and to live out all the dreams she and Jack had planned together. This is evidenced by her photo collection, Rose as a pilot, on a roller-coaster, riding a horse, and treading the boards as an actress. Not a happy ending to the romance, but a satisfactory ending, because Rose has escaped from the narrow-minded people and her confined life, to find a fulfillment for herself.
Even though the hero dies, Titanic is still a romance. The ending,
while sad, resolves the issues, and is satisfying to
the reader.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Catching Up -- bonus Shortbread recipe

Catching UP and Chase Family Shortbread Recipe

Have had my nose into the year-end bookkeeping all week and done very little toward paper books. The good news is everything reconciled.

No books went to press this week.

No galleys went out.

No corrections were done.

BUT the accountant now has what she needed, so I am a happy camper. Will be making my shortbread this afternoon. The dough is in the refrigerator, just waiting for me. Will be taking some holiday family time over the next week or so, then get busy on getting people paid.

Chase Family Shortbread Recipe

It's 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and one part sugar. This recipe is for a small batch of cookies and the one I use for experimenting but it doubles or triples with no troubles. Just maintain the ratio.

Shortbread Cookie Recipe

3/4 cup flour, sifted


1/4 cup superfine sugar


Pinch of salt


1/2 cup room temperature Land 'O Lakes unsalted butter


1/2 cup black walnut pieces


1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1/4 teaspoon almond flavoring


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.


Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Work in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the dough has the consistency of short crust.


Pulsing in a food processor will work also.


Sprinkle a board or your counter top lightly with flour. Scatter walnut pieces over the flour. Turn the dough onto the board and knead until it's smooth and all walnut pieces are absorbed. Refrigerate the dough for a couple of hours or overnight.


You should have approximately 8 ounces of dough. Divide the dough into four equal portions for large cookies or eight equal portions for small cookies and shape into balls.


For consistency you might want to pull out your kitchen scales.


Place each dough ball on a baking sheet sprayed with Pam and flatten them with the bottom of a glass, or your thumb, to about 1/4 inch thickness. Prick with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown slightly. Allow the cookies to cool and solidify on the baking sheet, before trying to move them or they will crumble.



Thursday, December 16, 2010

Six layer apple stack cake - recipe

Mary Bible's Six Layer Apple Stack Cake
2-cups of all purpose flour
3-teaspoon baking powder
11/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup shorting
1-cup of milk

Sift all dry ingredients together. Add all other ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
By hand beat 4 minutes. Stop each one minute and scrap the side of the bowl.
If by mixer, beat 30 seconds scrape side of bowel. Beat at high speed three more minutes.
Pour batter in three eight inch greased cake pans.
Bake at 350-F or 177-C degrees 30 to 35 minutes. Insert toothpick in center of cake. If it comes out clean the cake is done.

Turn layers out on a cooling rack. Cool completely. Split layers in half by taking a sewing thread about 18 inches long holding each end. Place thread half way down on back of cake layer. Hold thread tight and pull toward you, bringing the thread through. Now you have six layers.

Separate the layers with the crust side down. Leave them for one hour. Spread apple butter on each layer as they are stacked on top of each other. Frost the cake with apple butter. (If too thin pour the apple butter into a sauce pan. Add two table spoons of corn starch heat until the apple butter is thicker. Let cool before using it.)

Contributed by Dorothy Bible Kawaguchi, author of HER NAME WAS MARY...the story of a mountain woman’s struggle to raise her three children alone, during the Great Depression.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Plot ? - writing tip

I had an e-mail from a former student who'd had a return from a prospective agent, saying her "plot was all over the place." What does she mean by that, my friend asked in a 17 paragraph missive.

Well two things could be at work here.

First, the plot could truly be at fault, non-cohesive, or missing some of the elements. Those elements are a central problem the main character tries to solve throughout the story (if there's no central problem, there's no story); complications that arise from efforts to solve the problem, that fail; a bleak moment, when it looks as if all efforts will fail; followed closely by the climax, in which the problem is faced head on; the resolution, either happy or sad, where the problem is solved or not.

Or noncohesive could mean there's too much "good stuff" that happens to the character between the bad stuff. Don't stop the story for a carousel ride. Keep the character at risk of losing everything all the time. My friend Carla Neggers says the way to plot is to put your character in a hole and every time they try to climb out, throw more dirt down on them. If you throw enough dirt, according to Carla, the Big Gloom (don't you just love all these technical terms) her term for the bleak moment, will arrive without looking contrived. This can be hard to do, because most of us love our characters and we enjoy writing the parts where things are going well. Readers, however, want to get on with the story.

Second, it might be the writer's inability to "tell" those elements in a simple, abbreviated, synopsis form, without embellishment or including unneeded detail. If she puts lots of stuff that isn't part of the plot into her synopsis, you have no direct plot line from beginning to end, but a wandering path. And the agent, looking at that wandering path, may well say "all over the place." Even though the story itself is a good, and well-written one. Writing synopses is an art form of its own, one that breaks all the "rules of good writing" and it would behoove us all to learn to do it well and briefly. My advice for that kind of writing is to the point: TELL ALL.

For instance:

Boy meets girl and they fall in love, but their families have a longstanding hate relationship. (Central Problem)

Boy and girl secretly elope despite objections from both sides (complications that arise from the central problem), that keep them apart. They decide to run away together.

Girl fakes suicide in order to escape her family and go live with her husband.

Husband finds her, believes she is dead, kills himself. (climax)

Girl comes to, discovers her husband dead, and kills herself. (resolution, as the family war is no longer of consequence to either of them)

And, yes, you're right, the plot IS Romeo and Juliet.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hot Prawn Canapes - recipe

Nancy Madison’s Hot Prawn Canapes

12 slices of thin bread
1 lb. shrimp, boiled, chopped fine
12 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp onion, chopped fine
1/4 Tsp pepper
2 Tsp paprika
1 cup butter, clarified*
4 Tsp lemon juice, fresh
2 Tsp horseradish
½ tsp salt
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Cut crusts off bread. Cut each bread slice into 1/4, either round, oval or toast point. Mix the shrimp and other ingredients except Parmesan. Cover bread slices with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over bread. Place on cookie sheet and bake in 500-F or 260-C degree oven 3-5 minutes until cheese melts. Serve right from oven. 12 servings.

* To clarify butter, melt in a saucepan and measure out only the clear yellow oil from the top, leaving behind the whey residue at the bottom.

Contributed by Nancy Madison, author of WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW... In this romantic comedy, the rocky road to love just got rougher. Jake Malone's dead sure he doesn't need anyone to complete or complicate his life. Meeting the self-assured loner, Carly Anderson disagrees and vows to pursue Jake until he catches her. In her quest, Carly's helped or hindered by a wanna-be Stallone, a larcenous film producer who preys on lonely women and a granny with a black Labrador and a Harley.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why are you a publisher? - writing tip

My e-mail this morning brought a note from a frustrated author, asking:

If so much work is involved, and you make the same as me (which is practically nothing), why do you stay in this business?

Answer: Your question reminded me of a story my doctor told of going to attend a patient at the local “hospital for the mentally ill” which is situated on the banks of a lovely river. When he came out, he discovered he had a flat tire. While he was changing the tire, a patient wandered by and threw all his lug nuts into the river, while another patient, who was raking leaves nearby, watched.
“What am I going to do now?” the doctor wailed.
The second patient leaned on his rake a moment, then said, “Just take one lug nug off each of the other wheels, put the spare on, and drive to a parts store so you can buy some more lug nuts.”
“Wow, that’s great!” the doctor said. “How did you ever think of that?”
“I’m in here because I’m crazy, not because I’m stupid,” the patient replied.

And that's my answer. It's been said, often, that "None but a crazy person would work except for money." Yet this business gives me something beyond a monetary profit. It gives me hours of enjoyment, a bunch of friends (many of whom I've never met), and satisfaction.

Yes, I'm working on the year-end bookkeeping--summing up and counting my blessings.

We are coming up on the quarter again and sales reports will go out in January, along with W2s for all those who made more than $600. in 2010. Most e-publishers or POD-publishers don't need to send out W2s. There's a rumor going around on the writers' and publishers' groups that we MUST send them to all authors this year. Not true. Only to those who make MORE than $600. Those who did, will receive W2s from us as the law requires.

That doesn't mean the rest of you can't or shouldn't report your writing earnings as income. Trust me, the IRS isn't going to come back and say, "Oh you didn't make that money, because you have no W2." Only if you report earnings is it wise to deduct writing expenses from your income tax.

Another myth is that you have to make a profit if you claim expenses. No business is required by law to make a profit. Trust me, I know. But it will look mighty funny to the IRS if you stay in business ten years and never report any earnings. If you have sales, even copies you sell yourself at shows and signings, you have earnings. Save your quarterly letters, too, and report your total yearly writing earnings in the calendar year in which you receive them.

We report ALL sales, from all our outlets, both e-book sales and paper, even the new print-on-demand stations in the larger cities' B&N stores, where customers can order the book, go have a cappucino while it is printing, and pick it up and take it home the same day. We report quarterly and we pay every cent quarterly in the quarter after it is received (some outlets hold funds for three months or more before sending us a check), even if it's only $0.69 Only authors who have sales are notified, however.

Sales usually depend on the amount of promotion the author does as we are a small company and cannot afford to do national advertising.

Authors who social-network and who join and participate in online authors' and writers' groups, who list their books and where to buy them in the signatures of every e-mail they send, who set up a free author's page at sites like amazon.com, who have their own domains and home pages, who send out press releases about coming signings and events, in short those who do the most promotion, do best.

A few authors sell very well. Many sell one or two books a quarter. Some sell none. All our authors are chosen because we admire their writing skills and believe in the worth of their work. In the past ten years, we have published more than 500 original titles and we have been proud of every one of them.

So the second, and perhaps the most honest, answer to the question that started all this is: we do this because we like to do it.

arline

Friday, December 10, 2010

Catching Up

Still working on the bookkeeping.

No new books went to press this week.

The proof copy of EASTERN SHORE LIFE AND LURE, looked a little thick and proved to be two copies of the book bound inside one cover. Just another new surprize in the "what can go wrong" category. First time for everything, I guess. So that one will have to get repaired and sent back to press soon.

Corrections were received, but not yet made, from Erin Aslin.

That's it for this week.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fudge Cake from New Zealand - recipe


Barbara Adams’s Fudge Cake *
*A real favourite for the sweet-toothed Kiwi (N.Z.)

4 ounces of butter
4 ounces of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of cocoa
2 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ounces walnuts
8 ounces of crushed sweet biscuits (in N.Z. “Biscuits” are plan cookies – say vanilla wafers)

Bring sugar, butter, cocoa, milk and essence to boil. Do not boil. Add crushed biscuits and walnuts. Add anything else you like, e.g. chopped apricots or ginger. Put in tin and wait till it sets. No cooking. Ice when cold.

Contributed by Barbara Adams, author of Cobwebs...Sue cannot shake her misgivings when her timid aunt marries an overbearing bully....An intricate web of lies and deceit is slowly unraveled. But where does Sue's boyfriend Jason fit into the puzzle? The reader is drawn towards an enticing but sticky ending.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Homonyms - writing advice

Saw a query letter this week with a "pear of scissors"in it. The author, who lives in a land that was once part of the British Empire, speaks English as a second language. I didn't have to read more than the query, to know the manuscript, if accepted, would be riddled with similar problems and so it was a no-go right from the start.

Now I know you all know the difference between a pear and a pair of scissors, but obviously someone had a problem. In fact EASL people by no means have a corner of this market and I have ofter confused compliment and complement or farther and further myself, among others. These are two that I always search and double-check in a completed manuscript, knowing my propensity for getting them wrong.

Homonyms, words that sound alike, but that are spelled differently and that have different meanings, can certainly trip any of us up. Worse, spell check will not find them for you, because they spell real words and are not "mistakes" in spelling.

Below is a list of the most often confused words. Are any of your own particular bugbears on the list?

Aisle/isle
Allude/elude
Alright/all right - alright is a misspelling
Alter (n)/altar (v)
Ascent (n)/assent (v)
Awhile - never use a while
Bail/bale
Bare/bear
Bazaar (n)/bizarre (adj)
Blonde (n)/blond (adj)
Brake/break
Canvas/canvass
Cite/sight/site
Coarse (adj)/course (n)
Complementary/complimentary
Criteria/criterion - criteria is plural of criterion
Desert/dessert
Discreet (tactful)/discrete (separate)
Emigrate (leave)/immigrate (enter)
Enter/inter
Exit/exist
Farther (distance)/further
Formally (manner)/formerly (previous)
Fried/friend
Guess/guest
Hear/here
Heel/heal
Herd/heard
Imminent (about to happen)/eminent (distinguished)
Mantel/mantle
Massage/message
Naïve (adj)/naivete (n)
New/knew
Pane/pain
Peek/peak
Peel/peal
Present/presence
Quite/quiet
Roll/role
Rouge/rogue
Salvage/savage
Strait/straight
Tale/tail
There/their/there're
Thorn/throne
To/too/two
Trial/trail
Vain/vane/vein
Woman/women
Won't/want
Your/you're

Homonyms - writing advice

Homonyms - writing advice

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Easy Holiday Fudge - recipe

Here it is again, for those who asked:

Fudge recipe -- for those with a sweet tooth

Today I'm making my Holiday Fudge. The following basic recipe is easy to make and lends itself to all manner of variations and flavors.

For many years I'd make about 40 pounds, in different flavors and colors, then mix them 2 dozen at a time into plastic gift bags, and pass them out to friends and relations in the holiday season.

Holiday Fudge

3 sticks of butter ( Warning: must be Real Butter!)
1 2 lb package of 10x sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt

Melt the butter in the microwave

Stir in vanilla and salt with a whisk or fork

Mix in the sugar, half at a time, stirring well

As you add the second half of the sugar, the mixture will form a thick consistency. Mix well with your hands until it is smooth and thick, like biscuit dough.
(If the final mixture is too dry, add 1 tbsp of cream or half and half.)
(If final mixture is too wet, add a little extra sugar.)

Spread doughy mixture on a greased cookie sheet (Pam works great) Patting it with your hands into a flat square shape about a inch thick.

Cut into squares and Refrigerate for half an hour or more.

When the fudge is firm, put the squares into plastic bags, or candy dishes and close tight. Store in a cool place.

The fudge will stay firm at room temperature, but should not be stored near an oven, or a wood stove. I usually put mine on the back porch. It's glassed in, and not quite as warm as the rest of the house.


For Chocolate Fudge

To the above recipe, add 3/4 cup cocoa to melted butter, then proceed as shown.


For Chocolate Nut Fudge

Add 3/4 cup cocoa and
1 cup pecan pieces
Or Black walnut pieces
Or whatever nuts you like best
Mix nuts in with the sugar.


For Pina Collada Fudge

Leave out cocoa and add:
1 tbsp coconut flavoring.
1 tbsp pineapple flavoring
Yellow food coloring (optional).


For Mint Fudge

Add 1 tbsp mint flavoring.
Green food coloring.


For Almond Fudge

Add 1 1/2 tsp almond flavoring
Red food coloring to make the mixture pink.


For Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fudge

To the basic recipe, stir 1 cup of peanut butter in with melted butter.
Stir in 3/4 cup cocoa.
Then proceed with the basic recipe.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Writing Short - writing tip

We received two queries yesterday, one very interesting one. Both were for books more than 100,000 words. We could not afford to take either of them however good they might be as I would be sure lose money. A Plain and simple fact of economics. GONE WITH THE WIND, too, would be out, for us, in today's economy. Mass market publishers can afford this. POD publisers cannot, without pricing their books out of the market.

So how do you write short? How do you bring a good book in at less than 90,000 words. Doesn't a book have to be as long as it has to be?

Yes, it does.

Plenty of good, long, books have been, and will be,written. They are just not for us. And in the interest of word economy, let's think for a moment of Ernest Hemingway who wrote THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA a best-selling novel that some folks considered his best and that was almost "too short for publication."

Using a lot of words is tempting. Paring things down to what you have to say instead of what you want to say is hard. I remember when I couldn’t write “Hello” without using 500 words. Then I went to work for a newspaper. But writing short is good discipline and will serve you well in the future if you can learn do it.

Hemingway once bet someone he could write an entire short story in six words. According to some, he was very drunk at the time and the other writers who hung around at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West were certain they would win. “You need plot, a character who changes, and a resolution,” they warned. Hard to do in six words.

Everyone agreed it couldn’t be done and put a lot of money on that. Hemingway who had been telling them all they could find stories anywhere, pointed to the classified section of the newspaper — and collected his bet. “For sale. Baby shoes. Never Used.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Catching Up

I have been pretty busy this week, catching up on all the year-end bookkeeping stuff and working on the corporate income tax, so that is why not much has been done. This situation will probably continue for the rest of this year.

Books that went to press or back to press this week:

UNWORTHY, by Jeanine Malarsky

A MATTER OF FAITH, by Anna Dynowski


Corrections received this week:

THROUGH THE CLOUDS, by Erin Aslin

ebooks completed this week:

EASTERN SHORE LIFE AND LURE, Writers Bloc Anthology II

THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE, by Arline Chase

Also let me wish each of you the happiest of holiday seasons and beaucoup success in the coming year.

Arline

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Nut Cookies - recipe

Greta's Christmas Nut Cookies*
*In memory of Greta Bubbel

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soda
1 cup soft butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Sift flour with salt and soda. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until well blended. Add flour gradually, mixing well. Stir in nuts. Chill dough until stiff.

Divide dough in half and form into 2 uniform rolls approx. 2" in diameter. Wrap in wax paper and freeze; or store in fridge overnight. Cut with a sharp knife into 1/4" thick slices. Place 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350-F or 177-C degrees for 8 - 10 minutes. Yields approx. 40 cookies

Contributed by Joan Bramsch, author of The Sophisticated Mountain Gal...and available in WHAT'S COOKING, a collection of recipes from authors at www.ebooksonthe.net

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Promotional Opportunities at ARE/Omni - writing tip

Lori James of All RomanceEbooks.com / Omnilit.com sends the following information for authors. We do not have author pages or contact info on the web site, but all our books are/should-will be listed on their sites.

Their ads in RWA have been successful for several of our authors in the past.

arline

From Lori James:

The holiday season is the busiest time of year and we’re experiencing record traffic of close to 12,000 shoppers per day on our website. These users represent your prime target demographic and they want more of your authors. If you have author info (i.e. bio, website, email, photo) posted on your website, we would like to request permission for our author liaison to extract it so we can add the content to your author’s pages.

Please reply to this email (andrew.ulmer@allromanceebooks.com) with your permission. Be sure to include the name of your publishing house in your response.

P.S. We still have a couple newsletter advertising spaces for the month of December. Cost is $10.00 per ad. Newsletter distribution is approx 50,000. Query info@allromanceebooks.com for availability prior to sending payment.

Lori James
Chief Operating Officer
All Romance eBooks, LLC

AllRomance.com/OmniLit.com

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ariana Cover Awards are open - writing tip

The cover competition awards for the 2011 EPIC conference are currently open for entries: We are only entering a few covers this year and only one that was not designed in-house. But all of you are free to enter your own book covers in the competition if you choose.

Entering is good advertising for your book, whether you win anything or not, as everyone who visits the site will get to see it. Please be sure to follow all the directions and prepare the .jpg image to their specifications before submitting.

Here is the link:


Monday, November 29, 2010

Philosophy - Writing tip

Somebody asked me why I write, why I bother, and they failed to understand when I said, "I can't, NOT." Can you help me think of a better answer, asks a former student.

Well, the best I can come up with is to tell you why I do it. But there are as many reasons as there are writers -- also there is no WRONG reason to write.

I write because I enjoy it. When it goes right, nothing can give you greater pleasure. I have come to feel about my stories (especially since I started doing longer works) that the true satisfaction is in the work itself. At first, I wanted to sell, sell, sell, and I did publish a lot. Now, I'm more in tune to making the writing as good as I can. The work is my reward, because I enjoy every minute, even the ones when I'm struggling hard. Then if it sells -- great. If it doesn't, I've had my fun. My friend, mystery writer Helen Chappell, says I should be shot for even thinking such a thing and "nobody but a fool every wrote, except for money." But I can't help how I feel.

Yes, writing is hard. Some days you feel as if you're wrestling a bear. But, oh the sense of accomplishment when you make that bear dance!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nina Osier's Apple Cake - recipe

Nina Osier’s Apple Cake

1 ½ cup flour
1 cup sugar
¾ cup oil
1 egg
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt (I omit this)
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla

2 ccup thinly sliced, peeled apples
½ cup nuts (I like walnuts, but if you’re allergic use another kind; the cake really does need the nuts though)

Mix top ingredients first (no need to beat, just get everything well acquainted), then stir in the apples and the nuts. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan, and bake at 350-F or 177-c until cake tester comes out clean (about 45 minutes). No need for frosting, although I suppose you could drizzle it with a plain glaze or dust it with powdered sugar for a festive look.

Contributed by Nina Osier, author of Interphase and Second Chances... In an idyllic community on the coast of Maine, it's 1967. A widowed preacher is doing his best to bring up his two teen-agers, but his ideas about what ought to be "for the best" don't turn out as Bill Franklin expects, nor do his children.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cheese Balls - Recipe


Ed Petty’s Jalapeno Cheese Balls

2 lbs. mild and grated cheddar cheese
1 lb. prepared pimiento cheese
1 lb. softened cream cheese
1 7-oz. jar of chopped jalapeno peppers
2 medium chopped onions
6 cloves of minced garlic
4 tbs. lemon juice
4 tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 4-oz. bottle of chili powder

Mix all ingredients except chili powder together and shape into 1-lb. balls. Put chili powder into a flat dish and roll each ball until all of them are covered. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap or tin foil and refrigerate until all of them are set. Makes four to five balls depending on size.

Contributed by Edward Petty, author of Four Flesh Feasts and an After Dinner Mint, and Naked.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Oyster Sandwiches - recipe

Don't know about where you live, but around here the oyster tongers are hard at work and the season for Ham and Oyster supper fund-raisers at local churches and volunteer fire departments is well underway.

Here's my cousin Lizzie's recipe -- the same sandwiches my mom used to cook at the Neck District Fire House, back in the day.

Lizzie Dix’s Oyster Sandwiches

2 quarts oysters, with liquor
2 cups pancake mix (add more if necessary)
2 tsp. salt (some people add pepper some don’t)

Mix liquor and pancake flour well. Add oysters last. There should be just enough batter to hold the oysters together. Ladle into hot iron skillet well-greased with lard. Make six inch round fritters. Fry until edges crisp and bubbles appear. Turn once and let brown on the other side. Each fritter should contain 6 to 8 oysters.

Serve between two slices of white bread ( Wonder Bread is best) and make condiments like vinegar, catsup, mustard, Worcestershire Sauce and tobasco available on the table.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Catching Up

Books that went to press this week:

EASTERN SHORE LIFE AND LURE, the Writers Bloc Anthology

RHINESTONELAND, by Vincent Scuro

Galleys sent out this week:

LOVELAND, by Lisa Marie Mercer

VIENNA PRIDE, by Terry L. White

I am working on corporate taxes, so production will be a bit slow over the next two weeks.

I want you to know that in addition to my family and friends, I am thankful for each and every one of you. Have a great Thanksgiving.

arline


Catching Up

Books that went to press this week:

EASTERN SHORE LIFE AND LURE, the Writers Bloc Anthology

RHINESTONELAND, by Vincent Scuro

Galleys sent out this week:

LOVELAND, by Lisa Marie Mercer

VIENNA PRIDE, by Terry L. White

I am working on corporate taxes, so production will be a bit slow over the next two weeks.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Question from the e-mail - writing tip

This question came from author Elizabeth Egan-Cox, whose titles GHOST OF A CHANCE, THE GHOST FROM THE SHADOWS, and A GHOST MEETS AN ANGEL are among our best-selling books:

Arline;
I just read your blog and was wondering...
I know 'scalable font' is a font type that has an equally distributed mathematical composition, allowing the font to be enlarged or decreased is exact increments, thus always maintaining ratio to proportion... which seems as if it would be ideal for publishing. However, that not being the case with all publishing format techniques, could you explain (in your blog), with one or two examples, glitches scalable font has caused for you and Shelly in creating the paper-bound books.

Thanks

Elizabeth,

A scalable font is one where the letters are different widths. In a non-scalable font, like Courier, for instance, each letter takes the same amount of space. Just another of those typesetting jargon misnomers that leads to mis-understandings. So to use the method I gave yesterday, you'd have to set your font to Courier, and your margins at 1 inch, then look at the number of pages counting at 250 words per page.

The counting method I outlined is a way of counting space, rather than actual words. That way, the publisher knows approximately how many lines of type he or she will end up with. Spell check or Grammatik counts the actual number of words used and, usually, that's a close-enough figure, but on some books it can hand you a surprise. If something is 90,000 words that will usually come in under 300 pages of print and 300 is the cut-off point for costliness in production.

The glitch can come if a book has lots of short chapters and dialog. As I explained yesterday, one word of dialog can take up a whole line of space on the page and should count as 10 words or 60 spaces overall. For typesetting purposes, a word is five letters and a space, or six spaces. With computer typesetting, the programs can solve some of the problems for us and we have learned to deal with others, but still surprises can and do crop up in production.

When they do, Shelley and I are faced with the problem of how to fit a spacier book into the amount of pages we have available -- 300 or less, or we have to raise the price to a figure that will send sales down. I have seen a 50,000 word book, one with lots of one-word dialog back and forth, come it at 298 pages and if it had been longer we would have been in real trouble having signed a contract already.

We can raise the price of the book, and will be doing so on future works as production costs have risen. But that can cost us in sales as well and we don't like to do that.

We can reduce the type size to fit more words per page, that's true. But it makes the book more difficult on the reader's eyes and the pages less inviting to look at. So we only do that for books that offer us surprises and for which we have already contracted. We are often forced to say no when we are offered good work, just because of the length. We try, always to aim for an inviting and readable product and choose our typeface and book design to further those ends.

This is why some e-editions have 497 pages, while the paper book comes in at 298 and gives you a squint. We apologize for that, but it's the best we can do.

That never happens with your books, though, Elizabeth. They are eminently readable both in writing style and presentation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What is the most common mistake? - writer's tip

Question from the e-mail this week: What is the most common mistake people make when submitting their manuscript for publication?

Actually that IS the most common mistake. Submitting the manuscript when we ask to see a query letter only. The first thing we want to know is if you have a good idea. Sending the whole manuscript doesn't tell us that.

But I think maybe you meant what is the most common reason a good story may be turned down? Usually, it's because the ms. is too long for cost-effective paper publication. E-books can be any length, but anything over 100,000 words will eat most publishers alive with paper costs. The moment we read a query letter that begins:

My 140,000 word novel about sex, drugs, and rock & roll is the first of a series of 3 volumes of equal length....

The moment we hit 140,000 words, the word "NO!" pops right into our minds.

The other thing people don't do is count space, not words. A one-word line takes as much space to be printed as a 10 word line. Here's how editors and typesetters count words:

The first thing any editor needs to know is whether your story will fit in his space (or within his paper budget). If it won’t fit, he won’t buy it, no matter how good it is. Let me explain how typesetters count words, which is very different from the way spellcheck does. A line is 60 spaces long. Six spaces equals 1 word, or 10 words per line. If you have (as most people do) 25 lines per page, that gives you 250 words per double-spaced manuscript page. Now the following dialogue,

"No!"
"Yes!"

"No."

"Yes.

"No...."

"Yes?"

"Well, maybe...."

counts as 70 words, though only 8 are used. This way of calculating space, rather than words, is used throughout the industry and is the reason it drives editors absolutely crazy if you justify the right hand margin of your manuscript, or use a scalable font. It looks pretty, but the computer throws in lots of little half-spaces, or moves letters close together, and it throws off all the space calculations.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Boiled Fruitcake - recipe

Louise Thellian’s Boiled Fruitcake *
*Given to me by my beloved friend Babs.


Boil together for 5 minutes:

1 lb. seedless raisins
1 lb. brown sugar
2 tbsp. lard (or margerine)
2 cups water

Let cool, then transfer to a big deep mixing bowl, then add:

2 Level tbsp. of baking soda dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water

Mix the following together and add to mixture:

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup chopped nuts

Pour into 2 loaf pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350-F or 177-C degrees for 1 hour.

Louise Thellian, a friend of Sandy’s, does cover art for us from time to time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Catching Up

Books that went to press this week:

NEVER A COUGAR by Ludima Burton

Galleys out this week:

EASTERN SHORE LIFE AND LURE, Bloc Anthology, Tom Taylor

A MATTER OF FAITH, by Anna Dynowski

VIENNA PRIDE, by Terry L. White

RHINESTONELAND by Vincent Scuro

Looks like everyone is getting ready for Christmas. Thanks for all the orders coming in.

Have a great November, and a beautiful Thanksgiving everyone. I am Thankful for each and every one of you.

arline

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mark Twain is Dead - writing tip

Do you have some advice from a living author?

Well, besides me, you mean? How about Elmore Leonard?

Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle
Elmore Leonard's Rules of Good Writing

These are rules I've picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I'm writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what's taking place in the story. If you have a facility for language and imagery and the sound of your voice pleases you, invisibility is not what you are after, and you can skip the rules. Still, you might look them over.


1. Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a character's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead looking for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways to describe ice and snow than an Eskimo, you can do all the weather reporting you want.


2. Avoid prologues.
They can be annoying, especially a prologue following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in nonfiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want.
There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's "Sweet Thursday," but it's O.K. because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy's thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That's nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don't have to read it. I don't want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story."


3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated," and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.


4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . .
. . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs."


5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.


6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.


7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apostrophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavor of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories "Close Range."


8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" what do the "American and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story, and yet we see the couple and know them by their tones of voice, with not one adverb in sight.


9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
Unless you're Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language or write landscapes in the style of Jim Harrison. But even if you're good at it, you don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.
And finally:


10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
A rule that came to mind in 1983. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue.


My most important rule is one that sums up the 10.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
Or, if proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It's my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing. (Joseph Conrad said something about words getting in the way of what you want to say.) If I write in scenes and always from the point of view of a particular character -- the one whose view best brings the scene to life -- I'm able to concentrate on the voices of the characters telling you who they are and how they feel about what they see and what's going on, and I'm nowhere in sight.


What Steinbeck did in "Sweet Thursday" was title his chapters as an indication, though obscure, of what they cover. "Whom the Gods Love They Drive Nuts" is one, "Lousy Wednesday" another. The third chapter is titled "Hooptedoodle 1" and the 38th chapter "Hooptedoodle 2" as warnings to the reader, as if Steinbeck is saying: "Here's where you'll see me taking flights of fancy with my writing, and it won't get in the way of the story. Skip them if you want."


"Sweet Thursday" came out in 1954, when I was just beginning to be published, and I've never forgotten that prologue.
Did I read the hooptedoodle chapters? Every word.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What are the Rules of Good Writing? - writing tip

That was the question in my e-mail this morning from a former student who had the advice "follow the rules of good writing and you can't go wrong" appended to a return letter from an agent she had queried.

As most of you already know, I have only two rules:

1. Never confuse the reader.

2. Never make work for your editor.

But my curiosity was piqued and I checked on the Internet to see what rules others may have. The following is Mark Twain's advice. Number 12 seems to encompass both my rules:


Mark Twain’s Advice to Writers

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.

3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject at hand. And they should be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.

7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a refugee from a Minstrel show at the end of it.

8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author, nor the people in the tale.

9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate, and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. The characters in a tale should be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

12. The author should say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

13. A writer should use the right word, not its second cousin.

14. In crafting language, a good writer will eschew surplusage.

15. Do not omit necessary details.

16. Avoid slovenliness of form.

17. Use good grammar.

18. Employ a simple, straightforward style.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Gianni Hayes's Cookies - recipe



Gianni Hayes’s Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Contributor’s Note: These cookies are absolutely delicious, and the softer you make them, the better. For Christmas, you might want to stir in red and green M&Ms. It's easy and quick to do but the secret's in the chilling. This is a recipe handed down to me by my neighbor Diane Davenport. Everyone in my family makes them now.

1/2 cup cooking oil
4 squares baking chocolate, grated and unmelted
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup powdered sugar (reserve for baking)

In a large bowl, mix the chocolate, oil, and sugar. Add the 4 eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Mix well, add vanilla

Next, stir in baking powder, the flour, and salt. Chill several hours or overnight (This is an important step). After thoroughly chilled, pre-heat over to 350-F or 177-C degrees

Make small to medium-sized ball; you can use a teaspoon for this. Drop the balled dough into the powdered sugar and roll it around to cover it with the powder. Place 2" apart on greased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Option: Leave out grated baker’s chocolate and add into mixture chocolate Tollhouse morsels or M&Ms. Makes about 50 cookies.

Contributed by Gianni D. Hayes, Ph.D, author of Jacob's Demon.

***

Monday, November 8, 2010

What is "subtext?" - writing tip

Today's e-mail question comes from a former student who was told that her subtext did not come through well in her dialog and that the meaning of the subtext was unclear. What is subtext? she asked.

In dialog and narrative both there is always both text and subtext. The first is what is said outright, and the second is what is implied by what is left unsaid, or what qualifies what is said. Often, subtext, which the reader picks up on, is as important as what is actually said. Look at the following:

“Oh, is that slide show at the library with the nature photographer tonight?” John grimaced. “I’ll go if you want, but I’m really tired. After all, I was out to the Bible Study at church last night and you stayed home and read. This makes two nights in a row, for me. Of course, I don’t like to mess up your plans....”

Okay, here the subtext is pretty plain: John is hostile and disagreeable and of course he wants to mess up her plans. If he didn’t, he’d say, “You go ahead, hon, I’m too tired tonight." What this really says is, “You couldn’t find time to go with me last night, so I’m NOT going to be nice about what you want to do tonight.”

That is the subtext, although the text says that he'll go if she wants, it is made clear by the subtext that he doesn't really WANT to go and doesn't want her to go and enjoy herself, either.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Catching Up

No books went to press this week.

Print-galleys were prepared for:

NEVER A COUGAR by Ludima Gus Burton, and corrections were received and are in progress. Thanks, Lulu, that was quick.

A MATTER OF FAITH, by Anna Dynowski.

Work continued on:

DEMONCHASER II by David Berardelli

RHINESTONELAND, by Vincent Scuro

We're still waiting on print contracts from the following:

LOVELAND, by Lisa Marie Mercer

TRAVELER, by David Yates

New books are up for November and Shelley did a great job on the front page for the web site. Yay, Shelley.

Work will slow some in the second half of November as corporate taxes are due.

Have a great week, everyone!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

David Hooper's French Stew - Recipe

David Hooper’s French Stew (Adapted) with Baguettes

* The elegance in this stew is its simplicity. It does not take long to prepare and it is ready to
eat in an hour.

1 2 to 2-1/2 pound chuck roast.
6 medium red potatoes
2 small or one medium onion (cut in quarters)
8 carrots (I use the baby carrots and put in two for one carrot. No scrape, no mess)
½ cup Flour
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of black pepper
½ teaspoon of rosemary
½ teaspoon of thyme
2 tablespoons of oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1/8 teaspoon of Tabasco sauce
1 French baguette loaf
Water

Heat skillet or Dutch Oven on medium high with two tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of oil. Cut the chuck roast into one-inch squares. Salt and pepper the meat, then dredge it in flour. Put the pieces in hot grease and brown until all sides are uniformly browned.

When done, take the meat out and put in one cup of water, stirring to get all the breading off the bottom of the skillet. Put the rosemary, thyme, salt, Tabasco, and pepper into the skillet. Stir a few seconds. Put in the potatoes, carrots, and the onions into the skillet. Put the meat on top of the vegetables, add water to just barely keep the ingredients covered with liquid, cover, and let it come to a boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally.

When the meat is tender, turn off the heat and let sit on the stove for five minutes. Slice the baguette and garnish with butter.

Contributed by David M. Hooper, co author of Reunions Are Murder by Ursula McNabb... Retired policeman Bob Brantmier didn't want to go to his 30-year high school reunion, but his old partner on the force needs help after one of Bob's classmates is murdered. Look at it this way, at least Bob knows all the suspects, though maybe not as well as he thinks.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

E-mail question on new print facilities - writing tip

I got an e-mail this week from an author that read: "I've been reading a lot about the ATMs where you can print your book in 5 minutes. I'm sure you've already looked into that. I have no idea what it costs to have them load the book into their machines and/or if each location has its own particular inventory. Maybe if you get a chance you could address that in a blog or something."

They have been talking about this kind of thing seriously for about six years, mostly using the term kiosk for a set-up in a bookstore where you can select your title, go have a cup of cappucino while it's being printed, then pick up your book and take it home the same day. The first experimental versions went into business about three years ago. They are becoming more and more an expected service and less and less a curiosity.

I have heard it discussed as a possibility as early as 2000. And the "technology is just around the corner" has been a standard in the POD publishing business for years. People raved that it would "put traditional publishers out of business." But that is highly unlikely.

I haven't heard the term ATM before, but think it fits, especially if the kiosk becomes an automatic operation where the customer prints his or her own book. That seems likely as no store has to pay health insurance or salary to a machine that's operated by the general public.

I know that some B&N bookstores have them available in larger cities, using print on demand technology for the presses, which are glorified copy machines. The book files they print come from POD publishers, like us, who list with either Lightening Source or Create Space / Booksurge, or other POD printers. Barnes & Noble picks up files for such titles through a distributor of files and pays us through our printers accordingly for any of our books it prints out and sells in their stores -- just as we are paid for any that sell on amazon for instance. We have a contract with them to do so. From the beginning, until now, we've made $23.19 from such sales, and we have paid the distributor more than $1,000 in fees for printing and set up costs. Nevertheless, it is the "wave of the future." Or at least it is right now.

So my advice is not to worry about how to upload files to this market unless you are self-published. That's the printer/publisher's job and if there's any money to be made at it, and eventually there may be, your publisher will be on it -- profit being such a rarely-sighted animal in this business and we optimist publishers so keen on pursuing them wherever they may show themselves.

Some people think/fear this venue would also take advantage of electronic book files so that e-books could be (illegally) printed out and sold as print copies. The investment in the technology is extensive and no reputable company (especially B&N who are the only ones to take advantage of the available technology so far) would risk a suit over copyright infringement by printing e-books files they'd have to BUY first, when they can just use files they can download from our printers and pay a percentage without any initial investment from them at all.

Anyway, I have no idea why anyone would want to print a copy of an e-book. But any determined person who wanted a paper copy of an e-book badly enough could easily do it on his home computer with the right program available. Microsoft Word will convert a PDF to a document and then print it, for instance. Also anyone can take a PDF file to a Kinko's and get it printed. It's not exactly rocket science.

Besides, the whole advantage of an e-book is that you can carry a dozen books in the device, all for the same amount of weight as if it's empty. No wonder they are so popular with college students who form the foundations of our e-book buying customer-base at the moment.

That, too, is changing. With senior citizens the second largest growth group of new e-book readers. As the Nintendo generation ages and takes up more sedentary pursuits, such as reading, instead of hang-gliding, I believe e-books will become more and more popular, just as cell-phones have replaced the tied-to-the-wall variety.

Nothing will ever replace a paper book for those of us who grew up with them. But for folks who grew up with hand-held devices, and with the improved clarity of imagery and screens bigger than two inches, more and more of us will be moving into the e-book market all the time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Carlene Dater's Coffee Bread - recipe

CONGRATULATIONS TO CARLENE. She's a finalist in the EPIC Awards this year.

Carlene Dater’s Swedish Coffee Bread

Cream together, ½ cup butter and 11/4 cups sugar -
Add 2 beaten eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla. Mix well.
Add 2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder and ½ tsp. Baking soda. Mix in flour to form batter.

In a separate bowl, mix ½ cup chopped walnuts, 2 tsp. Sugar and ½ tsp. Cinnamon.

Put half the batter in a greased Angel food cake pan or, anyway a pan with a hole in the middle.

Sprinkle half the nut mixture on batter in pan. Add remaining dough then add the rest of the sugar/nut/cinnamon mixture on top. Bake one hour in 350-F or 177-C degree oven. Yummy.

Contributed by Carlene Dater, author of Call Sign Love, and The Colors of Death...

Monday, November 1, 2010

How do I describe a character- writing tip

Question: from the e-mail this morning involved character description and ended with, "it's particularly hard in first person, because it sounds ridiculous to say you looked in the mirror and knew the true meaning of georgeous." But even in third person, how do you describe yourself?

Answer: Characters should be described as soon as the reader meets them. it's not fair to mention they are blonde 20 pages later after the reader has already imagined a brunette. And describing a character feature by feature can get to sound like a catalog--or an information dump. I like a general description or to describe one or two things and leave the rest up to the reader’s imagination. The key thing is to describe them when they are first mentioned, before the reader’s imagination kicks in with something you never intended.

Using a mirror for first-person descriptions has been done to often, and too often badly, as you mentioned. But having a character think about how they look is fair and can be intriguing in either first or third -- if what they consider faults turn out to be fairly attractive features.


I'm certainly no authority when it comes to writing good description, but anyone can get lucky. Here’s an example of how to use the "thinking about features" approach from my mystery story, “Final Exit." It begins as follows:

"Actually, Jon knew he and his sister, Jill, looked alike. Same dark eyes, same straight nose, same generous mouth. But his hair was dark where Jill's was fair, and his jaw was square while Jill's pointed chin gave her face a heart shape."

We are in Jon's viewpoint, but can see both Jon and his sister are relatively attractive without either of them seeming conceited.