The all-important book title and covers…

As I work on the second draft of my novel, I have begun thinking about the cover and the title. Even though I have written about both subjects before, I wanted to revisit them since they are so important to the overall impression of the book. They set the tone and create an expectation for the reader.

Titles

I never had any problem with picking a title for the books in my trilogy. box setOnce I decided that The Elemental would be the name of my trilogy instead of the first book, the title Summoned just seemed most appropriate. Quietus and Destiny also were easy picks after I decided to stick with one-word titles.

But my latest book isn’t as easy. The working title has always just been Alexandria. On this blog, I have also referred to the working title as Finding Alexandria.

The other day, my husband suggested Heir of Alexandria. I thought that sounded good. But a quick search on Amazon shows that Mercedes Lackey has a series called Heirs of Alexandria. Darn. I would rather not have my title the same as a series of five books.

Of course Summoned and Destiny are titles that others have used, but I try to stay away from titles used by popular authors. I mean I would never name my book Gone with the Wind or The Hunt for Red October.

So I have considered Alexandria’s Heir or The Search for Alexandria’s heir. I don’t know. Nothing is really clicking with me yet.

Covers                                                   

Covers are very important as this is the first thing the reader sees. You want to select something that intrigues them enough to click on your link and read the book description.

The SearchThis means you want a professional-looking cover. Now I know enough graphic design to design my own (and did so for my short story The Search), but I choose to let someone else with a little more experience do the covers from my trilogy.

Unless you are willing to pay someone to draw you a cover, most designers are using stock photos and graphics. The problem with writing fantasy is that many of the models in those photos are wearing modern clothing. Even the ones in “medieval” garb are not wearing what those in my story wear. It makes selecting artwork hard. And don’t even get me started on finding a decent dragon artwork to use.

So I have been spending some time looking at stock photo sites such as istockphoto and dreamstime. I would love to feature the necklace my character wears but again, there is no artwork that looks like it and I can’t draw. I guess I could look into someone else drawing it for me, but I am wanting to keep my costs low.

I also need to decide if I want to stick with the woman who designed my trilogy covers or go with someone new. She has raised her prices considerably since last time.

Ahh…so much to decide before proceeding. I don’t want to make any hasty decisions on such important topics, so I guess I will keep mulling over what I want to do.

Quote of the Week: Oct. 29

It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin- and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright. ~ Erin Morgenstern

 

Setting up special accommodations for my daughter’s education

As I have mentioned numerous times on my blog, Lexie has a variety of medical issues. The only ones affecting her daily life right now are her eczema and allergies.

At six, her eczema has really gotten under control. Her skin is looking better, and we haven’t been doing anything different. She puts Vaseline on before baths, and that is about it. It still mainly affects her legs with her ankles being the worst.

As for her allergies, they still cause her to scratch some, but we just deal with it and dutifully give her antihistamines daily. Actually all summer, I gave her no medications, and she did fine. It wasn’t until middle August that something made her start itching again. It is always worst August and September, for some reason. (For those of you who don’t know Lexie’s history, she was diagnosed at age 2 with being allergic to a long list of things, so there is little chance we will pinpoint what causes the flare up during these months.)

I am not sure what triggered the school to flag Lexie as someone who needs extra attention. But last year, I received a Section 504 notice. This was in reference to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under Section 504, schools must provide individuals with disabilities accommodations to help them receive an education equal to that of the other students.

I had no clue that her allergies would qualify her for that, but it does. I guess they consider allergies – especially a possible life-threatening one (Lexie received an epi pen 18 months ago) to be a physical issue that they needed to make a plan for even though I don’t think they limit her life activities in a way that garners special attention.

For whatever reason, last year we had a meeting with the counselor, principal, her teacher, and the nurse to discuss what the school needed to do to accommodate Lexie. I told them of her medical history, and that she had been to preschool without any problems. There really wasn’t much that needed to be done besides watch for allergic reactions and try to curb her desire to scratch.

Earlier this month, I had our annual review on her 504 plan. Now this came three days after meeting with Lexie’s teacher to discuss her involvement in RAP – a reading program that Jase did last year. It is designed to help those students who need extra help with reading.

On Lexie’s reading test in September, she was assessed at a reading level of D. This level is an end of kindergarten/beginning of first-grade level. I would think this is an appropriate level but guess not. Her teacher thinks she would benefit from the extra reading help. And as I did with Jase, I gave my approval. How could I not want them to read better?

So now her enrollment in RAP is part of her 504 accommodations even though it has no correlation to her physical “disability.” They are also offering to tutor her during school hours if she needs it. But these are all things that would have been offered even if she didn’t have allergies. Now it is just written down in the records- in case someone wanted to complain that she wasn’t being treated fairly.

Today’s Featured Author: Ashley Ladd

I would like to welcome author Ashley Ladd to my blog. Following today’s interview is an excerpt from her latest book, Spooky Sojourn.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a mild-mannered customer service rep by day and a masked crusading erotic romance writer by night. I tried to join the FBI, but unfortunately, I have severe hearing loss from my active duty Air Force days which disqualified me. However, the Air Force sent me through college and I went on to complete my MBA and I function with the aid of hearing aids.

I’m also a wife, mother of five, grandmother of two, and I absolutely adore cats. I love to watch movies on the big screen, take long walks, and swim. I’m a regular Trekkie and Food Network addict.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in Colerain Township. Although I still call that home, I also call South Florida, specifically Fort Lauderdale home. I’ve lived in Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) for the past 24 years.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

Yes. I’m halfway done with “Gaycation”. It’s an MMF about an erotic MM/BDSM romance writer who attends a gay convention to get ideas and she ends up with way more than she bargains for. It’s fun to write so far and I’m sure it’ll be fun to read.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I wish I could write full time. It’s my dream. But alas, I hold down a full time day job as a customer service representative.

I write between 2-4 hours nightly after I get home from work which is about 1,000 to 3,000 words nightly. You see, my real claim to fame is that I type about 96 wpm. I also try to write for a few hours each on Saturday and Sunday.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I make a very loose outline. I’m more of a pantser and let the story unfold as I go. I know the ending and a few high points in the middle but let the road wind around. I’d be too bored with the story if it was completely mapped out before hand.

What inspired you to write this book?

I stayed in a haunted hotel when I attended a romance writer’s convention about twelve years ago. It was a fun adventure and I promised myself I’d write a book inspired by it. Spooky Sojourn was finally born.

How did you come up with the title?

I was surfing the Internet and saw the phrase “Spooky Sojourn” and thought it fit my book.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

I love Harry DeVeaux. He’s so charming and sexy I wish I was theheroine so he could be my hero.

I really dislike Roxanne Cambridge, the villain.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

It would be Haley because she dresses up as Catwoman and saves her hero (repeatedly) from the bad guys. She even jumps her motorcycle over a police car. She’s awesome and has a ton of fun. Haley’s in Purrfect Justice published by Ellora’s Cave.

Or maybe Deanna. She’s chasing ghosts and going to séances. Deanna’s in Spooky Sojourn which will be published by Totally Bound in October of this year.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

Probably Make-believe Lover. Becca and her cat Gizmo are transported into the alternate dimension of her favorite comic book world. In this world, Gizmo speaks English. In fact, he won’t shut up! He’s a riot and he tries to steal the show. She gets to fly around on dragons and she has a super hottie for a hero. Make-believe Lover is published by Ellora’s Cave.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I twirled flags in high school and again in the Air Force Drum Bugle & Corps. We marched in the New Orleans Mardis Gras Parade.

Excerpt

Wow!

Deanna reread her fantasy, barely able to believe she’d penned it, wondering if she should delete it. Did she really want to make out with Harry, a perfect stranger, on a public beach? Did she really want her words on the Internet, even in a supposedly private blog under a make-believe name?

Well, it was confidential, right? As long as she didn’t give anybody the web address or password or tell them about it, it would remain secret.

Enough fantasizing! She had to get back to work. Dragging the files out, she familiarized herself with the ghost sightings as well as Lynette’s and Grant’s history. By the time she finished, she knew how they’d died and the theories about their suicides-slash-murders. She also knew that everybody was afraid to point fingers at the now very influential and powerful Roxanne Cambridge-Anderson. Could Roxanne be behind the haunting nonsense? Did she want the hotel shut down? But that made no sense. The rumors portrayed Roxanne as a murderess. It wouldn’t be in her best interest to keep their legend alive.

Deanna’s temples began to ache the harder she thought about everything, so she decided to go to sleep. Hopefully she’d awake if any hijinks took place in the bowling alley.

About three a.m., deafening booms awoke her. Light brightened lane fourteen and all but one pin lay scattered on the wooden floor.

Groggy, Deanna tried to gather her senses. She looked around then, to her horror, she saw an iridescent figure of a man on lane fourteen picking up a glowing ball. Collecting her presence of mind, she grabbed her webcam, pointed it at the ghostly shape and turned it on. Shaking, she tried to hold her computer steady. Not believing what she was seeing, she knew there had to be a rational explanation. Perhaps some machine was projecting the image onto the lanes. Perhaps a real person stood in front of her in glowing phosphorescent powder.

Whatever or whoever it was, picked up the ball, and knocked down the spare pin. Then the ‘apparition’ bowled three strikes in a row.

Unexpectedly, he turned and glared at her, fire shooting from his eyes. Pins flew from all the lanes at her. Her heart racing, she ducked under the score table.

Book Blurb

spookysojourn_800Someone’s trying to kill Deanna, but is it the ghosts she doesn’t believe in, the rich socialite who might be a murderess, or someone else with a beef against The Gilroy Hotel and Resort that Deanna has just been hired to manage?  The Gilroy’s owners want the ghosts, or whoever is causing the trouble at the hotel eliminated, and they are pressuring Deanna to do the job as quickly as possible. Harry DeVeaux, paranormal investigator comes highly recommended to do the job and against Deanna’s better judgment, she hires him.

Although Deanna thinks Harry’s crazy for believing in ghosts and Harry thinks Deanna has a closed mind to the possibilities of ghosts and they highly annoy each other, sparks fly. Deanna can’t help but fantasize about Harry and inspired by a romance convention visiting her hotel, writes her fantasies in a private blog that Harry finds, hacks, and reads. Ooh la la!

About the Author

Ashley LaddAshley Ladd lives in South Florida with her husband, five children and beloved pets. She loves water, cats and playing on the computer.

She’s often incorporates humor and adventure into her books. She also adores very spicy romance which she weaves into her stories.

You can find out more about Ashley on her blog or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase her books on Amazon.

Working on my second draft

I finished the first draft on my current work in progress at the end of September. Now to many a first draft is just getting the story down.

If you use an outline and plotted out your story, it might be in good shape. Or you may have just written whatever came to you and have a lot of work to do before reaching the final product.

As I have mentioned in the past, I write the first draft and edit it at the same time. As I am writing out the story, my husband is reading chapters and making comments – “expand here,” “I don’t understand this,” or “This is good.”

Based on his comments, I go back and rewrite sections as I continue to write the rest of the story. (I don’t use an outline per se but am not a total by-the-seat-of-her-pants type gal either. I usually have the next few chapters planned out but not the whole story other than a general idea of where I want it to go.)

So now that my first draft is done, it is on to my second draft. Every author does things differently. Since I have really already fleshed out a lot of my novel, there is less of that to do in this second draft. My main purpose with this draft is to read through my novel looking for consistency and where I can amend the story (either by trimming it, fleshing it out or developing subplots).

I read through the whole 98,000 words without making too many corrections. I will add a word or two here if one is left out or correct the spelling of a word, but I try not to get into re-writing at this stage. As I read, I am making notes of areas that need work. I am also writing down some events to make sure I am consistent with them.

In this latest work, my main character has visions. I have been jotting down what happens in each one to make sure what she can see is consistent in each one. She also has premonition dreams, and I have been writing down each dream to make sure that when they happen later that the action matches match up with the dream. It really is all about consistency at this point.

Now once I have read through and made my notes, my second draft isn’t done until I go back and make all those changes. Now I don’t make the changes as I am reading it as I don’t want to get bogged down with making corrections. I need to read it straight through to be able to pay attention to all those details.

When these corrections are done, I can use my revision outline to tighten my writing, perfect word choices and descriptions and cut unnecessary words. And when I get to that stage, it will be my third draft. There will probably be at least one more draft after that before it is completed.

So glad the end feels near…though for me, it is the third draft that requires the most work (after the first draft, of course).

Teamwork is the focus in my son’s co-taught, third-grade class

Jase started third grade this year and for the first time, he is being taught in a co-teaching atmosphere. In the past, he has always had one teacher who has about 20 students.

This year he was assigned to Mrs. Y’s class. She has 22 students. She, however, co-teaches with the teacher next door, Mrs. S who has 23 students. They share three classrooms worth of space.

3rd grade

There are many types of co-teaching  such as parallel, team, alternating, and station. In his class, they mix several of these varieties depending on what they are doing.

I would say parallel teaching is their main focus. Their schedules are the same. So if one is teaching science in her classroom, the other is also teaching the same science lesson in her own classroom. If one teacher is stronger in one subject, they might actually combine the classes for a lecture and then break into groups to put the lesson into practice.

Along this same line, when they do math, Mrs. Y teaches 10-12 kids, and Mrs. S teaches 10-12 kids. The remaining kids are divided into groups of 4-5 students (some from each class) and rotate through four different math stations. The kids are encouraged to work together and discuss the math problems at each station, and both teachers (along with a classroom helper) check on each station periodically.

This method of discussing and working together is used throughout the day. Whenever they are not in “lecture” mode, the teachers have the students pair up or work in groups. There is almost nothing that they do individually except for taking a test.

The teachers are constantly encouraging the kids to explain how they reached their conclusions. This allows the other students to see that you can get the right answer multiple ways.

Now co-teaching is not new. Co-teaching is about the two teachers working together. Yes, there are times when the classes retreat to their own areas but the majority of the time, the kids are intermingled and working together.

Their classroom is also set up to be changeable. The tables are on rollers so that the configuration can be set up to meet whatever the teachers need. They have projectors hooked up to their computers so all kids can see what they are talking about in multiple locations, and both teachers have auditory systems that can project their voices to either their own or both classrooms as necessary.

I find it a unique setup from what we are used to. And Jase really loves the format. It helps that Mrs. S and Mrs. Y work so well together. This is their third year teaching this way.

Our principal likes it so much that he has recommended all the classes be set up the same way. So Lexie’s class is set up with three classrooms too but her teacher and the teacher next door do only a small part of their day together. They by no means have the system down as well as Jase’s teachers. But it is a start, and I suspect the next year her classes will be more like Jase’s was this year. Or at least I hope so because I like this teaching method.