Quote of the Week – Oct. 31

Today, on Halloween, the San Antonio Spurs play their first game of the 2012-2013 basketball season. And as a Spurs fan, I just had to post this quote. It is posted throughout the Spurs training facility and has been translated into the different native languages of players throughout the years. This mantra has helped produce the winning culture Spurs fans have come to expect. Here is to another great season! Go Spurs Go!

“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” Jacob Riis

 

 

Why I didn’t hire a proofreader for my novel

The other day I read a blog about the importance of hiring someone to edit your book before publishing it. The writer couldn’t fathom any reason an author would not put out their best work which in her opinion meant having a professional editor review the book before publication.

While I agree that putting a professional, well-polished, grammatically correct novel should be the goal of all authors, I do, however, understand why someone wouldn’t hire a proofreader or copy editor.

Money. Pure and simple, I believe it is a financial issue. It doesn’t have anything to do with not valuing their work or not being a professional. Hiring a professional to review your book is not cheap.  I am one of those authors who didn’t have someone proof my first novel, Summoned, before I self-published it, and money is the reason why.

Now before we go any further, let me say that people throw around hiring an editor and a proofreader as if they are the same thing. While related, they are NOT the same. An editor is going to look for consistency and substance in addition to grammatical, spelling and factual errors. They are going to comment on improving the flow and consistency of your story. A proofreader is someone you hire after your work has been edited. They look for common grammar errors and typos.

Now back to my story…after the first few reviews of Summoned mentioned grammatical errors, I looked into having my book proofread.  The estimates for my 84,000-word novel were between $450 and $1400. It is hard as a newbie to justify shelling out that type of money. Yes, you want to be professional but think of how many books I have to sell to cover that cost. Summoned is available for $2.99, which means I make $2.05 on each book sold. Assuming I went with the low end of those proofing amounts, that means I would need to sell 220 books just to break even and that isn’t including cover design or any book promotions. I couldn’t justify that cost at the time.

And I am being a realist here because as much as I love my work and believe readers will enjoy it, there are millions upon millions of books out there. It is hard for an unknown to crack the bestseller lists or even make a decent amount of money. Roughly, half the self-published authors make $500 a year or less.

So since I wasn’t willing to shell out that type of money, but wanted to improve my work, I decided to invest in one of the leading grammar checking programs. After reading reviews and much research I went with Whitesmoke. Now this is a comprehensive grammar checker that will blow away what Microsoft Word does. Check out this comparison using actual sentences with errors. (NOTE: As of November 2016, Whitesmoke no longer works. Company may have gone out of business.)

Not only does it do grammar, punctuation and style, but it also alerts you to word repetitions and missing words. To use WhiteSmoke you must have an internet connection as their database of words and phrases is too big to be downloaded to your computer, plus they are constantly testing, improving and upgrading it daily.

Now I am not saying that Whitesmoke is perfect, and it can make suggestions that don’t fit into a fictitious work.  It is a time-consuming process as it reviews everything paragraph by paragraph. But when I ran it on Summoned I was amazed at how many things it caught. I then used it on Quietus (Book 2 in my trilogy) and The Search (my short story) before they were published. None of the reviews for either of these works have ever mentioned grammar or spelling being a problem. I am currently using it as I edit my upcoming book Destiny (Book 3 in my trilogy).

So should WhiteSmoke replace a copy editor? No. Could it replace a proofreader? Maybe.

But if nothing else, it can certainly allow those budding writers out there a chance to produce grammatically-correct material at a fraction of the price. Now helping them with the plot is a whole other issue.

A Not so Spooky Halloween

“Hold on, man. We don’t go anywhere with ‘scary,’ ‘spooky,’ ‘haunted,’ or ‘forbidden’ in the title.” – Shaggy from Scooby-Doo.

It is that time of the year again when ghosts and ghouls fill the streets in search of goodies. Yes, Halloween is just two days away. And my kids are bouncing off the walls in anticipation.

My kids are young enough that they aren’t into the scary costumes. This year is obviously all about superheroes as my son is Batman and my daughter is Wonder Woman.

Of course, every year we have events leading up to the ‘big’ day. And as with most kids, mine are excited for any chance to wear their costumes.

Our first use of the costumes was a birthday party two and a half weeks before Halloween. The invitation said to dress scary but since the ages of those attending were between four and seven years old, it turned out to be a whole bunch of superheroes. There were at least three other kids dressed up as Batman but Lexi was the only Wonder Woman.

The second costumed event for my daughter came just this past Saturday. One of her former classmates had a “Merry, Not Scary Halloween Party.” There were mostly girls in attendance so lots of princesses and fairies.

And of course, one of the most anticipated events is our neighborhood Fall Festival which I am crazy enough to be responsible for organizing this and last year. We kicked it off with a costume parade through the neighborhood. As we have done this over the years, it is interesting to see the costumes change from fairies and superheroes to zombie princesses and vampires as the kids get older.

My friend who has three boys under the age of six says she won’t ever let them dress as something scary. She doesn’t want them to scare the little kids. I don’t know how long that will last.

To me, it seems the natural progression of things that as kids age they like to scare others. I remember as a child that my brother dressed as a werewolf for several years. It was all done with makeup and looked very convincing. My mom dressed as a witch with a crocked nose complete with a wart to hand out candy from her cauldron. Yes, lots of kids were scared of her.

As much as I like the cute costumes I quite expect my kids to move toward more elaborate and yes, even scary costumes. That is after all part of the fun of Halloween.

Today’s Featured Author: Sara Kay Jordan

Today I want to welcome author Sara Kay Jordan to my blog. Sara is here to talk about her latest release, I’m Ready: A Moore Family Moment.

Interview:

Welcome, Sara. Can you tell us who or what inspired you to start writing?

Storytelling held a certain importance for me growing up. My paternal great-grandmother loved to tell stories and she would even write them down for us in little books. I lived most of my childhood in the same house as my mother’s grandfather and he was a master storyteller. Having him tell us a bedtime story was the highlight of any day. Both of those grandparents, one on each side of my family, showed me that stories and the effort it took to create them were special.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have some kind of story playing in my head. It seemed a natural thing to imagine adventures and excitement. As a kid it was the best way to entertain myself and it became a habit that never went away.

 When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Writing has always been a part of me, but I don’t think I really considered myself a writer until the day I was able to Google myself. The moment a search returned the cover art and a link to buy my first book is one I’ll never forget. I had been writing all my life and sharing various projects with other writers for a long time. If asked then I would have said writing was my hobby, and I would have shied away from calling myself a “real” writer. With the actual publication of my first book I became committed to actually being a writer. It was a defining moment.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

Quite a bit, I think. Not the danger and adventure, and I’m certainly not as intelligent as some of my characters, but the most important part of them comes from me. The series as a whole is the story of a large, loving family and that’s something I know intimately. The way they interact, the importance each character places on being part of this family, the bond they share, is a huge part of both who I am and who these characters are.

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

I have! Prodigy: Book 3 of The Moore Family Series is currently with the editor and we hope for a December release.

The tag line for the entire series is: happily ever after comes with danger and that’s a fitting description of the adventures in this next book. Joe and Kat are living out the fairytale ending of the love story we saw in Book 2, but theirs is not a quiet forever. These are two very special people, as is everyone in their family, and that brings its own dangers.

Here’s the official description:

Joe Moore and Kat Archer are living their happily ever after. For this amazing couple the fairytale ending holds more than love and happiness. It also contains excitement, the occasional danger and the ever-present challenge of raising two children with extraordinary gifts.

Annie and Jack Holmes share that parenting challenge. As the other half of the Moore family their house of geniuses and artists is just as chaotic as Joe and Kat’s.

The entire family is excited to join young Zac Holmes when he gets a once-in-a-lifetime chance to reach for his dreams. But their trip brings more challenge than they expect. While Zac shines, Kathryn and Joe confront new threats, an old secret from Annie’s past shakes up her family and Parker Moore faces an important decision about love.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

Usually the germ of a plot comes when I ask myself how one of my characters would handle a situation. It can be a song lyric, a personal experience, or something I see portrayed elsewhere, anything really. Some of the most interesting story elements have been built on a single line of dialogue or emotional response that I imagine my character would give.

 Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I’ve learned to outline, but I’m not bound to it. When I first decide on a basic plot line I sit down and either create a character sketch for new characters or give some thought to the motivations of returning players. I then get to work and type out the basic story. By the time I finish I have a rather thorough synopsis of the entire novel.

However, once I seriously begin writing that plot can change. I’m sometimes surprised at what happens along the way. Characters often have a mind of their own, and events I thought would be key or sway the story in a particular direction turn out to be something completely different. What that can mean is that the finish product doesn’t exactly match my starting synopsis.

Please tell us about your current release.

I’m Ready: A Moore Family Moment is a short story featuring the characters of The Moore Family Series.

When we left Joe and Kat at the end of the latest novel, they were just starting their life together. Two years later they are happy, but there is one thing missing. Can there be a fairytale ending when two people are so different? For Joe the answer has always been yes. Kathryn’s scarred heart needs more time before she can say she truly believes in happily ever after.

The great thing about this short story is that it’s a perfect introduction for readers unfamiliar with the series. If you are looking for a quick read and a sweet and tender love story, this will be just the ticket.

For returning readers this story is my way of saying thank you. They gave LOVE & GENIUS such wonderful praise and support. This epilogue is my way of giving back to them.

What inspired you to write this book?

I loved writing LOVE & GENIUS (Book 2 of the Moore Family Series) and I wasn’t ready to let go. The rest of the series is set progressively further and further into the future. We still explore lots of steamy and romantic moments between Joe and Kat, but it was fun to linger just a bit in the early days of their relationship.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Some are heavily influenced by real life people, usually its personality traits or the character’s interests, but sometimes it’s a bit more than that. I frequently name characters after real world friends or family, although that character might bear little resemblance to their namesake.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

The closest I come to a required snack is coffee. I’m an all-day coffee drinker and having a cup at hand helps me stay focused on whatever I’m writing.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

Living: JK Rowling and Anne Rice. Both are incredibly successful, creative women who have established themselves at the top of the game. Each developed their own amazing universe and I’d love a chance to discuss their work.

No longer living: Tolstoy and Mark Twain. I’m in awe of the way they both mastered the art of examining their own culture.

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

I’ve never met my best-friend, we connected online and have never been face-to-face.

Book Description

Joe and Kathryn found their happily ending. But, two years into their relationship there is still one final hurdle to overcome. Can there be a fairytale ending when two people are so different? For Joe the answer has always been yes. Kathryn’s scarred heart needs more time before she can say she truly believes in happily ever after. Join them as they take the final steps toward becoming everything they are meant to be.

The Moore Family Series
What happens when a brilliant and beautiful scientist falls in love with one of the army’s most elite soldiers? They live happily ever after. Except, sometimes fairytales come with danger. The Moores and those they call family are each special in their own way. Theirs are stories of love, adventure, family and growing up.

About the Author

Sara Kay Jordan holds a BA in English, and is a lifelong daydreamer, a combination that prepared her in equal measure to pursue her dream to be a writer. Her first novel, Snatching Genius, was released in 2011 to warm praise. Her family includes two grown children and one cranky old dog. Sara lives in Springfield, MO.

Follow her online on her website and on Twitter @sarakayjordan.

Y ou can buy her books on Amazon or iBooks.

Naming places in a fantasy novel

Last week, I dedicated my post to tips on developing character names but the places in your novel need names too. If you are writing a novel that takes place on Earth – whether it is set in the present, past or future – all you need is an atlas (or I guess in the modern age – Google Maps) to give you the names of counties, cities, lakes, rivers and mountain ranges.  But when you have developed your own world, you have the task of naming all the places yourself.

So where do you come up with these names? They can come from just about anywhere. Here are a few tips to help you brainstorm.

1.) Use a map – There are plenty of unusual names of places already in existence. Just skimming over a map you can find great places like – Boone, Evansdale, or Brydemere. I named a village Elwood in my short story, The Search, after a town I found on a map. It should go without saying that you will want to stay away from popular city names such as Albuquerque or Springfield.

2.) Use a last name Last names can work well as the names of a place so check out your phone book. To name one of the rivers in The Search, I used the last name of a former Spurs basketball player – Bruce Bowen. From his name, I created the Bowen River in which my main character, Tosh, falls into while trying to escape a pack of wolves.

3.) Use an on-line generator – A great place to get some names would be to use an on-line name generator. These randomly give you names and while you may not like the names that are suggested, they can maybe spark your imagination.

4.) Use a common word – No one said that you had to come up with some obscure word to name your places. You can just pick a random, simple word and use it. In my The Elemental trilogy, I have Harmony and Nor as two of my major cities. I also have a country called Remington after the gun manufacturer.

5.) Think like your characters – You may want to put yourself in your character’s boots. Where is their town located? Is it near a mountain or a river? If they had to name it, what would they come up with? If you are naming a mountain peak or a hallowed ground, maybe it is named after one of their gods or a king.

There are no set rules for naming places.  As you come across interesting names – no matter where they come from – jot them down. You never know when that word will work out perfectly as a name for a city, village, river or mountain in your next story.

Virtual Book Tours: Are they worth it?

A popular way to promote your book is to do a book tour. But with limited time and money, many authors opt to forgo touring to physical locations and choose a virtual tour.

Virtual book tours (VBT) usually consist of book reviews, author interviews, guest posts and book excerpts on various blogs. But anytime an author talks about his or her book without being physically present (phone, webcast or blog) it can be considered part of a VBT.

A VBT is designed to promote your book. Note I said promote not increase sales. A VBT can get your names out in front of people and help you build a relationship with readers and potential readers. In turn this should increase your sales, but it is sometimes hard to see a direct correlation between the two.  What you are hoping to do is get your information in front of as many people as possible.

As an author, you can schedule your own tour or hire someone to do it for you.

Do-It-Yourself

Setting up your own virtual book tour takes commitment, and you need to be very organized. You can find bloggers to host you by visiting blogs that feature your genre. Or you can post on various boards such as the ones on World Literary Café to connect with bloggers who would be interested in hosting you.

You want to look for blogs with high-traffic volume and preferably ones with followers who read your genre. The hardest part is finding enough bloggers to fill up your tour dates. Some blogs (like my own) fill up quickly and need to be booked months in advanced.

Hire Someone

If you don’t have the time to set one up yourself, there are many companies that will coordinate one for you. The prices can range from inexpensive ($30) to expensive ($1000+) depending on which company you use and how long of a tour you choose to have.

This past June I did a 20-stop tour organized through Goddess Fish Promotions. I will say four weeks is a long time, and it did take a lot of work before the tour writing guest posts and answering interview questions. On most of the blogs, I had good reader participation, and many people expressed interest in my book.

Now I don’t know if a VBT is worth it. My VBT didn’t really increase my sales during that time. But as I said, you are doing it for exposure, and I can definitely say I got that. I would say that one of the biggest benefits of a virtual tour is that interested readers can access your book tour “stops” months or even years later.