Friday, September 30, 2011

Interview with Author James DeSalvo

Tell us a little about yourself.

Where to start? I’m a high school Special Education teacher who loves writing and acting. I was in a few films (small parts…very small parts) and was one of the few people I knew from my acting days who was never on Law and Order.

When you are writing, where are you, and what do you have with you?

I write everywhere I can. I usually have a cup of coffee with me because that is my one addiction.

At what point did you decide to become a writer? Was there someone or something that specifically inspired you?

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. However, at my age I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. I probably started thinking of becoming a professional writer when I was in 7th grade.

Why did you choose to self-publish over going with traditional publishing?

I started with Connie Cobbler. I got tired of waiting for a bite from a big house. My agent was busting his butt, but no one would pick it up. Some were interested, but since I wasn’t a big name they passed. I was thinking of changing my name to Snooki just to get it in the doors.

What are your titles? Write a small blurb about each one.

My first book was Connie Cobbler: Toy Detective. It’s about a popular toy who quits show business after a tragedy befalls her. Think of Strawberry Shortcake by way of Raymond Chandler.
That was followed by Miss Mary Pennynickle’s Tales of Torment for Toddlers. That’s a collection of very short stories and poems that is not meant for toddlers. (If any reader lets their toddlers read it, I’m not responsible!)

My follow up to that was Miss Mary Pennynickle’s Fairytales of Foreboding. That’s a collection of morbid fairytales. That was a bit hard to do since the original fairytales were already gruesome enough. I mean, Hansel and Gretel pushed an old woman in an oven after she threatened them with cannibalism. Silence of the Lambs territory.

The most recent book is Miss Mary Pennynickle’s Hellish Horrors of History. Just more stories from history pushed just a bit more. After all, Mary Todd Lincoln repeatedly tried to contact the dead, so it was only a matter of a few more pages to the truth.

Your Miss Mary Pennynickle stories have a dark but humorous tone. What inspires those particular stories?

Tales of Torment for Toddlers was originally written out of spite. My wife and a friend said over dinner one night that Connie Cobbler was not kid friendly enough and that might be the reason why it wasn’t being picked up. I thought to myself that if they wanted a kid friendly book, I was going to give them one they wouldn’t forget. That’s how The Three Little Bunnies came about. After that, I was on a roll and finished Tales of Torment for Toddlers in about ten days.

Have you based any of your characters on someone you know, or real events in your own life?

I based part of Connie Cobbler on my sister. She had been murdered a few years before I started writing it, but she seemed to be there when I started. Her toughness and street smarts were a big part of Connie’s attitude.

Tell us about some of your future projects?

I’m working on Miss Mary Pennynickle’s Legends of Loathing and a follow up to Connie Cobbler: Toy Detective.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Just keep writing. Pick up paper and write whenever a thought strikes you. Keep a pen on you. If a thought hits you when you’re in the bathroom, write it on a sheet of toilet paper. Write anywhere. Write in your brain and transcribe it later.

Also, never let anyone say to you “Do you know what would be a good story for you to write?” Tell them nicely that that would be a good story for THEM to write.  

List 3 of your all time favorite books?

The Shining just scares the hell out of me. The Long Goodbye is one of my favorites. I have to make my third book be everything written by Andrew Vachss. He’s an amazing crime writer and attorney who devotes his time to the cause of abused and exploited children, a cause near and dear to my heart.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?

My cell phone. You can always text yourself ideas as they hit you. It also has my Kindle app on it so I can read anywhere.

I need mints because I’m always worried about fresh breath.

I have to have my wallet and keys.

I also need my pants. Apparently, the neighborhood has a dress code.

Anything else you wish to say, or tell us?

I hope everyone keeps reading. I don’t care what format. Book, e-reader, soup can.

Shameless plug: My Amazon Page with links to my books.

I’m on Smashwords although Connie Cobbler isn’t posted there yet. The premium distribution should put me in most other formats and sites.

Twitter: @jamesdesalvo            

Thanks for the interview and your time.

Goodnight Cleveland!!

Connie Cobbler is a toy who had it all. She was the star of her own television series Connie Cobbler and the Pastry Pals. Her face appeared on t-shirts and she even starred in The Pastry Pals Movie. She was one of the brightest stars of Toy Town. Then tragedy struck. Her friend TIFFANY TART accidentally disappeared into the Custard River while filming an episode of Connie Cobbler and the Pastry Pals. Unable to save her friend and spurred on by grief, Connie Cobbler turned away from show business and became a hard boiled, root beer swigging private detective, dedicating her life to protecting the toys of Toy Town. Connie Cobbler's day begins with a tough case. BRENDA BOMBSHELL, one of the top stars in Toy Town, needs Connie to find her kidnapped dog. When Connie starts working on the case, she soon figures out that not everything adds up. Clues lead her to the missing pooch, but some clues also suggest that Tiffany Tart's disappearance might not have been an accident after all. The closer she comes to the truth, it becomes clear that someone wants her out of the picture. Permanently. Calling upon her best friend ACTION JIM, a former action figure who gave up a life of adventure for love, and the rest of her Pastry Pals, Connie sets out to discover what kind of toy would want her gone and solve the case of what really happened to her friend. 
Miss Mary Pennynickle was a very stern elementary school teacher in the late 19th century into the 20th century. She used many stories to teach her students valuable lessons, such as proper behavior and respect for one's elders. It is not clear as to when she was born. There has been no information on her date of death, either.
It is generally believed that Miss Pennynickle was married and gave birth to three children. However, any evidence of that was burned when her home in New England mysteriously burned to the ground.
Many of her works have recently been discovered in the attic of one of her former residences. They were found in a leatherbound (believed to be leather) book. While it is impossible to print these works due to their delicate physical condition, James DeSalvo has painstakingly transcribed several of her stories here for your enjoyment.
Learn the lessons of Miss Mary Pennynickle and take them to heart. Her students certainly did.
Miss Mary Pennynickle continues the macbre tales she established in Miss Mary Pennynickle's Tales of Torment. In this collection, Miss Mary Pennynickle takes the fairytales we grew up with and twists them to terrify the children in her charge.
From the cannibalistic Hansel and Gretel to the Boy Who Cried Wolf, Miss Mary Pennynickle shows why she was one of the most feared teachers in the history of New England.
Find out why her students were scarred for life (and sometimes death).
Miss Mary Pennynickle's newly discovered diaries have now revealed her demented ways of teaching history to young children. From the landing on Plymouth Rock to the 'assassination' of Abraham Lincoln, Miss Mary Pennynickle imparted her own take on history. As she was wont to say, "Those who don't learn from history are condemned to damnation. Or my basement."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ready to Laugh?

I just stumbled upon a gem of a blog today called Humor Stories. I do not know how this woman has managed to keep herself hidden for so long. So, in the interest of sharing things I love, click on the link and be ready for some laughter.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Banned Books Blog Hop

This contest is now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered, and especially to everyone who commented on the banned books. It's nice to know so many people believe completely banning books is wrong. All of those who commented will be entered in the constest for a second entry. I will then post the winner on my blog. Good luck to all!! And happy reading.

In celebration of Banned Books Week I'm joining several other blogs to giveaway a book that has been banned at some point or another, or to bring awareness to these books, as there are some missed gems among them. Enter below to win a copy of Flowers in the Attic. The contest runs until midnight, Oct. 1, 2011.

My Banned Book of Choice: Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews
Synopsis: After the death of her loving husband and doting father of her children, Corinne Dollanganger takes her four children home to live with her parents. Unfortunately, one of the conditions of their living there is that the children must be hidden from Corinne’s father who doesn’t know of their existence. Corrine stands to inherit her father’s vast fortune but only if there are no children from her first marriage. Why? Because her husband was her half-uncle, half-brother to her father. Her extremely religious parents believe she is a sinner as she lived in incest.

The children, Chris, 14, Cathy, 12, and the twins Cory and Carrie, 5, are unaware of this. They are locked in the attic where they are sadistically treated by their grandmother: constantly called “the devil’s spawn” and “abominations”, whipped, starved, Cathy’s hair coated in tar, and poisoned, among other cruelties. Their mother, who at first visits with gifts and promises to get them out of there at the first chance possible, soon stops coming to visit at all. Not long after, the twins get ill, and it’s discovered by Chris that their mother has been poisoning them. She has remarried, and needs the children to disappear so as to not interrupt her idyllic new life.

As they are locked up with no one else to interact with, they soon make up their own family unit, with Chris and Cathy acting as parents to the twins. As Chris and Cathy go through puberty in their three-and-a-half year confinement, Chris and Cathy become attracted to one another. After the death of Cory due to the poisoning, they decide they must escape to save their lives and the life of Carrie.

Why I chose this book: I remember reading this book as a young teen. It really struck me, how unfair and cruelly these kids were treated. I wanted to jump into the pages of the book and rescue them. It’s one of VC Andrews’ best works, when it was really VC Andrews writing and not a ghost writer as writes under her name now. She touches on so many deep issues in this single book.
As an adult I can understand things I couldn’t as a child. Back then I was shocked by the incest between Chris and Cathy; as an adult—not that I approve or think it’s okay in any way—I can’t help but think if you put two adolescents who are going through puberty while being locked up for years on end with nothing to look forward to but abuse, who have formed a sort of family unit to retain a sense of normalcy, it stands to reason that without any guidance they would naturally turn to one another.

It also delves into the deep greed of one woman, who would rather keep her wealthy, fantasy life with her trophy husband and pseudo happiness than keep her children alive, let alone healthy and free. As much as we’d like to believe that couldn’t really happen, that would be deluding ourselves. Abuse is nothing new and is perpetrated by selfish people.
It also opens the debate as to whether a person can call themselves Christian when they use it as an excuse for brutality and vindictiveness. I personally feel that God is about love, and would not condone such behavior.

Why this book was banned: It seems pretty obvious. Not only does it deal with abuse and incest, there is a rape scene between the siblings—pretty heavy, blatant, graphic material. The book has been banned at various times from various places, and I don’t know that you’d be able to find it in any school library due to the graphic rape scene and incestuous passages.
Do I think it should be banned? I don’t think any book should be banned, per se. I think every parent has the responsibility to make sure that what their children are reading is appropriate. I also think that each individual librarian has the right to choose whether they think a book is appropriate to be carried in their schools library. That being said, if a student wishes to bring the book from home to read in school, or to write a book report on, I don’t think the school has a right to tell them no if their parent(s) has already said yes. Personally, I think Andrews could have written the same book without being so graphic, and it would have the same impact. Still, she chose to write it her way, and I respect that. And I’m a fan of the book. It ranks up there in probably my top 20 or so of all-time favorite books.

The giveaway: Now, for the good stuff! I’m going to send the winner of the contest a copy of the controversial Flowers in the Attic, your choice of paperback or Kindle edition. All you have to do is fill out the form below with your email (so I can contact you if you’re the winner). That’s the only requirement to enter. Want an extra entry? Leave a comment below telling me if you’ve read the book and what you think of it, why you’d like to read it if you haven’t, if you think it should be banned, or what your favorite banned book is—anything that has to do with this or any banned book, really.
Good luck!

Use the links below to hop on over to the next blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Interview with Author Jeffery Moore

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been married to my lovely wife for 28 years. We have two great daughters. I work for a large, global IT company as a senior training specialist—my role is to develop technical training content for consumption by a global audience. Many times I find my work challenging, keeping up with the latest industry technology trends, and yet rewarding. There is a great sense of accomplishment developing something people want…material that professionals use to help them in their jobs and further their careers.

I live in Massachusetts and have lived here for eleven years. Love it here. I think because we experience all four seasons, though winters can be a bit too long. I’ve lived in many different places both in country and abroad. I was born in Germany (West Germany back then), and have lived in Italy and South Korea when serving in the military. I’ve visited many other countries, Australia, India, Great Britain, Croatia, Greece, and others as well as living in Maryland, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, California, yada, yada, and yada. Massachusetts is where I plan to retire.

At what point did you decide to become a writer? Was there someone or something that specifically inspired you?

I don’t think I can pinpoint any defining thing or epiphany. Fantasy has been my genre of choice, but it seemed to me that the genre lacked creativity and imagination. I felt like I was reading stories with the same races of people and the same adventures in the same settings—it’s just too repetitive for me. I drifted more towards speculative fiction with books by Conni Willis, Jean Auel, Jose Farmer, Stephen Donaldson, and Octavia Butler. It seems the fantasy shelves crowd-out these types of speculative fiction stories.
I think the driving reason for me becoming a writer is that the publishing industry was not printing the kinds of stories I like.

How do you write: outline or seat of your pants, and why?

I say a combination of both. My first effort at writing was a story called “Awakenings”. It was awful in that it followed no path. My characters had no goals and I just let them run around having cool adventures that had no rhyme or reason. Now I form a plot outline. This helps me keep my characters focused and aiming toward a goal. When I write, the outline becomes fluid and dynamic (seat of my pants), but the goal for the characters and the story remain the same.

Where are you when you are writing, and what implements/addictions do you have with you when you’re writing?

I write just about anywhere. For editing it can be impromptu; on my lunch break at work, in the living room, or in the waiting room to see the dentist. I’m fairly regimented once I have an outline and begin the first draft. I typically spend an hour before I leave for work and an hour in the evening.

I love music and typically listen while I write. When editing, I like to smell a nectarine or I’ll grab a pepper from my garden and smell that. Sounds crazy, but for some reasons it tends to focus me for the details in a scene.

You’ve written two books, The Keepers and The Lylia, as part of The Bounds series. Can you tell us what inspired those books, how you came up with the idea for them?

While in the military, I was deployed fairly often. I wrote my wife hundreds of letters and poems, which were really little actions scenes. From my poetry I formed my characters and then the story that wrapped around them. I struggled with the plot, but I think once I got the story on paper (so to speak), I was able to work the plot in. It took me years before I actually sat down and wrote the story.

Your books take place in a different world. Can you give us an overview of that world, and tell us how hard was it to come up with all of the specifics for their world? 

One of the important things I wanted to accomplish with the story was for the setting to be different. I wanted to remove as much as the Earth-isms as possible. A huge problem I have with the mainstream fantasy genre is the lack of imagination applied to setting. Writers have fantastic stories with fantastic characters having fantastic adventures, but many of their settings are boring and overused.

My society is not built upon feudalism or have the feudalistic overtones. My characters are not dwarfs, elves, ogres, etc. I wanted an infrastructure and people that doesn’t resemble Earth (or Middle Earth) and yet something readers can still envision. Though my world is Earth-like physically (i.e. a single sun that rises in the east, flora and fauna), the things that make up the world are different. Sometimes making up foods, plants, and animals came easy and other times not so much.

You are currently working on your third book in the series, The Untouched. Can you tell us about the book, and when it will be released?

I expect to be done with “The Untouched” by October and available mid-October*. My stories are melancholy and this doesn’t change in the last book of the series. The Bounds’ back story and their relationship with the Saarmoor and the Humans come to fruition. We understand how Robyn came to be and discover what happened to the fate of the Saarmoor and human races.

Following the death of Keeper Alcad, the heroes move to rid Midlen of Keeper Passer who remains a threat to the peoples of Midlen. Oaths are an important element in this story. Broken oaths are why the Bounds had abandoned the Saarmoor and why the Keepers are being killed. Shirking oaths is what nearly destroyed the Saarmoor. Entering an oath is what pulls Robyn away from Devon.

The premise of the book is the untouched Brin—those for whom the Keepers cannot siphon their dom (energy or life force). With an army of untouched, our heroes can assault Keeper Passer without being snared by Keeper Passer’s Bound. When Keeper Passer sees he cannot hope to increase his power in Midlen, he move his army to the fertile lands of Lolen. Can the untouched army prevent Keeper Passer from conquering the Lolen? Can they stop Keeper Passer although Robyn, Devon, and Jessa have broken apart from the party of heroes?

*Note: The Untouched is available now as an ebook. Links are listed below.

What is your next project?

My next story, Jericho Solus, is about a man’s struggle to keep his sanity. One of the concepts I’m going to explore is memory and how much we can retain. Jericho wakes in a foreign environment not knowing how he arrived or why he is imprisoned. He’s always been paranoid that people have been after him and always took precaution to keep hidden and inconspicuous. Now his paranoia is realized, but he doesn’t know what these strange people want.

Jericho is a Kamai, one of the blenders, and had been abandoned thousands of years ago on Earth. His assignment was simple: Live among the people as one of them; gather intelligence; assess the viability of the indigenous inhabitants for harvest. When his people return to retrieve Jericho, they find a man with no memory of who he is or what his mission was—they find a Kamai who had lost his identity and became human.

Why did you choose to self-publish over going with traditional publishing?

I tried traditional publishing, but gave up. It’s simply not worth the frustration. I took the self-publishing route because I felt I needed a sense of finality for my first novel. For me, I needed that first book to be “out there” before continuing with my story. I doubt I’ll ever attempt traditional publishing, but may go that route if approached, which, I believe, is a hugely remote possibility.

You’re marooned on an island. What three inanimate objects must you have with you for your survival and/or sanity?

Aside from the obvious—satellite phone, lighter, and duct tape—to stay sane, I’d need my iPod, pen and paper, and a solar powered light…oops, is that four? I suppose my iPod is useless without earphones and something to charge it with. That makes pen, paper, and light. But, I would need a magic pen that never runs out of ink and a massive supply of paper. Well, I suppose I would need a container to keep the paper dry. So I guess my choice would be a magic pen, endless paper, and a huge Tupperware container. 

Anything else you wish to say, or tell us?

I can attribute to my continued passion for writing upon several reasons. First and foremost is my imagination and the desire to share my stories; second is my group of critique buddies for whom I get the motivation, encouragement, and assistance that challenges me to produce a better and clearer story; third is the ease at which the internet has made it possible to publish my stories.

I have a “work-in-progress” website with links to my books.

I’m open to suggestions and constructive comments, and always looking to improve my writing skills.

The newest book in The Bounds trilogy, The Untouched, can currently be found as an ebook at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble
The print version will soon be available. Check back here, or on Jeffery Moore's website for updated information.

The first book in the The Bounds trilogy, The Keepers, can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, CreateSpace, and Sony ReaderStore

The second book in The Bounds series, The Lylia, can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, Smashwords, and Sony ReaderStore

Monday, September 19, 2011

On Writing and Publishing: A Writer Shares Her Limited Knowledge!

Ebook Formatting

This section is where you’re going to be really grateful that you used the formatting as outlined in Section 1. It will save you a bunch of time in undoing formatting for your ebook. If you haven’t done that, you can undo all formatting by clicking Home>Styles>Clear All. Keep in mind, though, that this will remove your bold, italics, and other special formatting that you may want to keep. The better way is to go through and remove all formatting by hand (make sure you turn on the show formatting marks to see what you’re doing). You can use the Find and Replace feature as well. For example, ^t is the symbol for tabs. So you can Home>Replace, type ^t in the find box, and leave the replace with box blank to remove all tabs. (Don’t know what the symbols are? They’re easy to discover. Replace>Special gives you formatting options to remove.) Leaving the replace with box blank deletes the specific formatting, or you can replace it with a different kind of formatting from the same place.

Ebook formatting is completely different than any other formatting. The reason for that is that the words show up completely different on an ereader. If you’ve ever read anything on an ereader you know what I’m talking about.

Most ereaders give an option for making the font larger or smaller (which is great for those of us too lazy or prideful to get our glasses out when reading). Obviously, if a document was formatted with full justification it would really look screwy, because it can’t reformat itself and continue to retain the full justification. What that means is that when the font size is changed, you might have one word on a sentence by itself because it’s pulled part of the previous sentence down to make room on the previous line for the justification. So for an ebook, it’s always going to be left justified.

You cannot have any breaks between chapters, because if someone has the font enlarged, this will create many blank pages. You don’t want someone so frustrated by trying to read your book that they either don’t finish or leave you a bad review. This is also why you use returns to create new paragraphs, and not the “tab” key. It is suggested to not have more than 8 returns to stop from creating blank pages, but it is suggested to only use 4.

Cutesy, unusual fonts won’t translate, and neither will drop caps. If you prefer something to make the beginning of the chapter stand out, bold the first three words. Use a basic text such as Times New Roman (recommended), Calibri, Arial, etc. Centered text will also look strange, so put your chapter headings to the left. If you have something such as a letter or dream in your book that you’ve formatted to be indented, un-indent the right side. You can leave the left side indented, however I suggest you keep it small (.2) so that on an enlarged text screen, it won’t be pushed so far to the left. If you have a poem, you can keep it centered, though on enlarged text it might only have a few words per line.

Here is the specific formatting for your ebook in Word. As always, begin with a copy of the original manuscript, and turn on your show/hide to make sure your formatting is correct.
1.       Turn on the hide/show feature!!! Otherwise, you may as well be formatting with your eyes closed.
2.       Front Matter: The only thing you should have at the beginning of your ebook is your title page and the copyright page. You can add a few short reviews also if you want to try to appeal to those who are downloading the sample, but keep them short and place them before the title. Make sure these are true reviews, never falsify unless you have a desire to destroy your career. Move ALL other front matter to the end of the book, including author’s notes, acknowledgments, about the author, etc. Nothing annoys ebook readers more than having to shuffle through a bunch of pages to get to the book
a.       Your copyright page should be different for each format as far as reflecting the platform you are uploading it to: “Smashwords Edition” for a Smashwords ebook, “Kindle Edition” for a Kindle ebook, etc.
b.      Make sure you are using your ebook ISBN, not your printed book ISBN
3.       Page>Page Layout
a.       Margins: 1”
b.      Paper Size: Letter
4.       Justificaton
a.       Left justify the body of the text
b.      Center your title and copyright page
                                                              i.      Change your © to read copyright, as some converters may not be able to read the code correctly, and will put a question mark in its place.
5.       Font
a.       Body: 12pt Times New roman
b.      Title, chapter titles: 14pt Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial, etc.
6.       Paragraph Formatting You can choose whether to keep your indented paragraphs (auto indented, never with the tab key) or you can choose block-style paragraphs where there is no indent, and there is a space between paragraphs. Both look equally well on an ereader. However, if you’re going to do the block style, don’t use a return to create the space, use Page Layout>Spacing. Set either the before or after (not both) at 6 pt minimum and 10 pt maximum. Never use both types of paragraph formatting together. It looks really strange.
a.       Block Style Paragraph
                                                               i.      Home>Paragraph
1.       Alignment: Left
2.       Indentation: 0 on all
3.       Spacing: Before: 0, After: 10, Line Spacing: Single (or 1.5 max)
4.       When formatting a poem, for example, for this style change the spacing to 0, and change the indentation to .5 - .75 to center the poem.
b.      Indent Style Paragraph
                                                               i.      Home>Paragraph
1.       Alignment: Left
2.       Indentation: 0 on all
3.       Spacing: 0 on all, Line Spacing: Single (or 1.5 max)
4.       Tabs>Default Tab Stops: .25 or .3, Alignment: Left, Leader: None
5.       When formatting a poem, for example, for this style change the indentation to .5 - .75 on left and right to center the poem.
7.       To Separate 2 paragraphs, simply return twice or use something such as **** or ­­^^^^
8.       To Separate 2 chapters, use 4 returns (more, and you risk leaving blank pages, definitely 8 is max)
9.       Remove all headers and footers
10.   At the end of your ebook, feel free to link to other versions of your book, or to other titles you have available, including your website, blog, FB, Twitter, etc.
So, now you’ve formatted your print book, and your ebook. What next? Well, now it’s time to publish. But, we’ll save that for next time. :o)
Use the links below for further and more comprehensive instructions on formatting for your ebook. And, as always, have a happy week!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New GEEK GIRL Cover Contest

My publisher, Sweetwater Books, has given me the top 5 choices for the new cover for Geek Girl. So now I'm leaving it up to you, my friends, cohorts, and readers. Vote using the form below for your favorite! Everyone who votes will be entered in the contest no matter which cover is the final cover chosen. The winner will receive a signed copy of Geek Girl when it is released December 8th.

Contest ends at midnight, Sunday, Sept. 18.

This contest has ended. THANK YOU to everyone who participated!!! As soon as I have the results, including the winner, I will post it here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Interview with Author Karey White

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I'm a wife to one, a mom to four a sister to ten, and a daughter to two. I love creativity and have to reign in my desire to try every crafty thing I see. Writing has helped me with that. I try to channel most of my creative energy into my writing. I love to read and write. I love to cook and I've set a scary goal to run a half marathon next year.

At what point did you decide you wanted to become a writer, and why:
I decided in High School. I loved my creative writing classes in High School and college and was encouraged by teachers to continue writing. I love words and literature. Then I got married and had my children and the idea got pushed aside. But it didn't go away. It sat there stewing for years. The year before my youngest child started school, my family gave me an online writing course to give me a little jumpstart. Then when Joe started school, I started writing.

When you are writing, where are you, and what do you have with you?
I write on the computer, either at the desk or on the couch. I'm usually alone, except for Pepper, our Great Dane, who lounges somewhere nearby. I like it pretty quiet when I write, so I don't listen to music. If I'm really in the groove, I have to remind myself to stop and eat. If I'm in a rut, I have to remind myself to stop eating.

How do you write: outline or seat of your pants, and why?
I just start writing. I've written down a few ideas in the past, but most of the time I just write. Rewrites and revisions are a big job after this kind of writing, but I find that for me, it flows better this way and I feel free to take it where it seems to want to go.

Do you see writing as a career?
I see being a homemaker as my career. I see writing as a bonus that I'm lucky to be able to do. That's not to say that I wouldn't love to make it a career if the stars aligned right.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?
I enjoy cooking and baking. I love to read and never have enough time to read all I'd like to. I love traveling and spending time with my family. If there was a way to make a career out of traveling the world with my family, that would be fabulous.

Tell us about your inspiration for Gifted:
Our neighbors were an older couple who took in their wayward grand-daughter. She got pregnant and just a few weeks before she was to have the baby, she was killed in a drunk driving accident. They managed to save the baby, so my neighbors had to find a home for this little baby. I was worried about them and thinking about their situation when I went to bed one night. During the night I had a dream about the baby. In the dream, she was an unusual baby with unusual gifts. When I woke up the next morning, I couldn't stop thinking about this dream and what it would be like to have a baby like the one I'd dreamed about. That's where the story came from.

What was the hardest part about writing Gifted?
The emotions. It was a really emotional experience writing about Anna and Susan and Kelsey. They felt like real people to me.

Gifted does not have the happy ending that many might expect from a novel. Were you tempted to change that, and give it the fairytale ending, or did you always know how it was going to end:
It went where it was supposed to go and that was the hard thing. I wished I could give it a fairytale ending, but I knew I couldn't. However, even though there is heartbreak, there's also hope and joy and something beautiful and good comes from that sadness.

What are you working on next?
I'm just finishing up For What It's Worth. It's a romance about a girl who owns a wedding cake shop. I've also started The Husbandmaker, but it's still an infant.

You can visit Karey and learn more about her projects and her life at and follow her on Twitter.  Get her book, Gifted, by clicking on the book cover below:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

On Writing and Publishing: A Writer Shares Her Limited Knowledge!

Formatting: And You Thought Editing was a Nightmare!

Part II: Formatting for Your Self-Published Physical Copy

This section assumes you’ve decided to publish yourself, and it’s time to get your manuscript ready for print. Of course you’re formatting one of your copies, right? Leave the original as is—always.

For the sake of ease, let’s also assume the trim size you’ve decided on is 6” x 9”, a pretty standard paperback size. This is also given as it would be used in Word 2010. If you have an earlier version, you may have to search a little to find the same commands, but I promise you will find them. You will now be turning back on many of those things we turned off in the first section of formatting—plus some you’ve probably never even touched.
1.   Page Layout>Page Setup (Make sure you've already selected all text and changed it to full justification)
a.   Paper: Width: 6”, Height: 9”, Apply to: Whole Document
b.   Layout: Section start: Odd page, Headers & Footers: Checkmark both boxes. Leave them set at .5” (you can change this later if you want it different)
c.   Margins: .5” on all sides, Gutter position: Left, Gutter: .75”.** Multiple pages: Mirror margins
** Whichever POD you decide to go with, read their specific requirements for trim size and page count
2.       Page Layout>Paragraph
a.   Indents and Spacing: Alignment: Justified; Line spacing: Single
b.   Line and Page Breaks: Everything UN-checked, except for Don’t Hyphenate (unless you don’t mind having hyphenated words in your book, in which case you will also uncheck this)
3.       Page Layout (Setting your section breaks)
a.   By now you should have your title page, your front matter, dedication page, and any other pages that you wish to have included in your book.
b.   In this area you will see a button called “breaks”. Click on the arrow to the right of that and you will see all of your break options. You will always use section breaks. Anywhere you have a “page break” you need to delete it and change it to a “section break”. If you went with multiple returns, you will also delete those and replace them with a section break. The section break is placed right after the final period or letter of the page which you are breaking from. Below are the specific breaks you’ll use for each section.
                                    i.  Facing title page: If you choose to have a facing title page, under “section breaks” choose “even page”. It will place a blank page first then your facing page will be on the backside of that blank page.
                                    ii. Title page: The section break before this will be “odd page”. Formatting font for your title should be larger than your name, and this is where you can get fancy with your fonts and design. Generally the title font will reflect the title font on the cover. You can add a line or design after the title, a border . . . whatever you want, just make sure you don’t overcrowd the page. The title should be centered horizontally, and either centered vertically or just above center with your author name just below
                                    iii. Copyright page: This will be on the backside of the title page, and so should begin with “even page”
                                    iv. Dedication page: “odd page” puts this opposite the copyright page
                                    v.  Contents page: “odd page” put this on the right side, with a blank page on the left
                                    vi. Preface or acknowledgements: “odd page” whether at the beginning or end of the book
                                    vii. First page: always “odd page” to begin your book on the right side. Never have it begin on the left—it will look and feel odd to your readers.
                                    viii. Following chapters: this is a personal choice. I prefer each new chapter to begin on the right side, so I always choose “odd page”. If you don’t care which side your chapter begins on, then choose “next page”. It is essential that you use a section break between each chapter in order for your page numbers, headers and footers to appear correctly.

** Make sure that at the end of each paragraph you’ve deleted the page break or the returns you’ve entered. The new break always goes at the last word of your paragraph.
4.       Font
a.   Home>Font: This is where you can play with the font, and decide what you want your text to look like. It’s suggested you never use larger than 12pt for a chapter book or smaller than 10pt—and only use that if it’s a larger-type font. You’re not going to want to use anything too fancy, or difficult to read. Keep it fairly basic: Times New Roman, Calibri, Cambria, Arial, for example, or another serif font. Definitely do whatever font you really love—as long as it’s readable at a small font. Not sure? Print a single page and see how it appears.
5.       Chapter Titles and Headings
a.   If you want to add chapter titles, make them all uniform font and size.
b.   If you want to add drop caps at the beginning of the chapter, this is done on the “insert” tab under “drop cap”. Make sure you use dropped, rather than in margin. It defaults to 3 lines, but you can make it as many or few as you want with the options. Make them all a uniform font size.
6.       Returns at the Beginning of a New Chapter
a.   There’s probably an easier way to space all your chapters the same distance down the page, but I don’t know what it is. This is how I do it: After you’ve added a section break, it will place your cursor at the top of the next page. Hit return however many lines it takes to place your chapter beginning about 1/3 of the way down the page (I use 8). Make sure you use the same amount on each chapter beginning.
7.       On Orphans and Widows
a.   Orphans are when there is a single sentence from a larger paragraph left at the bottom of a page; widows are when there is a single sentence from a larger paragraph sitting by itself at the top of a page. This is not speaking of a single sentence that is not part of a larger paragraph. Those are fine, no matter where they land. Orphans and widows, in this case, are unattractive and generally considered a no-no. How to get rid of them? Let me begin by telling you how not to get rid of them. Earlier, in basic formatting, this is one of the boxes in Paragraphs>Line and Page Breaks that you were told to make sure is unchecked. Keep it unchecked or you will have pages with uneven sentence numbers, which looks even worse than orphans and widows. Once you have completely finished all other formatting, and you’re happy with the layout, go to the beginning of your story. If you see an orphan or widow, add a few words, an extra sentence, something that will push the widow or orphan back together with another sentence. This little thing can become quite time consuming, as getting rid of an orphan on one page may create one on the next page. So be very careful with this piece of formatting. The reason I tell you to wait until the end is that if you don’t, and then decide to change some small aspect of your formatting, you might create new orphans and widows after having rid yourself of them all. If they don't bother you, then just skip this whole step (other than making sure that you keep the Orphan/Widow box unchecked).
8.       Numbering Pages
a.   Word has many options for numbering your pages, which is great for those with a creative bent. Under “Insert” you will find a tab called Header & Footer, with a button called Page Number.  For a book, you will generally want the page number at the bottom, though again that’s a personal choice. Page numbers should not begin until the very first page of your actual story—in other words, no page numbers on any of the title page, front page, dedication page, etc.
b.   When you add the page numbers, it will open up a design tool for the headers & footers.  Set how close you want the footer to the edge of the page (.5 works well)
c.   Make sure all 3 boxes (“different first page”, “different odd & even pages”, “show document text”) are checked.
d.   On the navigation tab, click on “link to previous”
9.       Header Title/Name
a.   Some books have nothing in their header, some have the book title on one side and author name on the other, some will have book title on one side and chapter name on the other. This is another one of those personal choices. Pull out some of your personal novels and see how it’s been done in some of them, and which look you like the best.
b.   Double-click in the header area, and this will again open the design tab. Make sure it is set as explained above, and decide how close you want your wording to the top of the page. I set mine at .1
c.   This is where it’s extremely important to have those 3 boxes under the options tab a checked, and to have section breaks rather than page breaks in order to have no header on the first page of each chapter, and a differing text on your odd and even pages. If you use page breaks, you cannot format your headers and footers correctly.
d.   On the very first page of your story (again, not the title or any of the other pages), don’t type anything. This will keep the first page of every chapter blank, which looks much better than having some random typing on the top of the page, taking away from the clean look. On the second page of your story, type whatever information you want to show up on all of the even, or left side, pages. For example, say you want your title to be on the left. Type it on that page and it will show up on all of your even pages. Type your name on the right, and it will show up on all your odd pages.
If you have somewhere in your book a letter, for example, or a dream, or any other text that is indented (excluding chapter headings), then select all of the text of it, left justify it, then move it over by going to Home>Paragraph. There you can indent both the left and right sides by however much you like (.3 is a good number for this). This gives it a cleaner, more uniform look in the PDF. Centering should be used for chapter headings and poems only, though the poems should also be indented as explained above, and not by using the "tab" key.
Now that you’re all formatted, you’re ready to save it as a PDF. This is the required format for publication. This is simply done with the "save as" feature under File. Change the Save as Type to PDF. Once you have the PDF you need to go through the whole thing, word by word. Check for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and particularly formatting errors. Your manuscript looks completely different in this format, making it easier to see things you may have missed before. Once you’ve gone through the whole thing, walk away for a few days, then go through it again. See if you can get extra sets of eyes to go through it for you as well.
There are some templates that you can use to format your book. I have never used one so I can’t give an opinion as to how they work. I’m sure there are also services to do this for you. For me, I prefer to do it myself, so that if it’s wrong, it’s on my head. Either way, there are options available, so I wanted to give you a few links for that.
Also, here are some sites with great info on formatting, which you may find more clear and concise than what I’ve written, or complements what I have here.

As always, joyous formatting, and have a happy week!