Monday, May 30, 2011

Faithful Follower Appreciation Day

Three cheers for Ms. Walker.
Hip, hip, hurrah!
Hip, hip, hurrah!
Hip, hip, hurrah!
The Management would like to thank Lori Walker, writer and blogista, for being a faithful follower since this blog's inception. We appreciate her continued support and comments.

What inspires you to write? 
It’s a compulsion, more often a neurotic need than something inspired; probably reads that way as well.J

You are wife, mother, teacher and writer. Is there anything you can’t do? 
I can’t knit, crochet or sing on key. Also, I can’t multitask. The hours I devote to teaching? Those can’t be interrupted. Same for the time I give my kids, husband and writing. I only write late at night or during the day when no one’s home; when a story is stuck in my head, I get horribly distracted. My kids or husband will ask me something three times, then finally say, “You’re writing in your head, right?” Yep. Sorry.

In third grade, I taped a note to my door that said, "Writer at Work: Do Not Disturb." Do you still use this sign? 
See answer two. I rarely need the sign. Also, in the spirit of the fictional Jo March, I prefer to don a writing cap, but mine looks like 

Lori Hard at Work
What are you working on now?
I’ve committed to writing a thousand words a day for two weeks. They are mostly clear-the-throat words, spittle and phlegm practice words. When that’s done, if I’ve got the courage, I’ll revise the opening of a YA novel OR start something else. 

As a parent, are there certain subjects or scenarios that are difficult to write? Are there types of books you’d like to see more of? 
No. There is nothing difficult for me to write about as a parent so far, thank God. There are things difficult for me to write about as a daughter, sister, friend, etc. Until recently, I’d written around a couple dark subjects for years, but am finally putting it out there (of course, I’ve only put it “out there” to my writing group, but it’s progress).

Part two of your question: What an amazing variety of books we have available to us! I can’t say, “More this” or “More that,” but I do have favorite authors. I always want to see what they’ll do next.

Santa Barbara, CA.
Is Santa Barbara a paradise for writers?
It’s paradise for everybody, right? To quote Jose Luis Borges, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” 

What’s your favorite The Pen And Ink Blog? (Hint: Something written by our Mexican-In-Residence)
All four P & I bloggers have penned memorable posts. Two favorites? Susan Berger’s clever writing advice given through the characters of Alice in Wonderland.
Lupe’s graph on time-management for writers:

Anything you’d like to plug, promote or promulgate?
Why, yes. Here’s a link to some thoughts on practice, persistence and the like: 

Teaser: " . . . we writers are the most lily-livered of all craftsmen. We expect more, for the most peewee efforts, than any other people.” This is from Brenda Ueland’s book If You Want To Write. Go! Read my post! Read her book! Write!

Thank you for having me, Pen and Ink!
For more of Lori Walker, read her blog L. H. Walker.

“Tales about mothering, teaching, writing and writers I love, mole hairs, slugs, and, occasionally, things of grace and beauty stumbled upon.”

Are you a faithful follower of The Pen And Ink Blog?
Do you wait with bated breath and whispering humbleness for our next post?
We are watching.
Edited by L. Fernandez and K. Kahrs

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Emergency Supply Kit for Writers, only $19.95

by Hilde Garcia

I wasn't feeling very literary tonight. Not inspired, even though it is a new year. Trying to query more often because I promised Sue I would, and because, well, I do want to get published, but finding it more daunting with every click.

So I found something to make me laugh and thought I'd re post it in case you are feeling the blues, too.  Funny, I wrote this about 5 years ago, and it still applies 100% and the laundry on my bed still looks the same.

The only difference is that now, I write almost all the time with my computer and very little with my pen, and I have a full time teaching job, which although makes me long for the good old days of no paycheck and some free time, now gives me one more awesome place to write- my classroom. On any given Sunday, I will hide out and accomplish bundles, even volumes!

Alas, today was not one of those days. There was no internet and no heat. I gave up and came home to a raging game of Monopoly, in which my daughter cleaned out her brother and their close pal.  I sat in front of my computer, watching them, thawing out my fingers, and woke up with drool on the keyboard. It is amazing that I haven't short circuited this thing.

In any case, I found 4 publishing houses that might be a fit and now I will spend the rest of the evening getting those submission letters out via email.  I hope you will enjoy this post as it was one of my favorites.

Happy New Year from all of us at Pen and Ink.

by Hilde, originally posted 5/2011

In a perfect world of yesteryear, one could retire to an antique wood desk in an attic study and write their masterpiece uninterrupted by children, phone calls, texts or emails. Armed with only a plume, ink and parchment, anyone could have finished a draft and it might even be good under these conditions.

However, in today’s war zone world of beeps and whistles, dings and multimedia image bombardment, all competing for room in our brain, we’re lucky if any ideas find their way out. They, the constant things that pull us away from writing, will kill us if we don’t have a survival kit in place.

Therefore please use My YA Emergency Supply Kit in hopes that your story, fighting for freedom in your mind, sees the light of day.

1- Keep a chocolate stash. Any kind will do. If it’s free, even better. (See’s Candies gives samples, so bring several disguises, stock up and then hide the samples in zip lock bags). Put it where your kids and significant other can’t find it. Stash it and forget about it. When you’re desperate, you’ll remember exactly where you hid it. And don’t put it all in the same place. Trust no one with that information.

No idea? Eat a pound of chocolate, something will surface.

2- Blank journals or plain wire bound notebooks- single subject. Stash a few blank ones around the house and garage. When all the noise gets to be too much, hide and write. The best places to hide? Under the pile of laundry. If it is as big as mine, you can just sit on the other side and say nothing. They’ll never find you. The garage is also good, behind the boxes. The bathroom works if you’ve dead bolted the door and put the noisy heater on so you can’t hear them. Also good- the back seat of the car, if you have no car seats.

Computers are good, but if you don’t own laptop which you can pick up and move, and they’re coming to get you, grab paper and hide. (And now that I have an iPhone, I have even written on that thing which is super portable, too.)

3- And of course, PENS. Papermate, flexi grip elite, medium point, blue ink. They last forever and are comfy and can go the distance. It’s hard to keep these in my drawer with sticky fingers so I tend to wear mine around my neck. (It has a nifty clip feature and no cap to loosen). Have pen, will write. I’ve written on the back of receipts, recycled paper, my kids’ homework- already graded. If it’s a blazing good idea, no paper or surface is sacred.

And eyeliner works as well as pens when in a pinch.

4- Other necessities:
a. warm comfy socks, can’t write if your toes are cold.
b. JELL-O, cherry flavored, good for a quick mind energy spurt (especially at midnight like now, yum). (And an original comment suggested whipped cream on the JELL-O. I concur.)
c. The remote- make sure you know where it is- sometimes Lifetime TV wins over writing and can provide inspiration. (Having to look for the remote kills the buzz.)
d. A pint of ice cream- Cherry Garcia… or Butter Pecan or whatever is in the freezer.

Anything is acceptable as long as the whole pint is yours.

And when all that fails, open a beer. It can’t make it any worse.

5- And most importantly, an idea. You are SOL without that. And when you do have that idea, protect it at any cost.

a. Turn off email- that ding will boot your idea right out of your head.
b. Turn off phones. If they really want you, they’ll call back.
c. Ignore your kids! That’s why TV and toys were invented.
d. Sign off of Facebook, Twitter, My Space and all things networking.
Every tweet or FB notice is a moment lost on your book. 

Writing your YA novel is like a war in today’s world when you are competing for quiet time in a hostile terrain. You have enemy distractions coming in from all angles. You have to take cover until your idea is safely on paper.

Don’t let them get it. Don’t let them win. Write it out. Write on. The writers will persevere, in spite of the intrusions.

Don’t worry about how good your writing is. Just write it. You can fix it in revision. BUT you can’t rewrite it if you haven’t written it in the first place.

Now go and get that chocolate.

Monday, May 16, 2011

What's Your Take on the Word "SAID"?

by Susan Berger

Do a search for “said-bookism.” That’s the term of substituting other words for said.
This post is mostly for people who write in the third person voice. 
(There are still some of you out there, right?)
The conventional wisdom tells writers that the word “said” is invisible to reader.
I was taught “said” is best.  Here are three quotes on the subject.
"Unfortunately, an astonishing number of elementary and secondary school teachers, utterly ignorant of good style, instruct their poor students to avoid overusing said. As a result, these poor students think that it's good -- even necessary -- to indulge in "said-book-ism," where the word said is always either replaced or accompanied by an adverb. Nothing is ever simply tagged; it's always replied, whispered, shouted, uttered, remarked, commented, intoned, murmured, wondered, laughed, hissed, muttered; or said bleakly, happily, merrily, snidely, nastily, angrily, loudly, softly, in astonishment, under his breath, with a smile, or ... well, you get the idea. Quite apart from the hilarity that arises from inadvertent Tom Swifties -- "I'm afraid we'll have to amputate," said the surgeon disarmingly -- it is this variety that becomes repetitive and annoying. That's because the reader is constantly being distracted from the dialogue and forced to examine meaningless, uninteresting tags Here is a link to the original lesson 

Kay Dacus: Debunking Writing Myths
When I was in graduate school it was explained this way: readers see “said” or “asked” much like a period or comma.  It’s more like punctuation than anything else, therefore those are unobtrusive.
However, as a reader and editor—and as someone who listens to audio books more than I read actual physical books—I can attest to the fact that “said” dialogue tags get very old very fast if those are the only way the author attributes the dialogue in his/her book.  
Just as we want to look for ways to make our writing stronger when it comes to verb or adverb use, we want to make sure we’re not overusing any words, and that includes the words said and asked, even as dialogue tags.  And the best way to do that is with action and/or introspection laced in with the dialogue.   Here's a Link to the post

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.”
Here's a link to that post 

That being said (could not resist that one,) a lot of very good writers today are using substitutes for “said”. You don’t have to believe me. Page through some of your favorite books and look for yourself.
For your edification, here is a link to a list of substitutes for “said.”

Please read through them. (you can also download or print the list)

Please comment. Are you Pro “said” or Con “said”?

Can you add to the list?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Expedition Report: Return From Amazon

In April, The Pen And Ink Blog brought you the cutting edge in content delivery by traveling down Amazon. Our intrepid explorer has returned from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing to recount his chilling, thrilling, harrowing tale of uploads, downloads and HTML code. 

Warning: The following narrative contains technical profanity and intense computer situations.

My Journey To Amazon
by Lupe Fernandez
I was tasked by The Management to voyage into the cyber wilderness of Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Gathering my courage, I used a short story about a boy who encounters ancient beings from a Quiche Mayan myth. I used my knowledge of Amazon - I have an account with them - and signed up for a Direct Publishing account. Little did I know what hair-pulling, teeth gnashing predicaments lay in store for me.

I filled out two sections. 
1. Details about my book.
2. Choices about Rights and Pricing, including royalty amount.

   The most vital part of the expedition was uploading my book file. Kindle Direct accepted .DOC formats. All would have been well, except my story had .jpg images embedded in the text.


Kindle Direct displays images in black and white. Though Kindle Direct allows the user to preview the book, my images did not remain in their original placements.

So I downloaded the HTML file from Kindle Direct and revised the code myself.

Thus, began my descent into madness...

I cursed the day tags, anchors and WYSIWYG entered my life. So forgone was my sanity that I picked up a 100,000 Gauss strength magnet and attempted to cast out the infernal demons of my accursed machine.

Fortunately, the Management of The Pen And Ink Blog, swayed me with rational arguments to stay my vengeful hand, seek solace in ice cream and try another day.

I gathered the dregs of my resources, attempted another HTML rewrite and uploaded the file to Kindle Direct. This time fortune and excellent punctuation won the day. Once the book was acceptable to these tired eyes, I filled out information on the Amazon's author's page and communicated my success to those interested parties who had heard but scant rumors of my expedition.

Now safe in my abode, I present the bounty of my voyage to the expedition sponsors:

Thus ends my tale that I only survive to tell thee.

Here's what critics are saying about "The Wooden Men":
"Sheesh, what a waste of 99 cents." - Hip & Trendys
"What? No naked women?" - Macho Times
"Can I get a mocha latte with 10% skim milk." - Caffeine Monthly
"The most downloadable e-book of the year." - Mr. F's Therapist

The Management would like to note that our intrepid explorer plans another voyage to Amazon Kindle Direct.

Stay tuned to this blog.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Interview with author Carol Hughes


Picture Courtesy of Diane Browning
by Susan Berger
Carol Hughes was born in Yorkshire, England, and grew up in a seaside town in Lancashire.
She now lives in San Francisco with her husband and daughter.  Carol has written seven children’s books.

 Her most recent book is The Princess and The Unicorn
The unicorn is the embodiment of magic. When Princess Eleanor of England catches sight of him in Swinley Forest, she can’t resist taking him back with her to Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, once the unicorn leaves the forest, both he and the forest begin to sicken. As the only witness to the unicorn’s departure, Joyce, an intrepid and curious young fairy, sets out for London on a grand adventure to rescue the unicorn—and maybe help the princess while she’s at it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book you drew me into your world completely. Both heroines are self-sufficient girls with problems they need to solve. (And I love they way they solve them.)  The book has a quiet start; then it drew me in and kept me reading.

I am quoting from your author page here:  I have been a writer my whole life, but oddly enough I didn’t realize it until I was grown up. Looking back I can see that I was always writing and making up stories. I always loved writing essays at school and, when I went to art college, I filled my sketchbooks with stories instead of drawings.
In my late twenties, I met my husband. He turned my world upside down by pointing out to me that, as I was forever writing, perhaps I ought to try my hand at writing a book.”

What made to decide to write Children’s books (as opposed to adult books)?
It was never a conscious decision. It was just how the stories came out when I started to write.

How did you learn your craft?
The painful way. Writing is a horrible business. I don’t like it at all. Most of the time I feel I’m too stupid to string a sentence together and the other half I’m completely confused by what I’m supposed to be doing. So why on earth do I do it? Because very, very occasionally it’s unbelievably fun and surprising, but that doesn’t happen unless I keep at it. After twenty years of writing, I know two things about it. 1/ if I don’t do it every day I become a completely horrible person to live with. 2/ If you want to be any good at it, you have to read a lot, write a lot and let go of the idea of ever being any good at it.
Do you have a critique group?
No. I know a lot of people swear by theirs, but talking to other people about writing, mine or anyone else’s, has never appealed. I’d rather be reading or writing.

Your first published book was Toots and The Upside Down House

Let’s talk about your journey to publication with your debut book.  How did you find your agent?
Pure nepotism, I’m afraid. A solicitor friend of the family was kind enough to pass the Toots manuscript to one of his clients who was an agent. Luckily the agent thought the book, even in its raw state, had potential, but this was twenty years ago and the market is far, far tougher now.  The most important thing is to make sure your manuscript is as good as it can be before you send it out.
How long was it from from finishing the book to sale?
Five years and twenty seven rejections. I took comfort from the ten that weren’t just rejection slips.
What is the average length of time for you from the time you sell a book to publication?
About a year – except in the case of Dirty Magic which took longer. 
Toots and The Upside Down House lists two authors on Amazon, but the other three Toots books don’t.  What’s up with that? 
It’s a misprint. John Steven Gurney is the illustrator who did the lovely picture on the cover. Gareth Sheldrew did the illustrations inside.
Your next book was Jack Black & the Ship of Thieves. 
I love your opening pages.  Do you have a favorite first line or Paragraph from you books?
Thanks. I don’t have a favorite of mine, but I probably rework the first page, in fact the whole opening chapter, at least twenty times before I’m happy with it. I am a highly judgmental reader of first pages when I choose books, so I know what makes me want to read more.
Me too!  That’s why I blog opening lines/paragraphs so often.

When was your daughter born and how well are motherhood and authorship combining?
 Horrible! I have two daughters now and one’s in middle school already. I used to think it was difficult writing when they were little, but looking back I can’t believe I was such a wimp. These days my head is so crammed with the stuff they have to do, where they need to be driven, what’s happening at their schools etc etc it’s a wonder that I ever get anything written at all.
I  try and have a set routine but, of course, having kids often throws that all out of the window. But it’s good to learn how to write when you can. Seize the five minutes when you’re in the car pool line and check in with your book. It’s not easy to write when you have children, but it can be done – or so I’m told.
When we met, you said you needed to write something fairy tale-like after living with Dirty Magic for so long.  
What inspired you to write Dirty Magic?
Initially, my husband. He’s a geek and, as a kid, was obsessed with his possessions – film magazines, comics etc. I wanted to write something about that, though at the beginning I had no idea this would take me to a war-torn, rain soaked land full of automated war machines. Fun! 

Since you also have a background in art, have you ever thought about writing picture books? 
I’ve tried, but they always end up being about fifty thousand words too long. I have nothing but admiration for a well-written picture book. The best are pure poetry.
Do you have any advice for a first time author going to do a school or library visit?
Don’t do it. No, sorry. That’s terrible advice. I used to do a lot of visits and they were fun, but unless you are a very organized, go get ‘em sort of person, which I am not, the visits take too much time and energy away from writing.

Many authors are using social media.  I don’t get the feeling you are one of them.  It’s a crazy web out there.  Do you have any thoughts on making use of it?

I wish I had a web presence – no, that’s not strictly true - I wish I had a web presence without my having to work at it.  Honestly, when I’m not ferrying children hither and thither, I don’t want to spend time on something that isn’t writing - even though it could potentially help my career/sales enormously. As with organizing school visits and self-promotion, creating and cultivating an online presence takes a lot of dedication and organization. Perhaps I’m lazy, or just clueless, but I truly don’t like doing those sorts of things.  I want to do what I can to make my book better. I want to write.

What are you working on now?
A page one rewrite of a book I’ve been working on forever. This is the fifth page one rewrite. I feel as though I am learning to write again. I may never get it finished.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write the best book you can. Have an amazing web presence. Be fantastically organized. Take acting classes and enjoy school visits. Write every day. Don’t worry about sales figures. Write what you want to read. For practical help, read ‘The War of Art’ by Steven Pressfield and ‘On Writing’ by Steven King – even if you don’t like Steven King.
(Dear Reader of Pen and Ink,  I linked Carol’s books so that you can go to Amazon and read the first pages.  Believe me, they are well worth reading.  The only one that doesn’t link to an ability to read the first pages is Toots and the Upside Down House.)
Review from an 11 year old on Amazon of Jack Black & the Ship of Thieves
 A very exciting, fast moving book with an interesting twist at the end. It is well written and you can't put it down. I read it for about five hours without stopping. I am eleven years old and I love this book!
Thank you so much Carol, for the interview
You might also like these other Pen and Ink author interviews: