Friday, October 10, 2014

So You Want to Be An Author

Two things came together lately. First has been a number of articles about writing and the publishing industry. Articles such as "My Best Seller Made Me Nothing" on what it means for your book to be a best-seller and what authors actually make, alerts from Writer Beware and Dear Author on problems with publishers plus even ones about various state IRS agencies considering artists and authors who don't make a lot of money as "not professional".

The second was the request from a student to answer questions about what it means to be a writer. This isn't new; I've had such requests before. The schools usually have a questionnaire that the students have to follow as they interview people in a career that the students are interested in. Some students do their own research to check on the field, and only ask some questions during the interview, but some will just pass along *all* the questions.

The questions that the student should research are the standard ones about job requirements, how many such jobs exists, possible salary, etc. As a former librarian, I know one of the best resources on occupations is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, and for future reference the url for Writers/Authors is http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/writers-and-authors.htm. And, yes, most of the answers to the questions on the questionnaire can be found there.

However, those researching this question should keep in mind that the "average" salary listed in the OOH for a writer doesn't quite reflect that of a lot of authors I know. Most of us have day jobs, and the college degrees are needed for that job rather than the novels we write (the summary is probably for newspaper and journal writers back in 2012. But even for those writers the field has changed). For most authors, average writing income will depend on how many books they have and how many of those are still earning royalties. Jim C. Hines has posted on his blog his writing income over the years (two posts here). John Scalzi posted about his various income streams (since it's best to have more than just one today) back in 2010.

As far as the education background needed to be a writer, the main one to me is English Composition courses (or the equivalent for those writers in other countries). If you have a good grounding in grammar and spelling, you're set. I didn't get an advanced degree in creative writing; back when I started writing those instructors teaching creative writing looked down on genre such as Science Fiction so I didn't waste time or money arguing with them. I know a few beginning writers nowadays who have gone on to get an MFA in creative writing and time will prove whether the degree is worth it for them or not.

Another requirement I would suggest is to read. A lot. In many genre as well as what you enjoy. Study the books of the authors you love and see if you can figure out what they did to make you love their work so much.

Another important requirement is to write. And not just the stories you want to tell. I know several writers, myself included, who worked on the student newspaper while in high school. That taught me how to write to a deadline, how to keep to a specific word count and how to write even when I wasn't in the mood. (this will also help later for student papers in college)

Are you an introvert? Great! You'll be spending a lot of time at your computer writing. Are you an extrovert? Also great. You'll need that side of your personality to go out and promote your book at conventions and book signings. Publishers nowadays expect their authors to do a good share of their own promoting. The days when an author could just sit back and let the publisher do that side of the job are long gone. And if you decide to go into self-publishing, you'll be doing even more promoting.

Any other suggestions you would give to a young writer researching this as a career?

Or, any reaction to recent articles on the industry?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

STAR OF THE TEAM IS LIVE!

Do you ever wonder if the stars are against you? Do you ever wonder if you're jinxed? In the world of writing, it's easy to think nothing will ever go right, at least for me. And then the magic happens. Usually when you least expect it. And then you grin and the world is right again.
 
I mentioned this story awhile back and am happy to announce that my MG/Tween contemporary novel, STAR OF THE TEAM, is officially published. It's available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Also, possibly at other places. I haven't checked yet.
 
 
A girl.
A dream.
An accident.
A dream shattered.
 
Eleven-year-old Kate Taylor dreams of being the star of her basketball team, Angels. When Kate's tooth is knocked out at one of the games, and her mother, who is also her coach, says she can't play until the tooth the dentist replants heals, Kate's dreams are in jeopardy. Add Emily, the new girl at school who claims she's the best, and Kate faces a challenge to prove that she is the star.
 
Will Kate succeed? Or will Emily ruin Kate's plans?
 
I'm happy to share my good news with you.
 
 
Happy Reading!
 



Monday, October 6, 2014

October!

It's fall again, and that means pumpkin EVERYTHING! I was never a fan of pumpkin when I was growing up. Never liked pumpkin pie, always apple. But now that I've grown I've developed a taste for it. Seems like there is nothing that doesn't have a "special" get it now pumpkin spice flavor. So far I've had pumpkin coffee, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cheesecake smoothie (delicious!) and even pumpkin spice Oreos (highly recommended). 

I LOVE October, and not just for pumpkin. Being me, I'm pretty much a Halloween junkie. One of my favorite holidays. Because DRESS UP. I haven't yet gotten out my decorations, the time to really go all out just hasn't been available the last few years. But I get out my gargoyles and ghosts and strobe light skull. This is my first year in a school with older kids, so I can't WAIT to show my 8th graders some Poe. They think they're tough, they're in for a surprise. 

I have gotten compliments on my son's choice of costume every year -- Obi-Wan Kenobi, Draco Malfoy, Doctor Who (11, with bow tie), Percy Jackson, the Headless Horseman. Obscure, different, really fun costumes. This year he wants to be Agent Phil Coulson. Not Ironman. Not Captain America. NOT Thor. Phil-freaking-Coulson. What a great kid, such imagination that he chooses the quiet but still butt kicking completely human agent instead of the obvious superhero. I love him! My costume...if I'm allowed to wear one to school... I have a couple of choices. Working on a Hermione, which would be perfect for Library, or I ordered some new Steampunk stuff. We'll see. 

Meanwhile, I've turned in my first round edits and I'm working on other projects. Trying to squeeze it all in! Next week I'l be at the Collingswood Book Festival -- if you're in the area stop by!

But it's FALL so nothing else matters.

Happy October!!!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Release Week!

So, the third book in my series is now available in ebook, and the print versions should be available any day now. This is pretty exciting stuff.


   In the first book, Ali wants to be famous, like her mother, and with the help of a video blog and a viral video she gets what she wants. Only it turns out to not be quite what she thought it would be... isn't that always the case.

In the second book, Ali is ready to leave fame behind her, but notoriety follows her when her young half-brother disappears while she is watching him. Ali has to find her brother while dealing with constant media attention.

So, that's the recap of the first two and, as a special treat, they are both on sale at most e-book outlets for this week, in order to celebrate the arrival of book three.
And now we come to the third (but not yet final) book in the series. This time Ali has to prove her innocence when accused of being part of a cheating ring at school. You just know after the first two books, that things couldn't possibly go without a hitch for her, right?



So, I'm going to hope that this has convinced you to read a bit about Ali, if you haven't already. In the meantime, I'm going to sit back and enjoy my release week!

Friday, September 26, 2014

TV Show Reviews for the New Fall Season

Life is still a giant ball of chaos!
Sorry, I've missed a post or two. Just been that kind of year. But we keep plugging!

And this weekend I am at Fencon! So come on by and say "Howdy"

Now for some quick reviews for the new TV Shows hubby and I saw this week now that the new season has finally started.


1. Scorpion

Premise: A group geniuses form a company called 'Scorpion' but don't seem to be getting anywhere. That is until an agent from Walter's past looks him up and asks for their help with a major crisis and they end up using a local dinner for an impromptu HQ.

The first episode really should have been a two hour premier. There's too many characters and we don't really get to meet but two or three. It would have served them better going with a two hour episode as then they could have spent a little time on all of the characters so we could become acquainted. Felt way too rushed. No real sparks so far.

Interesting premise. But will it hold our interest? We will see.


2. Forever


Premise: A doctor on a slave ship defends one of the slaves and is killed for it. When his body is dumped into the ocean, however, he comes back to life. And each time he dies after, he comes back again and again, his body reformed in a nearby large body of water. In modern times, he's currently working as a medical examiner in a big city, as his research on finding a way to die permanently continues. But his life takes a turn as he finds himself stalked by someone who says they knows his secret.

This show seems to be part New Amsterdam, part Castle, part Forever Knight. Ioan Gruffudd and Judd Hirsch make for a fun pair. Death is a major theme on a number of levels. Good chemistry amongst the cast. Liked it, and since we got two episodes this week, I got to like it even more as the stalker angle grows more interesting.

Looks like a keeper!


3. Gotham


Premise: Detective James Gordon has moved to Gotham City. A large and very corrupt city. His first case - the alley murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne.

Batman comic fans will love some of the characters they've brought back in time for this tv production - Montoya, Bullock, Allen. And as we see the beginning of Bruce Wayne's eventual transformation into Batman, there are several other characters we get a peek at before they become the criminal icons they mature into later in life.

Ben McKenzie is great as Gordon. Love that David Mazouz is playing the emotionally scarred Bruce Wayne - he was fabulous on Touch. Excited to see what they will do with Sean Pertwee as Alfred. Te butler has many secrets - shshshsh. Great chemistry and rapport from all in the cast.

I am definitely pumped about this one.


4. NCIS: New Orleans




Premise: A small NCIS office in New Orleans tries to keep the peace and protect the city.

I saw the intro episode that aired in the spring with the regular NCIS crew and liked what I saw, so made sure to check it out. The premise of this episode, however, was too emotional too soon. We've seen these characters only once before, so dipping into such a personal emotional plot didn't get the 'buy in' it normally would have if we'd already gotten to know the characters better. Several jokes fell flat, the cast still trying to find their 'groove'. Nevertheless, I loved Scott Bakula as the laid back, emotional Dwayne Pride. The character is almost an reversed-Gibbs at first glance, but inside, there flows the same hardened steel core. CCH Pounder is a blast as the ME.

We'll definitely be keeping an eye on this one.


Some beloved shows also came back for new seasons this week! YAY!
Person of Interest - yes, yes, yes!
Agents of SHIELD are off to a bang! So glad they've found a way to keep Brett Dalton around! Woot! (Going to be a dark season. Eek!)
NCIS - started with a bang!

Happy watching, ya'll!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Family Tree

When I was in grammar school, one of our assignments was to create a family tree. I don't remember if the assignment was in Social Studies or Geography, but I do remember making the chart of my grandparents, their children, and my immediate family. Many of my classmates had larger charts, but mine was short generation-wise and large family-wise.

Family trees and the importance of knowing family history popped up here and there in many of the books I read when I was young. Little Women followed by Little Men, Eight Cousins, and even Freckles, which had a side plot of tracking down a child left at an orphanage. Several series of horse and dog books emphasized lineage and traits passed down from parent to child. And then came Lord of the Rings with its various family lines of elf, dwarf, hobbit and humans all looking back to an important ancestor or down to a descendant destined for impressive deeds.

Sometime after college I decided to do some research into my family tree. According to my father, his father cut himself off from his family, which was why that side of the family only seemed to start with my grandfather. I contacted my father’s oldest sister and fortunately she was able to remember more about both my grandparents on that side, including names of great-grandparents.

My mother's side presented some difficulties, as my mother was an only child. Although my mother had died while I was in college, her aunt was still alive and could give details on my mother's father's side of the family back several generations. But not the maternal side. My mother's mother had been raised by her cousins. I still can't find out what happened to the parents.

It’s been interesting to watch the improvements and accessibility in doing family research. Back in 1979 I had to hire a researcher in Pennsylvania who could check courthouse and graveyard records for my Irish/English/German (my father's) side of the family. I could request census records on microfilm through interlibrary loan and spend evenings scanning street addresses to find households. Nowadays sites such as FamilySearch.org can let you look through those records for free and membership sites like Ancestry.com have even more records.

When I first started my family tree I hand drew charts listing and linking families. Over the years several companies sprang up with charts you could fill in and share online or print for relatives. Ancestry.com is what I use now. I've been contacted by relatives I never knew existed and it's great to see how the trees match. Research on my German side got a big boost after I heard from a previously unknown cousin on that side who was looking up baptismal records.

If you decide to research your family tree, don't be surprised at the reactions you might get from some family members. Back when I started, I'd send copies of the hand drawn charts out to my cousins, and while some were enthusiastic, I never got any details to add to the tree back from them. Not even about their children.

Some people are reluctant to share details about their trees because there are some "researchers" that add people to their trees without stopping to figure out dates and places. I've had three people add my great-grandparents to their trees and attach a marriage certificate from 1884 in West Derby, England, to them. However, in 1884 my great-grandparents had already had four kids and were in America. Somehow I doubt they would have made the trip back to England to get married.

Television shows like Who Do You Think You Are are great at drumming up interest in genealogical research, but present a false image of how difficult family research can be. I would love to have been able to walk into the National Archives in Dublin and have them present me with a list of my Irish ancestors. They do have access to a lot of paper records, but, as I learned last week, they start off the search with a number of the free databases accessible to anyone worldwide, such as FreeBMD, which is the birth/marriage/death index for England and Wales, 1837-1915; or Irish Genealogy.ie. There are also Facebook groups on genealogy in general and genealogy in specific areas.

There are several gaps difficult to fill. My problem with my mother's maternal line isn't helped by the fact that the records for the 1890 census for the U.S. were destroyed in a 1921 fire. Irish records have a similar problem in that a number of archives in Ireland for records before 1922 were destroyed by a fire there in 1922.

Still, genealogical research is fascinating in many ways. And it can be fun to turn that to the development of characters for fiction across several genres, not just family sagas. I'm currently working on a YA science fiction story about a girl who wants to be an explorer like her grandmother. Plotting out her family is important.

The Lord of the Rings and its companion books aren't the only books I've read with large family trees. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Liaden Universe is so extensive that there is a wiki to help keep track of the clan and its members. Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series and Elizabeth Moon's Serrano series also stretch over several generations. C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner series has important relationships between families determining the leadership of a planet.

Have you done any genealogical research? Do you enjoy fantasy stories with extensive family trees? Or family sagas?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

RAMBLING BEV

You've heard of Rambling Rose and Rambling Man. Well, today I'm Rambling Bev. I can't concentrate this week. It's a week of birthdays and a week of deaths. It's also a week of good news. My MG/Tween novel that was due out in June of 2013, is going through the final proof before it's sent to the printer. I've waited a long time for this one. It was with another publisher for three years and then they went out of business. I'm so thankful I found another great publisher that liked the story and editors that caught all of my mistakes, and there were quite a few. So, very soon, you'll see STAR OF THE TEAM out in the world. Here's the cover, illustrated by the fabulous Aidana WillowRaven, published by 4RV Publishing.
 
 
Wait! I haven't finished rambling. Another MG/Tween contemporary novel, I LIVE IN A DOGHOUSE, is ready for line edits. Then a cover and I'm so happy about this one too. The e Book is due out in December from MuseItUp Publishing.
 
So this week has happy memories. It has sad memories. The past is past. The future is ahead.
 
Happy Reading!