Monday, May 31, 2010

Last Day To Win!

The Uber-Beyond-Belief Giveaway ends at 10pm EST tonight - and I'm only ten followers away from throwing in the basket of goodies on top of the five books and $30 gift card!!

If you've not signed up, do so HERE

Extra entry points awarded for Tweeting or posting about this contest.

Ten more followers today means the prize package grows!!!

Thanks again for all who follow Spunky!

Friday, May 28, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

"Bring out your dead!"


Don't forget my Uber-Beyond-Belief giveaway ends Monday evening!!! If you haven't entered, check out the link just above the post and do so now. Remember, if I hit 250 followers before Monday night, I toss in about $30 worth of fun stuff extra!

The best listing of hashtags and daily discussions for writers on Twitter! Mystery Writing Is Murder

Tips for overcoming stage fright - Marketing Tips For Authors

Are you waking up to possibilities? The Chocolate Chip Waffle

A little inspiration from some famous authors… Wavy Lines

The owner of 4RV Publishing, Vivian Zabel, goes over the proper way to write a fiction review - Brain Cells and Bubble Wrap


“I'll guard the cake while you go for ice cream. No, really, I'll just look at it. Go ahead.” Helen Ginger
“Put me on a diet and then tease me - animal abuse.” Vivian Zabel

And the big winner:
"That's my Birthday cake? Thanks! I will show my appreciation by peeing around the house today..." Mr. Stupid
Because unfortunately, if that were our cats, that’s exactly what they’d do!


Alex J. Cavanaugh tagged me with this one…


If I were a month, I’d be September and in the process of change.

If I were a day, I’d be Monday, because it seems like I’m always working.

If I were a time of the day, I’d be early morning, ready to go!

If I were a season, I’d be fall.

If I were a planet, I’d be earth and full of life.

If I were a direction, I’d be ‘over yonder.’

If I were a drink, I’d be an energy drink!

If I were a tree, I don’t know - can anyone think of a really short tree?

If I were an animal, I’d be one of those hyperactive little dogs.

If I were a musical instrument, I’d be a bass. No, not the fish.

If I were a fruit, I’d be a pineapple.

If I were a food, I’d be creamy pasta.

If I were a celebrity, I’d be Hugh Jackman’s wife!

If I were a color, I’d be green, because it’s not easy being green.

If I were a book, I’d be Enthusiasm Makes the Difference!

If I were a song, I’d be Learning to Fly by Pink Floyd.

If I were a movie, I’d be When Harry Met Sally. (Because that’s real close!)

If I were a flower, I’d be a tiger lily.

If I were a facial expression, I’d be a big smile!

And now I tag Jai at Jai Joshi’s Tulsa Tree!


Enter "The Mist" ...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Query - I Gotta Get an Agent!

That seems to be the battle cry of most writers. But, you want to know a secret? You don’t need an agent!

Agents are great!. They locate the best publisher for your book and negotiate good contracts.

However, agents are difficult to acquire. They seek celebrities, professional experts, and those with an established platform or proven track record. A first time author with little or no background experience will have a tough time finding an agent.

The best advice I ever received on the matter was from author p.m. terrell. (Who does in fact have an agent.) “Find a small to mid-sized publisher first, put out a couple successful books, and you will have a much better chance finding an agent.”

Wow! You mean I don’t need an agent?

There are over 100,000 publishers in the USA alone. With the exception of the six big boys in New York City and other large publishers, most take direct submissions without an agent. We’re talking well over 80,000 publishers here!

How do I find these publishers? A Google search of “publisher - your genre” will turn up numerous companies. Other website resources -
Every Writers Resource
Publishing Central

The ones who accept direct submissions will have submission guidelines on their website. These will state what each editor is seeking and what is needed in terms of query letter, synopsis, outline, etc.

Make a list (the bigger the better) of the publishers who are currently accepting your genre. Cross-reference each one on Preditors and Editors . Now you are ready to begin the query process!

If you are just beginning or querying agents has beaten you down, start querying publishers. Keep sending out queries to agents, but focus on those publishers. You will increase your chances of success tenfold in the process!

The Query series will continue next week…

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Self Publishing and Subsidy Presses

What’s the difference?

This article from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is one of the MOST comprehensive, defining, and detailed descriptions of subsidy and vanity presses. It also provides numerous fantastic links to other articles. Once you’ve read my post, go back and read this entire article!

Four experts in the publishing industry offered the following advice when considering a subsidy or vanity press. This is longer than my usual posts, but the information below is critical - and fascinating!

“A publisher puts money at risk to produce and distribute a book. If the author is the only one putting money at risk, the author is the publisher. If the press is not putting money at risk, the press is not the publisher, no matter what they call themselves.”

 “You are a self-publishing author if you publish the book under your imprint, with an ISBN that you own. Period.”

 Dick Margulis
Dick Margulis Creative Services
words / myth / ampers & virgule blog

“According to information furnished by a subsidy publisher a typical subsidy book title sells 47 copies. This includes copies purchased by the author. Pete Masterson has the data on the average sales. I am quoting him from memory.

 “My own study of the success of subsidy house imprints on Amazon showed that had the best Amazon rankings by a two to one numeric advantage. Of the well-known subsidies Infinity came in second. iUniverse, AuthorHouse etc. were well down and of course PublishAmerica came in dead last. My study was done some years back but I suspect if I repeated it today the results would be similar.

 “Mark Levine's "The Fine Print of Self Publishing" lists iUniverse as one of the subsidies to avoid. His recommendations parallel my study of some years back.

 “It is noteworthy that the best subsidy according to my study (Booklocker) states up front that book store sales are not feasible when using a subsidy.

 “A visit to preditors and editors (sic) will show some more info on the well-known subsidy houses.

 “The first edition of Penny Sansevieri's "No More Rejections, Get Published Today!" was published through a subsidy. But in that first edition she advised against using the marketing packages offered by subsidies, saying that they were not effective.

"I use Booklocker to market my e-book, but it is to be noted that I paid no upfront fee for the listing. The Booklocker listing is much more successful than the same e-book listed on Scribd.

 "I have not and most likely will never use Booklocker or any other subsidy house for hard copy versions of Wexford Press books. They run a quality shop, but the profit numbers just aren't there."

John Culleton
Wexford Press
"Create Book Covers with Scribus"
Printable E-book 38 pages $5.95
Available on Scribed and Booklocker

From Vanity Press, a "Self Publishing Company" or a Subsidy Press? at Aeonix

There are three basic ways to become a published author:

1. Have your manuscript accepted by a traditional trade book publishing company. You risk no money (beyond properly preparing your manuscript) and there is no cost to you. You will receive a modest advance (as a first time author) and, if the book sells, a royalty once the advance is paid off (most books never pay off the advance). Many trade publishers only give about 3 months for a book to show acceptable sales before withdrawing it from the market. Authors are expected to provide a significant amount of (unpaid) effort in marketing the book. Some small traditional publishers offer very small advances and will let a book remain on the market longer, giving some titles the time they need to establish themselves in the market. WIth larger publishers, you’ll usually need the services of an agent. Smaller publishers may be willing to work directly with an author.

2. Use a “self publishing” company to publish your book for you. You pay all the costs of publication, but you do not own any of the work you’ve paid for. You will sell very few books. This is discussed at length below.

3. Become a true independent self-publisher. You do the production work or hire the work out. You pay all the expenses of publishing and take on the risk of success for your book. There is a level of effort to this, but it is the most likely route to success for an author who is not published by a traditional trade book publisher.

So called "self-publishing companies" (actually subsidy publishers) are not, per se, a bad thing. However the substantial majority, especially among the most popular, operate with various levels of unethical behavior.

Essentially, the unethical subsidy publishers prey on the hopes and dreams of authors to become "successful." Many, embarrassed at their naivety, neither complain to government authorities nor admit to friends and family -- or to other potential victims -- that they were "taken."

Subsidy publishers are easy, fast, and sometimes cheap — but they are also often a mistake. You pay up front, use the publisher’s ISBN, and most use a “POD” business model so you only print books as you need them.

POD is Print On Demand. It is a technology. It produces commercially acceptable work. It is used, thorough Lightning Source, Inc (LSI) for a true one-order=one-book system with distribution through Ingram. The “global distribution” offered through the subsidy publishers almost always use LSI. Any publisher can use this service. Some 4 million books were produced this way in 2007.

If an author simply wants to hold a book of their work in their hands (a valid desire) then a subsidy publisher may be a reasonable choice, the cheaper the better. If an author realizes that a book they've written does not have a market beyond 100 or so copies, then a subsidy publisher is a valid choice. However, if the author has other aspirations, then the choice of a subsidy publisher quickly becomes problematical.

The best candidates for subsidy publishing are books that have little or no market interest. Typical candidates are church cook books, poetry (that generally has little market potential), family histories, or memoirs by someone who has done nothing memorable.

The immediate downside to subsidy publishing is that:

- You will have no credibility as a published author. Only those few people who don’t recognize the subsidy publisher’s name won’t immediately know you used a subsidy publisher.

- You will not get reviewed by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal or any of the other important pre-publication reviewers.

- Few, if any, reputable review publications will review the book.

- You will not get your book into mainstream distribution. Booksellers are very unlikely to order the book, although you might get a local store to accept a few copies as “local author” if they feel sorry enough for you. (Recently, an acquaintance was told they had to pay $400 to a bookstore to hold an author signing event for their book published by Author House.)

- Most of the time, the books will be priced above the market for similar sized books in a particular genre. Since subsidy published books include an extra profit for the subsidy house, the common trade discounts are not possible, so either the book will be sold with “short” discounts (making retailers unwilling to stock it) or at in inflated price to cover the necessary discounts in the supply channel (overpriced books don’t sell).

- Many subsidy publishers needlessly tie up your book with license terms that cut them in if you resell the book to another publisher (one wants 10% of any advance you get) or otherwise make it difficult to withdraw the book and republish it for yourself. There are a few who offer reasonable, time limited, non-exclusive contracts. It is vital that you read and understand any publishing contract offered to you.

- Production work done by subsidy publishers is usually mediocre, at best, and incompetent at worst. And there may be extra expenses not covered in the basic advertised price. Extra charges for cover design, charges from copyright registration, charges for using the publisher’s ISBN are often “required” options. Even after you pay for a cover design, etc, if you republish, you may not “own” the design and will have to pay additional extra charges for your typeset interior and cover files — or be forced to hire someone to do it over from scratch. Be sure to check the contract for these “extras” and to see if any rights of use are transferred to you for artwork you pay for.

- You won’t sell many books. Paraphrasing from the New York Times (March 1, 2004) article, “Got a Book in You?…”, they report: Many titles sell just 150 to 175 copies. [Figures I’ve derived from subsidy publisher press releases suggest just 40 to 100 copies.] Many authors are happy to pay for 50 or 100 copies to give or sell to family and friends. Forty percent of iUniverse’s sales are made directly to the authors. Susan Driscoll, president and CEO of iUniverse, is quoted in the article as saying: only 84 titles out of 17,000 published by iUniverse have sold more than 500 copies — and only a half-dozen have made it to Barnes & Noble store shelves. (While this article is now several years old, there's no indication that the situation for authors has improved. -- about 1/2 of 1% of iUniverse books achieve sales above 500 copies. Based on press releases from other subsidy publishers, that result is typical.) was most explicit about its business model. In a 2006 article in the Times (Great Britain), its founder stated the company goal: “... to have a million authors selling 100 copies each, rather than 100 authors selling a million copies each.” Very few Lulu titles have sold even 500 copies.

The less-than-ethical subsidy publishers may call themselves “self publishing companies” — a term that’s clearly an oxymoron. If you don’t own the ISBN, you’re not self publishing. Others may call themselves “POD publishers” — POD — printing on demand — is simply a production method. It’s nothing special that a publisher can claim as a unique idea. Anyone can use POD methods to their own advantage (and actually make money, which can’t be easily done with a subsidy publisher). (See Aaron Shepard's Aiming at Amazon for one approach on how to do this.)

There are a handful of subsidy published book success stories: A few books have been resold to major publishers. One, Legally Blond, was made into a movie after achieving best seller status. You’ll hear about this and other triumphs — but not about the other 400,000 titles per year where the authors don’t even recoup their set up costs.

Some subsidy publishers claim to not charge, but actually have a variety of costs and fees. One, Morgan James Publishing, claims it doesn’t charge to publish your book — and also claims to pay generous “royalties.” However, they require all authors to take a $5000 “marketing course” before they’ll publish your book. You also get 10 copies of your book for “free.” (If the marketing course is actually valuable, this may not be a bad deal. I have no way of knowing without spending the $5000 to take the course.)

One of the most notorious subsidy publishers is PublishAmerica. They claim to be a selective, traditional publisher — they pay an advance of $1. That’s right, one dollar.

While they claim to be selective, in reality, they publish anything. Some writers have tested their selectivity claim: one submission consisted of the same 30 pages repeated 10 times (to make a 300 page manuscript). PublishAmerica never noticed any problem with the manuscript. Another ‘sting’ manuscript was written as the worst manuscript possible. See Critters
to read the story of Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea (say that fast — travesty). What PublishAmerica does is they persuade authors to buy lots of copies of their books. PublishAmerica once even claimed to have a “partnership with the New York Times” (they actually just bought some ad space) and if authors would just buy 500 copies of their book, then they’d be featured in the NYT (ad). Of course, this resulted in zero book sales to any of the authors. See Absolute Write for more about PublishAmerica and its practices.

More generally, unethical subsidy publishers simply offer more than they deliver — but their contract actually doesn’t commit them to deliver much of anything. Extravagant advertising claims are backed up with fine print contract language that specifically negates any advertising claims that may have been made. (Such a deal!)

Many companies offer “marketing packages.” They write rather ordinary media releases and widely send them out — usually to be simply tossed out by the receivers. You may as well put your money in a shredder. They send review copies (printed at your expense) to reviewers, who dispose of them out-of-hand when they see the subsidy imprint. (The reputable reviewers know who they are.)

I must emphasize that while there are many subsidy publishing scam artists, there are a handful of these publishers who are ethical. So, be sure to read contracts and check references. Be sure to read relevant web sites such as the Preditors & Editors™ web site warnings page. It has tips to help you recognize the scam publishers (and literary agencies). Also check out the Writer’s Beware web site by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. Writers Beware and Writers Beware POD

Finally, visit the National Writer's Union
web site and read their information about publishing abuses.

copyright by Pete Masterson, used by permission.
Pete Masterson, Author of
Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers  Publishing Consultant
Aeonix Publishing Group

“The lure of subsidy publishing is that an author can buy a publisher and thereby avoid rejection letters. Subsidy publishers survive because inexperienced authors believe that their book need only exist to succeed. To sweeten the temptation, subsidy publishers and their proponents often tout the belief that authors can make more money using subsidy publishers. Both lures are false as many, many authors can attest. Too many authors fail to realize that subsidy publishers make their money from the author, not from book sales. This alone should teach authors to avoid the lure of subsidy publishing, but it is rarely enough.

“A book succeeds in the national market because publishers pay for the following:
• Editing (content, copy, technical, legal, line, and proof)
• Indexing
• Layout and Typesetting
• Illustration and Cover Design
• Securing Endorsements
• Printing (galleys, ARCs, and production)
• Marketing
• Promotion (reviews, interviews, advertising, salesmanship, etc.)
• Distribution (warehousing, wholesaling, and retailing)

“Successful traditional publisher pay for all of this and do all of this. Successful self-published authors pay for all of this and do all of this. Co-publishing is an agreement between an author and a traditional publisher to offset some of the publisher's costs, but the traditional publisher is still doing all of these things. Subsidy publishers pay for none of this and do none of this. Subsidy publishers are not publishers --- they're printers with limited distribution and a fanciful name.

“The average subsidy-published book sells fewer than 50 copies in its lifetime. Why? Poor editing, bad design, cheap digital manufacturing, no promotion, and insufficient distribution. The publisher is responsible for all those things and subsidy publishers go out of their way to avoid them. It is often true that the subsidy publisher will offer a larger royalty to the author. This makes sense when you realize that they're saving $10,000 - $50,000 in publishing costs.

“Here's an example of the costs involved with publishing.

40% Bookstore/retailer
16% Distributor and Shipping
10% Marketing and Promotion
10% Printing & Shipping
12% Design and Development
8% Author Royalty
4% Publisher Profits

“I've heard tale of subsidy publishers offering royalties as high as 25%. How can they do this? They're not paying for anything. In fact, most subsidy publishers are their own distributors. So...

40% Bookstore/retailer
1% Distribution shipping
25% Author royalty
34% Publisher profits

“And if they sell the book directly and don't offer the author any benefit for a direct sale they make 74%.

“At first blush an unsuspecting author might say, "So? I'm still getting more than I would through a traditional publisher." In actuality, the author has no choice but failure. If the author chooses to avoid the costs of editing, design, marketing, promotion, and distribution, then the author can expect to sell an average of 50 copies. Assuming a common $20 per book, the author will receive $250 for 50 copies sold. A common price per-title to print books through a subsidy publisher is $4.95 per book. The author earned $2.50. In reality, that's a royalty of 0.25% (that's right, one-quarter of one percent).

“The alternative is to pay for editing, design, marketing, and promotion. But even this will result in failure (with VERY rare exceptions) because the author is left with the task of primary distribution and will quickly discover that no national chain bookstores and few independent bookstores outside his or her local area will risk buying the book without the credibility of a traditional publisher. Remember, publishers pay $10,000 - $50,000 to bring a book to market. Somebody will pay that bill or the book will fail.

“Authors eventually learn a simple rule: books do not sell simply because they exist. Subsidy publishers offer one thing: they bring the book into existence --- and they don't even pay for that. Authors are better off either improving their book to meet the standards demanded by traditional publishers or learning the business of publishing and becoming a self-publisher.”

JB Howick is president of WindRiver Publishing, Inc. and the author of Blow Us Away! Publishers' Secrets for Successful Manuscripts.

Pete recommended it as well - be sure to go read this article from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

Monday, May 24, 2010

Photo Monday - Serenity

Photo Tuesday has been moved to Monday because I have a special post tomorrow from four experts in the publishing industry!

Serenity. Still. Calm. Peaceful.

We attribute those feelings to certain scenes.

A stroll along the beach.
The surf gently pounding the sand.
The sound of seagulls.
A breath of ocean air...

But there are other places and moments that convey peace or stillness.

The hour of daybreak.
Birds greeting the sun.
Few humans about.
The breeze almost nonexistant.

A mall or place of business at the end of the day.
The shoppers are gone.
The stores are closing.
Only echoes from within the shops are heard.

Lazy afternoons.
Warm air suppressing activity.
Humidty thick and oppressive.
Time for a nap.

The twilight hour.
Between the busy work traffic and the night life.
Where areas of inactivity linger.

A fire.
Cackling at a campground.
Warming a room at night.
The burning of leaves in a barrel.
The remains of a forest torched.

The falling of rain.
Drops dancing in the puddles.
Striking the roof and windowpanes.
Falling on a lake.
Forcing wildlife to seek shelter.

An empty field.
Surrounded by fog.
Livestock still asleep.
The crickets singing their song.
Stale straw on the breeze.

An empty room.
A stairway that creaks.
An old house without life.
The darkest of night.
Dust clouding the air.

The midnight hour.
A dark and empty street.
Void of people.
Alone with the streetlights and moon.

Have I given you some ideas for moments of serenity in your work? Can you see, hear, feel, and smell them now?

I've the honor of a guest post at Query Tracker today! (Thank you, Elana Johnson.) This fantastic site helps writers become authors. Please stop by!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

On a Saturday! You weren't expecting that, were you?

Woman - What do you want?
Man - I want to come in and steal a few things, madam.
Woman - Are you an encydopaedia salesman?
Man - No madam, I'm a burglar, I burgle people.
Woman - I think you're an encyclopaedia salesman.
Man - Oh I'm not, open the door, let me in please.
Woman - If I let you in you'll sell me encyclopaedias.
Man - I won't, madam. I just want to come in and ransack the flat. Honestly.


Don’t forget my 200 Followers Uber-Beyond-Belief giveaway - I hit 200 Followers!!!! Books, gift card, and basket of goodies to one lucky winner.

Jane Kennedy Sutton talks about dialogue tags and provides a LINK to 550 alternatives for ‘said.’

Alex J. Cavanaugh interviewed science fiction author, David J. Williams.

What do editors want? Find out at Straight From Hel

Advice for self-published authors seeking reviews at Writers in the Sky

Stuck at home for Book Expo America? These book bloggers are participating in Armchair BEA

Don’t forget B. Miller Fiction’s awesome Pay It Forward giveaway!

And go congratulate Nancy J. Parra - she just signed a book deal and an agent deal!!

Too many good ones this week!

Alex atAlex J. Cavanaugh - “Well old chap, let me tell you..."
CC at CC Chronicles - “Are you looking at me?"
Vivian at Brain Cells and Bubble Wrap - “Don't you dare kiss me.”


Thursday, May 20, 2010

200 Followers Uber-Beyond-Belief Contest!

Celebration dance coming! I am about to hit 200 followers, which means it is time for massive contest giveaway.

It's been a long time in coming. Want to know how to blog the wrong way? Make you schedule so insanely busy you don't have time to visit but a handful of blogs each day. (After almost three months of insanity, I mean to correct that problem.) Start a blog but never comment on anyone else's blog. (Would you believe this blog is five years old? I didn't start following other blogs until November of 2008. Sad, huh?) However, I did finally figure it out, and now am about to crest the magic 200 number. Thanks to all of you who follow Spunky's ramblings!

So you're asking - what are the prizes and how do I win???

Lots to win - many ways to enter - and prizes may vary!

Here's the scoop -

This contest is open until May 31st, 2010. (Cutoff time - 10:00pm EST)

Leave a comment here with your email address and your entry totals-

+2  Old Follower - 193 or less
+1  New Follower - 194 or more!
+3  #200 Follower
+1  Follow my blog through Facebook (new or old)
+2  Tweet this contest - #Spunkycontest (counts only once)
+2  Add contest in your sidebar
+2  Mention this contest in a blog post (leave address of post)
+10 For a big blog post about this contest (leave address of post)

Yes, lots of ways to enter!

Now, what will you win?

One grand winner will receive-

A $30.00 gift certificate to either Amazon or Barnes& - your choice

And a complete, autographed set of The Circle of Friends - a $102.00 value

But wait! There's more!

If I hit 250 followers before this contest ends, the winner will also receive:

A basket of treats from Bath & Body Works
A basket of edible, gourmet treats
Your choice!


This contest is open to everyone, however...
Those outside the Continental USA will receive eBook copies of the series instead - and I will be happy to mail you a packet of bookmarks & stuff! And instead of a basket of goodies, your Amazon or B&N gift card will be $60.00. Sound fair?

Thanks again to all of my awesome followers! This contest would be no fun without you.

Well, what are you waiting for????

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mt. St. Helens, May 18, 1980

Thirty years ago today, an eruption changed the face of Mt. St. Helens and the surrounding area forever.

(Please visit the US Forest Service - Mt. St. Helens site for more photos like this one and information.)

At 8:32 am, 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck the mountain, creating an avalanche. As a large portion of the mountain slid away, a blast of pumice and ash erupted from the mountain, and the sound was heard as far away as California. (I was living in Salem, OR at the time.) The blast flattened trees and killed everything in its path in a 200 square mile area. An avalanche of rocks, trees, and mud roared across the land at up to 150 mph. The plume of ash extended ten miles into the sky and circled the globe twice. Fifty-seven people were killed, including the scientist who gave the warning - “This is it!”

Mt. St. Helens erupted several times that year, and I swept ash off our deck on more than one occasion.

However, my most vivid memory comes from the July 22, 1980 eruption. We were in Portland that day and treated to an incredible sight:

Where were you on May 18, 1980?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites!

If you were stranded on an island, what fifteen albums MUST be stranded with you?

This is the basic premise behind Arlee Bird's Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites! Please visit his blog at Tossing it Out for full details and to join in the fun.

When selecting my fifteen, I kept a few things in mind. What bands do I love? What albums are amazing? And what are my most favorite songs in the world? That last one influenced me the most. There are very few albums I consider perfect and while I have several bands I really like, I can't name just one as my favorite. (Even my favorite musician isn't my favorite overall band or act.) So many of the albums I selected contain a song I would place in my top 25.

The albums also reflect my range in music, from instrumental and new age to hard and prog rock. Thus we begin on the lighter side and work our way across:

Legend Soundtrack

One of my favorite movies, paired with an outstanding soundtrack. Tangerine Dream’s music captured the surreal quality of the film, taking it to a new level.

Jean Michel Jarre - Images

My favorite musician is French composer and new age artist, Jarre. His music is both haunting and upbeat. Images is a greatest hits collection and provides a good selection from his many albums. I fell in love with Jarre back in 1987.

James Reynolds - The Mind’s Eye

I own all four of the Mind’s Eye computer animation movies - this is the soundtrack for the first one. A mixture of instrumental songs that will always remind me of our time in Albuquerque.

Kerry Livegren - Odyssey to the Mind’s Eye

This is the last of the Mind’s Eye series. Kerry Livegren is formerly of Kansas and a Christian. This collection is incredibly dynamic and the expanded CD includes vocals on several of the songs as well as the original instrumental versions.

The Best of Shooting Star

When I was a teen, this was my favorite band. Unknowns from Kansas City, their song “Last Chance” has been my ultimate favorite song since the first time I heard it in 1981. Even though I was not the positive person then as I am today, I was obviously seeking optimism, as Shooting Star’s lyrics are filled with hope.


I almost selected the best of for this band, as I love the song “Great Southern Land.” However, Icehouse’s debut album still resonates, capturing the essence of the summer of ’81 for me. The song “Icehouse” is my second most favorite in the world and an incredibly haunting tune.

ELO - Afterglow

When I first discovered popular music, ELO became my first favorite band. Their obsession with space and time captured my imagination and eventually my writing. I would have to take this greatest hits collection or risk missing too many great ELO songs.

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

This selection needs no introduction, and it sparked a passion for Pink Floyd that continues to this day. I used to play music all night long, so more than one of these songs invaded my dreams and inspired my writing. This album will soon be 40 years old, but it still sounds fresh.

Pink Floyd - Momentary Lapse of Reason

Purists dismiss later Floyd albums, but for me, this one captures the essence of Dark Side the better than any other Floyd album. It’s a reminder of a unique time in my life (fall 1987) and contains my favorite Floyd song, “Learning to Fly.” And it's solid, from front to back.

Gary Moore - We Want Moore

Before he turned completely to blues, Gary Moore knew how to rock! This is a live collection, highlighting some great songs. Without a doubt, the saddest song in the world is the live version of “Empty Rooms.” It’s like a sunny fall day that is cold & crisp - and spent alone.

Chevelle - This Type of Thinking Could Do Us In

One of my current favorite bands, this was also difficult - which Chevelle album? This one contains a mix of rockin’ tunes and slow, haunting melodies - along with my favorite Chevelle song, “Get Some.” It also reminds me of the awesome cruise I took with my husband a few years ago!

Def Leppard - High ‘n’ Dry

The first Def Leppard album I ever fell in love with, and at a time in my life that was rather dark. These songs still have a rough, raw edge and hint at the talent to come from this band. It also contains my favorite Def Leppard song, the original version of “Bringing On The Heartbreak.”

Queensryche - Operation Mindcrime

I’d heard of Queensryche, but not until this album did the band captivate my attention. Mindecrime is THE greatest concept album ever, sheer genius from start to finish, and showcases Queensryche at their best. It also reminds me of the year I met my husband!

Arena - Pepper’s Ghost

This was a difficult choice, as I almost selected Arena’s Specter at the Feast album. I fell in love with Arena two years ago, drawn in by a song called “Purgatory Road,” which is found on this prog rock album. A loose concept album, many of the songs feature monsters or the end of days - one song is even about a vampire!

Ayreon - Universal Migrator

The most difficult decision - which Ayreon album? Why Universal Migrator? Because it’s the concept that ties all of the albums together. It is also very science fiction, almost impossible to classify, and contains a powerful song called “Dragon on the Sea.”

And thus concludes my Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites! Are you participating in today's blogfest? What are some of the albums you would need on that island?

Friday, May 14, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

We're knights of the round table
We dance when e'er we're able
We do routines and parlour scenes
With footwork impecc-Able
We dine well here in Camelot
We eat ham and jam and spam a lot!

Recently announced - Writers Digest 101 Best Writer Sites

Marketing Tips For Authors had several good items this week - You can still sell information and make money and Author Blogging tips

Stephen King weighs in - to agent or not to agent? B. Miller Fiction

Using teacher guides as marketing tools - J. Aday Kennedy

When writing, it’s all in the details - Straight From Hel

And don’t miss the Fifteen Fantasy Island Favorites!!! Sign up for Monday’s event at Arlee’s blog - Tossing It Out

Stephen posted some questions about reviewers the other day, so thought I’d throw out a list of the big reviewers in the USA:

ALA Booklist
Foreword Magazine
Horn Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
New York Times
LA Times
Midwest Book Review

Note that most of these are pre-publication reviewers and require ARCs or galleys several months prior to publication. Only Midwest accepts subsidy press titles or books after their release date. A few are for children's books only.

For a list of online reviewers, go to Book Connector and enter your genre. Magazine, periodical, blogger, and other review sites!


Susan - “Don't bother me now...can't you see I'm in my litter box?”

Of course! Where else does a kitten go but on the carpet?

And poor Calvin - her nickname was Yoda as a kitten!


And now to prove that Yoda did grow up to be a beautiful cat!

And just so everyone knows, my inlaws have been visiting, so I've not been online as much. Really hope to get back to a normal schedule next week!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Power of Association

The excerpt below isn't just for my fellow authors and writers - it's for everyone! Association is a very powerful thing.

Adapted from "Overcoming Obastacles with SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting."
ISBN 978-0-9816210-2-9

Our associations affect our behavior and mental state far more than we realize. People tend to take on the attributes of those around them, for better or for worse. The secret is to form associations that are a positive influence on our lives and not a negative drain.

Creatures of habit, we are drawn to familiar territory. We seek those who match our moral standards, economic status, and ambition levels. Consider those within our own circle of influence and we will discover they are our associates because we are comfortable in their presence. Occasionally we will be forced to stretch or shrink to fit our environment. Like the chameleon, we change our colors just enough to blend.

Our associations determine our placement in life. We will never outgrow our surroundings. The goldfish in a small fishbowl will only grow so large, but place him in a twenty-gallon tank and his size will increase to match his living quarters. Our associations influence us much like the goldfish’s tank, either by encouraging or restricting our growth.

Now, I am not suggesting that we need to make all new friends. (And we certainly cannot trade in our family members, no matter how hard we try!) However, if we possess far more drive and ambition than our circle of influence, then that is a problem. We must have someone who will push us to greater heights. The tennis player who can beat everyone at the country club will never improve further until he plays outside of this small group. We must also step outside of our comfort zones if we expect to achieve more and grow as individuals.

Separate from those who wallow in mediocrity. Avoid individuals who possess negative attitudes and aren’t afraid to show it. Place distance from those with potentially destructive behaviors and habits. Retreat from the underachievers and pessimists in life. Not only will these types of people hinder our efforts to grow and succeed, they will also resent our ambition and attempt to dampen our spirits. We do not need friends like that in our corner.

Instead, seek individuals who are actively pursuing ambitions and goals. Befriend those possessing a positive attitude and are moving forward in life or already possess a measure of success. They will encourage and stretch us. It is likely they will be in a position where they can apply direct influence as well. Certainly, they will be more willing to offer advice and help us achieve your goals.

Associations are incredibly important and can determine our success or failure in life. Do not allow personal contacts to influence or control our life in a negative manner. Surround ourselves with successful encouragers and watch our world be forever transformed!

- L. Diane Wolfe
Take a good look at your associations. Are they positive? Are they encouraging? Do they need to change? Do you need new relatives?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Photo Tuesday - Similar Scenes

Getting the feel of a real life scene is critical when writing. There is always the chance our readers have visited the same location.

Every town, every beach, every mountain has its own feel. There are buildings unique to every city. The countryside in Vermont possesses features we won’t find in Iowa. The beaches in North Carolina are very different from the beaches in Oregon. Visiting the locations in our books, either physically, through books, or on the Internet is essential.

For all the differences, though, there are similarities.

My husband just got back from staying with his parents while they visited Savannah. (They will join us in their motor home today!) While in Savannah, he took a cruise on a riverboat:

Ironically, he said it was almost exactly like the riverboat cruise we took with our church’s singles group in Wilmington a couple weeks ago:

He said the riverfront looked almost identical - same buildings, same marsh areas, and same loading docks:

As we are writing, we need to consider the fact that some aspects of our location will carry a universal feel. While we need to maintain accuracy in our work, it’s often not as difficult as we make it out to be!

Are you working on a scene that is universal? Are there locations in your story that are duplicated elsewhere in the world?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tales From the Bookshelf - Critically Acclaimed

This might spark some controversy, but I'm hoping it will encourage some great discussions!

(And I am visiting Jane’s Ride today with a piece on burnout! If you get a chance, please check it out.)

This tale from the bookshelf pertains to critically acclaimed and classic books. The deep, long, in-depth books we are all supposed to read.

I'll apologize now, but I find many of them to be... dull.

Go ahead and call me a simple reader, but I just can't get into these types of books. I equate them to the boring dramas that are nominated every year for an Oscar. Introspective and deep just doesn't appeal to me.

The Old Man and the Sea is one that bored me to tears. Yes, it's a classic that everyone needs to read! However, by the time I got to the end, I didn't care about the metaphors - I just wanted it to end.

Lord of the Rings is another set of books that are really good and contain a fantastic story - but contain way too much description for my tastes. After twenty pages of exposition, I'm ready for some action and dialogue. (I absolutely LOVED the movies.)

I couldn't get into Isaac Asimov, either. Overly technical books tax my brain.

Now, before everyone accuses me of having no appreciation for fine literature, there are some critically acclaimed books I do love. Watership Down is a fantastic story with just the right balance of elements. Bambi is also a wonderful story. (And I have the original first editions of both Bambi and Bambi's Children!)

I think that when it comes to reading, I want my fiction to provide an easy escape from reality. Non-fiction is where I prefer my introspective, detailed, and technical reading to reside. I can devour a long, intricate non-fiction book in no time. With fiction, I just want to go for a ride!

How does everyone else feel about their reading material? Do you enjoy critically acclaimed books? Do you just read to escape? And if you think Spunky is totally bonkers, feel free to say that as well!

Friday, May 07, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

Bring out your dead!


Simon at Constant Revision tells us the right way to attract blog followers.

Tony Burton discusses what makes one a professional over at Make Mine Mystery

The Blood Red Pencil asks - is your story science fiction or urban fantasy?

Arlee and the other A-Z Challenge participants reflect at Tossing It Out

Elana Johnson talks about the curse of the writerly friend.

Rayna at Coffee Rings Everywhere gave me The Sunshine Award!

There are so many bloggers I could pass this along to! I appreciate each and every one of you who've stuck with me the past few months while Spunky has been busy out of her mind. I will pass this along to Jai at Jai Joshi’s Tulsi Tree as she always makes time to stop by and say something nice!!


CC - "Silly farmer thinks this gate will stop me. He doesn't know the power of the super tongue"

Remember, tune in every Sunday for the Sunday Sillies - laughs aplenty and your chance to caption a photo!


I took this photo of a storefront in downtown Asheville, NC - aren't they pretty?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Tips - When Meeting an Author…

This is for readers and writers, but I’d love my author friends to add their two cents as well. Even after 300 signings, I’m sure I’ve not encountered every situation possible.

When meeting an author at a book signing:


Speak to us!
We enjoy interaction.
Ask about our books.
Tell us what you enjoy about our books.
Ask for an autograph.
Ask for a bookmark or two.
Consider our books for someone else if they don’t appeal to you.
Ask if we can speak to your school or organization.

Monopolize our time.
Be conscious of our time - we are there to work.
We have a short span of time to expose our books to as many people as possible.
Others may be waiting to speak to us.
Be courteous and purchase a book if you do spend time talking with us.

Pump us for information.
We can’t give you our publisher or agent’s name or recommend you.
We don’t have twenty minutes to tell you how to get your book published.
We can’t read, critique, or pass on your manuscript.
We don’t have time for a twenty-minute description of the book you are writing.
Asking how many books we’ve sold or how much money we’ve made is not polite.

Ask in depth questions about other authors or books.
We are there to promote our book, not someone else’s.
We are not store staff, either.

And don’t eat all of our candy or grab and handful and run without purchasing a book - the store did not supply that candy, we paid for it.

While the don’ts might sound harsh, remember - the author who’s done multiple signings has heard it multiple times. It’s cute the first time. By the 50th time, it’s lost its charm. We are there to work. We depend on book sales and impressing the bookstore staff so they will invite us to return. Please help us to continue doing what we love.

We want to connect with our readers and enjoy the opportunity to do so at signings and appearances. Just remember common courtesy and the experience will be wonderful for both of us!

Authors, any other Dos or DON’Ts?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Photo Tuesday - The Bonsai and Writing

We visited the NC Arboretum this weekend in Asheville. One of the gardens was a display of Bonsai trees.

What surprised me was the variety of trees. (A five foot black rat snake nearly surprised us as well, but that’s another story.) There were oak, birch, elm, and pine trees, all sculptured in Bonsai fashion. Each display was a miniature version of the full-fledged tree in the forest.

Bonsai requires a lot of patient work. The tree and shrubs want to grow large and wild, but one must keep trimming and pruning to maintain the miniature size.

The same thing happens when we write. The story wants to blossom into this massive tree, its braches forming in every direction and spawning much undergrowth. But there’s truth in the saying you can’t see the forest for the trees. After the first draft, we must trim. We must curtail the wild growth and tighten our tale. We need to consider each and every branch, pruning those that get in the way or lead to dead ends. Only through this Bonsai process can we create a thing of beauty.

Are you concentrating on trimming the wild growth in your story?

Have you ever attempted a real Bonsai tree?

I wonder if they come in plastic form...?