Monthly Archives: August 2011

Picking a Publisher


Crymsyn Hart

Over the years, I’ve had some really good experiences with different e-publishers and I’ve had some really bad ones. Some have gone under and left me high and dry. Some have stumbled into ambiguity with the higher ups not getting back to me. And then others I would stay with until the world burns up. I’m not going into any specifics, but I am sure that others have had the same experience with e-publishers, but I’m speaking from personal experience.

It’s hard for a first time author to figure out who they should go with. You definitely want to speak with other authors and see who they are with. Check out the Predators and Editors website to see if there are any warnings or notes on a particular publisher. But then again, you can get involved and then something happens and boom there goes the publisher. Obviously, if you hear about a publisher who is not paying royalties you want to avoid them.

But if you find a place where everything looks good, you have talked to authors and things are great, then you gotta go with your gut feeling. Say you find two or three different places where you want to submit a novel and one feels better than the other or you like the cover art better than the other then you follow the publishers guidelines and see what happens. I’ve done that very thing, picked a publisher based on their cover art just because I didn’t find their covers appealing to me. But hey that is just my two sense on how I picked and looked at publishers. I wish any luck trying to pick a publisher because there are so many out there and new ones popping up every day so you have to be careful.

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

Tragedy at Bostian Bridge – One Year Later

As some of you may remember, a young man lost his life one year ago while attempting to see the infamous ghost train of Bostian Bridge.

CAPS takes its responsibility as stewards of the paranormal community very seriously. In that vein, it is our advice and admonishment to any would-be train seekers, to stay home. Norfolk Southern Security as well as Iredell County Sheriff Department officers will be patrolling the tracks and area of the tracks. This is private property belonging to the railroad and YOU WILL BE ARRESTED FOR TRESPASSING!!


The last reported “sighting” was well over 50 years ago (supposedly on the 50 year anniversary of the crash) by a local woman whose story of course cannot be substantiated. This would have been the year 1941.

There have been no sightings since, nor will there ever be. Hundreds of people have come out over the years in an effort to see this supposed phenomena.


On the 100 Year Anniversary, the site took on a carnival atmosphere, complete with T-shirts! Again, it is only a local legend, much like The Mothman Festival being celebrated in Pt. Pleasant, WV, and nothing more!! Stay safe…stay home, and stay out of jail!!

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You can’t go home again, and neither can your characters.

by Gail Z. Martin

Contrary to Bon Jovi’s experience, most of us find that going home after we’ve left is at best bittersweet and at worst impossible.  That’s true, I’m convinced, because not only are we not the same people who left, but the place we’ve left behind changes while we’re gone.  It’s that whole thing about not stepping into the same river twice.

As I find myself spending more time in my hometown than I have spent since leaving high school (thanks to some family concerns), I got thinking about how many of my characters have had a reason to make a return home under difficult circumstances.

Tris flees his home to avoid being killed, only to find that he must return to face his monster of a brother in order to protect those he loves.

Jonmarc staggers from his village wounded and grief stricken as the sole survivor of a massacre by northern raiders, and returns years later to repel another invasion, this time, as the champion of a queen and at the head of an army.

Kiara leaves her homeland to forge a political alliance and returns to a shattered homeland that looks to her untested abilities to save it.

Cam went back to the home that exiled him and found unexpected strengths and an unknown lurking threat.

Even Kolin finds a mixture of grief and solace returning to what remains of his home, although only ghosts and the undead still inhabit the place where he used to live.

Maybe my subconscious put me on the track of bittersweet homecomings. More than once, I’ve worked through a difficult issue only to look back through my writing and find out that I’d unconsciously put my characters in the same situation in various guises.  It’s happened enough times to make me wary when I find themes in my own stuff, wondering what it means for my real life.

The whole homecoming arc certainly isn’t new; after all, that’s at the heart of The Odyssey.  But it probably resonates more at a mid-point in life more than when you’re younger and bursting from the gate to seek your fortune.  If you can think of other character homecomings in other books, I’m interested to see what you come up with!


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Panster or Plotter?

by Crymsyn Hart

Have you ever had something start off as a funny, passing idea, and then before you know it, that idea has greatly taken over your brain and infected you. I’m sure it happens to everyone even those who are not writers. Something small nitpicks at you until you have to give it some attention. And then when you do, it snowballs and takes over a great portion of your mind as if it is controlling you and not the other way around. That’s what happened to me when I was hanging out with some author friends at Authors After Dark. I had made the offhand comment about writing about the coffin in my dining room. Yes I know. I really do have a coffin in my dining room.

So I introduced him to the world a couple of weeks and he has taken my brain by storm. He calls himself Jerry and wants to be the spotlight of my thoughts. As a character, I honestly never assumed I would be writing about a coffin. But then again that is how character development normally works for me. I never plot out a book. I’m a panster. I write and write and the characters and the plot reveal more of themselves to me as I write.

It can get very frustrating at times. Because I want the characters and the plot to go one way, but oh no. They veer off in a completely other direction and I normally have to catch up. Sometimes, it is a long jog to get back on track. The times I have tried to plot haven’t gone very well. The characters usually end up hating me when I do and rewrites ensue.

So what are you? Do you plot or do you go where the characters take you?
Do you ever find it frustrating when it doesn’t go your way?

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Life Happens and ya gotta roll with it…

By J. f. Lewis

Almost everyone has heard the song “Don’t Stop Believe’n”. And there are many days that is what writing is all about. If you’re a Pantser, like me, you believe that all the little things you are writing, the seeds you are planting in the plot will grow together like topiary magic into a cohesive sculpture. And the more you do it, the more confident you become. You start to see patterns and trust that those vague ideas about how the story will end are right and that the theme of the novel will be what you think it is going to be… And if they don’t, then you will fix it and shape it and prune it in the second draft until it is a shiny new novel ready to have your editor point out the flaws you’ve missed so you can fix them, too… At which point the copyeditor will catch things you and your editor both missed (or meant to look up and double-check later) and then the readers will continue to think you, the author, are super cool and smarter than you actually are.

But it takes a lot of faith, trust, and pixie dust to get there.

And speaking of flying and editors… Editors, good ones, are kind of like half of a flying trapeze artist act. In the act, there are two performers: the flyer and the catcher. I think the writer and the editor change up roles from time to time, but usually the writer gets to be the one performing the cool tricks and the editor makes sure that they don’t fall. There is a lot of trust. If the relationship is a good one, it starts to feel like a team. When you meet at conventions there may not even be much shop talk at all, it’s about keeping touch and maintaining the relationship.

Confused yet?

All the changes I’ve spoken about on various blogs were events in the past or a process about which I had an idea how it would end: Fan mail… Hate mail… Good reviews… Bade reviews… Getting kicked out of one church… Being welcomed into a new one… I’ve rarely spoken about a process that was still underway.

All my Void City books have been edited by the same wonderful editor. She has a really cool job opportunity and has chosen to take it. I wish her well and am totally excited for her. But I’m getting a new partner in crime and I haven’t met them yet. I’m looking forward to it, though. I’m hopeful, but I’ll admit there are a certain amount of “blind date” jitters. I’ll let you know how it goes. Wish me luck. Does this prose make me look fat? 😉

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Paranormally Speaking

By Tina R. McSwain

My apologies to the readers for my post being late.  I will strive to do a better job going forward.

Plan B

Sometimes the “B” stands for Best.  We had to cancel a recent private investigation due to weather as some of our activity was to be outside.  There was a strong thunderstorm in the area, so we went out to dinner as a group.  After dinner was over, it was around 9:45pm and we suddenly found ourselves with nothing to do, and a whole night ahead of us.

One of our colleagues suggested we go to a favorite haunted spot of ours, an old abandoned cemetery.  So, off we went.  It had quit raining, the clouds were gone and the full moon was shinning brightly.  We started our investigation around 11:00pm.  Over the course of the next three hours, we experienced one of the best investigations we have ever had at this location.

Four of us heard footsteps, two of us got pinched, two of us heard moaning, and one of us had a black shadow person standing behind them.  We caught an entity on a photo and even got an EVP that told us to “Get Out”.  What a great night!!  So, at least in this case, Plan B turned out to the the best plan!

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Best summer movies so far.

by Gail Z. Martin

I don’t ask much from my movies.  A few explosions, some impossible but cool special effects, and a little magic.

With Netflix and Redbox, we have gotten pretty choosy about which movies we see in the theaters (that, and our three kids are now old enough that we’ve lost the child discount rate so we have to pay for five adults, which gets pricy).  We triage our theater-going to which movies really benefit from the big screen, 3-D and/or IMAX treatment, and which would be pretty much the same on the TV at home.  Needless to say, explosions and magic look better when they’re bigger and louder, so that tends to tilt toward our choice of movies.

Thor was a lot of fun—better than I expected.  (It was worth it to hear half the theater gasp when he took of his shirt.) I also enjoyed Green Lantern.  Lots of action, not real heavy on plot.  Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was an ok popcorn movie, but I liked the first one best. (However, compared with Pirates 2 and 3, Pirates 4 looked like Oscar material. My opinion.  Just saying.) Of course, Harry Potter 7.2.  I thought Deathly Hallows 2 was very well done, with exceptional special effects and cinematography with a mood befitting the tone of the book.  I’m looking forward to seeing Captain America.

I missed getting to see X Men First Class and, alas, Kung Fu Panda 2, so I’ll have to pick those up on Netflix later on.  I’m also intrigued by Super 8, and might catch that one.  And while it’s not really a movie, I enjoyed catching up on Season 2 of True Blood thanks to Netflix.

So there you have it, my confession of guilty pleasure watching summer movies.  Pass the popcorn!

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It’s not about staying behind the desk

by Crymsyn Hart

When I first started writing, I never thought beyond the world I was building or the characters I was creating. Eventually, I would have to do edits on the book. Of course, first I had to find an agent and then pray that the agent would find a home for the book they had accepted. Granted, this was fifteen years ago when I started writing in college and was sending out my query letters. With all the rejection letters I received, I soon lost interest in even writing and figured that it didn’t matter. I was going to stop writing altogether.

Then a friend of mine told me about e-books and trying to e-publish. That was in 2006. I found a start up e-publisher, that eventually folded, but my dream had come true and I was going to be a published author. Then the fun began.


Here I was, shy and really wasn’t about getting myself out there. But I signed up for the yahoo groups, discovered Facebook, and eventually jumped on Twitter. I’m still not perfect at self promotion. It’s the thorn in my side, but I do hope to get better at it. I’ve been doing more conventions and even tweeting more, hoping that people will find my posts interesting.

This past weekend I was in Philadelphia at the Authors After Dark convention where I was thrown way out of my comfort zone and forced to socialize with people. Oh the horror! LOL. But it was very cool to get out from behind my computer and mingle with other authors and readers. It was an awesome experience and I plan on doing it again next year. I think the coolest thing was just meeting people who you see online or readers that said ‘hey I read your book and liked it.’

But overall, it was a lesson that as writers we have to move outside of our writing box and promote because how else are people going to know about you. So for any first time writers, let me say that it may not be something you’re good at, and I’m not perfect, but once you can force yourself to do it, it is a good thing. And good things will come of it.


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By: C.J. Henderson

The Luddites, to make a short and inadequate explanation of a much more complicated movement, were folks who were against mechanical advancement. Worrying over the grim reality of losing jobs to automation goes back to the Industrial Revolution. These guys actually committed some pretty serious crimes to get their point across. They were rounded up and their riots quelled in the end, but they did raise an interesting point–

How much progress is enough?

Now, this is not one of those lectures on getting your kids to go outside to play more. You should do that, but you know, that’s up to you and your kids. No, this is a rant aimed at people who are perfectly willing to allow machines to replace parts of themselves which those machines are not fit to replace. Huh, I hear you mutter. I shall explain.

Automobiles … perfectly reasonable to drive them to a convention in another state. To the supermarket when you need to bring back 287 pounds of vittles. To the movie theater when you have to take four kids and it’s raining. There are a thousand, a million good reasons you can come up with for not walking. But, do we sometimes go too far?

For instance, have you ever gotten into the car and driven to a place only ten blocks away? Simply to mail a letter, or pick up a box of light bulbs?

In other words, when does the convenience become a burden? A certain amount of exercise is needed. Taking into consideration the trouble finding parking some times, the expense of gasoline, such a trip can end up taking more time and costing far more than it’s worth. But, in this modern world this ceases to be a consideration. Driving is what one does often …

Rather than thinking.

Then, add a cell phone.

How did people survive before them? Are you old enough to remember the world before cell phones? Did you find it impossible to communicate then? Probably not. But, along they came, and everyone suddenly had to have one. And had to chatter every minute of the day. Did they suddenly have so many more wonderfully interesting things to talk about?


You know damn well they didn’t. Neither did you. But people can’t seem to put them down. They waste hours every day, chatting, and now texting, with absolutely nothing to say. Simply because a machine was put into their hands.

And, worse yet, so many of the grinning apes all around us think they have the skills to use automobiles and cell phones together. They think … now read this slowly and consider the lunacy of it while you do … that they have the skills to type while they drive.

To type while they drive.

Most of them can’t drive very well to begin with, don’t use turn signals, don’t know which lane to be in at what speeds, don’t understand the dangers of passing on the right (or forcing others to pass them on the right), et cetera. And, most of them can’t type very well, either.

Two great tastes that don’t go great together.

You’ve seen the videos of morons walking along texting tripping into fountains, falling down stairs, slamming into signposts, et cetera. And yet, these people believe they can drive cars while they type, when they can’t even walk and type at the same time.

The availability of technology does not imply mastery of it.

Am I getting through to anyone?

Who knows? Why would I ask that? I’ll tell you.

I ask such a question to make the reader wonder, if only for a split second about the question. I’m challenging you to consider what you have read before I go on to the major point. A point, oddly enough, of lesser consequence than the set-up.

Yes, I believe the above to be a major problem, and I will curse to Hell the mush-brained jackass that rams into me at 65 miles an hour because they were too busy letting some other worthless waste of oxygen know how much they “heart” some band or pictures of Internet cats or whathaveyou. But, the idea presented above was there to focus your minds on a smaller but, for we who write and edit and read for pleasure, in some ways equally disastrous set of problems.

Spell check. Let’s start there.

Spell check (and its equally evil twin, grammar check), may not be worth the problems it has caused.

Now initially, a great idea. Time saving. Super. Bring it on.

When I first encountered this technology, I was delighted. A traditionally bad speller (dictionary always on hand for this writer), it was a blessing sent from God. Indeed, as I would go through a ms. Checking each word it questioned, over the years I found myself actually becoming a better speller because I had this patient teacher willing to take me by the hand, word by word, and quietly explain each mistake to me.

It was wonderful.

But, most people don’t seem to have taken my approach. Most people seem content to simply let the machine correct things they way it wishes to do so … whether it’s right or not. They listen to their grammar checker and do whatever it says, abandoning what creativity they might have had in favor of a machine’s limited ability to structure a sentence.

Worse yet, we now have spell checkers being imposed on us.

Try typing the phrase “sci fi” in an email. At AOL, the machine will not let you leave “fi,” but will automatically change it to “if.” Because it knows better. Because you’re too stupid to be allowed to type what you want.

And, in a world where so many people are too stupid to be allowed to type what they want, can we blame the machines for rising up and trying to kill John Connor before he has us all filling our letters with goddamned idiotic “:O(” crap? What kind of pinhead uses this nonsense to convey a feeling?

The kind that has been brainwashed into believing they have no creativity. That conformity and speed equal something better than free expression.

Technology is a wonderful thing. It truly is. When I was a child I hand wrote stories. Hundreds of them. Then I learned to type. It was a glorious release. Then, the electric typewriter was born, and a golden age seemed to have arrived.

And then, the word processor was sent down from the mountain, and God had proved he loved his people.

No, I don’t want a return to the quill pen. But, when I get a new book delivered from a publisher, and I find that all they did was plug my ms. into a lay-out program which leaves my book ugly, boring, pedestrian and worse, filled with hundreds of technical mistakes … then suddenly I’m ready to start talking behind HAL’s back while hoping it can’t read my lips.

I just spoke with another author today who told me their new book arrived from a publisher who did the same thing, used a program to do the lay out for their book, but then didn’t bother to look at the results. Their book actually was printed and sent to the stores with strike overs in the text.

Sure it’s cheaper to not hire an editor, simpler to let the machine do the work, faster to not go through the effort of reading every single line for the tenth time, looking for dropped lines and extra spaces and run overs and strike overs and misplaced words and …

Well, you either get the idea, or you don’t.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t remove the human element from your work. When you type something, whether it’s a novel, or just a reminder to a friend as to where and when you are to meet, do it with care. Read over what you’ve written. Think about it. Decide as to whether or not it could be better.

Quantity … or quality?

Is it better to type up 500 meaningless, pointless texts a day, empty messages which will be forgotten instantly …


Or five or six texts which come from your soul, which tell those to whom they are sent something important, something vital, something lovely?

Spell check–good.

Caring enough to read it over after spell check–better.

Caring enough to re-write, and to think about what you’ve written, to actually explore your feelings and the depths of your soul, opening yourself to the world beyond, taking a chance on your ability to express yourself …

Yeah, it’s dangerous. But it has it’s rewards.

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Good-bye, Harry.

by Gail Z. Martin

OK, I’ll say it.  I’m going to miss Harry Potter.

For the last ten years, we’ve either had a book or a movie to look forward to, and I enjoyed every single one of them.  I loved sharing them with my kids, and I loved them myself.  The world of Harry Potter was just plain fun, with its wonderful word-play (like the Penseive), great characters, and a tangible level of realism.

I also loved the other level of Harry’s books.  The friendship, self-sacrifice, heroism and power of community, all of which seem to be in short supply these days.  The triumph of democracy over oligarchy (mud-bloods vs. pure bloods), and the power of seeing something through to the end.  Rare qualities, all of them, and the saving grace of humanity.

With my kids, I’ve seen all of the movies multiple times.  To me, they never get old.  I have my personal favorites—Sorcerer’s Stone and Goblet of Fire.  And while I quibbled from time to time over the length of coverage some Quidditch matches received (then again, I’m not a sports person), I didn’t really mind.

One of the things that meant a lot to me was that in the end, it was the regular people who overthrew tyranny and fascist rule.  The mud-bloods and the half-giants, the dwarves and the orphans, the misfits and the outcasts triumphed over powerful special interests who would have subjugated everyone to enrich a few.  Voldemort tried to seduce the wizarding world through greed and power.

And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.

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