Thursday, April 28, 2016

Be a dictator -- talk your book aloud with dictation software

What up everyone! It's KGG and I'm here today to talk to you about dictating. That's right, I said talk. I am dictating this blog post using Dragon Dictate for Mac. I decided to invest in Dragon after I read several threads on KBoards and was impressed by the word count that these authors were managing in such a short period of time.

I've only had Dragon for a week and I am not averaging high word counts for the amount of time I'm investing. I can type faster. But there's a reason for that. Practice definitely makes perfect when you're using dictation software. Also it takes a while before you're able to talk as fast as you can type. But one thing I've noticed is that I'm not as exhausted after dictating a long stretch of words as I am typing the same amount of words. I can dictate 1000 words in half an hour but I don't feel as tired as when I type 1000 words in half an hour.

Dictation certainly does have its drawbacks. The software designed for Apple computers is not as accurate or easy-to-use as the software designed for the PC. Some authors have become frustrated with Dragon for Mac and find that it doesn't give them more time because they're making a lot of corrections. But Dragon is a smart software in that you need to take the time to train it. If you see it's made an error, it's not enough to highlight the word and type it in yourself. You need to go back and tell Dragon to correct the word. That takes time.

As I'm dictating this my daughter is talking in the background to a stuffed puffin. And yet the microphone is not picking up her voice. Which brings me to my next point. You absolutely must invest in a good microphone, either a headset or a standalone microphone. Your iPhone earbuds are not going to cut it.

I would definitely recommend trying dictation whether you opt for it in Google Docs (you need Chrome) or just the built-in dictation in the MacBook. There are authors who buy themselves a portable microphone and dictate on long walks or in the car and then transcribe it later on using Dragon. It's nice to get outside and write your book. I've yet to try this, but I will.

If you find yourself rubbing your fingers constantly or dealing with wrist pain, I would definitely recommend trying the dictation software. If you own a PC, Dragon Naturally Speaking works really well. If you have a MacBook or a Mac computer, Dragon Dictate for Mac is buggy. You've been warned. But it just depends on how much time you're willing to put into training the software. I haven't put as much time and training it because I'm utilizing the software to generate quick first drafts. For me, the writing is in the revisions. And that's when I sit hunched over my keyboard, fingers curled up in the air ready to refine my words. When I'm writing a first draft, it's not that big a deal if it's terrible. As an example, I dictated this blog post, but then I edited it old-school by reading it aloud and refining my language.

If you want to hear about other writers experience using Dragon software. Check out this thread on KBoards.

Have you used dictation software to quickly write your first drafts? Does it make the writing experience easier for you? Or does it frustrate you? Sound off in the comments.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hidden Gems in Writing

I’m sure all of you have heard about the passing of Prince last week. I’ve long been a Prince fan, so I was deeply impacted by his passing. Not because I knew him personally, but because his music had affected my life in many ways through the years. A few of his songs are still my ‘go-to’ songs when I’m feeling down and need to lift my spirits.

As I tried to get back into my WIP on Thursday, my mind was still distracted by the news. Then I suddenly realized that I was at the perfect spot in the story to pay tribute to Prince. Here’s a snapshot:

I love that I was able to capture this moment in my work. It then made me think about other hidden gems I’ve been able to incorporate into my novels. As I started thinking through them, there are quite a few.

Why am I a fan of hidden gems in my work? I guess its because I view it as a way of leaving a bit of myself inside the fictional story Im creating. Even if only a few people pick up on them, I know theyre there. Some gems represent special moments from my own life, while others are like coded messages to friends/family. Then there are a few that are specific to my writing for one reason or another.

Here are just a few examples of my hidden gems:

Kingston Series

Sarah’s son’s favorite stuffed dog, Max, is a direct inspiration from my daughter’s favorite stuffed dog (although hers has a different name and sometimes wears a pink tutu).

Sarah’s favorite pizza place in Chicago was my favorite place growing up. A reader sent me a picture of the book and pizza box when she visited Chicago!

Shattered Angel

Wuthering Heights was the first book I remember having a huge impact on me, and it plays an important role in Shattered Angel.

Whispers is a character who makes a brief appearance in Shattered Angel. His name is a nod to a friend who thinks he’s my muse.

Current WIP

As mentioned above, I’ve incorporated Prince into my current WIP. In addition to that, my two primary characters meet during a ‘constant, steady rain’. This is a tribute to my book club. They’ll get it :)

All Books

In my first book, Kingston’s Project, I used the number 113 for my primary character’s weight. In a later book, I subconsciously used that same number for a hotel room. I didn’t realize I’d used the same number until my edits. I now consider 113 my book number.

If I plan to drop any f-bombs in a book, I use a specific number. Again, this was something that started out unintentionally, but now I do it on purpose. I’ll keep the reason to myself—a bit of mystery is a good thing.

Adding hidden gems in your work is not only a great way to give something special to your readers (at least those who are paying attention), but it’s also a great way to pay tribute to things that are important in your life.

However, it’s critical that you don’t try to force a hidden gem into your work. It has to become a seamless part of the story. I have a friend who would like for me to incorporate something we call Sally into one of my books. I love the idea, but it has to be right. So for now Sally hasn’t made an appearance, but I hope to find the right moment in one of my future books.

What gems are hidden inside your novels?

~ Carrie

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Living With Non-Writers

 A Post By Jonathan 

I've been wanting to write about this topic for a while, but I wanted to make sure my wife wasn't secretly reading my blog posts. So far, I don't think she is... But if you are reading this, Honey... I love you!

Ever since I started this whole writing gig/hobby/thing, I've found it a bit of a struggle to communicate to my non-writer spouse exactly what goes into crafting a novel. She knows about the countless hours it takes, but it's been nae impossible to explain all the feelings --doubt, fear, insecurity, some good things too-- that accompany them. It seems that no matter what I say, or how I say it, I'm never really able to articulate the sheer energy and emotion it takes to bring a story to life on paper. Maybe I should write it down instead?

If I did, I would tell her that writing a novel is by far the most challenging thing I have ever done. I would tell her it's more challenging than two-a-day football practices in 90 degree weather back in high school, more challenging than a 400 meter dash right after a 300 meter hurdle race (and those are hard!), more challenging than a 12-mile Tough Mudder, more challenging than earning two college degrees that took seven years to complete, more challenging than Christmas dinners at your parents' place, more challenging than raising a child (well, almost...). Maybe it's not that hard for some people, but for me it's been an epic journey of self discovery where every ounce of self esteem, discipline, brainpower and sheer will have been tested. It's like Clash of the Titans, Lord of the Rings and Annie all rolled into one. I'm Perseus, Frodo and little orphan Annie singing The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow on the side of Mount Doom with Medusa's slithering head in my hands.

All right, maybe that doesn't make any sense either. Writing a novel is just hard, okay? Really, really hard. While I would love it if my wife could understand what it's like, at the same time I don't think it's possible for someone who hasn't tried to write a book to ever really get it. So I guess until then I'll just keep blabbering on, hoping that one of these days she'll be able to empathize. If not, I know I've got a community of writers to fall back on.

So, dear writer-readers, has anyone else ever had to deal with this? Anybody ever wish their spouses/partners/girlfriends or boyfriends could really truly get it. If so, got any tips for me? It's not that I don't have support at home. I really really do (love you, Honey!). I would just like to find a way to Freaky Friday this thing...

Thanks for stopping by!         

Monday, April 18, 2016

BJHJ -- Bridget Jones's Diary 2016-style

I saw the preview for Bridget Jones's Baby the other day, which looks like a fab movie for a girl's day out -- and completely different from Helen Fielding's third Bridget Jones novel, Mad About The Boy, a book I loved at first but ended up skimming so I could see how it ends.

But, the whole thing got me thinking about the original Bridget Jones's Diary and how very 1990s the whole thing is. The original blurb even mentions programming the VCR! (Hands up if you had a VCR. Two hands up if you actually learned how to program it.) And then I started thinking about how different the book and the blurb would have to be to appeal today...which brings us to today's Back Jacket Hack Job -- Bridget Jones Diary 2016 style!

Meet Bridget Jones -- a thirtysomething Singleton who is certain she'd have all the answers if she could:

  • Lose 7 pounds
  • Quit sugar
  • Develop a more interesting Instagram profile

Weight: 123 lbs. (How is it possible to put on 4 pounds in the middle of the night? Check sodium content of Luna Bar. Also skip caramel in venti extra hot soy caramel macchiato) 
Alcohol units 4 (Excellent. Bonus points for red wine antioxidant properties.)
Minutes vaping: 121 (Poor but will give up totally tomorrow)
Facebook selfies posted: 2 (Better, but nevertheless. Facebook.)

Bridget Jones' Diary is the cringe-worthy, laugh-out-loud daily chronicle of Bridget's quest for self-improvement — a year in which she resolves to: reduce the circumference of each thigh by 1.5 inches, go to spin class three times a week for the cardio benefits, not only to ogle the hot (gay) instructor, form a relationship with a person that's as meaningful as the one she has with her phone, and catch up on her Hulu queue once and for all.

Over the course of the year, Bridget loses a total of 272 followers on Instagram, but gains 274. She remains, however, optimistic. Through it all, Bridget will have you helpless with laughter, and — like millions of readers the world round — you'll find yourself tweeting, "Bridget Jones is me!"

Monday, April 11, 2016

Eek! It's ANOTHER Criteek!

I'm going to step out of my Resident Reader role again for another Eek! Criteek! post. As you may recall, I posted the first chapter of my YA dual-narrative sci-fi-ish WIP, Revealed, back in November. Today I'm sharing chapter two. 

Here's the blurb I posted last time: 

A secret society of special abilities, the Order, becomes unbalanced when Jaycen Towle acts on his desire to use the gift he was born with to become a superhero. Cara Wallace, a gifted outsider, is sucked into Jaycen’s world when she discovers his secret and believes the Order may have answers about the parents she barely knew. But are the Order’s answers really worth the shattering they cause both Cara and Jaycen?

Without further ado, here's my chapter two (hey, that rhymes!). 

   “Come in,” my father’s rough voice called through the thick wood of his office door before I even had a chance to drop my fist. My heart hammered and my hand shook ever so slightly when I twisted the cold metal knob. The door closed behind me and my father, Salem Towle, looked up. “Ah, Jaycen,” he smiled. “Take a seat.” He motioned toward the padded chairs across from his mahogany desk, but continued skimming through the stack of papers in front of him. It would be an eventful summer at the bed and breakfast we used as a cover for the Order’s headquarters, so I wasn’t surprised to find him in his office at this late hour. It bothered me when he did that, though. I needed his undivided attention.
   I spoke while standing, too nervous to sit. “There’s this girl at school,” I blurted out.
   He finally looked up with a smirk, a glint to the same blue eyes I saw in the mirror every morning. “Are we due for another one of those talks?” he asked. I wasn’t in the mood. In fact, his untimely joke rubbed me the wrong way and, however briefly the thought flashed, I almost backed out of the office. My awkwardness must have been pretty obvious because his face cleared and he simply waited. The clock above his head ticked away the empty seconds. When I didn’t start again, he impatiently asked, “Well, who is she?”
   “Her name is Cara Wallace.” Just saying her name sent chills up my spine.
   He shook his head. “The name doesn’t ring a bell. What’s her Talent?”
   I reached up to rub the back of my neck nervously. Just spit it out, I urged myself. “Well, that’s the thing. You don’t know her. She’s, um…well, she’s not in the Order.” As soon as the words were out, relief washed over me at finally confiding in someone. After all, I had been observing her for the better part of a year now. But at the sharp look on my father’s face and the wrinkles that lined his forehead, I wanted to suck them back in.
   “Jaycen, there are rules against that,” he said, solemnly. Here I was telling him about my first crush and instead of clapping me on the back, he was crushing me with rules of the secret organization he held so dearly.
   I started to say, “But dad, it’s different with her. She’s different--” before he cut me off with a movement of his hand that brushed aside my words.
   His sigh was made louder by the quiet room. “Is this really worth discussing? I can’t change the rules, even for you.” While he managed the Order’s headquarters, he was right. He was not a Superior- the leaders and enforcers of our organization. And since Cara hadn’t been born into our exclusive society the way everyone was...
   “Dad, I really think there’s something there.” I paused to consider my words. “I mean, it’s weird. She doesn’t even watch where she’s going. I swear, it’s like she can tell where people are around her, but it’s only with people. She walked right into a door one day.” The memory caused a smile to tug at the corners of my lips, but I cleared my expression to mirror my father’s. He had to take me seriously with this.
   “That doesn’t mean anything, son.” He continued shuffling papers around his desk, again making me feel like I was interrupting him, even with the late time. “Maybe she’s really looking under her lashes or something.”
   My eyes rolled. “What about her facial expressions then?” He looked up, but only for a moment. “The looks she gives people…” I sighed, exasperated. How could I make him understand if I wasn’t even sure I understood myself? “Her face contorts like someone insulted her, but no one addresses her at all. She always has this look of…panicked concentration.” I hesitated. “I gave her a ride home tonight.” He didn’t need to know the context in which that ride was offered.
   My father’s head jerked up to study my face before he leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. His attention was on me now. There was no turning back, but I wasn’t sure how to proceed.
   “And?” he prompted. His graying eyebrows hovered toward his hairline.
   I slipped into one of the padded chairs in front of his desk, scooting to the edge with anxiousness. “Her parents are dead. I don’t know the details, but she’s adopted. Isn’t it possible that she doesn’t know anything about the Order?” His eyes widened while mine narrowed in response. “Well, is it possible?”
   I watched as my father took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, but it did nothing to release his tension. His body held rigid and his appearance took on his actual mid-fifties age. When he leaned forward and clasped his hands on his desk, I realized I was about to fall out of the chair, hanging onto what he might say. I wanted him to tell me it was possible. I wanted him to say there was a chance I could get to know Cara.
   Finally, my father spoke, slicing the silence like a knife through butter. “Jaycen, why wouldn’t she know about the Order, if in fact she has a Talent?” His question dimmed the light inside me, but I wouldn’t let it extinguish entirely. My father continued on without a beat, knowing I wouldn’t have an answer. “And even if that was a possibility, how would you approach such a topic without revealing what you are?” Part of me wanted to see the curiosity in his eyes, but his tone said otherwise. If only he knew I’d already crossed that bridge.
   I sighed in exasperation and hung my head with my fists balled against the seat. This wasn’t what I had hoped to get out of our conversation. Saying nothing at all would have been more inspiring. And I needed some inspiration. At least something to get me thinking about anything other than how to talk to her.
   My father took my silence as an invitation to lecture me. “Son, you know the rule. And you know why that rule is in place. ‘Good order is the foundation of all great things.’ We need to protect those great things, which is why it is vital for us to blend in. You’re not going to blend in so well if you’re spending your time chasing after a girl you may very well never have a chance with. Not to mention you’re bound to secrecy. Could you really keep that secret in a relationship with a Norm? The Order won’t allow it and I stand by that.”
   I didn’t have to look up at him to see his expression. His eyes would be hard, his eyebrows straight lines above them, with lips pressed together in solidarity. I had seen it before- when I had asked to join one of the school’s clubs, try out for a sport, or get a job working for someone who wasn’t in the Order. It was ridiculous how controlled my life was by the Order when, in fact, the Order was supposed to be the one place I was free to be my true, Talented self. “That great thing is my prison,” I mumbled.
   His blue eyes narrowed, but he pretended not to hear my remark. “Son, I'm warning you. Do not get involved with her.” My eyes shot up and locked on his. He put his hands up, palms out, to silence my protest. “If you cannot be trusted to do that, I will not be able to stop the consequences. If she had confessed an ability to you, now that would be an entirely different story. But you cannot take any chance of exposing us for some little crush you’ve developed.” His gaze held mine for a moment to seal his words before returning to his paperwork. That was my dismissal.
   I almost growled as I stormed out of his office, letting the door slam behind me as I went. I had barely made it down the hallway when a voice broke the silence.
   “That was a nice trick you played,” Brian barked. Of course he was pissed at me. Using my Talent on him wasn’t something I did. Another rule I broke tonight. I should have been defending him, not working against him.
   “Don’t take it personally,” I replied, not meeting his harsh glare. I had other things--other people--on my mind and the last thing I wanted to do was listen to Brian lecture me after my dad had already done that. And if that’s the only reason he was at Headquarters this late, he was wasting his time.
   Brian laughed and took a step closer to block my way toward the door I needed. “You know the rule. Do you have any idea what you’ve done tonight?”
   My eyes rolled away from him as I tried to step around him. He shifted to stop me again and I finally met the gray daggers of his eyes. “Like I said before, it wasn’t your place. Just like it’s not your place to lecture me about it.” This time I slipped around him and our shoulders rubbed as I passed.
   His words slammed into my back. “Do you really think the Order’s going to let you go through with this?” My jaw clenched. “I heard your dad tell you to stay away from her. It doesn’t matter what you think you’ve seen in her. All the Order is going to hear is that she’s a liability, a loose end that needs to be taken care of.” My back absorbed the heat of his words. “And I will be ready to take care of it when you can’t.”
   Every muscle in my body braced for a fight. I wanted nothing more in that moment than to whip around and crush his nose, friend or not. But I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of sending me over the edge. Before he could act on the Order’s behalf, he’d have to tell a Superior. And he wasn’t going to risk having to explain what we were doing in the alley in the first place, not to his grandfather. Without even a backward glance, I forced my feet, one step at a time, to carry me through the door and down the stairs to my room.  

--Brianna Lebrecht 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Blurbs, Synopses, and Back Jacket Copy (Pt. I)

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
Hey all!  Just a quick plug before I get into things.  I'm going to be at Amazicon in Wilmington, DE (along with our own Mary Fan) next week, the 15-17 of April, 2016.  I'm also going to be at the World Horror Convention (thankfully without Mary) in Provo, UT at the end of the month, 28 April through 1 May, 2016.  For more info about these and my other appearances this year, you can check the appearances page of my personal blog here.

Now into the meat of the matter.

I was reading (yet another) blogpost today about writing blurbs.  Except, the author wasn't really talking about what I call a "blurb," she was talking about what I call "back jacket copy" or "back cover copy."  And that immediately got me to thinking about how mystifying all that might be for you ordinary reader-types, and why I should probably explain myself and then talk a little bit about how to write...whatever you call that crap on the back of a book.

So, as I mentioned, if you're an ordinary bookstore browser, you've probably never given a thought to whether you called the writing on the back of a book a "blurb" or a "synopsis" or, hell, you probably never thought about what to call it at all.  The problem comes in when industry professionals start talking about "blurbs" and "synopses" which are very different things.  So a quick glossary:

blurb - a blurb is a quote from an (ideally) more famous author praising a work.  You've all seen this.  On the cover of the novel I'm currently reading, THE DINOSAUR LORDS by Victor Milan, it reads "It's like a cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones." - George R.R. Martin.  That's a blurb in the publishing industry (and one that any of us would kill to have, I might add.)

synopsis - a synopsis is sometimes used when pitching your work.  A standard synopsis is 1 or 2 pages (depending on the requestor) although sometimes it's just however long it needs to be.  What's important, though, is that a synopsis breaks down everything that happens in a book - including the ending.

back jacket/cover copy - for lack of a more dominant industry term, this is what I call the few paragraphs written on a back (or sometimes on the inflap) of a book to encourage you to buy it.  It's not what we call a blurb - although sometimes blurbs are also featured on the back, or even the front of a book.  And it's certainly not what we call a synopsis, since reading a summary of the entire story, including how it ends, would be a pretty crappy incentive to actually buy a book.  I do wish there was a more explicit and accepted term for this, but there doesn't really seem to be and people pretty much know what I mean when I say it.

Writing a blurb is...touchy.  It's hard to ask and it's hard to be asked.  It's an imposition and you're either being placed into an awkward situation or placing someone you respect in an awkward situation.  Let's say you wrote a crummy book and you're completely in denial about its crumminess.  If you ask James Patterson to blurb it - and he agrees! - he's now placed in a situation where he either has to:

a)  tell you how crummy your book was, thus potentially breaking your heart and ruining your friendship

b)  lie and say the book was great, thus ensuring that his reputation is sullied

c)  pull the fade

Then again, let's say the book is great and James is even willing to go on record saying it's great.  Then it comes out that you're friends...and then there will be sniffling about nepotism and favoritism.  Blurbs are a real win/win, don't you think?  And all that's before the fact that nobody's really sure whether blurbs drive book sales...but nobody's really sure that they don't either.  So authors and publishers keep pursuing them.

I intended to write this week about how to write good back jacket copy - which is also a skill related to writing a good query letter - but now almost 800 words into this blogpost, I realize that may be better put off until next time.  So, farewell, dear readers, and tune in next month for the second part of "Blurbs, Synopses, and Back Jacket Copy: The Actually Useful Post."

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Geek Life

A post by Mary Fan
Last month, I shared with y'all the results of #AuthorLifeMonth, an Instagram challenge created by
author and book blogger Dahlia Adler. Well, Instagram, it turns out, is an addictive thing. #AuthorLifeMonth ran through the end of February, and I woke up on the morning of March 1 feeling weirdly empty. Whadaya mean I don't have to find a picture to post???

Fellow Red Adept Publishing author Karissa Laurel and I were commiserating about our #AuthorLifeMonth withdrawal when a brilliant idea hit us: Let's keep posting pictures! This time, we wanted to show off our geeky sides. So we created a new Instagram/Twitter pic challenge, #GeekLifeMonth:

Hey, I warned you when I joined Across the Board that I was a nerd ;-) Anyway, here are the results of a month of geeky pics!

Funny story... so I cross-posted the Obi-Wan pic to Facebook, where about 90% of my friends are feeling the Bern and posting Bernie articles and memes day in and day out. So one person, scrolling through Facebook quickly, glanced at this pic and thought for a second that it was Bernie Sanders LOL

A photo posted by Mary Fan (@astralcolt) on
A photo posted by Mary Fan (@astralcolt) on
Blogger Template by Designer Blogs