Friday, January 25, 2008

8 Things for 08

For 2008, I am offering a quartet of lists eight items long. These are in no certain order, but might make readers think of their own favorite things.

Eight books I have read more than once and will no doubt read again
1. Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein
2. The Impossible Virgin, by Peter O’Donnell
3. Friday, by Robert A. Heinlein
4. Touch the Wind, by Janet Dailey
5. Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold
6. The Ivy Tree, by Mary Stewart
7. Contact, by Susan Grant
8. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Eight songs I could listen to over and over again
1. I Won’t Last a Day Without You, by The Carpenters
2. The Phantom of the Opera, by Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman
3. The Music of the Night, by Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera
4. Memory from Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Webber
5. Any Dream will Do, from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, by Andrew Lloyd Webber
6. My Favorite Things, by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music
7. Jambalya, by The Carpenters
8. Put Your Hand in the Hand, by Elvis

Eight movies to see again and again
1. Star Wars
2. Gone With the Wind
3. The Sound of Music
4. Galaxy Quest
5. Star Trek, The Wrath of Khan
6. Cat Ballou
7. The Dollmaker
8. Ben Hur

Eight things I am passionate about
1. A great story (mine or other folk’s)
2. My family
3. My church
4. My friends
5. Teaching
6. Decent transportation
7. Never spending all day cooking or cleaning
8. Not wasting money

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Friday, January 18, 2008

"You're an author, so can you tell me how I can get published?"

Every once in a while, someone asks me how to get into print. It is far easier than it used to be, but there is still much to learn.

First question— fiction or non-fiction? The rules for these two major types of books differ. Novice fiction writers must have a finished manuscript and for small publishers, a series which is largely complete is even better. Many authors with my current publisher are series writers.

Non-fiction authors need a good resumé and an even better proposal. To write non-fiction, an author should be some sort of authority on whatever it is that he wishes to write. Then, an outline plus some sample chapters are generally enough to win a contract, perhaps even an advance, from a publisher. That may not be fair, but it is how publishing works.

Fiction authors who have an established track record with a publisher can often get a contract based on a brief outline, but the initial book must be finished and polished before it will win a contract. Getting a free lance editor is really a good idea, but that won’t guarantee a contract. It takes skill, determination, and luck to get a good publisher.

Some years ago, I heard a small southern press publisher explain how he passed on John Grisham’s debut novel, A Time to Kill. Upon hearing the gasps from the audience, he explained, “That book needed a lot of editing. Quite frankly, it was better when it was published, but it was still in need of a good editor.” Grisham was unable to get wide distribution for that novel until his sophomore effort, The Firm, hit it big.

On the other hand, Travis Taylor, a science fiction writer who sat beside me on a panel at Liberty Con, mentioned that established authors can often explain an idea to an editor via the phone and get a verbal commitment from his publisher. Taylor is published by Baen Books.

Authors who don’t want an established publisher or who can’t land a contract often seek another avenue. I chose Booklocker when Gardenia Press went belly-up, and I found their service adequate for my needs. is another low cost alternative for people who want to be in print without landing a traditional contract. Each of these firms charges different amounts, and distribution is usually poor. is really a necessary outlet, so make sure being listed with them is part of the package.

I’ve touched on this topic previously, so new readers of Pam’s Pages might wish to look at previous entries such as So you want to be published, and Facts about Publishing or check out the links here and on my website.

Those of you who are really serious about winning a publishing contract would want to check out Writer's Market, the big book, or some of the more specialized publications from them as well.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

An Action Packed Page Turner

Best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

The stats indicate that Christmas shoppers tend to buy just about as much for themselves as for their giftees. I don't usually do that; but after the wrapping paper is in the trashbags and the kids go upstairs to play with all the stuff they got under the tree, I do shop for me. Often, I do it online, and this year was no different. I visited the sales at LL Bean and Land's End, and I took advantage of the end of year sale at Fictionwise. While cruising through bestsellers in Science Fiction, I came upon a real gem by Pauline Baird Jones, entitled The Key.

Fighter pilot Sara Donovan crashes on a mysterious planet and is rescued by an alien who is seriously hot. The Key is not hard science fiction, nor is it a sensuous romance, but that is a plus for me. Instead, it is action-packed, often funny, and blessed with enough suspense and engaging characters to keep readers turning the pages. I enjoyed it quite a great deal, and I believe my teenaged son would also enjoy it, due to the frequent "kick their trash" battle scenes. There are a few lapses in logic, but that is all part of the fun in space opera, so if you are willing to suspend your disbelief, Jones' saga is worth your time.

By far, this is the best space opera I've read since Tigra, which was my favorite entry in the genre in 2007. I read this as an eBook, but it is also available in trade paperback from Amazon. This novel further cements my belief that the most entertaining stories are not being put forth by the "big guys" in publishing.

The price for the trade paperback is $14.93, considerably less than a book would be with my current publisher, WCP, so kudos to L&L Dreamspell, a new publisher, which printed this wonderful read at a reasonable, if not cheap, price. I recommend this book for an entertaining way to stay inside out, of the cold.

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