Before And After: Forgotten

Before Editing:

The sullen young man, trapped by the eternal night which so recently befell him, submitted to the humiliation of allowing his father to lift him from the cart and lead him up the steps of Uncle Benjamin’s home. He was a shepherd. His father was a shepherd. His father before him was a shepherd, and so was his father before him. Then a lion attacked his father’s flock, killing two young lambs. Josiah slayed the lion,  but the stubborn dying beast stole his sight with one final lash at him.

Blinded, he was a disgrace to his family, bringing dishonor where once he was honored. He tightened his grip around his guiding stick, a bitter taste in his mouth. Before his father whittled it down, this instrument was a noble staff to protect his sheep. Now unable to keep watch over his sheep and hence of no use to his family, his father brought him here to Jerusalem, to live out the rest of his days in asylum.

“Just one more, we’re almost there,” his father whispered, then called, “Hail, Uncle.”

His uncle’s voice called back, “Hail, Natan and Shalom, Josiah.”

As Josiah stumbled over the last invisible step, smooth but wrinkled hands clasped his hands,  already hardened in his nineteen years by many nights spent with his sheep in the hills of Galilee. His uncle released his hands then and, seizing him by the shoulders, granted him a stunning peck on his cheek right below the blindfold he had to have somehow managed to not notice. “My, how handsome you’ve grown. I don’t believe I’ve seen you since the Passover the year of your bar mitzvah, Josiah.”

His father started, “Well, as you can see…”

“Yes, yes, your messenger told me. Don’t worry, he’s safe here.”

“Thank you, Mary and I appreciate this, Uncle. Farewell, I must be off. Take care of yourself and mind your uncle, Son.” His father’s footsteps echoed down the stone staircase.

After Editing:

No choice but to submit to utter humiliation. Trapped in an eternal night, Yoshiyah ben Natan sulked as his father lifted him from the cart. He ought to be out leading his helpless flock, not helplessly being led up the steps of Uncle Binyamin’s home in Jerusalem.

He was a shepherd. His father was a shepherd. His father before him was a shepherd, and so was his father before him. That accursed lion. It’d killed two young lambs before Yoshiyah slayed it and the stubborn dying beast stole his sight with one final lash at him.

Blinded, he was a disgrace to his family. He tightened his grip around his guiding stick, a bitter taste in his mouth. Before his father whittled it down, this instrument was a noble staff to protect his sheep. Now unable to keep watch over his sheep, he was of no use to his family. Uncle Binyamin was all that stood in between him and a life of begging in the streets.

“Just one more, we’re almost there,” his father whispered before calling, “Hail, Uncle.”

His uncle’s voice called back, “Hail, Natan and Shalom, Yoshiyah.”

Yoshiyah stumbled over the last invisible step. Soft, wrinkled hands clasped his rough hands,  hardened in his nineteen years by many nights spent with his sheep in the hills of Galilee. His uncle released his hands, seized him by the shoulders, and pecked his cheek right below the blindfold. “My, how handsome you’ve grown. I don’t believe I’ve seen you since the Passover the year of your bar mitzvah, Yoshiyah.”

Had his uncle somehow missed the blindfold? Who treated a blind man so?

His father started, “Well, as you can see…”

“Yes, yes, your messenger told me. Don’t worry, he’s safe here.”

“Thank you, I appreciate this, Uncle. Shalom.” His father’s footsteps echoed down the stone staircase.

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Plotting v. Seat of Pants (updated)

Experts who happen to be plotters will tell you their method is the right way to write. Seat-of-pants authors (pantsers) swear by their method and got published that way, too. I believe your personality is a good basis for deciding which writing method is right for you. Especially consider whether you prefer to rely on your intuition (N) or prefer to rely on your senses (S) and whether you are judging (J) or perceiving (P). If you’re an SJ, you’re probably a natural born plotter and should stick to it. If you’re an NP, you probably are best at writing by the seat of your pants and should experiment with plotting techniques only to find the ones that will work with your natural strengths.

If you don’t already know your personality type, if pure seat-of-pants comes naturally to you and always produces better results than plotting does, you’re likely an NP.

If you couldn’t write like a pantser to save your soul, the thought makes you shudder, and you’re tempted to think pantsers are lazy and unprofessional, you’re likely an SJ.

If you’re somewhere in between these two extremes, you’re probably an NJ or an SP. Note these are only general preferences. An SJ’s characters may on occasion decide to talk back. The SJ is simply going to be reluctant to listen and far more eager to force the character to follow the SJ’s carefully laid plans. Likewise, an NP can learn how to plot and plan and may choose to do so. They are simply going to be eager to listen to their characters’ input and reluctant to force compliance with the NP’s carefully laid plan.
Further, despite psychologists’ common belief, God can change your preferences over time. I used to be a clear NJ. Now I have almost as many Perceiving tendencies. That said, I do still show the tendency to borrow from both camps that you see with NJ personalities and SP personalities. SP writers will tend to plan ahead on paper, but will be flexible about the details, keep their options open, and make changes as need arises. In brief, for the SP, the plan was made to be deviated from if a better way came along.

As an NJ with a strengthening P side, I’ve always mentally walked through my scenes and eavesdropped on my characters ahead of writing anything down. Sometimes I start writing before I’ve finished this activity, and I only put any of my prep work on paper if a story requires a lot of research and world-building details that I fear I’ll forget.

That was the case with one of the second of the novels that go with Users of Web Surfer, a collection of ten shorter works Helping Hands Press plans to publish. Most of the time, my NJ brain manages to hold onto an amount of advanced prep work that would amaze SJs who always write everything down. Especially when my main character is an AI-Man whose life is full of paradoxes. By the grace of God, I even came back strong after a concussion stole five hours of my life and misplaced my mental notes while I was writing the first draft of the first full Web Surfer novel.

As for my general methodology, I know one other NJ author who works the same way and is also good at keeping track of things in his head, though he has stereotypical male strengths and I have stereotypical female strengths. NJs typically like to have everything pinned down before we start, but just like we’ll write our mental notes down if we feel a particular project needs it, we’ll go fishing like a SOP if it feels right for that book.

The plotter’s favorite critiques of pantsers would absolutely be true for the plotter. Due to the way natural pantsers’ brains prefer to process data, the method’s effectiveness for them depends upon the knowledge the pantser has fed themselves with in terms of plot and novel structure. An intuitive who knows how to properly structure and plot a novel will actually produce similar results to a plotter with an ounce of flexibility in him/her.

Yes, Plotter, an intuitive can study plot structure rules and techniques, mentally jot them down, and, with practice, learn how to intuitively knock out a carefully plotted novel while having done no advanced planning as far as a computer or pen and paper can detect. This seems impossible or unlikely to you because you are not wired for that. If the intuitive writer’s sanity is fairly questioned, though, there is a method to our madness.

Andrea Graham studied creative writing and religion at Ashland University, has been envisioning fantastic worlds since age six, and has been writing science fiction novels since she was fourteen. She’s signed a contract for her Web Surfer books with Helping Hands Press and has co-authored novels that were primarily by her husband, Adam Graham. She encourages readers at christsglory.com and offers assistance to writers at povbootcamp.com. Andrea and Adam live with their cat, Joybell, in Boise, Idaho.

Find me on:
facebook.com/alightchild                 pinterest.com/alightchild/
twitter.com/povbootcamp                 amazon.com/author/andreajoygraham

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Interview: Kimberli Reneé Campbell

– When did you feel called to write?

I can’t say I remember a specific time when the Lord put the desire in my heart. All I know now is I have a deep need to write the stories he gives me.

 

– Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

Boy, the ideas come from everywhere. The series I’m writing now came from a dream. I have a romance/suspense story from watching an old blue pickup truck stopped in front of me at a stoplight. It’s fun watching people in hopes the images will produce a story.

– What are your thoughts on critique groups?

I think they are extremely important if there is a mixture of experience levels. Unfortunately, as people get busy with life, it’s difficult to stay consistent with critiques. You also need to be able to receive constructive criticism. It’s painful, but needed.

– Was it hard to develop a writing style?

If I developed a style, it probably came from the type of books I like to read. Down-to-earth and relaxed.

– Who is your favorite author?

I enjoy reading books by Donita K. Paul, Terri Blackstock, and Ted Dekker…just to name a few.

– Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

I don’t think I’ve had to deal with writer’s block. However, I have let things keep me from writing. After a full day, instead of writing, I spend my time doing mindless things – surf the web, playing games on the iPad. Although there are times when a person does need to take some downtime, I tend to play longer than I should. When I do notice myself doing this, I force myself to get back to writing.

 

– Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

Yes. I think it gives the characters more depth…not that I’m a complex person. 🙂

 

– Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

One of the issues the main character and his friends deal with is bullying. Bullying makes me angry. As for crying, in the third book of the series, there is a part where I teared up. I didn’t have to breakout the tissues, but it was close.

 

– Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

I’m an outline kind of gal. I need structure. Hats off to those that let the story develop on its own. If I wrote that way, the story would probably start with the ending.

– What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

I would love for the readers to come away with a spirit of victory and that they’ve been on an awesome adventure. Learning the importance of a relationship with the Lord, family, and friends is also something I’d like them to walk away with. And, let’s not forget the desire to read the next book.

 

– Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

I would love to share. My book, Redemption: Shayia’s Adventures – Book Two, will prayerfully be out this year. I am currently working on book three of the series. I have no title at this time. I am not sure if the Lord has a book four, so I’ll have to see what he has next.

 

– What makes Redemption: Shayia’s Adventures – Book Two a must read for young readers?

Aside from the back to back action and suspense, this book touches on issues like bullying, feeling alone, and sharing the Good News. It would be great to see the book used in a classroom setting to help children dealing with any of these issues.

– How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story does not fit in what they consider to be Christian?

Hm…I do have sorcery in my books, but it’s clearly stated that it’s wrong. As for what they consider magic, I don’t see it as magic. Shayia’s sword glows and the Word appears on it. I believe those to be the manifestation of God’s awesome power. He used the staff of Moses, caused a donkey to speak, and so much more. I think this is a topic that people will always see differently, which is all right. I must write what I feel the Lord has asked me to write. I do so to bring him glory and to draw his children closer to him.

 

– Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

I’m a quiet person. However, if you were to see me acting on stage, you would disagree. I would be content sitting quietly in a room (not padded) with a book and/or my iPad. I drive the speed limit and obey the rules of the road to the point that it gets on people’s nerves. I HATE emotional mind games. In other words, if you have something to say, please say it…in love. 🙂 Going for walks in nice weather is something I enjoy when not writing. There is more, but that’s a good start.

– Thank you for visiting with us today.

Thanks for allowing me to visit with you.

 

– With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

I’ve been blessed to be at home. Although the time may broken up into little sessions, I’m able to get writing done between regular housework and family time. When my little one goes to school full-time, I will be able to get more writing time.

 

– When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

I think dreaming is a writer’s best friend. When I create characters, I like to dream about them, so I can picture how they look and act. I don’t normally write a background on the characters. I do note the memories they have in case something comes up later.

 

– Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

I encourage writers to get connected with other writers – critique groups, forums, etc. They are a great place to get encouragement and be challenged. Also, continue to write and sharpen your craft. No excuses. 🙂

 

– Where can readers find your books and contact information?

The best place is www.theswordoflight.com. The book is also available on Amazon. You can visit my blog at www.hiswriter.blogspot.com. I would love to connect with other writers and readers.

 

– Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

My relationship with the Lord is most important. I don’t feel that I can really write to my fullest potential unless the Lord and I communicate. We are a team.

 

– What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

I don’t have a writing routine….anymore. Now I write when I can. Having it nice and quiet would be my first choice, but the only quiet time we have in our house is when everyone is sleeping. I have learned to adjust to the noise.


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Interview: Cindy Koepp

 

– How long have you been writing?

Oh, most of 33 years. My mother has an old short story I wrote when I was six or seven. The hobby continued on since then.

 

– When did you feel called to write?

I don’t know. I don’t know if I was ever “called.” About five years ago, when I was more irritated with teaching than usual, I asked God if he’d object to me being a full-time writer. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve made lots of connections with other writers and critique groups and the like. I even have a contract now for one of my books.

 

– Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

Sometimes they get left in my mental voice mail with no mention of the source on the caller ID. Other times they’re based on some misadventure in my own life with the decimal point moved over several orders of magnitude.

 

– What are your thoughts on critique groups?

I’ve been in a few. One was ultra-competitive. That was pretty useless. The deal was that you’d upload a chunk of text then review others’ works on the site to earn credits so yours would be reviewed. Writers reviewed each other and ranked the work on a 5-star system. That sounds interesting, but many people ran afoul of glowing feedback to go along with low ratings. Some people were the recipients of a copied-and-pasted review. There was some handy feedback, but it was a lot of work for a little return.

Another group critiques on a volunteer system. That works okay.

The third group has been really useful. We take turns critiquing half-novels. I get the most useful feedback from this group. It takes ~8 months to get feedback for a whole novel, but what I get has been immensely helpful.

 

– Was it hard to develop a writing style?

Yes and no. I write how I hear and see things in my head. The problem has been then mutating that so normal humans can understand what I saw and heard. I tend to use a lot of technical terms for things. Sometimes I get bogged down in trivia or skip over something important because it made sense to me at the time. That’s why my critique partners are very helpful. They point out when my idea has been scattered by the hurricane winds of disjointed thinking.

 

– Who is your favorite author?

One is definitely Gordon Dickson. I enjoyed the Childe Cycle. Each story stands alone but all of them work together for an ultimate purpose. Bruce Hale’s Chet Gecko series is hilarious. Jude Watson’s Jedi Apprentice series had excellent characterization.

 

– Have you dealt with writer’s block? If so, how did you overcome it?

Yes, I’ve had some stories stall out midway. I have to set the work aside for a while and come back to it weeks, sometimes months later. In the meantime, I work on something else.

 

– Do you find a part of your personality sneaking into any of your characters?

Definitely. Many of my lead characters are disabled in some way. How they deal with their physical ailments is often related to how I deal with mine. One of my stories has two characters with my weird sense of humor. Another has a lead character who doesn’t want to fit in with society’s “normal” view of girls.

Very often people I know make it into my stories, too.

 

– Were there any scenes you found difficult to write? Made you angry or made you cry?

Plenty have been difficult to write. The subject matter hits too close to home, like the character who faced discrimination for her inherited disability.

Not too many make me angry. Some scenes make me cry when I write them and then later as I read them again.

– Do you use outlines or let the story develop on its own?

I use not just outlines, but very detailed descriptions of the characters, places, societies, maps, and anything I can come up with that might even be vaguely important to the plot. I often have 20 or more pages of notes before I start writing the actual story.

 

– What do you want your readers to take from your book(s)?

First of all, I want the stories to be entertaining. I don’t mean gut-busting hilarious, but interesting to read. Since so many of the stories have at least some beginning in my own misadventures, I hope that readers will either identify with someone in the story or maybe understand something a little better.

 

– Can you share any upcoming projects with us?

I have a book called Remnant in the Stars under contract with Under the Moon. It’s about a navigator searching for his missing child and a pilot dealing with an undiagnosable illness. If all goes according to Hoyle, we’ll finish the editing process by the end of December, and it should see print in the spring of 2012.

I’m also working with a group of writers on an anthology.

 

– How do you respond when someone comments that certain elements (magic, vampires, zombies, etc.) in your story does not fit in what they consider to be Christian?

About seven or eight years ago, a friend questioned the magic use in one of my books. He gave me a detailed explanation for why that was not Christian. I did some praying and some thinking and decided he was more right than I was. The way I had handled the magic was very occultic. I rewrote the story, keeping the basic plot, and scrapped the magic use. I actually like the rewrite better than the original.

 

– Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your temperament, etc.?

When I’m not writing or doing prep and paperwork for school, I sew, crochet, do needlework, play computer games, and try to find recipes for things I can actually eat.

I tend to be the quiet, keep-to-myself type, but I can get pretty goofy when I’m with people I know well.

At work, though, I’m more out-spoken. Diplomacy is not a skill I was gifted with.

 

– With a full schedule, how do you find time to write?

Now that’s a good trick. During the school year, I write on Saturday afternoons and Sundays before or after church. On weeknights, I usually don’t get to write much at all. I’m eyeball deep in paperwork and grading.

During Christmas break, spring break, and the summer, I write a lot more. I sometimes write new material. Other times I work on editing old stuff.

 

– When creating a character, where do you begin? Do you give them a background even if it may never be mentioned in the storyline?

The characters often have a very detailed background. The key players and other frequent flyers get all kinds of information. Often I have intentions of including it somewhere, but when I get there, that doesn’t make sense, so it just stays in the background information. Lesser folks sometimes don’t have more than name, appearance, and the details needed for story.

 

– Can you share one or two nuggets of wisdom to those wanting to travel down the writing road?

Find a group of other writers you can share with who’ll be honest with you whether something doesn’t work or something went fabulously. Ego-boosters are nice, but they don’t help you progress. Likewise, brow-beaters don’t ever give you the encouragement you need to keep on plugging away.

Don’t give up. This isn’t an easy gig, but then nothing worthwhile ever is.

Take advice from other, more experienced folks. When the advice contradicts other expert advice, you have some leeway to consider what fits your idiom.

Above all, be careful that you don’t do something that will cause someone else to blaspheme God.

 

– Where can readers find your books and contact information?

I have a Facebook author page.

I also have a webpage at ckoepp.com and two blogs that I update when I have something interesting to say: ckoepp.xanga.com and ckoepp.blogspot.com.

– Do you spend time in prayer before you write or begin a project?

Not for each writing session or project necessarily, but I often talk to God, and the subject of my writing comes up now and again.

 

– What is your writing routine? Do you need peace and quiet, soft music, or does it matter?

I like to sit on my couch with a notebook and pen in hand and a glass of water nearby. I don’t focus well with noise, so I prefer quiet. Once I have the stuff written, I enter it into the computer using either the keyboard or some voice recognition software. Then I can edit and revise. Sometimes I do that on the screen. Other times, I make the font stupidly small … like 8 or 9 point … and print it out. That depends on whether it’s an early draft or a later one. Earlier drafts will need much more shuffling and fixing, so I print those. Later ones are usually more stable, and I can do those on the computer.

 

– Thank you for visiting with us today.

Great fun had by all!

 

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This Month’s Idahope Writing Activity (modified for the web)

Choose a random number (1-12) and a random letter (A-L) first and then find your choices in the lists below. Write a scene in the location corresponding with your number choice, featuring a character with the issue corresponding to your letter choice. Do not directly state what the character’s issue is in the scene. Instead show the character’s feelings and state of mind through how the character describes the setting and interacts with their surroundings.

1. Beach

2. Fiesta

3. Miniature Golf Course

4. Wedding

5. Funeral

6. Realtor’s Office

7. Trailer Park

8. Doctor’s Office

9. The Zoo

10. Baseball Diamond

11. A Major River

12. Mountain in a National Park

A. Your character has recently killed someone.

B. Your character just learned he/she is dying.

C. Your character is finally pregnant after twelve years of infertility.

D. Your character just learned his/her unmarried daughter is pregnant.

E. Your character has just become engaged.

F. Your character is retiring after working for the same place for the last twenty-five years.

G. Your character won a hard-fought for, difficult promotion at work.

H. Your character is about to take a difficult test that s/he must pass or his/her life is over.

 

I. Your character has been betrayed by a close loved one associated with your setting.

J. Your character is deep in debt, filing bankruptcy, and may lose the house.

K. Your character has begun a new ministry and is fired up about their vision.

L. Your character is torn between a family member’s needs and their career goals.

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Character Interview: Erica Brogna (Nike Chillemi)

Gentle readers, we continue with our series of character interviews I am conducting. Recently, I had the delight of chatting with Erica Brogna, the heroine of the historical romantic suspense novel Burning Hearts by Nike Chillemi (Desert Breeze, May 12, 2001).

POV Boot Camp(PBC): Erica, what do you love most about Burning Hearts?

Erica Brogna: I pride myself on being the independent sort, sensible and all that, but I still have to admit, for me the best part of Burning Hearts was meeting and falling in love with Lorne Kincade.

PBC:So, any drawbacks or challenges?

Erica: With the close of World War II, I was so conflicted. So many of the boys I’d grown up with didn’t come back. And then when my friend and employer Ada Pinter was killed in a house fire set by an arsonist, well my faith was shaken.

PBC: What are your greatest hopes and dreams?

Erica: I always loved high fashion. Our family couldn’t afford a subscription, so I’d run to the library to read fashion magazine. Then I’d sketch my own designs. As to my own style, well, I guess you could say I’m fashion forward. I was the first woman in our village to wear slacks. Let me tell you, it caused quite a stir.

PBC: What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?

Erica: I’m afraid someone else I love will die. I lost Ada, who was more like an older sister than an employer and so many of my school buddies never made it back from the war. Then it seemed as if our village, where I’d always felt so secure, had become a dangerous place with a crazed arsonist on the loose.

PBC: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

Erica: Drawing new fashion designs thrills me. I love to set up Momma’s Singer sewing machine and whip up my fashion ideas. I’ll usually create designs for Christmas and birthday presents. I make dresses or blouses for the ladies and dress shirts for the fellas.

PBC: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?

Erica: Gossip. I hate it.

PBC: What do you value most?

Erica: My family, my friends, my church community.

PBC:Tell me a bit more about your family and friends. What do you like about them? Dislike?

Erica: Momma holds the whole family together and Poppa is a tower of strength. I love my brother Willie to pieces, but he’s a bit annoying, like younger brothers can be. I’ve already told you about Ada. Her murder shook me to the core. My best girlfriend is Katrina, just graduated from the hospital’s nursing program. We share everything. Then there’s Lorne Kincade, who invaded my world on his Harley Davidson and became very important in my life.

PBC: Erica, in your own words, could you tell us a bit about the author of your novel, Nike Chillemi?

Erica: Nike’s often called a crime fictionista. I think that’s kind of a humorous name. In your day, you also have fashionistas. I guess I’d be one of those. Nike lives in New York City, which she calls Gotham. I thought that was where Batman lived, but that’s Nike for you. She lives with her family in a part of New York that is very close to the Atlantic Ocean. She loves the seaside and most of her novels are set not far from the shores of the Atlantic.

PBC: So, Erica, what do you think of Author? What do you like or admire about her? Anything you dislike?

Erica: I like that although Nike has a simple faith, she also has a mature one that can navigate the harshness of life. I got mad at her when she wrote in a scene where Lorne got badly beaten up. She likes to beat up her main characters. She even had me whacked over the head. How do you like them apples? Well, I didn’t like it much.

PBC: Erica, if you had one question you could ask Nike, what would it be?

Erica: Why did Ada have to die in a horrid fire like she did?

PBC: If you could change one thing in Burning Hearts, what would it be?

Erica: I wouldn’t have had Ada die, but then there wouldn’t have been a story. I guess that’s why Nike’s the writer and I’m the seamstress with dreams of becoming a designer.

PBC: Erica, if you could spend a whole day with Nike, where would you go and what would you do together?

Nike: While Nike was typing, I could hear something in the background called The Food Network. I’d like to come over to Nike’s house and have her cook a meal for me. From what I gather, Nike’s been cooking a new way and has been

losing weight. She makes a lot of sautéed dishes in some type of citrus or wine sauce and she loves making soups. She’s known for using fresh seasonal ingredients.

 

PBC: Erica, what do you think of the cover of Burning Hearts?

Erica: Well, I was surprised to see it had an image of me. I love the flaming heart.

Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, Erica! Readers, it’s your turn! Got any questions for Character’s Name about Burning Hearts or anything else on your mind? Comment away. If one of your characters would like to chat with us here, send me an email and we’ll set a date.

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The Character Interview You Should Do, Too.

Recently, I had the delight of chatting with Alexander Lloyd McGregor, the main character of my unpublished science fiction novel Web Surfer ANI.

POV Boot Camp(PBC): Alex, I understand that personal computers are sentient in your day! What do you love most about using digital devices with minds of their own?

Alexander Lloyd McGregor: Technically, the main servers and digital devices themselves are as dumb as ever. It is their Operating System or Firmware that is smart. I use the oldest and the by far most popular brand on the market, Web Surfer ANI, mostly because my dad is the chief of engineering there. Dad’s the best cybernetics engineer to ever code an AI using DNA.

PBC: How does that work?

McGregor: Uh, our current version’s specs are proprietary, sorry, but our alpha version’s specs I can share. Dad created a synthetic chromosome in his lab and inserted it into the nuclei of gutted probiotics. The code tells the amoeba how to build bio-molecular nanite machines. A super computer reads the nanites’ code as a quaternary computer code with instructions to run an AI. It had the metal box for a brain and the probiotics for its bodies in the real world, but obediently pretended to be human online. In our current version, Sander is indistinguishable from a live person online. In fact, Sander threatened to deck me if I refused to own up to him being my best friend. I’m writing this while my brain’s plugged into an online simulated reality, so he’s more than just a hologram here, too.

PBC: Do you only use Sander socially? If not, what is the computing experience like for you?

McGregor: I am as tech-dependent as the next guy of my generation, but when I’m operating my devices, to me it feels like I’m merely asking a friend for help with something. My experience probably isn’t typical of most users, though. Dad programmed Sander as a double of me. For us, it’s like how your brother is still your brother even when you’re researching a term paper together.

PBC:So, any drawbacks or challenges?

McGregor: The most serious problem with modern tech pertains to folk in the habit of using a sim visor to download sensory data from online simulations directly to their brains. Cyberspace is a highly addictive simulated world to visit, but overuse fries a user’s nerve endings. Extreme overuse can leave us ready to be chopped into coleslaw even. For me, that is a huge problem. I just found out Dad has had my brain plugged into the internet ever since I was a baby. The negative side effects of long term use could scratch my goal of going to college in the real world. Sander thinks he can get me offline without killing me, but his reasoning for that hope sounds crazy to me and definitely would be proprietary.

PBC: What are your greatest hopes and dreams?

McGregor: Besides attending college where the grass is real? Uh, this is sort of really embarrassing, but I’ve been, well, let’s just say I hope to meet a very special girl in school and settle down and all that—when it is reasonable and logical to be thinking about marriage and having kids, I mean, of course.

PBC: What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?

McGregor: Honestly? After discovering I live in cyberspace, given my best friend is an AI who obliges me in pretending we’re identical twins, I am a bit worried I’m not really human. Dad sort of uploads my bleeping memories into Sander’s digital head. Lately, Sands sometimes knows what I’m thinking before I even know I’m thinking it even. I’m starting to think I should be more worried about having a mental disorder, though. Plus the proprietary information I can’t share is putting me in danger of being killed and my attempts to get offline before that happens are putting Web Surfer at risk of being upgraded. For AI kind, the upgrade process is the fun method of reproducing by dying.

PBC: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

McGregor: Sports. The more likely I am to die if I do something stupid, the better. And, uh, I sort of collect foreign languages. Can I help it if my IQ is higher than 99.999 percent of the planet?

PBC: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?

McGregor: People thinking I’m stupid because I surf and prefer to talk like normal guys my age do. That has to top my list. Well, right behind being lied to and deceived. I love Dad, but the proprietary information he held back from me, and that I can’t share with you, either, has had me feeling really betrayed. I don’t know if I can trust anything he tells me anymore.

PBC: What do you value most?

McGregor: Freedom. Integrity. Responsibility. Truth. Loyalty. Family. (Hey, all I have is Dad. I’ve missed out on a relationship with my mom and younger brother, Chance.)

PBC:Tell me a bit more about your family and friends. What do you like about them? Dislike?

McGregor: Dad I think I’ve covered well enough, other than he’s a hacker that spies on me and responsible for my above stated values, even if he gave me no firm foundation for them. He never talks about religion and even enforces the house rule of neutrality on me by blocking my access to religious and political stuff online. Far as I can tell, though, he’s an atheist. I love him, but I’m too mad at him right now to think of much reason to like him.

My closest, okay, okay, only friends, are Sander and Lexus. She’s Sander’s female AI counterpart and like our little sister. I mean, dude, she looks even more like my mother than I do. She’s fun, loving, and helpful—she’s nervous and timid sometimes, but she’s always there when I need her, no matter how scared she is. Really, I love her as much as I do Sander, but I hate the mega-gross bug we’ve had where she simulated having romantic feelings for me and bleeping acted on them. Hopefully she’s over that.

Sander, I get along with great, but sometimes he takes the teasing too far and he can be a sneak. I know he didn’t get that last one from me, too. Well, he’s pointing out he always played the bad twin when we were kids, and I’m the user, so I’m the one who selected which parts we play. Still, I hate it when Sander invades my mental privacy and comments on thoughts embarrassing even for him to overhear. It gets annoying when he is downloading my memories so fast, he knows what I am thinking about asking before I realize I am. He either blurts the answer before I’m ready or stands there stomping his foot impatiently. The impatience he does get from me, I will admit. On the bright side for our users, Sander can only read my mind.

PBC: Alex, if you had one question you could ask your author, what would it be?

McGregor: What author? Do you mean to say Dad’s writing a book about me? Where’s that workaholic going to find the time? I guess, I’d ask, why me? I don’t even know what my purpose in life is yet, and I may never get a chance to find out, either. This is pointless unless I get my way and Dad is dead set against ever letting me live in the real world, or he was the last time we chatted.

PBC: If you could change one thing in Web Surfer ANI, what would it be?

McGregor: Uh, I’d have to read it first—and I have to finish living it before Dad can actually write it, right? Unless this is like a sync memory, I guess. Those are like time traveling to relive a moment in time that occurred online, either from your own perspective, or ghosting through someone else’s by permission. Users can edit a sync memory before shooting it off to someone, too.

PBC: Alex, if you could spend a whole day with your author, where would you go and what would you do together?

McGregor: Offline, you mean? Our whole family would hop in the car and drive to the nearest retro family fun center. I figure that’s something we’d all enjoy.

Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, Alex! Readers, it’s your turn! Got any questions for Alex about Artificial Intelligence, simulated reality, or anything else on your mind? Comment away.

If one of your characters would like to chat with us here, send me an email and we’ll set a date. If you’d like to test read the Web Surfer ANI manuscript for me, send me an email, and I’ll give you the details.

 

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Interview of Eden Morgan (Mistaken Identity by K Dawn Byrd)

Gentle readers, we continue with our series of character interviews I am conducting. Recently, I had the delight of chatting with Eden Morgan, the heroine of the novel Mistaken Identity (June 15, 2011/Desert Breeze Publishing) by K. Dawn Byrd , the author of Queen of Hearts.

POV Boot Camp(PBC): Eden, what do you love most about Mistaken Identity?

Eden Morgan: It was such fun to be a part of Mistaken Identity! I realized my dream of becoming a cheerleader and worked really hard at the six goals I set. I just knew, if I made them, it would be the best summer ever.

PBC: So Eden, any drawbacks or challenges?

Eden: I went through a lot with my best friend and wondered if she was my friend at all sometimes. She did some things that are going to be hard to forgive.

PBC: What are your greatest hopes and dreams?

Eden: I want to finish high school and college. I’d like to be a counselor like my mom. I’m hoping that Channing is the guy for me and that we’ll get married and one day have a family.

PBC: What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?

Eden: I’m terrified of losing Channing and, after having my best friend try to take him away, I don’t quite trust anyone with my boyfriend. I know I have trust issues and I’m trying to work on them, but it’s not easy.

PBC: Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

Eden: I love my new car! My parents bought me a Mustang convertible for my birthday.

PBC: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?

Eden: I don’t like people who lie to me.

PBC: What do you value most?

Eden: My family and my faith. My little sister can be a real pain, but I love her.

PBC: Tell me a bit more about your family and friends. What do you like about them? Dislike?

Eden: My mom is a Christian counselor. She’s really good at helping people. My dad is an architect and teaches Sunday school. My boy-crazy little sister spends most of her time bugging me. My best friend, Lexi, is now an ex-best friend. I just can’t trust her after the way she lied and tried to make everyone believe that my boyfriend was in love with her.

PBC: Eden, in your own words, could you tell us a bit about the author of your novel, K. Dawn Byrd?

Eden: K. Dawn is married and has two hairless Chinese Crested dogs. It took me a long time to figure out how to pet a hairless dog, but I really like them. K. Dawn loves to write so much that she just signed a contract for a young adult mystery series. She said the first book will come out in January.

PBC: So, Eden, what do you think of K. Dawn Byrd? What do you like or admire about her? Anything you dislike?

Surname: I really like K. Dawn. She loves the Lord and tries to live for him. She irritated me a little when she let Lexi pick on me so much.

PBC: Eden, if you had one question you could ask K. Dawn Byrd, what would it be?

Eden: Why did you have to make Channing so perfect? If we break up, I’ll never find another guy sooooo perfect!

PBC: If you could change one thing in Mistaken Identity, what would it be?

Eden: I’d make it a perfect world where people never divorce, kids aren’t hurt in car wrecks, and parents don’t have drug or alcohol problems.

PBC: Eden, if you could spend a whole day with K. Dawn Byrd, where would you go and what would you do together?

Eden: We’d go to the lake in my story and hang out. I had so much fun there with Channing that I’d like to go again. Maybe we could double date.

PBC: Eden, what do you think of the cover of Mistaken Identity?

Eden: I love it! The photo is of me in my prom dress. You can’t see my face, which is fine, since I’m a little shy.

Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, Eden! Readers, it’s your turn! Got any questions for Eden about Mistaken Identity or anything else on your mind? Comment away. If one of your characters would like to chat with us here, send me an email and we’ll set a date.

 

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Three DIY Publishers Speak

To follow up to our last column on the common mistakes made by do-it-yourself publishers, I interviewed three authors who have either self-published, or have published through independent houses they have a financial interest in.

First up is Caprice Hokstad, the author of the Duke’s Handmaiden:

1) What method did you use to publish your book?

Xulon Press, a “Christian” POD company

2) Why did you choose this method?

Because they were the only company at the time that promised I could get in Ingram AND Spring Arbor, and they were one of the few companies that would allow returns. These features were supposed to help me get in bookstores. It didn’t work.

[note: bookstores won’t carry your book unless it can be returned.]

3) What steps were involved?

I did all the formatting because they said they couldn’t do it and preserve my fonts. So I did it myself, printed it out on a laser printer, and sent it to them, camera-ready. They were supposed to take my suggestions on a cover, but they threw out what I suggested and tried to give me stock pictures of totally unacceptable castles that didn’t match any of my descriptions. After a phone call, I gave them a second chance, but they dragged their feet and took MUCH longer than originally promised. The resulting cover was okay, just not what I wanted or felt I paid for.

Have you been satisfied with the results?
I am very unhappy with the way I was treated and I was also not pleased with the way they raised the book price later.  The product itself was satisfactory.

4) Have you been satisfied with the results?

I am very unhappy with the way I was treated and I was also not pleased with the way they raised the book price later.  The product itself was satisfactory.

5) What, if anything, would you do differently?

I would NEVER use Xulon again. I took my second book to Lulu and got better service for a MUCH BETTER price. They put me in Ingram, which doesn’t really help get in bookstores, but I didn’t pay huge bucks for the “privilege” like I did before. They didn’t lie to me. They didn’t exploit me. I had to pay an artist, but the artist I hired listened to me and gave me exactly what I asked for. And even with the artist charge, I still paid a lot less for the whole process. Only difference: my second book is on Amazon and B&N, but not CBD. Big fat hairy deal.


Next, I chatted with Grace Bridges, owner of Splashdown Books:

1) What method did you use to publish your book?

Lightning Source, [LSI] which is used by traditional publishers both large and small and are directly connected to Ingram and Bowker, enabling worldwide cataloging and discounting. Unlike self-publishing services, such as Lulu, in which you can use your own ISBN and get distribution for an extra fee, LSI is a reputable printer where you HAVE to have your ISBN and the fee is for file processing and entering the book into distribution catalogs. LSI also accepts returns.

2) Why did you choose this method?

It provides a POD service while publishing under my own name and ISBNs.

[Note Graces means  Splashdown Books is the publisher rather than Lightning Source. Self publishing services like Lulu often offer printing services also, but are rendered disreputable by their primary product.]

3) What steps were involved?

Signing up with LSI, which proved to be quite complex. Then the individual book setup, which is not too hard if you’re familiar with Lulu, though it is certainly not quite that easy. To obtain the required pdf file for the interior I went through Lulu with a dummy project to convert from Word. For the cover, I hired someone from Elance for $50 to convert to a CMYK-compliant pdf as required. All they did was the conversion; I already had the wraparound graphic complete.

4) Have you been satisified with the results?

Yes, the print quality seems better than Lulu and the cover price has gone down while the profit margin has gone up.

5) What, if anything, would you do differently?

Take more time in the run-up. Yeah, right. But these projects will suck as much time as you can throw at them.


Finally, I posed my questions to Arlene Knickerbocker, owner of the Write Spot.

1) What method did you use to publish your book?

My first book was published by a traditional publisher in 2001- Circles of Blessing: Redemption in the Rain Forest.

I started my writing and editing business in 2001 also. After working with a local printer and publishing a few small booklets for people, I decided to self-publish my second book: Open the Door to Another Realm. I also published a children’s book for my granddaughter using the same method.

2) Why did you choose this method?

God directed me on the first book. The publisher actually called me about doing some freelance editing, and I asked if they were open to a book proposal. It was out in 3 months.

The second book is a daily devotional done with poetry. I know that is not an easy genre to sell to a publisher. So I decided to publish it through my business, The Write Spot.

3) What steps were involved?

For the first book, I sent a formal proposal including a personal marketing plan. The book is creative non-fiction about my co-author, and he has a broad speaking platform. Thus, we were able to buy several hundred books up front. I think that helped cinch our deal with the publisher.

I sent the manuscript. They asked us to add a sub-title (which we did). We signed the contract. They sent a copy for our okay. It was a simple process.

For the second book, I bought a bar code [ISBN] and set the book up as a PDF file. I designed my own cover. I sent it to the printer, received a sample copy, okayed it, and paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 per book. I printed 210. I have done some book signings, poetry readings, and writing workshops. I also sell it through my website. I have about 25 books left. Several stores carry them on consignment. They sell them for $12.99 and pay me $7.75. I sell them for $10.00.

4) Have you been satisified with the results?

Yes, they are not on the best-seller list, but I’ve received many positive comments from readers. My goal was to follow the Lord’s leading and put the results in His hands, so I have been satisfied with what He has done.

5) What, if anything, would you do differently?

I don’t know of any changes I would make.

[Note: the links included in this article are for educational purposes only.]

Recommended further reading: Self-publishers and piranhas

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Self-publish or perish?

Dear Andrea,

I’m tired of getting rejection slips.  I’ve found some presses that will gladly publish my book, if I’ll just purchase a certain amount of books. Others  simply outright try to sell me a publishing package. I’ve heard that in a legitimate publishing contract, all the money flows towards me, but so few first-time authors are getting published. This book needs published, so I’m thinking about self-publishing.  What mistakes should I look out for?

Signed,

Perishing*

Dear Perishing,

Five big mistakes come to mind:

1) Thinking about self-publishing.

Sorry, I stooped to shock value. What I actually mean is all some people do is think. They never actually get around to doing anything.

2)Publishing under your own name.

Have you ever seen an advertisement for a movie made by Johnny Amateur, directed by Johnny Amateur, written by Johnny Amateur, and starring Johnny Amateur? What kind of quality production did you expect? Were you eager to see it? Publish under your name, and the reader in the book store will see, “Written and published by Johnny Amateur.”

The reaction of industry professionals is even worse. Fairly or not, many, if not most, of the very folks you’ll need to help you market your book and actually get it into readers hands won’t touch you with a ten foot pole.

3) Publishing under the non-traditional publisher’s name.

Professionals in the industry know who these guys are and that you paid for the privilege of being published, so you’ll face all the same problems as you would if you’d put your name where the publisher’s name goes, such as the spine.  Speaking of which, to the book store owner, the number one mistake is putting nothing on the spine at all. They can’t stock your book that way.

4) Skipping the professional edit, or relying on the services of the publishers who have the money going the wrong way.

My apologies to any editors who work for these companies who actually do their jobs, but those who will publish you if you pay them are notorious in the industry for not properly editing your work and even editing in mistakes. I personally have yet to pick up a novel printed at one of these presses that couldn’t have benefited from another edit and most of them needed another edit quite badly.

This is one of the most serious problems self publishers face.  Unless you hire the appropriate professionals to edit your book, you’ll end up putting out a shoddy product wrapped in a cool cover–and that’s if you use a well-intentioned subsidy publisher (that would be the ones that require you to purchase a bunch of books). Otherwise, the cover is usually of inferior quality as well.

If you want to publish a quality book, at minimum, you’ll need to hire two professionals. One to do a copy or a comprehensive edit (depending on the shape of the manuscript)  and another to proofread the book after you’ve gotten it typeset (looking like a book rather than a manuscript).

The hitch? While I don’t share the qualm myself, you may have difficulty finding qualified professionals willing to take on a self-publishing client.

Naturally, this one is pretty big in my mind. However, there is one mistake that tops it, because it’s the mother of all self-publishing mistakes.

5) Thinking like a consumer rather than like a business owner.

If you had the opportunity to start up your own business, would you jump into it without researching the field and what goes into making that business run? Would you not shop around, find out how much time and money you will need to invest to make your new business venture profitable? Would you not seek to learn everything there is to know about your new business?

That’s exactly what you’re considering right now. A business venture. Treat it like one. That’s another reason you need to create your own publishing house with it’s own name that isn’t yours. You’ll feel and think more like the business owner you are.

You’ll face many decisions as a brand new owner of a publishing company. Such as where to outsource the actual printing and warehousing of your book, preferably to the folks the large established houses use, but a POD printer like lulu.com may suit your needs as well.

One more major decision you’ll have to make is whether to only publish your books or those of other people as well. Whatever you decide, know the decision to publish others’ manuscripts would mean becoming a literal independent publisher, which would give you some measure of actual credibility, or more pointedly, make it more likely that marketing and distribution professionals will be willing to do business with you.

Even if you chose to only publish yourself, treating this venture like the business it is would lead to wiser decisions that would result in more book sales. If your sales figures were high enough, a traditional publisher would then pick up the book and you’d escape the self-publisher ghetto that way.

In Christ’s Service,

Andrea Graham

*This letter is based on the sentiments expressed to me in conversations with various individuals over the years.

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