Sunday, November 6, 2016


Sorting out some prompts for my children's blog, (The RoJo Adventure Blog) I came across some journaling prompts for young writers.  I read them over, thinking of myself when I was just beginning to be fascinated by writing out my thoughts and fantasies (it was a teen idol named Bobby Sherman at that time – 1968).  I thought it might be fun to respond to the interview. 
Why do we write stories? 
Because I am always making up role-playing games for my friends (stories I make up from Star Trek, Hogan's Heroes, movies, plays, and sometimes real-life) and I read a serialized story about Bobby Sherman in "16 Magazine" and thought my stories and fantasies were more interesting.  Plus, it gave me something to do between issues.  My ideas turned into a 145 page novel I wrote over the course of two summers, called "The Picnic Spot". 
For me, writing is everything.  There is nothing of my life that I haven't put into my books and articles.  It's an intimate form of self-expression, housed within outrageous ideas that I can make real for people.  Also, it gets everything out of my system.  When things piss me off, I start thinking about them as book fodder, and it changes my point of view.  I start looking at things through a character's eyes, and I take things less personally – and my character can get revenge though I cannot in real life.  My novel "MEDS" is a perfect example of that. 
What are your favorite types of stories?
Romance (but I always picture Bobby Sherman!), and Little Women stuff.  I love Star Trek, and like friendships like Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Mr. Spock.  They bicker sometimes, but stay friends. 
This is perhaps the biggest change in me.  In 1968 I hadn't read Poe yet.  The moment I read "The Telltale Heart" in English class (Thank you, Mrs. Powell!) my writing took a definite turn for the macabre. My mother read some of my stories and actually worried that I was depressed.  Far from it, I had found my writing niche – I was exhilarated!  I do believe that horror needs heart – no pun intended.  In short stories brutality can rule, but in novels, I need a romantic thread and a peppering of humor to break up the intensity.  A thread of humanity, of course.
Do you enjoy writing?  Why or why not?
I love writing.  I can never wait to get in my room, get my homework done and start working on my novel.  I have my grandmother's typewriter, and I do about five pages a night.  It's just me and Bobby, and we can't hear my mom and dad bickering or anything going on.  It's our world. 
Well, my world has expanded a little beyond 'me and Bobby.'  Thinking about it, I might just write a story about Bobby Sherman.  He's a sweet memory of my childhood.  However, horror writing gave me many dimensions in which to write, and I love every one of them.  Writing is beyond enjoyment for me.  It's what I do – a big chunk of who I am.  Sometimes I take a break from writing, but not really – I'm always jotting down notes for some project or other.  If I need a break from horror, I write blogs or children's stories, but I am constantly writing, seven days a week, sometimes 16 hours a day. 
Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
The stories in 16 Magazine started me fantasizing about Bobby Sherman, but my stories aren't like the magazine's. More like 'life with Bobby,' that's fraught with mishaps and drama that I thought might happen in a pop singer's life. 
Everywhere.  Absolutely everywhere.  In the news, in my life, in people around me and their lives – everywhere.  If something seriously pisses me off, (like finding out one of my dearest friends was raped by a priest all through his teens) I start plotting and writing and building a story around it. (That one turned into my novel, Holy Terrors by the way.)  I used to joke with my customers at CVS, that if they were rude to me they might end up in one of my books – and they wouldn't like it. I never gave that warning to the district manager and pharmacy supervisor who were complete bastards, though, and wrote my novel MEDS from my experiences working as a pharmacy tech. 
Why is it important to tell stories?
Because it lets me escape into my own world for a little while each night, and just imagine.  In school it's fun in English class because other kids listen to the stories I write, especially my spelling/vocabulary word sentences because I use more than one word in each sentence, and sometimes I just write all the words into a paragraph and make it a little story.  My teacher lets me read them to the class. 
The situation has changed, but the reason is much the same.  I like to imagine.  I like to create my own world(s) and I like to have a little bit of control – something that I don't always have in real life.  After I've written a book and gotten all my thoughts and ideas onto the page, I enjoy seeing how others react – although that comes after the writing.  I write for me. I publish for others. 
What is your favorite story?  What do you like about it?
My own or others that I've read?  I'm working on my first novel, so I guess it would be my favorite.  I like "Little Women," by Louisa May Alcott, "The President's Lady," by Irving Stone (I saw the movie and got the book out of the school library), and Nancy Drew. 
Choosing one of my own would be difficult, because to me, writing stories is like giving birth.  Into the Mist and Reflection were early novels that started out as screenplays which I later expanded. Holy Terrors was written from sheer fury.  All three books have characters who continue on in Owl's Nest (via Owl's Eye View) to this day.  As far as my favorite books – there are far too many to name here.   All time favorite – It by Stephen King, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  Two very different books, of course, but Jo in Little Women was a strong female lead who was a writer.  Her ambition burned within me, and I strongly identified with her.  Mind you, I read everything, fiction and non-fiction, and love reading almost as much as writing.  I think reading is a definite prerequisite to writing.  It's how you learn the craft.  You read the masters. I learned much more about crafting sentences and chapters by reading Poe, Verne, King, Rice, Stone, Ludlum, and Strunk & White than I ever did diagramming sentences in English class (though I learned many basics there that stuck).  Even now, when I'm editing other people's work, I refer to books on my shelf to see how the "the big boys and girls" do it.  Not so much for grammatical application, but formatting, publishing layout, and book set-up. 
What if someone wrote a story about your life? What would it be about?
A girl who grew up until age nine with all grownups, and liked to hang out with grown-ups more than kids her own age.  I always got along better with my teachers than with my classmates.  I am mature in a lot of ways, but still a kid in some. 
Boring.  My life has been ordinary with a few dramatic spikes and some interesting quirks – like my dad was an undertaker.  I saw him embalm (at my request) when I was eleven.  He was also a boater and I spent almost every weekend of my childhood on the Elk, Northeast, and Sassafras Rivers, swimming and riding the bow shrieking "Faster!  Faster!" as the boat bounced over waves and sprayed water in my face.  But I did the usual stuff – worked my butt off in high school, dropped out of college after a semester to get married, raised two sons (and to a degree, a couple of their friends who were fixtures in my house), got divorced, took cubicle jobs, got downsized out onto the street, got adopted by my Georgia family, had a car accident that left me disabled, moved in with my son and his family for awhile to help out, moved back to Georgia after three years, fell in love via Facebook, with my writer/publisher husband, got married, and still live in a studio apartment in Georgia.  See?  Boring.  That's why, through it all, I've always written – because the bits and pieces of me that I write into my characters are far more fascinating than my whole life story. 
What makes a story interesting?
Something different than everyday life.  Drama.  Romance. How people in a story react to things – how that is the same and different, for the person reading the story. 
I had it right then.  My novels are character driven.  Relationships are important.  I come up with strong characters and put them in outrageous, impossible, horrific situations and see how they either bob to the surface, or sink into the abyss.  Unpredictability.  If you can figure out the mystery, guess the outcome of the book, why bother reading it?  Even my first novel, written at age 11 had tragedy and humor along with the romance – and, incidentally, was not a formula novel.  I think if I find a story quirky and interesting, and I can relate to my characters my readers will too.  At least I hope so.  And I always make sure my material is well-edited – clean of errors.  Nothing loses the interest of a reader faster than trudging through poorly written slop. 
What things does every story need to include? 
Good and bad characters, and a lot of emotion, conversations between characters that sound real. 
The full gamut of emotions – horror, love, hate, anger, happiness, humor, boredom, etc., that anyone can identify with.  Suspense.  A kick-ass storyline. An unpredictable plot.  Realistic dialogue. Most important, believable, well-layered multi-faceted characters. And once the story is written – rewrites and fastidious editing. 
Do you prefer to make up stories or base them on real life?  Why?
I make up stories, but I put my own feelings into them.  And some of the compositions I write in school are based on my friends and relatives.  Some of them I just write, using spelling and vocabulary words, and are just crazy stuff I make up for fun. 
Same answer but expanded a bit.  I write four non-fiction blogs, a children's story blog, a monthly dark fiction magazine, and horror/supernatural novels and short stories.  So my writing preferences are both fiction and non.  Why?  I write fiction because it's my comfort zone – horror, because I can express my most outrageous ideas and fantasies there.  I write non-fiction because I'm an opinionated bitch and if I held it all inside my head would explode. Also, three of my blogs (Healthy Nudge, Write Now, and Disability Challenges) are comprised of articles I write to share my life experiences with others that hopefully will be helpful.  I started writing children's stories for my grandchildren who live between 800 and 2000 miles away from me.  I started publishing the stories in a blog for them so they know I always think about them, no matter where I live or what I'm doing.  While the non-fiction blogs are important to me, my heart is and always has been, in writing fiction.  I can tell any story I want, and take it to outrageous proportions, and scare the crap out of my readers.  What more can a writer ask? 

Thursday, September 22, 2016


This is what happens when I'm writing along at a good clip, having a productive morning, and suddenly I have to spend 40 minutes trying to research how to fix a glitch in Microsoft Word that the company should have fixed 10 years ago. 
Working on an editing draft of a short story collection.  It is the third and final draft of the book.  As I'm working on the Table of Contents I notice a type.  I correct it and click Control S to save the doc.  Then, when I'm finished the TOC, I click Control S again, an Word won't allow it.  I shudder and look up at the top of the file to see that somewhere along the line Word, without my knowledge or action has changed the rile to read only. 
My read only box is unchecked, which was the first answer I got when I began researching this incredibly frustrating problem.  When I Googled this, I came up with many people perplexed by this same issue:
When using MS Word, after saving a document more than once, suddenly (and the change happens intermittently with no warning) the document becomes "read only" and all of sudden, in order to save the document you have to create a new file. 
When working on several drafts of the same manuscript, this is beyond a nuisance.  I've lost multiple changes in text.  I've had to create new files, and then Word won't allow me to delete the original file because it's read only, or it somehow reads the new file as a duplicate and says it's already running. 
I created the files on my own laptop, never shared them to the internet, nor have I saved them to a disk.  It is saved to my external hard drive at the end of the day, but when I work on the current draft, I work on the one on my desktop. 
I'd like to have a dollar for every time this has happened – moreover, I'd like to have a dollar for every minute of my writing time I've wasted create ridiculous numbers of redundant documents because Microsoft won't even acknowledge the problem exists. 
When I saw how many people were having this problem, and even more infuriating that it apparently appeared all the way back in 2007 (!) I decided to write an article. 
This is inexcusable.  Microsoft charges top dollar for their software – and today you don't buy a disk of the product, you have to spend a crap load of money every year to stay subscribed.  All to receive flawed software that Microsoft has had damned near a decade to fix. 
Take a moment from counting your billions, Microsoft, and fix your product. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Practically since birth I've had a love affair with the written word. 

First I was a reader, a savorer of ideas on the page that could so adeptly build pictures, movies, whole worlds and civilizations in my mind. 

I became fascinated with the creation of fiction.  I loved my fantasy world so much that I began to write some of it down in stories, one of which I wrote into a full-fledged 145-page novel at the tender age of eleven. 

A writer was born. 

Though married young, I read every article, book, tutorial, I could get my hands on, and taught myself writing, editing, formatting and many other skills necessary to hone my craft.

I submitted everything I wrote, but in those days it was all snail mail and I was dirt poor.  Envelopes, postage, paper, typewriter ribbons, copy machines (to produce pristine copies with no white-out showing), and other office supplies needed in those days to produce a manuscript and get it submitted were not cheap, and thus submissions were few and far between. 

Then along came computers, and with them a whole new writing game. 

And with that new writing game came a whole new breed of writers. 

Through the years I've amassed not only writing skills, but thanks to workshops, some editing and critiquing skills as well. 

The new breed's motto is "a done thing is better than a perfect thing."

I beg to differ. 

While perfection is an elusive thing, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be striven for, especially in a manuscript.

This past year I was hired as an editor by a small press and immediately became astonished at some of the absolute dreck that came across my desk from wannabe "writers" who don't know and don't give a damn about preparing a manuscript for submission. 

The level of disrespect for their own work, the editors and publishers they submit to, and in turn the readers they expect will pay for the privilege of wading through typos, appalling misspellings, grammatical muck, poor and even non-existent story line, horrific dialog, abysmal punctuation, and total lack of concern for any of the above leaves me seething. 

In a society that wants everything yesterday and produces faint copies of quality merchandise of yesteryear I must say books, whether electronic or printed, fit right in with the rest of the slop being manufactured today. 

A society more concerned with "getting it out there" than with whether or not it's worthy to be out there makes readers' choices precarious.   Writers are afraid if they don't pump out a million words a year they will be forgotten in a month. 

And you will, my writer friends, if you keep pumping out the level of swill I keep seeing. 

We all know what Hemingway thought of first drafts. "The first draft of anything is shit." The man had a way with words, I must say. 

The scary part is that many writers bang out a first draft, apparently don't bother to even read it through, and depend on computer spell check to "edit" it for them and email it off to a small press. 

It ends up on the desk of an overworked, time-pinched, caring editor like me.

I like writers, okay?  I am a writer, I have worked decades perfecting my craft and am still learning every single day. I am more than willing to advise, help and work with my fellow writers to ready a manuscript for publication, but I must be met halfway. 

Editors are not ghostwriters.  We are not co-writers.  You are the writer of your book.  Unless you are willing to share your byline, then polish your manuscript and perfect it before you submit it. 

And actually, as an editor I would think a writer would take whatever steps necessary when it comes to their manuscripts, to meet me all the way.

I should never ever see a first draft.  Or even a second draft.  I should only see the final polish of a manuscript because it's not my job to rewrite your stuff.  It's yours. I repeat: I'm your editor not your co-writer.

I'm supposed to catch minor flaws here and there throughout an entire manuscript, not on every other page.  Rewrites and complete overhauls are your job.  Learn the tools of your trade.  Apply them to your manuscript. Then learn more tools of your trade. 

That includes:

  • Editing.
  • Formatting.
  • Marketing.

Self-publishing means just that – it means you take it upon yourself to learn every aspect of crafting a book or magazine or greeting card. 

It does not mean bypassing quality control. 

Put yourself in your readers' place during each phase of your process. 

  • How's the story?
  • How's the dialogue?
  • How's the grammar, spelling, and sentence structure?
  • How's the cover?
  • How's the formatting?
  • Are you past the "shit" stage?
  • Are there even minute flaws?  FIX THEM!!  Do not depend on your editor to do it.  There should be nothing in your manuscript that requires an apology.  Become paranoid about your reader finding mistakes and realizing you're a lazy slug only interested in the money. 

It used to be that editors fielded manuscripts and much of the crap out there never got to the readers. 

No longer true.

It only takes one sloppy, piece of crap to turn a harried, disappointed reader off in the first ten pages and turn to a better book produced by a caring writer. 

I'll be glad to take hacks' disappointed readers off their hands and sate their appetite for a quality book or magazine. 

And it serves them right for serving up shit.

TD – 7/24/2015

Friday, March 18, 2016


"I would love to write a novel and have some great ideas, but I just have no time to write." 

My response to this is, "Wah, wah, wah," accompanied by the "little-violin-playing-just-for-you gesture.  You're either a writer or you're not.  Writers squeeze their passion into whatever time they can, and make it a priority. 

Before becoming disabled in 2009, I always had a day job, and plenty of real life responsibility – keeping house, raising children, chauffeuring family members to appointments and errands, helping with my husband's business (and later working for it full-time).  I found writing time by either staying up until after everyone was asleep, or, more often, rising very early (4 or 4:30 each morning) before anyone was awake. 

I set my goal at a minimum of two pages per day.  Now that may not seem like much, but in six months, two pages per day adds up to 360+ pages.  That's a respectable novel or short story collection. 

During the time when my children were still small, I wrote six motion picture screenplays, two novels and over 100 short stories. 

After my separation and divorce, when I starting working outside my home, I used my lunch break to scribble out my two pages, and then when I got home and dinner with my kids was over, I often added more, and polished what I'd completed on my lunch break.  I wrote and edited "Holy Terrors" in about a year. 

When I worked as a pharmacy tech, I kept a notebook in my lab jacket pocket and noted down all sorts of anecdotes and ideas that went into my novel "MEDS."  I never got a meal break at that job – hell, I rarely had time to use the bathroom.  But I could jot little things down as they happened.

If you have a book in you, you will find a way to get it onto the page or into your computer.  Save all that time you spend whining about not having time to write, plant your butt in a chair and just do it.  Every day.  Even if you keep a notebook in the bathroom.  A written page is a written page. 

Friday, February 26, 2016


I am one of those people who is constantly jotting down notes and ideas for articles and stories.  I have a little 4x6 file box with a divider for every type of project I write, and I organize all my little notes into it.  On the day of the week designated for a project, I go through its file and choose an idea to roll with. 

It would really be a stretch, however, to build a whole article out of some of the ideas, and so I have decided that every so often I will write a "Micro Writing Ideas" article like this, and lay all the little buggers on you. 

Here goes. 

  • Help your fellow writers out.  When you really like a book, instead of lending it to a friend, buy it for a friend.  It's a nice gift for a pal, and it helps out the writer, especially if they self-publish. 
  • If you write non-fiction and fiction as I do, get some extra mileage out of your ideas and research by writing your non-fiction article and fiction article as well from the same prompt/idea/inspiration.  It's fun, and a little challenge you can give yourself on a regular basis. 
  • Question – did anyone, in a typing course in school, learn that there is supposed to be a double space after a period, question mark, or exclamation point?  Just curious. 
  • I jotted this down after listening to a publisher friend bitching about writers who resented pitching in to publicize their own work:  "You have what many struggling authors consider a dream job.  Never mind how hard or tedious it is – if you're making money, NO WHINING. 
  • The "Editor" listing on Kindle Direct Publishing does not mean the editor/proofreader of the manuscript.  It is the title meant for a person(s) who pulls together a collection of stories by multiple authors for an anthology, or a collection of articles by multiple authors for a non-fiction book.  Only the author's name should be listed as a contributor on a novel, story, or novella Amazon.    
  • In my personal opinion, including each numbered chapter heading in a Table of Contents is a waste of time and space in a book, especially eBooks where the first ten pages are offered to readers for a sample.  If each chapter has a heading/title, that's one thing, but really, who needs three or four pages of numbers listed?  If you can offer a reasonable explanation for this, I'm listening. 
  • If you are participating in an online release party and win a free book or offered a free book, and you are not interested, please say so to the publisher or author.  He or she will mostly likely not be offended, but rather will take the book (which self-publishing authors must pay for) and give it to someone who genuinely wants to read it.  We get that colleagues attend press parties online to support us a friends, but might not necessarily enjoy our genre. 
  • For proofreaders and editors setting rates, consider setting sliding rates, and giving an estimate. Having an author email you his or her manuscript and finding out what kind of work load you're getting into is a good idea.  Car mechanics, plumbers, contractors, and other professional people offer estimates, why not editors.  Preparing a manuscript for publication is a long and tedious job and some authors don't know the difference between and editor and a co-writer.  The fees they pay should reflect that.  Also, giving an estimate allows you to accurately gauge how much time it will actually take you to do the project and relate that information to the author. 
  • The next time you're disappointed in a book or a movie, take the initial idea, the very basic concept, and write your own.  It's very satisfying.
  • If you're stuck for writing ideas, pull some of your published stories from last year, or before that, and do a "then and now" story, or rewrite the story from a different slant or perspective.  Also, if the story is non-fiction, write a fiction story, and vice versa. 
  • Back up your back ups – every day, every time you close out of a story, or a file, back it up onto a flash drive, and back the flash drive up onto an external hard drive.  You may think that's a pain in the ass, but believe me, it's nowhere near the pain in the ass of losing a story (or novel!).  Writing is hard enough work.  Don't have to do it all over again for a minute or two's worth of saving. 


Okay.  I think I've cleared my little file of tidbits.  I know it's a hodgepodge, but hopefully some little snippet in here was helpful to you.  Feel free to leave comments!  I look forward to them! 


As with chocolate brownies, moderation and discipline is the key when using a thesaurus.  I know there are writers giving tips everywhere saying that the thesaurus should never be cracked, but I disagree. 

First, you can learn a lot from a thesaurus on the expand-your-vocabulary horizon.  However, the thesaurus should be an editing tool more than a writing tool.  Write the story using words you absolutely know.  If there are words you use that you are not one hundred percent certain about, look up their synonyms in a thesaurus first, to give you context.  But then, look up the specific definitions for the word and its synonyms in a dictionary to be certain.  Even then, if you look up the synonym you plan to use, and the definition is the less common one, chances are it might not be correct in your story. 

For example, the matriarch in my fictitious town of Owl's Nest is a witch, and I wanted to find synonyms for the word witch because it comes up in my stories a lot. 

Witch synonyms include:  enchantress, sorceress, magician, necromancer, occultist. 

Okay, some of these apply some of the time, but not in the context I use them.  If I'm talking about a white witch casting a protection circle, sorceress might apply, but magician would be wrong.  And necromancer doesn't apply at all since it is associated with black art and not white witches. 

Writers need to be careful about that when using a thesaurus. 

My rules for the thesaurus are:

  • Never use the thesaurus to find bigger words to sound smarter.  Most of the time you just appear smug and give readers the opening to snort with derision when they find out you used the big, fancy words incorrectly after all. Even if the words are used correctly, nobody likes a show-off. 
  • Use the thesaurus to replace redundant or overused words – and know the precise meaning of every word you choose before placing it in your manuscript.  Preferably use the simplest synonyms listed because lesser known words are distractions for readers.  You're writing fiction, not primers. 
  • Use the thesaurus to find the exact word that's on the tip of your tongue.  You know the feeling.  You're writing away and come to a scene and there's a word – you can't think of it, dammit – you want to use because it would be just right.  Everything else is wrong.  Chances are if you look up the wrong word closest in meaning to the one you're trying to think of, the correct word will be shining in the list of synonyms there in your thesaurus. 

Through the years I've read many books of writing tips and how-tos from authors I respect and admire, and I'm always thrilled to know that I share their writing practices.  Thesaurus use is a divided issue – I hope you found my two-cents worth helpful. 

Monday, February 22, 2016


Here's the deal.  I have an extremely limited, disability income, and I'm very choosy about what I buy from month to month.  As a writer, publisher, and editor I have become acquainted with many, many writer friends, most of whom self-publish their work as I do, or they publish via small presses. 

I congratulate them on their fortitude, and am excited for them whenever their books come out, because I know that every word is a dream realized for them. 

But I also know that some of their realized dreams came true because they took shortcuts and that their paper and ink, and electronic products are flawed.  Some of their dreams have become nightmares to read.

They depend on technology to edit their books, which comes up short because nothing replaces human eyes reading a book, word by word to eliminate errors and awkward sentences and paragraphs. 

This is not the first time I've written about editing one's manuscript.  In fact I've harped on it quite a lot in this blog.  Letting a sloppy-ass manuscript get into print, either electronic print or ink print is disrespectful to your readers.  If you expect them to spend their hard-earned money on your book, then you need to get off your lazy ass and make it clean. 

I have reached the point where I'm disgusted enough with what I've read in the past couple of months, to begin book shopping much, much more discriminately.  Here's what I mean: 

  • I will thoroughly read the cover, front and back, of the book.  If there is even one error there, I will not purchase it.  Any author that allows an error to show up on their cover can't possibly care about or respect the reader's investment of time or money. 
  • I will read the sample pages on Amazon or read the first twenty pages in the book store.  If there are errors in those first few pages, I will just assume that the book is poorly edited and the author is too lazy or inept to fix problems, and move on to a book where the author gives a damn. 

It's that simple.  You either care or you don't.  You either have a passion to tell stories and engage readers and give them a polished book worthy of their time and money, or you're pumping out crap as fast as you can that isn't worth the reader's effort to turn the pages. 

This reader is disgusted with the crap out there on the market.  I will no longer buy it.  I will, if I consider you a friend, tell you why I didn't buy your book.  Because friends tell friends, in a polite way, when they are screwing up.  But I won't buy crap.  Not anymore. 

TD – 2/22/2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016



My favorite tip to self-publishing writers is: watch what the Big Boys & Girls do.  If you want to see how something is done, open up a book published by one of the heavy-duty publishing houses and take a look. 
But that doesn't just apply to the text and cover of a book, writer friends.  You should also check out BB&G logic and experience when deciding on what to charge for your book. 
  • Ever once see a major publishing house release a book at 99 cents? 
  • Ever see a Stephen King or Anne Rice or Robert Ludlum book go on "sale" for 99 cents? 
  • Ever see a major publishing house release a BOX SET of Harry Potter books for 99 cents? 
  • Ever see a major publishing house release a book for FREE?

So why would you?  If you cannot see yourself charging at least $5 for a novel that you spent months to write and perfect, you should start asking yourself why.  Do you not have confidence in your work? 
If that is the case, then get someone else's opinion (who will be brutally honest) and ask them to compare the quality of your work to a (Big Boys & Girls) author in your genre. The person doesn't have to like the genre, or even like the story, just give you an objective opinion concerning the book's quality and marketability as compared to best-selling authors.
If your work is comparable in quality to books by the Big Boys & Girls, then you should be charging equivalent prices. 
Stop cheating yourself. Stop cheating the self-publishing industry.  The Big Boys & Girls never do.  Why should you? 

Friday, January 22, 2016


Lots writers want to dive into self-publishing, to reap all the rewards for themselves when they put a book out, and I have to admit 70 percent royalties beats the crap out of 30 percent – or less in some cases. 

However, they hesitate to publish their own material because they are afraid their book will come out looking amateur-nightish.

And judging from some of the ridiculously unprofessional books I've seen out there, I can see why they feel that way.  I have come across books (exceedingly more often in the past decade, unfortunately) and thought that though the story was fine, that the presentation was horrific, and had I been that author, I would have preferred my manuscript stay in my desk drawer than have it be published in such a state.

So how do you make sure your book looks like it was published by a big, swank, publishing house? 

Simple:  Watch what The Big Boys and Girls do. 

Spy.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it? 

If you're anything like me, you most likely have piles of books on your shelves, right? So if you want to know what a Table of Contents should look like, or how long an author bio should be, and exactly where it should appear in a book, look through half a dozen books by famous-ass authors, put out by big-ass publishing houses and take a look at how they do it. 

Decades of knowledge and experience garnered by the crème-de-la-crème of the publishing industry will never fail to show you what you need to know.  Learn from the best by merely following their example.

Do a thumb-through and look at everything that appears on the cover, and how it's placed, sized, whether or not it's embossed, glossy, matte, and what the pictures are like.  Check out the title page and look at what belongs there – and what does not.

Look at the waiver and copyright blurbs.  The Big Boys and Girls leave nothing to chance – they cover their asses quite well legally, so you might want to copy down their legal blurbs and use them in your own books. 

See how they set up the Table of Contents and set yours up that way as well.  And for eBooks, make sure you go on Youtube and learn how to make them interactive.  (There are many helpful tutorials there that can get you through the self-publishing process without too much sweating of blood and bullets.) 

Is there an acknowledgement page, and if so, who does the author acknowledge -  everyone he's ever met from the mother who bore him to the barista at the coffee shop who foams his cappuccino?  Or just his publisher, editor, and spouse for putting up with his moods? 

Look at the headers, page numbers, and footers.  Where do they start?  What goes on what page?  Where do they go on the page?

Is there an introduction? A foreword? A dedication?   Where?  Is it in regular print, italics? Bold? Does it get a number on the page?  Is it dated?  Are there headers on those pages? How many pages is an average foreword? 

Is the text in a standard print? How many spaces are the indents?  Are there two spaces after end of sentence punctuation or just one?  Is the manuscript single or double spaced?  Are there titles on the chapters? Are the chapter numbers or titles centered or left-justified?

Do reviews of the book go in the front or the back?

Is there a sample chapter or two from the author's next book?  How is that set up?  Is there an introductory blurb for that?

Is there an author's bio?  How long is it? Strictly professional info or is there some personal info as well?  Does it include a picture of the author?

Is there a bibliography of the author's other work, with links to make it easy for the reader to access?  Or a straight list?  Is the bibliography in the front or back matter? 

In children's books, are the illustrations all the way through, or just at the beginning of each chapter, or is there no interior art at all?  Is the text always at the bottom of the page or varied throughout?  How is the illustrator credited?  How does the copyright read when there is an author and an illustrator? 

If a book is co-authored, how are the dedications and acknowledgements handled? 

Not every book will be set up exactly the same way, but there are some standard rules, and you will notice consistencies as you spy on several different publishing houses and the way they do things. Make note of when they break with traditional formatting, and why.  Notice their differences.

The small details that you might think don't matter, actually do.  Little touches mean the difference between your book looking like it was produced by a self-pubbing hack or a professional, seasoned author who respects his or her readers.

Most important, apply every single scrap of knowledge you pick up from The Big Boys and Girls to your book.  Give yourself a professional edge and readers will gravitate to your work again and again. 

TD – 1/22/2016

Friday, January 15, 2016



George Weinstein has written an extraordinary novel that placed me on Hardscrabble Road (Georgia) in the late 1930s/early 1940s.  Even though it was before I was born, I felt like I'd shared Bud's childhood. 
The story reminded me of ones my mom used to tell me about her family when she was a little girl and so I loved this book from a personal standpoint from the get-go. 

From the point of view of an editor and consummate critical reader, this novel is one of the best written books I've read in years. 
As for Mr. Weinstein's style and ability to take his reader on a journey into the center of relentless drama, decades before their time, I can with all confidence compare him to John Steinbeck. 

Well done, George Weinstein! I thought "The Caretaker" was a masterpiece (and it is!).  Hardscrabble Road is a career achievement.  I am looking forward to your next!