Tuesday, November 22, 2011


     It's hard to believe that your image conscious, eye rolling, mono-syllabic teen will one day make his or her way into the work force.  Though they may act like they don't need you anymore, preparing for a job interview will be one of those times when your advice and previous experience will come in handy.
     A good stepping-stone for any teen ready to enter the work force is to become active in extra curricular activities in school or around their community.  This will help build their confidence, and get them used to the idea of selling themselves to authority figures.
     Your teen's first impression on the interviewer, whether they are applying for a job working weekends or a few hours after school, counts for 55% of their decision on whether your teen gets a call congratulating them on their new position within that company.
     Once your teen has settled on a business that they are interested in working for, have them do some research on the position they are applying for.  The more knowledge he or she is equipped with, the better their chances of getting hired.
     Next you will want to set aside time to practice what will happen in the interview, such as what will be asked, what they should ask, etc.  Playing the role of the interviewer, prepare some questions to ask that the real interviewer might.  Your rehearsals should cover real scenarios that might arise, including working through situations that may be positive, negative or even embarrassing.  Also, help them work through answering those questions that they may have difficulty answering.
       Teach your teen to answer the questions precisely, without sounding unsure of themselves.  They should begin to learn to believe in themselves, and therefore exude confidence in the interview.
  During this time, feedback is essential for your teen.  Whether it is praise or constructive criticism, your teen will benefit from learning from their mistakes, and thereby gaining confidence in themselves.
     Now that you feel like your teen has mastered the Q&A part of the interview process, it is now time for them to make an appointment with their future employer, and gather the necessary paperwork together.  This includes a completed job application, working papers (if your teen is under the legal hiring age), and a resume'.
     Since your teen will have had no previous job experience to pad their resume' with, they will need to list those traits, outside experiences or interests that will make them stick out when the interviewer begins looking over their paperwork.
     With an interview date looming in the distance, there are some points to go over with your teen to ready them for the actual day.  Though one of the things you may admire about your teen is their sense of an individual, free thinking self, you need to help them realize what is appropriate attire and attitude to present themselves with in front of the man or woman interviewing them.
    Whether your teen is of driving age or not, it is best to let them go into the interview room by themselves.  If you have to drive them, either wait in the car or come back to pick them up.  Without you in the room, your teen has only themselves to rely on, and doing something on their own builds their confidence and gives them a sense of independence.  It is important that they speak for themselves, without you in the room. 
       If your teen is of driving age, have them map out a direct route to the place of business, taking into consideration how long it will take to get there.  Also, have them arrive 10-15 minutes early.  This will give them time to get their bearings and become familiar with their surroundings.
     How your teen presents themselves is important, so have them dress conservatively, yet casually, so they are not completely untrue to their identity.  But have them remove any piercings, wash out the hair dye, and cover any visible tattoos, as these might make the wrong impression.
     Regardless of how your teen acts around you, it is essential they are polite and well mannered during their interview.  Some basic rule of good behavior to keep in mind are, offer your hand first, don't sit unless you are asked to, sit up straight, listen, stay focused and don't mumble when speaking.  Tell them to introduce themselves by stating their full name, age, and the school they attend, and also by giving a brief description of who they are, and why they want to be apart of the company.
    Tell your teen to keep in mind the fact that their future employer will take into consideration their personality, team spirit and willingness to work.

 Listed below are some standard questions that will be asked by the interviewer:

1. Why are you interested in working for our company?

2. Why should I hire you?

3. How would you describe your ability to work as a team player?

4. What do you think it takes to be successful in this position?

5. Why are you looking for a job?

     Thanks to your rehearsal time, your teen should feel comfortable answering these questions and more.  They should have some questions of their own prepared.  It is okay at this point for your teen to talk long-term with the interviewer about things such as the pay scale, bonus and advancement opportunities within the company.  This shows that they are interested in a long-term relationship with the employer and are eager to be apart of the team.   Though your teen may be eager to get the job, it is necessary for them to state what days of the week and hours in which they are available.  The last thing you want for them to do is excitedly accept a job, and then struggle with not being able to fulfill their end of the bargain by having to miss a lot of work, thereby compromising their employment. Now that the interview is over, your teen will need to ask when they can expect a decision to be made.
     Once your teen receives a call back with a date in which they can start, there are some ground rules you will need to set in order to maintain some balance between school and work.  They should know that their schoolwork is their number one priority, and that their new job must not interfere with or compromise that.
     Whether he or she may know it or not, your teen is gaining valuable experiences that will guide them later on in life.  They will learn responsibility and the importance of hard work, what it is like to be depended on, and what it is like to be apart of a team.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Ins and Outs Of Copyright Law

Seeing your name in print for the first time can be a life affirming experience.  You've accomplished what many in your field dream of - you are now a published writer.  Setting out to make a living as a freelance writer and/or author, you will want to learn all you can about copyright laws and how they pertain to your writing.
     When you submit your writing to magazines, newspapers and even websites, you automatically hold the copyright, until you are able to reach an agreement to share the copyright under specific terms with the publisher or editor to which you have sold your work to.

5 Ways Copyright Law Protects Writers:

1. Prevents others from illegally using your copyrighted materials.
2. Keeps your writing safe against theft.
3. Recognizes the writer of the written material and no one else.
4. Provides legal help for both corporate and individual copyright infringement.
5. Prevents plagiarism, or any unauthorized use of written material, including public display or distribution.

     Once an understanding has been reached over who owns the copyright, you will next need to know the "usage terms" of the agreement of the conditions agree upon between you and the publisher.   These terms may list either an exclusivity or non-exclusivity clause, in which the publisher may request that your writing not be published elsewhere (exclusivity), or you may be granted permission to publish your writing in another venue (non-exclusivity).
     Publishers of magazines, newspapers or websites relies on certain rights in order to be able to publish, reproduce and distribute your writing, so therefore, requires your permission before they can proceed any further.  It is important for writers to fully know the meaning of “usage terms” before submitting their writing for publication, so that they will be fully aware of any transfer of rights, compensation or changes to the writing.

Six Ways Usage Terms Help Writers:

1. Provides provisions during publication.
2. Helps writers choose the duration of their content.
3. Come to an agreement in terms of compensation for published articles or stories.
4. Release from clear-cut legal responsibility.
5. Rules of commitment.
6. The transfer of copyright between writer and publisher.

     While you already know that copyright is your right to claim ownership of your writing, thus protecting your writing from theft, or illegal distribution.  You as the writer also have the choice to grant authorization through "use rights."  Doing so does not affect your ownership of the copyrighted work itself, unless you sign away "all rights" or "work-for-hire."
     Some publishers may be under the assumption that if no rights are bought, then they aren't using any of them.  So, here is a list of rights that publishers can acquire from writers:

1. First North American Serial Rights - You as the writer are giving permission to a publication the right to publish your work for the first time only in North America and Canada.

2. First Rights - You are giving the publisher the right to exclusively print your work as "first use."  Electronic and non-traditional publications usually are the ones to buy these rights.

3. One-Time Rights - Gives publishers the non-exclusive right to use your writing only once.  You have the ability to sell this right to more than one publication at a time.

4. Reprint Rights – You can only sell reprint rights to other publications once you have sold First North American Serial Rights.  A downside to selling reprint rights is that it will most likely bring a lower price, and the original publisher will ask to be credited alongside the second publication of the material.

5. Electronic Rights - Encompasses all types of electronic publication from CD-ROM to websites.  If you were to sell electronic rights to one type of publisher, you could possibly lose the rights to sell to another non-electronic type of publication.

6. Subsidiary Rights - When your writing has been published in the form of a book, the publisher holds the right to sell your material in other formats such as film, audio and electronic rights.

7. Worldwide Rights - Gives the publisher the right to sell your book as a translation of languages in all countries.

      Understanding the importance of copyright, you will next want to register your work.          
Registration is inexpensive – only $20 per work registered.
     Registering your writing is inexpensive - only $20 per work registered.  In order to register, you will need to fill out the copyright application and mail it off to the United States Copyright Office, along with a check and a copy of your work.  If your work has already been published, you will want to make sure you register within the next three months of publication.  Registration of your copyrighted work goes into effect the day the Copyright Office receives your application and payment.
     Once you have registered your copyrighted work, you are now able to sue for copyright infringement.  Registering your writing within 90 days of publication, you are eligible for statutory damages of up to $100,000, even if copyright infringements have occurred either before or after registration.  Registration of your copyrighted work goes into effect the day the Copyright Office receives your application and payment. 

    An author really owns a bundle of rights, which can be sold or assigned separately to a third party:

Authors Own Rights In The Following Ways:

1. The right to reproduce their work in a fixed form

2. The right to derivative works.  Meaning they can take their short story and adapt it into a novel, or take their novel or short story and turn it into a screenplay.

3. The right to sell their work, rent it or lend it out

4. The right to publicly display their work such as on their website, Facebook or MySpace pages

Exceptions To The Infringement Rules:
     These rules allow someone to reproduce someone else's work without obtaining the proper licenses or rights to that work.

1. Fair use - states that someone may use the work for a limited time either as a teaching aid or for review and/or critique purposes.

2. Public domain - when copyright law no longer protects a piece of writing.

3. Noncopyrightable Works - includes things such things as facts or ideas, which do not add up to a piece of writing as a whole.

    The awareness of copyright and how it works can literally mean the difference between you making a living as a writer, or losing the ability to sell and distribute your writing.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day Job Blues

     Like every writer starting out, I have a day job.  Though I do consider myself fortunate to be employed by my father at his dental practice.  I started working for him in December 2009, but started my freelance career in 2007.  I was lucky enough to get published with one of my first query letters, and have been writing pretty steadily ever since for other publications.
     This past year I've been busting my butt to try and finish my YA novel, "Blood Pressure."  I had a fantasy that I could finish a rough draft by this summer and have it sent out to agents by January.  WRONG!  I'm only on Chapter 9, and think that I will have to scrap the idea.  Maybe not, I'm hoping to salvage what I've written.  It's not bad writing, it's just a lack of research.
     Anyways, I've finally come to the conclusion that I won't have a book finished any time soon.  So, I've decided to quit pressuring myself and focus more on my freelance work.  And when the inspiration hits, I'll work on the book.  My main goal of course is to be a full-time writer and leave the dental biz.  I firmly believe that this is not a pipe dream; that I can achieve and WILL achieve this one day soon.
     My biggest fear is that I can very easily become complacent in my work at dad's and just be happy to do that full-time.  The money is awesome and I'm tired when I get home.  I sure don't want this to happen.  But I'm wondering if this happens to a lot of writers with day jobs, who are making more money there than with their writing.

Am I alone at this?  What do you do to push yourself more?

Monday, October 10, 2011

How To Write A Cookbook


     At some point during our lives, we will have amassed a collection of recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.  And soon you will have enough 3x5 cards to begin putting together a family cookbook.  So, why not go the extra mile and publish it?
     In order to get started on your writing venture, you will need to develop a clear concept and let it guide you in the selection of your recipes.  Your own personal experiences with food are what is going to make your book stand out among the other cookbooks.
     Before gathering recipes from family members and your own personal collection, you'll want to explore what your relationship and personal experiences are with food.

Some questions to ask yourself are:

1. What type of food did the women in your family cook, and what dishes of theirs do you remember most?

2. Does your family have any special food traditions around the holidays?

3. How old were you when you first started cooking, or helping out in the kitchen?

4. What was the first meal you ever cooked for either yourself or someone else?

     Now that you've taken your trip down memory lane, it is now time to narrow the themes down to something specific such as holiday recipes, family-style recipes, crock-pot, pastas or desserts.
     Since cookbooks are written to show the home cook the steps necessary to duplicate a desired dish, the recipes need to be written in simplified, step-by-step instructions.  To make sure you are able to better write out the recipes so that they are easy to follow, jot down every step during the cooking process and then photograph the end result.
     Now it's time to get down to the actual writing of your book.  There are four parts to the recipe writing process: Ingredients List, Cooking Instructions, Titles, and Introductory Notes.

Ingredients List:
     The ingredients and their measurements should be listed in the order of use.  Exact measurements should be noted, for example 1 bell pepper, diced.  You will want to note anything that needs to be prepared ahead of time such as sauces or piecrusts, and list the separate ingredients for these special sub-recipes.

Cooking Instructions:
     Be concise as possible, you're not writing the Great American novel.  While preparing a recipe from cookbooks, people only stop what they are doing and glance at the next step, before continuing on.  Instead of writing, "Put the flour, milk, sugar and eggs into a mixing bowl and stir until combined."  Write, "In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, milk, sugar and eggs."
     You will want to be precise as possible when setting up each of the steps.  An example would be, "Sweat the onions in a sauté pan on medium heat until translucent." Make sure to give pre-heating instructions when needed before the readers are to start the cooking process such as, "Pre-heat oven to 450º."
     For each new step, start a new paragraph, keeping instructions short and to the point.

     If you think about all of the meat, poultry and seafood recipes published each year; the sheer volume can be daunting.  This is why it's important to pay particular attention to the qualities that make your fish, chicken or beef recipes stand out.  Tell your readers what makes your recipe special from the others like it.  For example: "Fish Tacos with Chipotle Mayo," instead of just "Fish Tacos."
     Rachael Ray seems to be the only one who can get away with using cutesy titles for her recipes, but it is better to stay clear of the cuteness factor, as it says nothing about your recipe.  What adult wants to eat, "Yummy In Your Tummy Chocolate Chip Brownies?"

Introductory Note:
     Here is where you need to sell your recipe.  Describe what makes it mouth watering delicious.  You can also offer up alternative ingredients and special equipment, including mandolins or griddles, and alternatives if the home cook doesn't own one of these gadgets. If the recipe calls for broccoli, tell the reader they can substitute Brussels sprouts instead.

     Now that you have your cookbook written, the next step is to seek out a publisher.  You'll want to do your research by browsing the cookbook aisle of your local library or bookstore and note which publishers are printing your type of cookbook.
     Once you have compiled your list, you can now think about sending out your queries, which will include the following:

1. Cover letter - Here you'll describe in a few paragraphs what your book is about and why you're the person to write it.

2. Concept synopsis - In one or two pages, describe the concept of your book and why it would appeal to a certain audience.  This is where your research comes into play; because you'll be able to cite the social or cultural trends your book fits into and give a list of already published cookbooks that are would-be competitors and why your cookbook will beat out the competition.

3. Table of contents - Here you will outline what's in the book, chapter-by-chapter.  Chapters may contain appetizers, main courses and desserts or soups, stews and pasta dishes.

4. Sample recipes - This includes samples of recipes and how they represent the book's concept.  You should only need about a dozen of these samples to give your future editor a taste of your book.

5. Author's bio - This is where you sell yourself as the reason why you're the one to write your book.  Acknowledge your experience with cooking the types of recipes included, and any other experiences as a "foody" such as traveling, cooking contests, or maybe you write reviews for a magazine on restaurants.

A Note On Copyright Law:
     Most would be surprised to know that cookbooks, like any works of fiction or nonfiction, is subject to copyright laws. Surprising, since women pass out recipes like their children trade and collect comic books.  While the listing of the ingredients themselves are not protected under copyright law, the literary aspect of the recipe itself, meaning any notes of explanation, as in the how-to of cooking the recipe, is subject to the laws of copyright.  The only time a recipe may be reprinted without credit is when it has been doctored and reworked so that it no longer resembles the original recipe.

     Writing your own cookbook is a wonderful way to keep those special memories that come with the preparation of the food alive.  You now have a collection of your family's and your own recipes to pass down to the generations to come.  And hopefully others will revel in preparing meals from your cookbook for years to come.

Homemade Chili:

Homemade chunky-style chili in an hour.

Ingredient List
2 lbs ground beef
1 Lg onion, chopped
1 Lg green bell pepper, chopped
1 15oz. can of stewed Mexican tomatoes
2 15oz.  cans of tomato sauce
1 cup of water
4 tbs chili powder
1 bay leaf
1 tbs of ground Cumin
2 15oz. cans of red kidney beans (undrained - salt to taste).

     In a large saucepan, cook beef.  Drain, and then add remaining ingredients.  Mix ingredients together.  Cover and let simmer for 1 hour.  Add beans the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Cook Time - 1 hour                
Serving size - Makes 3 quarts

Article in appeared in last month's issue of Writer's Journal 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Word On Pen Names

     Eric Arthur Blair, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Mary Ann Evans are the "real" names of some very famous authors.  Confused?  Maybe this will help - they have written novels under the pen names George Orwell, Lewis Carroll (bet you were surprised by that one!) and George Eliot.
     Nom de plume, literary double, alter ego or pseudonym, no matter what you call it, there are many reasons why authors write under a pen name.

A Name That Sells:
     Most authors, who adopt pen names, do so because they want a more distinctive name appearing on the cover of their books.  John Smith isn't going to sell a lot of crime thrillers, but Mason Storm might. 
     Some authors may want to hide their gender in order to become more accepted in a particular genre.  An example of this is romance novelist Nora Roberts who writes erotic thrillers under the pen name J.D. Robb.  While writing her bestselling Vampire Chronicles series, Anne Rice dabbled in erotica with her erotica trilogy Sleeping Beauty under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure.
     Sometimes editors and publishers feel it necessary for their writers, who are especially prolific, to employ pen names to avoid overexposure.  Writers who write for pulp magazines will often publish stories under a couple of different pen names, to make readers believe that they are reading short stories by different writers.
     Perhaps the most famous use of a pen name to avoid overexposure is when novelist Stephen King wrote four novels under the name Richard Bachman, because his publisher felt that his "constant readers" wouldn't buy more than one book from him in a year.  But, as only Stephen King is wont to do, he took it to the next level, going as far as to dedicate his 1984 novel Thinner to Claudia Inez Bachman, who was supposedly Richard Bachman's wife.

If The Name Doesn't Fit. Change It:
     Some authors feel that their real names either don't fit the genre they are working in or are not appropriate.  Take author Pearl Gray, who dropped his first name and changed it to Zane, and changed the spelling of his last name to Grey, because he felt it was better suited for the Western genre.
     You would think that Julie Woodcock would want to keep her real name as opposed to writing under the pen name Angela Knight when penning her romance novels, but she chose to change it, feeling her real name was too-on-the-nose.

For No Other Reason Than Just Because:
     In some instances, writers may utilize a pen name for nothing more than their own amusement, as is in the case of Edward Gorey, who wrote under different pen names just for his own enjoyment - each one an anagram of his real name.
     Daniel Handler wrote under the name of his main character Lemony Snicket in his Series Of Unfortunate Events books, as if they were memoirs based on an acquaintance of the main character.

Gender Restrictions In Selected Genres:
     It's hard for this female freelance writer and author to believe, but discrimination still exists in the literary world today.  Since the 19th century, women have written under both male and gender-neutral pen names so as to be taken seriously by readers.  For example, the widely popular novel Out Of Africa was written by Karen Blixen under the pen name Isak Dineson.
     Though the publishing industry is more welcoming to female writers, in genres such as horror, science fiction and fantasy and even mystery, readers will often choose novels written by male authors.  Studies have also shown that these same readers will tend to assume that any gender-neutral name is male.  Women who write under gender-neutral pen names include J.K. Rowling, K.A. Applegate and S.E. Hinton.

     There are other reasons why authors may choose to use a pen name either at the beginning of their career of in the middle of it.

1. The author's real name may be too closely related to that of another author's name.

2. An author who has gained worldwide popularity early in their career may come to fear fame and thereby choose to remain anonymous by using a pen name.

3. If a female author gets married, she may want to continue using her maiden name as a pen name, while legally adopting her husband's name.

     Before you choose your pen name, first think of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.

Pros Of Using A Pen Name:
     Using a pen name will help increase the marketability and therefore the sales of your book.  When choosing your pen name, make sure you choose a first and last name from the first half of the alphabet.  Doing this, you will be sure to get your books in a prime spot on the book display and will secure a place for your novel on the top shelves at eye level.  It's also a good idea to plan your pen name close to the letters of some bestselling authors.  So, if you're a mystery writer, you might want to have your pen name begin with the letter "G" so you'll be situated next to John Grisham or Elizabeth George.
     If you are an author who writes politically, socially or sexually charged books, then a pen name will help you remain anonymous or prevent personal injury from occurring.
     Some publishers limit their writers from contributing to outside markets, so a pen name will allow you to publish your books under one name and use either your real name or a pen name to get published in other types of markets such as magazines or blogs.

Cons Of Using A Pen Name:
     Pen names that seem like they are trying too hard or are too flashy will actually turn publishers off and eventually readers.  Using a two-syllable first name and a single-syllable last name seems to be a safe choice.  Also, try to avoid last names that rhyme with your first name.
     Pen names can sometimes have a tendency to come back to haunt you, especially if you've created an elaborate back-story.  In the future, you may have some difficulty publishing other works under your real name, if you use your pen name long past its expiration date.

Issues Of Copyright:
     An author may use a pen name on a copyrighted work if the author's pen name is identified on copies of that work.  The pen name itself is not protected by copyright. 
     Whether or not you choose to be identified by your legal name or your pen name, you should clarify this when registering your work at the Copyright Office.  But remember that, if you choose to give your "real" name, then it will be made public on the online records produced by the Copyright Office and will be accessible to anyone surfing the web.

     Remember, no matter if you are an established author or are just starting out, using a pen name is like starting from scratch and can be particularly difficult to build a reputation.  It can also allow you to flex your writing muscles and freely branch out into different genres without having to worry about possibly distancing your loyal readers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Remembering Ladybugs

I just finished a book titled Cherished: 21 Writers On Animals They Have Loved and Lost and it got me thinking about my first dog, Lady.

     My childhood was anything but normal, but before my eighth birthday, Lady came into my life to make everything seem worthwhile.  I was born with what is called Mid-Facial Dysplasia, and from the age of four years old, started a series of reconstructive surgeries that would help build a bridge for my nose, and more pronounced features.
     Lady arrived just as I was beginning to understand why I had to have these surgeries.  I began to understand that my childhood wasn't like that of other kids and sometimes I suffered the consequences of being "different" (even though you could never tell I had surgery).  And funnily enough, I was tricked into taking Lady from a friend of my aunt's, who lived on this duck hunting ranch.  He told me that they were going to put Lady to sleep, and of course I jumped at the chance to save her.  Or rather, as I would soon learn, she saved me.
     My surgeries were never a scary experience.  Nothing bad ever happened to make me apprehensive about having another one.  My parents have always been my rock, but Lady was the one I could tell my secrets to.  Like all dogs, she had that calm, quiet way about her that made everything feel like it was going to be okay.  It was like she always knew when I came home from the hospital to not jump on me or be rambunctious around me.  She would sit quietly by my bed or the couch and would reluctantly allow my parents near me.
     I spent my entire childhood with Lady who eventually came to be known as Ladybugs.  In 1998, she was 10 years old, and little did I know that I wouldn't have her too much longer.  In that same year, I had a major surgery called a cranialplasty and my grandfather was in the hospital, dying of kidney cancer.  I consider myself lucky to have had her during my recovery from that surgery and to help me through the grief of losing my grandfather.
     On Christmas morning of that year, Lady passed away just as I woke up at the six thirty in the morning.  Let me tell ya, that was not a very Merry Christmas morning opening gifts.  Later that day, we took her out to our property (where we would soon build a house) and laid her body in a box to buried the next day.  God, that was the worst Christmas I've ever had.  We couldn't bury her that day because we had like 20 people coming for Christmas dinner.  So, the next morning, dad dug a hole over by the creek and we had a little ceremony for her.  Now almost 14 years later, I still miss her very much, even though I have had dogs in between then.  She will always be number 1.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mr MaGoo's Shenanigans: Do You Know About FACE Foundation?

Mr MaGoo's Shenanigans: Do You Know About FACE Foundation?: "Woof! It's been a whirlwind July. Mom and I have been on a book tour promoting our (my) book Real Dogs Don't Whisper . It's been a tail ..."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Storyboards For Fiction Writers

      Whether you are a new author taking the plunge and beginning work on your first novel, in the middle of your second or third rewrite, or are all ready a published author starting on your next book, organization is key to helping you obtain your vision.
     Inspiration for stories usually comes to us in flashes, such as a scene, a line of dialogue, or the name of the hero or villain that your story will be based on.  And it is your job as a writer to bring these bits of information together into one cohesive piece of writing. To achieve this, some authors have turned to the use of storyboards to help them tackle those difficult storylines or character arcs in their fiction and nonfiction works.
     Storyboards are a great tool, whether you are in the planning stages of your book, or are stuck on a chapter.

What you will need to get started:
1.     Large, flat surface, either a wall or board of some kind.
2.     3x5 cards or Post-its.
3.     Colored pens.
      Now that you have what you need, you can begin using your storyboards in a variety of ways.

Keeping Track Of Your Characters:
     Major and minor characters introduced at the beginning of your novel can become lost or forgotten halfway through the writing process, if they are not kept track off. 
     Using your movable note cards and colored pens for each character, you can record each character by their name, a physical description, and their growth as it happens throughout the story.  Another way is to divide your 3x5 cards or Post-its up by using one side of your flat surface for your protagonist and the other for your antagonist, using different colors for each.
     Whichever way you choose to lay your cards out, seeing your characters spread before you, will help give you a new perspective on the way your characters are developing, how they will fit within the story and how they will play off each other.

Ask yourself the following questions:
1.     Does each character contribute to the plot?
2.     Are your descriptions original?
3.     Are your characters believable?
4.     Is your main character someone your readers will relate to?  Empathize or sympathize with?  Care about throughout the story?
     Asking yourself these questions will help you eliminate weak characters that aren't contributing to the plot.  Get rid of character traits that are cliché such as the cheerleader, the Goth, the runaway and the rich kid. 

Organizing Plots & Scenes
     Whether you are in the middle of your book, or are just beginning to put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard, storyboards can help you organize your plot by dividing each chapter into scenes by writing them down on your movable note cards and then tacking them up on your blank surface in the order you think they should go.
     By doing this, you get a sense of the pacing of your novel.  With all of your scenes before you and at eye level, you can rearrange them, take scenes out, or add new ones where there are gaps in the plot.
Also, ask yourself the following questions:
1.     Is a plot line left out for too long?
2.     Is there a need for an additional character or characters to help fill a hole in the plot?
3.     Is the flow of action for each scene or chapter smooth and able to make sense to your readers?
4.     Are there any chapter breaks that leap out at you?  Is there enough information at the end of each chapter to leave the reader interested?
5.     Are there places where the narrative and/or the character's internal thoughts need to be broken up by action or dialogue?
6.     Is there a variety of emotion in every scene?

Getting Your Acts Together
     In the planning stages of your novel, you can also use storyboards to structure your story into Three Acts, just as you would if you were writing a screenplay.  This is a great way to utilize storyboards if you already have an outline of your plot, scenes, chapters and characters.
     To do this, divide your empty space up into three sections.  Instead of separating your note cards into scenes and characters, each one will have the following written on it:
1.     What the scene is about.
2.     Pertinent pieces of dialogue or whole conversations.
3.     The characters in that scene, including their names and description.
Once you have all of your cards together, you can begin dividing your scenes into Acts.

ACT 1:
     This is where you are going to set up your story and introduce your main characters to your readers.  Here is where you will also introduce the Conflict of your story.  What is it your character wants and desires? Why?  What are they willing to do to achieve their goal?  Who are the characters standing in their way?  The first act makes up 25% of your story and includes the first 25-30 pages.  This is where you need to grab your readers.

ACT 2:
     Act 2 makes up the bulk of your story and therefore makes up the bulk of your story - 50%.  This is where your readers really become involved in the story and start getting to know the characters and care about them.   It is at this point that you will set up scenes for the Subplot and begin introducing the Minor Characters that come into play.  This is where the Conflict is further explored and there begins a building of tension between characters.

ACT 3:
     This where all loose ends are tied up with the Conflict ending in a Resolution.   Act 3 makes up the last 25% of your story.  Your readers should be treated to a twist in the plot or a satisfying ending that wraps up all loose ends in a nice little package.

     Once you have all of your cards spread out and divided into your Three Acts, you can now assess your novel as a whole.  You can see how your story flows, and how your characters grow and fit within the story.  You may want to add or remove characters, rearrange scenes, or add to your plot.
     Whichever way you decide to use storyboards to structure your novel, having it spread before you will help you to better visualize your story before sitting down to write that first draft.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing Apps For Your iPhone

     Earlier this year I finally got my hot little hands on the phone everyone has been talking about - the iPhone.  And I LOVE it!!!!  Now, as a writers we all know that inspiration can strike at any time, or we may be out somewhere, enjoying our surroundings and writing, but what happens when our muse leaves us?  Luckily, after a lot of hours perusing the app store, I found 5 apps sure to make my life as a writer much easier.

1.  Writing Toolkit ($3.99):
           This app empowers writers to be better at their craft, whether they write fiction or nonfiction.  The main page contains 14 icons - Questions, Punctuation, Writing, Plots, People, Places, Things, Scenario, Notes, Dialogue, Prepositions, iPod, Help and Tutorial.  So, whether you are a novice or a pro, this app will help you with the mechanics of writing, overcome your writer's block, tips on how to correctly use punctuation, creating new characters and locations, etc.

2. Writing Prompts ($1.99):
          This app includes 500 writing prompts!  Shake your phone or swipe your finger across the screen to change the prompts, which includes over 200 scene elements, 50 sketches, 10 colors and over 80 genres to choose from.  Find a prompt that you would like to use over and over again?  Then you can either text the prompt to your fellow writers or save it in your Favorite Prompts by tapping the text in the lower right hand corner of the screen.

3. Creativity Portal (FREE):
    Features include:
    1. News, articles, and free projects
    2. Prompts for bloggers and writers
    3. Inspiring stories and quotes
    4. Exclusive interviews
    5. Book excerpts
    6. Free printouts

4.  WriMuse ($0.99):
          Another writing prompts app that will give you creative writing prompts in either just a few key words or a full prompt.  WriMuse puts together a brief outline for a story or scene by combining character, location and a special circumstance.  This app includes several hundred MILLION prompts!!!!

5.  Storyteller ($1.99):
          This app is for combating writer's block and comes loaded with thousands of character ideas, plot suggestions, story settings, and themes.

Let me know if any of these apps have worked for you and if there are some out there that I may not know about.

Happy Writing Until Next Time!
Sara  - www.sarajacksonwriter.com

Monday, May 9, 2011

Blood Pressure

     Blood Pressure is the novel I am currently working on at the moment.  It is a YA novel about a fifteen year old girl named, Denise, who lives with her fundamentalist parents in the small town of Churchill, Maryland.  When her best, and only friend, Karen slips her a copy of Interview With the Vampire under the table in their school's cafeteria, Denise is instantly hooked!
    Upon finishing the book, her interest in vampires doesn't stop there, she searches the Internet, looking for any information she can get on vampires.  One day she comes across the website for The Children Of the Night Coven - a vampire role-playing game, where the players meet and role-play being vampires.  After a month or so of talking with someone known as BlackRose18, Denise finally meets up with the coven.
     What was once a harmless obsession has now turned into a deadly game.  Because the Children Of The Night are not what Denise thought they would be and her first night with them was a nightmare.  When Denise tries to get out of the group after seeing that they've committed crime sprees, she is in a fight for her life.

     So far I am on Chapter 5.  Getting there, slowly but surely.  I plan on having a first draft done by late this summer and spending the Fall rewriting it.  I've begun listening to audio books, namely Stephen King books, read by the master himself, while writing my novel.  It has really helped me get into a rhythm and understand storytelling.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On The Hunt...

     I've spent the last month writing and rewriting another picture book manuscript that has yet to have a title.  It stars Jack the dog, a character from my first self-published picture book from two years ago.  Now that I have a final draft, I am now ready to search out a publisher.  I've got five publishers lined up to send the manuscript out to.
     Since last February, I have been in talks with a writer/director of horror films who has been helping rewrite my horror script.  An email from him a month or so ago, advised me to seek out an agent.  So that's what I'm in the process of doing.  This week I will be sending out query letters and I can't wait to see what turns up!
     I recently became a featured writer for Starburst magazine and continue to freelance for my usual publications.  Though sometimes I feel as though I have taken on too much as far as trying to juggle a freelance career and an author.  I feel I'm failing at finishing my YA novel, "Blood Pressure," and keep telling myself that I will finish a first draft by this fall.  I hope so.

Below is my first published picture book, "Jack's Dreams Come To Life."

Failing to find mischief on his ranch, Jack falls asleep under his favorite tree.  His dreams, which include a giant squirrel and squeak toys that come to life, provide him with more trouble than he can handle.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's Back!

My book Jack's Dreams Come To Life is now available (again) on www.amazon.com

Follow the link here http://www.amazon.com/Jacks-Dreams-Come-Life-Jackson/dp/143924281X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1300897729&sr=1-2

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

     As some of you may know, I cancelled my contract with my publisher for my self-published book Jack's Dreams Come To Life.  I've just finished another picture book manuscript, that's making the rounds in my critique group.  Once I get the comments back, I will rewrite it and send it out to publishers.
     It's been awhile since I've written a short story, or anything creative for that matter.  But I'm happy to say that I finished a brand new short story titled, "Promises Kept" about my grandfather who passed away 13 years ago this May.  I'd like to send some of my stories out to literary magazines to see if I can get them published.
     Since last February I've been in contact with Mark Vadik, a horror movie writer and director, and he's been helping rewrite and polish a horror script that I wrote titled, "The Driftwood Massacres."  I received an email from him a month ago suggesting I now seek an agent for representation in order to try and sell my script.  I know how to find a literary agent, but where the heck do I find a screenwriting agent?
     Then there's the ever present, so-called monkey on my back - my YA novel.  I've been in a bit of a rut since February of this year about not finishing the manuscript in time to take it to the San Francisco's Writer's Conference that same month.  I've left it alone for a few weeks and have now gone back to it, and am in the process of writing chapter 5.  I would like to have a rough draft finished by late summer.  Good luck with that I suppose.
     And, of course, to supplement my income, I still have my freelance writing.  So far this year I've been asked to write for three new magazines! Rue Morgue, Tropical Fish Hobbyist and Writer's Journal.  Needless to say my plate is full and I'm exhausted, confused and in a panic.  My New Year's resolution was to finish something, whether that be my YA novel, find an agent and get something published.  I know it's only March, but I'm starting to panic a little.  As much as I appreciate my dad giving me a job at his dental office, I really wish my income was coming from my writing.  But I guess all writers wish that.

Oh well, off to write!

I recently finished 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (Stephen King's son).  If you're a fan of King, you'll love Joe Hill's collection of short stories.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jackson Andrew S DDS Video - Vallejo, CA - Health + Medical

Changes Made For The Better

     As some of you may know, I had self-published a children's picture book titled, "Jack's Dreams Come To Life" with CreatSpace two years ago.  It was my first book ever and my first look into the publishing world.  At the time, I wrote the fictional story with my dog Jack as the main character, along with my other two dogs, Sadie and Jeep as secondary characters.  On April 15, 2010, it became more than a book, it became a tribute to Jack.  For this was the day he died after sharing 17 years of his life with my family and I.
     Two months ago I made the hard decision to split company with CreateSpace and cancelled my contract with them.  Despite my efforts and money spent on promoting my book, it sold very few copies; despite having had great reviews.  I know that what killed the eventual sales of my book was that it was priced at $12.99 for a 24-page paperback picture book on www.amazon.com.  The age range was wrong also, listing the book for 9-12 year olds!  I asked repeatedly that this be changed and everytime was assured that it was.  I realize that when self-publishing you get a bigger percentage of the royalties and that's great for maybe a novel or some other book of great length.  But I know that people balked at paying $12.99 for a picture book + S&H.
     Now I am in the process of rewriting the original manuscript into a much more different story.  My plan is to find another publisher and home for Jack and his adventures.  I am still working on my YA novel, "Blood Pressure" and hope to have a rough draft finished by July.

I will keep you updated on my writing ventures and journey to finding a new publisher.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Writing Life

  The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
   by Marie Arana
   ISBN: 978-1-58648-149-0
   Copyright 2003
   404 pages

     Essays gathered from the Washington Post column of the same name, Marie Arana has compiled a list of our most distinguished and beloved authors, who give us a glimpse into their personal life and more importantly into their life as a writer.  Included among the 55 authors are Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury, Patricia Cornwell and Jimmy Carter, just to name a few.
     If you are a writer or know a writer, then this will become a very cherished book.  Not only do you get insight from famous authors, but politicians, journalists, poets and playwrights.  These men and women not only have changed the literary world when they've put pen to paper, but they have opened doors and paved the way for future writers.  They've written stories, articles and plays that are a part of history.  Their opinions and creative minds were and still are an influence on not only their generation, but future generations.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen

Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen by David Grove
Copyright: 2010
Publisher: BearManor Media
ISBN: 1-59393-608-7
490 pages

      I wasn't even born yet when Halloween came out in 1978 and too young to appreciate Curtis' career as a scream queen up until 1981, but that doesn't mean I'm not a rabid fan of hers and her subsequent horror films after Halloween.
     That's why I could barely contain my excitement when I found out that there would be a biography coming out, chronicling her career in horror.
     I have to admit that, when I found out that Grove's book was unauthorized, I was a little skeptic as to how accurate the information was going to be.  It turns out that my skepticism was a little premature, because I found the information in the book to be very informative, not only about Jamie, but about all of her films.
     The book starts off with Jamie's adolescence and her struggles with growing up with two of Hollywood's royalty (Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis) and perhaps what was most surprising to me, was Jamie's insecurity as a teenager and young adult.  Each chapter focuses on the horror films that she has starred in, how she got the part, the making of the film and the post-production of it.
                                                               The readers gets a real inside look at Jamie's experiences on each of these films and her relationships with her fellow actors and filmmakers.  If there is any fault to the book it is the constant repeating of who Jamie Lee Curtis' parents are and how tough it was for her to grow up with such famous parents.  The book has a tendency to, at times compare Jamie to her mother, the reigning scream queen, Janet Leigh.  Which I think Jamie has dealt with all her life and would probably rather not have a book focus too much on that part of her life.

                                                               If you are a Jamie Lee Curtis fan or a fan of John Carpenter or any and all horror films of the late 70s and early 80s, this book is great for fans of the genre.