Thursday, April 30, 2009

Going to Ground for the Summer

I've been blessed the past two years with some fantastic writing opportunities and some great online groups. However, the two are coming to a clash this summer. In the next three months, I need to:

1. Finish a school planner, write two supplements, a teacher's guide and a family newsletter--for actual, very nice pay!
2. Edit two books that are in the publishing process. Live and Let Fly will be out late 09 from Swimming Kangaroo; Infinite Space, Infinite God II around April 2010.
3. Write two more books: Discovery needs to be ready to pitch at the Catholic Writers Conference Live! in August. Gapman, the next DragonEye, PI novel, for October at the latest (depending on who's taking pitches at the MuseOnline Conference. We're trying to move DragonEye to the bog publishers who will get them on the shelves!)
4. Help plan and participate in the Catholic Writers Conference Live! Aug 5-8.

This is in addition to the classes I'm teaching as The Marketing Mentor, the three newsletters I publish ("A Dragon's Eye View," "Faith-Filled Fiction" and "The 30-minute Marketer"), my monthly column for Montana Catholic, and the business of being President of the Catholic Writers Guild.

Now, to top that off, we are moving to California in June/July. And we may homeschool. We'll decide that next week.

As a result, I'm going into lurk mode on groups, and am cutting down my blogging. However, since Twitter is so easy, I will keep activity there. You can subscribe to me at if you'd like to keep up on my happenings. I will keep blogging on because I want to keep supporting authors.
If you need to contact me for any reason, e-mail me or go to my contact page at

Have a great summer! We will!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Magic, Mensa and Mayhem: Interview with Copy Editor, Jennifer Walker

Jennifer Walker was the copy editor for Magic, Mensa and Mayhem. She not only did a terrific job of catching the silly errors that I missed even after many revisions and critiques. In addition, she noticed a few bad habits that I'm now watching. She's made me a better writer. More about Jen at:

How did you get to be a copy editor?

After editing my own work and that of my coworkers, friends and family for several years, doing a lot of studying to remind myself of grammar rules and working with my mentor, who has been an editor at several different levels for several years, someone passed along an ad from Swimming Kangaroo Books saying they were hiring copy editors. I applied and took their test, and was informed a short time later that I was one of the top two scorers on the test. I was offered the job, and I have been working there ever since.

What's the difference between copy editing and content editing?

The content editor examines the manuscript for errors or areas of development related to plot, dialogue, characterization, continuity and style. This is a more high-level approach than what the copy editor does.

The copy editor is one of the last people to look at the manuscript before it goes to print (there are still proofers who come after). The copy editor is primarily responsible for correcting any mechanical errors, such as grammar, punctuation, spacing and spelling. The copy editor is also another set of eyes to catch continuity errors or point of view shifts previous editors did not catch--after all, we're all human and things slip by us!

What do you enjoy about it?

My name is Jennifer, and I'm a grammar nerd. I like gaining a better understanding of grammar through my work, and it improves my own writing as well. I am in the process of editing my first book for the third time after several months' break from it, and I'm finding a lot of things I did not before. By contrast, its sequel, which I wrote this year during National Novel Writing Month, is much cleaner.

What are your editing pet peeves?

Authors who argue with me! Just kidding... I would have to say my pet peeves are sentences that are so long I can't follow them and a point of view that shifts back and forth so fast I feel like I'm reading a tennis match.

Tell us about editing Magic, Mensa and Mayhem—any funny stories you want to share?

I have to say, MM&M, as I resorted to calling it because I could never remember what the Ms were or what order they were in, was the most enjoyable manuscript I've ever edited. It had remarkably few errors, was well written and hilarious. My husband kept demanding to know what had me laughing out loud, so I would have to read him passages. I swear...I didn't say that to kiss up. It was actually that good, and I'm picky!

Vern wants you to feed his ego, so tell us what you thought of him and the book in general.

I think Vern and Grace are wonderful, rich characters. I love the relationship they have--respect and affection in their purest forms. Fun interactions between characters are what draw me into books, and that's one of the things I loved about MM&M. By the time you finish, you feel like you know these "people" and want to live next door to them. Well, not all of them--just Vern and Grace.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Re-evaluating My Blogging

I've been thinking a lot about my blogs lately. I figure I spend 4-6 hours a week on them--writing, posting, cross-posting--but I don't get a lot of commentary or hits. I also don't feel like I add a lot of unique or useful information to the readership, which is probably why I don't get a lot of hits. Do you really need me to repost a YouTube video or give lessons about writing? Really, the only unique thing about what I have to say is what I say about me or my books. And constantly writing about my own writing is kind of obnoxious. (Though, yes, I do it.)

Lately, I'm wondering if I wouldn't be better off putting that time into articles I can sell, guest blogs I can give to others who do have a readership, press releases or updates on my social networks. Six hours is a LOT of time; used well, it can do phenomenal things for others and myself. Is blogging really the best use of that time?

I know: I'm tipping the sacred cow of writing and marketing on the Internet. But maybe it's time. The Blogsphere is bloated, and so much of it is intellectual junk food. Do I really want to add my fries to that?

This week, I'm asking all the folks in my groups to take this survey and give me their opinion. I'll take it all under advisement, then give everyone the results and announce my decision.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Interview with a Content Editor

Great books are often the result of more than just the writer's efforts. I was very impressed with the thorough editing job done on Magic, Mensa and Mayhem by the editors at Swimming Kangaroo. The book went through a couple of edits--one for content and one for copyediting. These editors not only found errors I'd missed after a half-dozen edits and an equal number of critiques, but also alerted me to some writing habits I had and didn't realize. They created a better writer as well as a better book.

Today, we meet Linda Anderson, who was the content editor.

What does a content editor do?

The main job of a content editor is to read manuscripts for plot--Does it makes sense? Does it have any holes?--and character development--Are these people believable? This means we get to read books before anybody else does, which is a wonderful privilege, let me tell you. We also make sure sentence structure is correct and do a little grammatical tweaking if necessary. We are supposed to leave spelling and punctuation and such to the copy editor, but I think most editors of any variety would not be willing to let a typo escape if they could help it.

What do you enjoy about it?

Just about everything. I love to read ... I read to unwind the way a lot of people watch television to unwind. I have a hard time getting through a day if I can't read at least a little bit for pleasure sometime in my waking hours. (Because as we all know, reading while sleeping is hard!) I also get a major thrill out of being able to help polish someone else's creativity. That makes me a kind of coach. Or to put it another way: I am not the one who makes the cake, but I get to put the icing roses on.

How did you get started in the job?

Take one daily reader with a preference for fiction in general and science fiction in specific, give her a several-decades' long career in writing and editing news stories, add one friend who is a budding science fiction writer with the need for a little nagging to finish his book, stir in the opportunity to volunteer to be his editor and you've got my recipe for becoming a content editor. My friend sold his book to Swimming Kangaroo and mentioned to Dindy how much he liked my editing. She agreed to give me a chance as an editor. And here I am.

Are you a writer as well? If so, how does this help your writing?

I am a writer in the sense that I've got more than 25 years' experience writing news stories, but I'm not a writer in the book-writing sense, unless you count those 54 pages of a young adult novel that I started back in the mid-1990s and never finished. Yet. So yes, content editing could help my writing enormously by exposing me to new writers and different styles, showing me different possibilities and different concepts. But of course that means I'd have to dust off that manuscript ...

What impressions did you have about Magic, Mensa & Mayhem?

MM&M was my first experience with Vern and a terrific experience it was. (I hope it was good for him too.) I loved the puns, I loved the alternate universe setting, I loved the way all the different beings were just part of everyday life, I loved the crime solving part and I loved with Vern. I also appreciated how gently the religious message was conveyed. In these days when so many Christians seem to think the only way to spread the word is to smack people over the head with it, I loved how Vern and Sister Grace did the same thing in a much more gentle fashion. Believe me, those of us with sore heads appreciate it.

Any funny stories to share about editing it?

Not really funny stories about editing it. Parts of it made me laugh while I was editing, does that count?

Vern wants to know what you loved most about him in this story.

To paraphrase the gang at Cheers: VERRRRRNNN! I have a weakness for dragons. I've been a big fan since about 1979, but when I met Vern -- who can talk, make puns AND solve crimes-- I knew I had found my dragon. I think he's just about perfect. I mean, a wisecracking detective who is also a dragon -- what's not to love? Do you think I could ever sweet-talk him into giving me a ride? Just a short one, not too high ... I tend to get motion sick but I promise to be careful.

(Vern said if she's take some Dramamine, he'd consider it.)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Promo Day coming May 9

I'll be presenting a workshop on that day and hanging out to chat.

For immediate release

Contact info:
Jo Linsdell - Founder and Organiser


PROMO DAY makes its return in 2009 and promises to be the best yet. Mark your calendars for Saturday 9th May 2009!

An all day, online, international event for people in the writing industry packed full of tips and advice along with a variety of opportunities for writers, publishers, editors etc to promote their work and services. Readers are also welcome to drop in and get to know the authors better in the online chatroom, view the video trailers or read the sample chapters on site.

Founder and Organiser of the event, Jo Linsdell, had this to say “PROMO DAY came about because I was looking for opportunities to promote my books using the internet at little or no cost. After attending the Muse Online Writers Conference back in 2006, I searched the internet for similar events aimed at what to do after you’ve written the book and found none. I decided to fill the void and so PROMO DAY was born. PROMO DAY is a great opportunity to network with other members of the industry, take part in online workshops and promote and best of all it’s FREE”.

New features for this year is the Official Blog for the event,, where everyone can keep up to date with new announcements and information regarding the event and the official PROMO DAY book, packed full of information and resources, which will be available to buy during and after the event.
Visit the website for more details of how you can be involved.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Why I love my publisher at Swimming Kangaroo

Note for the record: I am published with three terrific publishers so far: Twilight Times (Infinite Space, Infinite God) and The Writers Cafe Press (Leaps of Faith), and Swimming Kangaroo (Magic, Mensa and Mayhem). I recommend them all. However, since this is the Magic, Mensa and Mayhem tour, I'm bragging about Swimming Kangaroo.

The author is only part of a team involved in putting together a book--and, just like with any team, the better the members, the better the results. I am blessed to have a terrific team at Swimming Kangaroo. I've blogged before about my wonderful cover artist, Roe Mesquita. Today, I want to go to the top and tell you about publisher Dindy Robinson.

I met Dindy at the Muse Online Conference. She was hosting a workshop where you sent in your stories and she critiqued them. Since "Amateurs" did not make it into the Ten Plagues anthology, I was concerned I'd missed something in it, and so sent it for her critical eye. She not only found nothing wrong with the story, but asked me if I had enough to make a story collection for her to publish. (Lesson: Sometimes, it's not the writing that leads to a rejection.) At that time, I didn't have a lot of stories, but I did have this funny serial I was writing for The Prairie Dawg...

We signed the contract for Magic, Mensa and Mayhem shortly thereafter.

Swimming Kangaroo is a small press, named for a family joke and run by Dindy with the help of her husband and children. It's a second job for her, and one that is still struggling to keep its head above water. However, I found it not only very professionally run but also deeply concerned for its authors. Let's hit the professionalism first:

Dindy has done her homework on the publishing industry. She's working all the tricks--from getting books the right reviewers to playing all the games at Amazon. She's hired a very talented group of editors, who I'll feature later this month, as well as illustrators. The only thing she lacks is an aggressive marketing force, and that's an economic constraint she's working to overcome by providing instruction in marketing to her authors. As a result, Swimming Kangaroo books are winning awards and several of her authors are making headway in the publishing world.

In fact, she told me one of her authors was so successful, she was not able to handle his load, and they worked to get him another publisher. That's the second terrific thing about Swimming Kangaroo--we're a caring team, rooting for each other, helping each other as we can, and when one is ready to swim out into deeper waters (and Kangaroos CAN swim), we're there cheering.

Dindy also involves her authors in the entire process: editing is done via e-mail with tracked comments so the author understands the editor's thoughts and makes her own replies. I was so impressed with the process that I asked was glad to sign a contract for the next book with them. Similarly, the cover art is a cooperative process. In my case, that caused a little delay in the book getting out (Sorry, Dindy!) but wow! What a result!

Dindy set up a Yahoo group for authors to chat with each other. It's one of the more active groups I belong to, and people not only post their brags, but also tips they've found online--places to get reviews, ideas on marketing, suggestions for sales... Swimming Kangaroo has a lot of first-time authors, and several do not know how to market or don't fully understand its importance or their role. Rather than let it slide, or make some kind of marketing requirement for publication, she's putting a portion of her budget into helping these authors learn the tricks of the trade. I'm a part of that with my Marketing Mentor program (which is open to anyone, btw), and she has asked another good marketer in our group to put together an instruction booklet. Granted, this helps her business as well, but she's also genuinely interested that authors learn these skills so they can succeed no matter where they publish.

One of the advantages to working with a small press is when you find one that's family. I've found that in Swimming Kangaroo. I think the experience has made me a better writer, and regardless of where I publish in the future, whether with SK or the big NYC publishers, I'll treasure the fact that the first DragonEye, PI novel has a kangaroo wearing an inner tube.