ARCs ... Who Wants One?

The ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of Ghostwriter are almost ready. If you have a blog or website which posts book reviews and you'd like to have a copy in exchange for writing a review, please email me with your contact info and I'll add you to the list.

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New Facebook Page for "Ghostwriter"

I made a page for Ghostwriter today on Facebook, which meant I got to explore the wonderful world of apps.

So, here's how it turned out: (Mind you, I'm so computer illiterate that I had to go look up how to take a screen capture.)

If anyone has any suggestion for features you'd like to see or apps I should add, I'd be grateful. StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr

Part of the Process: Writing An Author Bio

Sorry.... I'm boring

I got an author newsletter from my publisher today, filled with marketing tips, and one of the topics was writing an author biography.

It's just about as bad as writing a summary.

I have a confession to make: I'm boring. I mean, like, really boring. If you ask me about my stories, I'll talk your leg off, but about me, personally?  Dull topic.

My marketing paperwork asked me to list some interesting details about myself and I had absolutely no idea what to write.I don't have any exciting hobbies, no stellar academic credentials, nothing. I read. I work. I write. That's about it.

No, really, I love listening to you. Do go on.

So, I decided to try to be amusing about it:

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete's foot.... though only in her head. Real life isn't so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

Patricia Biggs's bio in the back of Moon Called is fanciful as well: "Patricia Briggs lived a fairly normal life until she learned to read. After that she spent lazy afternoons flying dragonback and looking for magic swords when she wasn't horseback riding in the Rocky Mountains. Once she graduated from Montana State University with degrees in history and German, she spent her time substitute teaching and writing. She and her family live in the Pacific Northwest, where she is hard at work on her newest project. Visit her website at"

There are many advice columns on the internet for writing an author biography. One of the things I found a bit daunting was, "Always write your biography in third person voice so it sounds as though someone else wrote it for you."

Why is that? Another site explains: "People automatically give more trust to what is said of one person by another, than to what people say about themselves -- even when they know that the bio was written by the author."

In general, they say, the author bio should contain the following elements:

  • Opening Line including name and basic info
  • Education/Credentials/Awards (if applicable)
  • Genre/Interest in writing
  • Something Interesting that will stick out to readers
  • Written in the third person (allows it to be easily transferred onto other sites and into articles)
  • Is brief (200-300 words)

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A Lengthy, Rambling Article About Why I Like My Publisher

And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself yourself
My God!...What have I done?!
--Talking Heads Once in a Lifetime

I'll be honest with you: I never thought I'd publish a novel. I wrote fanfiction because I saw an opportunity to finally let some of the stories out of my head and I was satisfied with it. In my mind, it was published. I started my first story on October 4, 2011 and it had about fifty regular readers, which I thought was pretty respectable. When I completed it, it had a grand total of 45 reviews.

On October 28, I started Written in the Stars and the first day, I had 150 readers. I was shocked. And the numbers just kept going up. By November 28, I had three thousand readers.

That's when I started getting a little scared.

I hadn't expected that.

At all.

I mean, who does? I measured "success" as having fifty people who were kind enough to follow my story and leave a lovely comment here and there.  People sent me messages to let me know that my story was being reviewed on various sites and that venerable fic authors, such as Savage, were posting about it on their blogs and such.

I couldn't believe it. Actually, I still can't believe it.

My upcoming novel was recently a topic of discussion on A Different Forest. The subject of my publisher was broached. Some have expressed negative opinions about them, and so I thought I'd explain why I'm very happy with them.

Firstly, they've treated me well. Okay, that's an understatement. They've treated me incredibly well. Every member of the staff I've interacted with has been a lovely person. My editors have been both very good at their jobs and diplomatic enough to avoid traumatizing me. (Hey, I'm an author, I can now lay claim to the overly-sensitive stereotype!)

I can't discuss particulars of my contract, but I'll say I was pleased with the terms and found them to be quite fair. The attorney I consulted (at their urging) was quite comfortable with it, too.

Secondly, they're a small publisher and I like that. From the blogs and author-written articles I've read, there are some issues and requirements with major publishers that I probably wouldn't like.

One such restriction regards fanfiction; many publishers aren't willing to allow their authors to post free works on the internet, and may insist they pull all of their previous stories, even if they weren't versions of the book being published. TWCS allows me to continue doing something I love. Because they're cool like that.

Pictured: What being cool may look like

The main problems that people have with them was that they were the original publishers of  Fifty Shades of Grey and they have some other "controversial" titles in their catalog. This does not trouble me. As long as they let me write what I want, I'll respect that they allow other authors to do the same.

I don't have a dog in the "pull-to-publish" fight. TWCS is no longer publishing fanfic, anyway, and wouldn't be interested in any of my stories unless they were substantially re-written. And that's something I'm really not interested in doing. I learned something very important in that respect during the editing process: Once I'm "done" with a story, I want to move on.

And lastly, they seem to understand me, as anxiety-ridden and socially inept as I am. Either the stereotype rings true that authors, as a species, are high-strung and more-than-a-little weird and they're used to it, or they all have intensive training in Author Psychology and the patience of Job. One of my editors has talked me down from a few emotional upsets and -- God bless her -- hasn't rolled her eyes at me once!

Toward this end, they've given me a remarkable level of control over how much I want to do regarding publicity and such.

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Do you Believe in Ghosts?

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing 
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

 Tales of ghosts stretch back thousands of years. Pliny the Younger wrote one:
 There was in Athens a house, spacious and open, but with an infamous reputation, as if filled with pestilence. For in the dead of night, a noise like the clashing of iron could be heard. And if one listened carefully, it sounded like the rattling of chains. At first the noise seemed to be at a distance, but then it would approach, nearer, nearer, nearer. Suddenly a phantom would appear, an old man, pale and emaciated, with a long beard, and hair that appeared driven by the wind. The fetters on his feet and hands rattled as he moved them.

For who can wonder that man should feel a vague belief in tales of disembodied spirits wandering through those places which they once dearly affected, when he himself, scarcely less separated from his old world than they, is for ever lingering upon past emotions and bygone times, and hovering, the ghost of his former self, about the places and people that warmed his heart of old?
CHARLES DICKENS, Master Humphrey's Clock

Written about 900 BCE, a ghost story is recorded in the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 28:
Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land.
Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.
And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee.
And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
10 And Saul sware to her by the Lord, saying, As the Lord liveth, there shall no punishment happen to thee for this thing.
11 Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.
12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.
13 And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.
14 And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.
15 And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
16 Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy?
17 And the Lord hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
18 Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day.
19 Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the Lord also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.
20 Then Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid, because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him; for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night.

Interestingly enough, the Epic of Gilgamesh has what may be the world's oldest "fanfiction" story associated with it. Scholars refer to the tale as "non-canonical side chapters" or a "sequel" to the Epic of Gilgamesh, which details the adventures of the ghost of the king's friend, Enkidu, through the underworld.

As long as there have been cameras, people have been taking pictures of ghosts.

There was a fad in the Victorian era for "spirit photography" in which people would pose at a studio and when the photo was developed, it would contain an image of their deceased loved ones.

Mary Lincoln with the "ghost" of her husband, Abraham.

The photo above was taken by William H. Mumler. P.T. Barnum testified against him when Mumler was brought up on charges as a fraud. The judge reluctantly dismissed the case for lack of evidence, but Mumler's reputation was destroyed and he died in poverty. Other "spirit photographers" continued to operate all the way up until after WWI.

Some of them are downright creepy:

Today, they look like obvious fakes, but in the days before Photoshop, it was difficult to figure out how these photos could have been forged. The photographers used double-exposure techniques which weren't well-known except to professional photographers.

Now it is the time of night 
That the graves, all gaping wide, 
Every one lets forth his sprite 
In the church-way paths to glide.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, A Midsummer Night's Dream

So, what about you? Do you believe in ghosts? Answer here, on my Goodreads forum.
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"Ghostwriter" Summary!

I can now share the summary of my new book Ghostwriter with everyone!

Newly single, unemployed, and with her savings dwindling to an all-time low, Sara thinks things are finally looking up when she lands a job ghostwriting a popular politician’s biography, and rents the affordable island home of her favorite author, Seth Fortner, who mysteriously disappeared in 1925. Strange things begin to happen as objects break, go missing, and terrifying visions appear, making Sara wonder if Seth ever left, or if she is slowly losing her mind. She gets no answers from his family who closely guards the secret of his disappearance. Through an old trunk of letters Sara discovers in the attic of her seaside cottage, Sara unravels the mystery and becomes caught up in a tale of greed, lost love, and the horrors of WWI. Will she be the one to break the “Fortner Curse” by helping Seth conquer his demons, and heal both of their hearts in the process?
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Summaries, O Bane of my Existence!

Last night, my editor gently but firmly pushed me to a task I have been neglecting: writing the summaries for the book. It's a job I've been pretending will go away if I just ignore it long enough. Like housework.

But it needs done. Badly. Lots of people have asked me about the book's plot. Which is, of course, a perfectly natural question: "Oh? You wrote a book? What's it about?" Reply: "Uhh, I can't tell you yet."

I had to write three of them: a 75 word, a 150 word and a 300 word. Half way through the 75 word, I sent a message to my editor over Skype: "Can't I just write another book instead?" It'd be much easier.

I flatter myself that I've always had a way with words: how to use them to set a mood, the rhythm of sentences, the grace of a succinct adjective. What talent I have cheerfully deserted me, leaving me blank-minded and bereft.

Is having to buy a new computer because you smashed the old one in frustration considered a legitimate "business expense"?

Every word counts. Literally. They want you to be as exact to the word count as possible, without going over. My first efforts of 73 words, 139 words and 305 words wouldn't cut it. I found myself glumly staring at sentences, praying they would re-word themselves.

At around 11PM, we finally had the three summaries worked out to the exact word count. The Editor Extraordinaire told me to re-read them today before I decide whether they're okay.

I'm afraid to open the file. What if I decide I don't like it?

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On Editing... Again

“I have been correcting the proofs of my poems. In the morning, after hard work, I took a comma out of one sentence…. In the afternoon I put it back again.”
– Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

I'm in the midst of the third set of edits on my manuscript and I decided to take a break and write this post. And I do need a break; I've found that editing is far more difficult than writing. 

We've gotten the "basic" issues out of the way. My almost criminal over-use of the word "that" was dealt with in the first pass-through, and the last one included my tendency to invent words. My poor editor found  place where I had accidentally written, "She had to ponder wonder," instead of just using one or the other and delicately asked me if it was another one of my inventions. (I blame Stephen King for that particular bad habit. I have gleefully added "floorfood" to my vocabulary.)

Fortunately for me, my editor has had some amazing suggestions for improving the story, and she's diplomatic enough that I don't feel bad when she tells me that something isn't working. I don't envy her what must be a very difficult job at some points. As John Osborne once said, "Asking a writer what he thinks about criticism is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs."

I used to correspond with a published author. She gave me some excellent advice, which I've tried to listen to, though with varied levels of success. She told me that authors are in love with their own words and cutting them is sometimes like taking your beautiful child in for his or her first haircut. You know it needs done, but you still sometimes cry a little when you see those whisper-soft curls fall from the scissors.

Further, she gave me this piece of advice, which I try very hard to keep at the forefront of my mind while I'm writing: Never include anything unless it directly advances the plot or reveals something important about the characters. If the scene could be cut without the story losing anything, cut it. Empty words only bog it down and distract the reader from the story.

My editing team has made it clear that I'm not required to follow all of their suggestions, but I think it's important to listen, especially to people who have greater experience in this field. Their goal is to improve my work, a goal that we share, and so far, it's been a great first experience. I think my manuscript has been greatly improved by the process. After the book is released, I'll write a few articles on some of the scenes and how they were improved by my editing team's suggestions.
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"Ghostwriter" Release Date

Ghostwriter will be released on October 11th. I'm still waiting for the go-ahead to reveal the plot details; I'll keep you guys updated. StumbleUpon Share on Tumblr
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