Saturday, December 22, 2012

1st Review for DEATH OF A MATADOR: 5 Stars

I received my first review on for my latest novel DEATH OF A MATADOR. I'll save you the time of clicking on over to Amazon and publish the review here:
Powers delivers a page-turning police procedural with Death of a Matador, the latest thriller featuring Detective Grant Starr. The action takes place in--until now--a peaceful little dusty town in Central California. From the first page, the story plunges into the fascinating culture of the local Portuguese community, back-stabbing small-town politics, and the inner workings of a police department dealing with crimes related to current hotbutton issues: animal rights activism and the emerging corporate farming of medicinal marijuana.
Powers is a natural storyteller and the dialogue is especially entertaining. You feel like you're riding along with the detectives and officers listening in on their good-natured ribbing, privy to personal and confidential conversations as they unriddle a sudden spate of murders and scramble to protect witnesses. The banter is rich with cultural lingo, convincing police jargon, and spot-on buddy-cop wit.
I also enjoyed the vicarious excitement of wheeling Detective Starr's 1970 Ferrari along a California highway at 120 mph with gorgeous Detective Amber Whitehall riding shotgun! :-)
While the motivations of the corrupt mayor are fully explained, I'd like more insight into the mind of the matador killer. It's understandable that most people like animals, and most people fear going to prison, but I feel that this villain puts himself in extreme peril as an animal-rights activist and as a criminal avoiding capture. I'd like a little more explanation into what makes him tick, what drives him to activism and allows him to be capable of such cold-blooded actions.
Also, I'd like to see Grant Starr put in a bit more personal danger. Sure, he gets shot at, and others rely on him to save their necks, but I'd like to see him sweat-it-out a bit more, to see him in more up-close and personal all-out, whup-ass conflict with the bad guys.
All in all, this story kept me flipping the pages with fully-formed characters, tight action and suspense, very little fluff, and a surprisingly exotic setting via the Portuguese community and their traditions. If you're in the mood for a riveting detective thriller, I recommend it!
I'd love to get more reviews and would be willing to gift a copy of the book to anyone interested in reading and reviewing it. Honest reviews, of course.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Narco Moolah: A Cleo Matts Novel

I read NARCO MOOLAH: A CLEO MATTS NOVEL by Joe Crubaugh last week. Here is the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads:

I read fiction for many reasons, but I read genre fiction only for entertainment. Scared, thrilled, dazed, impressed, horrified, or just plain happily whisked away from life’s everyday problems—it’s all entertainment to me.
NARCO MOOLAH: A CLEO MATTS NOVEL, written by Joe Crubaugh, is a quirky and highly entertaining piece of genre fiction. 
My wife leaves for work at about 7:15 a.m., so I usually have my breakfast alone. Whether it’s oatmeal or cold cereal or yogurt or bacon and eggs, I have my breakfast at the counter while catching up on the news on my iPad. Crubaugh’s novel interrupted my routine: I read it instead of the news while eating my breakfast. I haven’t done that for a while.
Good guy spy Cleo Matts is no James Bond, but he’s got enough going for him to make him an interesting character. While he’s a bit too silly for my taste, too much of a cut-up, he’s got a didactic memory and is a natural linguist—very cool skills. He’s an okay fighter, but does get his butt kicked a time or two. Ever heard of a spy who’s afraid of guns? You have one here. He gets to have a couple of love interests, but don’t worry, he’s not settling down anytime soon.
Crubaugh keeps the novel’s pace moving along admirably and takes us to foreign and exotic places most of us have never been. The scenery, natives, customs, and societies are convincingly written; I’d be shocked if the author had not been to all these places himself.

The bad guys are, well, bad, very bad, and we are introduced to new characters, both good and bad, throughout the novel, but at an acceptable pace. There are plenty of explosions, fights, chases, gun battles, and computer hackers to satisfy any action or tech junkie.
The title's a little goofy and characters occasionally say things I feel are, well, silly. One guy, who works for the NSA, likes to say “What the junk!” And there’s a martial arts moved called “Ape’s Hammer of the Comet Hand.” What the junk? Even if it’s real it sounds hokey. Thankfully, Cleo mastered the move by the end of the novel.
These minor niggles aside, NARCO MOOLAH is a well-written and entertaining read, one I have no qualms recommending to fans of thriller and action novels.
Seriously folks, give the novel a look. At least download the sample chapter to your Kindle or Kindle app.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Enthusiastic 5 Stars for CANALS

I found this review on Goodreads, a site I don't visit often enough. I won't leave the name of the reviewer but you can check out CANALS on Goodreads here and see who wrote it.
Most modern authors make me break my five page rule. I prefer to find myself attached to a novel within those first five precious pages. I find myself having to break this rule-often- just to keep reading alive. Powers well captivated me within the first five and only sucked me into his story deeper with each turning page. 
This is a darker novel and with that, I find his mastery of words worthy of wanting more from his twisted and brilliant imagination. 
This is a perfect example of what literature should be. A full five stars.
Hey wait a minute! "Twisted"? Still, it's nice when something you do is appreciated. By strangers.

It's not all kisses and hugs though:
Horror and sci-fi are NOT my favorite genres, so I'm probably not the best critic. This was way too gory for me, I ended up skipping over huge sections of the story. I was like yeah, yeah, blood and guts, human suffering, gore, gore. I get it. This monster is evil. 
He is a good writer, though, even if I didn't like the content.
It's true, there is a lot of blood and guts and suffering. Okay, and some gore.

And boy is that monster evil!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

THE MIGHTY T in Top 5 Books of 2012

Rick Bylina, author and blogger, has posted that THE MIGHTY T was one of the top five books he read in 2012. He reviewed it on his blog as well as on Amazon. You can read his post here:

Book Review: Best Books For 2012

I appreciate Rick for taking the time to write and post book reviews on his blog as well as posting the reviews on Very few people go to the trouble of doing that. I'm also quite pleased he liked THE MIGHTY T. I think it's the best of my three novels.

Speaking of novels, I've given up the battle with CreateSpace to get them to print my book correctly. The most recent email I received from them said my book printed correctly, which it most assuredly did not. Here's what page one looked like:

Notice any missing text?

So I reset all text set in the Dante Small Caps typeface to Dante and then capitalized the words. It doesn't look as professional, but I don't feel like going through another round of proof-email-email back-nothing's-wrong-with-your-book with them. When you ring them up you get someone who sounds like a 16-year-old on their first job.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Writing a Novel In a Different Way

Hobble Creek Canyon, Springville, UT - October 2012
The picture of the split-rail fence has nothing to do with today's post. I just love that picture and thought I would share it. It's been the background on my computer since I took the picture last month. We missed the reds by a week, but there were still plenty of oranges and yellows in Hobble Creek Canyon.

When I wrote CANALS I was under the delusion I would be the next Stephen King, so I wrote it in the manner King calls "a found thing." Other writers call this writing by the seat of your pants. I started with a premise, there's a monster living in the miles of canals that pass through and around Modesto, and like a good monster, he's killing and eating people. Any plotting was done by writer's inspiration, or via the muse. It was an exhilarating experience, one I will always cherish, even if I unpublish the book.

THE MIGHTY T and DEATH OF A MATADOR were written with a bit more plotting. I began  writing knowing how the books began and how I wanted them to end, then set about making it happen.

One of my favorite thriller authors, John Sandford, recently posted on Facebook (believe it or not) that he had a looming deadline and needed to write 30K words in thirty days: an average of 1,000 words a day for a month. Those of you trying to write an entire novel this month may scoff at this, but it's still not easy.

Anyway, Sandford said he can write 5,000 words a day when he's finishing a book, because he's just wrapping things up. He says writing the beginning of a book is easy, too, because he's already thought up his characters and a loose plot line. He has trouble with the stuff between the beginning and ending. Not enough stuff and you haven't got a book, you've got a novella. Too much stuff and your publisher gets upset.

Writing novels isn't as easy for me as it is for Sandford because I haven't done it thirty times. I struggle with the beginning, middle, and end. To a degree.

My Grant Starr novels were fun to write, but weren't as much of a thrill as writing CANALS was.

With my next novel, THE YOUNG BULL WRESTLERS, I'm first working on the main characters: the team of forcados. I want to know, as best as possible, who they are before I write the book. And I'm going to plot this book more than I plotted my first three books.

It's a new experience for me. Writers, and everyone for that matter, need to keep stretching their limits and developing their skills.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tweak to Death of a Matador Print Cover

I wrote in yesterday's post that the color of the printed cover from CreateSpace was off, darker, than how it appeared on my screen. I tweaked it and resubmitted the cover file along with an updated interior file yesterday.

Here's the tweaked cover:

  1. I shrunk the white shadow sitting behind "DEATH". I thought the first version looked cheap.
  2. The novel is now a "Grant Starr Novel", not a "Grant Starr Thriller". I changed this because John Sandford's novels say this and I figure I can't do any better than to copy a perennial NY Times Bestseller.
  3. I lightened the sand in the background photo about 10%. The print version was far too dark.
  4. The text on the spine was perfectly centered but too short. I increased the text height, hopefully without messing up the perfect centering. There are a lot of independent book sellers in Utah and I hope to market my books directly to them. Which is why I also left the suggested retail price of $18.99 off the back cover. They can set their own retail price.
  5. I moved my picture higher. I realize I need to take a new picture, one more "authorly", meaning stodgy. The back of Sandford's book jackets are a full-length shot of him, but I'm not quite ready for that. I considered moving the picture to the inside of the back page where I would add an author bio, but didn't.
When I created the PDF file for CreateSpace in Publisher 2010, I did so using the "Commercial Printing" setting, which produces the highest quality PDF. Publisher warned me against doing this because the image has a transparent piece, the grey box behind the book blurb on the back cover. It also warned against leaving the file in RGB format. 

Although CreateSpace says to submit files in RGB format, as well as CMYK, I caved and let Publisher change my file to CMYK. Big mistake as it also changed the transparent box to solid. meaning you could no longer see the sand behind the text. Apparently you can't have transparencies in CMYK format. It took me 20 minutes to fix this.

The above image was saved in Publisher 2010 using the 150 dpi setting. The web setting of 96 dpi produces an image with jagged edges, which is unacceptable. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Self Publishing, Amazon, and Microsoft Publisher 2010

I received a proof print copy for DEATH OF A MATADOR last week. I decided to read through the book from back to front, hoping this would keep me from becoming too absorbed in the story and prevent my mind from inserting missing words or correcting typos in my mind's eye. For the most part it did.

If you self-publish and you haven't tried this, you should give a whirl. Begin with the final paragraph and work your way toward the front of the book. You'll be surprised at what you find that didn't when you read through it conventionally all those times.

I'd like to explain how I prepared my files for print publication. Please keep in mind I'm not a professional typesetter; I aim to keep things as non-techie, simple, and inexpensive as I can.

Amazon/Kindle Direct Publishing

I sell my ebooks only on My most recent ebooks, DEATH OF A MATADOR, was processed for publication with Scrivener, which takes some fiddling to get it right but is less frustrating that using Word. I think the finished product looks fine.

The covers for all three of ebooks were produced with Microsoft Publisher 2003. Publisher 2003 allows you to save the file as a .jpeg, which you then upload to KDP. I don't have a true graphics program and outside of self-publishing don't need one. I'm sure the covers could have been better if done by a pro, but I think they look fine. They're eye-catching enough to catch a prospective reader's eye without being silly, as so many ebook covers are these days.

Print is an entirely different animal.

Microsoft Publisher 2012

I formatted my first two books Publisher 2003. My main complaint with Publisher was, it couldn't save a file in PDF format. KDP requires print book covers and interior files be provided in PDF format. I had to find a PDF print driver to use. It worked, but I wanted one program that would do it all so when it came time to typeset DEATH OF A MATADOR, I upgraded to the 2010 version. It promised the flexibility of saving to many different formats.

Here's what I discovered: Saving my cover file, which features a large a photo that covers both front and back, works fine. I saved it using the Commercial Printing setting and unchecked the PDF/A box, which seemed to muck things up. My only complaint in regards to the cover with the proof copy is, the colors seem muted compared to how it looked on my computer screen.

Publisher failed to generate an acceptable PDF of my book interior. Even saving in high quality mode, the file, as viewed with Adobe Reader, sucked. Too low-res. Plus the program took 45 minutes to save the file. Very frustrating as this was the reason I upgraded.

Off I went on a Google chase, looking for another PDF print driver. Enter PDF24. It's free if you resist buying their fax program and service. The way it works is, when you go to print you select the PDF24 driver as if it was an actual printer. Once you click print, a little box pops up that allows you to fine tune the PDF. The PDF I needed was produced in seconds, not 45 minutes. Again, I set it for the highest quality setting.

After uploading, KDP said the fonts weren't properly embedded, they appeared to be when I checked them in Adobe Reader, and the layout didn't fit what they wanted. But they fixed both problems for me and the preview looked fine.

I had a couple of problems with my proof copy: a typeface didn't print despite it being clearly visible in the PDF and a double printing appeared in the header on one page. The double printing was my fault, I still have no idea how I did it, but the font not printing was KDP's problem. They offered to reprocess the file and send me a new proof copy without charge.

I purchased the update for Publisher from a Canadian company. It cost $65 and comes only as a downloadable program: no install discs. The install went fine, perhaps it was my crossed fingers that made things run smoothly, and to my surprise I discovered I had purchased the entire Office Professional Suite. No, it wasn't a student discount and yes, I was able to successfully register my program with Microsoft.

I have an extensive background in computer typesetting, but as a hobbiest. I already knew how to set a page so the lines on both sides line up, know what leading is, know how to properly use true small caps and ligatures, etc. If I hadn't already know these things I'm not sure I could have figured things out using Publisher. And in the 2010 version, in an attempt to make things easier for the average small business owner producing his own brochures, Microsoft has made it more difficult to really fine tune a book. I can still get around quickly because I remember the old keyboard commands, which the program still accepts.

So, I'm not sure I can recommend Microsoft Publisher 2010, or any version, for the serious author and self-publisher. It's worked for me, but only because I have years of experience with it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DEATH OF A MATADOR Ebook Available on Amazon

I'm pleased to announce that after 18 months my new Grant Starr thriller is available in ebook format on I've ordered the proof for the quality paperback version. I expect to take a few weeks to get it proofed, make any necessary corrections, and upload the new files.

Why only Amazon? I used to offer my books on other venues like Smashwords, iBooks, and Barnes and Noble, but I sold practically nothing on those sites. When Amazon introduced it's Select program, I decided to sign up although it meant removing my ebook titles from all other sites. Nothing's happened to make me change my mind since.

DEATH OF A MATADOR was initially slated to be released last fall, but life got in the way. I'm still behind schedule as my next Grant Starr thriller was expected out about now. It's not likely to be released until next spring.

DEATH OF A MATADOR is not a THE MIGHTY T, which I think is a better book. It has more action, explosions, knife play, etc. While not the best of the two, I think MATADOR is a damn good story. I'm especially fond of Mayor Manny, a rascal and a murderer. I liked how his character turned out so much I was tempted to name the book MAYOR MANNY. Thank goodness I didn't.

The book is dedicated to Nancy, whose last name I'll keep private. Nancy was a patient of mine (I no longer practice) deeply involved in the Portuguese Catholic community. I treated her for years and listened to many stories of festas (pronounced "feshta"), bullfights, queens, dances, and parades.

In the spring of 2011, after I'd self-published THE MIGHTY T and CANALS, I was looking for another idea for a book. In comes Nancy for a treatment, and this time when she mentioned she'd been at a bullfight again, it clicked. I asked her to tell me more about the bullfights and the rest, as they are fond of saying, is history.

Much of what I know about the Portuguese in the Central San Joaquin Valley I learned from Nancy. They are the most active group of people I've ever met. Here's what Manny tells Grant and McKay in chapter four, when he's giving them a lesson on Portagees:

“Now lemme tell you about the church. Portagees love their church almost as much as they love their land and their damn cows. They love it so much they make up reasons to celebrate it every damn weekend from April to November. We got parades for cows and we got celebrations for saints nobody else ever heard of. And Portagees eat. Goddamn how we eat. You’d think everyone of us would be as big as a house the way we eat.

“But we ain’t, and let me tell you why: Portagees work. Sure, we got a few lazy ones, but most Portagees work their ass off all their life. There’s no such thing as a Portagee takin’ a retirement. The farmers around here drop dead in their fields, or on their tractors or in their damn milk barns, workin’ till the day they die.”

He shook his head. “Ain’t that what you want on your gravestone?"

And, lastly, Nancy had her kids save me a seat at the bullfight, right in the front row. I've written Nancy a bit part in the book, doing what she does in real life: running the concessions at the bullfights.

I'd also like to thank my main beta reader, Jay Krow, for his valuable insight and suggestions. He pointed out the bull probably didn't macerate the matador's liver when he ran him through with his horn. The bull likely lacerated it.

I wrote the entire novel in Scrivener for Windows. Well, I compiled it in Scrivener. I wrote some of it on my iPad. I'll post about it some time.

DEATH OF A MATADOR is on sale for $2.99 through the end of next week, a day or two after the election is over. My other two novels are also on sale for $2.99. Regular price is $5.99.

I hope you enjoy the book. It's a great story.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Magazine or Clip?

When investigating whether or not to download a free ebook I came across an interesting review. (I can't recall the book's title.) The reviewer claimed the author used the word "clip" when he should have used "magazine," and went on to explain the difference. This "mistake" bothered the reviewer so much she couldn't enjoy the book. (Evidently the term "clip" was used quite a bit.)

When entering some edits from a couple of beta readers, I noticed I used the term "clip" twice in DEATH OF A MATADOR. Well, I didn't want to offend any readers so I thought I would do a little investigating of my own. This is what I learned.

A "clip" is a gadget that holds bullets until they can be moved into a magazine. A "magazine" holds bullets in position so they can be automatically loaded into the weapon's firing chamber. So, there is a difference.

It's a big deal to gun people!
However, my source, Wikipedia, says the terms have been used interchangeably in movies, TV, and novels for so many years that several dictionaries have altered their definition of "clip" to account for its common usage.

In other words, people who watch movies and TV would likely be okay with an author using "clip" instead of "magazine" in a novel. Most, myself included prior to this experience, don't know the difference. Or even knew there was a difference.

Several things can be learned here:
  1. Language is fluid. Words can change meaning based on their common usage.
  2. If you're an author and like to be as accurate as you can, do a little research on the words you use. I had used "macerate" in DEATH OF A MATADOR when "lacerate" was the correct word. I doubt the bull had time to marinate the matador's liver in vinegar prior to tearing it apart with his horns.
  3. If you're an author who is anal about things like "clip" and "magazine," and you're writing a review for a book that includes one or both of those terms, do some research before you let something as trivial as this dominate your review. Based on common usage, either term can be used without calling in the lawyers.
Here is are a couple of paragraphs from DEATH OF A MATADOR:
Dillard applied the finishing touches to his own uniform, in his hotel room in Turlock.
He checked the time, then checked his gun, removing the magazine to inspect it, reinserting it, flicking the safety on and off. Satisfied it would fire when he wanted it to, he placed it back in the hidden compartment in the camera bag.
Now picture the text with "clip" instead of "magazine." Does it ruin it for you? Maybe it does now that you know there is a difference!

 If you like words, consider Stan Carey's excellent blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


DEATH OF A MATADOR, my new Grant Starr thriller, is set to release, in ebook form, on October 16 on Amazon. I'm in the final stages of editing and formatting for the ebook, and I have what I think will be my book cover.

Like my first two novels, CANALS and THE MIGHTY T, the cover image was created on MicroSoft Publisher. It's not real fancy but I think it's not too bad for a do-it-yourself job by a guy who doesn't own a true graphics program.

Much has been written about the importance of book covers these days. If you look at the covers of most of the "classic" novels, they're plain by today's standards. I think this cover has enough bold elements to capture a potential reader's attention for a few seconds.

The cover typeface is Quartet, designed by Suzana Licko.  I bought it from Emigre back in the early-to-mid 90s, but after a quick check on their site I see they no longer sell it. I've read it's important to use typefaces you own, meaning you paid for them. I've also read you shouldn't use typefaces that come with your computer, like the MicroSoft typefaces on my new Dell Windows 7 machine. I don't know if this is true or not, but all the typefaces I've used in designed my books are ones I've purchased.

What do you think? Honest opinions are appreciated.

Update: October 15, 2012

The more I looked at the above cover, the less I liked it. So I've come up  with this one:

I took the photo at a bullfight I attended in Central California, so I own it's rights free and clear. I think this cover have better graphic elements than the first, although the first may be bolder.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Two New Reviews for The Mighty T

I recently received two new reviews for The Mighty T on Amazon. I don't know either of the reviewers, although one is an author. We recently followed each other on Twitter, but you know how that goes. I have 3,700 or so followers.

Review one (5 stars):
A really good detective thriller. Enjoyable setting, fun protagonists, and really nasty villains.
The setting in the San Joaquin Valley was well done and unique in my reading experience. Powers seems to know it well.
Grant Starr, Benson and Amber are a well matched team featuring brains, humor, and a bit of sexual tension. A cop who drives a Ferrari because he is an investment whiz is also interesting and unique.
I said the villains were nasty, but sometimes I felt sorry for them and their situation. There was an intense mix with varying motivations.
The suspense and tension kept me reading much later than I should have. It is an absorbing read with a realistic, unusual plot.
C.M. Lance
author of Wizard Dawning

Review two (4 stars):
This book had my attention from the first paragraph, then tossed me aside in the final chapter. I was thinking 5 all the way to the end. Reading this book is like building a mansion and then failing to paint it. Why waste so much effort in creating characters, building tension, crafting a plot and then quitting? It's like a great teacher resigns and lets a student conduct the last week of school.
I have to admit I'm puzzled by this review. The ending of The Mighty T was full of tension and suspense. I don't know the reviewer meant by "quitting." I certainly didn't quit.

Unless the reviewer wanted the second dam blown up.

Perhaps he or she was referring to the final wrap-up pages where I detail what happened to the Hetch Hetchy Valley after Lightfoot blew up the O'Shaughnessy Dam.

In any event, I appreciate the reviews and feedback I've received recently. I'll take a four-star review any day of the week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Scrivener for Windows: Self-Publishing

Want an easy and fairly inexpensive solution for creating files you can upload to Kindle Direct Publishing, read and edit on your tablet computer or eReader, and send to reviewers or beta readers? Look no further than Scrivener.

While I'd hoped to switch to a MacBook this year, it just wasn't in the budget. I needed a notebook computer I could use in my business as well as at home, and my business software is available only for Windows. I'm writing this post on my new Dell Inspiron, a great buy at Costco for only $500. Scrivener for Mac is far more robust than Scrivener for Windows because it's been available on the Mac for several years now.

I have two novels on Amazon, both were written with Word then uploaded to KDP in .html format. I followed the style guide published by Marc Coker at Smashwords in formatting my file. Despite significant efforts to ensure good formatting, I was recently told my The Mighty T file has formatting errors.

The problem with formatting a document with Word is it leaves gunk in the basic file. Gunk turns into font changes and formatting problems, even if you think you've done everything perfectly, as I had thought I'd done.

Scrivener gets your formatting right because it uses Amazon's own Kindlegen program. (You'll need to download and install Kindlegen before you can produce .mobi files. Good thing it's free.)

From now on, I'll use Scrivener to write my books and produce the files I need to self-publish my ebooks. Print books will still need to be formatted in another program. Currently I'm using MicroSoft Publisher for that.

In a nutshell, here's how I plan on writing and self-publishing my books:

Write my manuscript using Scrivener.

I use the example format Scrivener provides for writing novels, with a few changes. Each file folder is a chapter and I name them Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc. In the text panel for the file folder (chapter) I write whatever I please. My current novel will have chapters titled "Chapter 1 - Monday".

Below each file folder I insert a text placeholder for each scene in the chapter. This has been great for easily getting around in the manuscript. No more using the search function in Word to find a scene.

If I've written a new scene on my iPad, I can import it into Scrivener and format it as I've formatted everything else in the MS in less than a minute. Editing scenes I've created in Scrivener on my iPad isn't a simple process, however. The scene must first be exported into a .txt file. I use DropBox to sync up such files with iA Writer, my iPad writing app. I'm told Mac users can edit files, or parts of files, on their mobile devices by using another app. I think it's called OneNote, but I'm not positive. They don't have to export their files first.

Edit either on paper or on my iPad.

Once I've editing my MS a couple of times on the computer, it's ready to be either printed or compiled to a format that can be read on my iPad. Editing on my iPad went so well with my WIP that I may skip the printing stage next time.

I compiled my MS into .mobi files this time, then emailed them to my Kindle email address. They showed up on my Kindle app in 5-10 minutes. I could then edit them on my iPad wherever I please without having to carry a folder of paper around with me. If you're in WiFi range, each edit is uploaded and saved.

I may play with the Stanza app next time as it allows me to read and edit in Courier, my favorite typeface for writing. It takes .epub files, which Scrivener makes, of course.

I have one beef with the version of Scrivener I'm currently using, when printing. You need to remember to tell it to print page numbers because by default it doesn't. The page numbers won't help you find your place in Scrivener, because there aren't any page numbers in Scrivener. But just imagine you've printed, say, 100 pages to edit and, klutz that you are, you drop them on the floor. You're out of luck if you didn't have the program print page numbers for you.

Publish to Amazon with Scrivener.

There's a bit of a learning curve to do this, and I'm afraid the Scrivener manual isn't much help. I'm not one who likes to take a lot of time writing posts with screen shots and tedious step-by-step instructions. Plenty of editors and writing have already done this: Google is your friend for finding their posts.

The only thing Scrivener won't do is help you create your book cover. You'll need a graphics program (I did mine in an old copy of MS Publisher) for that, or better yet, hire someone to do it for you.

When you're ready to format for print, Scrivener will compile your MS to a .rtf format for easy importing by your layout program.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Using Your Kindle and Scrivener For Editing

I've blogged a couple of times recently about the editing process. I've written than I edit my first few drafts on-screen because they are very rough drafts. When I think I'm done editing on-screen I print a hard copy, in courier typeface. I catch many errors when editing on hard-copy that I missed when editing on-screen.

In the past, hard-copy-editing would be the end of the line for me. I'd go through a couple of printouts, then publish the ebook version of my book (after designing the cover, of course). I published my first two books to Smashwords and would download copies of both the EPub and Kindle versions to browse through, to ensure I'd gotten the formatting down. But I no longer publish to Smashwords because I got so few sales there and have come to believe that Amazon is my path to better sales.

I've recently discovered another beneficial mode of manuscipt editing: editing on my iPad using the Kinle app. Here's why I think self-published authors shouldn't ignore this valuable tool.

You should view and edit your work in every form your readers will be exposed to. 

CreateSpace will tell you to scrutinize the proof copy of your printed book; you should donthe same for the Kindle version.

I wrote my current novel completely in Scrivener for Windows. This software allows you to "compile" your novel in the Kindle format. (It does require you to download and install a free piece of software from Amazon.) Once the Kindle file has been produced, email it to your Kindle email address. In about ten minutes, your file will be downloaded to your device. Keep in mind you have to have approved the email address you use to send files to your Kindle. If you fail to do that, your file will not appear on your device.

Once you have your manuscript on your iPad, read and edit away. I highlight words or text I want to delete, without adding an explanatory note. If something's highlighted and there's no note, it means delete. If I want to change one word, I'll simply add a note to that word; no need to highlight anything. If I want to rewrite severals words, even a paragraph, I first highlight the text, then add a note with the changes I want made.

I haven't finished my Kindle edit, but I suspect what I'll do is set my iPad next to my computer and go through the file page by page, making edits and corrections where indicated.

I don't know if this can be done, but it'd be cool if I could send one of these Kindle files to a beta reader, have them make suggestions or notes on their device, then email the file back to me. I can't see how this would work on a regular Kindle, but it seems it would be possible on and iPad because you have access to many files on the iPad when it's plugged into a computer. Come to think of it, you also have access to files on a regular Kindle via a PC, as well. I'll have to look into this and report back.

The takeaway message is, try and view your work in every format your readers might view it in. Don't just edit, also check your formatting. See how the text looks on the page. Are there any huge spaces or tightly-bunched words that make the text look ugly. If the page looks ugly, it won't be inviting to read.

Now, get to work!

(No pictures or fancy formatting this time. I typed this post into Blogger from my iPad. We recently moved out of state and neglected to pack our monitors and keyboards. My wife will be here in a couple of days with the goods.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Editing: Cut, Cut, and Cut

As I am heavy into the editing mode, I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned about editing.

I wrote both of my self-published novels prior to 2011. Frustrated at not being able to find a publisher or agent, one day I Googled “self publishing” and found Smashwords. Mark Coker’s marketing guide sent me to Twitter, and Twitter led me to several web sites that’ve helped my writing considerably. I reference them at the end of my post.

One of the most important things a writer can do is learn to recognize and remove extra words. Your book will flow better because the reader won’t need to plow through superfluous verbage.

Here are some examples:

1. “Always”. Run a search on your manuscript for “always”, then delete the first one you find and see if it changes the meaning of the sentence. It rarely will. Example:

Grant always got his coffee at a local shop, avoiding the national chain because he thought they charged far too much.

I’ll go a little further than removing one word, I’ll remove four:

Grant got his coffee at a local shop, avoiding the national chain he thought charged too much.

Removing the four words didn’t change the meaning of the sentence, and you’ve tightened your text up.

You could also say avoiding the national chain that charged too much or avoiding the expensive national chain, but it would take Grant’s opinion out of the equation.

2. Directional use of “up” and “down”; i.e., “stand up” and “sit down”.

Grant stood up and punched Manny in the nose.
Bensen sat down in one of Grant’s guest chairs.

It’s presumed that when you stand, you stand up. Standing down is done only in the military.

Grant stood and punched Manny in the nose.
Bensen sat in one of Grant’s guest chairs.

I’ll break this rule on occasion with a sentence like,

Grant stood and gave Amber a kiss, then sat back down.

To my ears Grant stood and gave Amber a kiss, then sat sounds abrupt.


Grant drove up to Redding in the Ferrari, making the trip in just over three hours.

Redding is north of Modesto, where Grant works and lives. North is “up.”

Grant took the Ferrari to Redding, making the trip in just over three hours.

“Just” is one of those words that can usually be cut as well, but to do so in this sentence, to retain the original meaning, I would have to make the sentence longer. I’m hesitant to do that.

3. “That” is one of the most overused words in fiction. Run a search and see if you can eliminate each instance.

Amber thought that the suspect was lying to her.
Amber thought the suspect was lying to her.

4. ”Very” is another overused word. Give it the ax, if you can.

Bensen was very worried that Grant was losing it.
Bensen was worried Grant was losing it.

A bonus: I got rid of very and that.

5. “There” is weak and often unnecessary.

Hanks knocked on the door, but there was no one home.
Hanks knocked on the door, but no one was home. Or, but no one answered.

6. Any word ending in “ly” can usually be chopped. Be ruthless with this! Few things are worse than a story full of adjectives. They are a crutch for poor writing. I hate them so much I can’t bring myself to write out some examples.

If you’re interested in improving, by tightening up, your writing, check out these sites:

Monday, July 23, 2012

On-Screen Vs. Hard-Copy Editing

Let me preface this post by stating the obvious: everyone is different. My method for editing manuscripts works for me, but may not work for you. However, if you’re a new writer you may be looking for ideas. Play around with the information a bit if you like, then keep what works and discard the rest.

How old are you? If you’re thirty-five or younger you probably learned how to type on a computer. I learned how to type on a manual typewriter, likely a leftover from WWII. I’m sure it weighed at least sixty pounds.  I bought my first computer when I was twenty-eight for $1,200 (I think—that was a long time ago). It had a 20 megabyte hard drive. That’s megabyte, not gigabyte. The first version of Windows I had came on a floppy disc.

If you learned how to type on a computer, it’s likely you’re far more used to editing on a computer screen than I am. I’ve learned to work on a screen over the years, but it’s not how I started out.

I know writers who write their first draft longhand, then send the pages to someone who types them up for them. John Grisham used to write his manuscripts longhand. Being an attorney, I’m sure he was used to that medium. Stephen King wrote Carrie on a typewriter. Both writers produced hard copies of their draft immediately.

I don’t produce a hard copy until I reasonably sure I’m close to my final two or three edits. I’ll typically go through my manuscript three, four, or five times before I print it out. Why? It’s far easier to make changes on the screen.

My first draft is generally too long as I let the words flow without restraint. I’m not a plotter, meaning I don’t have everything figured out before I start writing. I begin with a premise, start writing and see when my characters and the story takes me. There’s no way I would want to edit my first draft from a hard copy.

When I’m finally satisfied my manuscript is almost done, I print it out in eleven-point Courier. Ten is too small for my aging eyes and twelve, the standard, is too big and wastes paper. If I have scratch paper around, I print my drafts on the back of that. I freely admit I’m a penny-pincher.

I find more errors when I edit on paper than on-screen. I can’t explain why, but I catch wording problems I didn’t see the first four times I went through the manuscript, see more typos and improper word usage (“you’re” instead of “your”), and discover inconsistencies I should have caught before.

Hopefully, by the time I’m editing on paper I don’t have whole paragraphs to change. Typically, all I have to do is change or delete a few words on each page. Occasionally I delete whole paragraphs when I can’t get them to work.

Which brings up another issue. Ever have sentences or paragraphs that you just can’t get to make sense, or always end up sounding wrong after several edits? I’ve learned it’s usually best to delete them. Try this next time it happens to you: delete the difficult passage and reread that part of your manuscript. Most of the time you won’t notice anything has been taken away.

I like editing on paper more than on-screen because I can do it anywhere, and I can use my favorite pen (I have many favorite pens). I can use a fine-tipped fountain pen or a roller ball pen, or a felt pen if I wish. And I can edit at my desk at work, or in a cafĂ©, or a bookstore, or any other comfortable spot I choose. I’m not tethered to the computer.

My final proof is printed in twelve-point Times New Roman, not Courier. It’s more economical on the page and my readers will be reading my work in a proportionally-spaced typeface, not a mono-spaced typeface.

When I’m finished, the manuscript goes out for others to read. Usually family members who don’t mind telling me when something doesn’t work.

Good luck with your writing and editing!

Monday, June 25, 2012

WIP Sample: My favorite mayor, again

I'm editing the final chapter of the novel I'm working on, the second Grant Starr thriller. I've stated several times in posts that my favorite character is Mayor Mateus Dutra, "Manny".

Grant thinks Manny is dirty, which he is, and suspects he killed a female member of the city council he'd once had an affair with, for reasons unknown. Probably having something to do with the pot deal Manny is trying to push through the city council. Grant collected some of Manny's DNA and his fingerprints the night before, from some bar glasses, and is waiting for the lab to process the evidence. He's sure Manny's DNA will match skin found under the victim's fingernails.

Manny's in a pinch. He doesn't know he's being investigated for murder, he just thinks Grant's on him about taking a bribe, which he hasn't yet done. He's got $300,000 coming Wednesday night, from the pot company, for his part in getting the city council to sign on. But the cops have been all over him... All he's gotta do is make it to Wednesday.

The final chapter takes place on a Monday. Manny has negotiated a little advance on his bribe, which he expects to collect at the bullfight that night. But then Grant is in his face again...

Grant pulled his truck into a parking slot in front of Dutra Insurance Services and shut off the motor. They could see the mayor through the floor-to-ceiling window, and the mayor made a face at them, and said something to his secretary. She glanced out the window at the detectives piling out of the truck, grabbed her purse and exited the front door, holding it open for the detectives.
"What can I do for the cops today?" Mayor Dutra said, trying on his mayor face.
They had decided, in the truck on the way, they wouldn't divulge they were investigating him for the murder of Marina Terra.
Grant said, "I'm glad you didn't leave town, Mayor."
"I ain't got a reason to leave town, and I gotta be at the bullfight tonight anyway. I told you everyone calls me Manny."
"I don't care what everyone calls you, I'm calling you Mayor Dutra."
This brought a glare from the mayor, which he quickly tried to turn into a smile. He and Grant stared at each other until Bensen said, "What time you closing the office today?"
"Why do you wanna know? I don't gotta tell the cops when I'm closin' up."
"In case we need to talk to you again."
The mayor turned his head to face Bensen and said, "Maybe three, maybe four."
"You goin' home after that?" Bensen said.
"I told you I gotta go to the bullfight tonight. I gotta march in the openin' ceremonies."
Grant shifted gears. "Have you spoken to anyone from Allied Valley Growers today?"
The mayor turned back to Grant, his face a dark red. "You know how you kiss a Portagee's ass? The same way you kiss that bitches ass" -- he pointed at Amber -- "you kiss it, but you don't gotta give it no tongue."
Grant popped out of his chair, reached a long arm across the desk and grabbed the mayor's collar and yanked it, lowered his face to the mayor's and said, "You motherfucker..." He made a fist with his free hand and cocked his arm.
Caught off guard, the mayor fell forward onto the desk, grunting and cursing in Portuguese. Bensen and Amber jumped up and grabbed Grant's cocked arm, and Bensen said, "Whoa there Ali. Let's cool this down a tad."
Grant shouted into Dutra's face: "I'm gonna kick your ass, you hear me!"
The mayor, struggling to regain his balance, said, "I'm gonna sue your ass! I told you I ain't gonna talk to you no more without my attorney and now I'm gonna sue your ass!"
Grant shoved Dutra back into his chair, which did not hold his weight and tumbled backward, spilling him onto the floor. Grant shook off Bensen and Amber and pushed his way to Dutra, kicked him in the ribs and bent down and growled, "You pissed off the wrong cop, and you know what? Before this day is done it'll be my pleasure to lock your fat ass up. If I don't kill you first."
Dutra flailed his arms, trying to right himself, looking like a turtle caught on his back, and he shouted, "I'll have your badge and everything you got! I'm gonna--"
"Stuff it," Grant said. "It'll be your word against three cops, and everyone in town knows you're a crook."
"He took a swing at you," Bensen said. "We can haul him in for assaulting a police officer." He moved to stand on the other side of Dutra.
"You fuckers!" Dutra yelled. But he quit thrashing.
"We should haul your ass in," Grant said, "make a spectacle of it. But I'm gonna wait until we got enough on you so they never let you out."
Dutra stared up into Grant's face and said, "You wouldn't be so tough without that badge and gun."
Grant pulled his shield and gun out and set them on Dutra's desk. "You wanna try right now fat man?"
Their eyes remained locked for ten seconds, then Dutra said, "Get outta my office."
Grant said, "We'll be seeing you soon," picked up his things and the detectives filed out of the mayor's office.

Sweating and shaking with fury, Manny rolled out of his chair and used the desk to pull himself up. The blue Ford was backing away from his office, but he could see the tall cop looking back at him. He gave the cop the bird, and the cop made a gun with his index finger and thumb and fired it at Manny.
"Goddamn you!" Manny yelled.
He lurched to the water cooler, drank three cups and doused his face. He knew a guy who could get him a gun on short notice. In fact, he knew a couple of guys. He didn't think the cops had anything on him, he hadn't taken any money yet, but if they did, he'd take that cop down with him. He'd shoot him if the face if it was the last thing he'd do.
 The section still needs a little polishing, but I like it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: "Van Raighan's Last Stand" by R.J. Davnall

This review is for episodes one through four of R.J. Davnall’s “The Second Realm” stories, which are contained in the volume titled “Van Raighan’s Last Stand.” It can be found here on Amazon U.S. and here on Amazon U.K.

It’s been many years since I’ve read a fantasy book, but I’ve been trying to expand the genres I read. I ran across Davnall’s blog, enjoyed his writing there, and decided to give his stories a read.

The story is set some seventy years after the “RealmCrash,” where, presumably, the First and Second Realms somehow collided, causing the death of most of Earth’s inhabitants (if indeed the book takes place on Earth). Pre-RealmCrash cities are in ruins but a form of government still exists. Story conflict takes place between inhabitants of each Realm, with those of the Second Realm being more powerful than those of the First.

Davnall plops the reader right down into the story, without a prelude, which I had mixed feelings about at first. It was difficult to follow the plot at times because I didn’t know what terms like “Gift Giver” and “Clearseeing” meant until I’d read most of the first story. Later I decided it was the right thing to do as it allows the plot to flow naturally. You’re fed the back story a little at a time instead of all at once, which shows restraint by the author and good story-telling ability.

The scenes where the Clearseeing is done are fantastic. You’re really taken into the mind of the Clearseer, Rel, and are led to feel what he’s feeling and see what he’s seeing. I really enjoyed the final, forth story; very exciting.

There’s a bit too much text spent inside Rel’s head for my liking, what he’s thinking and feeling, but I’m an action kind of reader: I want something to happen! And he’s a bit too temperamental for me, too, prone to emotional outbursts and pouting.

All-in-all, a superb fantasy story! The ending is a cliffhanger, making me look forward to the next installment. Highly recommended.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kind Review for THE MIGHTY T

I received a nice review for THE MIGHTY T last week.As I've written before, I appreciate honest reviews from readers I don't know. Actually, I appreciate honest reviews period.

I think both of my novels are good entertainment. I hold no delusions I'll ever win a Pulitzer for them, but I think I give my readers more than their money's worth.

Here's the review in it's entirety:

Okay, I admit it. I actually had a dream about this thriller. The Mighty T by Everett Powers is a well-plotted and written indie book. His characters--stars, average Joes, and dumb asses--are real and given their appropriate due. The dialogue is tight. And Powers keeps upping the ante on the level to which an eco-terrorist will go to get what he wants. While I found the ensemble cast a bit difficult to keep straight at the start, the story and characters straighten out quick enough once Detective Grant Starr starts dominating the page. The story is analogous to a real investigation. It starts with a measure of confusion that ultimately gets clarity. The villain is thought-provokingly delusional and bad to the bone. The secondary villain is a bit more difficult to fathom, but that's okay. She's a throw-back hottie with an edge.

One thing that bugs me about thrillers is the amount of mayhem authors often give away before it's necessary. This story gave some away, but not enough to ruin what happens next or at the end. The last 140 pages flew by - that's great, because I stayed up to two a.m. to finish reading it. I love when that happens. The dénouement, however, dragged a bit. The story was over; the adrenalin rush dissipated; close it out. Some may find the technical information too much to absorb, but I liked it. The environment/economic message was evenly played.

There is a lot to like here, and I'm tempted to read Powers' next book, Canals. Despite some minor flaws, this is a great read for a thriller lover and a really good read for the rest of us. But how did it end up on my Kindle? It's a borderline baby, but any book that makes me dream about it before I'm finished with it gets extra points. The minor flaws keep it from being a total knockout, but it still slides under the wire into the "5" camp of books that deliver and deserve to be read. Well done. Read it.
The reviewers criticisms are fair and not new to me. His/her (Rick? Carrie?) rating of 5 stars is more than generous.

I'd like to ask a favor. Would you please visit my THE MIGHTY T page on Amazon and "like" this review? "Like" any others you, er, like, as well. Thanks.

Here's the link.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finished first draft of next Grant Starr thriller

No one does the happy dance better than Snoopy!

I finally finished the first draft of my next Grant Starr thriller. I wish I could tell you its title, but I don't know what it is. I began writing this book in April of 2011 and had planned on publishing it in the fall of 2011. Unfortunately, life happened and other things became more important than finishing a novel.

I was tempted to ditch the project for personal reasons, but thought it had merit and deserved to be fleshed out. It weighed in at about 45K words when I set it on the shelf last June and comes in at 131K as a first draft. CANALS ended up at 140K and the THE MIGHTY T at about 100K. I have to admit it was very difficult to complete. I have a great idea for the third Grant Starr thriller, so good it was difficult to ignore its pleas to be written.

This book begins and ends at a "bloodless" Portuguese bullfight, held in a small town about thirty miles from me. They're called bloodless because the bulls aren't killed or hurt, unless you call having to chase a horse or a skinny man dressed funny around the arena being hurt. I've attended two of these bullfights and they're some of the most exciting events I've ever attended.

I wanted to do something a little more challenging this time: I wanted to have two plots that intersected. I don't care to read overly complicated genre books, so I don't write them. As with THE MIGHTY T, the reader will now who done what to whom pretty early in the book. The suspense comes with wondering if they're gonna get away with it, or get caught. I'm not telling!

Hopefully it will be ready for publication in July.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sample Wednesday: A Hungover Mayor

This is a sample from the novel I'm currently working on, the second Grant Starr thriller. It is yet untitled.

Mayor Dutra, "Manny," one of the bad guys in the book, has become one of my favorite characters. He drinks too much and is crude and crooked: delicious qualifications for a fictional small-town mayor.

I was going to provide a little info to set up the scene, but thought better of it. You should be able to figure out what's going on from the text. The first draft will be done this month and I hope to have it published by June. Enjoy!

(But keep in mind this is in rough draft form and may have the heck edited out of it in rewrites.)

   Manny had trouble getting out of bed Thursday morning; he'd gone drinking again after the council meeting, and he'd tied one on good. He crawled into the shower and let the hot water beat some life into him, then stumbled into the kitchen to get the coffee going.
   When hot coffee began gurgling out of the machine, he switched a mug for the pot and held it there until it was half full, stuck the pot back on the plate and put an ice cube in the mug, pushed the cube around with a spoon and the phone rang.
   He groaned and got the handset off the counter, punched the button and croaked into the mouthpiece, "Yeah?"
   "Mayor Dutra?"
   Manny frowned. "Yeah, who's this?" The accent was familiar, but his alcohol-hammered brain couldn't produce a name or a face.
   "This is Lorne Eames, from Valley Unified Growers. How are you today?"
Eames ... He connected the name with the accent, but the name of the company didn't click. "I had better mornings."
   "I hope that doesn't mean the meeting went poorly last night."
   Ah, that Eames: the pot guy. Manny felt his spirits pick up, and felt as if a little more blood had found its way into his brain. "The council meetin' went just like I said it would."
   "Hmm ... Does that mean it looks good for the vote next week?"
   "I got three votes lined up." Manny took a hit of the coffee. "That's all I need, three."
   "Right, you said all you needed was a simple majority. What are the odds someone might change their mind by next Wednesday?"
   Manny pictured the faces of the three yes votes he had in his pocket; two had been blackmailed, so he was sure of them. Marina had said yes, as he'd thought she would, but because he had nothing on her, he couldn't be absolutely sure of her loyalty. He told Eames: "Zero. You don't got a problem with the money, do you?"
"No, Laken has the funds lined up so we'll have the cash next week."
   "I want it Wednesday night, after the council meetin'. I want it right after the vote."
   "Will the documents be signed at the meeting? We'll need our guarantees before we can release the funds."
Damn. Manny had forgotten about the papers. The papers would require the city attorney, Leonard Caldas, to be involved, and attorneys were never in a hurry to get anything done because they got paid by the hour. He wondered if he could talk to Leonard today, get him primed for next week.
   "I forgot about the damn attorney. I'm gonna take the papers over there today and get him to put a rush on it."
   "We'll be there next Wednesday, Laken and I, with the cash. If you can get the papers signed that night, it's all yours. We're eager to get started."
   "I'll let you know," Manny said, then hung up.
   He had drained his mug and so refilled it, this time adding milk to cool the coffee. At the table, he started thinking about how he could get the attorney Leonard Caldas to do something in a week that he usually took two months to do.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Author Interview: Lorna Suzuki

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I’m pleased to introduce Lorna Suzuki, prolific self-published author, screenwriter, film consultant, and Ninja. If I was Lorna, I’d have one terrific business card printed up. This is the first interview I’ve done on my blog, and from what you’ll read below, I hope you’ll agree I saved the best for first!

Lorna Suzuki

Your website says your previous “day job” was in law enforcement and that you are a “5th-dan practitioner and instructor of Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.” I don’t know what that means exactly, but it sounds badass and I mean to find out in this interview. Writers often, but not always, draw from their day jobs when creating fiction. Did you? Or was your fiction a way to escape from the day job?

“Definitely. My experiences being one of only two female peace officers in the Federal Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans in all of British Columbia, way back when women were just entering this field and the RCMP [Canadian cops, for those of us south of the border], and as a diminutive female teaching martial arts in an all-male dojo, did make its way into my novels.

“It was not so much actual events that impacted me, but more the sexist/chauvinistic attitudes I dealt with stepping into these male-dominated arenas. Oh… and I guess some of the brawls the female protagonist gets into were loosely based on some of the fights I’ve been in (and no, I never started these fights, nor did I ever fight against other women, just guys who usually had too much to drink).”

Lorna kicking some dude's butt.

In reading about Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu on your site, it sounds exotic and rare. How did you get started in it? Is it as much or more of a passion than your writing?

“I suppose writing is a passion and martial arts can be regarded as a lifestyle. I actually started in karate almost thirty years ago in an all male, full-contact club. I spent about the first three months getting severely beaten up as the guys never had a woman join and stay for more than a week or two. When they realized I was tougher than they expected and was there to learn, I gradually earned their respect. I spilled some blood and broke a few bones, but I survived.”

“After about four years, this club closed and I moved on to Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu. I much prefer this style, so much that I train and teach it now. It’s much easier on the body and you get maximum effect with minimum effort, especially when you learn pressure points. It focuses on a person’s strengths and because I’m so small, I seemed to take to the bone-breaking and muscle-tearing techniques with ease. The style incorporates six traditional samurai schools and three schools of ninjitsu. You’ll never see us in the tournament circuit as our style is strictly for self-defense.”

Writers always get asked “When did you start writing?” So, when did you start writing? (I mean fiction, and seriously. Not just goofing around.)

“I’ve been writing fiction for ten years now, but in all honesty, even after I finished the first three novels in the Imago fantasy series, I can’t say I really took my writing seriously (other than writing a seriously good story). Now, working on my 12th and probably last novel, I still don’t know if I take my writing seriously! I think if I did, it wouldn’t be fun anymore.

“Now, if you mean taking writing seriously as in making efforts to be published via a traditional publishing house, then I suppose I’ll never take it seriously as I’ve turned down multi-book publishing deals. To those who strive for traditional publication, I suspect they view me as being downright goofy (some say crazy) for not accepting a ‘real’ publishing deal when it was offered.”

I’d like to see my books made into movies. The first three books of your Imago Chronicles series have been optioned for film. Could you please tell me how you did this? Take as much time as you like.

“Many people have told me it’s because I’m a talented storyteller, that it’s the quality of my stories and my characters that these books are being adapted for the big screen. I don’t know how true this is, and I do know there are many indie authors who are way better writers than I am, but to tell you the truth, a lot of it has to do with luck.

“I was lucky I was invited to do an interview on MTV. I was lucky my book was used as a weapon during a martial arts demo and it caught the eyes of a film producer. I was lucky she bought my books, read them and fell in love with the stories and the characters. I was lucky that I had an excellent entertainment lawyer who negotiated a wonderful option agreement. I was just very lucky and grateful!”

[A Roman philosopher named Senenca is credited as saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I suspect your luck had more to do with you being ready for such opportunities than to some whim of the Universe.]

Your site also says you are a “consultant/scriptwriter on the PBS TV series ‘West Coast Adventures.’ ” How did this position come about? Do you have to travel or can you do all your consulting and scriptwriting from home?

“My husband is a videographer and was working as a cameraman for his friend, Danny Sayson’s adventure travel series. Danny knew I had written a documentary that aired on The Biography Channel so he asked my husband Scott if I’d be interested in researching for his show, as well as writing scripts when needed. Danny seemed to like what I was doing so I was brought onto this project, whipping up scripts and factual information the host of the show could share. But traveling? No! My hubby got to travel all over and I got to view the footage!”

It looks like there are seven books in the Imago Chronicles, as well as two prequels, all published since 2002. Plus two Dream Merchant Saga books. Eleven books in ten years! And a 5th-dan Ninja, and some kind of spy or cop, and a husband and a kid: how in the world did you have time to do all that? Oh wait, I forgot that you also sold three of your books for film. Don’t you have to sleep?

“I used to function on very little sleep, but not so much anymore. I quit my day job last November to focus on writing full time and to work on the movie project as I’ve been hired as the creative consultant. But before that, I knew all about juggling my job with child, home, writing, teaching martial arts, etc. When my daughter was a baby, it meant writing after she was in bed and working until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, and then waking up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. to go off to work. My daughter now writes with me. Mind you, I still find there is not enough time in the day to get everything done and it really makes me wonder how I survived doing this for ten years.”

You’ve been writing with your daughter, Nia, and these are not little novellas—they’re full-length novels. How has that experience gone? Who has the final say in what stays and what winds up on the editing floor? Is Nia planning a full-time writing career?

“Nia started as my YA consultant because it had been a long time since I was considered a young adult. Plus, being so well read, she had her finger on the pulse of the popular, timely issues relevant to those in her age group.

“With Book Two: The Silver Sword, I proudly showed her the first completed chapter. She read it and said, ‘Mom, this is good, but it can be better.’ I pushed the laptop in her direction and said; ‘Show me!’ She plunked herself down at my computer and began typing away. If you read this book, she wrote the opening scene.

“Now she writes in every chapter and we’re finishing up our third novel, Book Three: The Crack’d Shield. Not only does Nia have a hand in writing, she reviews and helps to proofread the entire manuscript. She tells me what works, if the funny scenes are genuinely funny, or if the dialogue is of a quality that readers will feel like they’re listening in on the characters’ conversations.

“As for Nia continuing with her writing career? That is completely up to her. She’s very smart and very talented so she’ll have many opportunities available to her, more than I ever had. Like me, I hope she dares to strike out on her own path and pursues something she can be truly passionate about.”

As far as your writing career is concerned, what are you most proud of? If you’ve any regrets about it, what would you do differently?

“I know some authors out there will think I regret not rewriting my adult epic fantasy, The Imago Chronicles just to have a book deal. A few years ago, I met with Jessie Finkelstein, then an editor with Raincoast Books, the publisher of Harry Potter here in Canada. She loved the whole concept about this heroine, but the catch was I’d have to be willing to rewrite the Imago series to make it suitable for a YA audience. I told her ‘thank you, but no, I can’t do that.’

“Some writers I know are dying to get traditionally published because they view it as validation of their writing abilities. Many have told me I’m crazy for walking away from book deals like this, but I can’t say I regret remaining indie.

“Although this movie-optioned series is still struggling to find readers amongst so many thousands of titles available out there, I’m most proud that an Oscar-nominated/Golden Globe winning production team found my stories compelling enough to invest a huge amount of money and time on A Warrior’s Tale. Look for it on the big screen in the not too distant future!”

What are your plans for the next 5-10 years, if you care to share.

“After I finish writing Book Three of The Dream Merchant Saga I plan to enter deep hibernation and hide from the world for six months. Just kidding! I’ll probably retire my fiction-writing career and focus my energy on the movie project slated for full production this fall (if we hit no snafus). If the first movie is a great success, there are plans to produce Books 2 and 3 back-to-back.”

Here’s your chance to ad lib. Is there anything else I or my audience should know about you?

“For those curious about the people who are making A Warrior’s Tale into a movie, here’s the latest info I was able to share: I had the chance to finally announce the production team behind the Imago Fantasy series that had been optioned for a major motion picture trilogy!
“It’s a co-pro with indie film producer Michy Gustavia and her good friend Ari Lantos, producer at Serendipity Point Films. Ari & his father, Robert Lantos, are best known for the Oscar nominated Eastern Promises starring Viggo Mortensen and Golden Globe winners Barney’s Version and Being Julia.

“The award winning screenwriter is Michael Bruce Adams; he did a wonderful job on the screenplay. Michael has extensive experience in the film industry. His credits include writing Reach For Me starring Alfre Woodard and as the story consultant on Sepia Film’s Shine of Rainbows starring Aiden Quinn.

“Imago Chronicles: Book One A Warrior’s Tale was pitched to the film industry as LoTR & 300 meets The Last Samurai, and with such a great team behind this project, it holds a lot of promise! Full production of A Warrior’s Tale is slated for fall of 2012. Casting is currently underway.”

If this brief interview has whetted your appetite for some of Lorna’s work, you can find it all on her excellent website:

Lorna's site

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reviews from Random Readers

One of the disadvantages of publishing your own books is getting them reviewed. If I had signed with a publisher, and they thought I had a good chance of making them some money, they would have sent my books to professional reviewers. Then, when the glowing reports came back, they'd use them for dusk jackets and other marketing. This is called third-party validation. In other words, I wouldn't be tooting my own horn when I said my books were great.

(Mind you, if your publisher didn't think you stood a good chance of making them some money you'd have to do this kind of legwork yourself.)

As an Indie (independent publisher) you have two options. Well, three.
  1. Give a copy of your book to your friends and relatives and ask them to read and review it for you. This is usually frowned upon as few people think friends and relatives would say anything negative about your writing. Reviews of this nature are typically easy to spot and are ignored by astute book buyers.
  2. Ask a fellow Indie to read and review your books. I don't think there's anything wrong with this provided an honest review is requested. Fellow writers can be shills as well as friends or relatives, but they can also be objective. If you gave them a copy to read for free, then a review should not be expected, IMO. You'd hope a review written by a writer would be better written than a review from a reader, but that's not always the case.
  3. Wait until someone buys your book and reviews it on their own. I call these reviews from "real" readers or "random" readers. These people don't know you and couldn't care less if they hurt your feelings. Good or bad, these can be some of the best reviews. They may not be written as well as a professional review or a review from another writer, but they're honest (or should be). 
I received two such reviews for my horror novel CANALS recently. They either bought the book off Amazon or got it free during my promo in January. Here they are:

"Canals" starts off with an interesting and grabbing premise. A different sort of monster. But the story soon goes off on tangents that really catch one off-guard. By the time you have finished with this book, you will wonder where Powers ever got his ideas from? Is he trying to tell us something? Is he an...Advocate? An exciting and quite gory story that you just sit back and enjoy. "Canals" is well worth the read."
Mr. Powers does a fine job blending elements of horror and science fiction in this fast-paced and often gruesome tale. The story reminded me of those good old monster movies that I loved as a boy, updated with plenty of splatter. Mr. Powers presents some nicely developed characters in a satisfying and fun little thriller that I would certainly recommend to anyone who enjoys the horror genre."

I don't know either of them and after looking at some of their other reviews, they hand out 4 stars with a light hand.

Now, I know I won't get all 4 or 5 star reviews but as long as I satisfy most of my readers I'm okay.

Incidentally, the last time my mother stopped by my office she bought both of my books in paperback, against my protestations. "Mom, I can't charge you!" She insisted. A week or so later she told me she was reading CANALS. I cringed. My mom is an angel mistakenly sent to Earth almost 80 years ago; I can't imagine her reading a horror novel. As you read in the review above, there is some gory stuff in CANALS.

Anyway, she said she love it (I assume not the rougher parts) and found it very difficult to put down toward the end (because she was anxious to get it over with?). And, she found an additional 13 typos or improper word usages—thanks Mom. I've already uploaded them to Amazon. The print version will have to wait.