Where Gregory Delaurentis, Author of Cover of Darkness, Gets his Ideas

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WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM? 

Ideas can come from anywhere at any time. I like it best when they come from the source, which to me is reality. I am so open to different situations and encounters that I carry a tiny Moleskine book on me at all times. If something happens or a phrase is stated, I jot it down quickly for inclusion somewhere in some book. I am a keen observer of reality and this is the reason why. I don’t want to miss anything. Many times when I see things occurring I write the scene in my head, hopefully sharpening my skills.

The last place that I like to get ideas from is from the work of others. That means television and books. Many times I learn what not to do from these sources, or how to do them differently. I think that in most television shows, although appearing original, as well as some books, they are filled with the same canned experiences and situations. This is regrettable because there are so many good ideas in the beginning but it’s obvious that the writers have nowhere to go but to trudge out the same swill that they either are comfortable with or have seen in some other show or work.

Still, the purest of ideas come from life and a writer’s experience going through life. That’s what makes us all unique, and that’s why there is so much variety in books, because we bring our individuality to the table and present it between the pages.

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BLURB:  

A high profile murder of a Wall Street executive in Westchester pits three people against the criminal underbelly of Manhattan nightlife. The key players are two ex-cops turned private investigators—Kevin Whitehouse, whose sharpest tool is his keen analytical mind, and David Allerton, a former Special Forces operative—and Margaret Alexander, Kevin’s lover. In their search for a killer, they are forced to travel to the edge of sanity and morality, while stumbling onto their own confusing secrets as well. The Cover of Darkness is a gritty noir saga that untangles a web of deceit in the course of tracking down a brutal murderer.

EXCERPT:

David stopped pacing, and then started working on a rock embedded in the dirt with the toe of his shoe. “I wonder why MacDonald didn’t say anything in the interview about the cops being present. He should have told us that there were cops in the Midnight for protection—making sure the dealers were selling and not using.”

“Maybe,” Kevin ventured, “he didn’t want to drop a dime on his cop friends. Maybe he was frightened.”

“Maybe. That would have helped us a lot,” David said, his eye caught by a shapely girl on a bike riding nearby.

Margaret sat up. “That would also explain how the killer got past the gate and simply walked into the house. He could have been flashing a badge.”

“That makes some sense,” Kevin said. “And certainly cops can kill.”

“They make the best assassins, don’t they?” David quipped.

“So now this is a cop hunt?” Kevin asked.

“I would rather it end here, guys,” Margaret said.

David approached the two and stood over them. “The question is now how to hunt the most dangerous thing in New York. Crossing the thin blue line is not going to be fun or easy.”

“Fun?” Margaret said. “It’s downright dangerous.”

“We can’t go to Ferryman and Reynolds,” Kevin said, nervously running his fingers through his hair, and retrieving his arm from around Margaret as he sat up. “They’ll only go on the defensive. And if the case starts turning in that direction, they’ll only deflect it.”

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AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Gregory Delaurentis spent his adult life roaming from job to job, working for Lockheed in California, various law firms in New York, and financial firms on Wall Street. Throughout this period of time, he was writing—unceasingly—finally producing a large body of work, albeit unrecognized and unpublished . . . until now. Cover of Darkness is the first in a series of upcoming books that include Edge of Darkness, Pale of Darkness and Cries of Darkness. These novels follow the lives of three individuals who do battle bringing criminals to justice, while they struggle to understand the complex relationships that exist among themselves. This intriguing trio has absorbed the attention of Mr. Delaurentis for the past year and a half, so much so he decided to self-publish their stories to bring them to a wider audience. [AUTHOR’S DISCLAIMER: These are works of fiction. Name, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.]

VENDOR LINKS

1) AMAZON  http://www.amazon.com/Cover-Darkness-1-Gregory-Delaurentis/dp/0989185702/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365639244&sr=1-1&keywords=cover+of+darkness+gregory+delaurentis
2) KOBO  http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/Cover-of-Darkness/book-SydhWnuMdEGT2jO97s6rDA/page1.html?s=znZMkhZzw0yjFAMp-WIkpQ&r=1
3) BARNES & NOBLE http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cover-of-darkness-gregory-delaurentis/1115107265?ean=9780989185707
4) SMASHWORDS  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/304457

GENERAL LINKS 

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cover-of-Darkness/435819953132527
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https://twitter.com/cupgrease

http://gregorydelaurentis.blogspot.com/

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Don’t Take Candy off of Strangers

Author Jerry Jenkins announced an “Innovative Publishing Firm.” According to Victoria Strauss, innovative in publishing press release speak means charges a whopping fee. But writers might be willing to trust Jerry and his company more readily, believing they’re dealing with good Christian folks. Well, let’s see about that.

Jenkins established Christian Guild Writers Publishing, a self-publishing company targeted toward Christian writers. CGWP offers a six-month writing course, basic stuff for beginning writers. The writers are paired with mentors, that is, published authors who walk them through the process. Only one of the seven members is a fiction writer. At the end, CGWP will edit, proof, design, cover, and produce a book. You’ll get copy-editing, proofing, and basic services like ISBN. Cost to the author: $9,995. There are several caveats. CGWP doesn’t provide distribution; you’re on your own. If your book runs longer than 75K words, there’s a surcharge. Content editing raises the price. Custom design for the interior and cover cost extra, too. CGWP offers the option of hardback, but for print runs of 1,000 copies. Methinks I smell a scam.

Now there’s nothing wrong with self-publishing. If that’s the way you choose to go, then you become a consumer evaluating a company that’s providing a service. You can publish your work on Smashwords and Kindle for free. Mind you, you’ll need an editor and someone to design your cover, but CreateSpace will provide such services for less than $2000 if you decide to use these services at all.

Speaking of distributing companies, let’s look at Autharium, a new British site. According to The Passive Voice, Autharium has made it easy for authors to upload, publish, and distribute their work. Out of curiosity I took a look at the site. At first glance, Autharium looks a lot like Lulu and CreateSpace. They’ve got a dashboard that enables you to upload files and directions on how to do it. You set your price the way you do with Lulu and CreateSpace, and they do a quality check before the book is approved for distribution. “At first glance” are the operative words. Things get ugly when you read Autharium’s terms and conditions. I posted some below.

 

  • “By submitting your Work to Autharium and accepting these Terms & Conditions, you grant to Autharium the exclusive right and license to produce, publish, promote, market and sell your Work in any Digital Form (as defined in paragraph 1.4 below) in all languages throughout the world for the entire legal term of copyright (and any and all extensions, renewals and revivals of the term of copyright).” That’s the author’s life plus 70 years under British copyright law.
  • “Please note that your removal of your Work from sale in accordance with paragraph 13.1 above will not terminate this Agreement nor cause the exclusive digital publishing rights that you have granted to Autharium pursuant to paragraph 1 above to revert to you. You maintain copyright of the Work at all times.”
  • “If you wish to sell your Work in any Digital Form through any other publisher, distributor or means then you will need to contact Autharium at support@autharium.com to agree transfer of the digital publishing rights to your Work.”

Let’s look at Starship Invasions, published by me and Tom Johnson through the Night to Dawn imprint. The contract runs three years, and then the rights revert to the author. I distributed the book through Lulu and CreateSpace, using different ISBN numbers. Suppose I decided to use Autharium, too? At the end of three years, Tom and I would have to get written permission from Autharium to continue publishing and submitting our stories. Let’s say a publisher comes by, offering a generous advance for our book. We’d still have to request permission and likely pony up a lot of money to get it.

Another scam, only this one acts as a distributor, enticing new authors who are anxious to see their books in print. My mother once told me never to take candy off of strangers. I think she had it right.

I’ve got to thank Mitzi Flyte for sending me the URL for Passive Voice. I’m also blessed to belong to a forum like The Writers Coffeehouse where I can find information like this. Jonathan Maberry originally recommended Preditors & Editors. If you’re testing an unfamiliar market, I recommend visiting as many watchdog sites as possible. If the candy the new publisher is offering really tempts you, these following watchdog agencies can advise you whether or not that company is legit.

 

  • The Passive Voice – the Passive Guy (David P. Vandagriff) is a contract lawyer. He does not offer legal advice on his blog, but he discusses the trends in publishing. He also points out potential minefields for the writer, such as bad formatting or scam distributors.
  • Writer Beware – Victoria Strauss will dig through the underworld of literary scams, schemes, and minefields. She’ll also welcome guest bloggers for Writer Beware. Most of the guest blogs are related to writing advice or perhaps a current problem in the industry.
  • Absolute Write Water Cooler will give you the full disclosure on most agents and publishing houses. In addition, they post basic writing advice, how to handle rejection, “ask the agent,” and other good topics.
  • Piers Anthony is a well-known author, having had a lot of his books published by Tor. If you click on his link “Publish on web,” you’ll get his evaluation of eBook publishers in alphabetical order. Pay attention to the red print – that’s his latest update on the given publisher.
  • Preditors & Editors, an oldie but goodie, will give you the low down on publishers, agents, bookstores, editors, software (yes, writing software), magazines, workshops, game publishers, and so forth.

When you go through the watchdog sites, consider the date of the evaluation. A complaint written in 2008 won’t tell you much because that was then, and this is 2013. New management may have taken care of the problem. Sometimes you’ll get conflicting stories. If you do, I recommend my Balloon Rule. If one person says you’re a balloon, ignore them. If two people tell you you’re a balloon, listen. If three people call you a balloon, get a ribbon and float.

I wanted to include the watchdog sites because I’m a firm believer in writers covering for each other. Are there any sites I haven’t mentioned? What has your publishing experiences been like? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

 

Barbara Custer never takes candy off of strangers.

This candy looks delicious, but I wouldn’t accept it from a stranger.

 

Rejected Again? Take Heart!

Take heart - Barbara Custer of Night to Dawn wants to read your zombie fiction.

Lately I’ve read a lot of posts on the angst people feel when they submit work and get the infamous rejection letter. With my NTD magazine, I’ve been on both sides of the desk, so when I reject work, I try to be careful with how I word my reply. I might make suggestions on improving the story. If I really like the story, but not enough to use it for NTD, I’ll encourage the writer to send more work. Let’s say you’ve read and reread your story to your critique group, gone through the piece for typos with a fine tooth-comb, and you can’t break into a publication. Howcumzit?

Look at your cover letter. You’d be surprised how many submissions I get start with “dear editor.” When someone doesn’t take the time to learn my name, I have to wonder if they researched the magazine at all. I’ve heard this complaint from other publishers, too.  Most editors frown on nicknames, too, but if someone called me “balloon lady,” at least I’d know the person sending was doing their homework. Lose the “you’ll love my story” approach, too. For short stories, keep it simple. A brief bio is great. Also anything that qualifies you to write the story. For example, I let people know I’m a respiratory therapist because my medical background gives technical detail to my stories.

Let’s say your cover letter is clean, and it’s time to read the submission. Well, for me, browsing through submissions like a trip down the party aisle at the supermarket. If a story or poem calls to me the same way a balloon does at the supermarket, that piece will go to print. So how do I select balloons? Glitter, unique shape, original design, and well inflated. How does this compare to submissions?

  • Glitter: The story should glitter with conflict and action from page one. Better yet, the first paragraph in a short story. Your protagonist should protag and not be a spectator. If you’ve cluttered the first two or three pages with backstory, you’ve lost the reader.
  • Unique shape: Butterfly balloons in particular catch my eye. With stories, I’m looking for unique takes on the vampire, zombie, and other conventional monsters.
  • Original design: I’m looking for a story told in a fresh slant. Recently I’ve rejected work because I’d already published similar stories.
  • Well inflated. I won’t buy a balloon that has soft spots because it may be leaking helium. So what qualifies as a “well inflated” story? The conflict and action keep me reading from start to finish. I’ve gotten some stories that started beautifully but fell flat at the end. Sometimes the ending stops me but I can’t say why.

Let’s say you jumped through those hoops and you still get a rejection. If an editor rejects your work with a personal critique, it means they cared enough about the story to make suggestions. Another editor may have a different, more positive perception. If the editor invites you to send more work, they mean it. So keep submitting!

Do Writing Critique Groups Help?

Barbara Custer of Night to Dawn writes horror and science fiction.At the Writers’ Coffeehouse meeting last Sunday we had a discussion on critique groups and whether or not they help. Some people felt it best to stick with a group that has professional people such as published writers or editors. Without such member, said some, people may go to a critique group not really expecting to get published.

It was interesting that this topic came up. When I first started writing, the first piece of advice I got was “join a writer’s group.” At the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, I found plenty of writer’s groups. Some of them specialized in romance; others in nonfiction. Others preferred a mix of genres and subjects. My main consideration, though, was location and dates.

I started out with a group in Plymouth Meeting, PA. I got some great critiques initially, but we wound up becoming more of a social group. We wound up talking about movies, families, everything but writing. The group split up because of this but we remained friends.

I later moved on to Montgomery County Community College Writers’ group. They hold their meetings every other Thursday. I stayed with that group for several years until my problems with night vision made driving difficult. The college is on Route 202 and Morris road, and both of those streets have poor lighting.

For the last year or so I’ve been going to Bucks County Writers’ group in Warminster. They’ve been holding meetings Monday nights and Thursday afternoons. Editor Rita Breedlove runs the group, and I’ve found her critiques invaluable. Humor goes a long way when you’re delivering critiques. I’ve listed the advantages and disadvantages that I’ve found below.

Advantages

  • You can get instant feedback on material you’ve written. This works especially well with a short story if you’re able to read the entire story in one sitting. A novel critique can work if you read installments to the same people each time. The other members can work as your beta readers.
  • Socialization. Let’s face it, writing is a lonely job. I can sit behind the desk so many hours, and then I got to get up and walk around for a little bit, with “little bit” being the operative phrase. After a few minutes, I’m back at my computer. The prospect of showing up at the next meeting empty-handed motivates me to keep writing.

Disadvantages

  • If you’re working on a novel, and can’t get to sequential meetings, you’ll need to spend time filling people in on what happened in your book since the last reading.
  • Your timetable – if you work a day job, then you can’t get to morning or afternoon meetings. During the winter, a bad snowstorm may prohibit attending the meetings. Sometimes you can work around this by agreeing to have an online critique during the winter. Bucks County has done some online critiques, and I’ve been able to schedule days off to get to a meeting.
  • Other members may disagree with each others’ critiques. When this happens, I go with the majority. If one person tells me I’m a balloon, I smile and go about my business. If two people tell me I’m a balloon, I take pause and listen. If three people tell me I’m a balloon, I grab a ribbon and start floating.

All up, my experiences with Bucks County and the other groups have been great. The critiques have enabled me to get my short stories published. For my novels, the critiques point me in the right direction. After I’ve worked extensively on the book, then I take it to a content editor.

So…do you belong to a critique group? How has it worked for you? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

“Discrete” Use of English

Night to Dawn features zombie tales among other horrors.

During my current WOP, I ran into major problems with the word discrete, and my fellow scribes called me on it. My manuscript read: “People so we have to be discrete with our conversation.” Wrongies. “Discrete” pertains to separate or distinct, and the appropriate word for caution is “discreet.” The noun version for discrete is discretion. For “discreet,” you’d write “discreteness,” which causes more confusion.

Example: I bought a discrete number of balloons for my home, but if there’s a zombie invasion, I’d better be discreet.

Here is an oldie but goodie verb, lie versus lay, one that confuses writers. I see it in my NTD tales all the time. Yes, Yours Truly has gotten caught on this one, too. If you’re talking about someone who’s reclining, “lie” is used for the present tense, while “lay” is used for past tense, and “lain” for past participle. If you’re setting something in a given place, choose “lay” for present and “laid” for past and past participle.
Examples of reclining: The zombies are gone, so lie down and rest. He lay in the tree all afternoon. He’d lain in bed all morning.
Examples of placing something: Lay the balloon tree on the table. I laid my watch on the drawer. She’d laid her clothes out on the sofa.

“Lead versus led” can cause confusion and frustration. Lead, rhyming with bead, means to be in charge or in front. The past tense is always “led.” Confusion arises because “lead” when you’re referring to the metal is pronounced “led.” So to make it simpler…lead rhyming with bead means taking charge or being in front. Lead rhyming with bed is a toxic metal element. Led is the past and past participle of the verb “lead” (rhymes with bead).
Examples: He leads the soldiers on a quest to capture the zombies. She led her soldiers to the cemetery. They stole the lead from the church roof to pay for the guns.

Do you find yourself stumbling over words like this? I’d love to hear your experiences.

To Lie or not to Lie; that is the question.

While lying with balloons, Barbara Custer contemplates novel ways to lie to her readers.

We lay in bed all day waiting for Barbara to lie down.

I’m referring to one of the verbs that give me and other writers a lot of grief –  the difference between lie, lay, and laid. That and certain words that mean one thing when used as a compound, and something else when used separately, can mess up an otherwise well-written tale.

And so therein “lies” the problem:

Lie as an intransitive verb: I am lying down with my balloons.

Lay as a transitive verb: John, please lay the balloon tree on the table.

Sounds simple but when we move to the past tense, complications arise. For example, the present tense of lie is lie. Example: He lies on the rug. The past tense is lay. Example: Robert lay on the floor. The past participle is lain. Example: He’d lain in that bed for some time.

The present tense of lay is lay. Example: I lay my purse on the table. The past tense is laid. Example: Barbara laid her balloons in the cart. The past participle is laid. She’d laid the bags on the table an hour ago.

Looking at compound words, I found that certain words, when used separately or as a compound, mean two different things. One example is setup. Is it set up, set-up or setup? So I went to my trusty dictionary.

“Setup” is a noun, while “set up” is a verb. But it’s not quite that simple. You always use “set up” when you’re using it for a verb, so….

You must set up your computer software.

Mary set up her balloon tree.

Frank set up a bank account for his client.

As a noun and adjective, you would use either setup or set-up and each means different things. Setup is the noun or adjective used pertaining to computers and their setup. Set-up is the noun or adjective used pertaining to things unrelated to computers and their setup. So…

This PC setup screen is unique.

The computer’s setup is compact.

But:

That bag of pot was a set-up from the beginning.

Some banks charge exorbitant set-up fees

The set-up of her entertainment center is precarious.

Sometime versus some time. It sounds simple, but isn’t…quite. When “some time” is used as a certain / unspecified duration of time, use “some time.” Example: I spent some time looking for the rose balloon. When “sometime” is used as an adjective meaning “former,” it’s one word. Example: That balloon salesperson is my sometime friend. If we’re referring to an unspecified point of time in the future, either “sometime” or “some time” is appropriate. Example. I plan to travel to the islands sometime / some time next year.

As I continue my work, if I find other compound words that stump me, I will post them in a future blog. For now, I have it clear in my mind which of the above words to use in my work-in-progress. Somehow, though, when I get engrossed in the heat of the scene, I’m liable to forget and mix up the verbs. A wise instructor once told me that English was the most difficult language to learn. I think she had it right.

Do you find yourself struggling with “lie” versus “lay,” or any of the compound words? I would like to hear about your experiences with compounds and words like “lie/lay,” and how you worked your way around them.

 

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