“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.

Balloon Ambush

It was Staples’ fault. Granted, my balloon purchase happened at the Giant, but my fall from grace began with Staples. I started my week with the most frugal intentions. For one thing, the book trailer I’d like for Steel Rose will cost a few dollars, and so will the editing services I’ll need for my WOP’s. That, and the price for winter supplies.
Why winter supplies? Every fall, I try to purchase enough dry and frozen goods to last me through the winter. I’ve grown tired of shopping during the winter months only to find that the store has run out of the items I need. Worse, during a severe winter, the snow piles up so high around the sightlines in the parking lots that I can’t navigate safely. Besides, two weeks ago, I’d acquired ten balloons so I decided to hold off balloon purchasing for a while.
At the Acme, I took advantage of strategic sales on tomato sauce, and left the store sans balloons. Two days later, I headed to Staples to purchase CD envelopes, and that’s when the balloon decorations caught my eye. Multiple trees with huge latex balloons in rainbow colors sprouted in every aisle. Shiny ones, no less. I stopped to admire the balloons, paid for my purchase, and asked if I could buy a balloon. “No,” the cashier said, smiling, “these balloons are for our Columbus Day promotion sale.”
Hmmmm. I wonder if I should display balloon trees when I have a book signing.
Those shiny balloons made an indelible imprint in my mind. The next day at work, I briefed everyone on Staples and its balloons. Happily, my peer workers have a great sense of humor.
Yesterday, I went to Giant with a long list. Baking season is upon us with the holidays and Halloween coming. I was in a hurry to get through the shopping as I needed to get to the car repair shop before 5:30. So I moved fast. No time for balloons. Besides, it was bitterly cold outside, not the ideal weather for hauling balloons.
At the self-checkout, a Mylar green seahorse caught my eye. “No,” I told myself, “I’ve got no time.”
Still, a look at the seahorse wouldn’t take long. So I went behind the register to peek. Capital mistake. A dozen Halloween balloons leaped out from behind the seahorse, ambushing me. So much for my good intentions. One of them, a smiling pumpkin, made it into my cart. He’s in my living room now. After all that, I made it to the shop, and my car passed inspection.
It’s never too cold to buy balloons!

Mylar balloons and zombie fiction go well together for Barbara Custer

Forming an LLC requires close attention.

Lulu versus CreateSpace III

After much kvetching and discussion about CreateSpace, I’ve started to publish the NTD paperbacks through them. The latest release, Tales of Masks & Mayhem V4, saw publication through CS. Why? The short answer: money. The Global Distribution package on Lulu costs $75.00 plus whatever you pay for ISBN’s. The Pro plan of CS costs $39.00 (plus what you spend for the ISBN). You can get an ISBN for free from CS, but if you want to establish your own imprint (as a publisher), best to purchase the ISBN from Bowker.

Recently, CS did away with their Pro plan. They now offer you the option of extended distribution for $25.00. The royalties for Amazon based books are far better – about $5.00 per book and that’s without charging exorbitant fees for your books. CS charges a reasonable price for contributor copies too. Contributor copies cost more through Lulu. With retail sales, I’d get a dollar something per book, and when you’re splitting royalties between two or three people, it comes out to pennies per book. Caveat: you do not get discounts by ordering extra contributor copies through CS. Lulu will discount the contributor copy if you order five or more books, plus they offer frequent specials.

Also, with CS, your book will go up on Amazon straight away, whereas you have to wait six to eight weeks (longer if there is a backup) for Lulu distribution. Promotion and book releases won’t do any good if your book isn’t showing on Amazon and other retailers. Another caveat: CS will format any eBook version for you but there is a hefty charge. I format NTD eBooks myself and get the ISBN from Bowker.

Does this mean I will publish all future NTD material through CS and kick Lulu to the curb? Absolutely not. Lulu does a superior job on the magazine. NTD magazine comes in 88 pages, which results in a narrow spine. Lulu allows you to resize the print so you can read the label off the spine. CS does not allow any print on the NTD spine because in their opinion, the spine is too narrow. Another issue: when I print reviews, I must list three retailers that carry the respective book. I did that with NTD 20, and the magazine is available on Amazon. I don’t mind listing retailers but putting NTD out there with a bare spine gives me the creeps. Especially with the upcoming issue, as I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on NTD 21’s cover. Kudos goes to Marge Simon and Teresa Tunaley for their brilliant artwork.

The magazine has a lot of illustrations, and I’ve had limited success with putting illustrations in the eBooks. Smashwords does not recommend illustrations at all, and most eBooks look best if you stick to B&W illustrations and one font. NTD has about three different fonts, so I offer the eBook version in PDF format. Lulu carries the magazines and the other NTD books in eBook format for no charge. I just ordered the print run for NTD 21 and got a generous discount from Lulu.

Some overseas authors prefer Lulu because Lulu will market your book to other countries besides the USA, where said authors will realize their best sales. CS does not have a global distribution plan.

This past week, I released two books. Tales of Masks & Mayhem V4, edited by Ginger Johnson and Night to Dawn 21. One through CreateSpace and the other through Lulu. Which company is better? For magazines, Lulu; for paperbacks, CreateSpace. It all depends on your market and publication.

 

 

When to Hire an Editor

Some time ago I posted the advantages of Autocrit software, and the wisdom found in Writing the Breakout Novel. Autocrit enabled me to catch repetitive words, and I ferreted out problems in my novel when I applied techniques from Writing the Breakout Novel. However, the devil is in the details, and a small press editor once told me that no writer sees their own mistakes. So I kept going through my work again and again.

The time is coming for me to step up to the plate: either submit my next novel or publish it through Night to Dawn. A lot more authors are turning to independent publishing, but I’m hearing complaints about the spotty editing found in self-published books. The books on the table are Steel Rose, the novel following Dark Side of the Moon, and Dead Folks Stalking, a short story collection. The child in me insists that since I edit Night to Dawn material, I should be able to edit these books myself, right?

The adult in me hollers, “Wrong!”

After looking at comments workshop leaders made about so-called “ready” material, I decided to send Steel Rose off to an editor. This will include content editing. Editing any book is a big job, and takes time, so I proceeded with work on a sequel and the short stories.

I went through the short stories that had seen publication in small press magazines. There’s a lot to be said for putting one’s work aside and then reviewing it weeks later. When I looked at the tales with a fresh pair of eyes, I saw areas that needed rewriting. Perhaps a paragraph had too much tell and not enough show. So I did some rewriting and sent these off to an editor for polishing.

Good thing I did. The content in these stories was addressed by the editors who published them, but there were quite a few typos. Had I sent these tales to press, the errors would make them look less than professional. Mind you, typos make it to print in a lot of books. Two or three errors in a book may not harm sales, but two or three typos on a page will. “Sunset Kill,” a tale featuring dead nursing home residents who resurrect and feed on their caregivers, had that many on some of the pages. Not any more.

So why couldn’t I see my own mistakes? I think because I consider my stories like family members, and I’m too close to them to edit them effectively. At most hospitals, policy dictates that health care workers not treat family members because they’re too close to their situation. Perhaps the same policy should apply to writers and editors with their own stories.

Barbara Custer is the publisher of dark fantasy and science fiction.

Revisions and then More Revisions

Over the months, I’ve alluded to a sequel: Steel Rose. Steel Rose wound up with its own cast of characters, so I can’t call it a sequel any more. Maybe this is good. At workshops, speakers have advised everyone to put their manuscripts aside for a few weeks, and then rework them. I put Steel Rose on the back burner while I worked on Starship Invasions. Now I’m back with fresh eyes, and I brought along my Autocrit program.

Putting the manuscript aside was the best advice anyone gave me. When I went back to it, I found a lot of inconsistencies and need for line editing. The big thing was repetition. One chapter was cluttered with “that.” There is nothing wrong with using “that” or “was,” but those words shouldn’t clutter the pages. In this, Word has been a staunch alley with its find and thesaurus features. Since I’ve gotten into publishing books and marathon revisions, I’ve made peace with Word, and I’m starting to appreciate its assets.

But let me not digress. The more revisions I make, the more I see that need to be done. Writing comes naturally, but introducing characters that people love can be difficult. The body language needs work, and I’ve seen that with others’ manuscripts. I found research helpful, and even more, the critiques I get from my writer’s group. Reading out loud enabled me to catch problems if I stumbled over sentences.

Some days, the revisions come easy, especially after a good night’s sleep. Other days, it might take three or four of my best curse words to do the job, especially when life gets in the way. On the bad days, I try to remind myself I’m making progress. And if later, an editor should suggest revisions, I will consider that person a good friend. It is better to fix the problems before the manuscript goes to print, than to have a reviewer or reader comment on them later.

That said, I have to wonder how Jonathan Maberry and other great writers get through the revision process. With deadlines, you have to move fast. I can edit fast. I have to sometimes for the NTD tales but revising comes slow. Perhaps if necessity was involved, I’d speed up my revisions.

I’d like to hear about your revising process. What was most difficult? What has helped you?

Steel Rose features cross-genre horror / science fiction by Barbara Custer

This tale received a lot of pruning before it went to press. Props to my editors!

Createspace versus Lulu Revisited

Some time ago, I laid out the advantages of using Lulu versus Createspace. And my biggest beef with Createspace was not being able to use my credit card. Well, at last I found my way through the labyrinth of ordering functions, enough to order a proof. Createspace has made peace with my credit card, and when I got the proof of Cold War Heroes, I found that the proof looked decent enough for a bookstore. So the assumption followed that I could go ahead and run all my future NTD magazines through Createspace. Not quite.

I’ve already run NTD 20 through Lulu, and got a lot of nice compliments about the issue. So with the PDF generated by Lulu’s software, I proceeded to upload on Createspace. You see, any book run through Createspace software will automatically go on Amazon. But Createspace wasn’t crazy about handling 8.5 x 11 books. You can’t do 8.5 x 11 books for premium distribution on Createspace like you can with Lulu.

No biggie there, until I got a memo from Createspace informing that the PDF wasn’t viable. NTD always has a print label on the spine, the way many perfect bound magazines do. The print had to come off of the spine, said Createspace. Also on my book reviews, I needed to add two additional places where the books reviewed are available. I don’t have the Acrobat software needed to change the spine. I could make the changes on the inside file on my Word 2007, save it to PDF and use that.

Ah, but with Lightning Source, Lulu, and Createspace, it isn’t enough to use a PDF. The fonts have to be embedded a certain way for the file to pass muster. Lulu will convert your word files to PDF so that you’ve got a file that meets that requirement.

Does that mean I’m firing Createspace? Not necessarily. But I can’t use it for NTD unless I’m willing to forego print on the spine. Maybe I’m having a hard time with change.

I am turning more to eBook distribution: namely Kindle, the Nook, Smashwords, and a new company www.xinxii.com, a European distributor of eBooks. The eBooks look promising, and more people are buying them. But there is a lot to be said for the feel of a print book.

I would like to hear from you about your experiences using Createspace’s software, and your thoughts on the future of eBooks.

 

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