Saturday, December 21, 2013

Cloaked in Fur Book Review

I like reviewing books for Reader's Favorite. If you are self-publishing, I recommend you submit to them for a review. I sent Sal, Captain of the Baby Guards to them, and if I get a favorable review, I am planning on submitting it for their contest. Reviews are free (unless you want them fast), but the yearly contest does cost. However, submitting your book will either get a good review - if the book is good OR advice on how to make the book better. Either way, you get a little sample of how the market feels about your book.

Reviewed by Jennifer Reinoehl for Readers' Favorite.
T. F. Walsh’s Cloaked in Fur is an action, paranormal book. It is an intense, suspenseful werewolf-style story set in modern Romania and told in first person.

Daciana, or Daci as her boyfriend calls her, no longer feels at home with her pack because of the changes in the way their leader is acting. She lives in the city away from her wulfkin (werewolf) family, dreads the nearing Lunar Eutine when she will have to join them, and is seeking a mystical recipe that could help her become a human and allow her to leave them permanently.
Then, she encounters a dracwulf – a forbidden creature created by mating a wulfkin with a natural wolf. She must figure out why this creature is in existence when allowing it to live can mean death for her pack and why it is suddenly hunting the humans near and dear to her. She also struggles with leading a double life and keeping up with all the lies she has to tell her boyfriend, Connell, to keep him from discovering her true nature.

Cloaked in Fur is a page-turner that moves quickly from beginning to end with many heavy action scenes. Once you start reading, catch your breath where you can. The descriptions are realistic and well done. There are scenes of graphic violence and one, long, detailed sex scene, so this one isn’t for kids. I docked it a star because although most of the ends are wrapped up, T. F. Walsh takes a little longer to do it. This makes the conclusion drag a little even though the heavy action is sustained throughout it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Grump session part II

Yeah, I know I did the self-publishing thing and interrupted it with this, but since blogger screwed up the order of my posts, I wanted to get the rest of the self-publishing together and this post grew too long.

So the guy who hired me called me up to tell me I didn't know what I was talking about because I hadn't had any scripts produced or accepted. Here's the irony - of the few screenplays I have written, I have only tried to get one produced - Mary's screenplay. Now, as a ghostwriter, I have no control over what my employers do with their screenplays once I give them to them. Therefore, if I write a screenplay for someone, they could bury it in their backyard and it would never be produced through no fault of mine. This would be a very expensive way to get something to bury in your backyard, but hey, who am I to judge.

I did not tell Mary to submit the script to a production company, but to a screenplay contest. This is actually the easiest way to get noticed- survive a well-known screenplay contest as long as you can. The script is now in the second round qualifiers (YEAH!), but I am praying not necessarily that it will win but that it will get produced so she can feel justified in the large amount of money she spent on me. If it does win, I will probably step out of my hole and help her try to get someone big to notice it. Shoot, even if it doesn't I might at this point. But I really like Mary - she is a very nice employer.

I have no desire of getting a screenplay produced with my own name on it. If Mel Gibson (the first producer that came to my mind) appeared outside my door and said he had been following my blog and wanted to pay me a quarter of a million dollars to write his next movie, I would not jump up and down with joy. I would probably tell him I did not want that kind of pressure and turn it down unless my husband were there to stop me - I am pretty sure he would stop me from turning down $250,000 for anything. (I asked him - he said his response to me turning this down would be, "I'm sorry, Mel. I know this is kind of backward for you, but I think my wife is drunk.") Please Mel, if you are reading this, do not put that kind of strain on my marriage even for a joke. I am sure you can find much better, inspired screenplay writers than me.

I have worked in the theatre; I love the theatre; I have many friends in the theatre; but I do not under any circumstances want to work in the theatre any more than what I do. I am a dresser not only because I love the challenge of changing a man into a woman in less than 30 seconds, but also because it is one of the few jobs in the theatre that requires the least amount of commitment (unless you want to do it for a living).

Needless to say, this guys comment that I hadn't had something produced and was thereby worthless hit me hard. I was pretty insulted. He certainly wasn't paying me enough at $35 to read through his play and critique it and then insult me afterward. He then told me he never wanted me to edit it (I have it in writing that he did), and he said I didn't give him comments about it. There are at least 3 - 8 comments on every page of his 125 page screenplay - although the last 10 pages or so are sparse in the comment department because I think he should just cut them. I then gave him a 2-page word document of general comments. I asked if he had read all my comments, and he said "no." Why did he hire me if he wasn't going to read all my comments?

I know what I am talking about, and I think that is what irritated him. I told him not only what was wrong, but why it was wrong. He could not say "Oh, no one else pointed that out and thought it was bad, so she must not know what she is talking about" because this is the type of feedback I gave: "You cannot stop using sentences in dialogue. Yes, some responses are not complete sentences and some characters may never talk in complete sentences, but you have most of your characters resorting to speech that is so disjointed it reads like the character took notes about a situation and then decided to read them aloud word for word." This is a fact. He can look at his script and see that, yes, his characters talk in notes, not sentences. 

When I started to read my comments to show him that I had in fact given him comments about the characters, he hung up on me. Yeah, real mature. So, I decided that if he was going to hang up on me AND insult me, he owed me the full amount due, and I invoiced him accordingly. We'll see if he pays or just loses his bragging rights about paying. I am just glad I won't have to come up with reasons why I can't help him with his posters. Perhaps if I had just written: "This entire screenplay needs to be completely rewritten, and I am not available to do it" it would have saved us all some time and money.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Formatting a Children's Book for CreateSpace or My Adventures in Self-Publishing II

So when I went to hire someone to illustrate my book, one of the artists said she would also format it for me. In the end, she did not want to illustrate it, but she still begged me to have her format it so it would be "done right." She told me she had seen many children's books that were poorly formatted and she learned the special technique to do it. And, I believed her - but that shouldn't be a surprise, I tend to be naïve when it comes to trusting new people. It is true, however, that formatting a children's book is not even remotely easy.

Now, once the book was illustrated, I hired her to format it. Now, I didn't just hire her without checking anyone else out. I posted a job and she was actually the best candidate. Most of the other people were graphic artists who were going to both illustrate and set it up for kindle, which I did not want. She was the only one who actually had samples of children's books that she had formatted.

However, she also, apparently, had illustrated all the books she had formatted. In other words, they were all ready set up in a way she felt would best set off the words. I sent her the pictures, expecting her to send me back a page that had the words on it like a normal children's book. She sent me back a page that had the picture outlined in a heavy frame and the words outlined in another heavy frame.

When I told her what my vision of a page was, she complained that some of the pictures were done in portrait and some in landscape and she did not want to resize them because it would ruin the pictures. I told her I would fix them so they were all square pictures to fit on the square pages and she could just add the words and flatten the pages. (I had not discovered how to add the words in paint so they would be consistently sized from page to page nor did I have a page flattening program.)

So, I went through and created square pages and then set them to her so she could cut and paste the words into the picture, flatten them by pressing a button and send them back to me "formatted." I paid her hundreds of dollars for this. Then, she was supposed to send me two files, one for CreateSpace in a PDF and one for Kindle in a .mobi file.

When the project was nearing its end, she called me up. I had given her access to my CreateSpace account, and she had taken the MS Word file, changed it to PDF and uploaded it. Now, she complained, she could not adjust the pages in the MS Word file so they would look right in CreateSpace. Every time she tried to move a picture on the page to center it better, another page would disappear.

By this time, I was finished. I asked her about the kindle file and she said I did not need one because CreateSpace would do it for me. I said I wanted one anyway, but she never sent it. She began to whine that the pages were not acting right because I set them up wrong and she wanted to be paid because it was the end of the month.

I was tired of it at this point. I had spent a lot of time talking with her on the phone two to three times a week and she had already spent six weeks on a job that was supposed to take two. I took the messed up file she had and then I released her money.

Now, this woman also talked with me for hours on the phone about her life, my life, and everything in between. She kept telling me she wanted to friend me on Facebook and then never did because she told me she was afraid to friend people. I cannot say I am upset. I am actually just relieved.

It was easy to figure out her problem - she never put page breaks between each picture. I did this and then to save time, I just put in the margins required. This made my pictures a little smaller than what they could have been because she put margins into the pictures and then "bled" them with zero margins, but I think that was also part of the problem. I could have gone back and reduced the size of the original files, but I was done and the book looked good in CreateSpace. If you get it, you probably wouldn't have noticed the wide margins except I have now told you to look for them.

To be continued...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Formatting a Children's Book for Kindle or My Adventures in Self-Publishing III (As usual, Blogger decided to publish this out of order)

 Well, my book looks pretty awesome in CreateSpace in my humble opinion. I used an 8.5" square format, and I feel that is a nice size for kids to use. I ordered the proof, found a typo (I had switched two pages in all my adjusting), and then wanted to hit myself because I had already ordered the proof. However, when I uploaded the new file, I must have done it quick enough because CreateSpace sent me the corrected version.

I was really happy and waited the 24 hours for the review and the conversion to Kindle. Even though this was over Thanksgiving, they did it quickly. I missed my final final final deadline of Black Friday, but all in all I was pleased. I hadn't done any marketing so I wasn't expecting to sell anything anyway. Then I went to pick up the CreateSpace file that was formatted for Kindle and carried it over to the Kindle link where I could deposit it.

Excited, I opened the converted kindle file - I have a Kindle on my computer. But it showed square pages. I wanted to see what it would look like on an actual Kindle. So, I opened the previewer on the website (which caused its own problems since I upgraded to IE11 too soon) and found my pages shrunk to mini-sized and only filling the top half of the screen. Wow. Another disaster. I am so glad that it automatically will convert it into a nice file and I didn't need the mobi I was supposed to get.

Actually, I am glad. Had I received a mobi file, I might have tried to use that and it probably would have been just as useless based on my experience. So, I went back to the drawing board - literally.

I created a paint page that was 1800 x 3000. I have no clue why I finally settled on these dimensions, but they seemed to work well. Then I created a 4 x 6 MS Word document with .5" margins. I created a colored box, cut the words out from the formatted pages in 1700ish pixel lengths and pasted them into my paint page on the box. This was torture. Then I cut the picture out of the formatted document and pasted it onto the page. This was tricky because I couldn't paste anything larger than 1800 pixels wide. Sometimes, I would enlarge the page or cut parts off it to focus in on certain areas.

Then, I tried to put it into a html file which Kindle likes - that wasn't happening, so I just uploaded a PDF again. It worked well. Again, I am happy with the results.

Please note, it took from Thanksgiving until Dec. 8th before I finished this process. It was not fun at all. However, since I feel I have finally figured it out, I think I am going to add it as a skill to my new Guru profile. Anyway, here are the same two pages I posted earlier in my "Kindle" version:

Friday, December 13, 2013

We interrupt our regular programming for a grump session entitled: If you don't want my advice, don't hire me.

I want the people who hire me to get the money they pay me back. That means, I want them to succeed in whatever they are doing. I have said before that I am brutally honest, and I am. If I ever make it big, I will either have to stop talking (and have my husband talk for me) or I will have to hire someone to talk for me. I do not mean to be rude, but I cannot and will not say - "Oh yeah, that's a great _____! You are going to go far with it!" when I think it is awful. I will do my best to find the bright spot, because I don't want to crush people, but this is not a part of my nature.

Well, I took a job from a guy who was bragging about all the money he has spent on Guru. He hired me to "review" his screenplay and give me my opinion of it. Then, in a private message he added that I could edit it, too. Okay. Whatever. He also wanted me to call him, and like all people who have enough money where they think they can buy the world but no class to match it, he said not to worry about my bid. He told me he would pay me an hourly rate and asked what mine was. When I told him $18, I could hear him gulp. Yeah, that's a lot to dish out for your screenplay hobby. I was nice and said I would lower my rate, because at this point it seemed like all he had gotten was masses upon masses of cheap coverage that were like film critics "I like it/ I don't." He wasn't ready to take the dive and pay a real writer to fix his errors or even point them out. ($36,000 is the going rate to have someone write your screenplay. Please note: I am cheaper, but not cheap to most people.)

Now, he has written many, many screenplays and never gotten them accepted. And based on what I read, he never will unless he decides to put forward the $75 - 100 million and form his own production company to accept them. (I don't think he's that rich based on his attitude - Most of the really rich people I have met usually have class and don't need to brag about how great they are.) But it irritated me that he felt I wasn't qualified to work on his script because I live in Indiana and not Hollywood. Really? Welcome to the 21st century where screenwriters can choose their hometowns and commute through computers.

During our conversation he also started telling me about all these other projects he has and how he could work with me on those. I inwardly groaned. No, I do not want to write posters. No, I do not want to edit your sleezy biography and no Tropic of Cancer was not that big of a hit. I already have jobs lined up for a while; I just need little ones to sustain me through writers block. But, I played nice on the phone.

Then, I actually got into the script and began point out the editing/ plot/ character/ formatting issues he had. I spent two days writing him extensive feedback on how to make his script better (in short, hire a professional that is not me to rewrite this mess you made). And, I wasn't nice. I am not in a nice mood this week, and I used all my nice up on the phone to him. I was actually pretty upset to find that the first half of the screenplay was formatted and written correctly and the entire second half  was not. I sent it to him and asked him to release the meager amount he had placed in SafePay and then sent him an invoice (not through Guru yet) for the more than $200 it would cost him at our agreed upon rate. I told him I would understand if he didn't want to pay the invoice in full.

To be continued (Thursday)...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sal, Captain of the Baby Guards or My Adventures in Self-Publishing I

So, after much hard work and trouble, I have finally published a children's book. This book is a labor of love about a toddler who has a wild imagination. It teaches children to confront their imagined fears.

I hired someone to format the book but had nothing but disaster with her (to be continued on the next thread...). So, my book that was supposed to be finished by the end of September and marketed in October for a November release is just now getting uploaded into CreateSpace and Kindle (sigh) and has yet to be marketed. I also still need to have it translated and create the hardcover version (which costs $99 and you then have to buy the books from CreateSpace and sell them yourself).

Now, when I published my Teaching Guide on the novel Cheaper By the Dozen, I paid CreateSpace $25 to buy extended marketing (although this is not "real" marketing in my book it does open up options). I was perfectly happy with this option. This time, I was initially excited because extended marketing was "free." However, selecting this option meant that the least I could make the list price for my book was $9.99 (Amazon is selling it for $8.99 - go figure). I would rather pay the $25 and be able to charge less.

Thankfully, I can set my own prices on Kindle - well, sort of. I wavered between the 35% commission and a $0.99 cost or the 70% commission and a $2.99 cost. I felt the later was better to start. Not necessarily because I want to make more, but because I feel the book is good enough to charge that much. I do not think I could charge any more than $2.99 for an e-book simply because it doesn't cost anything to publish it (aside from marketing).

Yes, despite the fact that my social media targets adults and adults only, I wrote a children's book - well, maybe the person that I am hiring to market it can help figure that out. Don't worry, I am not planning on changing anything about this blog to market it. I just wrote the book many years ago and wanted to put it out there. However, if any of you are interested or happen to have children or grandchildren that need an extra stocking stuffer (or Kindle stuffer?), here's the Amazon link.

And here's my favorite pages:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Typing Speed

Some of you might have noticed that I added a typing speed checker at the bottom of my blog so you can check your typing speed. This is only a rough estimate because it is made with random quotes which are much easier to type than random words.

If you want to write, you need to be able to type. I found a cool online typing practice website too: You can go there and practice so you improve your speed.

Typing is a vital skill for anyone who wants to be a writer. Yes, you can write everything out on paper (I used to only get inspiration with a pen and paper in hand), but not only is it inefficient because you then have to type your work  before you can do anything with it, but it is also inefficient because you have to keep track of it and moving one section to a new spot is a lot more difficult.

Whatever your method, at some point as an author you need to type, learning to do this quickly and efficiently will save you both time and money in the end.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What would you do?

So of the past three editing jobs I have had, one was a content edit and two were "grammar/ punctuation."

I have talked about this before, but the "grammar/punctuation" were actually content edits in disguise. So what would you do? These people hired me to do a quick, easy 3 day job and paid me to do a quick easy 3 day job, but in the end I had to spend a month doing a content edit, send it back to them, and then do a regular edit. (I had to send it back to them because eventually it gets too red and marked up to deal with anymore.)

The other problem is that one of these people did not know how/did not want to use the track changes feature. She returned the paper to me with all the changes still marked and then in the email said - "I don't want to change this, this, this, and that, but everything else is good." What!! Not only did I have to spend extra time going though and fixing her manuscript but I also had to then spend several hours going through the changes and accepting only the ones she wanted. I am not talking a couple of hundred changes, I am talking tens of thousands of changes.

Of course it becomes impossible for me to finish these manuscripts in the time I estimated. I have finally finished them, but I still have the content edit for the guy who actually hired me to do that. I, unfortunately, work on a first come, first serve basis and he was the last person to put his money in. Sad.

What makes the story even more tragic is that the lady already docked me on feedback for timeliness - really? When you give someone a manuscript with thousands of errors and want them to fix it, it is going to take time - it is also going to cost more. But, the first time an author gets their manuscript edited professionally, they should expect thousands of changes. Beta readers are not paid and cannot do this for you for free. The guy, whose manuscript I returned today and who is probably also going to dock me for timeliness, used beta readers before sending it to me.

Beta readers are good to send a manuscript to after you have had it content edited. They will pick up things the content editor missed. Once an editor becomes familiar with a story it makes it difficult to find the errors. Then, you need to send it in for a grammar/punctuation check which should turn out maybe hundreds of errors. Finally it goes to the proofreader who should pick up tens of errors and formatting errors.

I still do not know what I am going to do the next time I get a "grammar/ and punctuation" editing job and find out they need a good content edit - do I just fix typos or do I actually insert numerous comment discussions about the things that don't work?