Dale Furutani Writes Again

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I'm a big Dale Furutani fan. His Samurai Mystery set in feudal Japan and featuring Kaze are among my favorite books. I had a very nice email from him a couple of days ago and wanted to pass on the good news about a new book from him.

Novelist Interruptus

A few years ago, Dale and his wife actually moved to Japan. Subsequently, they worked there for three years. Unfortunately, he did no writing during that period. Then, when they came home to the States, Dale became ill for an extended period of time.

Bad News/Good News

The bad news is that he wrote no books during that time of sickness. Understandably so. The good news is that's he's finally healthy and back to normal.

Fortunately, Dale's fan base continued to grow, especially in Europe. In fact, he's so popular in France that a publisher is growing his fan base by publishing a manga edition from his first book. That'll reach an entirely new demographic group.

In case you don't know, the French respect and treat those in the arts the way our country treats pro athletes. They treat famous chefs of the culinary arts as if they're gastronomic gods. I wouldn't be surprised if Dale's not recognized and mobbed everywhere he goes.

Better News

The even better news is that Dale says he's now completing a book set in 1894 Japan. During the latter weeks of last year, he and his wife returned to Japan to do more research for his work in progress. Now, he's almost finished with that manuscript.

After that, he says he'll be writing another Kaze book. The new book will pick up the Kaze trilogy.

I don't know when these books will be published, but I can hardly wait. As some of you know, I lived in Japan for several years so the culture holds a special fascination for me.

I stand with all his other eager fans, just waiting for a release date. For now, I'll have to content myself by reading again one of his books from my library. Think I'll start with Death At The Crossroads.

Sling Words
out to lose herself in feudal Japan.

10 Ways To Reduce Writing Expenses

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All the talking head morning shows are doing segments on saving money. In the interest of helping writers save money, here are 10 ways to reduce writing expenses.

1. Recycle your hard copy paper. If you've got an inkjet printer, as most do, this is easy. Just flip the paper over and print on the clean side. For the sake of clarity, you might mark a big X on the printed side so you won't get confused as to which side you're supposed to be reading. If you (or someone close to you) works in an office, bring home printed paper that's been tossed out because many offices still do not recycle paper.

2. Try to go paperless as much as is practical. I don't advocate editing completely on the monitor unless you're doing short copy. I think there are some errors in book manuscripts that you just don't see unless you're reading hard copy. Don't print every email you want to save or every picture you get or every piece of research you read online. Save emails electronically in "folders" in your email software. Bookmark links to research articles. Set up a pictures folder on filmstrip and view the photos on your computer or store to a CD or DVD and view in your DVD player.

3. Set your printer settings to draft in order to use less ink. Some software allows you to select draft and a low number DPI (dots per inch) which saves even more ink.

4. Use your ink until it's completely gone. Many new printers start giving you a low ink warning to change cartridges before the ink is completely gone. Ignore that. Change ink cartridges only when you can't read the writing or the printer refuses to print unless you insert a new cartridge. If you have to print something for a good presentation, put in a new cartridge, print, then remove the new cartridge, and stick the low ink one back in. Always recycle your ink cartridges. Office Depot offers a $3.00 coupon for each cartridge. Office Max sometimes offers up to $6.00. Check around.

5. Keep a mileage book in your car and record mileage when you make a run to the post office, bookstore, or office supply store. A mileage deduction on your Schedule C is a very big item, but a lot of writers don't take this because they think it isn't worthwhile. Trust me, it is, and it isn't difficult to keep track of.

6. Sometimes ordering books online is a lot cheaper than browsing your local store. With gasoline at an all-time high, the cost of a trip to the bookstore must be added to the cost of a book when considering whether to order online or hit the store.

7. Join with other writers in paid promotion projects. The cost of advertising in reader publications is prohibitive for most writers as is the cost of producing a print brochure or newsletter. But if you join forces with other writers, possibly those who have the same publisher or pub date, the cost is then within reach.

8. Take advantage of any free publicity you can create. Guest blog or start a campaign for others to blog about your release with a donation to charity as the prize for all who participate. The more who blog, the bigger the donation. Explore other free online venues for promotion.

9. If you need a certain software, check and see if there is a shareware or freeware version that does the same thing. For instance, if you need Microsoft Word or Excel, then download FREE the Open Office Suite.

10. Absolutely set up a simple set of accounting books which list expenses and, hopefully, revenue. Do it with a 3-ring binder and write it by hand or use Quicken or some other software if you have it. If you don't, see #9 above. File a Schedule C each year with your tax return. The publication explaining the rules for Schedule C and the form are online.

All these suggestions have the goal of decreasing expenses. That's part of the business side of being a writer. The other part is increasing income. Just as in a corporate job, your goal is always to reduce expenses and increase income. Otherwise, you might be forced to have an employee lay off. Which, of course, is you.

Writers Digest Website Remodeled

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The website for Writers Digest has been remodeled. Check it out. They did an excellent job of making the website easier to navigate.

There's such a wealth of information available on the site so it's a great resource for writers, especially those just beginning. Be sure and read the most recent Popular Fiction Report.

What Do Editors Really Want

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This isn't really hot news, but it's interesting. The powers that be at the Authors Guild newsletter asked editors, "What do you want?"

You can just about change the names and the publishing houses and keep the comments the same because editors and agents always say, "We're looking for something new."

Trouble is most of them also add, "We don't really know what that is though."

Something new. That covers a lot of territory. Unfortunately, it can't be too new because that gets turned down. I often wonder if motivationist (don't really know if that's a word, but it fits the job description) Paul Harvey was correct when he said something similar to: "Something new can't be more than 10% new or it doesn't get accepted."

What do you think?

March, National Kidney Month

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March is National Kidney Month. Yeah, that doesn't sound too glamorous, but it is important to shine a spotlight on something we all take for granted.

A few years ago one of my friends died of kidney disease. I remember when he was fourteen and was diagnosed with diabetes. As kids we just thought he had to give up Cokes, cake, and candy. Tough, but doable. Little did any of us know the impact that insidious disease can have on the human body or the quality of one's life. Nor did we know how diabetes can incapacitate a body or take life away long before the body is old.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans can walk around with kidney disease and not even know it until it's almost too late. Because of this, each year when you have a physical, you should request simple blood and urine tests to make sure your kidneys are healthy. The sooner you can diagnose a problem; the sooner you can take action to correct the problem. You may possibly avert major organ failure.

There's more info online at Kidney.org or the National Kidney Foundation at 1-800-622-9010.

If you're healthy and you have the means, donate a gift of money to the foundation. Consider becoming an organ donor. I know that's a hot button for many people, but do consider it.

My friend needed a transplant. He was on the list, but the list is long. His body couldn't wait. Bubba Bruce. Gone before his time, but not forgotten.

Online Word Of Mouth Marketing

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Everybody in the book biz will tell you that Word of Mouth marketing is perhaps the best way to sell books. Some books' sell-throughs have been created by Word of Mouth marketing. Now there's another online way to take advantage of Word Of Mouth praise for an author and a book.

Most readers are always looking for new authors to discover and new books to read. So we ask bookstore employees and owners, friends, and relatives. That way we feel as if we're getting good advice on who to read and, in many cases, which book to start with if the author has written several.

That's the idea behind Debbie's Idea. It's a website where readers make suggestions about authors' books, giving their opinion as to which book best represents an author's work.

Good news for writers. You can go and register your own titles on a personalized page on the site so readers can be sure to find you.

Think of it as another tool in the PR Tool Box as well as a way to grow readers. You too might discover a new author to read.

Spring Picture Worth Thousand Words

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I took a walk around my yard and the neighborhood because Spring in Texas is my favorite time of the year. It's glorious with all the azaleas, tuplip trees, daffodils, bridal wreaths, and MORE blooming.

My loquat trees are loaded with fruit. I can hardly wait another month when the blush orange fruit will be ripe, juicy, and sweet. I made so much jelly and syrup last year that I still have several jars in the pantry so I'll probably just eat the fruit fresh this year.

If you want to visit Texas, come in the Spring. You'll love it!

Spammer’s Conviction Upheld

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I read about Jeremy Jaynes last week. Hurray for the Virginia Supreme Court. I think they struck a blow for beleaguered email inboxes everywhere.

On March 7, last Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld the first felony conviction for illegal spamming in our country. All I can say is: WAY TO GO. They further said that Virginia’s anti-spam law doesn’t violate free-speech rights.

53,000 emails
The spammer in question was Jeremy Jaynes of Raleigh, North Carolina. This ... this... guess I’ll settle for the noun man rather than a more illustrative label. This man was considered one of the top 10 spammers in the world (that’s right - the world!) in 2003. He was convicted of “massive distribution of junk email” and sentenced to 9 years in prison. In July 2003 alone, he sent more than 53,000 emails.

Last year I read a report that said the burden of unwanted email had the potential of crippling the Internet. The crap clogs up everyone's system. The wasted man-hours alone in dealing with it could be put to far greater use. Some days I’m so disgusted with the hundreds of emails that hit my various email addresses that I’d like to chunk the computer through the window.

Get serious
As a freelance writer, I see jobs posted every day for people to do volume email work. Anyone who knowingly plans to distribute spam, and anyone who knowingly does the work should be locked up. No parole. And I’m not the only one who is fed up. I just wish that all the other states would jump on the band wagon and start putting some teeth behind their anti-spam statutes.

Recant and rename
Actually, whoever named junk email Spam should recant. They offended a perfectly good product beloved in Hawaii. Change the name to what it really is: CrapMail.

Blog Is Also A Verb

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For those interested in starting, maintaining, or improving a blog, check out the archives and My Performancing Blog at Performancing.com.

Performancing.com is all about blogs and blogging. I'm on it, though I commit the cardinal sin of rarely posting due to time constraints, because I'm a freelance writer who ghosts for other blogs.

Everything on the site is about the art, craft, and business of blogging. So if you want to improve your blogging skills or learn how to monetize your site, check out my blog and the others. The archives is a treasure trove of ideas.

Persist or Quit: Writing's Rocky Road

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If you're trying to break into this writing biz, how long should you persist? Is there a time when you should just throw in the towel? These are legitimate questions and are of concern to those who have been trying year after year to get a book contract. I was talking to a friend the other day. This matter was the subtext of our conversation.

I have several friends who are unpublished. Some are new to the game. Others have been trying for many years to make the leap from aspiring to published. In hopes that my two cents might help, here are a few thoughts on the subject of tilting at windmills.

Stages
If you've been writing, completing manuscripts, and submitting, then you are at one of two stages in your writing: elementary is getting form rejections and intermediate is getting actual letters telling you why your work is rejected.

If you're at the elementary stage, then try to improve and keep writing if you haven't mastered your craft. Now, if it's been a number of years that you've been submitting, and you're still not getting personal rejection letters, then you need to take a cold, hard look at your work because something just isn't working.

If you can't be objective, find someone who knows good writing, preferably a published author. Don't ask your mom, dad, spouse, sibling, or best friend unless one of those is an accomplished writer. Hopefully, you know a published author well enough who might help you out.

Try not to pay for this critique unless the person has a good reputation as a freelance editor with great credentials from successful writers. Beware the editing services that feed on the dreams of the unpublished!

Ask your chosen reader to give you an HONEST assessment of your work. Within the first 10 pages or less, he or she should be able to give you an objective opinion as to your ability as a story teller and as to your mastery of narrative elements.

Growth Hurts
Now, you have to be willing to have your feelings hurt. If all you want is a pat on the head and praise for your prose, then you are cheating yourself of the chance to grow as a writer. Honesty, even when couched in the most diplomatic terms, can hurt. But only honesty will help you grow.

If you want to be a writer, you MUST grow a thick skin because even after you get published, you're going to get your feelings hurt by readers, critics, and others who dump on your work. It's a fact of life so learn to separate WHO you are with WHAT you do. You are a wonderful, intelligent, charming person. What you do is write. The two should be separate not joined in your head.

If you get objective honest feedback that says you've got something there, but you need to learn how to present it better, then learn. If that hurts too much or if you don't want to take the time to learn, then move on to something else because this business probably isn't for you. It's a tough business, and you have to be willing to write, rewrite, shelve a manuscript, start a new one, again and again.

Regroup
If you are at the intermediate stage, getting personal feedback from editors and agents, but you're still getting rejections then here are some ideas for you if you're getting worn down by the process.

If you've written 10 manuscripts and submitted them all to every possible editor or agent and they've all been rejected with personal letters, do this:

1. Photocopy all the rejection letters and get a bunch of colored highlighters.

2. Analyze every letter. If each person made a negative comment about your story line, highlight that with the color of your choice. If they commented in a bad way about your use of viewpoint, highlight that. If they discussed the fact that nothing set your manuscript above the other few thousand vampire manuscripts they have, highlight that. Also highlight the positive comments, trying to color coordinate the like comments. Do the same with any elements in common in all the letters.

3. Lay the letters all out in a row on the floor. Stand back and look at them. Does one color, indicating a specific area, predominate? Are all the positive comments about your polished prose? Are all the negative comments about your work being derivative and not standing out? Look for common denominators.

4. Write yourself a report about what you discover. What should you definitely keep or emphasize in your next work? What should you improve?

5. Write an action plan on how you're going to improve the next manuscript. What are you going to do different? This is crucial because if you keep doing the same old thing, you'll get the same old results. You have to do something different. Is it improve your technique? Is it come up with a more exciting concept? Is it jump on a trend asap and get a manuscript finished before the industry is deluged with the same?

Reinvent
Then realistically ask yourself if all those manuscripts stand a chance of being published. Have they been submitted everywhere possible? Does the oldest manuscript stand up to scrutiny given that your skills have improved from that first effort? Do you believe in the characters or story enough to set it aside and work on it at some future point after you've been published? Or are you just tired of all of them. Be honest.

After making that brutal assessment of your inventory, choose a project to work on NOW. Preferably a new story. If you choose to rewrite, then know what you need to do to get a different answer the next time you submit it.

If it's a new story completely, then what will you do differently this time around? Different genre? Different voice of first person rather than third? What will make this manuscript your breakout manuscript? You need to answer those questions.

You have to keep your finger on the pulse of the market. See what's being published today as well as what authors are selling that won't be out for another year or more. Study the market. Find out what editors want then discover what in that appeals to you. See if you can make a marriage between what they want to publish and what you want to write. Then get it written and sent to them before they don't want it any more.

Renew
Pour your imagination, energy, and time into your new project. Get it finished as quickly as possible. Draw up an agent list with your A, B, and C choices. Check all them out. When you complete the manuscript, let it set so you can look at it with fresh eyes. Then proofread and edit as needed. Start sending it out.

Once you start submitting, celebrate your victory i.e. a completed, submitted manuscript. Then get started on the next one before too much time has elapsed. It's good practice for when you're a paid professional and have to turn around manuscripts quickly amidst juggling other tasks like copy edits, promotion, developing proposals for your option book, and other things you don't even know about yet as well as life and all that goes with having one.

Remember, if you're getting personal rejections and have come close many times to getting that contract, then you're teetering on the edge of something momentous. Sometimes, you just have to look inside your heart and determine if you really and truly want this. Then stay the course or move on to something else.

I knew a cop once who wrote a true crime book about something he was involved in. He sent it to 71 publishers and was rejected each time. He believed in himself and the story he wrote, so he sent it to number 72. It was accepted and published.

Pop Quiz, Hot Shot
Is there anything else you'd rather do with the time you spend writing? If so, then just lay the pen down and move on to something that pleases you more, excites you more, or is more fun. Then pat yourself on the back because you've found out something valuable before you wasted more time.

But...

1. Do you love writing?

2. Do you believe in yourself the way the cop believed?

3. Do you constantly try to improve by studying writing books, analyzing published books, practicing your craft, and you like doing all that?

If your answers are yes, keep writing. Every no is a down payment on that yes for which you're waiting.

I totally believe that God doesn't give you the desire to do something without giving you the means to do it. It's we poor humans who let other things come between us and what we want. So don't make excuses, make commitments, make time for your dreams. You're really worth it.

Believe. Persist.

Hang tough, baby!

Build A Writer's Library

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I was going to tell you about what I'm reading today, but it turns out I'm reading the latest Writers Digest Book Club catalog. I realized, upon rumination, that I've been a member of this book club for a very long time. In fact, I've been a member since before I was published. After publishing novels and selling just about every form of freelance writing, I'm still a member.

You may well ask why when I obviously know enough to write a publishable book and to successfully freelance for many years.

BOOKS, GLORIOUS BOOKS
I guess it's because, like most writers, the more I write, the more I realize I still have things to learn. So I still order books and eagerly look forward to reading another take on an old subject. That's on the how-to side of writing.

Then there are the specialty books for example A Writer's Guide To Poisons or Howdunnit. Specialty books are candy to a writer. You wouldn't believe some of the rather strange books a writer reads.

I highly recommend joining this book club if you are an aspiring writer. You pubs out there already know about it. I have stayed with the print catalog mailed to me each month because I like perusing it at my leisure.

I have to confess. Another reason I'm still a member is I really get a charge out of reading the blurbs for all these wonderful writing books.

These books are part of your Writer's Toolkit. They're an investment that will help you get to where you want to be in your career.

Why Movie Jumper Doesn't Work

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Sci Fi is my favorite channel, and Science Fiction is my guilty pleasure. I love the speculative so much that I've often wondered why I don't try to write in the genre. Well, actually, I did write a manuscript called STONE ANGEL some time back about reincarnation and time travel. This was before paranormal hit it big. The manuscript was mixed genre, kind of a murder mystery/psychological thriller/paranormal/romance.

Yeah, you can see why it never was published. No one knew where to shelve it I guess if it were published. The rave comments it always received at each outing always concluded with, "however...." (I still love it and think it's great, but I gave up on it so it lives inside my file cabinet.)

Pop Culture Ahead
Anyway, I tell you all this to explain how eagerly I looked forward to the movie JUMPER. Saw it with my daughter and husband the day it came out. It fizzled like a leaky helium balloon. Sure, I know it made gazillions, but it just didn't work for me. Whenever I have that reaction, I try to understand why it didn't. Here's what I came up with.

Why Jumper Doesn't Work
Insufficient characterization. Here's a prime example. The hero (can't even remember his name which is not a good sign) has had a crush on a girl since they were both young teens. Now in his twenties, he re-enters her life. (Keep in mind that they were never boyfriend-girlfriend. He had the crush. She didn't.) She always wanted to see the world so he takes her, first class flight, to Rome.

In the swanky hotel, he goes to her, kisses her, and begins to take off her shirt. My daughter and I looked at each other and said, in unison: "Time to pay for that first class ticket." Then we burst into laughter.

That reaction from us was because there was no genuine motivation, other than him expecting payment and her acquiescing, for them to have sex at that moment. Oh, and the fact that the movie makers needed a little sex.

Where was the building of the emotional relationship or, barring that, at least the physical attraction and desire? It was sex because the movie called for a sex scene.

Irritating Endings
Now, the special effects were great, but the rest was just another forgettable movie despite the overt effort to have a cliffhanger ending that would ensure a sequel if the box office receipts hit a certain number.

The ending itself was irritating in that it was too obvious in letting the villain live when he could easily have been done in. If the villain is going to get away, it must be unexpected yet believable at the same time and not just because the hero wants to show that he's not what the villain thinks.

Another thing, the ending wasn't the ending. It had one of those scenes tacked on. In a book, you'd call it the Epilogue. This scene was supposed to be shocking, but anyone with a brain would already have figured out this "surprise" plus this further setup for a sequel was also blatant and contrived.

Get Real
This movie belongs in the growing list of movies where there are no transitions, no logical segues, no motivated characters. One of the first things you learn as a writer is that if you're going to shoot someone at the end of the book then you have to show the gun (that's called foreshadowing), and you have to show why the character is capable of shooting someone. I think Foreshadowing is an element that contemporary movie makers abjure in the belief that it spoils a surprise. Without it, an action or scene becomes just one of those things that make you roll your eyes and sneer, "Oh, come on. You've got to be kidding."

Too bad. Jumper could have been so much more.

Publishing Professionals Move

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Today's Business of Writing has news about those playing musical chairs in publishing. If you've been in this business longer than a nano second, you know that editors, agents, and other professionals move around. Sometimes a lot. Good reason to heed the advice to never burn bridges.

The music is stopping. Everybody find a seat!

At Avon Books, the marvelous Erika Tsang has been promoted to Executive Editor.

At HarperCollins, Gillian Blake will come aboard March 31, 2008, as Executive Editor.

At the Ingram Book Group, Spring Arbor Distributors Incorporated has a new Director of Sales, Christopher T. Smith.

At Penguin Group last week, Celebra, a new imprint created to publish books about noteworthy Hispanic personalities, has selected Raymond Garcia as Publisher. Celebra will translate a third of their titles into Spanish.

At Virgin Books USA, Publisher Ken Siman is stepping down but will continue on as a consultant.

Preditors & Editors need your help

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If you're serious about your writing, you probably use the resources of Preditors & Editors. They've been around a long time and have helped many authors steer clear of unscrupulous agents and others who seek to take advantage of writers.

They're being sued now because of their stand against a publishing company. Go to their web page, read about it then do your own research yourself about the company involved. Make your own decision about the matter.

Then follow the link above if you wish to donate to their legal defense fund. Just find the icon on the page that says DONATE. I just made a donation. I hope you'll see fit to do the same.

Resource - Literary Agents Blogs

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I came across this today. It's a good resource written by an editor Literary Agents Blogs.

You'll find some good links to agents and their blogs as well as articles about crucial matters concerning literary agent representation.

Sling Words back to work in progress.