January 2011 Archives

The profession of book-writing makes

The profession of book-writing makes horse-racing seem like a solid, stable business.
John Steinbeck

The artist brings something into

The artist brings something into the world that didn't exist before, and he does it without destroying something else.
John Updike

I made a list of

I made a list of things I was good at, and two of the things were "lying" and "sitting." So I decided to be a writer.
John Green

Bedtime Bible and more - Read and Share Bible

bible.jpgLooking for an easy-to-read-aloud Bible story book? The Read and Share Bible (Tommy Nelson, 2007), stories retold by Gwen Ellis and illustrated by Steve Smallman, is a good book to introduce a little one to over 200 Bible stories.

Starting with Genesis and going through Revelation each story includes a Bible reference. I especially appreciated the commentary at the end of each two page spread--these either had a challenge, i.e. "But can you guess what was missing?," or a statement, "Let's see how Solomon's wisdom helped two women," to lead into the next story. It makes for good page turning. Plus the illustrations are delightful. One of my favorites is of a frog scratching his head over the iron ax that Elisha made float.

Don't be surprised if a child wants to read more than one story at a sitting.

This book is also a helpful overview for anyone wanting a quick read of many well-known and lesser known stories from the Bible.

If you'd like to see excerpts, the publisher has set up a Facebook page with downloadable excerpts that change periodically.Spanish bible.jpg

There's also a Spanish version and a DVD version. Volumn 2 of the DVD version comes out next month (Feb. 2011).

invasion.jpgThat's what 16-year-old Colt is about to find out in the first C.H.A.O.S. novel, Invasion (Thomas Nelson, 2010), by Jon S. Lewis.

Summer vacation in Washington DC, but the building Colt's dad has stopped in front of doesn't look like a tourist place. Nor does it look like a camp. Inside he'll find out all kinds of secrets about his world, but then not be able to remember them or even whom he met. Later while surfing at home in San Diego he gets attacked by a sea monster, but who's going to believe that? It sounds like something out of a nightmare. Unfortunately, Cole's going to experience worse in the days to come.

I enjoyed the humor in the book, and the relationship between the kids. It felt a bit comic bookish itself, so should appeal to comic book fans. As it should since the author has written comic books as well. Check out the series website.

Note: This is definitely not your stereotypical "Christian" book; in fact, there's no preaching at all!

Jon S. Lewis is also the cowriter of the Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles.

I'd love to give this book to a boy who likes comic books. If you have a son, nephew, grandson, who'd enjoy the book, comment on this post with your email address, and I'll draw from the comments and contact one lucky person to win this book. (If you don't see the comment option, click on the post title.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Welcome, Diane Bailey, Work-for-hire Champion

Diane Bailey, who has more work-for-hire experience than I do, agreed to share some about her experience.

I like soccer as much as the next American.

Meaning, if someone had asked me what I wanted to write a book about, it wouldn't have been the history of the World Cup. Same goes for Miley Cyrus. And the future of warfare. And yes, even vampires.

Actually, sometimes it's nice not to have a choice. People generally tend to choose things that are familiar; we take the easy way out. But work-for-hire projects don't always mesh with our interests or expertise. Instead, they require us to step outside our comfort zones. I'm usually happy to leave, because it's also my boredom zone.

Work-for-hire writers specialize in being general. That's not to say we don't have a certain set of skills. To get hired in the first place, we're selling our particular expertise: how to research and write a book, within the peculiar requirements and constraints of the library and educational market. But implicit in this set of skills is adaptability, a game-face approach to whatever an editor throws our way. We've got to be good at mustering up curiosity and manufacturing enthusiasm about practically anything. Of course, there are some wfh writers who might stick to sports or history or pop culture. But for writers who are trying to make a living at it, they're likely to take what they can get. For me, this "grab bag" mentality is part of the attraction.

When I started writing, I worked as a journalist in the entertainment industry. I watched a lot of TV, I went to a lot of movies, and I interviewed a lot of celebrities. I won't deny this had an element of glamor to it--and I did get free food--but after you've written a couple hundred actor profiles and inadvertently become addicted to Days of Our Lives, it starts to get a little old.

A couple of years ago, an editor contacted me with a list of books she was assigning, and asked which one I would like. One of the titles was about Bono, the lead singer of U2. Another one was a career book about brain surgeons. A lot of people might have jumped on the Bono book. But I wasn't particularly enamored with that idea. I'd done the celebrity thing. I wanted something else. So I took the brain surgeon book, and loved it. It's still one of my favorite books that I've done.

Brain surgeons cover picture.jpg
Other times you just plain luck out. Recently I got a list of titles to choose from. One of them was in a series about economics, and was called "How Business Decisions are Made." I didn't pick this one, even though it paid a little better than the one I did choose--a book about zombies. Because, seriously, how could I NOT write about zombies if given the opportunity? I mean, I COULD make a good business decision and earn a little more money by writing about business decisions. OR I could write about zombies. In this particular case, I turned to a higher authority and asked myself, What would Shaun of the Dead do?

With wfh projects, sometimes you get great topics; other times they're not your first choice. But you rarely work on a project long enough to get bored with it. I often think of writing a work-for-hire book is somewhat like taking an eight-week course (or, depending on how organized your editor is, a three-week course). You learn the subject matter and then you write your final paper, which will happen to end up in a library binding. But you don't have to get up early and walk to class in the rain. And you get to deposit your diploma.

And it's only about writing. You don't have to worry about any of that pesky marketing-and-promotion stuff. In a sense, work-for-hire is craft at its most pure: you are not saddled with the worry of deciding what will sell, or to whom, or how well. There's something comforting in knowing that your job is to just write the book. It's one thing to deal with an idiotic or irrational editor (I say this only hypothetically, of course: my editors are all normal!). I mean, we're writers. We understand neurosis. But spreadsheet-literate people from sales? Yikes.

I got my first work-for-hire job through a tip from a colleague. I emailed my resume, and even though the editor I contacted didn't have any work for me right then, she passed my name to another editor who'd had a writer drop out on a project. She needed someone, pronto, to write the book. I agonized over this 6,000-word book. I probably--okay, maybe--made minimum wage by the time you averaged out my hours. But that first book led to regular work from this company. Meanwhile, I researched other educational publishers and packagers and went through the drill: sent my resume and samples, and waited for my inbox to fill up.

This happened rather slowly.

Some companies didn't respond. Some responded with the always-cheering, "We'll keep your material on file." I always thought they were lying when they said this, and maybe some of them are. But I know at least some of them aren't, because I've gotten contacted for work months later.

One company I work for doesn't pay as well as the others, but, you know, it's a job. And it's a packager. I mention this because my editor there may work for more than one publisher. Even if his budget on one project is low, the next one may be higher--and he's already familiar with my name and my work. Either way, I'm still earning more than I would working at Wal-Mart.

And I get to write the word "zombies" on my resume. You can't put a price tag on that.

It took me a long

It took me a long time to see that if I respected my life as a writer, my friends and others would, too.
Joan Broerman

Unputdownable Fantasy - The Demon King

I was already hooked on Cinda Williams Chima's Heir Chronicles and now I'm hooked on her Seven Realms novels. The former are set in contemporary times in America and England. The latter are set in a fascinating complex world of magic, castles, sword fighting and more. Let's talk about them now.

demon king.jpgThe Demon King (Hyperion, 2009) is about Han Alister, thief, former streetlord, and friend of the Clans, and Princess Raisa ana Marianna, descendent of Hanalea and half Clan herself. They both live in the city of Fellsmarch, but in two completely extremes of society.

Han's nickname is Cuffs because of the silver cuffs around his wrists that can't be removed. He takes an amulet away from a wizard on the mountain of Hanalea, which ends up putting his mother and young sister at risk. Will the rich and the wizards take everything away from Han in return?

Raisa flirts and exchanges kisses with the same wizard mentioned above, Micah Bayar. Yet now she's worrying that his father has too much control over her mother the Queen. Her father is away with the Clans. Can she be like her warrior queen ancestress or is she just going to be an ornamental princess?

Read it to find out! But you won't want to stop there. The story is continued in The Exiled Queen (Hyperion, 2010) and will conclude with The Gray Wolf Throne--not out until September 2011. SIGH! (I don't like waiting...)

Exiled queen.jpg

I enjoyed both of these books--I didn't want to do anything but keep reading to find out what was going to happen. The characters are believable people each struggling with their situations in their dangerous world. My husband is reading them, too.

Read about fantasy author Cinda Williams Chima at her site. You can find out about more books in the works, good news, appearances, and more. Go to her blog for writing advice.

Humorous SciFi - The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

danielX.jpgI recently discovered The Dangerous Days of Daniel X (Little, Brown and Company, 2008) by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. It reminds me of Men in Black except the aliens are dangerous and must be destroyed. Especially the ones who assassinated young Daniel's parents. Yet Daniel, the Alien Hunter, himself is an alien, who has special powers.
The next book in the series is Daniel X: Watch the Skies by James Patterson and Ned Rust. I plan to read it soon. Then I'll follow up with the third book, Daniel X: Demons and Druids by James Patterson and Adam Sadler.
James Patterson has a site called ReadKiddoRead to encourage kids to become readers for life. The site includes these categories:
- Illustrated Books
- Transitional Books
- Pageturners
- Advanced Reads
and also offers many other resources.

Read more about co-authors Michael Ledwidge, Ned Rust, and Adam Sadler on these sites.

Books are the compasses and

Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life.
Jesse Lee Bennett