Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – July update

So here’s the update from Wednesday’s meeting of the Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – for those who were there, and those who wish they had been…lainey

A number of interesting topics arose. Ed Ahern mentioned that he’d been interviewed for The Two Sides of You, a book about bi-hemispheric people – those using both sides of their brain with equal facility. I mention this because I know the author, who belongs to a generation not generally known for their technological interest, never mind savvy. Yet Elaine Breakstone managed to publish this interesting (not just because I know her!) book, finding a cover designer, using Createspace to help with the layout, and putting it up on Amazon. Point is, if she can do it, you could too.

Alex McNab had his first fiction piece published in Still Crazy, suggested by fellow member Jacque Masumian. This is why we meet – to encourage each other and tell each other what works.

One submission tool that comes up at virtually every meeting is Duotrope. I mention it again for new members, and also for those of you who find submitting an overwhelming task.

Several members asked about how to write a really good query letter. We talked about Query Shark, a website run by  agent Janet Reid  who takes apart query letters she thinks aren’t any good, so you can see what not to do. One Rendezvous member suggested not sending a query letter to your top agent preferences first, in case the letter needs modification.  After you’ve sent it to your second tier list, and modified the letter (assuming you don’t get an acceptance) submit to your A list.

An interesting article in Atlantic Monthly talks about the rise in women crime writers. I find this interesting, since in my book, so to speak, women authors have dominated crime since the 30’s (Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and forward). I guess what the writer is getting at is that women write better psychological crime – solving the crime isn’t just a technical puzzle, it’s an emotional one, too. Add to that the fact that over half crime readers are women, and you can see why women crime writers are so successful. A quick check of our membership shows a number of women crime writers among our members, but so far, no men.

Dogwood, the Fairfield University Literary magazine, is soliciting submissions for their 2017 Literary Prizes. If you don’t want to compete, but would like just to submit, you can do that, too.

Talking of submissions, here’s an article on why you should aim for 100 of them. Some of our members are working on it!

For non-fiction writers, Creative Nonfiction is running a workshop in Havana (Cuba) from January 31-February 4, 2017. It’s co-sponsored by the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, and will be led by Lee Gutkind, editor of Creative Nonfiction. It’s called: Bringing Havana to Life, and at least one of our members is setting her novel there. Even if you’re not, Havana? Sounds great.

I heard about Plot Control software from a friend. It’s designed to help with screenwriting, but as we know, plot structure doesn’t vary much between genres. However, this is not the only one out there.  You might also look at Movie Outline, Save the Cat, and Final Draft.  I think most of these will work for fiction, too, but don’t quote me.

For those people already published on Kindle, you can, in fact, sign your book for buyers. I asked A.J O’Connell about it when I interviewed her a while back. You can read more about Authorgraph here.

As ever, Writers Read will be at the Fairfield Pubic Library on Tuesday, August 2nd, from 7-9pm. On August 3rd, Jay McInerney is talking about his latest book at the Darien Library, and on Friday, August 5th, the Writers’ Salon will be meeting at the Fairfield Library from 4-6pm.

See you next month!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – January Update

We had another wonderful get-together on Wednesday – thanks so much to all of you who came and contributed so much to help your fellow-writers.

One of the first things we talked about was the Connecticut Press Club Awards contest. One has to apply via the NFPW, the National Federation of Pen Women (men allowed), and their website is clunky. But once you’ve registered, and realize that you have to fill in all the separate tabs and save them for each entry, it gets better. I talked to Michele Turk (President of the CPC) about this, and she told me that it would make her job a lot simpler when submitting the CT winners to the National contest. You can submit in any of 64 categories here: http://www.nfpw.org/communicationsContest.php

If you have a novella waiting in the wings (Max 20,000 words) you should submit it to The Malahat Review (Canada). The prize is $1500 (Canadian, but still). Deadline Feb 1. http://www.malahatreview.ca/contests/contests_info.html

May-Lou Weisman is starting her Introductory Non-fiction Writing Workshop at the Westport Library on Feb 4 for six sessions.

We talked about Duotrope – a real time-saver for those of use looking to submit our work somewhere. It lists all the available publications and you can filter them by genre, submission dates, likelihood of publication (easier to most difficult to be get in).

For children’s book writers among us, here is Gail Gaulthier’s Calendar of Children’s book author events, which includes author appearances, workshops, conferences etc. Here’s the calendar I mentioned this morning: http://blog.gailgauthier.com/search/label/CCLC-Connecticut%20Children’s%20Lit%20Calendar This link looks weird, so if it doesn’t work go to Gail Gauthier‘s blog and look on the left for the calendar. One of these is the Big Sur Conference Cape Cod, which takes place in May this year.

Gwen Hernandez, Scrivener maven extraordinaire, is beginning a new season of classes at the end of the month. Fantastic value at $25, they break the learning process down into very manageable daily chunks. Great as a refresher, or for beginners.

Jane Friedman and Joanna Penn have blogs of particular interest to those of us interested in publishing, self-publishing and book marketing. Here’s a link a post in which Joanna interviews Jane about the latest in publishing. Even if you think you’re not ready to publish yet, there’s a lot of interesting food for thought. They talk about the rise in mobile publishing – people reading on their phones or tablets– which will affect the way bookstores sell books. And they talk about alternatives to Amazon for self-publishing. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2016/01/18/publishing-trends-jane-friedman/

Sandra Beckwith, of Build Book Buzz, a book marketer in Long Island, has a free webinar series on web marketing you can sign up for, beginning very soon. Check it out here.

A number of or authors use video book trailers to promote their books, a tool that seems to be on the rise. E.J. Simon has three books with trailers out, and Leslie Chess Feller has had several videos made of the poems in her book, Monster in My Lunchbox. She used Rozanne Gates to make them. Please contact me or her if you’d like to connect with Rozanne, who’s in Westport, CT. And here’s an article about the importance of book trailers for self-published authors.

Larry Brooks at Storyfix.com is running a free 10-part crash course on Story, which is his specialty. He has a way of looking at a plot and finding the holes or excesses in it, which is very clear and easy to apply to your own work. You can sign up for a series of emails which explain it all.

Hope you find this useful!

 

Author interview: A.J. O’Connell

AJOConnellI’ve just finished, rather reluctantly, the second episode of A.J.O’Connell’s trilogy of novellas (available as paper or eBook), which began with Beware the Hawk. The Eagle & the Arrow continues from where our last cliffhanger ended. But the point of view in this installment is that of Helen Roberts, director of the Resistance, the secret government agency that our nameless heroine from the first book appears to work for. I say ‘appears to work for’ because nothing in this book can be taken for granted.

A,J’s voice here is pitch perfect, so far as I know, because I’ve never actually met the director of such an agency. But I was convinced by the crisp dialogue and the slightly world-weary but ever vigilant Helen who is landed with babysitting a former agent gone rogue and a slew of double-dealing colleagues that kept me guessing as I read. There is a problem with this book. We have to wait, now, for part three, which I hope won’t take long to write, because I have to know what happens next! And since A.J’s writing is becoming more polished as she writes each successive book, I think I’m justified in expecting a new one quite soon.

With this in mind, I had a few questions for her when I met her recently at Made in Bridgeport, a funky little shop in the eponymous town, where I’m sure agents of the Resistance have assignations on a regular basis.

1.So – when is the next book coming out?
I don’t know; I’m hoping for sometime in 2014, although I predict that this one will take a little longer to write because I now have to resolve the story I started in book one and the one I started in book two. At the moment, I’m working on another project, but I’ve sketched out some ideas for book three, and I’m choosing my new protagonist. (Currently I’m torn between two new voices.) [So frustrating! GC]

 180693542.      This is your second novella. What made you decide to write in this form? And is there a novel in your future?

I definitely never set out to write a novella; I just tend to write short, and at the time I wrote the first draft of Beware The Hawk, I was working as a reporter and because of that, I wrote very short.

Additionally, I was working on the project for a writers group that only shared five pages at a time, out loud, every two weeks. Because of my schedule, I was really only writing five pages at a time, right before the meetings and because I was reading them aloud, basically performing them, I always ended my five pages with a cliffhanger, like it was a radio play.

At the time, I believed that the manuscript was much longer than it actually was. I remember being surprised to discover that I only had 35 pages of the first draft. I always thought I’d lengthen the draft, but that changed when my editor contacted me about the manuscript for a series of e-novellas her publishing house was putting out.

As for a novel, yes! There is definitely a novel in my future. Lord knows, there are many, many novels in my past. I’ve been writing longer manuscripts since high school; my hard drive is full of them. Currently I’m finishing a second draft of a novel that I began working as part of a project for grad school. It’s very different from the two books I have out now, which is something I love.

3.      Your first book (Beware the Hawk) is set in Boston, and this one has DC as its background. Any reason why you chose these locations specifically?

I chose Boston because I used to work at a newspaper there. I was just out of school and had no car, and I spent a lot of time walking around the city and traveling on public transportation. I got to know the city pretty well. Chinatown in particular fascinated me. There was the sense that you could find all sorts of adventures there, if you know where to look for it.

Washington D.C. came to me as a natural setting because of the plot of The Eagle & The Arrow, but the problem with that was that I don’t know D.C. nearly as well as I knew Boston. I ended up asking a few friends who live in and near D.C. to read through the manuscript and tell me where I got the city wrong and how to correct it.

4.      Love your female protagonists. Are they modeled on anyone, either real or fictional?

Thank you! It’s a mixture, really. The first protagonist in the first draft of Beware the Hawk (written 10 years ago) was a young me, but when I retooled the draft in 2011, I changed some of that. I work as adjunct faculty in a local college and I incorporated several of the traits I see in my students into her and also made up some traits to bring her up to date.

My second protagonist, Helen, is more or less invented, but there are traces of at least two or three career women I know and admire in her. And, I recently realized that, subconsciously, I gave Helen my aunt’s apartment. Maybe because when I was small my aunt was the only women I knew who was single and had a career and her own apartment, and I was always drawn to that. There was a kind of power in her lifestyle and her apartment was a symbol of that power to me.

5.      Could you tell us a bit about how you found your way into this kind of writing style?

If you mean the thrillerish style, I blame that first writers’ group, the one that had me reading five pages at a time every two weeks! And also, I blame Michael Crichton because I remember reading Jurassic Park as a kid, and staying up long into the night and wondering “How is he doing this? I really don’t want to read about anyone getting eaten by a dinosaur, but why can’t I stop reading?”

Honestly, these books are a departure from my natural writing style, which is a bit slower in pace, but I like writing them because it’s a challenge to figure out how to break a short book into short segments that will (I hope) keep people turning  the pages.

6.      Lastly, Thanks for my Authorgraph.:)  How did you come across this way of ‘signing’ e-books, and is it complicated for authors to do? Click here to see it: Authorgraph from A.J. O’Connell for Beware The Hawk

You are quite welcome! I heard about Authorgraph last year, when Beware the Hawk was only out as an e-book. Instead of signing books, I was mailing signed Post-Its to anyone who asked for one so people could stick the notes to their e-readers while they read my book, and thus, have a signed copy. Another author saw this and sent me the link to Authorgraph. It was very easy: I just signed in using my Twitter account, uploaded my signature, and added my books. If a request comes in, I can sign a book from my smartphone and the signed flysheet will get sent directly to the readers’ Kindles, although I believe readers have to create an account to access those. It would be ideal if readers didn’t need a login and if there was an associated app, but I’m hopeful that will change soon. Honestly, the biggest hurdle is getting readers to try it.

Interview with author Lisa Winkler – editor of Tangerine Tango

In addition to writing a regular blog, Lisa Winkler is the author of On the Trail of the Ancestors, A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America.  She’s also the editor of a new anthology of writing by women called Tangerine Tango (yes, of course I’m in it!) and I was impressed with the energy and dedication she brought to putting the project together, so I asked her about it.

GC: Congratulations on publishing Tangerine Tango. Is this the first book you’ve produced?

LW: Thanks, Gabi! I’m so proud of the book. This is my second book.  On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America was published last February. That is a very different book than Tangerine Tango. It tells the journey of a teacher I met from Newark, NJ who rode his horse from New York to California to honor the contributions of African-Americans to US history.

Tangerine Tango is a collection of essays and poems by 12 women writers.

GC: Tell me something about how you found your authors.

LW: Most of the writers I have befriended through blogging and I asked them to contribute.  By reading and commenting on each others’ blogs I feel as if I have all these wonderful friends!

GC: The book is attractive looking. Did you design it yourself, or did you have help?

LW: I had help. I am so lucky to have met Solveig Marina Bang. She is a designer and copy editor, based in India, who turns my word documents into art!  We go back and forth debating grammar as well as design.  She created 9 covers for me to select from—I loved this one immediately.

GC: Which parts of the publishing process did you handle yourself? (ISBN numbers, editing, etc)

LW: I have self-published with CreateSpace, Amazon’s publishing company. They assign the ISBN. I edited the essays and shared the edits with the writers. Then Marina and I pored through the entire document scores of times, and the writers proofread it too. I think there were over 20 drafts before it was ready to submit for publication.

GC: Was publishing the book pretty straightforward?

LW: Well the paperback was unavailable for a few days because of some glitch between Amazon and CreateSpace. In order to solve the formatting problems I had to wait for them to fix the issues with the Amazon paper copies. People who ordered from CreateSpace directly weren’t affected, but it was a nuisance from a promotional point of view. On the bright side, while it was unavailable, Amazon was advertising used copies for $999!

GC: Is the problem cleared up now?

LW: Yes, thankfully, and it’s been selling well.

GC: What piece of advice would you give to other indie authors looking to publish?

LW: It’s a risk and investment. There are tons of paper books being published both traditionally and self-published. Then there are eBooks. There’s a lot of competition. Don’t expect to make fast money. There’s no guarantee even if you’re traditionally published.
GC: Would you be prepared to do it again? Is volume 2 in the works, for example, or do you have something different on the horizon?

 

LW: I’d love to do this again! It would be another title; maybe with themes, maybe not. I’d love to double the size of the book and the number of authors. I think I’ll wait at least a year though to see how this one does, and if I do another book, I want to research other companies.

Re-post: 5 Unusual Ways to Experience Books by Sally Allen

Sally Allen is the editor of Westport’s HamletHub  an online newspaper, and blogs about books and literature at Open Salon. She earned a PhD in English education from NYU. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. As a book-lover, a recent article got my attention right away, with it’s new and unusual ideas for ways to enjoy books.

Here it is:

5 Unusual Ways to Experience Books

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been running into fascinating projects that involve experiencing books in unorthodox ways. By ‘unorthodox,’ I mean not sitting down alone and reading quietly in your head but taking the act of reading into a social realm that feels very ’21st Century.’ And not in the kind of way that involves complaining about e-readers and the death of the book/publishing industry/library.

These ideas all offer exciting new ways to experience books that show how relevant reading is today and why it will always matter. Yes, always.

Since they’re all worth sharing, I’m going to do just that! Click on the link to visit the project then meet me in the comments to discuss:

Around the Watery Part of the World in 135 days: The MOBY-DICK Big Read

In an earlier blog post I sang the praises of “Moby Dick,” a novel that wasn’t appreciated in its time but that readers and scholars have been appreciating the crap out of since around the 1920s.

I don’t know that I convinced any of you to read it because—let’s be honest—it’s a really, really long book, a major time commitment. And when you have so many books to catch your eye (and capture your imagination), classics can get relegated to the back of the pile (especially the long ones). It’s kind of like how New Yorkers never quite make it to the Statue of Liberty.

With this project, you can get through “Moby Dick” with a chapter a day, and you don’t actually have to read it! The book is read TO you by a different person each day (Tilda Swinton read Chapter One!). The project began on July 9, but you can still catch up. Melville wrote pretty short chapters.

Moby-Dick Marathon NYC

Here’s another way to experience the American classic without having to sit down and read it for yourself and by yourself: a reading marathon to be held in New York City from Nov. 16 – 18. The website is pretty brief, but here’s what I can tell you: over 100 readers will gather over three days at three independent bookstores in two boroughs.

And also, the celebration marks the 161st birthday of “Moby Dick,” which was first published on Nov. 14, 1851.

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night,” the Board Game for Book Lovers

I’m almost speechless with glee at this idea for making reading social—a board game that asks players to correctly identify famous first lines of books, from novels to mysteries to non-fiction to children’s literature to short stories. You can play as individuals or teams. It sounds hard but deliciously fun!

The Shakespearience

Launched this week in the iBookstore is this interactive e-book of Shakespeare’s works. Embedded in the text are translations into contemporary language as well as well-known performances featuring Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh, and Orson Wells. The e-book also offers production notes, photos, and other fun features from famous stagings of the plays. The three included in today’s launch are Othello, Hamlet, and Romeo and Juliet.

Reading Parties

Here’s another idea I’m deeply in love with, offered by Book Riot writer Jennifer Paull as an alternative to the traditional book group. What’s the problem with book groups? Maybe that you have to read a book you’re not interested in, or you don’t have time to read the book that’s assigned? This idea takes care of both of these issues.

Instead of picking one book, having everyone read it before the meeting, then getting together to talk about everything but the book that none of you read, make the book group meeting about the act of reading itself.

What does that look like, you ask? Paull suggests setting aside time to read together, as in sitting in a room together and reading. You read the books of your choice, maybe even taking time to read a favorite part out loud to the group, which (incidentally) can be a great way to discover new books to experience in full. Genius!

Do you have a great idea for social reading? Maybe you’ve tried one of these or want to? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Need book reviews? Check out this repost from The Creative Penn –

Joanna Penn has one of the best sites around for indie writers – she’s a source of constant inspiration and generously shares her knowledge with the rest of us. Her website, The Creative Penn, is regularly listed among the Top Ten Blogs for Writers, and she has indie published the first two novels of her Arkane trilogy, (Prophecy and Pentecost) under the name J.F. Penn. She often asks people to write guest blogs for her, and recently featured this one by Laura Pepper Wu, about how to get more and better book reviews. I thought it was fascinating, as well as useful.

How to Get Amazon’s Top Reviewers to Review Your book

We all want more book reviews but until you have a huge readership waiting for organic reviews can be… well, a long wait!

One way to get more high quality, (usually) well-written and highly regarded reviews is to ask the ‘Amazon Top Customer Reviewers’ to take a look at your book.

Why target the top Amazon reviewers?

While I’ve seen some reviewers with 7,000+ reviews, the Top Customer Reviewer award is not only about the number of reviews one person has churned out. At the time of writing, the #1 top customer reviewer on Amazon has only (!) 671 reviews under his belt.

As always, Amazon uses a complex algorithm to determine…

Read the rest here:

Laura Pepper Wu is a writer and the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio and Ladies Who Critique, a critique-partner finding site. She has successfully marketed several books to become Kindle and print best-sellers.

Laura has recently released Authorlicious, a premium WordPress theme for authors including tutorials, so if you want to maximize your blog success, check it out here:

Author interview: James Tenedero

One of my more popular posts recently was the one about authors’ blog tours. After reading it, James Tenedero, a Canadian author, asked me if I’d be prepared to host him when he organized his blog tour today. James is from Montreal, but has traveled extensively in Europe, as you’ll find out when you read his book, The Consistency of Parchment, a thriller. You can find out more about his background at the bottom of this post.

Since this is James’ first novel, I wanted to know how, exactly, he arrived at a finished, published work. I was interested in the process from first concept through editing to self-publishing. I think you will be ,too.

GC: I can see from the book that you’ve traveled in Europe a great deal. Did you live there once? And, – a couple more questions: What gave you the idea for this novel, and why all the train trips?

JT: I have studied in Copenhagen, and I also lived in Budapest for a short time.  The idea for the novel really originated during my stay in Hungary. At the time, in 2003, the transition from Communist rule to democracy was already well underway, but I was still struck by the lack of severe Soviet-era architecture and customs; while there were traces of this past, much of that history seemed to have been swept out of view.

I started to consider the idea that we relate to the past in a very visceral way through the symbols and artifacts that we encounter in our daily lives. This is really the key underlying theme of the book, from which I then developed the storyline involving Cal, Kendra, and their journey to discover the contents of the safe deposit box for which Kendra possesses the key.

The frequent train trips in the book were based on my own travels throughout Europe. I used these episodes as a way to develop the bond between Cal and Kendra, and to flesh out the details of their motivations without impeding the narrative arc or the pace of the story.

GC: Once you had your ‘final’ draft, who edited it?

JT: I edited the book myself. Although I don’t have the skill set of a professional editor, I did work as a proofreader for a federal government agency for several years – so I have some sense of what to look for. Ultimately, I decided that the person best able to tell the story was me. So it seemed to make sense for me to write and edit the book myself. I’m a big proponent of the desk-drawer approach to editing: finish the draft of your manuscript, set it aside for a few weeks, and then come back to it with a set of fresh eyes.

GC: When you decided to publish, where did you start? I assume you had a Word document, but what happened next?

JT: Since I had made a decision to publish with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, I followed the template provided in their Building Your Book for Kindle guide, which is available online for free download here. I formatted the manuscript accordingly, added hyperlinks for the Table of Contents so that readers could easily navigate through the book on their Kindle, and then uploaded the full document for sale on the Amazon website.

GC: Who designed the cover and layout?

JT: As with the editing, I selected the cover art and designed the front cover. (You can probably tell that I like to exercise a good deal of control over the way that my writing is presented, and with The Consistency of Parchment I was an unabashed monopolist from conception of the story to sale of the book!). The photograph is taken from a cemetery in Manchester, England, which I visited earlier this year, and I experimented with several different fonts before settling on the text that you see here. I’m happy with the overall result, and I’ve already had some very complimentary feedback in this vein from potential readers!

GC: Where is it available?

JT:Although there are certainly many options for authors looking to make their books available on the Web, I chose Amazon because of the popularity of the site. I wanted to ensure that I had the largest possible audience for my work, and Amazon provides me with this opportunity. Another nice feature of their publishing model is that you’re essentially unrestricted in terms of the potential volume of sales you can realize. You publish online, your book is automatically listed by Amazon, and your ultimate success is dependent on the quality of the product (as determined by the readers and reviewers, not by literary agents or publishing houses) and the amount of effort you devote to marketing it.

GC: When you sent me a review copy (thank you) it was in MOBI format. Can you tell us why you chose that format?

JT: I chose MOBI as my format because of its simplicity and inexpensiveness. An author can use freely available software such as Mobipocket Creator to convert a manuscript into MOBI. Also, these files are fully compatible with the Kindle, which of course was an important consideration for me!

GC: I opened my copy using Calibre, and then transferred it to my Kindle Fire. Am I right in thinking that this only works for free copies?

JT: Although I haven’t used Calibre myself, my understanding of the tool is that it works for both free and paid copies.

GC: So if people want to buy it, how much does it cost, and where can they find it?

JT: The Consistency of Parchment is currently on sale for $2.99 on the Amazon web site. Since my book is included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Amazon Prime members can obtain it for free. Also, the familiar ‘Look Inside’ feature allows readers to sample the first couple of chapters before deciding whether to purchase the book.

Thank you for hosting me and allowing me to speak about my work! I would invite your readers to follow me on Twitter (@jamestenedero), connect with me on Goodreads, and Like my Facebook author page. I’m always interested in hearing from other authors and readers, so feel free to get in touch with me through any of these channels.

I hope you enjoy the book, and I welcome your feedback and comments.

James Tenedero is a Montreal author, PhD student, (sometime) adventurer, and (unrepentant) bibliophile. After stints in corporate finance and management consulting, James answered the call of academia: he is currently enrolled in PhD studies at McGill University with the hopes of eventually securing his place in the ivory tower. When he’s not writing fiction, James can be found in his office researching organizational innovation and writing non-fiction. The Consistency of Parchment is his first full-length novel

Not sure how to end your novel? Part 2: Coliloquy has a solution

Yesterday I mentioned Ernest Hemingways’ 47 attempts to finish A Farewell to Arms. If you’re having the same problem, you could turn to a relatively new website called Coliloquy for inspiration. It’s an eBook publisher with a twist. It refers to its publications as “active fiction specializing in reader engagement and serial storytelling.” Essentially, you get to choose the ending that you’d prefer for the book you’re reading. I can’t hope to paraphrase this correctly, so here’s what the founders of Coliloquy say about it:

Coliloquy was founded on the belief that digital fiction can push the boundaries of how we think about narrative and storytelling.We publish all of our books as active Kindle Fire (and now Nook and Android as well) applications, rather than static files, allowing our authors to build ever-expanding worlds through episodic, serial storytelling and engagement mechanics, like choice and voting, branching story lines, re-reading loops, and personalized content. The result is an incredibly fluid and immersive story-telling experience…

At the moment they have eight titles, mainly, it seems to me, aimed at YA audiences (apart, I assume from the erotic novel…). They require their authors to be published already, then they help and guide them in producing this different style of fiction.

Tawna Fenske

I bought one of the books (which you buy as a Kindle Android app, not a Kindle book, which is not interactive) and enjoyed it. But I found a bit of a problem with Coliloquy’s take on their books. They aren’t selling a series of books, where the main character has various stand-alone adventures. What they sell is a serial – a different kettle of fish altogether. I purchased Getting Dumped, having read a couple of sample pages and deciding that the style and subject matter would be fun. Author Tawna Fenske is a terrific writer and I laughed out loud at several places in the book. She has a great way with words, and this was reminiscent of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. The Evanovich books are a series, however. Getting Dumped was not. After paying $4.99 for the book, I read it in a couple of hours and the realized that I was only halfway through it. In order to find out what happened I had to pay another $4.99. And although there was one place in the book where I could choose from three alternative scenarios (heroine calls one of three possible love interests) the subsequent chapters were all identical. I know, because I tried all three. Essentially, what you get is identical plot development with three different ways of delivering the same information to the reader.

If I’d bought the first volume of the book when it first came out, I would have been very irritated to find that I hadn’t purchased a whole book. And I’d have had to wait several months for the second half.

When I asked founder and CEO Lisa Rutherford about this, here’s what she said:

You are correct that the choice in GETTING DUMPED PART 1 takes the reader to one of three different scenes, before reconciling the story. It’s actually one of the simplest uses of our technology (compared to some of our other authors), but arguably the most powerful, both in terms of reader behavior and how Tawna uses the data. (She uses it to help plot the next half of the book GC)

With regard to series/serial, we had early feedback that it was more confusing to refer to some titles as series and others as serials, particularly since the two words are often interchanged in common American usage. 

I guess that’s fair enough. Point is, this is an interesting new way to use technology to craft eBooks. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on. Maybe they’ll start a subscription service. How about unlimited installments for a fixed annual fee? I could see myself going for that.

Reading my first interactive eBook – and loving it!

Sumner Glimcher is quite a guy. I first met him at the Westport Arts Center in Connecticut, where he was telling people about his new eBook memoir A Filmmaker’s Journal. I read it recently on my Kindle Fire, and it was astonishing for several reasons. First, Sumner’s career has taken many twists and turns. Starting with a stint of active combat in World War II, through service in post-war Germany in the de-Nazification program, through a long career in documentary film, followed by teaching at NYU, he’s had the sort of life that probably wouldn’t be possible today.

But the thing that interested me most about his book was not the story, fascinating though it was. What hooked me was the fact that this was the first interactive eBook I’d seen. It contains links to clips from Sumner’s movies, as well as to an oddity of a song called “That Ignorant, Ignorant Cowboy” – designed to be a way of telling people, after the invention of penicillin, that syphilis was now curable. Apparently it became a huge jukebox hit!

Why is this so extraordinary? Because Sumner is a very charming and gregarious 88 years old. And he’s still taking a very active interest in new technology and ways of getting his message across using all the means at his disposal.

Over coffee recently, I asked him how he’d managed it.

“Oh,” he said suavely, “Once I’d conceived the idea, I found this absolutely terrific young guy at the Apple store, and he helped me get it all together.” Creative thinking, right?

Just reading this eBook has given me a whole lot of new ideas of what’s possible in the eBook world. So, although I love a paper book, this kind of creativity will keep me reading on my Fire.

If you’re old-fashioned, and must have a paper book, it’s available as a paperback from Amazon, as well as in eBook form for Nook, iPad, etc. So you have no excuse now. If Sumner can lead the way, you can follow.

You can find Sumner at his website, on his Facebook page and you can follow him on Twitter – he’s just started tweeting. You can find his movies on YouTube, or just Google him…he’s everywhere.

This Saturday, August 4, he’ll be interviewed on WWNN radio (8.30-9am) by Anita Finley, host of the radio program:  “Cutting Edge with Anita.”  They’ll be talking about how the Publishing Revolution has developed as a result of self-publishing, reading tablets and eBooks. And on August 20th, (6-8pm) you can meet him in person at a “Meet the Filmmaker evening at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in New York.

It seems that Sumner Glimcher’s adventures keep right on happening.

 

Margaret Atwood leads the digital media pack

There’s a new short fiction app called Wattpad and the website that invented it has 9 million followers. Surprised? I was, because I’d never heard of it. So I signed up to take a look. Readers describe themselves as an eBook community, but the interesting thing is that many of them are writers too. You can upload your own work for others to read. And you can do it chapter by chapter, if you like. The reason this is appealing is that it enables a writer to get feedback as they go along, rather than waiting until it’s a ‘finished’ book and then finding out that readers hate it. And readers may even suggest new plot developments or request more characterization.

Margaret Atwood

The reason Wattpad came to my attention is that among their new members is prize-winning Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Atwood’s novels include The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and the Year of the Flood, as well as children’s books, non-fiction and poetry. She has published two new poems on the site, and is planning to share a piece of fiction this Fall. The poems are: Update on Werewolves, in which she explores the world of the female werewolf and Thriller Suite . (I hope these links work for people who aren’t signed up for Wattpad…)

She will also be the final judge of a poetry contest to be held on the site this month. She already has 280 fans, one of whom is me, of course. And once people discover her whereabouts, that number will just keep going up.

Readers comment on her work, as they do for any other writer on the site. Ms. Atwood says she’ll be reading the feedback on her work, but won’t be commenting on other writers’ stuff, though she promises to read some. She feels any comment she might make would carry too much weight for its recipient – good or bad.

Making yourself visible on Wattpad isn’t easy. Even Margaret Atwood has stiff competition. There are currently five million stories in 25 languages, and more than half a million more are added every month. So if you add something, you’ll be competing for readers’ attention, too. But then, that’s a real author’s life, isn’t it? Name a genre and they have it. Presumably, there’s writing which doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, but so what?

I think it’s time to get some writing on there and see what happens.

P.S. This isn’t the only way in which Margaret Atwood is reaching readers old and new; I’ll be doing a follow up post on her remarkable new ideas soon.