Monday, February 25, 2013

Show Don't Tell


A bit of wisdom from guest blogger Kimberly Rae
This is probably the single thing that defines an author's quality of writing. If you are a reader, you know the difference between a book you read and gain information from, and a book that sweeps you up into its story and characters, and has you closing it looking around wondering where you are.

The difference is in whether you show or tell.

Telling a story is giving the information.
1. The girl was hungry.
2. He felt scared.
3. The house was run down.


You can use impressive words and great structure, but in the end, you told a story without inviting the reader into it.


And then he....zzzzzzzzzzzz



Showing is putting words in front of the reader that have them coming to feel and conclude for themselves. They become an active participant in your story.

For example, using each of the sentences above, here is how an author would show rather that tell:
1. Her stomach cramped up and her mouth watered at the tantalizing sight of two biscuits and a pile of scrambled eggs. (You never say she was hungry, but your reader comes to that conclusion, and is much more involved in the character's hunger.) 
2. A chill ran up his spine. He tried to keep from shivering. Tried to maintain a manly facade. Then his teeth chattered and betrayed him. (This not only shows you he is scared, but you also learn he is insecure as a man and trying to prove he is braver than he is.)
3. Shutters tilted at cockeyed angled from the rusted hinges. Chunks of peeled paint lay scattered across the ground around the house, like confetti from a long forgotten party. He pulled on the screen door and it fell onto the rotting planks of what once must have been a porch. (You definitely get the idea that the house is run down without the author having to say so.)

Do you tend to show or tell in your writing?


"She was angry."



Would you tell the reader about these emotions, or show them? If you aren't sure, go read the first chapter of your latest work. Are you informing your reader with blanket statements of fact, or inviting your reader in with rich description and depth? Readers want to feel a character's emotions, to experience the tingle of fear or suspense or love or dread. They want to be part of your story, and the best way to invite them in is to show with your words.

Kimberly Rae has lived in Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo and Indonesia. She has been published over 250 times and has work in 6 languages. Her series of book on international human trafficking (Stolen Woman, Stolen Child, Stolen Future) are all Amazon bestsellers. Find out more at www.kimberlyrae.com, or read more writing tips from Kimberly on her blog.!

Thank you again and God bless your day!
Kimberly Rae
Know Your Worth, Change The World

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Time for All Seasons...

Dear Readers,

Many of you know I am a caregiver for my hubby. He was always a robust, strong man who loved the outdoors, caring for flower gardens, building things with his hands... He loves people. Loves to talk. Never meets a stranger. He is my forever love. So caring for him is not a chore, but a blessing.

One of our dear neighbors several years ago wanted a bookshelf for her daughter in the shape of a house. She had priced them and they were out of her range. So my hubby got busy and built this for her.


This next picture was taken at our church in the prayer garden. He built this wishing well as a memorial to a beloved friend who died unexpectedly. When our prayer group decided to do something to honor this man, my husband spoke up and volunteered to do this. This was the last thing he built before he became too ill to follow his passion any longer.

There are days when I am torn about my writing and whether I should continue pressing forward with it. My passion has become taking care of my beloved husband, so my writing passion has moved further down the chain. But writing is still a passion, for whatever meager talent I have has been God-given.

God makes changes in our lives. We may not always understand them, but we have faith to sustain us. The faith that He has a plan for us, and that plan is not to harm us. Proverbs 16:3 is what keeps me strong in doing the work the Lord hands me. "Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed."

I still write when the "season" is right, and that is directed by God. I read and take comfort from these scriptures:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
"To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace." (NKJV)

May your paths be made clear and may you commit all to the Lord and be blessed.





Monday, February 18, 2013

Why Authors Should Make Their Own Audiobooks


Why Authors Should Make Their Own Audiobooks—and How Do You Do That Anyway?
By Lorilyn Roberts


Making an audiobook is not as daunting as it sounds. All you need is a computer and an IC recorder. After installing the editing software onto your computer (that comes on a disc when you buy your hand-held IC recorder), you can narrate your own audiobook. Basically, the only expense involved was the purchase of the IC recorder from Best Buy, which also included the software to edit the audio-files. The total cost was about $39.

What is the advantage of you, the author, recording your own audiobook? You save the money of paying a narrator. However, it’s more than just financial. Recently I was talking about my YA Christian fantasy book Seventh Dimension – The Door to a friend. I asked him if he would read it and give me some feedback before I published it. He said, “If you give me the book as an audiobook, I will listen to it in the car when I drive to work.”

Did I want to narrate my own book? It’s time-consuming for one thing, and would anyone want to listen to me anyway? When I told him how I felt, he said, “I much prefer to listen to an author narrate his own book.” He continued, “In fact, almost all of the books I’ve listened to have been narrated by the author, including John MacArthur and Richard Stearns (Hole in the Gospel).”

I paused when he said those two names—suddenly the idea of narrating Seventh Dimension – The Door seemed more appealing. I didn’t have to have the voice of an actress to make an audiobook.

My friend continued, “The author is just sitting in a chair reading his book—nothing fancy.”

I went home and gave it some thought. I had narrated one chapter from my Children of Dreams book and posted it on my website, but I would cringe every time I listened to the recording. I’d pick it apart mercilessly—after all, I am not a trained narrator; but I had to agree with my friend, if I were to listen to an audiobook, I would rather listen to the author narrate his or her own book than even an excellent narrator.

I hunted around to find my long, lost IC recorder in my closet, eventually found the disc, and shoved it into my computer. Surprisingly, everything worked—even the IC recorder with the three-year-old batteries.

I had picked up a few tips about how to record an audiobook and I tried dictating the first chapter.  Yuck—I sounded like I was dying—I was too nervous. The hardest part was getting used to hearing my own voice. After a few more false starts, I finished one chapter that didn’t seem too bad. I told myself, with a little more practice, I would get better at it

If you are willing to try, let me share with you how I did it. I now have an audiobook of Seventh Dimension – The Door listed at http://audible.com, http://amazon.com, http://itunes.com, and https://www.acx.com/ . My audiobook became available a couple of days ago and yesterday my first sale was posted. If you are ready to get started, here is what I did.
First, go to Best Buy or another similar store and buy a handheld recording device (it looks like something the doctor talks into after he examines you). I bought a Sony IC Recorder for $39.99 (that is now three years old). Then you will need to look at the instructions and learn how to turn it off and on. The hardest part is figuring out how to use the thing. At least it was for me. I get frustrated with technical gadgets that have more than one button to push.

Here are two important hints. First, find a set of earplugs similar to what you would use to listen to music on an iPhone. It doesn’t have to be one of those bulky ones. The earphones will allow you to hear your voice and the sound quality of the recording. You will be able to detect any outside noise that might be picked up as you are narrating. Turn off your computer, an overhead fan, or anything nearby that might make any noise (even a purring cat). The closet works quite well. Make sure you tell your kids what you are doing so they won’t disturb you. It’s not much fun to have to start over because your child’s voice has been included in your book narration.

Don’t narrate your book off a computer screen. The recorder will pick up the humming from the computer. Mine sounds like a jet engine sometimes, so I had to turn it off. I had my book printed and bound in a three-ring binder so I could easily turn the pages without making a sound. That cost me about $25. You can squeeze a lot of lines front and back on an 8-by-11 sheet of paper, thus reducing the number of page turns.

You want to split up your chapters by recording session. In other words, between each chapter, stop and make an audio “chapter break” or “file break.” Later, these chapters will be merged into one or two or three files, depending on the length, but you need to break down the book into chapters as you are narrating. At http://acx.com, the site will ask you to upload each chapter individually. To make it easier later, split up your files by chapter. You will also need to make a separate file for the opening credits and the closing credits. In the opening credits, you will say the name of your book, the ISBN number, and some other identifying information that ACX will ask that you provide. In the closing credits, you can say something like, “This is the end of my book and thank you for listening.”

Now, there is a wee bit of technical information I need to cover, but don’t let it deter you. If I can do this, anybody can. In order to meet the audio quality for ACX, you will need to make sure your audio recording meets professional standards. Here is a quote from the ACX website.

Audiobooks should be recorded in 16 bit / 44.1 kHz wav file format, which is considered CD quality and is best for archiving. Once you have fully produced your audio file it should be saved as a 192kbps mp3. This is the format that you will upload to ACX. Generally, audiobooks are recorded by one of two methods.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. First, if you have bought a new device for recording that is not the cheapest thing hanging on the Best Buy sales rack, chances are it will record at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz or better, so you won’t need to worry about what all that jargon means. How can you determine if yours does?

On the editor software that came with your IC recorder, you should be able to tell. Once you upload your audio-files (chapters) from the IC recorder to your computer via the cord included in the box (assuming you have inserted the disc into the computer and installed the editing software already), you should see your files listed similar to how mine are listed: file name, mode, user/artist, message name and recording date. You want to look under the mode, and it should tell you something that looks like this: SP (44.1kHz …) If you have that, you can keep going. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Unfortunately, I discovered that while I had no issue with the 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, I did have an issue with the 192 kbps (the number that follows the 44.1 kHz). 192 kbps is the minimum standard for CD sound quality. I exhaled deeply when I read this because Seventh Dimension – The Door was not recorded at 192 kbps. What could I do besides re-narrate my whole book? If this is an issue for you also, be patient. You can fix this, and I will tell you how.

First, though, in order to remedy this, you need to download your chapter narrations onto CDs. If your book is more than 70 minutes long, you will need multiple CDs. I needed six for Seventh Dimension – The Door. Do this now so you will be set up for the next step. (If your recording was done at 192 kbps, you can skip the next two paragraphs).

After your book is copied onto CDs (make sure you label the CDs in order), reinsert your first CD back into the computer.

Here’s how I found out how to do this. I went to YouTube and did a search for “How do I convert an audio file to 192 kbps?” I found a video recording by a knowledgeable DJ who showed me how to do this using iTunes.  He had to repeat himself a few times because he forgot some steps, and on his third repeat, profusely apologized for his not-so-perfect video. By the third time, though, I actually “got it” and could do it myself.

Here is how you can convert an audio file to 192 kbps. Go to iTunes through your computer—everyone has iTunes loaded on their computer that I know of, but if you don’t, now is the time to download it off the Internet and install it. Once you are ready, click the iTunes icon on your computer and you will be taken to a screen that will have iTunes Library in the upper right-hand corner. In the left-hand corner, you will have an option in your library for music, podcasts, books, apps, and audio CD. You want to click on CD. You might need to use the up arrow or down arrow to get to the option for CD.

Now go back to the right-hand corner, and underneath iTunes Store will be a down arrow for import CD. Click on that. A small new screen will open up with some options. For import, choose MP 3 encoder. For the setting, use high quality, 192 kbps. Go ahead and check mark for “error correcting when reading audio CDs” and then click okay. iTunes will now convert and import your audio files from your CD for your book at 192kbps. You will need to do this for each disc.

Now you have all of your audio-files—opening credits, each chapter, and your closing credits—uploaded on your computer at 192 kbps at 44.1 kHz.

You are ready to go to http://acx.com and upload your audiobook one chapter at a time. Initially, of course, you will need to create an account with ACX and enter some other preliminary information, but you are well on your way to creating an audiobook you can sell.

After you upload your audiobook, ACX will review your audiobook and make sure everything is in order. Once ACX approves your recording, they will distribute it for you on several sites including Amazon.

One other minor detail I don’t want to forget to mention is that the cover of your audiobook needs to be square and not the traditional book size. ACX will reject any cover that is not sized correctly, so make sure you do that ahead of time. You don’t want to get “stuck” like I did. When my book cover designer does my next book cover, I will ask her to create a square cover also so I will have it when I narrate and upload my audiobook.

More and more people are listening to audiobooks, particularly those in the upper socioeconomic classes. You can listen to audiobooks through iPhones, iPads, Kindles, computers, and CDs. Audiobooks are another way to add to your passive income. As my friend told me after listening to my audiobook, “I feel like you have been with me all week in the car,” there is something intimate about hearing an author’s voice read his book. It’s another way for readers to connect with the author personally and feel like they “know” you through your story.

To listen to an excerpt or purchase an audio version, Kindle version, or print version of Seventh Dimension – The Door, go to: http://amzn.to/YqsHEi

Lorilyn Roberts is a Christian author who writes children's picture books, adult nonfiction, memoirs, and a young adult Christian fantasy series, Seventh Dimension. The first in the series, The Door, was just published (October 2012).
Lorilyn graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Alabama, which included international study in Israel and England. She received her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Perelandra College and is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature.
Lorilyn is the founder of the John 316 Marketing Network, a network of Christian authors who are passionate about promoting books with a Christian worldview.
To learn more about Lorilyn, please visit her website at http://lorilynroberts.com or blog at http://lorilynroberts.blogspot.com. Her twitter handle is @LorilynRoberts. 



Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Twitter Posts: How to Write Them

by Stacy Stallings

Let’s talk a little about the “language barrier” on Twitter.

The idea of Twitter is that you can follow a TON of information from different sources if it’s all comprised in 140-characters or less.  So you can read the latest about the big fire that’s in the news and something about the temperature in Seattle and then something about book marketing.

Think of it as scanning headlines.  You survey the headlines quickly and you decide if you want to follow any of the links (read more into the story) or not.

You can also have conversations and even group chats via Twitter.

But the basic idea is that you can follow people, and they can tell you what’s going on in 140-characters or less.

So how to entice people to follow YOU?  That’s the #1 issue on Twitter.

First off, you really don’t want all of your tweets to be ads for your books.  So you need to give people other landing pages that will guide them gently TO your books.  Even as some of your tweets should take readers right to your buy pages.

I’ve heard of people who are scared of posting about their books, but from what I’ve learned if you do it right, those who WANT to know about your books will outnumber those who think you should never post about your books. 

For now, how to write a Twitter post (or how to understand one).

Your posts should have:
Hook
Info
Link
Hashtags

The hook gets people’s attention.  Which would you read further:   Afraid of change? Don’t be! Here’s how to embrace it!    OR…  Here is an article on how to cope with change…

Good hooks will get you noticed (and your links clicked on!).

Info:  You need to give the reader SOMETHING as to what your content will contain.  For me, most of the time this is the name of the article or the book I’m tweeting about.

Link:  If you don’t give them a way to follow you to your content, they won’t.
Give them a link!

Hashtags:  This is a Twitter secret I can't go into fully here (for a more thorough discussion see:  http://www.stacistallings.net/twitter-hashtags-what-they-are-how-to-use-them/ ).  For now, these are those goofy looking things with the # sign in front of them.  Like #ammarketing #reading #greatbooks  For now, just know you need to learn how to use these. 

Here are some of my tweets for you to dissect.  Write some of your own and get started:

A lot can change in 10 years… REUNION http://ow.ly/7bNhT #cleanreadsbookclub #NookBook #Christian #GoodReads

Make the most out of where you are! MAXIMIZE YOUR STATE http://ow.ly/bjrVO #reader #blogpost #motivation #RT

“Christian fiction at its best!” http://ow.ly/7afqI COWBOY “One word: Wow!” #Christianfiction #LovedIt #Amazon #Kindle




Staci Stallings, the author of this article, is a #1 Best Selling author and the co-founder CrossReads.com a new website that gives Christian readers and authors a place to meet and fellowship.  With a newsletter, a blog, a forum, and other exciting, inspiring areas to visit, CrossReads visitors can find fabulous Christian books they never knew existed.

Come over on Feb. 12-14, and get entered to win virtual baskets of ebooks, gift cards, and other prizes!

Don't miss out!  Check it out now!

"Encourage each other daily"
Introducing:
a new place to meet, read, and fellowship...

Find books that uplift, authors that inspire, and a whole community of
fellow Christians who are looking to encourage and be encouraged.


To Join the Community today, and
Get Your Read On!



Copyright Staci Stallings, 2012

Friday, February 8, 2013

Camping with God

Camping in local state parks used to be one of my favorite things. Getting away from the busyness of life, no phones, no schedules, just quiet time with my hubby. A campfire in the evening with roasted marshmallows. Cooking outdoors. Fresh air.

One thing I did take with me was my AlphaSmart, a mini word processor which ran on two double A batteries and had a five line display. During the hours when hubby would be at the lake fishing, I would write.

It was easy to remember that my writing was a gift from God as I sat surrounded by all the beauty he created.

There is something comforting about being alone in nature with God. In being immersed in all the beauty he created. So easy to be still and know that He is God.

"How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You." ~~Psalm 139:17-18








Monday, February 4, 2013

Back Story - It's Fun but is it Necessary?

Guest post by Marcia Lee Laycock

What is back story? It is all the details you need to know about your character – her family history, her work history, her likes and dislikes - most of which probably won’t be included in the work itself.

There are a myriad of details you can play with. Details like place and date of birth - was there anything unusual about it? Perhaps she lived part of her life in an exotic place. Consider her ethnic background - is it a significant factor in her life? What about her childhood location - did she live in one community for a long time or did her family move around? What kind of school did she attend? Did she like school? Did she have a favorite teacher/subject?

Decide on the number of siblings your character has – where is the character in the birth order? Think about how that affects her and those around her. Did she get along well with her siblings? Perhaps you will choose to make her an only child. Consider how that affects her outlook on life, her decisions and her relationships. How did her parents earn a living? Were they wealthy, middle class, living in poverty? What kind of motivations will this stir in your character?

What is the pivotal event in her life to this point? How does it affect how she sees herself and those around her? Will it move the character in a good direction or a bad one? Think of your own life. What are some of the details/events that have had an impact on you in some way? Those are the kinds of things you want to know about your characters, especially your main characters.

Once you have decided on all these details you must decide how they will affect the character. For instance, if she moved every year she might have trouble forming solid friendships. If she went to a private school she might be intolerant of underachievers. If she was bullied by an older sibling she might be very compassionate or have a tendency to bully people herself. If she lived in poverty as a child she might be driven to succeed or be plagued with the fear of failing.

Details in a character's past can give you interesting quirks or habits to work with. For instance, in my first novel, One Smooth Stone, the main character, Alex was beaten by his foster-father. He has a scar behind his left ear that he rubs when he's thinking hard about something or remembering something from his past. This becomes a "tell" for Kenni, who is trying to understand him.

Playing with back story can be engrossing and a lot of fun but it has a serious purpose - to bring you, the author, to a place where you know your character inside and out. When you reach that point your characters will be more realistic, their dialogue true to life, their actions and reactions believable and their motivations clear to the reader.

Marcia’s writing has won awards in Canada and the U.S.  Her devotionals are distributed to thousands and her novel, One Smooth Stone, won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award from Castle Quay Books and The Word Guild. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was just released and has garnered excellent reviews. Her devotional ebook for writers of faith is available here: 

Marcia is also a sought-after speaker for women’s events. Visit her at  www.vinemarc.com