Tuesday, November 22, 2005

We all came home

Yesterday, the population of the Heart Hospital went down considerably. My father Gene was the only one of us on the charts, but when he checked out, so did all the relatives that had been living in those visitor chairs for the past nine days. Evening at his house was a strange party, with visiting oxygen people, and a new party game of organizing all the new pills and getting rid of the old ones. I spent the night in the den, listening for any problems, ready to spring into action if I were needed.

But by morning light, nothing more dramatic than a couple of drinks of water had happened, and Sissy the dog was curled up in front of the heater, waiting for her people to wake up.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Circling the Floor

It's been a week now since Mary Ann and I threw some clothes into the RV and headed to Amarillo. My father, Gene Melton had suffered a heart attack and weakened kidney function, and it was time for some serious hospital sitting.

It's strange how tasks that normally would be intolerably boring can be handled fairly easily, if there is a real need. I suppose it explains a lot of human activities -- military service, going to work every day, and even parenthood. From the outside, it seems incomprehensible, but when duty calls, at least in my definition, it all works out.

We are finally reaching the point where he is getting to walk a few steps for exercise. I'm needing the exercise as well -- I just finished circling the 400 foot main corridor of this floor for a few minutes. The chairs are comfortable, but the sitting is deadly.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lost Maples Deadline

It was a deadline to me. Mary Ann had scheduled a short trip to the Lost Maples State Park so that she could photograph fall colors in Texas. I had reached the waiting point in the latest novel "Roswell or Bust" where sample copies had gone out to my first readers and I won't be doing much on that project until the marked up copies come back. This was the time I needed to turn my attention to the business side of the business. I had several unsold manuscripts that were just sitting idle in my files. They needed to be out there on some editor's desk.

With the looming trip approaching, where my laser printer would be unavailaibe. I had only a few days to re-polish all my selling scripts, write the letters, and get the query letters and sample chapters out into the mail. There was quite a bit of writing to do. I find that I need seven different versions of each novel:

Working Outline: I use OmniOutline Pro to compose a detailed outline of what I intend to write. Sometimes this can be up to 25% of the finished length of the novel -- very detailed.

Manuscript: This is the real novel, in manuscript format, just as the editor will read it. Wide margins, Courier 12, one side of the paper, double-spaced, nice headings on each page.

First Reader Copy: I use a macro to reformat a manuscript to a reader-friendly format. Two columns, Times, single-spaced, both sides of the paper, underlines changed to italics. The finished result is comb bound and individually addressed to each First Reader.

Audio Version: I convert the manuscript into audio chapter files which I load into iTunes and play as I review the work.

Synopsis: This is an abbreviated outline, detailing all of the plot, which is part of most submission packages. I try to boil the whole novel down to five or six pages, formatted like the manuscript. This is a very hard job, and one most writers have problems with. How can you do justice to a zillion paged book in just a handful?

Pitch: This is a half-page introduction to the book, used in query letters to editors. I have to tell enough about the story to show how unique and wonderful it is, while not getting bogged down. If a five page synopsis is hard, this is too. You have to leave out characters, major plot points, all kinds of stuff. I try to make sure my query letter all fits on one sheet, and that includes salutation and headings, etc.

Hook: Write one sentence that captures a reader's interest. You see these all the time on the book covers. The idea here is that you have just seconds before your target's attention moves on to something else. Long before a book sits on the store shelf, it will have to be sold to editors, editorial boards, sales representatives and booksellers. Few if any of them will have read the whole book before hand. Your hook may just make the difference.

So, having polished up my synopsis, pitch and hook for each of my unpublished novels, I reviewed my market lists and composed the necessary query letters and submission packages. My laser printer churned away and on Saturday, I finally had a stack of submissions to be mailed. Off they went, and now I have more waiting to do.

Mary Ann wanted to leave for Lost Maples early Monday, but I was totally surprised when we actually drove out the driveway at 9:45 in the morning. That has to be some kind of a record.

Friday, November 04, 2005

I Found Myself in Google Print

Just on a whim, after seeing all the commentary and news releases on Google Print, I entered "Henry Melton" into the search engine and found that, indeed, one of my works has been scanned into the print search engine. They've been talking about all the public domain works that have been entered, but there are a few publishers who've authorized their catalogs as well. With all the writer's organizations up in arms against the system, I've been of two minds. More exposure can only be a good thing for my writing career, but I can understand the problems with unauthorized publications.

So, finding my copyrighted story "The Christmas Count" which was part of the anthology Christmas Stars, I immediately attempted to see how much was being shown. At first, all I could see were things like the table of contents, but hitting the "More results from this book" link, I found seven full pages (out of the eleven page story) and one partial page. This is certainly more than the 20% advertised, but chopped up like it was, it would be impossible to fully read and understand the story.

I await more evidence before I can make up my mind on this issue. The search engine approach to paper publishing is far too valuable to be blocked out of hand, but it's going to take some serious work to find the fair approach for all concerned. There's the old saying, "You can't grep dead trees." But it looks like that's all changing now.