Oscar Harlequin kept very still, waiting until the book store closed. It was a store warehouse with three levels, the top being an attic with a skylight that had never been dusted. Few book lovers went up there, and he had stashed the backpack with his books near the old-fashioned radiator.
He was in the second-floor men’s room when the lights blinked off and on. The most heart-arresting moment was when a clerk opened the door and announced, “Store closed in fifteen minutes.” For some reason, the clerk came into the room, walked around casually. Had he detected something? Was he naturally suspicious? The flushing of a urinal gave Oscar the answer.
Fifteen minutes later, the room went totally black. Oscar pulled out his iPhone and turned on the light. (He dismissed bringing a flashlight, that would raise suspicions.) For some reason the stall door squeaked. Had it squeaked when he first opened it? Was the blackness magnifying the sound? Or was he just jittery?
After several deep breaths, Oscar ventured into the book aisles. In the darkness he felt like a shadowy, meek Godzilla plodding through a city of ghostly book buildings and trying not to break anything.
Not sure whether the elevator worked, he took the spiral iron stairway to the attic. As he gripped the railing, he was overwhelmed with the sense of his own stupidity. Had he even thought about where to put the books? They had an imitation romance cover -- his wife trying to smile in a red summer dress with a big straw hat -- but how convincing was it?
Once in the attic, he threw the light from his iPhone in the direction of the radiator, but he didn’t see the backpack. He was about to rush forward in a desperate search when a figure emerged from the shadows. He immediately thought of the nun in the tower at the end of Hitchcock’s "Vertigo." But it wasn’t her.
“You don’t need to go through all this, you know,” the woman said in a stern but amused voice.
“It couldn’t be time yet, it couldn’t.” Kargil screamed over and over in his mind as he ran through the dense overgrowth. The thorns cut his skin and he felt the blood run from the stinging cuts. He did not stop.
The clearing came fast, and he tripped and fell to the sandy ground carried by the momentum of his push through the brush. Before him he saw the bare feet of his wife. He looked up from his kneeling position to see her knees, dress, long red hair, and finally her face. She was overcome with fear, sweat covered her visage, and she was breathing heavily. A huge taloned hand rested below her chin.
“Why do you pursue us,” came the gritty and powerful voice from behind her. “She made the deal; the deal is done.”
“She did it for me!” Kargil cried. “I was not worthy of her gift, take me instead.”
The laugh sounded like hundreds of teeth in a blender being shaken. “You are of no value to me. The deal was I save your life and she was granted 5 years to spend with you. Has it not been five years, have you not had this time?”
“I made the deal,” Karen pleaded, “I knew, let me go.”
“You see?” The voice boomed. “She has accepted her fate, you should do the same.” A second taloned hand reached out and a deep mist formed behind them. “She is mine now and will serve my needs for dozens of years.”
“No,” Kargil screamed and launched towards her, grabbing her hand. “I love her!”
Two more arms reached around Karen instantly and grabbed Kargil by the shoulders. The grip was impenetrable. “You task me human. Do not do so again or I will take your spawn for my pleasure as well.”
Kargil thought of their daughter as he was thrown to the sand. He did not move as the 8-armed monolith stood and leapt into the mists with his wife.
As he felt the tears run down his face a shrill cry echoed in the mist.
“Who are you?”
“You don’t remember me?”
“You were a friend of my fathers?”
“I was a friend of your family, for a very long time, but…”
“Do you remember the Clydewell house?”
“Yes. Vaguely. Why?”
“Do you remember what happened there?”
“You’re referring to the accident? What happened to my sister?”
“I know that what happened at Clydewell house was not an accident. ”
“What do you mean wasn’t an accident? What do you know about how my sister died?
“You’re asking the wrong questions.”
“what question should I be asking then?”
“Where is she, and what was your father covering up?
“Are you telling me that my father lied?”
“No, I am saying that he only told you half the truth.”
“And my sister? She’s alive?”
“Yes, but I can only tell you this for certain, your sister knew something, something your father had to keep hidden.”
“What did he have to keep hidden?”
“Men of wealth and power have many enemies and many more secrets.”
“How do I find her?”
“Figure out what your father was trying to hide, that is the key to this riddle. I also believe that it cost me my life.”
“What I saw of your sister, I should not have I think and your father well…you know your father.”
“How could it have cost you your life, you’re sitting here, on this train with me now and you’re telling me my sister is alive?”
“What was your father trying to cover up? That is the only way you will find her.”
“No, wait, don’t leave.”
“Would you care for a drink sir?”
“That man, who was he?”
“Excuse me sir I do not know of whom you speak.”
“Surely you passed him just now, in the hall. He was old, scared face, with a pipe.”
“No sir there were no others except you. Can I get you anything?”
“Very good sir.”
As I searched, moments were frantic, the world around me blurring as I rushed about my cluttered bedroom. The clock clicked in an annoying reminder that Noelle was due to be knocking on my front door sooner rather than later.
“You forget something?” Mike, my roommate with the consistently worst timing, was leaning against my door frame, smirking at me.
I brushed my hair flat again, my reflection showing a messy appearance rather than the handsome Prince Charming I was hoping for. “Come on, bro...you know what this means to me!”
Mike rolled his eyes. “Dude, it’s Noelle. We’ve been friends with her for three years now, I don’t know what has you such a mess.”
A tried to control the heat creeping up my neck. “Yeah, but this is our first real date and I want her to see me as more than a friend.” I could see Mike’s fighting a grin, his blue eyes twinkling with mirth.
My curt dig was cut off before it could begin by a light knock to our front door. It was her. I took a deep breath, Mike was right...date or no, this was Noelle, one of my best friends and just about the prettiest girl I’ve ever met.
“What do you think?” I asked my roommate.
His eyes roved me up and down, “Well, she’ll definitely be looking at you differently!”
After answering the door, Noelle’s eyes brightened and she giggled. “Where did you say we were going?”
“That barbeque joint in town? Figured something casual would be ok. I mean, if that’s what you want?”
“Oh, casual is fine...it’s just...I think they still might require pants.” Noelle vaguely gestured to my lower half. With a blush, I looked down to see my Batman boxers winking back at me.
I ran my hand back through my hair, feeling the locks spring into their usual messy cowlick as my face burned a bright red. “Right. I’ll be right back…”
Mike was wiping tears as he gasped through his laughter, “Well dude, at least she can check out your butt!”
Yesterday, I released three books into the wild, in a fun Book Scavenger Hunt game I discovered. I thought today, I should give you a little backstory about where the idea came from. Think Geocaching with books, (without the required understanding of navigation and compass stuff), and you'll have some idea where this is going.
Since my childhood, I've always loved scavenger hunts. Mysterious clues leading to more clues, leading to treasures, with fun surprises along the way. As an adult, I've missed them, but found a temporary fix with the National Treasure films. Yes, I know, these are are films in league with Casablanca... but getting lost in the mystery of the clues and where they lead - well - I can do that all day long. This is probably why I've watched the films more times than I can count. The thrill of the hunt never gets old for me... even if I know the outcome. It's one of the few child-like indulges I've held on to over the years.
When I found a story called Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman I knew I needed to read it. It's a middle-grade tale of clues, ciphers, adventure, mystery, and BOOKS! For me, this is the perfect combination for summer entertainment. The story is about a twelve-year-old girl who plays a game, hosted online, where players follow clues that lead them to discover books in hiding places around town. I was transported back to sixth grade as I read and followed the adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As I turned each page, I kept thinking... Someone should actually build this game... I wonder how difficult it would be?
Well, at the end of the book, I discovered that it's a real thing, this book scavenger hunt game, and I was tickled to discover that there are actually two versions; one specifically designed for children, and one intended for readers of all ages. As it turns out, this has been a thing for a pretty long time. I wish I'd known about it sooner.
Here's how you can play along and spread the joy of both literacy and scavenger hunts!
Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the book that started it all, for me. I highly recommend that anyone who loves books, and games, and mystery, read it. It's a quick, fun read. A great family read, and a great introduction to the idea of scavenger hunts, writing codes, and breaking codes. There are three books in the series, and I'll be reading the next two shortly... I'm hooked on these characters and their literary adventures!
The author actually designed a kid's version of the game on her website. It's fun and easy to play along - and it's free! I'll be releasing my children's books using this site in the next week or so. Check it out at https://bookscavenger.com/
BookCrossing.com is the other website with a similar program. This is where I released three of my books so far; and it's where Ms. Bertman says she got the idea for her book. This game has been around since April 21, 2001... and quite honestly, I'm shocked that I didn't know about it until now!
According to the website, there are currently 1,898,581 BookCrossers and 13,323,533 books travelling throughout 132 countries. It's incredible how much there is to this site. There's a serious movement going on here to connect people with literature in a super-fun way. If you find one of my books (or any others that have been hidden), there is an easy field to fill in the ID number right on the top of the home page... and the site will walk you through the rest.
This is a great way, especially during the time of COVID to connect authors, their books, and readers, with a fun activity that is mostly outdoors. This is a game that's fun, even when socially distanced. If you're an author, this is an, inexpensive addition to your marketing toolbox. Visit the website at https://www.bookcrossing.com
The thing I miss most abut my time working with Grey Wolfe Publishing are the community service anthologies I was able to edit and publish. The idea that words have a way to serve people, organizations, and humanity as a whole, has been a concept that has driven me since I was a small child.
I remember UNICEF boxes at Halloween. Collecting coins for such a remarkable organization that used words to convince leaders that the world could be better for children... it was mesmerizing. Later, came RIF, and the small boxes I had sitting on a desk at home, collecting coins out of my allowance each week so that children in far away lands (and some in this country, too) could have some of the same fabulous story books I had... the idea that children just like me could be reading the same books I did, maybe even at the same time... Well, that idea had nothing on the incomprehensible thing of wishing on the same star. Stars were too far away to really have an impact, and how would we know if we were really wishing on the same one, they're all so small? But, if we could all be connected by the SAME BOOKS, the SAME STORIES - the SAME CHARACTERS - well - that would be magnificent!
In my nearly ten years editing community service anthologies, we created books to serve dogs and cats in no-kill shelters, schools, libraries, an elephant sanctuary, a wolf sanctuary, a big cat sanctuary, a senior center, veterans, and special needs children. Before we were able to finish them, we also designed books that would serve Doctors Without Borders, the Make A Wish Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity. Thankfully, I have retained the rights to publish those titles, and I'm in the process of reaching out to the contributing authors, to see if they will grant me permission to move forward with those books. From my perspective, the more good we can do using our words, the better off we'll all be.
So, in the meantime, while I work on those projects, I thought, why not publish another, new anthology? There are so many great charities out there that we can help... why should I stop doing this work that I love?
The simple answer is... I don't have to stop!
I have always believed that a more harmonious and supportive society begins with literacy. I have always believed that a successful life begins with, and is enhanced by, the written word. I also know that not everyone is able or inclined to pick up trash by the side of the road or donate financially or give blood in order to contribute to the well-being of their community. But I know that there must be an alternative... I believe that alternative is the Power of The Pen! I believe that every literate person is capable of telling a story to enhance the lives of others... and they don't have to be New York Times bestselling authors to do it!
So, because I believe in the power of the pen, and I believe that words, regardless of whether they're fiction or non-fiction, have the incredible ability to change lives, I'm putting together a new anthology. My esteemed editorial cohort, Connor Matthews, is going to help on this one, so I'm certain that the end result will be nothing short of spectacular! He's got a keen eye for extraordinary stories, and he excels at working with authors, and making them better.
The charity I've chosen is The World Literacy Foundation. They have a mission to serve individuals and communities with the written word. "We envision a world in which every one of us can read and write, in which there is free access to education for all." This is a vision I can certainly get behind with full enthusiasm.
The book? Well, this edition is called, Simple Things. I'm seeing it as an inspirational collection of poetry, short stories, and anecdotal essays on the topic of GRATITUDE. During the COVID-19 craziness, we've all had a lot of time to sit in isolation and consider those things that we are most grateful for, or those people who have made our suffering bearable, or those situations we endured that made us look at life with a different, more gentle perspective. Those stories of hope, of thoughtful caring, of gracious gratitude are what I'd like to fill the pages of this book with...fresh understandings about our lives and the Simple Things that really matter. I invite you to write something to share.
I imagine small nuggets of "wow" hidden in plain sight on the pages: in true stories of courage and bravery; in remembrances of those we love; in stories of those we've lost but with whom we shared special time; in the humor we find coping with this interesting year; and in the gentle make-believe we share with children, to ease their stress, worry, and fear. It is my hope that through our words, we can share a connection with others who may have missed a moment of grace in their lives, and through our writing, can look back to discover a few of their own.
Through this book, my hope is that when we look back in recollection of our time in quarantine and Pandemic, we see it with kinder eyes, lighter hearts, and gentler souls... and that we share those perspectives with people all over the world.
If you are a thoughtful human... whether child or adult... whether published or not... and you're interested in lending your words to this collection of Simple Things, please click the book's cover to learn more about how you can contribute... and perhaps inspire a nugget of gratitude in someone else.
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works. Section 106 of the 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to do and to authorize others to do the following:
* To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
* To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
* To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
* To perform the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
* To display the work publicly, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audio visual work.
It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the copyright law to the owner of copyright. These rights, however, are not unlimited in scope. Sections 107 through 121 of the 1976 Copyright Act establish limitations on these rights. In some cases, these limitations are specified exemptions from copyright liability. One major limitation is the doctrine of "fair use," which is given a statutory basis in section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act. In other instances, the limitation takes the form of a "compulsory license" under which certain limited uses of copyrighted works are permitted upon payment of specified royalties and compliance with statutory conditions. For further information about the limitations of any of these rights, consult the copyright law or write to the Copyright Office.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, first-time copyright infringement cases can carry a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. If you get caught more than once in a copyright-infringement case, you could face additional fines of up to $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison.
WHAT IS NOT PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT. Ideas and facts are not protected by copyright. – it is the tangible expression of facts and ideas that copyright law protects. Subsequently, titles, slogans, names, and short word combinations are not generally eligible for copyright protection.
In its most general sense, a fair use is any copying of copyrighted material done for a limited and “transformative” purpose, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Such uses can be done without permission from the copyright owner. In practice, if you're only quoting a few lines from a full-length book, you are most likely within fair use guidelines, and do not need to seek permission. Most quotations, because of their short size, are not considered copyright infringement because they fall under the "fair use" clause of U.S. copyright law. But to emphasize: every case is different. If you're at all concerned about infringement, check with an intellectual property attorney before you publish.
A work that is “in the Public Domain” is a work that is completely free for anyone to use in any way they like. It has entered the Public Domain either because the term of the copyright expired or the work was never covered by copyright in the first place. An example of this would be the works of William Shakespeare.
If a book, song, movie, or artwork is in the public domain, then it is not protected by intellectual property laws (copyright, trademark, or patent laws)—which means it's free for you to use without permission. The general rule is that any work published before 1923 is in the public domain. However, works published after 1977 will not fall into the public domain until 70 years after the death of author, or, for corporate works, anonymous works, or works for hire, 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first.
In case you're wondering, the "Happy Birthday" song is indeed, in the public domain.
Generally, you can publish and sell public domain eBooks. ... For example, to sell on Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you typically must add original content to the public domain book, such as illustrations or a study guide. Quotes are considered intellectual property, which is protected under the law. ... When a quote passes into the public domain, it's almost always because it's old enough that its copyright has expired.
It is a good practice to discuss your copyrights with your attorney and add them to your will or trust. Even though the copyright doesn't expire until 70 years after the death of the author, your life may be prematurely cut short, and then your heirs will need to have access to your copyright. Ask your attorney to draft a simple codicil to your will or trust which assigns all your copyrights of published and "works in process" to either a specific individual, organization, trust, or in general, to your future heirs. You can't predict if your work will become more valuable after your death... but you can protect your interests long after you've "shuffled off this mortal coil."
Learn more at the US Copyright office website: https://www.copyright.gov
Since computers became the "go to" tool for my profession, I've been searching for software programs that would help me to write more effectively. Over the years, I've tested dozens of options, investigating them all like a kid test-driving all the toys at the store before deciding which one to bring home. As a Passionate Plotter, my software requirements include a long list of "must haves"; things that simply using Microsoft Office alone can't provide. (Although for some, MS Word works just fine - no disrespect intended).
On my "short" list are the following:
For all of this, since 2004, I've been using a program called "Power Structure"; and it works beautifully, for me. I've tried nearly every other piece of writing software I could find... always looking for the better writing mousetrap, but could find none. A few days ago, however, I came upon something new. It's called Causality.
This is an interesting combination of outline writing and visual writing. It's been designed specifically for screenplay writers, but certainly, novelists could use it as well. It has all of my "must haves" listed above, as well as other features, and a customized color coding system. If you're a visual writer, this is a nice thing.
Imagine the process of index cards tacked to your wall. You write a little bit about a scene or a plot point on each card, and move it around the wall until it gets exactly where you want it. You add more cards underneath with extra details and dialogue, and group the rows of cards into ordered scenes. Once your wall is filled, you write. This is exactly what Causality does, only DIGITALLY... Oh, and you don't have to wait to write, you can draw up your cards and fill in the writing holes as you go - or double-back and get to them when the inspiration hits. It's kind of a nifty program.
As I said, I spent several hours working in this environment, and learning it's nuances. It's pretty cool. It's very adaptive, in that you can move things around on a whim to fit your storyline, all while keeping your story timeline intact. The color-coding is a great feature, keeping you more organized without too much effort. It also gives you a space to create a "mind map" version of character connections, so you can see visually how each of your main and subplot characters are interconnected. That's a cool thing, if your writing process depends on visuals.
A particularly nifty feature is a thing they call "dependencies". Think "If/Then" statements on steroids. Essentially, it gives you the ability to tag plot points to each other in order of occurrence in your storyline. Imagine tagging that your bank robbers have to rob the bank BEFORE they can jump in the getaway car for their escape. If the escape should happen before jumping in the car, the program alerts you to that dependency and reminds you to fix it. Be clear, YOU have to set the dependencies, the software doesn't intuitively "sense" those for you... but it does keep good track of them.
This program doesn't give you leading questions to build your book, or help with setting or character development. But it handles separating dialogue and scene transitions especially well. Another thing it does very well is give you the ability to work on Flashback and Present tense storylines simultaneously, with multiple timelines in parallel. This is super-helpful if you have a story that's heavy in flashback memories.
After spending a lot of time digging through all it does, I have come to the conclusion that, sadly, it's not the right tool for me. I'm not a visual writer. I don't think in pictures, or visual elements. I think in words and phrases, and tend to focus on the emotion and intellect that sentences derive, rather the bird's eye view of the way a story looks. Mapping programs, like this one, don't work as well for me. I found it to be clunky and more work than it was worth. I was spending too much time trying to make my story "look" good rather that writing a good story. This is no fault of the software... this modality simply isn't the way my brain functions.
I will continue to work in Power Structure, probably until I die or it does. But I'm glad I looked into Causality, because now I'm aware of another software approach that I can recommend to writer friends... because I know we all work differently, and it's nice to have options.
I recommend you check it out, test drive the free version (more features requires a monthly subscription or one-time, "all-in" fee), and see if it works better for you than what you're already using. Be aware, however, it only works on desktops and laptops. They do not have a tablet or smartphone version just yet.
After you check it out, I'd be interested to hear your opinions, you can leave them in the comments below.
***I am not being paid a fee to sample Causality, or endorse Power Structure. I just like to share new things as I learn about them.
Collaborative energy produces some of the most extraordinary art. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to watch this process unfold before us, giving the work greater meaning, allowing us to connect on a deeper level with the specific nuances of the artistic process, even if we're not actively creative ourselves.
We're accustomed to watching this innovation with musicians. The sessions are often recorded and published to YouTube and other Internet access sites, so we can be "a fly on the wall", taking it all in from an Omniscient Narrator POV. We watch attentively as the drummer starts with a beat. The bassist adds to the journey, inviting us to walk the rhythmic path. The keyboardist offers a melody. The guitarist brings in a riff to fill the gaps. As a team, they construct the lyrics that erupt in a beautiful conflagration of melody and harmony. Together, their collaboration brings a fuller, richer sound and a song that attaches to the brain and speaks to the soul. Musicians call it "jamming" and if the looks on the musician's faces and their laughter is any indication, they have a great time doing it.
Writers can, and some do, work in the same way... collaborating on wondrous pieces of imagination to entertain and lend empathetic insight to readers. They begin with an idea or a prompt - which could be just about anything - a photograph, a small piece of prose, a piece of music, or a piece of art. The idea makes its way around the table, and slowly, defiantly, and through boisterous conversation, a story begins to emerge. Each writer then constructs characters who begin to breathe, speak, and react interdependently. The team then begins to layer in subplots, and sprinkle in secrets that will either be suppressed or revealed. The writers carefully construct the "big bang" of the story, hurling literary meteorites left and right, leaving behind an impact crater readers can't ignore. The group then carefully collects loose pieces, and the remnants are deftly connected, when at last, The End is achieved. Writers call it "workshoping". Many writers enjoy conspiring in this way, like musicians. It's an exercise in creative exploration that enhances craft and improves time spent in solitary creation on individual projects.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a part of this process... or be a witness to it? This is your opportunity to Watch It Write! We're building a collaborative writing group, and we'll add it as programming to Indie Reads TV. We will gather a new group of five or six writers each month, and meet once a week to collaborate on a fiction project. At the end of the month, we'll have a finished novelette or novella, ready to be edited and go to press. Those of you at home or in our studio audience, will have a "Fly On The Wall" view of the process. And, if you're in the studio audience (we have room for about twenty Watch It Write spectators), you may have an opportunity to join in the collaboration, too!
Our target date to begin is May 2020. If you're interested, fill out the sign up form below, and we'll embark on this new adventure together. Everyone who signs up will be contacted by April 1, 2020 to confirm your collaboration, and receive final details regarding dates and times.
National Novel Writing Month is over, and those who participated and "won" now have a first draft of their book sitting prominently on their writing desk. Enthusiasm is at an all-time high, as writers imagine the prospect of becoming an Author in the New Year. You, too, may have been struck by this euphoria, standing at the author starting line. You'll be ready to leap forward at the starting gun, with the support of your loved one and that encouraging midnight kiss. Although writing a book is a huge accomplishment; it’s also a LOT of work. The demands of your Muse, your characters, and your readers are not to be taken lightly.
Publishing a book is akin to getting married and having children. The process requires your full commitment… emotionally, intellectually, and financially. You’ll have to coordinate your editorial sessions around family and work obligations, and you’ll need to budget money for publishing and marketing.
Taking a self-inventory to assess your mental, emotional, and financial preparedness is essential. Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Whether Self-Publishing, Indie Publishing, or going the Traditional route, it’s an arduous process, and a time-consuming one, at that. Be certain that this is the path you truly want to travel.
There are ten basic questions you should ask yourself before you begin the madness that is publishing. Consider each one carefully. When it’s all over, and you still think you want to publish a book… by all means, jump into that pond with both flippers!
1.Can I publish on my own... Or do I need professional guidance?
2.What is my budget for this project? Am I willing to pay additional fees for additional services?
3.Does the publisher offer a contract? Am I happy with the royalty return rate?
4.How important is “Right of First Refusal” to me? How much control do I want over the publication process?
5.How much editorial assistance does my book require? Does the publisher offer a free manuscript review to assess the work to be done?
6.How supportive is my editor going to be throughout the process? Mail, phone, in-person meetings, email?
7.How much time is reasonable to go to press?
8.Have I reviewed copies of books this publisher has produced, and do they meet my expectations?
9.Are there reviews from others who have worked with this publisher; both positive and negative?
10.How important is marketing to me? Am I committed to being fully engaged in the process?
Occasionally, I’m asked if books have a rating system, like films. We all know that reader audiences are defied mostly by age group, but there’s not really a well-known content rating system for books, like there is for film, television, and video games. So I decided to do some research on the question.
The film rating system works like this, and this is a good general guide for writing books, as well.
G = general audiences, all ages.
PG = parental guidance suggested, some material may not be suitable for children
PG-13 = parents are strongly cautioned; some material may be inappropriate for children under age 13
R = restricted, children under age 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian
NC-17 = no children under age 17 admitted
However, it doesn’t really speak to specific content. So, I did some digging and was surprised at how little I found. There isn't a “required industry standard” system; but I did find a group that is working to help clarify the answer, if you’re curious.
Check out the nifty book rating community I discovered at My Book Cave. Their website states, “My Book Ratings is free for everyone to use or to rate books. This database is for the community by the community. Please join the effort! To maintain the quality of our community ratings, you do need to log in to rate books.”
The information I found on this site was extremely helpful. They do an excellent job of providing guidelines for rating books for readers based on content. Their rating system allows regular readers to rate books based on content, so you always know what you're about to read. Their ratings include All Ages, Mild, Mild Plus, Moderate, Moderate Plus, Adult and Adult Plus.
There may be other resources out there that provide similar information, but this was the most concise one I could find. I’ve love their definitions and explanations listed on their ratings website; and moving forward, I’m going to include this rating system and their icons in all my books and marketing materials, as well as recommend that the authors I help publish do so, as well. When accessibility is key to building a readership, it is in an author’s best interest to help readers identify content – especially if you want readers to recommend your books or give them as gifts.
Please visit the site at https://mybookcave.com/mybookratings/meet-the-ratings/?ref=4ltrkd7hu3 for a greater understanding of their rating parameters and methodologies.
There’s a lively discussion that surrounds the choice to use a pen name or not. Some authors swear by them, others don’t need them. Here’s the discussion, in a nutshell.
Pen names can be helpful if you write children’s books as well as mature genres. It can be helpful to have different personas to promote to different audiences, lest you offend a reader, and they put all of your books back on the shelf. People can be quick to jump to conclusions and generalize; pen names can stave off some of those repercussions. Pseudonyms are also helpful to those authors who want to maintain a distance from the limelight; those who may want to create an air of mystique or build in anonymity so that their families and friends aren’t over-taxed by an author’s celebrity or notoriety. All are good arguments for utilizing an author alter ego.
Pseudonyms can also cause potential problems. Imagine attending a book signing event… someone calls your name, you don’t answer. Or imagine the embarrassment of signing the wrong name on the inside cover of a fan’s book. Consider the complications of having social media and a website with two (or more) different names; just the time factor alone would make me cringe. The worse case? A royalty check written out to the wrong name!
What’s my personal take? I’m proud of everything I write, and I’ll never hide my accomplishments under a false identity. Readers may or may not buy my books because I write in a genre they don't approve of... and I endorse their freedom to choose without remorse or second-guessing.
Also, there's something "old world" to me about my name. You see, I got married, for the first time, later in life, my son was eighteen, and walked me down the aisle at our wedding. I'm progressive about some things, but more traditional about others, and taking my husband's name was one of those things that I kept a traditional viewpoint on. Even after forty-plus years of carrying my family's surname, I thought it was an important statement about my evolving identity to replace my old last name with my husband's.
I think that it's important to reflect this evolution on my book covers, too. Since marrying, I'm not entirely the person I was with my maiden name... and my writing isn't the same, either. I felt responsible to carry that tradition, and for me, it felt right. However, I must tell you, it took me nearly a full year of marriage to remember to respond when someone called me "Diana Kathryn Plopa"; and that was EVERYWHERE I went. At this stage of my life, I'm not sure I could unlearn that; and I can tell you I certainly don't want to un-learn it. Imagine the confusion I'd be creating for myself, trying to remember when I have to be who. That's more of a kerfuffle that I'd like to deal with, thank you.
Drake, on the other hand, has a much easier time of things. He has a clan name, rather than a surname - and Mallard is pretty easy to remember!
This is by far my favorite writing conference. Each year that I attend I am never disappointed with the high caliber of organization, key note speakers, and break-out sessions. This year was no different... except that this year, I was granted the honor of being a presenter and panelist! I was so very pleased to be selected to present a workshop on "Building An Indie Publishing Company". I appreciate everyone who attended, and I am grateful for your kindness.
This conference focused on the nuances of Self or Independent Publishing. There's a lot of information out there, and Conference Leader, Michael Dwyer, was able to pull some of the best minds in the Indie Publishing world together to empty their brains for those who wanted to learn more. I was by far, not the strongest speaker, but I was pleased to share the day with Mel Corrigan, Sylvia Hubbard, Lev Raphael, Coleen Gleason, Weam Namou, and a fantastic collection of Michigan's Indie Authors.
Presentations included "Why I'm A Self-Published Author", Publishing from Indie Author to International Distribution"; "Is Self-Publishing Right For You", "Self-Publishing: The Numbers", and much more. The day was full of fun, encouragement, information, and creative inspiration.
More than reasonably priced at $160, with lunch included, this is one of the best-value conferences I've ever attended. Usually, after an event like this, I'm pleased if I go home with 10% of useful information. With Rochester Writers', I always go home with 90% or more useful information. If you're an author, or an aspiring author, I highly recommend that you attend. Held twice per year, once in Spring and again in Autumn (October 19, 2019, this year) at Oakland University, you'll walk away knowing more than you did before, and surged with energy to finish your book or perhaps write another one!
A Huge Thank You goes out to Michael Dwyer and Sonya Julie for continuing to present such a valuable resource to Michigan Writers!
Learn more about Rochester Writers at their website: www.RochesterWriters.com
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!