I am a perfectionist. I know anyone who has seen my messy house would take issue with that statement. I’d better qualify it. I am only a perfectionist when it comes to writing. In all other areas I have too much of a laissez-faire attitude. But when it comes to writing, I want my work to be as perfect as possible in appearance and with regard to grammar and punctuation.

 Yes, yes. I know there is far more to writing than the formal elements of grammar, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. But I also know that carelessness about those things can turn off a potential reader. Of course I do the best I can with regard to content. But success in that regard is subjective. A story that one person loves and can’t get enough of will leave another reader unimpressed or even disgusted. Readers have vastly different tastes. I know that no matter how hard I try, I can’t please everyone with my stories. I don’t expect them to be read and enjoyed by people who dislike fantasy and science fiction. Even avid fantasy fans will have diverse reactions to my fantasy novels. Some will enjoy them; others will find them not at all to their taste. It doesn’t disturb me when someone tells me they just “couldn’t get into the story.” Of course I regret it, but at least they gave it a try before finding it not to their taste. What I don’t want is someone picking up the book, glancing through it, seeing it poorly formatted or spotting errors in spelling and grammar, and putting it back down as being “amateurish” and unprofessional.

I’m self-publishing my books now after being published by a major publisher and by small presses. I don’t feel that self-published works have the stigma attached to them that they once had. Nevertheless, because it has become relatively easy to self-publish, many books are being put into print that are not ready for publication. They have not been edited and are full of grammatical, spelling, punctuation, and formatting errors. Those are the books that give self-publishing a bad reputation.

 I do not want my books to fall into that category. I want them to look as professional as possible. I edit them myself, and then have my critiquing partner and other beta readers read through them to catch errors I’ve overlooked, both in form and in content. I take those critiques very seriously. If I disagree with some (and there are always some I disagree with), I still look carefully at the critique and ask myself whether I’m right to disagree. I try to see the scene or sentence or word from the other person’s viewpoint. I may then not change it the way the critiquer suggested but change it in a different way that I hope will resolve the problem.

 When I upload a book file to CreateSpace, I go through the online reviewer carefully and inevitably find things that need to be fixed. It may be a single word or group of words from the previous page orphaned alone on the top of the next page. It may be a missing quotation mark, or a paragraph that didn’t get indented. I fix those errors and resubmit the file. Then I go through it again. When I’m satisfied, I approve the file, and when it is ready, I order a printed proof. I have found that no matter how many times I’ve gone over a file on line, I see things in the printed work I never noticed on the computer screen. So I make corrections to my file and resubmit. I may then order a second printed proof, or I may download a pdf file or use the online reviewer. The chances are that no matter which I do, I will find something I want to change. I have resubmitted a file five or six times, maybe more, before I’m satisfied with it.

I went through that laborious process with my newest novel, Deathright. I kept finding things I wanted to change, not because they were incorrect but because I saw a way to make them read better. Eventually, I felt that it was ready to be published. I approved the file and ordered books I needed for an upcoming event. I then went on to prepare the file for electronic publication through Kindle Direct Publishing. I uploaded that file, which should be identical to the interior file for the print edition. The differences are technical, such as removing headers and footers, adding a table of contents, and putting links from the chapter titles in the table of contents to the chapter in the text. When that file was uploaded, I again went through it using the online reviewer. And of course I found a paragraph that needed revision, not because it had any grammatical or spelling errors but simply because it was awkward. So I revised it, and the Kindle version was published with that correction. However, now that single paragraph differed from the one in the print version. So I have now made the revision to the print file and re-uploaded it. That takes the book out of circulation for a brief time while the change is being approved and applied.

 Is it worth it? Most readers would probably not notice the difference, but I would. That unrevised paragraph would nag at me. Is that being a perfectionist? Maybe it’s just being professional.

front cover




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I’ve written often about getting ideas from dreams. That used to happen far more frequently than it does now. In fact, I have recorded many dreams that offer good material for a novel or a short story but that I’ve never used. Maybe that’s why I don’t get those dreams as much anymore. I have too great a backlog of ideas from the ones I’ve had to take advantage of a new idea.

This morning, shortly before waking, I had what I call a “story dream.” I recorded it in my dream file as I always do such dreams. But I decided to do something new with it. I’m going to share it with my readers. It is a good idea, too good simply to sit in a file and never get used. But I know I won’t have time to turn it into a novel. I’m still working on the novel that has developed from the last story dream I had. And I have many other novels already in the pipeline, either in progress or still in idea form. So I’m going to share my dream with you.

Ideas can’t be copyrighted. Anyone can take this “story dream” of mine as a basis for a novel or a short story and run with it. I would be very interested to see what you come up with if you decide to do something with it. Even if several people have a go at it, no two writers would handle it in the same way. Each one would come up with something unique to him or her. So go ahead, be my guest. Here’s the dream, just as I recorded it in my dream file:

The sole owner of a large business firm, a very wealthy man, has just died. The business executives expect to inherit his entire estate, as he had no other known heirs and left a will leaving everything to the business. However, three people appear, two men and a woman, claiming to be the deceased man’s grown children and his sole heirs. The older son is the spokesman for the three. They have a manila file folder containing documents proving their claim: their birth certificates, their parents’ marriage license, and, most importantly, a will, more recent than the one the business executives have, that names them as his heirs, inheriting everything, including the business. The business executives are sure the documents must be forged, but the son says, “Look at us. Can you doubt that we are his sons and daughter?” And, indeed, their resemblance to the deceased businessman is so strong that the business execs are shaken. Why did no one, not even his closest associates, know of these children? Why has their existence been a secret to everyone?

Okay, that’s the dream. The questions I ended with were asked in the dream but not answered. I awoke pondering them. I’m intrigued enough to want to do something with the idea, but I just do not have the time. So I’m putting it out here for anyone who wants it. Have fun!

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Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t blogged in a good long while despite my avowals of keeping to a more regular schedule. I do have good excuses reasons for my negligence.

I wrote in an earlier blog that I had started a freelance editing and formatting business, titled Arucadi Enterprises, to edit and format manuscripts for people who want to self-publish and need help with the process. That business has kept me busier than I’d anticipated.

I’ve also mentioned that I wanted to learn to use a digital art program so that I could produce my own book covers. A friend introduced me to DAZ3D, a program that allows me to do just that. “You can learn it,” she assured me. “It’s not that hard.” She probably regretted those words, as I’ve had to call on her for help more times than I care to admit. But she’s been patient and helped me over many a stumbling block, and I have now produced book covers for two of my books, one just out and one under review. But the learning curve has been steep. A younger person could probably learn it much more quickly, but I am at an age where, while it is important to keep learning new things, it is no longer easy to do so. However, I have always been stubborn, and I refused to give up.

And of course, I’m still writing new novels while trying to get completed ones into print. I have three currently under way and three others completed in first draft but needing major editing. Following that editing I will have them read by my critiquing partner, whose help I find invaluable, plus other beta readers. These readers will catch errors I’ve overlooked as well as point out ways to improve the overall writing. Then I go back and re-edit the manuscript, incorporating the readers’ suggestions and corrections. So it is not a speedy process. I’ve just gone through that with my upcoming young adult fantasy, To the Far Side of the Forest.

So I really have been busy. Now I have to concentrate on promotion—getting the word out about Were House, the novel that has just come out and the one that will be coming out, I hope, by the end of October.

And, you know what? I love all this busyness. Yes, I do get frustrated at times, but I keep plowing through the difficult rows, and eventually things calm down and I’m pleased with the results. I get a great deal of satisfaction from overcoming the problems I’ve refused to give up on.

Here’s what I’ve learned from all this activity:

  1. Failing at something isn’t the end of the world. Rather, it’s a learning experience. If I apply what I learned from that failure and then try again—and again and again, if necessary—I’ll eventually figure out the right way of doing whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish.
  2. There’s no disgrace in not getting something right the first time and having to do it over. An eventual success that comes after many failed attempts is all the sweeter for having come after a difficult struggle.
  3. If I give up on something I thought I wanted to accomplish, I didn’t want it badly enough in the first place.
  4. Persistence is more productive than talent. Or perhaps it’s more correct to say, Persistence produces and hones talent.
  5. I may not be able to move a metaphoric mountain, but I can find a way around it. It may take longer to get to the other side that way, but I will get there.

Now I want to proudly announce the publication of my adult urban fantasy novel Were House, now available from Amazon in trade paperback and e-book editions. Here’s the cover flat. Pictures on front and back were my first efforts using DAZ3D and putting on finishing touches in Paint Shop Pro. You may wonder why I used so much of the cover for the title and author and left the cover picture rather small. The answer is that I had no choice. The picture is necessarily wide, and to get the full width, I had to sacrifice height. That wasn’t necessary on my second cover.


Were House is available from Amazon as a trade paperback and in electronic editions. Take a look.

And now a bonus: the first look at the cover flat for my upcoming teen novel, To the Far Side of the Forest, my second effort at producing my own cover art.

Forest-cover flat

This may require a bit of lightening, but it is basically the way it will appear when the book comes out in late October.



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It’s a BOOK!

It’s out! The print version of Grandy’s Grand Inventions is available from Amazon now. The ebook will be available shortly.
Cover flat_spine untitled

After I announced that I had written this children’s book, someone asked why, after writing novels for teens and adults, I had written a book for the early grades. The short answer to the question is that I had a story idea that fit that age group (six to ten years).

The longer answer is that I have learned at least mostly how to judge the proper length and audience a particular idea requires. This is not always an easy thing to figure out. As I’ve explained many times, many if not most of my ideas come from dreams. In this case, the dream was of a girl (age indeterminate) who for some reason was riding on a large wooden foot that was going up and down as if it were walking, though it wasn’t attached to anything. I liked the image but didn’t really know what to do with it. I had to ask myself a series of questions:
Who was the girl on the foot?
Why was she on it? How did she get there?
What force was propelling the foot?
What happened to her?
In considering these questions, I realized that the story had to be for younger children than I had previously written for. Why? Because a young child would fit better on a wooden foot and because the situation required a suspension of disbelief that would be more likely achieved by a younger child. It had a magical quality about it more appropriate to a children’s story than to a story for teens or adults.

And so gradually I developed the idea of a young girl whose grandfather was an inventor who came up with some crazy inventions, one of which was a levitator. It was the levitator that provided the force that lifted the foot. The foot went up and down as though walking because the grandfather had to follow it with the machine to keep it up in the air, but he couldn’t walk fast enough to keep up with it. Therefore, whenever he fell behind, the foot would descend and slow down. Then the grandfather would catch up and the foot would rise again and move faster.

As the story developed, it turned out to be about family relationships and friendship, not just about a runaway wooden foot.

That’s as much of the story as I’m going to tell here. I want to expound a bit on finding what length and what audience an idea fits. But that is a subject best left for my next blog. I want to conclude this one simply by saying that I wrote the children’s book because I had an idea that I wanted to develop, and a children’s book was the best form in which to develop it. I’ll leave it to young readers to decide how successful I was.

Please take a look at the book, and if you know a young reader who you think would like it, recommend it, or better yet, buy it for her. Click here to see the book on Amazon.

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First an apology. I know I haven’t blogged in a couple of months—at least. Time just slid by me. I’ve been doing too many other things. One is that I’ve been working on the fourth book in the tetralogy that started with Mistress of the Wind, followed by Bringers of Magic, and my most recent release, A Mix of Magics. The fourth book will be titled Deniably Dead unless for some reason I change the title before the book is ready for publication. front cover final

 Before I started work on Deniably Dead I was about halfway into another fantasy novel, a stand-alone titled Linked, not part of or related to the Arucadi series. I still work on it off and on but am concentrating more on Deniably Dead.

I’ve also been getting two books ready for publication—doing final edits and formatting. One is a children’s chapter book titled Grandy’s Grand Inventions and intended for children in first through fourth grades. It will be out some time this month. I’ve set it up in CreateSpace and received the proof, which I’ve gone through, made some changes, and adjusted the cover a bit. I’ll be submitting those changes and then possibly order another proof or maybe proof it online and approve it. As all my other books have been written for teens or adults, this is a departure for me and will need to attract brand new readers.Front cover titled

Grandy’s Grand Inventions is the story of Judy Cameron, a third grader who adores her grandfather (Grandy) and wants nothing more for her birthday than a visit from him. But Grandy is an inventor whose inventions tend to go awry, with disastrous results. Judy’s parents agree that Grandy can come for a visit and to help celebrate Judy’s birthday provided that he not bring any of his inventions. But Grandy can’t resist an invention he’s designed to be a delightful surprise at Judy’s birthday party, to which she has invited her entire third grade class and their teacher. After all, what could possibly go wrong with a machine that creates a blizzard of chocolate flakes to entertain and please Judy’s guests?Ch6-C_GD

 In addition to the aforementioned projects I’ve done editing work for clients of my newly established business, Arucadi Enterprises, LLC. The business is designed to publish my own books and those of others who want to publish via CreateSpace and/or Kindle Direct Publishing but need help with editing and formatting. I enjoy editing my own work and that of other writers, but I don’t want to be so busy editing other people’s manuscripts that I neglect my own writing, so I will limit the number of clients I accept.

Arucadi Enterprises, LLC

Arucadi Enterprises, LLC

I’ve also taken on another project. For the next book I plan to publish I want to design and produce my own cover art. However, I’m no artist. I’m trying to learn the computer program DAZ3D, a program providing components that can be assembled and arranged to produce digital art. It’s not an easy program to learn, and it has eaten up a lot of my time, but I’m determined and stubborn enough to keep working at it until I get it right. When I do, I’ll reveal the results here. The cover art is all that remains to be done before publication of my urban fantasy novel Were House. I’ll discuss that further in a later blog.

What I want to stress in this one is that writing is my career, not my hobby. I am retired from teaching but not from writing. I take my writing very seriously and work at it daily in one form or another, even though I don’t blog as often as I should. I do need to spend more time on promoting my work, and I realize that getting books out in print and as e‑books isn’t enough—you also have to sell them. I will try to do better about blogging, tweeting, and otherwise promoting my work, but no promises. I fit in what I can when I can. I find it difficult to balance writing and promotion, probably because I love writing and don’t particularly enjoy promotion. I doubt that this is unusual. I suspect many if not most writers feel that way. We do what we must because, after all, it does no good to write and publish books if no one reads them. And readers need to know about books in order to buy and read them.

 So I conclude with an appeal. Watch for the publication announcement for Grandy’s Grand Inventions. And if you have or know a child in the right age range, consider buying it for them or encouraging parents and teachers to purchase it. Give it a try. I think kids will like it, but children in the age group it’s written for aren’t book buyers. Adults buy books for them. So I still need to depend on my adult readers to purchase the book and present it to the child or children of their choice.

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I’m So Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I’m thankful for so many things today. I’m thankful for health and happiness. I’m thankful to be able to write books, and I’m thankful for the many wonderful books that have given me so much enjoyment throughout the years.

Most of all, I’m thankful for family.
I was an only child, as was my mother. My father had a sister, but I never met her and know nothing about her. I did have great aunts and uncles, whom I loved dearly, but when I was five years old my beloved grandfather died, and shortly afterward my father took off for parts unknown. My mother was never able to locate him. So I was raised by my mother, who worked and struggled to support me and her widowed mother. My grandmother died when I was in sixth grade, leaving just my mother and me. I was often lonely, and I think that is why I cultivated a rich fantasy life which inspires me to write fantasy novels now.

But when I was thirteen years old everything changed! My mother died of cancer, and I was placed in a foster home, as my relatives–the children and grandchildren of those great aunts and uncles, all lived in the north. I entered the home with great trepidation, but soon found I had become a part of a warm, loving, and boisterous family. And growing. I wound up with four sisters and two brothers along with a multitude of cousins. Mom and Dad loved us all and never distinguished between their biological son and daughter and the “fosters”. Some children were placed only temporarily in Mom and Dad’s home, but five of us were more or less permanent placements. We weren’t adoptable but we couldn’t have felt more a part of the family if we had been adopted. We were brothers and sisters–and still are. Foster children “age out” when they reach 18, but Mom and Dad ignored that, and we all remained close.

Mom and Dad are gone now, but the seven of us still consider ourselves brothers and sisters. Some have moved to other places, other states. But those of us who remain here where we grew up get together as much as our busy lives permit. I’ll be having Thanksgiving with a large and loving family, for which I am so very grateful. And it’s not only brothers and sisters. Of course there are children and grandchildren now, and many cousins, and all are family.

But there’s more to the story. A few years ago I discovered a half-sister I never knew about. My father had married again after leaving my mother, and had a daughter. That daughter grew up and married and had children–a son and two daughters. They live in another state, but I did visit them on the occasion of the son’s wedding. I talk often to my sister on the phone. We’ve grown close and discovered much in common despite having been raised completely separately. So I have still another family to love. Such a wealth of family!

What a wonderful life I have, thanks to so much family. I have so much to be thankful for.

Here’s a photo of Mom and Dad and all of us on the occasion of Mom&Dad’s anniversary:

And here’s a later photo of all of us siblings:

Oh, and the Kindle edition of my newest novel, A Mix of Magics, is free today as my way of giving thanks.
Get it here.

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I am very pleased to have as a guest on my blog today a woman for whom I have great respect and admiration. Please meet Anastasia Charalabakos, Ana for short. Ana has written a memoir titled From Darkness to Triumph, describing the challenges she has had to overcome due to being blind from birth, growing up in a Greek-speaking household so that when she started school she had to overcome both the handicap of blindness and of speaking almost no English, and of suffering emotional trauma from her parents’ fights, both verbal and physical.Ana speaking at Inkwood Books

Ana, please tell us what persuaded you to write From Darkness to Triumph, despite the pain it must have caused you to describe the difficulties you have faced from early childhood throughout your life.

ANA: The reasons for writing my book are several. First, living life with blindness often means facing challenges such as difficulty finding employment or encountering skeptical individuals in relation to my abilities despite my intelligence. While persons with sight face challenges such as these as well, I face them more frequently as one with blindness. This is because regardless of the immense progress that has been made in computer technology and in the attitudes about mainstreaming persons with blindness into sighted classrooms and into the workforce, a significant lack of awareness and understanding about blindness continue to exist. With that in mind, I wanted to write a book that would answer many of the questions that people have asked me over the years about blindness and to dispel many of the myths, stereotypes, and prejudices about blindness. Additionally, I wanted a book that would provide insightful information to parents, teachers, and to others about raising blind children and ways of enabling them to become contributing members of society.

The second reason for writing my book is to bring to light issues concerning raising children, not just with blindness but those with sight as well. Coming from a family where domestic violence occurred often, my brother and I were greatly impacted by it emotionally, mentally, and physically. The anguish we experienced can be felt by any child, blind or sighted, in a home where domestic violence occurs frequently. Again, with that in mind, I wanted a book that would provide insightful information based on my own experiences and scholarly research to parents, teachers, and other human service professionals about the impact that domestic violence can have on children and how parents can strive to minimize that pain on children.

The third reason for writing my book is to encourage readers to become more understanding concerning issues regarding blindness and the impact of domestic violence on the family as a whole. Through such understanding, readers can think more deeply about these issues and how they, themselves, can become agents for change in an area of relevance to them.

The fourth reason for writing my book is to promote increased awareness and understanding of the many issues I address in my book, particularly blindness, through public speaking. I want the text to help serve as the basis for promoting that awareness and understanding in addition to speaking to audiences. Becoming an advocate is very important to me, since my life has, in many respects, been affected by the limitations imposed upon me by others due to their misconceptions of blindness.
front cover From Darkness
What obstacles in addition to your blindness have you had to overcome, and how do you deal with these in your book?

ANA: In addition to the barriers I have had to overcome in relation to blindness, I have had to overcome the effects of frequent moving to four different states as a child, the impact on me of constant arguing between my parents, and the effects of my father’s gambling on my family. Cumulatively, all these effects were so immense that I was at risk of performing poorly in school and not going on to pursue higher education. Yet I knew that only through education could I achieve important goals and break the cycle of abuse for myself. Through my own determination and with the help of good mentors, I overcame the challenges and went on to receive a college education.

In my book, I speak about these challenges not with shame or with blame, but in a manner that seeks to inform of their effects. In my final chapter, I reflect on what I have learned as a result and offer possible solutions to readers who might be experiencing similar challenges today.

What obstacle has been the most difficult to overcome?

ANA: My most difficult challenge today is dealing with the continued misconceptions that others have about me as a result of my blindness. I work with this barrier by openly answering any questions others might have, and I explain about the computer programs I use to perform tasks such as reading and responding to emails.

You’ve titled the book From Darkness to Triumph. Tell about your triumphs. What accomplishment are you proudest of and why?

ANA: My greatest triumphs have been overcoming the impact of domestic violence as a child, receiving a college education, and traveling abroad to study Arabic. I am proud of these triumphs for many reasons.

First, overcoming the effects of domestic violence of my childhood is significant to me because I am now aware of how to recognize patterns of abuse and as a result, the cycle will never continue in my home. It is also significant because, by overcoming the effects of the domestic violence, I became very resilient, which ultimately helped me to earn my masters degree in Applied Linguistics from the University of South Florida.

Second, receiving my college education is a very significant triumph because it has enabled me to expand my knowledge in a variety of areas and to gain skills I could not have without it. My education has given me the tools I need to live in a world that is fast-paced and difficult. I became independent not only academically, but in my daily living skills as a blind person in terms of cooking, cleaning, and shopping.

Third, my language study abroad program to Morocco through the National Council on U. S. Arab Relations in Washington D. C. challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally in ways I never anticipated. It forced me to expand my understanding of my culture and theirs and to become an even more tolerant person. Most of all, it enabled me to gain friendships that have lasted until now.

How do you hope to reach readers, especially those to whom the book is aimed?

ANA: My hope is to reach a wide range of readers such as human service professionals, teachers, parents, and high school students through blogs, interviews, and speaking engagements. Possible venues are schools, centers for the blind, and centers for domestic violence.

Do you plan to write other books? Can you tell us anything about those plans?.
ANA: Currently, I am planning to write more books that would further expand upon many of the topics in my book. In addition, I am planning to write several children’s stories that would inspire children to become hard working and good, creative thinkers now and in the future.

Buy Ana’s book on Amazon in trade paperback or Kindle edition. Click here

1. Remember to sign up for the Author Kindle Fire Giveaway that runs from Nov. 1 – Dec. 7.
Click here for details.
2. Get ready for a Book Blast Announcement and Giveaway from Nov. 17-19 to celebrate the release of the paperback edition and the update of the Kindle edition of A Mix of Magics. Check back next week for more information on this in next week’s blog.
front cover final

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