Saturday, October 22, 2011

My eBook Adventure

My eBook Adventure

It was bound to happen. I’ve dipped my little toe into the big ocean of eBooks. After I attended a talk by writers Jan Peck and David Davis (who have stuck all four of their feet into the eWaters) I decided to give it a try. Here's what’s happened so far.

First, the bottom line. What better eStory to start out with than a tip-of-the-hat to all creative writers. The short story is called Takeover: A Writer’s Nightmare. It is my offering to all writers who spend time in the ether of creativity struggling to create exciting characters that come alive for a story that starts out quick, builds interest and tension, moves toward a climax, and ends with a satisfying conclusion.

After looking a several options, I settled on using Smashwords to put my eBook into shape and get it out to as many eReaders as possible. The site has a number of helpful guides to walk you along the eBook path. Here are my experiences.

It’s a little tough to get your manuscript formatted correctly so that it can be converted to eBook format. This is because of all the gunk that Microsoft Word puts into the background of each document. Basically, you have to get rid of all of the Word formatting to make the thing work. I made a valient effort to remove all of the offensive formatting, but I gave up. Instead, I used the “nuclear option” which means copying the entire document to a plain text editor (such as notepad) to remove all formatting – then copying it back into Word, and putting in only the recommended indents and centering. (You can also hire something to do the formatting task.)

For Smashwords, once you get the document cleaned up, you submit it and they put it through their handy-dandy meat grinder that spits out the story in Kindle and other eReader formats. It's then sent to the formatting police who check to see if it passes the grade. If it's okay, it is accepted and “published.” But wait, there’s more. Once it is "published", Smashwords submits it to various sellers such as Amazon, which may take several weeks. All in all, plan for it to take a month before you can look it up on Amazon. So much for instant gratification.

There are other details that I’ve left out, such as getting an ISBN number for your book and creating a cover, but that’s covered in the Smashwords guides.

Now the plot turns to the subject of ePromotion. (Don’t you love all of the eWords?) Of course this isn’t a new thing. For every book I’ve written, I’ve had to beat the bushes to get it noticed (and bought). Please consider that this blog has now shaken your bush in the hopes that you will click here, and spend less than a buck to be entertained and amused -- maybe even inspired. A brief description…

Takeover: A Writer’s Nightmare by A.C. Elliott -- Is she insane, or trapped in her own story? Darla is thrown into a writer's nightmare where she struggles to keep characters from taking over her story. In a quirky romp through an action-packed adventure with a surprise at every turn of the page, Darla finds herself up against the pen of an unseen literary adversary in a battle to the finish -- and only one writer can win. It's creative writing gone berserk. Click for more information.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hot sauce, pickles, and writers

Yesterday, a girl about 2 years old sitting next to me at a Mexican restaurant dipped a chip into the hot sauce and took a bite. Her eyes lit up like large olives, she raised her hands above her head, and froze; taking the experience in. We couldn’t tell if she was about to scream, or take another bite. She took another bite. It reminded me of an incident I’d seen years ago when a similar young kid took a bite out of a dill pickle. You could swear that tears were about to burst from her eyes. When the look of pain left her face, she took another bite.

That’s an outline for successful writing. Commercial, saleable writing MUST pop, zing, sting, irritate, excite, provoke, and otherwise make us happy, sad, mad or glad. God even agrees. He’s quoted as saying he’d wish we were either hot or cold in our belief – those that are lukewarm get spewed out of His mouth. Yikes. We don’t want that kind of writing.

Sol Saks wasn’t God (otherwise he wouldn’t be dead, bless his soul) but I was reading something by him the other day where he said you can’t go too far in making comedy zany. It has to be over the top to be effective. I’ll add to that. To catch the attention of readers today, you have to push the limits in one way or the other – either your writing has to flow better than a poem by Robert Frost, your plot design has to rival the eye-catching architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, the rhythm of your phraseology has to engage the soul like a Beatle’s song, your scenes have to challenge the mind’s eye like a Picasso painting, or your story has to frighten the reader with the tension of an Alfred Hitchcock movie scene.

Face it, there are new hundreds of thousands of books, stories, ebooks, and the like available to the public today. What catches the reader’s imagination? What makes them cringe, laugh, or pucker at what they read – then go back for more? That’s what we as writer have to strive to achieve. Set yourself free. Go over the top. Let the creative juices flow.

Please see my latest ebook, Takeover: A Writer's Nightmare

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and Walt Disney

I’ve hated cancer for a long time. It has taken away my own loved ones and many other people that still had contributions to make. Steve Jobs was one of those people. As writers and artists, we are particularly touched when a creative spark is snuffed out. In our own writing, when we are in the middle of a project, we wonder what would happen to it if we were hit by a bus. Will our creativity live on? Steve was “hit by a bus” called cancer, and died at age 56. A lot people compared Steve’s creativity to that of the previous generation’s Walt Disney. It is no wonder that his Pixar partnered with Disney in so many successful projects. One wonders -- what would Steve have accomplished if he’d lived longer? Walt lived to 65 (barely) – what if he’d died at 56? Walt would barely have gotten Disneyworld open – it would be his iPhone. In Disneyworld, some of the projects he pioneered would never have happened – Pirates of the Caribbean, the Matterhorn, the Haunted House, and many others. Would Disneyland have even survived without the Wonderful World of Color on TV promoting it every week? The Florida project (Walt Disney World) would certainly never have happened – and probably none of the other Disneyland projects (Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai.) The (now classic) movies “Old Yeller,” “The Shaggy Dog” and “Mary Poppins” would never have been made. Who knows if the Disney creativity that exists today would have survived if Walt had died at age 56? There would be no Little Mermaid, no Beauty and the Beast, and a host of other movies, events, rides, and other entertainment innovations that we’ve seen from Disney over the last 50 years. In the next 50 years will there still be a legacy from Steve Jobs? From Apple and Pixar? I’m sure the spark of his creativity will outlast him by a considerable number of years – we’ll continue to see innovation from his legacies. But what more would we have seen if his light had not been extinguished? I hate cancer.

Please see my latest ebook, Takeover: A Writer's Nightmare