Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong, In Memoriam

by Stephanie Osborn

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening near Birmingham, AL, celebrating the birthday of a child of friends. I had not seen the news at all until I arrived at home well after dark and discovered the news that one of my heroes had crossed the threshold into Eternity.

Today I have spent much of the day pondering over what I was going to say about it. For I had to say SOMETHING about it; the passing of the first human to set foot on another celestial body is not something that should be ignored. How much the less, then, by someone like me, who saw, was inspired, worked with, became friends with, other astronauts. No, I could not let this go by.

But what to say? The depth of feeling is, despite my reputation as a decent wordsmith, beyond my humble ability. Then it occurred to me that one already had. And so I present to you the words of a WWII pilot, born of American and English, one who knew the thrill as test pilot Armstrong did, but died far too young. You see, at the same time period as Armstrong and the other Apollo astronauts were making their daring voyages, I clearly recall that every Sunday afternoon (and it is appropriate that it is Sunday afternoon when I write this), what would now be termed a "music video" was played as part of programming. The video contained footage of some of the latest fighter jets, and the voice-over was the now-famous poem by that young WWII pilot, John Gillespie Magee, Jr. - High Flight.

Here I dedicate it to Neil Alden Armstrong, an American - nay, a human - hero.
Godspeed, Neil Armstrong.

"High Flight" Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
 — Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tidbits They Don’t Tell You In Author’s School, Part 5

by Stephanie Osborn

We've been talking about the little odds and ends that beginning writers NEED to know, but often aren't TOLD. Things that it's useful to know about to avoid making mistakes. At this point, we have managed to sell our first novel to a publisher, get through the editing process, and review the eARC and galleys. We're picking up today with what you should be doing AT THE SAME TIME YOU'RE PREPPING FOR RELEASE. So. Back at the ranch...

Meanwhile, you and your publisher are working on the public relations and publicity campaign. Start making appearances before the book is released if you want to build buzz. Build a website. Blog. Tweet. Face. Space. Link. Plus. Pin. Good. Net. Ning. Tag. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to find out.) If you can find a way to get your name out there, and to get your book’s name out there, do it.

After the book comes out, you get to do the interviews, talks, and book signings. Most of the time YOU have to schedule these. If you can afford a publicist, it helps. If not, network like crazy. (See building buzz, above.) Ask for reviews from bloggers and interviews from bloggers and BlogTalkRadio hosts. Those are good starts, and they're a good way to get the hang of interviews.

Somewhere in there, you start writing your next book. Yes, you heard right. You write your next book. Otherwise it will be delayed and the fans you start accumulating will become bored waiting.

Tidbit Seven: You NEVER really get done. Because since you're now writing your next book, you're starting all over again. But there's one difference: you have an "in" now, with your publisher - and it's you. You are now your own "in." This is a good place to be.

Tidbit Eight: Once you’ve realized Tidbits One through Seven, congratulations. You are now an experienced, professional author.

Feels good, doesn't it?

-Stephanie Osborn

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tidbits They Don’t Tell You In Author’s School, Part 4

by Stephanie Osborn

We've been talking about the little odds and ends that beginning writers NEED to know, but often aren't TOLD. Things that it's useful to know about to avoid making mistakes. At this point, we have managed to sell our first novel to a publisher. We're picking up today with Tidbits Six and Six-A.
Tidbit Six: Getting a contract in hand is NOT the end of the job. It’s the beginning. Or maybe the middle.


Because now you get to work with one or more editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. Multiple times. Read: for as many iterations as it takes to get the book into the condition that the publishers consider ready for publication.
And sometimes that's quite a few. Yep, I don't even have to say it now, do I? Because by now you know that I'm giving you a course I learned in the proverbial school of hard knocks.


Tidbit Six-A: Be aware that you are NOT required to do everything, or even anything, the editors say. But you better really be confident you’ve done it exactly right, because these guys are more experienced than you are and know what they’re doing.

Travis, God bless him, has repeated this to me more than once, and I think it's finally taken.

So you have the book edited, it’s in gorgeous shape; the cover art has come down and it’s beautiful. You’re done, right? Nope. Now you get the e-ARC, the electronic Advanced Review Copy. You get to review that, make corrections, and send the corrections back.

See, the e-ARC is usually a .pdf file, and the conversion isn't always as smooth as we'd like it to be. It can lose italics and tabs and returns and other such formatting, or it can just wrap a line funny. (Sort of like the paragraph breaks in this blog post, for some reason.) It's also another chance to look for copy errors (errors in spelling, punctuation, typos, etc.) before the book goes into production. This is also the file from which the ebooks are likely to be converted.

NOW you’re done? No. Now you get the galley prints. These are unbound first run prints of your book. Again, review for errors and send back the corrections. Yes, same reason as the e-ARC. Yes, I've caught my own goofs in the galleys as well as errors in setting the galleys - which unlike the old days, is done electronically now. But just like converting from your .doc to .pdf, things can go wonky.

And guess what? The book still hasn't been released. We'll talk about week.

-Stephanie Osborn

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tidbits They Don’t Tell You In Author’s School, Part 3

by Stephanie Osborn

We've been talking about the little odds and ends that beginning writers NEED to know, but often aren't TOLD. Things that it's useful to know about to avoid making mistakes. So far we've covered a pre-tidbit, Tidbit One, which was about finding out how long a novel is FOR YOUR GENRE, and shooting for that length; Tidbit Two, which was about not OVERSHOOTING your novel length, and Tidbit Three, which set up the social structure of the writing society. We're picking up today with Tidbits Four, Five, and Five-A.

Tidbit Four: The old adage, “You can’t get published without an agent, and you can’t get an agent without being published,” isn’t true – but it isn’t far from it. Many of the big publishers won’t even look at anything that isn’t handed to them by an agent. With some of them, it’s impossible to even find contact information for the budding author. Contrariwise, most agents won’t look at anyone who isn’t published. But there are some good publishing houses out there that DO accept unagented submissions. The trick to these is that, unless you know somebody, your submission goes into a “slush pile” and will remain there for some time. Slush pile submissions are read in the order received, so your baby will be there for however long it takes for the company’s readers to dig down to it. So be prepared to be patient.

Tidbit Five: A mentor helps. He or she should be someone already experienced in the business, and willing to take on a protégé. HE is the “somebody you know,” your entrée into the business. He can act as your reviewer, your advisor, your agent, your friend, and your shoulder to cry on when an editor says your beloved baby is a pile of horse manure.
Tidbit Five-A: Editors do sometimes say this. Or words to that effect.

Yes, once again, it happened to me. The gist of what was said was, "I hate the beginning, I hate the ending, and everything in between needs to be rewritten." My mentor gently told me through my sobs that it was obvious that that particular editor did not understand my style, and to ask my publisher for another editor. I mopped my face and my nose and had a frank conversation with my publisher. It wasn't that that was a bad editor, or that I was a bad writer. Now, some years later, I do see some of the things he was getting at. But in general, the situation was simply having an incompatibility between writer and editor. It does happen.

Your mentor can point you in new directions, and tell you if and when someone is trying to take advantage of you. Sometimes he even becomes a co-author, and then it’s really fun.

And once again, that's what happened to me, too. My mentor, and now co-author a couple of times over, is a certain guy named Travis S. "Doc" Taylor, New York Times best-selling author and star of National Geographic Channel's Rocket City Rednecks. (He wasn't a TV star when I met him, though. I don't think he was a best-seller yet either. But he was good and he was in the business and he was willing to "pass it forward.") It's been, and continues to be, a great collaboration. We've written a science fiction novel called Extraction Point! which is the first in a series through Twilight Times Books, and we've written a nonfiction book called A New American Space Plan, which is scheduled to be released by Baen Books November 2012.

-Stephanie Osborn