Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, December 31, 2010

Books published in 2010

Because I have had more than one book come out this year, and more scheduled for publication next year, as well as the following years, I have realized that maybe I should get into the habit of making my last blog post of the year be about the books I have had published in the year which is about to end. As you can see, it's more than one poetry book for me this year, and something on my favorite subject: the paranormal. Hooray!

Thank you to everyone involved in making the writing, editing and publication of these books possible.

Love is Like a Rainbow: Poems of Love and Devotion
Published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing
Available as a print and ebook

Love is...
...a reminder there is still hope in this world.
...a gentle whisper to guide you and give you strength in hard times.
...a neverending bond that transcends death.
...a promise of forever when two people become one.
...a brand new day after life's most turbulent storm.
Love, romance and eternal devotion come to life and restrengthen a bond through the power of verse. With words written from the heart and speaking to the soul, Love is Like a Rainbow contains love poems to remind readers to " let love come in."

Songs of the Dead

Published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing
Available only as an ebook

Enter a world of death, madness, darkness, horror and despair. Where pain and hopelessness linger at every turn, nothing is ever what it seems, and your worst nightmares lurk within the shadows.

TOTALLY SCARED: The Complete Book on Haunted Houses
Co-authored with Martha Jette
Published by Saga Books

Available only as a print

Totally Scared: The Complete Book On Haunted Houses offers everything you ever wanted to know about haunted houses directly from the folks who live in them, why homes may be haunted, where to get help, what ghost hunters do, famous and not-so-famous haunted houses around the world, haunted house movies and how they related to real hauntings, ghost hunting equipment, a compendium of ghost hunters worldwide and much more. This book is a must-have for amateur and professional ghost hunters alike."


Monday, December 27, 2010

Who you gonna thank?

In an online writer’s group I’m a member of, one member requested help in putting together the Acknowledgments for his book. He wasn’t sure of who he should thank for making his book what it was and how to thank them. The issue of leaving people out was discussed when members responded to this post. The question made me think of my own struggles in putting together Acknowledgments for my books.

On one hand, who to thank is a no-brainer. Anyone who helped with research, anyone who helped write/edit the book, anyone who actually supported the author’s efforts to write the book and get it published, the publisher and the author’s family members are top of the list on who to thank. And these are the people I have included when I put together my own Acknowledgments for the haunted houses book. (There is a general Acknowledgments in the back of the book, plus my co-author, Martha Jette, and I each wrote our own personalized Acknowledgments.) It's a good idea to keep a list of people to thank as you work on your book. One would think that, with an Acknowledgments in a book that just came out, that should be the end of thanking people. However, I feel otherwise, especially now as I hold this published book in my own hands. What a long, tenuous and amazing journey it has been to get this book published! It had all started out as a series of articles for the Shadowlands newsletter. Now they were part of a new published book.

I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude that this book is finally published. That said, I am still thanking the people involved in making that happen. I thanked them in emails shortly after the book went to the printer, but I feel compelled to thank them again here:

Thank you, DAVE JULIANO, for publishing my articles in the Shadowlands newsletter, and giving me permission to use them in the book. (Note: The articles in the book have since been revised and edited.) Thank you for your support of my research on haunted houses and insights on the paranormal.

Thank you, MARTHA JETTE, for taking on such a mammoth project and working with me tirelessly and consistently through the years in turning this book into the magnum opus it has turned out to be. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, go over everything with me, share your opinions and ideas and work with me when our ideas were not on the same page. Thank you for standing by with the emails and putting in an enormous amount of legwork and promotional efforts for this book. Many times I have marveled over how one writer in Canada can team up with one writer in the U.S. and bring them together in this joint effort of creating a book that the whole world can enjoy. Your access to resources in Canada and mine to resources in the U.S., our communication shifts with the several companies we have been in contact with concerning this book on your shore and mine, and postal/economic differences have all been interesting experiences for me. I hope it has been the same for you.

Thank you, RUTH M. THOMPSON, of Saga Books, for taking on this manuscript and going above and beyond to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. What a trying time to work with such a huge manuscript! Thank you for keeping your sights on the big picture and seeing this manuscript through to publication. Thank you for publishing our book.

And thank you to everyone who has bought copies of this book so far. I hope you enjoy them!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Busy with revisions

I have been busy working on the revisions of Book 2 in my series. It seems like this is the only kind of "book work" I have going on these days -- and that's actually a good thing. Being focused on just ONE book, even during the revision stage, has helped me to step back and take a closer look at the story as a whole.

Writing the first draft of this story, my goal was to get the story out of my head and onto paper. As I revise it, I'm looking closer at the dialogue, scene structure, and characterization. I'm reminded of things I must have in the final draft that weren't in the first draft, such as weather, what people are wearing, what things look like, how things are done, etc. But the big thing I have noticed about this story is the issue: Bullying. Two characters deal with school bullies, and one aspect of the first draft of the story turned out to be something I could use in a positive way to resolve the bullying problem. I have been doing research on that and exploring different scenarios in the story to figure out which one would work best as a resolution to that conflict.

Another thing I've noticed is family ties. In the first book, readers are introduced to the family members of my main characters. Because my main characters are children, their parents and siblings play a big role in their lives. I know they say that when you write stories for kids, grown-ups should not be in the story so much and, when they are, they act different than their expected roles. And the bulk of this story is the kids doing things without grown-ups swarming all over them. However, I believe that, as children, parents and siblings are a big part of their lives, so I have to remember to include things such as a brother making some comment or a sister heading out the door for piano lessons. All the same, family ties can be helpful to main characters, especially when it comes to those main characters dealing with major issues. A big brother can give advice or help out, after all. This is another important factor I have had to work on during the revision stage.

When writing the first draft, the story comes out in a rush. How I began each scene was not an issue; I just had to start the scene and get things moving. But during revision, I can step away from the pages and take the time to analyze how I began the scene. Is it the right scene opening? Does it get reader attention? Does it flow well from where the last scene left off? Writing the first draft happened in a rush of creativity; the revising of the first draft happens with a pause of reflection.

Finally, one other thing about the revising of this draft is that there may be a new chapter or two. The first chapter of the first draft was removed, but there may be a new chapter added during revision, because as I explore the issue further, I'm beginning to see what I can add to the story to make it even better and part of the puzzle pieces needed to resolve that issue.

This manuscript is not something I can take months or even years to revise. It actually needs to get wrapped up and sent in to my publisher ASAP. But I'm not going to rush through the revisions, as much as I might feel the need to. If I tried to hurry or force the revisions, it will make all my hard work for nothing. But if I take the time needed to work on these revisions, and just try to turn it into the best story I can in a reasonably short period of time, then at least I will be confident that the story is as close to perfection as I can make it. Of course, it will go through the editing rounds, and maybe something else will come up during that process, but I do want to try to use as much time as I can to make this story the best that I can. Rushing through the revisions won't allow for that to happen. At least it is the only book I have to focus on right now.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Writing the Way I Don't Talk

As a writer, you must do one thing: Write for your audience. Before beginning a nonfiction book or a novel, the writer must ask themself: Who is my audience? Specifically, who is your book written for? What kind of readers will it appeal to? If you can’t narrow your audience down to a specific kind of group, try to think of a specific kind of reader. One way to do this is to figure out the age group your ideal reader would be in. If they are an older crowd, then it’s perfectly fine to write at a college reading level. But if your ideal reader is much younger, that’s where things can take a turn. A young reader won’t understand technical jargon or big words. If you want to appeal to young readers, then write in “their” language. Use words they’d understand. Write in a character voice that they can relate to.

I was reminded of this necessity as I worked on typing up the first draft of the second book in my middle grade series. These books are written for kids age 8-12, so it's important that I write in a way that my readers will appreciate. One way to do this is to make sure my main characters, who are 10 years old, speak in a way expected of a child at that age. Of course, two of these characters, who are gifted, are allowed to use the occasional big word or two, or show off their smarts, because they are intelligent. But, for the most part, I have to make sure my young characters talk and act the way someone their age would talk and act.

In order to decode this mysterious language, I did what many savvy authors of kid lit books do: Try to remember what I was like at that age, and what my friends were like, too. Unfortunately, at that age, I was not allowed to hang out with friends that much. We were pretty much kept at home a lot. So I’d have to try to remember how I spoke, thought and acted when I was 10 years old.

Unfortunately, my memory is not that sharp, and, doubly unfortunately, I don’t have any diaries or journals I may have kept from back then to go over. (My daughter keeps a journal, so of course I’m making sure we save ALL of her journals!) Also, a lot of my memories from my childhood involve stays at various hospitals for various kinds of reconstructive surgeries (on account of that accident I was in as an infant, which resulted in my third degree burns). And I can’t remember the words in my vocab back then, or how I thought or acted. So, trying this method in order to write the way a child that age would speak is not all that useful.

Another method is to read several books which include characters that age. My daughter is a HUGE fan of Junie B. Jones, and I have often gotten a good chuckle out of reading how Miss Junie B. spoke or her many antics. However, my characters are a little bit older than Junie B., so I’ve had to check out other novels with characters closer to that age. The character in the Martha Speaks books is 10 years old. The main character in Ben 10, another favorite of my daughter's, is 10 years old. And I've just learned about a book called The Twelve Quests, which has 10-year-old twins as the heroes of the story. I will definitely keep an eye out for other books with 10-year-old characters.

Another method for ensuring your dialogue is age-appropriate is to ask someone in that age group to read the story. My daughter is 9, which is close enough, I think, so I have occasionally ran things by her to gauge her understanding and interest. I would also have to check with some other parents -- find any with 10-year-old kids who wouldn't mind reading over excerpts to give feedback.

After I did some checking on what books I could find, I got started checking my characters’ dialogue to make sure it resembled the way a 10-year-old would speak. The kinds of words they’d use, slang, their speaking patterns and habits. Of course, this differed dramatically with what I am used to. Most stories I’ve written had adult main characters, so I’m used to writing dialogue and actions the way an adult would speak and act. This shift was not an easy change for me. In fact, I kept fighting the temptation to go back and correct a line of dialogue or two, just so it would look more “grown up” and correct. I don't talk like that! I have thought many times. What if people think I'm an idiot because I'm writing this way? But in this case, however, with fiction, I am NOT writing the way that I talk. I am writing the way my characters talk. In fiction, it's so important that dialogue reflects the intelligence, background and personality of a character. And this is why I must make sure the dialogue in these stories, written for kids, reflects that. At least I can take comfort in the fact that there is the occasional appearance of a grown-up in the story, so I can use "grown-up" language with that kind of dialogue.

These books are NOT written for grown ups. They are written for kids. I have to constantly remind myself of this as I plod through the stories. On one hand, it’s fun to “cut loose” and “write like a kid” again, because in some small way, I get to relive being a kid, if only through the lives of my young characters. I didn’t exactly have a happy childhood, so this is especially appealing to me, because I get to recreate a childhood for myself that is fun, exciting, adventurous and mysterious. (After all, the stories ARE mysteries!)

So, in a way, writing for my audience – kids – has its perks. That’s the positive aspect which I will focus on. Sure, they may not speak correctly, and they may even repeat themselves from time to time, but these stories are written in a kid’s world. These books are a kid’s life. For the time being, until I finish this series, that is the kind of “life” I will indulge in as a writer. That is how I will write as a writer, even if it isn’t the way that I talk. I don’t talk the way I write, but I do write the way my audience talks. And, ultimately, for a book, that is what really matters.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

They grow so fast

As a writing parent, I’m used to a child tugging on my sleeve or pulling me away from something that I’m working on. This week, however, it wasn’t a real child pulling me away from my usual writing-related tasks, but a virtual one: one of my books going through the rigors of getting published.

One would think that after a book has been accepted by a publisher, after going through extensive edits and revisions, that all would be well and it was only a matter of time before the manuscript is turned into an actual book. Not so with the haunted houses book!

The first hurdle was making corrections to the galley which my co-author and I received. As I read it over, I noticed several mistakes, as well as some things I needed to clear with certain people in order to avoid legal problems. After I finished THAT and resubmitted the proofs to the publisher, I thought we were all done.

Nope, not by a long shot!

The publisher was unable to electronically send the revised galley to both my co-author and I, mainly because it’s a VERY. BIG. FILE. (This is a VERY big book, which is why I’m grateful for a co-author. I could not have possibly done all that work by myself!) So she asked if I was okay with her sending it on to the printer sight unseen.

You can only imagine the terror and anxiety that flooded through me after she asked me that question. What! I can’t see the final galley?? I can’t look at it just one more time? Just to make sure everything is perfect? I can’t see it before it’s turned into a book for the world at large to read??

My inner perfectionist started to have an anxiety attack. I was practically pacing around the room, wringing my hands over the whole decision, struggling on what to decide. I consulted with my co-author and she said if I feel everything is in order, tell the publisher go right on ahead and send it to the printer.

The question was, DID I feel everything was in order? My thoughts were in chaos. What if there’s a missing comma somewhere? What if somebody’s name is spelled wrong and I missed it? What if the publisher forgot to remove a note I left for her on one page, about inserting a picture there instead of in the other place? What if “euphemized” was not corrected to “euthanized,” as I’d corrected in my proofs? What if everything was all scrunched up together again, and not spaced out, as I made sure of when making corrections? WHAT IF I MISSED SOMETHING???

But I had to really come to terms with this. I had to accept that this was out of my hands now. It was either now or never! Do or die!

So … after I somehow or another managed to wrap Duct tape around the mouth of my inner perfectionist … and somehow or another managed to accept that I had to let it go without just one more look at it to make sure everything was perfect … I said yes. Go ahead. Send it to the printer.

God help me! After I said “yes,” I was practically covering my head and filled with dread over what would happen next. The book would come out. Yes, I’d be happy. But not so happy if it had mistakes in it. Gulp!

But, actually, that wasn’t what happened next.

Actually, I got an email from the publisher saying, and I'm paraphrasing here, “The printer sent the file back to me. Something was wrong with it. Please resend everything and I’ll start over.”

I brightened. Really? I can go over it again? I can look at the files one more time and make sure it’s all up to snuff?


The publisher sent another email and said that she was going to use what I sent before, so don’t worry. Don’t have to do anything.

Drat. I held out new hope I could see this NEW revised galley, but, ‘twas not to be. She fixed it up, sent it on, and now the waiting begins. Or, in my case, some serious nail-biting. Gah! Once again, I could not see the final galley meant for the printer.

I really started to long for the days when everybody relied on REGULAR mail to mail everything, not email. Apparently, email is flawed, because GINORMOUS files can be rejected from an email server. I remember when, with the Tips book, the galley I corrected was a print galley. That is the only book of mine where I corrected a print galley, because all of the others have been electronic. Even edited manuscripts are sent back and forth electronically. If the publisher had sent my co-author and I the final galley through regular mail, we had a better chance of receiving it. (Though, of course, it would cost a lot of money. The manuscript is large, there are tons of photos, and she is based in Canada. My co-author is in Canada, so maybe it would not cost the publisher so much to ship it to her, but for me, it might cost her quite a pretty penny!) (And here again is another issue: Money. Sending galleys and whatnot is cheaper if you do it all by email. Which is good for me, actually, since I write so many books…)

But, que sera sera. We’ve gotten to this point, things are the way they are, and now here we were with what we had. So we had to make do with what we had in the best way possible! It was now time to let our baby go out into the world. We had all those years to work on it. Our baby has grown up and now we had to just hope that we have done as good a job as we could in raising it.

The corrected galley was sent to the printer, everything checked out okay, and now we wait. Meanwhile, the publisher put the book on her site, I posted about it on my site, my co-author posted about it on her blog and in her newsletter, and we are working on spreading the word about it through Facebook and Twitter. Now we watch. And wait. And hope.

And get to work on raising the next one.

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