Sunday, March 29, 2015

When to Research and When to Revise Part I

By Kasie Whitener

Recently, when speaking with a writer who claimed to have penned a modern military novel, I asked, “How did you research the military aspect of the novel?”

Her response: reddit, documentaries, and Call of Duty (a military-style video game).

I’m a little judgey and I think these resources are insufficient. In graduate school, I learned the different levels of research credibility. From original source data to seminal theorists, I think I can spot the right kind of research.

Then again, I’ve also been known to spend a lot of time on Wikipedia because it’s easier to navigate than the tome Byron: Life and Works I got from the library.

So knowing all of the resources available, how does one determine which research is appropriate?

Ask yourself: What do I need to know?

Historical Details

I needed to know if people smoked cigarettes in 1816 and if so, how did they ignite them? When were matches invented?

Tobacco was regional and my vampire smokers are Yanks (a concurrent term) so they can smoke. But I don’t want my work to be discredited over a small error like the existence of matches. So a quick Google search brought up sufficient information on how, when, and why matches were invented. My smokers must use taper candles.

Lord Byron limped due to a club foot and the years of bad medicine associated with attempting to cure that malady humiliated and embittered him. In my novel, he pronounces the limp whenever he’s embarrassed or annoyed. Other times, he hides it ably, indicating years of suppression.

Literary Research

A bigger portion of my research has been about the conventions of the two genres I’m combining. I’m writing about time-traveling vampires. Both time travel and vampires are fantasy genres with their own conventions. I’ve been reading as much genre-pertinent  fiction as I can.

Unfortunately, the scholarship on pop-culture genres can be rather thin. Few literary scholars apply themselves to genre identification. Yet, it’s very interesting to me that most vampire novels spend at least some time on the origin story – how one became a vampire – and the rules – how they feed, how they die.

I consider anything with Byron in it to be an attempt at literary fiction, even if that same work includes vampires. So I’ve spent time researching the criticism on Byron (turns out he made frequent reference to vampires in his poetry) and on Dracula.

I may not have thought of the Byron connection to my vampires if it hadn’t been for the embedded link to The Vampyre in the bit of Byron’s Wikipedia entry that dealt with John Polidori. Polidori’s original story, mistakenly attributed to Byron, is known as the first Western appearance of vampires in fiction. It also happened to be written during the very week my vampires hung out with Byron and Polidori in Switzerland.

And what has all of this research done for me? It helped me get ready to revise. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015


By Bonnie Stanard

Last month I, along with more than 75 other authors, participated in Book ‘Em North Carolina, a day-long book fair. Lumberton proved to be friendly and supportive of us writers, beginning with the “Meet and Greet” on Friday evening at the Village Station Restaurant. We were treated to drinks and an appealing table of hors d’oeuvres. Owner Arnold West, as well as official hosts and the Lumberton Visitors Bureau, showed up to make us feel welcome.

For the last several years Robeson Community College has provided the venue. My husband Doug and I arrived at the A.D. Lewis Auditorium entrance Saturday morning and were met by volunteers who helped us unload our car and transport books and material to our table. They provided bottled water and offered to help with the set-up.

Each writer was given half of an eight-foot table to display and market his books. I promoted my books with posters of the covers taped to the wall. Since my novels are historical fiction, I placed on the table antique cast-iron irons (for ironing) and an old-fashioned vase with artificial flowers. Next year I’m thinking about displaying an album of 19th century photos.

At 9:30 AM when the doors opened to the public, attractive tables lined the hallways displaying a range of genres including poetry, non-fiction, fiction, and children’s books. The friendly atmosphere encouraged us writers to socialize and get to know one another. Writers (with guest) were treated to an upstairs Author Lounge where we could get complimentary snacks, drinks, and lunch.

Numerous panel discussions about varying subjects related to books and publishing were held every hour at three different locations. I, along with four other writers, discussed “The History Behind the Fiction” to a turnout of about thirty persons. During the day, several panels discussed self-publishing versus traditional publishing, reflecting the changing scene in the book business. Samples of other panel topics: “Promotion: The Other Side of Writing,” Memoir Writing,” and “Behind the Romance.”

A chat I had at my table with a lady has given me more to think about regarding my antebellum novels. I haven’t thought about them as having a political aspect, but my encounter with her (and hints from others I’ve ignored) is giving me pause. The lady asked me if I was proud of my Southern heritage. I wasn’t sure what she meant, but it became clear when she said most Southerners she knew were proud of their history of rebellion and the Confederacy. That hasn’t been my experience, I replied, though the subject of slavery isn’t one that comes up often in casual conversations.

The day ended at 4:30 PM. Doug and I said good-bye to the people we met and started the two-hour drive back to Columbia. I’ve already applied for a table at next year’s fair to be held Saturday, February 27, 2016. This is an annual event in which any published writer can participate, assuming his application is received before the spaces are filled. Writers are required to donate a percentage of their sales, which goes to support local literacy organizations. If you’re interested in being a guest author, you can download an application at the Book ‘Em North Carolina website.

“Book ‘Em North Carolina” to  -- 
Robeson Community College” to --

Sunday, March 15, 2015

He’s Not Fuuny – Blame It on the Writers

By Kimberly Johnson
Comedian X is not humorous. I will keep the blindfold on and not divulge his name. But, you know this prince of the punch line. He was the squire of the small screen, reigning for years. He’s currently the godfather for up and coming comics. He has a pedigree: played Saturday Night Live, Caroline’s, Vegas, Carson and Letterman (you get the snapshot).

I do not connect with his jokes, bits, anecdotes, tales and yarns. I made an honest attempt, but no dice.  Maybe it is his writing staff. I believe a chuckle king or queen needs a support cast that translates the jokes from the page to the stage. Chris Rock (SNL alum, TV and movies), Joan Rivers ("The Borscht Belt," Hollywood veteran) and Jon Stewart (The Daily Show) exemplify people who have employed writing staff that can translate the funny stuff into boundless laughs. I found three comedy writers that say it boils down to writing. Let me know if you agree or disagree.
Read your stuff out loud. Sometimes the way it reads in your head sounds different when someone says it. If you stick around, if you're a good collaborator, if you're open to new ideas and you keep trying, then you'll find there's a lot of different ways you can work as a writer. You can generate original material, or you can be a staff writer, or you can write about the comedy scene — all different things you might find you're good at if you stick around long enough.” Amy Poehler, comedienne
 “A joke in its simplest form is STRAIGHT LINE – PUNCHLINE. It’s not FUNNY LINE – PUNCHLINE. So the comedy writer must be vigilant in taking the straight line, the fact, the statement and writing it down. Isolate it in its most unfunny state, then, turn it funny by finding the double-entendre play, or doing a reverse, or doing a listing technique or an analogy play or apply 7 other comedy formulas to turn it into something funny. But always start with a straight line first.”  Jerry Corley, The Stand Up Comedy Clinic “In my short time doing stand-up, I've learned that every room has its own vibe. Older crowds, younger crowds, hipper crowds, dumber crowds. You're not doing your job as a comic if you're blind to that. Although you might polish your set, you need to tailor your material to the people you're trying to get a laugh from. I'll admit that I don't really like that.” Gladstone, 6 Ways To Not Suck At Stand Up Comedy

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Zooilla and the Art of Non-Fiction Proposals

By Laura P. Valtorta

Some people live fortunate lives. I am extra fortunate, but not as fortunate as Zooilla, who has an agent, writes creative non-fiction, and teaches at the University of South Carolina. I call Zooilla “super lucky.” He makes a living writing about animals, and teaching the squirrels who attend USC.

Who does that? Who earns money writing about monkeys, opossums, and bees and gets free trips to India and Brazil thrown in? Maybe somebody who used to work as a shepherd but turned into a good writer.

Zooilla uses Immaculate Consumption restaurant as his office. When he’s in town, he cycles to IC and spends most of the day working on his computer. I assume he’s writing. If you ask him how to submit non-fiction proposals, he shrugs his shoulders. “Ask the publisher,” he says. Nothing about outlines, synopses, cover letters, or sample chapters.

If you ask him again, he turns into Zooilla – the Italian-Finnish-American guy who fights like a raccoon. Then he orders a coffee, packs up his computer, and cycles away. 

Zooilla is in Jersey now (the island in England), on sabbatical with his family. He says he cycles through windy days to the coffee shops and pubs with his laptop, writes his usual stuff about animals and then picks up his children from school. His wife is doing the real work – teaching. On the weekends, they all go walking on the beach.

Zooilla is a super lucky guy who wrote an excellent book entitled My Backyard Jungle. But don’t ask him how he got published.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Latest Addition

Meet a New Columbia II Blogger


George Long's mother instilled in him her love for language. He uses that love to express his own experiences into life-enriching lessons for children and their parents to enjoy. Just a Penny for a Pocketful of Dreams is the first of four," Daddy always Says" Books. His motto is: "Our goal is to enrich the the lives of those we touch."

 For ideas you may go to to view his the gallery of book-signings.  

Protecting Your Work

By George H. Long, Jr.

“The burden of proof is on the side of right,” said Judge Bill Smith. Your work is protected by US Copyright law the moment it is conceived. Whether written down on a napkin, or documented in your computer, the law says, it is yours alone. But what if the person who witnessed your napkin creation is the one who steals your story? How would you prove it is yours?

You could mail yourself a certified package and enclose your intellectual property. Sign for the package, and do not open it. Be sure to tape the returned proof of delivery card to the package. You may also email the text or art to yourself. The dated email is your proof. These are good ideas, but there is nothing better than to have your work registered at the US Copyright Office. If you go to: www. you can file on line for a fee of $35.

The cost of litigation is high. Each thing you do to protect your work may save you money.  

Hooray! You’ve sold your first story and just can’t wait to sign the contract. Not so fast. You may be signing away more of your rights than you think. There are quite a few profit opportunities connected to your intellectual property and each facet may be a point of negotiation under contract law. There are e-books, toys, international sales, language translations, TV rights, movie rights, play rights and merchandise rights just to name a few.

You must be sure of what you are signing, otherwise you may sign away some of your dreams and all the profit that goes with them.

Regardless of how you go about Protecting Your Work, take heed to the words of my friend Judge Bill Smith, “The burden of proof is on the side of right,”