Thursday, September 29, 2011

Choosing My Next Phone Part One: The History

So, I'm getting a new phone soon. Eligibility is coming up fast, and my phone's screen completely died on me, so I'm deep in the throws of researching my next choice.

I'll explain the choices and why I picked what I did, but first, a bit of history:

When the iPhone first came out, I decided to get a Blackjack instead. It was the same thing, right? They're both smart phones! They both play music!

But no, they aren't. The old Windows Mobile format was horrible, there were no decent apps, and it didn't have a touch screen. I liked the phone well enough, but was eager to get something else.

 The next time around, I wanted an iPhone. But instead, I got a Samsung Impression, which is a messaging phone. Messaging phones have cheaper data plans, and it had a slide-out keyboard (which I still like better, but oh well. I'm just old). They both have touch screens! It's the same thing, right?

No, they aren't. The lack of apps (again) plus the limited browser support made it hard for me to use it as anything more than an email checker. I'd really like to be able to write on my phone, read books, etc.

So now, I want a new phone, and I am GETTING a touch screen smart phone.

But I don't think I'm getting an iPhone. Am I crazy? Read my next post to see my thought process.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Crazy Family Reunions

This weekend, we're going to Wendy's family reunion. And it definitely qualifies as a crazy family reunion. You may be asking if the reunion is crazy or it's the family that's crazy. Well, maybe it's a bit of both.

You see, Wendy's grandma (who we call Ganny) was one of 21 kids. So, it's a pretty BIG reunion. Oh, and of the ones still kicking, only one of the original kids is a man. The rest are all loud, crazy old ladies. Boisterous would be the word. And they all have to fight to get a word in edgewise. It's what the bible calls "joyful noise."

I'll just say, this trait didn't stop with the grandparents. Their daughters and granddaughters have it too. Of course, I married one of the those granddaughters, so I'm not complaining! I love my wife and her boisterous family! They are a hoot!

It's so much fun to go to these. We look forward to them every year. We get cabins at the state park down by Toledo Bend lake, and just hang out, play cards and eat. And let me remind you, these are southern born and bred Louisiana women who know how cooking is done right. So we eat good. I don't know how well we'll stick to our Weight Watcher points, but we'll eat good.

Now, I'll also say that the loud and crazy female trait must be dominant, because my two daughters have inherited it too. And I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Lure of the Tablet

I want a tablet. I don’t need one. I certainly don’t have the money to buy one. But I want one. Why? Because they’re cool.

After all, I’ve been wanting one for years. I mean, didn’t we all want one of these?
(it's a Star Trek reference, for the uninitiated)

The thing is, I don’t actually need a tablet. I rarely go on away missions to distant planets (and when I do, I avoid red shirts for obvious reasons). Nor am I so concerned with the “cool factor” that I’m willing to go out and plop $400 on iPad just because all the Apple lemmings do. (Besides, the iPad would be a bigger draw if it had Flash support.)

However, I want a tablet. I’m going on a business trip in a couple weeks, and it would be SO nice to have a tablet on the plane to watch movies without having to drag out a PC or watch on a tiny phone screen (not that I have an iPhone… yet). And in my head, it would be really nice to write when the urge came. I think I would use one. I think I would.

But then, my eReader is sitting in my bag unused in several weeks. So maybe I wouldn’t, even with the better internet capabilities.

I don’t know. I’m indecisive. Except on one thing:

Tablets are cool.

So what about you? Do you have a tablet? What kind? If not, are you in the “I want one, but don’t have one” crowd, or the “that’s stupid and I’d never use it” crowd?

Friday, July 29, 2011

On the blogger email thing... scratch that...

So, apparently my blog got hacked. IN SPANISH, NO LESS!

Sorry if anyone clicked on any links or whatever, I'm sorry. Wasn't me. :-(

Anyway, seeing as it happened the day after I switched to email posting, I'm blaming it on that. I probably just picked too easy a password or something, and I did kind of put it out there that I have it enabled, but hey. I'm not taking chances. I'll just take the extra few seconds to copy and paste, rather than have my blog hacked because of laziness.

Oh well. Return to your regularly-scheduled programming.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Linking Google+ to Blogger

So, I'll leave this up in case anyone needs it, but see this post to see why I'm not doing this anymore.

Linking Google+ to Blogger

So, I just tested this, and it worked. You can setup blogger to receive emails from Google+.

Now, you can post long stream posts directly to your blog. I tend to occasionally be long-winded on Google+, and I think, "Man, this could be a blog post!" Well, now I can post to Blogger directly from Google+. It has the annoying Google+ email wrapper, which I'll try to go and delete as needed. Still, it's better than an empty blog, isn't it?*

Here's how I did it:

1) Go to Blogger and click on "Settings." Under settings, click on "Mobile and Email."

2) Now, scroll to the bottom and find your blogger email address. You'll need to set a secret passphrase in your email, so that others can't post to your blog. If your blog is and your passphrase is "grapefruit," then your email will be:

3) Go to Google+ and click on Circles. Create a new circle called "Blogger." Click on "add a new person" and enter the email address for your blog.

4) Type your long-winded post and share it with your Blogger circle.

Now, be aware that if you share all of your posts with "Your Circles" or "Extended Circles" then all your posts will go to blogger. Instead, share with specific circles or public, and only add Blogger to the share list when you want it to be a blog post as well.

Hope that helps!

**Blog followers, I promise not every blog post will look like this. It's just something I'm trying.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to Make a Million Dollars Writing a Book

Inspiring Me Today: The Over-Ambitious

So, you've heard about all these people writing books? Just sit and type, and out comes a paper-bound money maker. But how do you start?

Ready to rake in the cash? Let me tell you how to make a million dollars writing a book.

  1. Come up with a stellar novel idea. Vampires and Mermaids are hot right now. So are ghosts and love stories. Ok, so, a vampire mermaid falls in love with a ghost! Awesome! Step one done!
  2. Now, go to a Starbucks and write the book. Get a Starbucks credit card to pay for all the mochas you buy.
  3. Get an agent to fall in love with your vampermaid love story. This is the easy part.
  4. Now, the agent gets a publisher to fall in love with it too. The agent sells the book for a low 5-figure advance. Hooray! The advance will almost pay off the Starbucks card!
  5. By some tragic statement about the tastes of today's youth miracle, you just pay through the advance. Now, time to write Vampermaid 2!
  6. Go back to Starbucks and pull that credit card back out. 
  7. Sit down with your PC and piping hot mocha, and perpare to write.
  8. The person next to you asks what you're doing.
  9. You tell them who you're the author of VAMPERMAID, and say that you're writing book 2. Maybe they want an autograph.
  10. The person says, "Hmm... Never heard of you."
  11. A little irritated, you accidentally hit your cup and spill mocha all over you and your computer.
  12. Sue Starbucks for medical bills, damages to your computer, and pain and suffering.
  13. Win million dollar settlement with Starbucks.
  14. Congratulations! You've just made a million dollars writing a novel!
So there you go. Just follow those easy steps, and you're on your way to riches!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Search Terms Find Your Site?

Inspiring Me Today: Google Analytics and Claire Legrand

Recently, Claire Legrand did this awesome (lol. Read to see why I laugh) blog post about the hilarious search terms people used to find her blog. While my results can’t hope to compare to her baffling results, I did find my results (from Google Analytics) interesting.

My top results are:
  • S Kyle Davis, Kyle Davis, or some other variant obviously.
  •  Various searches for info on J.K. Rowling’s plot planning sheet because I analyzed it here
  •  Intern Amie variations because I defended her back in the day
  • Dialog vs. Conversation variations because of this post
  • “Finding a plot” variations for similar reasons
  • Logline-related searches because of a critique session I did once
  •  Searches for Steven Malk because I did a post on something he said in an interview once
  • Jodi Reamer variations because I mentioned her ONCE in passing
  • Searches for other people I’ve mentioned in passing, etc.
  • yWriter variations because I’ve mentioned several times how the software is awesome and free

So, those are the normal results. What about the weird ones?
  • kyle davis” stranton. you make one Office joke…
  • Celtic demi-goddess. You know, you can just say you think I look nice in my photo. You’re taking the flattery too far.
  • Faster faster kyle davis. Fine, fine. I’ll hurry up.
  • Graffiti on the wall interview skills. I’m not sure what this means
  • How do you get “a thicker skin”? some sort of body armor perhaps?
  • If your name is kyle your name is davies. No, it’s Davis, actually, and that’s a logical fallacy.
  • Kyle davis it’s your life Great, now I have Bon Jovi stuck in my head. “Bow wow.”
  • Meaning of “ledger domain”. This is because my book used to be called “The Ledger Domain.” If you’re searching for this, it’s a pun. Legerdemain is a French-based word meaning “sleight of hand” or magic
  • Nextbook 2 (and variations). No clue why searches for this come to my site. Maybe Nextbook wants to sponsor me! If so... sure! I’ll say they’re the best things ever if you give me one for free!
  • Semiotic analysis of beatles blackbird. This. Is. Awesome. If someone actually does this, please leave the link in my comments.
  • The man in the trenchcoat and the fedora dreams umm… creepy…. (especially if you’ve read this book)
  • The usual suspects logline. I love this movie, but... ???
  • What influenced james patterson to write daniel x? Kyle, remember: if you can’t say something nice...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Five Years with an Amazing Woman

Inspiring Me Today: My wife
Yesterday, I celebrated five years being married to a truly amazing woman. I don't normally get super personal on this blog, but I just wanted to say that Wendy Davis is, in a word, awesome! She's smart, funny, and kind. She's also my best friend.

Wendy Davis is my ghostwriter. She's the one that helps me come up with the ideas, from the big ones to bits of dialog.

Wendy Davis is my alpha reader. She reads my work and lets me know if its crap.

Wendy Davis is my crit parter. She thumbs up the good ideas, and (very kinds) thumbs down the stupid ones.

Wendy Davis is my biggest supporter. She encourages me to keep going, tells me it's going to be ok, and lets me leave her alone with the kids so I can write--or run off to a writers conference. I couldn't do this without her.

Thank you Wendy! I love you!


Oh, and if you're curious, here's Wendy's blog post on our 5 years. She said it much more eloquently than I did, but then she's the real writer in the family.

Love You Something Fierce: 5 Years: "Five years ago, my whole world changed with two simple words...'I Do!' Five years ago I put on a beautiful gown, my momma put my veil on, ..."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Pitch

Inspiring Me Today: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

So, as many of you know, last weekend was DFWcon. I do have coverage coming. I promise. Just need a bit of time to edit the videos.

Anyway, I met so many authors there, and they were all trying to tell me about their story. What I found was that a lot of people have no clue how to do that.

Don't feel bad. I didn't either.
Here's a case in point. I was walking back to my room after The Gong Show, a hilarious and enlightening event where a deep-voiced "movie trailer"-style announcer read anonymous query letters. Five agents had "gongs," which they would sound at the point they'd stop reading. Anyway, the thing they said over and over was, "Get to the story! What's the story?!"

As I was walking back from this event, I started up a conversation with another conference-goer about The Gong Show. She complained, "They always tell us they need the story, but it makes no sense! It's all so confusing and contradictory. I have no idea what they're looking for!"

Well, I'm going to tell you what they're looking for. And really, you've probably heard it before. When the agents want the story, they want to know this:

When [beginning of book] happens, [main character] must overcome [what stops him/her] so he/she can [goal] before [bad stuff happens]. 

That's it. That's what they want to hear. And they want it soon, not two-thirds of the way through the query or pitch. Work hard and develop that sentence. That's your pitch. If you have that, you can do any of those other little marketing things. You can scrunch it down into a twitter pitch. You can expand it into a query letter. You can even use it as a springboard in a face-to-face pitch or elevator speech. 

Now, don't tell me your book doesn't fit into this formula. It does. Or rather, it should, unless you've written something really REALLY experimental (which you shouldn't attempt unless you're already a very accomplished author, because this takes skill). So figure out what the inciting incident, goal, obstacle, and stakes are. Who knows? You may find you need to revise your manuscript to really bring this out. I've done that. My book is much better for it.

Oh, and the other thing you'll need for your pitch: the hook. What's a hook? Well, we'll get to that next time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Blog in Brief: Questions for THE CALL

Inspiring Me Today: Suzie Townsend, Maria Gomez, and WriteOnCon

Ok, so last night was WriteOnCon's monthly chat. I was reading through the transcript, which is simultaneously hilarious and informative. Lots of great nuggets of info, but this bit from agent Suzie Townsend was gold. If any of you are lucky enough to get "the call," here are some good questions to ask the agent before agreeing to representation.

I don't know if there's one single most important question. So here are a few:
  1. Does the agent want to rep you for just this one project or are they intersted in your other ideas and your career as a whole?
  2. What happens if this project doesn't sell? Do they shop your next project or let you go?
  3. Who handles their subrights and books to film?
  4. What happens if (god forbid) something happens to your agent (they get sick, stop agenting, win the lotto)? Who handles your stuff then?
  5. How communicative is the agent? How much do they share with the writer? How do they prefer to communicate (via email or phone?)
  6. How editorial is the agent?
That's all I can think of right now, but those are important.

So yeah, that's awesomeness, and I thought it needed to be posted somewhere people could find it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Give and Take Part 1: How to Give a Critique

Inspiring Me Today: The Alibi by Sandra Brown

[Author's Note: Sorry about the long break. I keep saying, "I need to write a blog post," but just haven't.]

As many of you know, I've been knee-deep in revisions gearing up for DFWcon (which is SOOO soon!). As part of that, I called for beta readers, who were so awesome to read through my book and provide feedback. Thanks SO MUCH for all y'all's help!

Well, as I've gone through this process again, I was struck several times by all the awesome little things my beta readers did as they critiqued, and I wanted to share what they showed me, not about my novel, but about how to give a critique.

Now, this ISN'T a post on literary aesthetics. I trust that each of you have a sense of what's "good" and "bad" in a novel. You don't need me to tell you, and I wouldn't presume to try. No, this post is about logistics. This isn't about what to critique. This is about how to critique.

  1. Give the forest and the trees. When doing a critique, you should include two things. First, open the manuscript in some sort of document that you can edit. Make comments and changes as you read, and then send this back to the author. Second, in the email, include overall comments about the book. The document you'll send is the trees. These are the specific points that you want to comment on. The email is the forest. This is where you tie those comments together into larger thoughts about the book as a whole. The author needs both, and they'll read in the reverse order of what you'll send. They'll read the overall comments, and then go to the document to see where specifically you've pointed out these issues. 
  2. Have an overall impression. This is the initial reaction to the book as a whole. Taking everything else you're going to say into account, what do you think? This is more than "I like it." This is, "I think the heart of the characters and plot are good, but it needs a lot of work before you're ready to submit," or "I like this a lot, and think if you make these changes, you can submit with confidence!" This impression part is important, because otherwise, the author can be left going, "Ok, they have all these comments, but... is it any good? Is my book crap, or is it finally ready to send now?!" Either way, they need to know. What if it is crap? Well, first, don't say it like that, obviously. Use tact. But tell them. If you aren't buying the premise, then let them know. Maybe it's good but they're just not handling it right. Tell them why you aren't buying the premise. Maybe it's something they can fix. Or maybe it just isn't your thing. That's ok too. If you let them know why, they'll have a better idea of whether they should ignore you or not. 
  3. Point out the good things. This goes back to the "Is my book crap?" question the author may be having. Always, always, always point out the good things in a manuscript. And yes, they're there. If you aren't seeing them, then you need to STOP READING. Take a break and come back to it. Every manuscript has something good going on, no matter how much work it needs. Even if the very premise just isn't working, the author at least has something they're doing well that they can take to the next project. This is especially true if you're loving it. Don't just say, "This book is awesome!" That is much less helpful than saying, "I really liked the part where the kid traded a corn dog for a space ship! That was hilarious!" Maybe this was a part the author was thinking of taking out. Saying you liked it will reaffirm what they need to keep, and will lessen the blow when you make other critiques. 
  4. Cover plot arcs in general terms. Going back to the forest/trees metaphor, writers many times have trouble seeing the forest. We get so focused on scenes that we can't put the whole book into the right perspective. Rarely do we get the chance to just read straight through the book. That's why, as beta readers, we need to give those overall comments about the plot arcs. If a particular subplot isn't working for you, say so, and say why. They need to know if character development starts too late or if the romantic plot plateaus. They need to know if you figured out the murderer in the second act. You can give the perspective they don't have.
  5. React to the manuscript with specific comments. Now, we're turning to the other side of critique. As you're reading through the manuscript, document your reactions in comments (that is, Insert Comment). This gives the author a blow-by-blow to your reactions. Note that I'm NOT telling you to point out errors. I'm telling you to give your reactions. These include, "Oh no!", "Wait, HE'S the murderer?!", "LOL!", and, yes, comments like "I don't understand what's going on here" and "You could make this better by doing such and such."  This process makes pointing out the good things a lot easier to do. It also helps the author know what's working and what isn't. Comments like "clean up this section and get rid of the adverbs" are, of course, helpful, but need to come naturally.
  6. Editing doesn't need to be line editing. Remember that the most important part of beta reading is for structural corrections. Most basic line editing can be covered using Word's Style Checker. This doesn't mean you can't do "micro" edits rather than only "macro" edits. It also doesn't mean you shouldn't help point out how to cleanup language, identify overused words, etc. You should DEFINITELY do that. I'm talking about getting so absorbed in pointing out each thing that you never finish or fail to point out the more important structural changes. Pick a few key times they do that repeated offense and then move on.
  7. When line editing, use track changes. This is a small thing, but it really helps. You'll inevitably be tempted to fix a punctuation or spelling error somewhere. That's fine. If it's bugging you that much, it'll bug an agent, editor, or reader. However, how do you identify it? The best way I've found is by using Track Changes. This will help the author navigate through all the corrections and not miss it. 
Ok, I hope this has been helpful. After all, it's one thing to give critiques. It's another to give helpful and meaningful critiques. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Paying It Forward

Inspiring Me Today: S. R. Johannes (NOT  Haley Joel Osment)

No, this isn't a post about the year 2000 film with the horrible, needless ending that I absolutely loathe. Although, a post about horrible, needless endings that provide nothing but shock value would be an interesting post...

Ok, back on track.

Anyway, this post is part of S. R. Johannes's "Pay It Forward" contest. Up for grabs: a personal recommendation from Shelli (Johannes) to her agent, Alyssa Henkin at Trident Media. Awesome, right? Here are the details.

So, I'm posting an entry over there with my pitch in 4 sentences or less. Here, I have another requirement: thank someone who has helped me along the way.

This is the real reason I want to do this contest. Yes, winning would be awesome, but I love having an excuse to thank those that have been a help.

Now this is an exhaustive list or an acknowledgements page. This is just an "off-the-top-of-my-head" round-up.

  • My wife, Wendy Davis. She is so incredibly supportive. She's a SAHM and awesome at it. How she does everything she does is beyond me, and I certainly couldn't do what I do without her. Of course, she's also my ghostwriter, and a lot of my best ideas come from her.
  • My girls, Finley and Rowynn. They're such an encouragement to me, and make writing fun.
  • My parents. They are my first and biggest supporters. They even gave me a ticket to DFWcon this year for Christmas.
  • Rocky Westbrook. A fellow writer, filmmaker, friend, and former co-worker. He listened to ideas for The Dowered Three Series when it didn't even exist yet. 
  • My friends Emily and Matt. They were my "control cases" as I wrote the book. I didn't tell them anything that was going to happen, and yet they read each chapter as I finished it, giving me chapter-by-chapter reactions on what they thought was going to happen, etc.
  • S.A. (Sheri) Larsen. Sheri helped me form my first ever crit group, and was one of the first people outside my close circle of friends to befriend me and help me with my MS. She proved that there were nice people out there who were willing to help.
  • Casey McCormick. My first contact with Casey was writing a Tip Tuesday. That was nearly a year ago. Since then, I've written several tips and guest posts on Literary Rambles, as well as emailing Casey several times with questions I had, etc. She's always been kind to give her advice and support.
  • Holly Bodger. A few months ago, Holly helped me get my logline ready for Authoress's Baker's Dozen contest, giving her time to do a back-and-forth of emails as we tweaked and retweaked my logline into perfection. Then, my email didn't even get in before the spots filled. It was a great logline no one would ever see. But then, I totally pressed my luck and asked if she could help me expand it into a query. To my relief, she did! Now, I have a (hopefully) great query that I'll be using when I restart that process.
  • Amanda Johnson. One of my go-to advice people, this wonder-intern for the mysterious Awesome Agent (or AA) has been a great help in the short time I've known her.
  • My Beta Readers Heather Kelly, Ishta Mercurio, Dianne Salerni, and E. (Elizabeth) Arroyo. These guys all gave AMAZING tips on my novel, all coming from different perspectives. Heather gave great tips on character and tension building. Ishta gave great tips on developing my romantic plot and MC. Dianne targeted quite a few logistical fallacies for me, which bug the crap out of me in other people's novels. Liz gave some great overall flow advice and pointed out specific places I could take my writing to the next level. You all rock! Thanks!
Like I said, this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but just a few of the people I really wanted to thank today. Tomorrow, it might be a different list! Lol. Of course, a huge thanks also goes to my friends, family, and anyone who follows me on the blog, twitter, or Facebook (So... you)! So many incredible people!

Thanks everyone!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Daughter Creates My Next Book Cover

Inspiring Me Today: Finley Rose Davis

My daughter Finley is an amazing artist. Or, at least I think so. Then again, I'm biased.

She's 19 months old.

But anyway, we were coloring the other day, and we worked on Dada's book cover together. This is what we came up with:

Isn't she brilliant? Notice the little bird on the left. I admit. I drew that. And the letters. Like a said, she's 19 months old. Still, I think she did a wonderful job.
Here's a picture of the little artist: