Thursday, November 15, 2018

Can you read this?

You might have seen these little games floating around Facebook and other social media.

Did you make it through to the end? How did you do?  I found it fascinating that I could fly through that.

How about the next one?

I think that one was a little trickier!

I share these because I think they are powerful ways to demonstrate the need for an author to have an independent and thorough proofreader. Both of these examples are vastly different to one another, yet both show how easy it can be for your brain to slide by misspellings and mistakes because it can make a good assumption about what should be on the page.

This is why, I believe, writers really cannot easily proofread their own work, no matter how well-educated or well-read. Not only do they have the abilty to skip mistakes, as the examples above show, writers are also at the disadvantage of knowing what the sentence is supposed to say, and therefore the brain can insert what should be there and remove what should not.

Proofreading is not really about 'enjoying reading' -- though good reading skills are very important. Proofing is about painstakingly reading, re-reading, and re-reading a sentence again to spot the errors. Out loud, if necessary. That's how I spotted the mistake in example number 2, above. Read it out loud, or have it read to you, and the mistakes jump out at you.

If you still don't trust yourself -- and honestly, you probably shouldn't -- then do yourself a favor and find a proofreader. A trusted friend or a professional, either way there are people out there to help. And if you pick a friend and they do a good job, treat them to a gift card or something for their trouble. They might well know you are a starving artist and that you asked them because you couldn't splurge on a pro, but a little 'thank you' treat goes a long way.

For details of my proofreading service and my affordable prices, visit or use the contact form to send me a message.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

How to Get Tickets for "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" Play in London

A few months ago, after I booked plane tickets for my trip to England, I had 3 tickets for the Harry Potter play in my online shopping cart at the website. Unfortunately I didn't check out fast enough and lost them, and before I knew it they were all sold out until May 2017.

I searched various options, signed up for the wait list, looked on Ebay and StubHub (way too expensive!), and waited to try the Friday Forty (where 40 tickets are put on sale each Friday for the following week). In the end, I decided to try my luck in person. We planned to be in London a few days after the opening of the play, and decided to try out for some return tickets. We got lucky and here is how!

Returned tickets are those which someone no longer wants. They are given back to the box office and resold. They cannot be purchased on the website, but only at the box office on the day of the performance. I suggest you arrive early!  We arrived as the box office opens, at 10am, but there was already a queue of about 30 people. I recommend arriving earlier as I literally got the last returned ticket as the show started.

The procedure is that, as tickets are returned to the box office, a representative comes out and offers the ticket(s) to the first folks in the queue. There may be no returned tickets at all, there really is no way to know how many there will be. If there are any, the theater resells them at the actual price of the ticket and some are cash only (they let you pop to the ATM across the street, if need be). 

Ticket prices vary and the play is in 2 parts so you have to buy both if they are available. If the person at the front doesn't want to pay the price of that ticket, it is offered to the next person.  This is how, with 5 minutes before the start of the play, we managed to get tickets!  Full price tickets came up and even though we were not yet at the front, we were the only folks willing to pay for them. We were not all seated together but we didn't mind. Note though, kids under the age of 15 are required to sit with an adult, so if you are going with a child, you might have to wait it out for a pair of tickets.

One other caveat--they only allow one ticket per person. You cannot line up and get one for anyone else. If your friend, spouse, kids want tickets too, they must be in the queue and wait it out like everyone else.

My ticket, as it turned out, was in a great seat--just a few seats from some of the stars of the films; Michael Gambon (Dumbledore), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix) and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley) were in my section so that was a great thrill! 

I loved the play; the magic was great and some of the characters were wonderful. The story itself didn't live up quite as high as my expectations but I admit that my expectations were extremely high. The whole experience though was tremendous and I wouldn't miss it for the world. 

If you want to get tickets for next year, as of this morning, there are still a few tickets available on the website but not many.  The site say some returned tickets will come available through the site on occasion (especially tickets returned by touts, as they do have systems in place to try to limit touts selling tickets).

Not getting to London any time soon? Well you can get the Cursed Child script from Amazon, along with a pre-order of the script of the new film coming out this fall, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Amazon Kindle book credit: Apple settlement

You probably remember the ongoing battle about the infamous Agency Pricing for ebooks: Apple and some top book publishers agreed to set contracts for ebooks so that retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble could not discount their ebooks, in effect fixing the price. They argued it was not price fixing as Amazon and others were just selling venues and couldn't set their own pricing for someone else's product. Amazon disagreed and apparently, so did the US attorney general.

Over the course of the past few years, there have been lawsuits against the publishers and Apple. We've seen a couple of outcomes already, with book credits being issued to people who bought books and "overpaid" during the Agency Model period. My credits were about $50 one time, and $10 another.

So, I was surprised by this email in my inbox (and frankly thought it was a scam email) telling me I had a $167 credit, this time from the Apple settlement. You can read more about it and see your credit on the official Amazon announcement. (

Information for 2016 Apple eBooks Antitrust Settlement

In November 2014, a federal court approved a Settlement of antitrust lawsuits brought against Apple, Inc. (“Apple”) by State Attorneys General and Class Plaintiffs about the price of electronic books (“eBooks”). Those settlements resulted in credits for qualifying Kindle books purchased between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012. These credits are funded by Apple. Read more and see your credit....

 Now to decide which books from my wish list to buy!!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May Author of the Month: Al Past

This month's featured author is Al Past, author of the series Distant Cousin. The first few books of this series were among the first I read on my Kindle in 2009/10 & I really enjoyed talking to Al about the interesting female lead, Ana Darcy. Since then, Al has written a couple more books in the series. Here's Al Past....

It's such a delight to be a featured author-person on eReader1. I've followed eReader1 for years and credit it for many of the Kindle tricks I happen to know. Not only that, Danielle reviewed my fourth book, Distant Cousin Regeneration, here! Now, she has graciously given me permission to tinker with the questions I've been asked. I'll jumble them together in the interest of discourse, but do my best to cover most.

What are you reading now?
It's embarrassing, but I'm rereading my Distant Cousin series, for the first time in a long time. I am doing this because I am preparing to write another in the series and I have to be as careful as I can to avoid continuity goofups. I occasionally consult previous volumes as I work on the next one, of course, but I find reading them front to back is a quite different experience. A high school librarian wrote me that she always wishes she could read them again for the first time. I now have an inkling what she means. In rereading, what stands out for me now is the sequencing of scenes, the pacing. For instance, I worried that one particular book did not hang together as well as I might have wished, but now, reading straight through it, I see that it does hang together. The humor comes through too, which is nice to know (since I wanted it to). 

Can you describe your typical writing day?
I was a college English professor for 30 years. My mantra that whole time was "Write for the reader! Serve the reader! Make it easy for the reader!" That is my philosophy, and my basic approach to writing. I made a career of critiquing writing, but  I didn't know if I could write something people might enjoy reading. A good friend convinced me to try the first chapter and that was how I began to find out: I can.
I write slowly. Carefully. A half page a day, after editing the previous day's half page. Then, later, over and over again from the beginning. Some writers blast through an entire draft and then go back and whack and rearrange massively. Not me, not so much. As an English prof, I was a professional editor, but even so, I make sure to have at least a couple "beta readers" with good taste and good ears.
How did you come up with your story idea?
Or to rephrase that as a reader asked it:  "The concept of Distant Cousin is so surprising. It seems obvious after a few pages, yet no other writer has ever used it. How did you come up with it?"
It came to me about ten years before I retired. The details would take pages, but the basic idea that the reader asked about is simply this: one day in our present time an alien from another planet lands on earth...but the catch is that the alien is human. She's from a group of people who were moved away from earth several thousand years previously, and she was the first one to find her way back. If you or I or anyone had met her we'd have assumed she was a crazy person. But she has information she really, really needs us to believe. So what happens then? And after that, what happens to her? The result, as daughter #2 says, is a "West Texas Chicano action/adventure/romance, with a little bit of science fiction."

Did you self publish?

Yes, I did, and I have no regrets, although I must add several caveats. In my particular case I have no skills as a promoter, no talent for promotion, and no inclination to promote my work very much. I'm a writer. That's what I enjoy. I'm a retired guy. I'm not doing this for the dough. Promotion, as far as I am concerned, is much harder than writing, and writing is plenty hard enough if it's done well. Besides, even if one publishes traditionally, the publisher still expects the writer to do most or all of the promotion.

So it's by pure dumb luck that a media agent in Hollywood, and his wife, loved Distant Cousin. It's of even more great good fortune that he has found an experienced screenwriter/producer who believes Distant Cousin will make a great a miniseries for TV. He's going to begin work on it next month, knock on wood.

But don't ask me for advice! Many people have congratulated me, adding that they "cannot wait to see Distant Cousin on tv," although they have not read the books and probably never will, even though they can have them right now for Kindle for the price of a burger, drink, and fries at McDonald's. Non-readers, or just lazy? I cannot say. Never mind. I'm a writer. That's what I enjoy.

I know several questions remain, but they seem for writers. I write for readers. (See above.) Nothing is more boring than a writer going on and on about writing--I should know. Everyone's different anyway. If any writers are reading this, good luck to you, folks!

Surprise us with something we don't know about you.
I played baroque trumpet (the little bitty high-pitched one) for twenty years. The first book I ever published was trumpet duets which I arranged from Bach's (and others) organ works, chamber music, and so forth. If you happen to play a treble clef instrument, Google Charles Colin Publications and search for my name. They're great duets. I quit the trumpet in recent years. I was afraid of getting an aneurysm and croaking on the spot.

And very importantly..... which do you prefer tea or coffee?


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