Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Story and Character Arcs

One of the challenges of writing is telling the events of a story, and showing the internal struggle and change of a character INTERWOVEN AT THE SAME TIME.

I've been thinking about how I'd like to blend the events and character change a little better. I wish I could make some sage comment here, but really I'm just giving this a go.

Deanna and I don't usually have outlines that lead us through scenes from start to finish. Our process is more like we have characters we understand, we know what the normal world starts out as, and have an approximate outcome we are shooting for--and even then we have a lot of surprises as we write.

But maybe using this to guide our brainstorming could bridge the two goals we have in every story.

Crafting Story and Character Arcs
Story Arc (8 point by Nigel Watts)
Possible Character Arc Guide
Stasis: normal life
There is a ghost in the character’s background that s/he ignores
Trigger: something out of control for the Protagonist
Reader suspects there is a lie the Protag believes and the Protag questions beliefs for the first time
Quest: Try to get back to status quo or improve situation
Protag’s beliefs cause the tension to rise as his/her old way of thinking intensifies the problem
Surprise: conflict, complications, roadblocks
Begins to learn little pieces of the change needed to win but doesn’t see them or use them together
Critical Choice: Antagonist appears to be winning; High stress decision needed
Crushing blow makes the Protag deeply reflective leading to an epiphany, might require developing new strengths
Climax: Highest conflict and tension
Has to fully commit to new way of thinking, take a leap of faith
Reversal: Protag’s situation is opposite from the beginning
Character is wiser, changed or enlightened
Resolution: new status quo
The old situation can no longer overpower the Protag, this is the new normal life

(Oh, and none of these ideas are mine--I credited the first column, but the second column is not from a single source and several sources said approximately the same thing, so I don't know who really said it first. None of the sources I consulted aligned the two arcs together.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Oxford Comma

What is the Oxford comma? Is it a comma that was educated in one of the world's most prestigious colleges?

Nope. It's the last comma in a list that comes right before the word "and."

I shall demonstrate.

"I'm going to a party with Bob, Jane, Mary, and Ted."

See that comma after "Mary?" That's an Oxford comma.

Now, there are many who would say that the placement of that comma is incorrect. In fact, if you're in England or Canada, it would be correct - they don't use the Oxford comma. (Which is odd because Oxford is in England. Whatever.)

But in the U.S., many of us (yes, I'm in this camp) believe that the Oxford comma is the way to go. It's more modern, it helps the sentence make better sense, and it makes us feel special to insist upon it.

So, unless you're in England or Canada (or one of the British protectorate countries), you'll want to go with the Oxford comma in your writing.

Tally ho!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

V A T Decoded

The concept is really not complicated. 

All it is, is tax included in the price and based on each country's tax rate. (This is a standard in Europe. The price you see on the shelf is the price including tax unlike in the states where tax is added after the fact.)

On the surface, it seems simple- but there are a lot of things to consider. Thanks to all my various online groups that helped me gather all this information. 

This isn't going to be the greatest read ever, but knowledge is power-so stick with it.

The basic rundown before we get to the nitty gritty.
All countries have different rates of VAT. 

Hungary 27%
France 4.5%
UK 20%

Amazon was very proactive about this change and any books you had on their site before 1/15 were raised the correct amount in order cover the VAT. Any new books you add, you will have to account for the VAT. You need to account for it on all other distribution sites like Nook Press, Kobo, iTunes, etc.

You can go to the VAT managers and opt in at Smashwords and D2D to have all your prices automatically updated-This is one reason I love Smashwords. It took me a good hour to update all my prices everywhere to match Amazon's VAT prices. With Smashwords handling Kobo, iTunes and some Nook books, it saved me a lot of time to opt in. Time I'd rather use writing.

A lot of authors are doing a blanket increase in prices of 25% and are taking a small loss for those countries with a higher VAT and are making a bit more on the countries with a lower VAT. Others are using charts like this one to determine each countries individual price including VAT. (Thank you, Carolyn)

The biggest problems:

1.Amazon's price matching policy-they price match European prices too, so if your book is cheaper in Europe, then Amazon US will match it. You must keep an eye on all your prices to make sure you don't end up losing a lot of money.

2.Barnes and Noble's prices are VAT exclusive while everyone else's are VAT inclusive. Many authors have set all their books at Nook to US only because of this. I have not.

Here are some examples of why this is a problem.

Suppose your US price is 2.99 (US dollars) that's 2.47 Euros (roughly)

At Nook, a VAT exclusive price of 2.47 yields this:

Nook WITH VAT added to 2.47
19% VAT: 2.94 <-- Germany
5.5% VAT: 2.60 <-- France
20% VAT: 2.96

Apple, which rounds, you would be able to normalize your prices
19% VAT: 2.99 <-- Germany
5.5% VAT: 2.99 <-- France
20% VAT: 2.99

Kobo -- a single EU VAT inclusive price -- Pretend you told Kobo 2.99
ALL EU Countries: 2.99

3. The various countries' fixed book price laws and Kobo and iTunes requires all book prices to end in .99.
(The fixed book price laws state that the same book at different vendors must be sold at the same price at all those vendors within that country. So, if you opt in to Nook UK, then your books must have the same price there as with Amazon. Tricky when Nook is VAT exclusive as seen above)

Check out these examples to see why there are problems to consider here.

You want your Hungarian readers to pay 0.99 for your book
1. 0.99 is the price the user pays.
2. The Hungarian government retains 27% of 0.99 or 0.21.
3. You will be compensated by the vendor based on the VAT exclusive 
price of 0.78 (0.99 - 0.21)

You want to sell your book for 5.99 in the UK.
1. The UK has a VAT of 20%
2. The UK will retain 20% of 5.99 or 1.00
3. You will be compensated by the vendor on your VAT exclusive price of 4.99

You have determined that your book must earn a royalty rate using 4.99 
(that is, you want 70% of 4.99)
1. This is NOT possible if you want all your prices to end in .99

Assuming a 70% royalty rate, suppose you have determined that you need 
your royalty rate to be calculated on an amount no less than 4.00 (that 
is you will never earn less than 70% of 4.00) In order to maintain a 
price that ends in .99:
1. your book must be priced at 4.99 in all countries with a VAT of 24% 
or lower
2. Your book must be priced at 5.99 in all countries with a VAT of 25% 
or higher.
3. In a country with a VAT of only 3% your royalty would be calculated 
on 4.85. In other words, you make more money in a country with a lower 
VAT, obvious, but it helps to restate, I think.

Some things to think about:
If you want to sell your book at 3.99 everywhere in the EU, regardless of 
VAT amount.

1. This is possible at Apple, Kobo, Google and the EU countries Amazon 
sells to.
2. This is NOT possible for Nook because they only let you set one price 
for the entire EU.
3. This is possible at Google Play but more complicated because of their 
4. In this case, your royalty rate base will be variable (price less 
VAT) but your price to consumers is the same everywhere except for books 
sold to the EU via Nook.

Extra hints to help out-

For the countries were Amazon has a store front you can set your EU VAT 
inclusive price, so you can match Apple and you're fine in Kobo as long 
as you're mindful of the result at iBooks.

So, as long as Nook requires a single VAT exclusive price from US-based 
authors, Nook prices will never be in compliance with EU laws about 
fixed book prices.

All other vendors 
you can, with some work, set your prices to 
comply, but you're stuck with using your Kobo price for Amazon, Apple, etc.

Google Play makes this all difficult if you don't opt in for VAT inclusive because they discount the books

Italy VAT is only 4% if have an isbn. Yay for isbns in Italy.

There are also new minimums and maximums to consider in these countries. Read about that here:


In short:
Nook expects US people to provide VAT exclusive prices for their books. 

iBooks posted a list of the EU countries and their respective VAT and 
expects users to adjust prices to include VAT for the EU countries. This 
can be done via iTunes Connect. No Mac required, assuming you opened an 
account with them.

Google lets you tell them whether your price includes VAT and will add 
it for you.

Kobo's documentation says it expects users to provide a VAT inclusive price.

Amazon did a one-time adjustment for existing books on January 1. 
Books added after that will need to have VAT included where a given 
country has VAT.

Smashwords and D2D require you to opt in to VAT inclusive if that is what you want to do.

Have you adjusted your prices to include VAT? 
How was the process?
How long did it take you?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Take a Short Quiz

Hello, my name is Sherry Gammon. I write YA, NA, and Contemporary clean romance. (Find me here!). I also run a publishing company title Creative Prose Publishing. As we’ve reviewed numerous submissions over the past year, we’ve noticed that many novice authors struggle with using correct punctuation when writing dialog. Here is a short quiz to test your knowledge! Have fun and let me know how you did!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Emotion and Merry Christmas

by Donna K. Weaver

Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge fan of The Piano Guys. I love them for the beauty of their music but also the delight of watching their videos.

How many times can you spot the Elf on the Shelf doll throughout?

It makes me appreciate, as I watch all of their videos, how much the impact of the music is strengthened by adding the visual experience. I wonder how we can do that in our writing. I realize we must make some kind of emotional connection with the reader.

The following is a commercial, but it packs a powerful punch for a number of reasons. One is that for most of us, we can relate to some kind of Christmas celebration. Even if we're not religious, Christmas is a huge cultural holiday, filled with family traditions. So the company that made the following commercial already had a connection for viewers, but then they based the story upon a real event in 1914. Those two things give it power to twist our hearts. 

It's that connection that will keep our readers reading.

Merry Christmas
Happy Holidays

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Check the date and time for this post.

Go ahead. I'll wait.
...   ...   ...   ...

Right--12/13/14  15:16 (that's military for 3:16 PM)

Such a cool date. We'll never see it again with month, day, year, hour and minute lined up that way! Well, at least for a hundred years. There's a little math geek in me that is very happy right now.

Quirky: Finding something just strange enough to be interesting, but not so far out there to be off-putting.

Quirky characteristics make books memorable, pull us into the story, and make the characters more relatable--iconic. Here are a few quirky characters that come to mind:

Harry Potter--lightning bolt scar

Jace in The Mortal Instruments--so, so, soooooo conceited but we love him for it

Becky Bloomwood in Shopaholic--she can't help it--she shops, and spends, and buys some more

Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice--perpetually immature

Quirky details pull us into stories. 
Go write some quirks today!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Commas and Introductory Phrases

To continue my little tutorial on punctuation ...

Let's talk about introductory phrases. Those are phrases that come at the start of your sentence that introduce the rest of the sentence. (Hence their name, right?)

Here are some examples:

As I was saying ...

Furthermore ...

However ...

As part of today's blog post ....

Whenever your sentence starts with an introductory phrase, you need a comma to separate the phrase from the rest of the sentence. Like so:

As I was saying, you need a comma.

Furthermore, you should put the comma in the right place.

However, don't go overboard and start putting commas in just any old place.

As part of today's blog post, I'll show you examples of where to place your comma.

See you next time when we discuss ... the Oxford comma.