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October

23October

THIS IS NOT A DRILL Blog Tour

Thanks so much to these wonderful bloggers for hosting us!

 

Thursday, Oct. 25 – Launch Day           

CYNTHIA LEITICH SMITH    http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/2012/10/guest-post-beck-mcdowell-on-blinking.html

Friday, Oct. 26

            A LIFE BOUND BY BOOKS   http://alifeboundbybooks.blogspot.com/2012/10/blog-tour-interview-this-is-not-drill.html

Monday, Oct. 29 

            THE STORY SIREN  http://www.thestorysiren.com/2012/10/this-is-not-a-drill-by-beck-mcdowell.html#

Tuesday, Oct. 30

            YA BLISS  http://www.yabliss.com/2012/10/this-is-not-drill-beck-mcdowell-blog.html

Wednesday, Oct. 31

              BUZZ WORDS     http://www.buzzwordsmagazine.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/blog-tour-and-giveaway-this-is-not-drill.html#

Thursday, Nov. 1

            YA LOVE BLOG  http://yaloveblog.com/2012/11/01/students-wants-to-know-beck-mcdowell/

Friday, Nov. 2

            ICEY BOOKS    http://www.iceybooks.com/search?q=mcdowell

Monday, Nov. 5

            NERDY BOOK CLUB      http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/teaching-to-writing-by-beck-mcdowell/

Tuesday, Nov. 6

            THE NAUGHTY BOOK KITTIES   http://naughtybookkitties.blogspot.com/2012/11/beck-mcdowell-alternating-povs-in-ya.html

Wednesday, Nov. 7

            THE COMPULSIVE READER   http://www.thecompulsivereader.com/2012/11/guest-blog-beck-mcdowells-writing.html

Thursday, Nov. 8

            TEACH MENTOR TEXTS   http://www.teachmentortexts.com/2012/11/this-is-not-drill-blog-tour-and-giveaway.html#axzz2BlfmH1m2

Friday, Nov. 9

            CONFESSIONS OF A BOOKAHOLIC   http://www.totalbookaholic.com/2012/11/tour-interview-this-is-not-drill-by.html

Monday, Nov. 12

            KATIE’S BOOK BLOG    http://www.katiesbookblog.com/2012/11/blog-tour-interview-with-beck-mcdowell.html

Tuesday, Nov. 13

            ALLURING READS    http://www.alluringreads.com/2012/11/this-is-not-drill-tour-stop-review.html

Wednesday, Nov. 14

            PAGE TURNERS BLOG   http://www.pageturnersblog.com/2012/11/this-is-not-drill-blog-tour-stop.html

Thursday, Nov. 15

             MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BOOKS    http://bestfriendsrbooks.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/this-is-not-a-drill-blog-tour-interview-with-beck-mcdowell/

 

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Posted in October, 2012

14October

Grand Fesitval of Art and Books

Grand Fesitval of Art and Books

I knew about Fairhope’s reputation as a haven for artists and writers before I visited last weekend. And Karin Wilson, owner of Page & Palette is known nationally as a passionate advocate for books and a generous host to thousands of authors through the years. So I felt right at home when I walked into the store and found my book prominently displayed.

I was lucky to have sister Susan Siniard traveling with me on this trip, and after our six hour drive, it didn’t take us long to find a great spot to rest and recuperate.

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Sharing the stage with amazing Penguin sales rep and highly respected dynamo Doni Kay was a treat. It was my first time to talk about THIS IS NOT A DRILL because it won’t actually be published Oct. 25, but was released early to Page & Palette just in time for the festival.

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And signing books is always fun for me – like giving my stories a little stamp of approval before sending them out into the world to do good things. Thanks to lovely niece and Mobile resident Margaret McDowell Miller for this photo (and for coming.)

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It was great meeting Adam Gidwitz, whose book A TALE DARK AND GRIMM has just been chosen as Al Roker’s next book club pick. Adam’s smart and fun and had lots of terrific advice about writing and book promotion. (I know because I pounded him with questions.) Looking forward to seeing him on the Today show in November.

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And I LOVED talking to Fairhope Middle Schoolers, who were an attentive audience with eager faces and intelligent questions. When I explained that my publisher, Penguin, sent a special box of books to Fairhope ahead of my publication date, one girl heard that without the commas and thought my publisher was actually a penguin – some rare breed known as a publisher penguin, I suppose. The picture in my head of a penguin packing a box of books made it a little hard to continue my presentation without giggling, but she was a good sport about the laughter her comment brought.

It was a great inaugural trip for THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Everyone in Fairhope is ridiculously friendly and there’s great shopping, eating, and relaxing by the bay. Can’t wait for my next chance to visit! If you’re anywhere near Page & Palette, you can snag a copy of THIS IS NOT A DRILL before anyone else in the country, so hurry on down to one of the South’s best indie bookstores.

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Posted in October, 2012

25October

Enhancing Your eBook

Enhancing Your eBook

A year ago I had no idea what enhanced eBooks were or how transmedia documentation could supplement my work. Today Last Bus Out sells on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks with over 75 photos and 25 links to newscasts, videos, and animated satellite images. My journey began the moment this summer that I saw my daughter's new iPad and realized its potential for the non-fiction narrative I'd just written. I immediately began researching various media for photos, websites, videos, and articles that would help me tell the story of Courtney Miles, the boy from the projects who stole a bus in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and drove over 300 people to safety.

There were several issues I had to resolve in order to produce this book. The first was copyright. No one really knows exactly how copyright laws will translate in this new publishing model, but I got lucky. I discovered that government photos are public domain, so I was able to use NASA, FEMA, and NOAA photos and videos without fear of getting sued. Also, I decided that if the other videos and websites I used were linked instead of embedded, I'd be okay. I'd have preferred to embed them to facilitate a more seamless use by readers, especially since silly Apple refuses to acknowledge Flash so some of them don't open on Apple devices, but that seemed risky – whereas hyperlinking simply directs more people to a site already posted on the web. How could anyone object to that?

The other important issues were quantity and placement. There were so many devastatingly beautiful scenes from Katrina (God bless the FEMA photogs!) that it was tough to choose from among them, but I knew I had to be very selective. Which ones best told the story I wanted to tell? I'd written about people who lost everything, but that photo of a few meager coffee mugs and picture frames rescued from the devastated home in the background really brings home the efficiency of Katrina's greed. Readers will read about Courtney's dawning understanding of the ineffectiveness of local government officials; then they'll click on the link to Mayor Nagin's famous radio interview begging desperately for help. Transmedia documentation in Last Bus Out allows the reader to follow the actual weather bulletins as the storm moves into the city, then view the animated satellite image of its monstrous proportions as it made landfall and visit the interactive graphic showing its impact in each area of the city. These enhancements bring the story to life.

I discovered also with this project that placement was critical. It was impossible to insert photos and links into the manuscript without, to some degree, breaking up the flow of the narrative. For this reason, I sometimes used three or four photos in quick succession and left many pages of uninterrupted text so the reader wouldn't become derailed by too many distractions. It was really gratifying to realize how well the documentation fit the story; it made me feel I'd done my job as a writer when all the text was already there. I think I added maybe two sentences to the entire book to accommodate particular photos I wanted to use.

As soon as I finished the enhancements, I sent the new file to my agent, Alex Glass at Trident Media, who really liked what I'd done. Unfortunately, by that time, publishers had circled the wagons, hiding behind their already published authors and lobbing big chunks of money from the safety of the campfire at rock stars and teen idols (Hillary Duffstoevsky, God help us) Okay, I can't say I totally blame them for not eagerly embracing debut writers right now; these are scary economic times we're livin' in, and for publishing types, there's even more uncertainty with the digital shift looming and so many questions unanswered.

I can't wait to see what YA non-fiction writers like Marc Aronson will do with this technology, but I have to admit I'm not convinced of its relevance for fiction. Maybe someone will do something soon to change my mind. I've seen author interviews and book trailers added, but that just seems like marketing to me - not something the customer should have to pay for. Chat rooms for readers? Links to the author's Facebook and Twitter will appeal to some hardcore fans, I guess.

Meanwhile I'm still deciding between the Kindle and iPad (while happily reading on my iPhone), but I'm pleased with the way my first transmedia project looks on both. Check out the free samples available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble (downloadable to your computer or phone if you don't have a device,) and maybe you'll decide to research the feasibility of the new technology for your next book.

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Posted in October, 2010

21October

A Wild Ride in Publishing

Hang on, everybody! We're in for a wild ride. The publishing industry is changing so rapidly, the information you find online today may be obsolete tomorrow. It's exhilarating, terrifying, mind-boggling, intimidating, confusing, and very, very exciting!

The good news is:

-Most experts think books will continue to thrive in both print and digital formats. More options for readers and greater accessibility (ordering from your bed at midnight) is increasing the number of books people read. Sales are strong.

-Print-on-demand will allow mid-list and out-of-print books to continue to sell, and will help eliminate huge print runs of books that don't sell and must be stored, remaindered, and destroyed – a practice that was terrible for the environment and a royal pain for booksellers and publishers.

-With 50 pages or so available in downloadable free samples, we'll all waste less money on books we thought we'd love after reading the first few pages in the bookstore, but lost interest in after a chapter or two.

-Niche books that never saw print because of a limited market will be available to those with an specific interest.

-Lower prices will result from savings in shipping and storing costs, and e-books currently offer authors a greater share in the profits.

-New vetting processes will emerge for self-publishers – reputable reviewers offering readers a "clearing house" for navigating the huge numbers of digital uploads they'll be wading through. Customer reviews online and book bloggers will remain a driving force in word-of-mouth sales of books.

In a city where many start-up companies have been birthed, I'm all in. I'm convinced that the emergence of new technology will benefit the reader in the long run. In the meantime, it's much more productive to welcome the new baby than to bitch about the birthing pains. And as for e-books, don't say "never" if you've never tried one. You can always download the Kindle or Nook app to your computer or phone. Then if you download a few free sample chapters from Amazon or Nook, you can give it a try without spending a penny.

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Posted in October, 2010