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Friday, February 19, 2010

Welcome Connie Chastain

Please welcome author Connie Chastain. A ninth-generation Southerner, Connie Chastain was born in Georgia, grew up a preacher's kid in Alabama and married a Louisiana boy. She is a former staff writer for The Florida Sun, (now the Pensacola Independent News), which was published, starting in 1999, in Pensacola, Florida by former Congressman Joe Scarborough (now the star of "Morning Joe" on MS- NBC). Her articles were all nonfiction and ran the gamut from travel to current events and chemtrails to Bigfoot in Dixie.

She currently resides with her husband of 30+ years in L.A. (Lower Alabama -- aka, the Florida panhandle) where she writes controversial, politically incorrect Southern and romantic fiction. Her first novel, Southern Man, was published in 2009 by her own publishing imprint, Brasstown Books, and is available from Amazon.com in print and Kindle editions.
Visit her online at http://conniechastain.com

Writing in the Digital Age

by Connie Chastain

I'm old enough to remember a time before the Internet. I still have boxes of novels (mostly unfinished) from the 80s and 90s, typed on an IBM Correcting Selectric III typewriter. After that spate of writing, I took some time off to get involved in politics and to write mostly nonfiction, but in the middle of the current decade, I renewed my interest in writing fiction, particularly romance.

What a difference the Internet makes! For readers, it makes possible online book sellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble and review sites like You Gotta Read. Readers can visit publisher websites to find out about upcoming releases and join chat rooms or forums to discuss favorite books and authors. Using social networking such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, people can instantly communicate with others worldwide -- readers, writers, industry professionals -- who share their interests

And for authors, online resources are just about limitless.

Since more and more publishers are leaving marketing and promotion of their books up to the author, it's a good thing there are so many sites devoted to the author's education in those fields -- or, if you don't want the bother of learning and you have the cash to spare, there are sites that will do the marketing and promoting for you. John Kremer's "Book Marketing Ning" http://bookmarket.ning.com/ comes to mind for novice book promoters, although it is by no means the only one.

There are online companies that will provide server space for an author's static website or a constantly updated blog. Others offer promotional items such as banner ad creation and book trailer videos.

Publishing itself has gone digital. The growth of E-publishers -- that is, publishers who produce books only in electronic form, to be read on a computer or an electronic reader -- since 2000 has been phenomenal. The year 2008 was the first year that more books were alternately published -- electronic, self-published, print-on-demand digital books -- than traditionally published ones.

But what I find most helpful about writing in the age of the World Wide Web is the instant knowledge. There are, of course, free dictionaries online and a dictionary is something no author should be without, along with a thesaurus. My favorites, which I access on a daily basis, are http://dictionary.reference.com/ and http://thesaurus.reference.com/.

In addition to dictionaries, encyclopedias abound online, such as http://www.reference.com/. Some online encyclopedias are subscription-based services, and there's always good ol' Wikipedia, the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit."

In an era when literacy is waning, sometimes even writers need help with spelling, punctuation, gramma and other elements of style, and help is available -- yep, you guessed -- in cyberspace. The Chicago Manual of Style is available online via a subscription service, but many online style manuals are free services -- just Google "editorial style manual" to find them.

Speaking of Google -- search engines themselves, with Google the current top dog, are indispensable. Regardless of the search engine itself -- Bing, Yahoo, or oldies like Alta Vista -- search engines are essential to denizens of cyberspace, including writers.

Numerous other reference sites, from the Old Farmer's Almanac, to the entire U.S. Code, can be found online. History, science, current events, entertainment -- all resources an author might need are at our fingertips in the digital age.

In 2008, when I was working on my first novel, Southern Man, I wrote a scene in which my hero and his wife celebrate their wedding anniversary with a kiss on a romantic, riverside balcony -- in the moonlight. The year was 1983. Although probably no reader would question this, it occurred to me to wonder -- was the moon even out that night? I found out, thanks to the Internet, that on June 25, 1983, the moon was full. On their anniversary, two days before, it would have been full enough to shower them with the romantic glow I envisioned.

Author groups such as Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America have a presence online and provide their constituencies with timely information. Literary agents not only provide contact and submission information on the websites, but many, such as Nathan Bransford and Rachel Gardner, are regular bloggers who offer valuable advice to writers, and report industry goings-on.

One of the best online services offered to writers, though, in my opinion, is critiquing. Numerous critique groups exist on the internet and offer a valuable help. For writers out in the boondocks, where local groups may not exist, or don't meet often, an online group may be the only way to obtain peer assessments of a manuscript. Then --once you're ready to add a final polish to your manuscript (and you can afford it) editorial services ranging from a basic manuscript evaluation to a detailed copy edit are available in cyberspace.

Research that might have taken days or weeks before the Internet now takes minutes, and writers. Camaraderie and peer assistance are available 24/7. And submissions to agents and publishers are quick -- and cheaper than postage! The resources of the Digital Age -- a great boon for writers!

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