Sunday, December 21, 2014

Two children’s books released this month

Books written for employees and families of a Avista Utilities in Spokane, Wash.

In my day-to-day life, I do communications for Avista Utilities. I get to write and be creative, it’s the perfect place for me and my co-workers are top notch people. This year the company celebrated its 125th anniversary. One of my projects this year was to lead our internal celebration. We held events, contests, activities, created signage along with all of the external hoopla. 

Just this week the company released two children’s books for employees and their families. I was lucky enough to write them and lead this project. Click on the links to view the books digitally.

My StarLight (click here to read) 
My StarLight tells the story of Ava, and her nightlight StarLight. The power at Ava’s house goes out during a power outage and it’s up to her dad to explain why.

All Chewed Up (click here to read)
All Chewed Up follows Dougie and his family as they discover a gas leak in the backyard, thanks to a pesky gopher named Chewy, who nibbled on the service line.

The books are meant for Avista employees to show their families, especially young children. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain what you do at a utility company and these books should help facilitate these conversations for years to come. It’s also a nod to work/life balance for the many professional trades in the utility industry.

These books are unlike my independently released novels, as this work was done as an employee of Avista, so the rights to the books are wholly owned by the company. I held focus groups within the company during the storyboard stage to ensure the right tone was conveyed for the intended audience.  Employee feedback was a big part of the final product. It's also worth noting that writing a children's book, with illustrations and everything that goes with it, is a much different challenge than writing a novel. 

The books were illustrated by artist Austin Rienkens – who did a fantastic job. I provided text and scene descriptions along with an embarrassingly amateur stick-figure sketch (see below) to Austin, who then did pencil sketches for my approval, then fully illustrated artwork.

Dana Reinke of Creative Catch Studio, an arts and marketing firm in Spokane, did the text and production layout and also facilitated the printing operations.  

I typically don’t post about my “real job,” on my website, but these books turned out exactly the way that I had dreamed in my head and I can’t help but share this part of my professional life. I'm usually not writing books for my employer, but I certainly enjoyed doing it. The feedback from employees and retirees has been fantastic. 

I've had a few tear-filled conversations regarding former employees or family members whose jobs were depicted in the books. A friend told me that the books will help her explain lineman work and traditions to her grandchildren. The kids had recently lost their father who was a utility lineman. When your work has that sort of impact on people, it makes everything more fulfilling. 

Reminder: These books are owned and copyrighted by Avista Corp., but feel free to share them using the sharing feature within the books.   

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Free Christmas short story: An Easel for Avery

An Easel for Avery, a Christmas short story, is free Friday Dec. 19 and Saturday, Dec. 20 for Kindle and the Kindle App. 

This title normally retails for $0.99, so save that buck and download it for free and read it by the Christmas tree this year! 

Download now.

Book Description
The Conway family is living in a shelter and barely scraping by each day. But older brother Derek wants Christmas to be special this year – his mom and sister deserve it. He has his eye on an easel for sale at Mr. Z’s Toys.  Little does he know that meeting store owners Edwin and Mary Klein would change his family’s lives forever. Derek learns that sometimes the best gifts are the ones you don't ask for.

This holiday short story of just 8,000 words takes place before the events of Dan Kolbet's bestseller, Don't Wait For Me, but includes some of the same reader-favorite characters.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Two days left in the signed paperback giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

You Only Get So Much by Dan Kolbet

You Only Get So Much

by Dan Kolbet

Giveaway ends December 04, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sprinkling the 'salt' of foul language: when it's OK to say "f*#*k"

"Fuck this," she said, then smashed the car window with the crowbar to retrieve her stolen phone from the front seat of her jackass boyfriend's rusty Camaro.

Is "Fuck this" OK in this context? How about if it was written this way:

"Darn it all to heck," she said, before deciding to break the car window to retrieve her cell phone, which had recently been stolen from her purse. Her jerk boyfriend had taken it to read her text messages. She never has any privacy!

"Darn it all to heck," just doesn't have the same ring to it does it? Our character isn't as mad as she is when she says "fuck this," and smashes the window. Same scenario, different flavor.

The "salt" should be sprinkled in the story, not poured out.

Fuck all this talk about curse words. Or screw it, anyway. People swear. It's life. Yesterday I was in line at a drive through and the guy in front of me ordered, "some goddamn cheese fries." No joke. That's actually what he said to the voice in the little box. This, my friends, is the society we live in.

It's a place where the seven dirty words that George Carlin said aren't allowed on television, now permeate our everyday vernacular. So what is a writer to do? Should we say, darn it all to heck and write them in our stories, or should we "censor" our characters to please innocent ears? There's no hard rule here and I've gone both ways in my three novels.

When I was writing "Off The Grid" in 2011, I very much censored my characters. Even though some were ruthless murderers. I was taking the advice of novelist, Joseph Finder who said his early work was rough on some younger readers or audio book listeners and that in hindsight, cursing wasn't needed. I agreed. None of Carlin's seven dirty words ended up in Off The Grid. But I did manage 16 "damn"  and 1 "goddamn." For a thriller, that's a pretty good ratio.

"Don't Wait For Me," published in 2012 is a Christian romance, which obviously doesn't include any of Carlin's seven dirty words. But it included 8 uses of the word "damn." There are some bad guys in this story too.

But my censorship of characters what put on hold for "You Only Get So Much," a family saga and light contemporary romance published in October 2014. It's first person and I wrote it without much restraint on the language the characters use. One of the worst offenders in the book is a teenage girl, but like I said earlier, this is how kids and adults talk today. Carlin's seven dirty words made it in several times: fuck (13), shit (7) and shee-yit, a variation of shit (3). I also included damn (11), goddamn (6), ass (8) and bitch (1). This sounds embarrassing for me because this book isn't dirty by any means at all. I, of course, only know my dirty word stats after searching for them and counting. I didn't have a quota, but used language that the characters would have reasonably used. In an 83,000 word book, this isn't excessive cursing.

Percent of curse words (all, not just Carlin's seven dirty words)
Off The Grid: 17 of 94,000 = .02%
Don't Wait For Me: 8 of 56,000 = .01%
You Only Get So Much: 49 of 83,000 = .06%

Just Carlin's seven dirty words
Off The Grid = 0
Don't Wait For Me = 0
You Only Get So Much = 23 of 83,000 = .03%

Sprinkle the salt
So what sort of shit are you supposed to learn from this fucking blog post? If your bitch-ass has read this far, then damn, you're a daring reader with a full grasp of our right to cuss like a salty sailor.

Curse words aren't necessary - until they are.  I only include it for impact and honest emotion from the characters. Overuse of cursing in novels is lazy writing. It may be how some people speak in real life, but writers should be smarter than that.

The "salt" should be sprinkled in the story, not poured out.

As I tackle my sequel to Don't Wait For Me (Christian Romance), I know I won't be including anything that may be offensive to my audience, but I can't chastise other authors who need the salt to flavor their stories. But I would caution that too much salt means you can't even find the flavor. 

Sprinkle, don't pour.

Note: If anyone was offended by this blog post, my sincere apologies. I hope you understand my rationale in sharing specifics to illustrate my overall message.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giveaway time! Enter to win a signed copy of You Only Get So Much

I'm giving away three autographed, first edition copies of You Only Get So Much to readers through Goodreads. Click below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

You Only Get So Much by Dan Kolbet

You Only Get So Much

by Dan Kolbet

Giveaway ends December 04, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win