Monday, September 26, 2016

The Fight for Independents!

We Americans love our independence.

We love independent realtors.

Independent business owners.

Independent political parties.

Independent thoughts.

Independent bookstores.

Independent farmers.

Independent filmmakers.

But not independent authors.

We are treated like the weird relative at Thanksgiving. Publishing people smile nervously when approached by them- and sit with the 'regular people' at the other end of the table.

As a hybrid author (books published by both traditional publishers and Indie), I'm understanding the struggle of Indie authors so much more clearly.

The disdain.
The rolling of the eyes.
The dismissing of the validity of my work.
The "we don't want your kind here" at stores, events, and festivals.

Never mind that my book (Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines) was honed over ten years and edited by peer and professional. Ignore that I spent money hiring a professional illustrator (Cathy Thole-Daniels). Skip over the four previous books published by traditional publishers (St. Martins/Thomas Dunne, Flux, Leap).

Some Indie published books are awful- I've read them. One book was so bad, I put a Post-It on every mistake (grammar, spelling, POV, etc.) and it looked like a George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones book where people flag when a character gets killed (yes, that many). I used it in a writing what-not-to-do presentation.

But I've read some great ones (I'm going by content, not sales, so Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't meet my qualifications). Sometimes, the author then goes on to a traditional contract, but the publishers didn't see the potential at first- until the public did and the bucks started coming in.

I understand that there are sooo many books out there and the traditional publishers can't print them all. (Hence, Indie pubbing helps with that...) But traditional publishers have also chosen so many I-can't-believe-you-published-this-crap books; like If I Did It by OJ Simpson. What the hell were they thinking- oh yes, celebrities bring in money, even when the book is awful.

So it all comes down to money (except for those coffee table books people publish/buy just to look chic and sophisticated). If an Indie author is trying to sell their book, they want to make money, same as Indie bookstores. (Gotta pay for the illustrator, travel to book events, PR.) It seems to me both sides could work out an arrangement which gives them each profits and happiness.

It's a hard road, but I'm not giving up. I believe in this project too much.

And yes, there are successes, but many more that aren't. It's okay, I'm not discouraged.

And I'm not going away...


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Meet a Real Character...

I'm editing a horror short story that's due by the 26th, waiting to review Evolution Revolution for the last time before it goes to print, trying to book events, working on the next book in the Evolution series, hoping to hear about two books with my agent, and trying to sneak in time for other writing projects all while getting my son into the school routine, ease back into playing bells at church, attending meetings of committees I'm on, and thinking about all the stuff to do to close the pool up.

So I haven't prepared a pithy post. I simply need to ease back this week (I know I didn't do a post for Labor Day weekend either). I'm taking a deep breath before I dive in, head first, into more craziness. In the meantime, here's something that won't be controversial, doesn't challenge any politics or religion or your favorite football team, and is simply meant to give you a sneak peek at the marvelous work of my illustrator Cathy Thole-Daniels and one of the funny characters in Evolution...

Let me introduce you to Beaver (no cutesy names). He's a marvel at engineering and the humans are in for a surprise when he joins the team to Save the Wood. Hopefully you can meet him real soon...

Spread the word- war is coming to the wood... and the animals aren't giving up without a fight. Never underestimate anyone defending their home.


Monday, September 12, 2016

No Emergency if You Prepare

It's that time. I'm not talking about hurricanes, blizzards, flooding, severe cold or wind. I'm talking about NaNoWriMo. (National Novel Writing Month). If you're serious, don't be a twit and wait until the last minute to prepare. Like those who wait until the storm is bashing down their door to do something, it's too late then. Do. The. Prep. Now.


What will your novel be- science fiction? Historical? Contemporary? Paranormal? A combination? Get a good sense. You don't have to have the whole story in your head, but know how it will start, a few things that will happen in the middle, and how it will end. It may change, that's okay. When you have ideas to choose from, you'll be more confident and less likely to be stuck come writing day.


Know where you will work. Choose one or two places that you can retreat to to write. Honestly, you can't write at the kitchen table when people pass through often, or are clamoring for breakfast or lunch or dinner. Or you have to clear up your stuff when they want to eat. Maybe your laptop in your car at a quiet park during the day, on your lunchbreak from work. Maybe the family room when everyone else is at school/work. If you can, prep the space. Have your thesaurus, research papers, notes, large coffee cup, and anything else you may need ready to go. You waste valuable time and effort trying to pull things together.

Research ahead of time. If you're writing a crime thriller, know police procedure. Sci f? Know what happens when you're ejected into space with a hole in your space suit (you can live for about 45 seconds. Really.) Historical? Better have the facts and timeline correct. Keep notes on your laptop or handy in a folder.

Have a NaNoWriMo calendar. November is a bitch of a month with Thanksgiving and for some of us, the start of the Christmas season. Maybe you have events or conferences you're going to and won't be home to work. Note this on the calendar and plan how you will work around this to stay on track. Since I have a family dinner on Thanksgiving, on one day I write double the amount (1,666 words is the general amount) so I have to do at least 3,340 to stay on track. You can also use your calendar to plot out the novel- maybe each day is one chapter, so on day 6 you have to kill someone off. It helps to remind you where to start up again and by looking at it ahead of time, the wheels of imagination can spin while you're cooking dinner or doing other things.

Jot down a rough outline. This will help with the continuity. I sometimes find it hard to stop and go- I just want to keep writing until the book is written. Unfortunately I have to eat, sleep, take care of the family, go to the dentist, etc. A rough outline helps me know where I'm heading. It's just rough, so don't stick to it if you have a better idea.

Commit to a group- whether it's the official group (go here) or a bunch of like minded friends and stick with it! Nothing makes a task easier than having support. If you're stuck, they can help you bounce ideas around, encourage you if you fall behind (not the end of the world, keep going, don't quit) and by encouraging them, you'll benefit from the energy.


It's not about having the perfect novel. Or even a good one. That will come later through editing and revising. It's about getting the novel written and into a routine of making time for your passion. Even if you don't finish the novel, if you're several hundred words away from the end, you're close! So you take a few extra days to finish- that's okay! You aren't breaking any rules. So chill. You can do this.

I'm doing NaNoWriMo and have already done one chapter (was stuck on a long car ride). I jotted down some notes. I need to stretch it to an outline. Gotta finish up some research. I have an office and with kids back in school, I have my routine set.

Let's do this together.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Exercise in Futility

Can't get an agent or editor to offer for your book? Thinking of Indie publishing?

Think long and hard and then rethink again.

I've been on a journey to Indie publish my middle grade novel, Evolution Revolution:Simple Machines. There six planned books in the series. (Originally it was 4.) My agent loved it- and shopped it around. But there were no takers. So while she and I are working on other novels (mg historical fiction, contemporary mg sci fi, etc.), I decided to Indie publish Evolution Revolution.

To quote Marissa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny: (close your eyes, Mom):

"Oh my god, what a fucking nightmare!"

Indie publishing is not for the fainthearted. It will test the patience and intestinal fortitude of even the most stalwart author. This is what I've learned:

1. When outfits like CreateSpace and Smashwords tell you "It's easy! It's simple!" Don't believe them. Not a word. Here's why: when you see those words about how easy it is, those lies were written by marketing people. They have no idea if it's easy, hard, or psychosis-inducing. They're paid to write anything that makes the product look good.
2. You have 'customer service'! - which means you have to wait for service. Okay, one business day for a reply to their emails. Sounds good? But when they answer, it's the same gobbledy-gook that's on their website (which means you won't understand it until the fourth time you ask the question). But what about the "Call us! We're here 24/7!" Well, maybe, but you have to wait for them to call you. They don't list a phone number (it's super secret and you probably have to be 007 to get it), so that means you're glued to your phone having to wait. Suppose you have to work? Sleep? Take care of kids? Have surgery? Go to the bathroom? You have no idea when they're going to call and you know it's going to be at the worst possible time.
3. Step by step instructions! They're perfect! IF you have a computer science and engineering degree, a graphics design background, and insane knowledge of coding. Pages and pages and pages... and you still don't know what the hell they're talking about. (I've been to that hell...)
4. We have design services! Yep, for a hefty price. Everything costs- design, cover, etc. So don't expect anything for free (except the marketing guides which are ABC. You can get more detailed info scouting around the net.
5. Oh yes, you must be a tax professional to understand all the ramifications. I have a CPA, I'll let him tell me what to do because I won't know, and I doubt the IRS even knows.
6. It takes hours to do all the author profile, short and long synopses, upload the cover (good luck with that one!), fill in a thousand blanks. (But they do have a service, starting at $400). And write everything down because if you don't finish, you lose all that input then have to spend hours more re-entering it.
7. Are you having fun yet? There's more. They ask you questions that include math (# of text pages times .0002475 or some such number to determine how big your book will be, but without illustrations, so then you have to us formula.... Yep. It's a horror story. I'd rather sit through college pre-Calc again.
8. You do know that stores like Barnes and Noble and indies don't really want to carry Indie pubbed novels, right? Sure, they'll do some- but probably not yours. You have to figure out how to get sales some other way.
9. There's still a stigma- and not without good reason. Yes, I've seen traditionally pubbed novels with some goofs that should have gotten picked up by the proofreader, but it's a very small amount. Some of the Indie pubbed novels give me heart palpitations they are sooo bad that the stigma is not wholly unjustified. Don't be one of these people. Hey, I hate proofing and revising a thousand times just as much as anybody; but I do it. Your final product has to be as close to divine as you can get. If you put out crap, you hurt the rest of us who are trying to do a professional job.
10. I don't know if this is true, by I figure by the time I learn all this stuff for book two, they're going to change the programs and I'll have to learn it all over again. (You can expect a new rant when that happens.) Technology changes so fast.

I just want to write. But sometimes to make your dreams come true, you have to do dirty, nasty, cringe-worthy tasks. But my book is worth it.

I'll be checking in-- *checks for stomach ache medication, tissues for crying, shoulder to cry on.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Between the Covers...

Most people outside the publishing biz don't realize that authors generally don't get a say in their covers. And sometimes if a cover is beta tested and gets a meh response, the publisher will change the cover. That happened with Sirenz. Here's the original cover:

It seems that it looked too evil (sorry Hades, guess your bad rep isn't bad enough), and people couldn't understand that the heel was the 'i' in Sirenz. I didn't think it was that difficult a concept, but apparently it was.  So the cover was changed to this:

Booksellers were less than thrilled, which made it hard to find the book in stock. (It generally wasn't. Alms for the poor....)

The same thing happened with Blonde OPS. This is the first cover (which I hated but mom said if you can't say anything nice...)

It looked too much like Brittany Spears advertising a better known author's books... Plus I thought it didn't do the book justice; our girl was more edgy, less 'Legally Blonde' -ish. The one thing I did like about it was the architecture in the background- very Italian.

So it changed to this:

The Vespa is a factor in the story (cool car chase through Rome, but read it because I won't tell you any more). Although originally the Vespa was neon green, it was easier to change the text than the photo. And with the red shoes, it felt like a 'karmic 'connection' to Sirenz.

Which brings me to Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. I gave my illustrator, Cathy Thole-Daniels, free rein. She was the artist, she obviously had an eye for design; it was best I didn't get in her way. This is the rough draft:

Jack, the squirrel in the center, is the main character (and he is quite the character). The other animals play a decent part in the novel too which is why she put them on there. I wasn't thrilled with the font for the title because I thought it was not in keeping with the 'scientific' aspects of the book (you'll have to read it, no spoilers!). She went back to the drawing board, and after talking with her artists' critique group (I didn't know they had them too!), this is the revised cover draft:

Still, I didn't like the title font (hint: 'simple machines'), it looked too forestry. Another revision, and this came up:

She focused more on Jack and the other characters slid off center to the sides. Plus, you can see the details of the wheel (which is important in the story). Next was color. At first there was a lot of green (forest, woods?) so I asked for a complimentary color- like orange and red and yellow because it's autumn when the book takes place, She felt the next version looked too red; "like he's in Hell."

And with the tweaks, here is the final cover:

It's more muted than the previous one (which was deleted), Jack is highlighted just a bit more, the title and text are easier to read, and it captures what I didn't know I wanted. That's the value of a professional artist. If you're thinking of Indie publishing, don't scrimp on the cover art, it will show. Nothing worse than a tacky, cheap, or obviously home-made cover. Every time I look at this cover, knowing that this is the book of my heart (I wrote it over 10 years ago), I'm left breathless. It's also reaffirming when people see the cover and gush over it. I have no doubt it will help the book become a success (and feed both author and illustrator, so bear that in mind).

The next in the series, Evolution Revolution: Simple Plans will be out next year. I had planned on December, but this is a difficult learning process; it's not simply uploading your text into a program. It's going to take a while to become proficient. My agent started this one, but the agency no longer handles Indie published works, so I'm on my own for the rest of the series. I'm still writing and submitting other books to my agent and am ever hopeful that a traditional publisher will pick one up because man, this is a lot of work, stress, expense, and time. (And frustration, but that's another blog post).)

So stay tuned for the launch. Jack and I will be appearing at signing venues like the Collingswood Book Festival, the NJ School Librarians conference, and other events.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

The War in the Woods!

Protect your nests! Save your trees!

That's the rallying call of Jack, a common gray squirrel. Taught by a human friend how to use simple machines, he's leading the charge of animal versus human for ownership of the wood. Introducing my middle grade adventure novel,

Beautifully illustrated by Cathy Thole-Daniels, it's 60 pages, the first in a series, and will be available in both soft cover and ebook. Based on the third grade science curriculum, it incorporates STEM  principles: Science (biology, evolution), Technology (motorize RC car), Engineering (simple machines like the wheel and wedge).

This has been the book of my heart, over 10 years in the making. (So if you'd like to help me publicize it, I'd love it!). The book will officially launch Sept 30th.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Reduce, Reuse.... Just Recycle It.

Ask anyone who knows me well, especially my family, I'm all about recycling. I nag my mother to do more of it, I lecture my sons about what their world will be like if we all don't take better care of our earth and resources, and I remind everyone where the recycle bucket is.

I believe in recycling--and for more than cans and paper. When I was a greenie, just starting out on the publishing journey, a well-known agent at a conference said that if an agent didn't like a story, that's it, it was dead. 


A beloved child of my imagination? That I'd nurtured and developed and cried and sweated over to bring to maturity, to be buried and forgotten forever??

A bunch of us just looked at each other in horror. Any story we'd written had a good basis, Or we wouldn't have written it.

Yeah, well maybe the execution, the plot, the characters, the voice were all wrong.

Thus, the recycling bin.

And that's where I'm putting my beloved new adult sci fi, Lethal Dose. My agent tried to sell it, there seemed to be some interest, I made revisions (a lot), and I waited.

"New Adult sci fi market isn't there."

"Editor has left the imprint."

"Doesn't fit in."


I love the premise too much to let it go. I've gotten so much feedback on it and it sits in my head, taking permanent room. So, for NaNoWriMo, again I will be re-writing this book of my heart. My head is already churning with ideas and my agent has said okay, let's see what you do. My revisions:

1- Turn this into a young adult. It's a much bigger market and will give me more opportunities to submit.

2- Flip main characters Dalen and Adara- she becomes the lead (let's face it, more females read than males) and Dalen the chaser.

3- Re-imagine 80% of the plot. Some things have to change because of the above and because of what I removed (love scenes), but some need to remain because it supports the premise.

I'll be working on an outline and submit that to my agent. Hopefully we can smooth it out so it has a better chance of being accepted.

It's hard work washing out used cans and bottles, cutting up cardboard, tying up newspapers. But it's the prep that has to be done to yield results. There's too much value to just toss something away, and it goes against my Germanic thriftiness. It's the same with my writing; there's still value in this novel an I can't simply discard it.

While ideas for revisions simmer, I'll be working on the release of my middle grade, Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines. (Cover reveal Thursday!!!!)