Friday, July 27, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER: Carolyn J. Rose


Dodging Bullets by Taking Indie Road

By Carolyn J. Rose



Recently a writer I know completed the second book in a series. She worked on it for more than a year and, when she sent it off to her publisher, felt confident about the storyline and character development.

A few weeks passed and she got an e-mail from her editor outlining numerous changes. Not small changes.

Later she got an e-mail from her agent suggesting still other changes—changes far different from those suggested by the publisher.

She felt confused and even abused. She felt the message was that she wasn’t a good writer. She felt discouraged and tentative about writing a third book.

I commiserated, all the while feeling a sense of relief that these were bullets I dodged by indie publishing. My books are MY books—my ideas, my execution, my development.

Yes, there may be (plenty of) room for improvement. There may be things I could have done differently and/or better. There may be critics who don’t like the characters and stories I created.

But those are facts of the publishing life, independent or otherwise. There are always critics.

Fortunately, there are also fans.

In the past few months I received several e-mails from readers asking when I would release a sequel to No Substitute for Murder. I wrote back explaining that I was at work on two other books, but perhaps this winter would plot another mystery to ensnare Barbara Reed and her dog Cheese Puff. (One fan wants me to create a love interest for the ten-pound dog.)

“If you hadn’t put that book out yourself,” my husband said, “you might have a publisher leaning on you to set your other projects aside and get going on a sequel. They’d want to take advantage of the 20,000 you’ve sold since December.”
He’d pointed out more bullets dodged—the big bullets of outside pressure, deadlines not my own, and the financial considerations of others.

I have a strong work ethic and can create quite enough pressure on my own. I had enough of enforced deadlines and daily pressure during the years I worked as a TV news producer. And I was never consumed by the urge to make big money for myself or others. (Driven to make enough to get by plus a little more, yes. Consumed with the desire to keep shoving that bank balance higher and higher as a goal in itself, no.) Beyond that, I’m uncomfortable with BSP (blatant self-promotion). The message received in childhood was “don’t blow your own horn.”

So, while I felt I would relish the control I’d have by indie publishing, I also recognized the responsibility and effort required. Before I released An Uncertain Refuge in May of 2011, I bit my nails to the quick over the decision to take Indie Road.

My biggest worry was due to my feeling that the emphasis in the phrase “indie publishing” seemed to be on the first word. “Independent” implies strength and self-reliance, but I also felt a certain loneliness in the word. So I held back, feeling like a wallflower at a dance, afraid to get out on the floor because I’d make the wrong moves and everyone would point and stare.

But then I turned to some professionals who I now consider my friends. Thanks to my “support team,” the process of publishing gets easier with each book.

Patty G. Henderson formats my books for print and has never failed to be patient and offer praise on the days I need it most. (About five days out of seven if you’re counting.)

Digital formatters Kimberly Hitchens and her crew at Booknook.biz may be more than a thousand miles away—I’m in Vancouver, WA, and they’re in Arizona—but they’re so quick to respond and their communications are so personal that I feel as if they’re just down the hall.

Then there’s Dorion D. Rose (http://brokencork.blogspot.com/), my cousin. He’s an IT Architect for IBM, a business analytics specialist who designs software tools and web pages. Last year he happened to mention an interest in photography. A dozen pestering e-mails later, he allowed as how he might attempt a book cover. To his credit, he didn’t disown me when, after he’d spent weeks on the first concept for A Place of Forgetting, I scrapped it and asked for something else. He swears he likes the collaboration process. He’s probably lying. He’s created covers for No Substitute for Murder, A Place of Forgetting, Drum Warrior, and Through a Yellow Wood. Right now he’s at work on the design a book I’ll release late in the fall, By the Sea of Regret.

With such a great team, I’m not alone anymore and the emphasis in “indie publishing” has shifted to the second word.



Bio:

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of several novels, including Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, An Uncertain Refuge, A Place of Forgetting, and No Substitute for Murder. She penned two humorous cozy mysteries, The Big Grabowski and Sometimes a Great Commotion, with her husband, Mike Nettleton. By the Sea of Regret, the sequel to An Uncertain Refuge, will emerge in the late fall of 2012.

She grew up in New York's Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers' Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and not cooking.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Is Your Cat Really a Cat?

 DARK THINGS II: Cat Crimes or Saving Our Felines

Roughly four million or more cats are put to sleep in America each year. That doesn't count the number of feral and homeless cats that die in the streets. Chilling statistics.

Cats have been worshipped in some civilization as gods, beloved by many as loving companions and pets and reviled by others. For those who love our felines, it is an uphill battle to educate cat owners to be responsible and spade or neuter their cat. And still another struggle is the failing economy. That has added more homeless cats to the streets and shelters as families lose their homes and either leave their cats behind or take them to a shelter.

Kind and generous individuals have opened what is termed as "No Kill Cat Shelters." The most well known and most respected of these is located along the King's River in Parlier, California. It's called The Cat House on the Kings and was opened and run by a very special and loving woman, Lynea Lattanzio. Cats are cared for lovingly and they roam freely on twelve acres of land. There is no expiration date for a cat. No cat is killed. The Cat House on the Kings runs an aggressive adoption program with a professional team of care-givers and online web site adoption site. Please check out the link to The Cat House on the Kings. If you love and cherish felines, I guarantee that you will have a smile on your face. This shelter and others like it face a constant struggle to make enough money to remain open and continue to provide the wonderful food, housing and services. Just take a look at "The Woodstove Room" at The Cat House on the Kings picture.

I've been blessed with a lifetime of longtime feline companions. I've loved them all and cherish each memory of their time with me. Being a poor and starving author....well, not starving....I wanted desperately to donate funds to various animal charities but never could. That's when I came up with the idea to put together an anthology where all proceeds from sales of the book would go directly to the selected animal charity. Authors would donate their stories and my publishing imprint would publish the book. This would be my way of giving where the need is greatest. It would be a Win-Win situation for both reader and author. Giving to charity and getting a great read in return.

DARK THINGS II: Cat Crimes features 20 authors with an Introduction by Robert W. Walker. There are 254 pages with tales that stretch from the wicked, the scary, the wondrous, the magical and the charming side of felines. I have some of my favorites, but you will have to read the anthology for yourself and pick your own favorites. If you love cats, you will be in for a treat. If you don't like cats, buy it and read it anyway. The stories are told are by some of the best and upcoming authors, such as Mary V. Welk, Patricia Harrington, Jim Silvestri, Anna Sykora, Juli D. Revezzo and more. It is the perfect book to crawl under the covers with on a rainy night or take to the beach with you. All proceeds from the sale and purchase of DARK THINGS II: Cat Crimes will be donated to The Cat House on the Kings.

DARK THINGS II: Cat Crimes, is available via Amazon.com as a trade paperback and also a Kindle eBook. Remember, when you purchase Cat Crimes, you are not only getting a great read but you are also donating to a worthy and needed cause. The safe and no-kill alternative for our beloved felines.

Friday, July 13, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER: Clare Ashton

Seasonal Writing

When I start writing a story I’m always very aware of its season and weather. Maybe it's because I'm British and my stories are set in the UK. You can't have a character, for example, spontaneously pop out for a game of lawn tennis in October - it lacks some credibility even at the height of summer.

Sometimes the setting and weather comes first, before I have any idea of characters or plot.

For my novel Pennance I wanted to write a tense and atmospheric story set in Cornwall in winter. I love the landscape around the coast at that time of year: brown beaten moors, windswept fields with stunted trees, bare and distorted in the direction of the prevailing sea winds. The weather is never dull. Even on still days when it drizzles and mist hinders the view, clouds crawl slowly from the sea and creep up the valleys.

It’s a perfect setting for my main character Lucy who has withdrawn from society after the death of her partner Jake. She suffers from a form of survivor’s guilt and lives in an isolated cottage without heating and only the ghostly memory of Jake as company. She is gradually drawn out of this existence by a new neighbour living further along the country lane. Karen is an older woman with two children, and also a damaged character after a nasty divorce, who is equally in need of a sustaining friendship. Not everyone approves of this deepening relationship, however, and more than one life is put in danger.

I also have a short story out in the SunKissed collection. This anthology had a seasonal theme of simply 'summer' and has a fantastically broad range of stories inspired by this.

My own, ‘I Also Met You in Summer', is about a romantic, who in the heat of summer is seduced into a relationship with someone unsuitable. She finds romance again, but not without first suffering the consequences of her choice.

The collection is a great chance to sample work by some best-selling UK indie lesfic authors. Rosen Trevithick’s ‘1997’ is a funny and nicely observed story set in Falmouth. It’s full of humorous observations of the time and more timeless human foibles. Toni James’ ‘The Sighing Sound, The Lights Around the Shore’ is a vivid lesbian encounter and a realisation of Rossetti’s poem ‘Sudden Light’. Kiki Archer’s lesbian chicklit story is a funny and sexy stay in Venice and written with her characteristic sparkle. ‘Five Guns Blazing’ by Emma Rose Millar is an historic short story of escaping a grim 18th Century London for a life on the seas as a pirate in Barbados. It has enough potential and appealing characters to fill a much longer work. Perhaps my favourite is Betty Flack’s ‘The Darkness Within’ - an interesting twist on a classic theme, written in a suitable style. Set in Cyprus, the description wonderfully evokes the Mediterranean landscape and heat, as an English woman pursues a mysterious woman in white.

Other works add to this fantastic mix of stories and voices - far more varied than I imagined from the cover of the book.

The novel I’m writing at the moment is set in autumn. Characters and plot definitely came first with this story. My favourite protagonist is a woman in her mid-fifties and a beautiful autumn seems most appropriate for this character.

I wrote the novel before Pennance and was going to leave the work as unpublished, but I find myself constantly thinking of scenes for two of the characters and wanting to put right where I went wrong with two others.

The book is set in London and Oxfordshire and is dominated by elements of romance, intrigue and some dark moments. It is a story of love, secrets, obsession, betrayal and lust. It’s the kind of story I wanted to read on holiday, trashy but (hopefully) well written enough not to feel guilty about reading it. I hope to publish it at the end of this year, in time to start thinking of a story in spring - my missing season.


Clare Ashton's Blog

Friday, July 6, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER: Richard Brawer


What should you do if you cannot find a publisher for a book you poured your heart and soul into and thought was a wonderful book?  Why not self publish?

Before e-books the only books we could read were the ones the big publishers “chose” for us to read.  Those books were selected by the publisher based on the publisher’s idea of what the greatest number of readers would like.  Today those “mavens” in the publishing business are becoming more and more irrelevant.

I was born in Paterson, New Jersey but moved away at the age of twelve.   One day I read an article about lectures and historical tours being held in Paterson, America’s first industrial city and the home of the silk industry in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.  I thought it would be interesting to learn about the city where I had spent such a short time.

After the lectures my imagination started taking over and I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to set a novel in the hey-day of the silk industry.  Thus Silk Legacy was born.

In early twentieth century Paterson, NJ, where silk magnates rule the city with an iron fist and treat their immigrant laborers as an expendable commodity in their insatiable quest for wealth, a domineering silk industrialist clashes with his progressive suffragist wife and his radical unionist brother as he battles to save his business and keep his family from being torn apart during The Great Silk Strike of 1913 in Paterson, New Jersey.

Jealousy, infidelity, arrogance, greed—the characters’ titanic struggles will catapult you into the heights of their euphoria and the depths of their despair.  Who will triumph and who will be humbled is not certain until the last page.

To this day I don’t know why I couldn’t find an agent or publisher for Silk Legacy.  I had read a lot of historical fiction and I knew this was a good book.  Thus, since I was sixty-five, I didn’t want to wait any longer to get the book in print. So I self published it.

As you can see from my web site, www.silklegacy.com,  reviewers have said about Silk Legacy: “Magnificent Characters” “Remarkable Storytelling” “A Tribulation of Yesteryear” “Vivid Enticing Characters” “An Absorbing Page Turner of a Novel” “Realistic Dialogue” “The fictional family is made up of flesh-and-blood characters. They laugh, love, argue, fight, and have adulterous affairs” “A Tumultuous Love Story”  “An Epic Family Saga”
A number of things you must realize about self publishing: (1) You must pay to have the book edited.  (2)  If you are not artistically inclined, you will have to have the cover designed.  (3) You have to do 100% of the selling yourself, but you will have to do that even if you are published by a major New York publisher or a small independent publisher.

What about promotion?  How do you do it?
Unlike a product in a store where you can touch it, see it and try it on, readers only get a taste of books from blurbs, excerpts and reviews, and they are getting more and more savvy about the value of those smidgens.  Many are reluctant to take a chance on an unknown author at $15.00 for a trade paperback to $26.00 for a hard cover.
Enter the e-book for 99 cents to $4.99 as well as many free books.  The amount of time to promote an e-book is the same as for a print book, but it’s far easier to get a reader to take a chance on a new author at these lower prices.

I have sold the most books after reviews and interviews on a blog such as Patty’s.  Also, there are many interactive sites on the internet where you can join the discussions.  Like all advertising, repetition is the key.  Keep your name in front of readers by participating in those discussions.  Sooner or later people will say, let me try one of his/her books.
Be cautious about paying for promotion.  There are many sites that charge to promote books.  Some work, some don’t.  Before you spend money to promote your book, join Yahoo and
Facebook author sites.  Ask the authors their experience with the site you are considering paying to advertise your book.

Self publishing can be rewarding if you are HONEST with yourself.  If you feel you have a good book and a marketing plan to sell the book, go for it. Don’t let the “mavens” in the publishing trade discourage you.  And now with the rapid growth of e-readers like Kindle and Nook, you have fabulous venues to sell you book.

Richard Brawer lives in NJ with his wife, Ruth.  He is the author of six books, four of which he self published.  His latest novel, Keiretsu, will be out the end of September.  Read about all Richard’s books at:  www.silklegacy.com