Friday, August 31, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER: Denise M. Hartman

                                    More Fun Than Ever
                                    Denise M. Hartman

In grade school, I loved to read. In fifth grade, my teacher had a group of us write a play. We wrote a mystery and I realized that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. I’ve been playing with words and phrases and story lines ever since. I was never good at math anyway, so it was a good fit.

As happens often for writers, everyone told me I needed a day job. So when I went to university, I went into communications/journalism so I could eat rather than pursuing my first love of fiction.

The great thing about doing a bout as a reporter is that it teaches you to write on deadline and without waiting for inspiration. It also helps you pound out the mythical million words it supposedly takes to become a good writer. As a reporter, I did my own photography and film development (I give some of my age away there), and we each had a section of the paper to layout on paper boards – not on computer monitors. Who knew these skills would continue to serve me well?

I started several books that got interrupted and not finished. One a friend still asks me about the ending she never got to read. Jobs came and went. I worked in television production, marketing, art direction, freelance writing and design.

I wrote everything I could get paid for and some that I didn’t, but finally buckled down to follow my heart, even if I had to squeeze it into life. I discovered I LOVE writing a first draft. It’s like watching a movie unfold in my mind’s eye. That’s my favorite part of the authorial process.

I gave up on finding an agent for my first completed book and started working on a second book. This one I knew was a good story and my writer’s group approved of it. I was more optimistic but again the agents’ responses were disappointing form letters.

During this same time period, I was working a day job for a tiny publishing house. Tiny as in me and one other guy (the one who picked or wrote books). I knew how to layout a book. I knew how to do graphic design projects required for a book. I knew how to get bids to take a book to press.  It was oh so tempting to do it myself, but this was pre-ebook. We were talking about some serious cash outlay and this was not a time in my life I had that kind of cash. I knew in my heart I had the skill set, but I wanted the big publisher kind of book.

Life interrupted my writing life again, but I rewrote the second book, Killed in Kruger, until it was a finely tuned creation. During this time I watched in fascination as first the music industry and then the publishing industry disintegrated and something entirely new and different rose from the ashes. To a large extent it’s still happening in publishing. I knew I had the skills to do a book on my own. I’d been paid to do it for others. Why not indie publishing in a new publishing atmosphere?

I watched and researched the changing publishing world and taught myself the ebook process by releasing some of my previously published short stories last year. (Dying to Diet and Snow Slayer). I spent a small chunk of change on a professional editor and this year I released Killed in Kruger, a suspense novel set in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

I recently told a writer friend from my group that I’ve had way more fun publishing and trying to get my head around marketing my ebooks than I did in all the years of getting rejections letters from New York City.

It seems all the jobs I’ve had through the years were preparing me for this time. So now I not only do I get to see the movie in my head as I write the books, I also get to make sure the marketing looks like I imagined. What fun.

Denise's background in journalism and television production has influenced her writing style and habits, while living overseas for several years, currently in Madrid, Spain, gives Denise's imagination new sites and sounds for her mysteries on a day in and out basis. She is a member of Sisters In Crime, including having been the president of her hometown Kansas City Partners in Crime chapter. Denise has a passion for reading, books, travel, dogs, tea, and teapots not necessarily in that order. Her short stories and novel, Killed in Kruger are available now in ebook and will be in print coming this fall.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Even Born in the Eye of the Hurricane

......Born and raised in Florida doesn't mean you become immune to the devastation a hurricane or even a strong tropical storm can bring you, your home and to your family and friends.

Hurricane Isaac is bearing down on us. Strong winds and torrential rain is expected. We may lose power.

The only thing "living in the eye of storms" prepares you for is to be prepared. That is what all of us are concentrating on.....making sure we are all prepared as are our families and friends.

Friday, August 17, 2012

GUEST BLOGGER: Kate Christie

                                                    Queering Austen: The Perfect Storm
I came to Jane Austen late in life. Actually, I came to reading the classics a bit later than most writers probably do. In high school in the ’80s, my experiences with The Literary Canon were nearly always shadowed by a sense of disconnect I can now trace not only to the gender, class, and time period of the characters about whom these assorted novels and plays had been written, but also their sexuality. The world reflected within the literature we studied at Kalamazoo Central High School matched the outer world in a very specific way—everyone appeared to be straight, with barely a hint of same-sex attraction.
As I noted in a previous blogpost (, queer characters do, of course, exist in Western literature, just as we have always existed in real, non-literary life. But in most cases, you have to read between the lines quite literally in order to uncover the same-sex attraction alluded to by necessarily closeted writers—Willa Cather and Sarah Orne Jewett, for example. While the act of searching out subcultural cues can be an entertaining pastime, at some point coded invisibility gets old.
My second grade teacher helpfully informed my parents that I was queer, but I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until the grand age of ten. By the time I started college, I was fed up with studying novels and stories that didn’t reflect my experience. Rather than major in English, as I knew I was supposed to do if I wanted to become A Real Writer, I opted for Women’s Studies. My chosen department gave me two important things: a pin for my backpack that read, “I study women in a major way,” and the chance to take classes in a variety of disciplines, from Psychology and Political Science to Comparative Literature and History. Lots and lots of women’s history classes, as it turned out, for that was where my real interest lay.
In a way, it makes utter sense for a writer to study history, particularly social history that focuses on the everyday lives of ordinary people, rather than on politics, rich and powerful men, or wars. Social historians focus on primary sources: first-hand accounts like letters, diaries, and autobiographical writings. These are often the only resources available for a group of people who have historically lacked power or visibility—such as women and queers.
After college, I went off into the world armed with my liberal arts degree and temped my way into a career as a technical and web content writer. A dozen years out, dissatisfied with my unlooked-for business career, I decided to go back to school. Only this time, I actually went for an English degree. I had written a handful of novels by then, but wasn’t happy with any of them. It was time to study fiction-writing—and reading—in earnest.
Grad school was eye-opening. The classics were still as heterosexist as I remembered, and English theory even more so, but my reading list included Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Louise Erdrich, in addition to the usual dead white guys. Reading literary classics and studying the craft of writing provided me with the technical skills and, more importantly, the confidence to revise my favorite shelved novel and send it off to Bella Books. Solstice was accepted in 2009. Leaving L.A., written for NaNoWriMo, and Beautiful Game, another formerly shelved novel, followed. Finally, I was A Real Writer with a website and a blog and everything.
So how did I end up indie publishing Gay P&P? Last year, my wife and I were blessed with the birth of our daughter, Alex. She is wonderful and fantastic and all the superlatives I knew I would come up with even before she joined our family. The lack of sleep, however, along with the crazy schedule of new parenting put a dent in my writing schedule. I used to write at night, but these days, with parenting and my day job in academia, I am usually too tired to summon the energy to delve into any fictional worlds.
For a while now, I’ve wanted to try my hand at a queer version of Pride & Prejudice. Last fall, I decided to take the leap, reasoning that tweaking Austen’s seminal romance novel would be less time-consuming than writing something new of my own. I was right—it only took three weeks to produce the first draft, given that I added a mere 10,000 words to the awesome original.
As a semi-reformed techie, I’ve also long been intrigued by the idea of coding ebooks. So while waiting for beta reader response to the first draft of GP&P, I read up on the ePub format and downloaded template files from CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD print service. Once I received beta feedback, I revised Gay P&P several times and, using CreateSpace and a text editor, produced print and ePub versions of the novel. I used Calibre to convert my ePub file to Kindle, tested the electronic formats on a variety of devices—Sony eReader, multiple Kindles, and the B&N Nook—updated my website, and sent Gay P&P live on March 23, the 13-month anniversary of our daughter’s birth.
Looking back, Gay P&P for me was the perfect intellectual and artistic storm: Through this one book, I was able to blend my interests in fiction and history; try my hand at POD publishing; satisfy my techie side with actual coding and multiple new software downloads; gratify the amateur graphic artist in me by designing the book cover; and assume complete creative and editorial control of a writing project I had been kicking around for years.
Would a publishing house have accepted Gay P&P? It’s possible. Did I learn oodles and enjoy the challenge of bringing the book out on my own? Absolutely. Was I terrified in the moments before, during, and after I sent the book live on Amazon? You better believe it. But overall, writing and self-publishing Gay P&P was a journey the rest of my adult life, including my accidental career in the software industry, just happened to perfectly prepare me for.
Before I close off, let me say thank you to Patty for offering me a guest spot on her blog. As a fan and writer of lesbian historical fiction, she was the kind of reader I had in mind when I first conceived of writing Gay P&P. So when I first saw her encouraging reviews of my efforts on Amazon and various lesfic lists, I was not only flattered but happy that someone other than me and a handful of friends might appreciate the queering of an adored classic of English literature.
A few readers have asked what’s next in my long-range goal of Queering the Western Literary Canon. Honestly, I can’t decide between Austen’s Emma and the eminently queer Little Women. I suppose it’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it…

Friday, August 10, 2012


Over the last several months, as e-publishing has picked up pace and become, more and more, a viable way for a writer to get work to readers, debates have sprung up. There's even been some rancor, as some writers are bitterly opposed to e-publishing and want only paper books. Other writers sneer at the paper book camp and swear e-publishing is the only way to go.

This is all mixed up with traditional publishing through an agent, publishing with a small press, and self-publishing. The latter is gaining respectability because of the greater ease of doing so, and the lure of profits without the middleman. The small presses are springing up in response to belt-tightening at the top, the Big Houses. It's all so intermixed.

I guess I'm on my way to being in all camps at once. I couldn't possibly argue for or against any of these methods. I'm trying all of them.

To explain, here's my situation:

(1) I'm currently working on a proposal for my agent (Kim Lionetti of BookEnds) that she hopes to sell to one of the traditional New York guys, Berkley. If and when that happens, you are going to hear screams of joy from one happy camper down here in Hubbard, TX (near Waco, if you've never heard of it--and I'd be shocked if you had).

(2) Just yesterday, a small press, Barking Rain Press, accepted the first novel in my Cressa Carraway series. This book has been a long time coming and I'm ecstatic that it's seeing the light of day. The tentative schedule in my contract is awesome and a book should happen very soon. This is my second experience with a small press. The first one gave me my first shot at being published in novel form and also enabled my Agatha nomination for that book. Talk about over the moon!

(3) When I left that first publisher, who had never taken the e-book rights for some reason, I was able to redo and self-publish the same book(CHOKE), then self-publish the second in the series (SMOKE). I intend to get the third one, BROKE, out in October. This has been terrific fun, being in complete control of the text and the cover, and being able to check numbers, raise and lower prices, and give copies away on blogs.

(4) To muddy the waters, I'll bring up my digital-only publisher, Untreed Reads. I have some things published with them and some of my self-published works distributed there. This is enabling my work to reach way more people than I could get to on my own, especially libraries.

All good experiences! I've refrained from using many, many exclamation points above, but I was tempted. I'd say every form of publishing had its downside and its upside. Since I'm so new to all of it, having just been published now in novels for a bit over a year, it's hard to end up endorsing or recommending any one way. I know I'll continue to bang on all the doors I can find.

I'd highly encourage writers who are trying to break in to decide what would fit for them, then go for it. Self-publishing, of course, gives you the greatest control and requires the most work. The traditional route gets you onto book shelves not otherwise accessible. Small press, being the middle ground, will do you edits and covers for you and gets you onto bookshelves if you work at it, but doesn't give you complete control.

I hope these descriptions and explanations are some help to some fellow writers. If you have any questions for me, I'll be more than happy to try to answer them. So many writers have helped me along the way!

Author Web site:
Author's Den

Friday, August 3, 2012

Summer Blogs Continue

Hope everyone is enjoying the parade of indie published authors presented here at The Henderson Files for the summer. Next week will welcome a brand new author so please keep checking back weekly all the way through September because I've lined up some exciting authors such as Kaye George, Peg Brantley, Kate Christie, Juli D. Revezzo, Denise M. Hartman, Jolene Naiadis Dawe and more.

Thanks for visiting. And if you want to keep updated, make sure and subscribe or become a follower.