Friday, February 28, 2014
"This book was awesome! I loved everything about it."
"Surprising twists...emotions from happiness to anger to sadness."
The Book Owl Extraordinaire has reviewed Hope's Rebellion. Read the entire review to find out why the book got an A+ rating!
This is the last day of the Free Love, Free Words event. Go to Smashwords now to get your copy of the book for free while you still can! All you need is the code WQ47M.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
I'm crafty by nature, so the letters DIY never frighten me. But for others, it's a terrifying prospect to create a book from scratch and market it to the masses. The popularity of self-publishing has led to a wide availability of services geared toward indie authors. At some point, you may be tempted to hire someone to publish your book for you. I'm here to tell you not to do that.
The moment you begin writing out that idea which has taken root in your imagination, it stops being yours. After you write your manuscript and turn it into a book and share it with anyone, it will become something different. That book will never look to readers the same way it looks inside your head. You're the only one who will ever really understand that book, everything about why you wrote it and what it means.
That's why you're the best person to turn that manuscript into a book that others can read. Believe me, this is not going to feel like the most attractive option when you're in the thick of it -- but it still remains the best.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
You know about the hard work that goes into writing a book, and you probably have some idea of what you'll need to do as an indie author. But there are lots of little things you need to know that lots of people skip over -- until today.
Details, Details, Details
Little things matter, but as an author you're expected to be detail-oriented. So don't forget about all the little things that can help you on your journey, and don't neglect those details.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Don't we all have an image of the brilliant genius? The Vincent Van Gogh, locked away in a room, painting masterpieces furiously in order to work through all this issues? The Sylvia Plath, writing brilliantly of suicide just before ending her own life? But at some point, doesn't behavior take a step beyond the eccentric and into the insane? Is it creative...or is it just crazy?
There Are Quirks, and Then There Are Quirks
T.S. Eliot was a highly successful writer, best known as a critic, poet and playwright. He was somewhat less well-known as an incredible eccentric. Allegedly, Eliot lived above a publishing house but rented a room at another business. Here, he answered only to the name "the Captain" and once inside his room painted his face green so he would resemble a corpse.
Monday, February 24, 2014
So you want to write a bestseller, right? Want to do a book signing in public? Have fans? Maybe even appear on one of those talk shows? Look at the statistics and pay attention to what sells, and you'll see that the non-fiction market is (always) booming. So here's what you need to figure out: can you write non-fiction?
Real vs. Imagined
Because I can't...not really, anyway. This is sort of a shame, since in my day job I'm required to write non-fiction for many hours on end. Lately I have been getting a lot of feedback about the need to incorporate myself more into these articles, add personal anecdotes and whatnot. I've written, at some length, about my great inability to actually do this.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Since the first ensign handed the first captain the first datapad on Star Trek, I wanted one. Amazon made that fantasy a reality when they unveiled their Kindle, the device that changed the book market. And today, at last, I think we're all ready to say good-bye to paper books for ever.
Well, maybe not all of us. But ebooks are definitely here to stay, and they're getting more popular all the time. The ebook market continues to grow, and more writers are coming out of the shadows to self-publish their own stories.
At the end of 2012, 23 percent of adults had read an ebook. At the end of 2013, it was up to 28 percent. Now, about 4 percent of people read ebooks exclusively and never sully their hands with paper volumes. Bookstores offering paper books continue to go out of business all around the world. But there are also less blacksmiths these days because fewer people are riding horses.
Because the lessening popularity of paper books hasn't affected readership. Around 76 percent of adults in the United States read a book in the last year, with the typical adult reading about 5 books per year. Meanwhile, ebook sales are up at digital bookstores.
The age of paper books is over, and I'm totally ready. Beam me up, Scotty.
Saturday, February 22, 2014
I found out accidentally that Where the Heart Is began its life as a book first. Until I was randomly searching for information on Wikipedia one day, I thought it was just a pretty good Natalie Portman film. Then I learned it's actually a really amazing story.
Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts, was published in 1995. It became a film after Oprah singled it out as a Book Club selection.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
Ernest Hemingway did not describe his characters, and his fame never suffered for it. So do looks matter, and should you or shouldn't you include them in your books?
Let's Get Physical
Anne Shirley has red hair. It's an important part of her book series, and something everyone knows about her. In this case, hair is a big part off the story. But I've read many others where the looks of the main character didn't much matter...and they were included anyway.
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Have you ever looked at those images of the proper typing position? It's some weird guy sitting straight up with his elbows bent just so and his wrists arched just right and who the heck has ever written a novel from this position? I've had one knee up, both legs crossed, two feet propped up and I'm not at all above completely laying down while typing. How do you write...and how strange are you for doing it that way?
According to legend, Virginia Woolf wrote standing up. It's because of a lifelong rivalry with her sister, who was an artist. Virginia didn't want her sister to say she had the more difficult job. There are lots of weird ways to write. Do you use one of them?
Jack Kerouac wrote all of On the Road on pieces of paper he taped together to create one massive scroll. This method actually did have a function, as odd as it sounds. Using one sheet of paper allowed him to work quickly without changing the paper in the typewriter. It's just too bad he didn't have Google Drive.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
"If you, like me, loved her Deck of Lies series, you MUST read this one."
"Anyone with a mature point of view, love for clever stories and in search for a good book should read it."
Hope's Rebellion has been reviewed at Reading...Dreaming, friend to the blog but brutally truthful when it comes to books.
Read the whole review to find out why you should get your free copy of the book before the end of February. Go to Smashwords with the code WQ47M to get it in any electronic format.
When it comes to historical stories, I'm a bit of a purist. I want every single detail to be accurate to the time period, and that's it. But lots of people do not agree with me. Many storytellers are doing very well by rewriting history. So when will it be okay for you to do it, too?
Anything Quentin Tarantino Can Do, I Can Do Better
After all, if Disney can change the tale of Pocahontas and Tarantino can change the outcome of World War II, it's okay if I write a book about Queen Elizabeth living as a secret lesbian -- right?
The appropriate term for this sort of thing is historical revisionism, and it's been happening since history was written down. Some scholars argue, in fact, that all history as we know it today has been rewritten with time. Isn't it the winners who get to tell the story of the battle? So if all history is a little bit suspect, why can't I turn a former President into a killer of supernatural beasts?
Monday, February 17, 2014
I've written posts about finding your audience, figuring out your characters and working out your plot. But I've failed to address one of the fundamental issues I struggle with almost every day: who am I? If you're an author and lots of other things besides, you may also struggle with this very basic query.
If This is Belgium, It Must Be Tuesday
For me, the issue is probably a little more convoluted than most. I was born with a name, like most people, and got pretty used to it over the years. I'm a modern gal, but at his request I took my husband's name upon our marriage, so I acquired another name at this time. I earn my bread as a freelance writer by day, and for this I use a pen name. It's different from the pen name I'm using right now, which is the one I've reserved for certain self-publishing endeavors. I'm about to acquire another pen name for my day job (long story). So if I get a phone call, I have to clearly establish to whom the person wants to speak before I know who the heck I'm supposed to be.
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Aching to get on the Amazon bestseller list? Despite the title, the view isn't really so much better from the top of the heap. According to a new report, the authors on that list aren't even making federal minimum wage.
Money, Money, Money
In fact, you'd earn more money (now) as a full-time government employee than as an Amazon bestselling author. Hugh Howey released a report detailing the actual earnings of Amazon's indie and self-published authors. He studied 3,439 authors responsible for the 7,000 bestsellers listed on Amazon. These are books that sell more than one copy daily. Only 944 of them were earning more than $58 per day, which is the amount you'd receive working 8 hours per day at federal minimum wage earnings of $7.25.
It's not very promising, but other numbers-crunchers argue that this is just a glimpse of a small piece of the big picture. Publishing is changing quickly now, and self-publishing is becoming more of a force in the industry.
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Frances Hodgson Burnett, one of the greatest children's book authors of all time, first conceived of "A Little Princess" way, way back in 1888. It got its lasting title and became a novel in 1905. A few years later, it became an iconic Shirley Temple film. And many years after that, I became familiar with the tale. It's still one of my favorites.
A Little Princess was serialized before it became a book. When the story was complete near the turn of the century, it was revised and richer in content. The book follows Sara Crewe, who is 7, as she arrives at Miss Mincin's boarding school in London. Sara is the only child of the well-to-do Captain Crewe. The two have been residing in India, but now it's time to go to school.
She fits in well with the other girls at the school, delighting them with tales of India. They begin calling her "a little princess" because she's ladylike and has lived such a lavish lifestyle. But Sara is not snobbish despite her upbringing. She becomes friends with the school's misfits: Ermegarde, who is not regarded as intelligent; Lottie, a very young student; and Becky, a scullery maid.
Tragedy strikes when Captain Crewe is killed in a mining accident and subsequent business troubles render his estate very poor on funds indeed. Miss Minchin realizes she won't be reimbursed for the money she's spent on Sara since the last check, and puts the girl to work in the school as a servant instead.
Wearing the mean black dress she's been given, Sara is forced to work to earn her keep at the school. Living next door to Becky, Sara runs errands, teaches other students and engages in all sorts of chores. One night a pet monkey finds its way into Sara's room, and she becomes acquainted with a man named Ram Dass who lives next door. Sara begins to receive food and other small comforts, and she shares them with Becky generously.
Upon actually going next door to return the monkey, Sara meets Mr. Carrisford. He's her father's former business partner and he's been searching for her. At the end of the story, Sara's fortune is restored and she will be the daughter of Carrisford from now on. Becky is invited to come along as Sara's attendant.
It's a fine happy ending...but I must admit to liking the movie ending much, much better.
The movie was made in 1939, which some have said was the best year for film in history. It starred Shirley Temple, then the must-have child star, and it was her first to be shot completely in Technicolor. It's currently in the public domain, which means it's free to watch.
The plot is changed around a bit, and this is one of the rare instances where I believe the changes actually improved the story. This time around, Captain Crewes has been called up to serve in the Second Boer War. This gives us a tangible reason for why he's ditching his young daughter in London.
Sara is given a hobby, horseback riding, and the appropriate animal to go with it. She lives at the school as a princess for much less time on film (because years go by in the book, and Shirley Temple just wasn't going to grow that quickly), receiving word that her father has died shortly after her arrival. His real estate has been confiscated, and that's why Sara is so poor this time.
Sara is again turned into a servant, but quickly strikes up her relationship with next door neighbor Ram Dass. She doesn't believe her father is really dead, so Sara spends all her free time combing through the hospitals. A few musical numbers speed the film along, and then Miss Minchin visits Sara's attic room. Here she discovers edible treats, rich blankets and other lavish gifts that Ram Dass has provided. Miss Minchin instantly believes Sara has stolen all the goods and locks her in the attic. Sara escapes and runs to the hospital.
An unknown man is at the hospital today, and viewers see it as Sara runs around trying to escape detection. It's Captain Crewe, but he has no papers and some sort of brain trauma whereby he has no memory. Also at the hospital today is none other than Queen Victoria herself, who meets Sara and actually grants her permission to search for her missing father. The actress really looks like the real Queen, and the addition of so grand a character is one of my favorite aspects of the adaptation.
Will Sara find her father, go work for the Queen or get captured by Miss Minchin and the police? You'll have to see the film in order to find out. Temple is an adorable dynamo who unfailingly carries all major scenes of the movie. This adaptation (the only one I'm prepared to acknowledge) does vary from the original book, so you'll have to enjoy both to truly experience the story.
Temple passed away just a few days ago at age 85. She began her film career in 1932 and remained active in the industry until 1949. She is, arguably, the most famous child actress of all time. Watch her in "A Little Princess," and you'll know how she earned this legacy.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
"The writing in this novel was superb. It was sophisticated, and witty, and engaging, and incredibly eloquent."
"I have no words to describe how phenomenal this book was written. Every little tiny detail had a purpose, and it all comes together in such a way that, at the end, your mind is completely blown."
Hope's Rebellion is featured at Book Butterfly reviews! Check out the full review to find out why the reader didn't want to read this story at all...and why they're happy they decided to do it, anyway.
You can get the book for FREE at Smashwords. Just use the code WQ47M to get your copy in any electronic format.
As an indie author, it's a good idea if you write frequently so you can publish often and keep readers interested in your work. But it's not necessary. What's even more important than writing? Consistent marketing.
My Girl Likes to Market All the Time
I may be taking a somewhat controversial stance on this issue, of this I am aware. Some may say what's a writer without the writing? But that may be wrong. Writers do not have to be prolific in order to be successful. I know I bring her up all the time, but I must point again to Margaret Mitchell. She wrote only one book. But after "Gone With the Wind," where is there to go? Jane Austen wrote a mere 6 books.
If you write great books, you don't necessarily have to write a ton of books. But you will have to do a ton of marketing, even if you only write one book. The key to being an indie author isn't in the amount of marketing you do. It's that you do it consistently.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
I'm all for being artistic, and I personally consider myself a "creative type." I like irony and I appreciate authors who want to create a title that will instantly grab readers. But when you knowingly give your book a title that directly contradicts the content of the book, readers are going to get aggravated with you. Some may even give up on you. When it comes to titling your book, literal really is better...and mismatched titles really aren't a good idea.
By Any Other Name...
Don't believe me? Fine, then don't believe me. Believe Shakespeare, truly one of the most prolific, famous and enduring storytellers in human history. Think about the names of his most famous works. Romeo & Juliet, Henry V, MacBeth, The Taming of the Shrew. Suppose that Romeo & Juliet had been about an old church named St. Pat's instead. It wouldn't make much sense, would it? You'd be pretty put-out if you went to the theater expecting to learn about Romeo and Juliet, only to find they aren't in the story at all -- wouldn't you?
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
I'm in a toxic relationship. It's not easy to admit or to talk about, but there it is. I have such a bad relationship that it seeps into everything I do...and almost everything I write. And as a writer who's having this toxic relationship, it's impossible for me to write about this relationship without giving readers a skewed, distorted viewpoint. But I know that I can't fix this toxic relationship...so I've found a way to make it work with my writing. If you have a personal issue or some strange quirk, you can't ignore it. You can't write around it. All you can do is embrace it...just like I have.
The Girl with the Most Cake
Those of you who follow my colleague Annalisa Crawford may be aware that I've been engaged in a battle with my toxic relationship for years. I am winning, but not without casualties. My toxic relationship is with food. We've been having a torrid love-hate relationship since...well, perhaps since I was born. Me and food just can't love each other the way we want to, and so we find ourselves constantly at odds instead.
Monday, February 10, 2014
I'm one of those writers who figured out what I wanted to do very early. Age 9, to be exact. I didn't start doing my own writing right away, however. I read a lot first, and penned (literally) my first short story at 11. What can I say? I'm the type who learns best from hands-on experience. Back when I was 11, I set a goal for myself that seemed incredibly reasonable at the time. I told myself I would be a published author by the age of 18.
It was a perfectly logical plan...for an 11-year-old. I'm past the age of 18 now, good and past it really, and sometimes I still find myself setting ridiculous goals for no reason other than to make myself feel like a failure.
I mean, that's probably not why I do it. I don't think I actually set myself up to fail, but this is almost always the case. I didn't get published before 18. I didn't get published before 20. It took me years to get published, and even longer to learn that getting published isn't nearly enough. You have to keep getting published, and selling books, and you have to do it a lot.
Sunday, February 9, 2014
Next month, the Sony ebook store will no longer exist. Sony's Reader Store titles will be automatically transferred to Kobo. Well, most of them. Some of them. When it comes to self-published ebooks...the issue gets a little muddy. How will this switch affect your books and your readers?
Through the new deal, some smartphones and Sony's entire line of tablets will now carry the Kobo app instead of the Reader Store app. The books in reader libraries are supposed to switch over. But what about self-published authors who have opted into Sony and/or Kobo through Smashwords?
According to a Sony representative's comments to Good e-Reader, ebooks purchased through Sony's Reader Store will transfer right to Kobo. Magazines and periodicals won't transfer, but Kobo already as a large library of these available to readers. Customers who transfer their libraries to Kobo will receive info about which titles didn't transfer, and why.
Self-published Smashwords books won't transfer automatically. The ePub files themselves won't be transferred, but Sony says that the digital identifiers for ebooks will still be available. This allows readers to find their self-published books in the Kobo library. Books distributed from Smashwords to Sony but not to Kobo will not transfer.
To make your books more readily available, opt in to Kobo through Smashwords. This will allow your books to be listed and accessible to Sony readers.
Thursday, February 6, 2014
"An impeccably written story about three young women in a society where status is determined by hair color. This is a fast pace novel for a dystopian fantasy and one that I highly recommend."
"For the first 95% of the novel I couldn’t read fast enough. For the last 5% I couldn’t read slow enough. I’m sorry to say goodbye to three unforgettable protagonists."
Or better yet, stop. It's easy to get caught up in the business of being an indie author. You'll get overwhelmed with writing goals, blogging commitments, review requests, reading forums, using social media, editing and all the other stuff that goes into self-publishing. If you don't slow down every once in a while, you're going to stifle all your own creativity. And I should know. I have all kinds of trouble with slowing down.
Is It Really Writer's Block?
I published a book recently, so naturally I'm back at work on a new manuscript. The only trouble is, I've been stuck in the same spot for...well, for longer than I'd like to admit. And the other day, I realized exactly why that is: I haven't stopped doing stuff long enough to figure out the next scene. I've been baking and cleaning and exercising and working and doing, doing, doing every single spare second.
Of course I can't figure out my story. I haven't spent any time just thinking. Sometimes you have to do nothing just to get your mind working. It's into these empty spaces that creativity wanders.
So slow down. Stop doing things, and take a little while just to think. This is where creativity appears...and you can always make time for that.
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Are stories the oldest known form of art created by mankind? Possibly. It predates writing and, anthropologists believe, even cave paintings. Before man learned how to paint his stories on the wall, he probably spoke them around the fire. Maybe even before they knew there was fire. Storytelling is so very old, there's no way to know how really old it is. And if you're an author, or want to be, you're a part of that proud tradition.
Super Ancient Storytelling
Storytelling has been a part of most ancient and modern cultures who have inhabited the Earth. Before writing was invented, stories could be told through pictures and symbolism. Images were carved into wood, bone, rock, leaves, tablets and on fabric before it was put on paper.
When you think about it, storytelling is still everywhere. Movies, TV shows, even video games tell a story. Songs tell stories. Even a single tweet may tell an entire story. (Example: Woke up. Felt sick. Went back to bed).
Storytelling may be as old as man himself (homo sapiens have existed for about 5 million years). Writing is a bit newer than that...but it changed storytelling for ever.
Images that represented fragements of a story evolved from the first oral tales. From these images, writing began to develop. Each letter, or symbol, stands for letters or a series of letters (depending on the writing). Thanks to this art form, another was preserved in immortality: storytelling.
The first writing came into reality only about 10 thousand years ago, and was highly pictorial in nature with complex symbols. The oldest writings (that have survived) were put into stone so that they would last...and some of them did. This is because even ancient cultures recognized the need to preserve their stories, a practice that mankind still enjoys with great passion.
Clay tablets became the popular method for preserving writing a little later, about 5 thousand years ago. But really, we have the ancient Egyptians to thank for inventing the modern-day book. They created papyrus, the first paper, and used thin sheets of material to preserve their writings. Egyptians even invented the first quill pens: they used sharpened reeds and bird feathers as writing tools. Egyptians put together the very first papyrus books, which were really long scrolls.
China invented their own form of paper, and actually printed their own books to spread more writings among its people. Rome produced books as early as 1 BC. In fact, ancient Rome had libraries as early as 377.
Storytelling is an art that mankind has been practicing for thousands, maybe millions, of years. And like any art form, it can never be perfected. It can only become more modern, and continue to evolve. After all, you wouldn't draw your stories on a cave wall...and those ancient storytellers wouldn't have conceived of a way to tweet about their books. So remember that you're an artist, and like any good artist you have to find what works best for you in terms of storytelling. Be proud. You're a part of a long history.
Tuesday, February 4, 2014
For obvious reasons, I go in search of writing and self-publishing tips all the time. I need all the help I can get, for starters, and it's always useful to see what others are writing about. What I've found is this: everyone seems to know exactly what it takes to be successful at self-publishing. They all know the big secret.
Big Book Sales
Yes, it's out there! The big secret to book sales...and it's everywhere. Buy this book, click that link, read this thing and you'll discover the secret. The trouble is, everyone has a different answer -- and often, a complex series of steps you need to follow to go with it.
But it really isn't a secret that to sell any product, you have to market it. And the very best form of marketing is, and always has been, word of mouth. So here's the real secret to selling books: getting someone who loves that book to talk about it. If you can do that, you're going to sell books.
Monday, February 3, 2014
Jon Stewart, who happens to be the most popular late night host, drops F-bombs on his TV show nightly. It gets beeped out of course, but the audience loves it and he's very good at it. Lots of people use expletives regularly when speaking. Doesn't that mean they should also be appearing in your books?
Four Little Letters
Gone With the Wind was controversial because it contained the word "damn." When the movie was made in 1939, "damn" was taken out of the script. Clark Gable insisted upon using the original dialogue, so the word made it into the film. Hollywood, and authors, have been pushing the envelope on what's considered acceptable in language ever since. I guess we have Margaret Mitchell to blame for our loss of literary innocence.
Or from another point of view, we have her to thank. Writing with expletives is so widely-done now, many people don't even think about it while they're reading those words. But others do notice, and that's why you always have to think about it when you're using them in your books.
Sunday, February 2, 2014
So, maybe self-pubishers and traditional publishers really can't get along after all. It seems that indies really are at war with traditional publishing...so I guess it's time for you to get out your battle paint and keyboards.
Deep Inside the Literary World
Indie authors are starting to speak out against the publishing industry and, apparently, the Authors Guild. It started with an article written about author Jennifer Weiner, and then more authors began to chime in from their personal blogs and other available platforms.
The gist of the argument is that traditional publishers and even their authors are shunning the self-published, and indies don't care for the treatment they're getting. One writer even accused traditionally published authors of being self-serving, and turning a cold shoulder to the indie community for personal gain (what he actually said is that authors and publishers are in bed together, but that's a pretty graphic metaphor).
Saturday, February 1, 2014
I wrote a blog post recently about the importance of books and reading, and making these things more widely available. So I'm putting my money where my keyboard is, and I'm going to spend February spreading my love of reading. Around here, Valentine's Day lasts all month long. So all month long, you can get my newest book for free!
It's the Free Love, Free Words event, and it ends on February 28. My newest book, Hope's Rebellion, is the Book of the Month over at Goodreads so now is the perfect time for a month-long giveaway. To get your copy, download the book in any format at Smashwords. Use the code WQ47M to get the book at a 100% discount (FREE!).
Groundhog Day is a film that doesn't really fit this category, though it is a movie based on a story...and perhaps it's based on more then one story. Either way, this movie tells a good story. Even if it is the same story over and over and over...
If you haven't seen Groundhog Day, I don't even want you to read this post. Go and watch it and then crawl out of that cave you're living in because how? This movie is a true cult classic and it's earned every single cable broadcast it's ever been given.
The amazing Bill Murray stars as weatherman Phil Connors, whose unfortunate duty it is to cover the famed Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Yes it's a real place and yes, they have a huge festival every year (at Gobbler's Knob) in order to watch a groundhog climb out of his hole. The movie does a fair job of showing this event (despite the fact that the movie was not filmed in Pennsylvania anywhere).