Self-Publishing Expo: My Impressions

This year, I made the decision to become fully self-published under my company, Sagido Publishing and I recently released the 2nd book in the 7 Scorpions Trilogy, 7 Scorpions: Revolution under said label. I made this decision knowing that there are, unfortunately, many self published books that are garbage and us Indie Authors have to work that much harder to show that we are the real deal. That’s fine, I don’t mind a challenge, it keeps things moving and keeps us on our toes.

Worth It

When I made the decision to do this, I also decided that I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that what I published would at least be of the quality that a large publisher would put out (of course, seeing what some of them are publishing, that wasn’t the stretch I thought it would be). One of the steps was to attend the Self Publishing Expo in New York City back in October. I attended with a friend and fellow author of the Last Witch Series, Liz Kolodziej. For the price tag of $125, I figured it was worth scoping out but I will admit to not having high expectations going in.

emergency

I attended three presentations (Liz and I each attended different ones so we could compare notes, the whole divide and conquer). The first one was presented by a representative from Lulu, which is a company that offers services to self-publishing authors. Interestingly enough, the presenter had a Macbook and the projector was not set up to interface with it so I let him use my netbook for his presentation (probably should have had a Plan B but I don’t mind lending a hand). To be honest, it was probably a good thing because I would have left within the first 15 minutes if I hadn’t lent it to him. The first half of the presentation was really about the company and, though some of the history was interesting, it was really irrelevant to what I was there for. The second half, however, became interesting. Apparently, LuLu has decided to open up their platform to programmers who wish to create apps (not just web based apps but also iPhone, Blackberry, and Android apps) by releasing an API (Application Programming Interface). What’s nice about this is that you can use their services and distribution with your own apps. The power behind this is really cool. There are more details on their site so check it out. There are plenty of phone app developers out there who don’t charge all that much if you wanted to go this route. I actually had some ideas as a result of this but they don’t have anything to do with my sci-fi publishing.

Donotwakemeup

The next presentation I went to was the complete opposite. The first half was good, the second half I ended up leaving because I almost fell asleep. Literally. I was actually going to be grumpy if someone woke me up, hence the pic above. It was a panel discussion. Typically these are good but two things went against it:

  1. Has anyone ever told you that there is no such thing as a stupid question? Well they lied. There are stupid questions, and, like a lot of panel discussions, this one was plagued by them. They weren’t ignorant questions, I can deal with those. They were questions that could have been answered if the people had listened to the presenter in the first place. That pisses me off.
  2. The majority of what the presenters were saying was either them patting themselves on the back for a job well done, or information that is available on about 1000000000000000000000 different blogs out there.

It wasn’t all bad though. Some of what I heard was nice, simply because I’m already doing it so it was good confirmation that I have done something right because, like many writers, I assume I’m screwing everything up. Among these are:

  1. Author Partnerships: Strength in numbers everyone. That was one of the reasons for founding WMD.
  2. QR Codes: I’ve been playing around with this for awhile. QR codes are intriguing and most of all, you can create them for FREE. I’ve actually got labels that I print them out on and stick them to packages I send out. I’ve also put them on posters, bookmarks, cards, etc. Smartphones are on the rise and pretty much every carrier out there is pushing their customers to get them so take advantage of it. Also, young adults tend to have these so if your writing appeals to this group, you should be incorporating these.
  3. Mock interview with myself: I did something similar to this with my FAQ on my website. It reads a bit like an interview. I’ve done some updates as I’ve gotten interviewed. Often times members of the media, including bloggers, are looking for content for their website. If you have a ready-to-go interview, it cuts down on their workload and yours. They may want to tweak a few things or add a couple of questions but, for the most part, the content is prepared.
  4. Book Trailers: This one I have mixed opinions about, which I have already posted about here. Needless to say, despite my doubts about it leading to sales, it is another way to get the word out, especially in release preparation and I have created some for my own writing just for fun.
  5. Google Alerts: If you haven’t signed up for Google Alerts, you really need to, well, right now. This allows you to enter search terms to create bots that will send you alerts anytime your keywords pop up in a newly indexed page. This includes blogs, news, etc. At the minimum, you should have your name, the name(s) of your book(s), unique terms from your writing (like unique character names or names of fantasy locations), series names, and the name of your publishing company, whether you are self published or traditionally published. This is a great way to keep track of what’s going on. I also use terms such as eBooks so I know what is going on in that world, since almost all of my sales have been in electronic format.
  6. Website: If you don’t have a website yet, you need one. Along with that, a blog. Realistically, you can create these for free but I would recommend you get a professional web designer to design your site (they can do it in WordPress) with custom graphics to really make you stand out. I did this and the feedback I’ve received has proven to me time and time again that I made the correct decision.

Another item mentioned was Facebook Ads. I’m not sure how I feel about this, because formal advertising in general has mixed results in the publishing industry (as well as pretty much every other industry), especially now that there are so many ways to block ads. It can also get expensive and if you’re anything like me, your marketing budget isn’t all that big. Liz had actually made a good point. A more targeted approach may be better so advertising on a site such as Goodreads, which targets readers specifically. I believe it’s also cheaper but I’m not 100% sure about that. One piece of advice the panel gave, and it’s so simply that it’s genius: When advertising, compare your writing with someone well known or the premise of your book with something that is already well known. For instance, I’ve had reviewers compare 7 Scorpions to Terminator, Mad Max, and Star Wars (which was actually a huge honor), so I’ve actually quoted that. One of the reasons is that when people search out those subjects (or if you compare yourself with another author, the name of that author), your work might come up.

The presentation was not a complete waste, but it was good that I got out of it. Besides, my bladder was about to burst and I know you wanted to know that. Yes, I’m out of my mind and I make no apologies for it!

approval

The final presentation itself was worth the entire trip. It was presented by a literary attorney out of New York, Renee L. Duff, Esq. I used to work for lawyers and, though I am not a lawyer nor do I profess to be any type of legal professional, it has been a side interest of mine and I have some level of understanding (which also means I’m the first to tell someone to hire a damn lawyer and not rely on a random person’s opinion). Realistically, legalities are a huge concern to the self published author because that person is responsible for his/her own work entirely. There were several subjects covered here and I would urge you to pay attention and/or seek legal council to make sure you are covered:

  • Copyright mailing myth: When I first got started in this industry, I found out that you automatically have a copyright on your work when you complete it. However, you really have to be able to prove it’s yours to legally protect it. One method that has been perpetuated is mailing a copy of the manuscript to yourself, keeping it sealed. It will have a time and date stamp from the post office so if there was ever a question, you’d just have the judge unseal it. Has this worked? Yes. Is it dependable? Not at all. Matter of fact, pretty much anyone with experience in this field or with copyrights will tell you that your only true protection comes from registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office (or the country you reside in). I have registered both of my published books with the copyright office. It was only $35.
  • Copyright/Trademark Enforcement: The responsibility for enforcing copyrights and trademarks, even the ones that are registered, rest on the party who holds said copyrights and trademarks. In other words, you. It is up to you to keep your feelers out for violations. That is one reason to get Google Alerts (which was also mentioned in this presentation). Keep in mind that there are cases of copyright infringement that probably wouldn’t go anywhere if you challenged it. First of all, you have to show that there is some type of damage being done, whether it’s to your profits or to your reputation. For instance, if a blogger gives you an unsolicited review using your cover image and some quotes from your book, that is a copyright infringement. They did not have permission to do that. However, if that review is absolutely fantastic, it not only isn’t damaging, it’s probably helping you make money so you wouldn’t fight that. If someone decides to post your book image up and tell the world that you stole the idea from them, then you may want to do something about that.
  • Fair Use: Not every situation where quotes are used from a book are copyright infringement. You will want to refer to the Fair Use Act, which spells out what you can and cannot use legally without permission from the copyright holder. This mainly applies to the media, education, and situations with no commercial gain (like reviews). Also keep in mind that much of what is in law is based on precedent, and not necessarily YOUR interpretation of the law. In this field, it is generally acceptable for reviewers to quote from your writing, within reason, even if it is a negative review. In turn, it is generally acceptable for you to quote pieces of a review (so even a mediocre review may have a line or two that you take so when someone reads the quote, they feel as though the reviewer loved it). This is done all the time by the big guys with the New York Times and USA Today, as well as other major publications.
  • Public Domain: These are works whose copyrights have expired. You see this a lot on older pieces. Does this mean you can grab the text and call it your own? Nope. Plagiarism is still theft. There are, however, more freedoms with this work than normal. Check with an expert if you want to use anything from the public domain in your own work, especially if it is for profit.
  • Get Permission: Despite the Fair Use Act, if you want to quote someone else’s work in yours, especially if you are going to be making money (i.e. you are writing a non-fiction book and you want to reference another one), get permission from the copyright holder, in writing. Most won’t care because it’s free advertising for them but in our litigation happy society, you might as well be cautious. Keep in mind that emails are admissible in court so an email giving you permission to use something is enough, just make sure you keep the original email electronically so that it’s authenticity can be verified (a printout is not authentic).
  • If you are concerned that your text may infringe on the work of another, there are services out there where you can upload blocks of text and have it checked against other sources. This is used in academia all the time. A great one for use for web sites is Copyscape.
  • Trademarks: Trademarks are different from copyrights. The first major difference is that they can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to register. The second difference is that, unlike copyrights, you have to maintain them (i.e. show the government that you are actively using the trademark) or it will expire. The third is that it can take months, even over a year to trademark something because others have the right to contest your trademark if they have something similar. Finally, there are only certain things you can actually get a trademark on. In this industry, that would be your company logo, the name of a series (individual titles cannot be trademarked, but a series name, like the For Dummies series can be trademarked), and various symbols. If you have a question, you can refer to an expert or to the Copyright Office.
  • Defamation: This applies somewhat to fiction but mostly to non-fiction. Defamation is liable slander. You are permitted to discuss facts. In the case of fiction, you can use landmarks and other such things in a fictitious manner (in 7 Scorpions: Revolution, chapter 2 takes place in the ruins of New York City and it is mentioned by name, as is the Empire State Building). You will need to be careful when it comes to individuals, or even private residences. For instance, if you have a distant cousin who you hate, you probably should not mention them by name and have them butchered to death in your fiction writing. In the case of non-fiction, you can write about provable facts. The rules are a bit different with public figures, but there is also not a clear definition of what a public figure is. Obviously, President Obama, major movie stars, etc, are all public figures and are the subject of all sorts of things that would be considered defamation if they weren’t public. You should definitely seek the advice of an attorney on this one if you have questions. A great protection for fiction (but not fool proof if you blatantly defame someone) is to put, at the beginning of your book, some type of text block that says the contents are either products of the imagination or places used fictitiously. You can see an example of the one I put in 7 Scorpions: Revolution on the copyright page here (yes, that was a shameless plug, deal with it).
  • Copyright Transfers to Company: If you own your own publishing company (and you should if you’re self published, it’s easy to establish a LLC or S-Corp), you should consider transferring the copyright to the company. Realistically, you still own it but that takes any liability away from you and puts it in the business. I’ve already done this. When you register a new copyright, you will have to register it to yourself but in the registration, you can put in the transfer so it’s done right away. You will need to follow it up with some type of written and signed document, in case it’s ever challenged. If you have already created a copyright, you can do a copyright transfer (no formal process in the copyright office, just have a lawyer draw one up or grab one from a reputable legal site online, sign it, and submit it tot he copyright office, they have instructions on how to do this).

In summary, the expo was definitely worth it. There were other services available (appointments with agents and editors) but I wasn’t interested in them. If they hold it again in 2012, and you are either self-published or considering self-publishing, you might want to make your way there if you can.

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An Interview With New Author, Missy Davis

I recently completed my first interview with Lisa Olsen, author of The Touch and Pretty Witches All In A Row, and got some amazing answers to my questions. This time out, I’ve interviewed Missy Davis, a new author who hasn’t yet published any of her works, but will be soon.

She recently participated in NaNoWriMo and successfully completed a novel in the month of November. She is currently in the middle of edits.

Please join me in welcoming Missy Davis.

You’re a new author, just starting out. What inspires you to write?

That’s a tricky question, actually, because it has two parts to it. The first part is why did I want to be a writer.  I was an avid reader from the moment I could read my first words.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  In third grade I remember getting a notebook as a prize from a teacher and I started writing poetry where every line had to rhyme. Something like “The little kitten lay, fast asleep in the hay.”  The other reason I started writing was that it was an escape from life.  Reading and writing got me through some very difficult times growing up.  There is nothing like getting lost in another world to avoid the one you live in.  In many ways I want to provide that outlet for others.

As far as what inspires me to write my stories, it’s different all the time.  Sometimes it’s a certain feeling I get that there is something inside just itching to come out.  A lot of ideas pop in my head right as I am working on another project.  In the past, these ideas have distracted me from finishing whatever writing I was working on at the time.  Now I just write down the general idea and promise to come back to it when I can devote adequate time to it. Here lately, it’s the inspiration of fellow writers that gets me moving.  Seeing that others believe in you and have walked the path before you really helps when you are just starting out.  Having people who appreciate what I write and give me feedback has been so helpful since I’ve been terrified to share my work with others.  You know how it is, we’re always our worst critic and we sometimes expect others to treat our work as critically as we treat it.

I’ve really enjoyed writing flash fictions to get the ideas flowing too.  Participating in Writer Wednesday with Joann H. Buchanon has inspired me with new ideas every week.  http://theeclecticartistcave.blogspot.com/ I find that challenging myself to write things I would not normally write has actually given me more ideas for stories to pursue in the future.

You have a young family. How do you juggle writing while doing all the home life things you need to get done, too?

Actually so far it has been easier than I thought it would be. My daughter is about 15 months old right now and she is extremely active, so it has been a challenge.  I take advantage of naptime.  She gets a good two hours of sleep in the afternoon which is a good chunk of time.  I sometimes put cleaning on the back burner and make meals that last a couple of nights so I have more time to focus on other things.  My husband has been very helpful too, especially during NaNoWriMo. I have left the house with the laptop or camped out in the bedroom away from family life for a few hours at a time. Weekends have become my friend as I let daddy take over caring for baby.  It gives me time to work on things or take a break while he gets to bond with our daughter.  The biggest chunk of time that I have is when my child goes to bed for the night.  When everyone else is asleep I finally get the quiet time that I need to focus on writing.  My house may not be as picture perfect as the in-laws, never clean enough to pass the white glove test, but it’s enough for us to function and certainly a lot cleaner than it was when we were both working desk jobs.  Sometimes we sacrifice for our craft.  That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

What genre do you write in?

I actually have so many ideas that I am not sure where I fit anymore.  I have ideas for children’s books, romance novels, and fantasy novels.  I just have so many ideas that it could take me in different directions and I really feel like I cannot limit myself to one.  The two that I have worked on recently have been fantasy novels.  One is a fantasy novel in which I had to construct the whole world from scratch.  This book has been a challenge to write.  It was so difficult to create a world that I expect others to believe in.  It’s taking me a while to get through revisions because my writing has changed so much since I first started it.  The other one is a contemporary romantic fantasy with a little paranormal in the fact that I am writing about the Shadow people.  I wrote this story for the NaNoWriMo challenge and fell in love with it from the start.  It’s so much easier to write a story when you do not have to create the whole world it belongs in.

Do you work outside of the home? If so, what kind of work do you do and do you incorporate your work life into your writing?

I used to work outside the home before I had my child.  I’ve taught middle school and elementary school, so I think in the future when I write children’s novels, I will pull greatly from that experience.  I will be kind to the teachers when I write my books, because we often read about the evil, nasty teachers and never hear about the ones that put their heart and soul into the classroom.  I also worked a desk job, so I guess it is easy to say that I could incorporate the daily frustrations of dealing with people and working in a small cubicle that sucks the life out of you.  Currently I am a stay at home mom, and am thoroughly enjoying raising my daughter. It allows me to watch her grow and encourages me to be the best role model I can be for her.  Someday I know she will be proud of me for pursuing my own dreams. I hope to encourage her to do the same.

You’ve just completed NaNoWriMo, completing a full length novel in one month. Did you already have the idea ahead of time? Would you do another one NaNoWriMo?

I actually started this novel a few years ago.  It was a spur of the moment idea and I had only written about 3 pages.  I pulled it up a few weeks before the challenge began and was surprised to see I had started it in first person.  The challenge for me was to continue along this route.  I have always written in third person, because it is easier to distance yourself from the characters.  I learned that it can be easy to put more of yourself into it if you try writing from a more personalized perspective.  I intend to go back to Terrahtu and try to instill a deeper honesty like my Nano.

I would like to devote more than November to writing a novel in a month.  It was a great experience for me.  It provided me with the evidence that I needed.  Can I write a book in a short period of time?  Yes.  Would I like what I wrote?  Absolutely. Would I have as many problems as I did with the first book, seeing as how it took me almost ten years to complete? No.  Actually I feel like I had less problems because I was not able to over think the writing process.  I’m excited to go back and edit this Nano.  It was a lot of fun to write.  I will definitely do this again next year, but this time I will come up with an idea and not start it before November 1.

What kind of support system do you have?

I have my wonderful husband and some really awesome friends that encourage me to keep going everyday.  My husband likes to say that I am the next JK Rowling, and while I giggle every time he says it, I think it is incredibly sweet.  He knows that my goal for writing is not to make an absurd amount of money. It’s simply to be read and appreciated.  He wants me to follow my dreams and every day he works to support our family so that I can stay home with our daughter and work on my writing.  My closest friends celebrate every landmark I reach with me.  Having a writing community like WMD also has been a godsend.  I was accepted within the folds quickly and treated as if I had always been one of them from the start.  It’s amazing to share my work with them and not worry that they will do anything but appreciate the work of a former writer.  I don’t cringe and wait for the criticism, because they are authors too, and know that while writing is a certain percentage art, the majority of it all is defined by heart.

When did you start writing creatively? What were some of the early writings that you did? Would you ever use any of them now?

I think I sort of answered this on a previous question.  I have been writing for a very long time. I have never written professionally before though.  When I was a child, I loved reading and escaping into other worlds.  My favorite books when I was a child were written by C.S. Lewis, Judy Blume, and Jean Craighead George.  I very much wanted to live on my own and survive in the forest. When I was in third grade I wrote a fanfiction story for Highlights Magazine, but it was never published. The title was Superfudge Junior, and you can probably guess it was all about Farley Drexel Junior and how he was very much like his father as a child.  I did not understand copyright infringement at the time, which is why I think they never responded to my inquiry.   From there I continued to write more poetry.  I remember when my mom attended a parent teacher conference for 8th grade.  My English teacher told her how impressed she was with my writing and told her that I wrote like a 20 year old.  It was the best compliment I had ever received at the time, and it made me want to do even better.

When I entered high school I started writing short stories, mostly for school assignments.  By the time I was a junior in high school, my English teacher encouraged me to enter for a chance to attend the Illinois Summer School for the Arts.  At that point in time I had already been writing longer short stories, one of them being a ghost story, which I entered as an example of my writing.  I won a scholarship to attend the two week summer camp, and had the time of my life. I decided from then on that I wanted to be a writer.  The funny thing is that I had such a logical head on my shoulders and decided since writing was not a guarantee that I had to have a profession to fall back on.   So I attended Illinois State University and got a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education.  I became a teacher, who put everything I had into my work and had very little left over to work on the book that I had started when I was in college.  When I was finally able to quit teaching, my writing became my focus again.

What else would you be doing if you couldn’t write, and why?

Well, I’ve already done it.  I was a teacher.  I loved teaching, but the dealing with administration and bureaucratic imbeciles that had never spent a day in the classroom literally sucked the soul right out of my body.  I would probably find a desk job if I could no longer write.  Or just stay home and raise my children and let my husband take care of us.  One day he says I will keep him in the manner to which he should be accustomed.  Ha ha ha!  Dare to dream I tell him.

Have you got ideas for more books that are just itching to get written?

Absolutely.  I have two children’s book ideas, a romance novel, and another fantasy romance novel. Then there is the sequel to Terrahtu, which is several chapters from the original version of the book.  I had way too many characters and ideas going on in the very first version, so I split it into two books.  I just have to go back and start on the other one.

Who inspires you to write?

I think it is fair to say that the people I know and love inspire me every day to write, but every part of my past is a stepping stone to another story.  It is true that writers suffer great melancholy, and I have had my fair share which I think allows me to put more emotion into my writing.  I also think that everything I have gone through in this lifetime has inspired me to be who I am.  I waited most of my life to get to the point where I believe in me and while having others like what I do is nice, I have to be the one to inspire and motivate myself to continue.  There was nothing like finishing the first book, being proud of myself, and knowing that I could repeat the process anytime I wanted.

I’m supposed to ask you a silly question…There was an underwear challenge going around awhile back…here is one of the questions: How many bloggers does it take to put panties on a goat?

Well I think it takes at least six, maybe seven.  One to distract the goat with food, while two others pick up the back feet.  One more padded like a hockey goalie, who struggles to put on the underwear without being kicked.  Two giggling on the side hysterically while they take photos for Beth’s funny picture blog and one more viciously texting ideas for their next sci-fi blog titled “Attack of the Killer Goats” in which evil underwear wearing goats come after the WMD writers for even thinking they could put underwear on a goat without retribution.

Thank you, Missy for the great interview. It was wonderful getting to know you.  Her blogs are at www.daenira.wordpress.com and www.iwroteabooknowwhat.wordpress.com

Oooops!

Today is my day to post. And despite the many e-mail reminders, it didn’t register. Well…not until this morning. ***rolling my eyes***

Lately, I’ve been under a pile of rewrites and edits. I’m up to my eyeballs. My desk is covered with endless mounds of paper and notes. A box full of old chapters stay at my feet, calling to me, “Use this part. Use this part.” If only I could find those parts. ***scratching my head*** They’re really good, too. I can only hope they are really still there. Somewhere. One day after the book is pushlished, I’ll find them.

The kitchen table isn’t free from folders and papers either.

Did I mention how many little 4GBs I have? Color coded, too. They whisper to me, “The really good stuff’s in me. Pick me. Pick me.” Like that really helps. Not really, even though I’ve taken the time to lable each folder in those tiny thingies.

So anyway, while most peeps were out on Black Friday doing the Christmas-hunt-and-kill-thing, I printed out the last twelve chapters to my novel. What a bleeping mess!

You see, I’m a panster a/k/a fart writer. I plan absolutely nothing, going with the flow of the ink and whatever flatulates out of my head. But, I do like to write my scenes in order. Yeah. I know. Weird.  Right?

My whole world crumbles when I lose my order in my organized chaos. Believe it or not, I’ve got misnumbered chapters. Some of my scenes are out of sequence. How did I do that?! OMG.

And then, there’s formatting. I shake my head here. This part gives me heart palpitations. In fact, I feel a few happening right now as I type this piece. Yup. I’ve got a few chapters that are aligned improperly. I swear there must be little computer gremlins that come out after I turn my computer off. They did it! They’ve been screwing with my settings. If  only I could catch them, I’d fix their wagons.

I’m having a writer’s-break-down-moment. That’s all.  How about any of you?

Real Life

You know, the last couple weeks I’ve read a few blogs about writer’s lives getting in the way of their projects. Some have been disasterous. Yup. Know what you all mean. I’ve had a few myself lately.

I hate it when something gets between me and my most favorite time in the world. I prefer fiction to the real life drama. The real life stuff is draining.

Not to mention, I have to accept the fact I can’t control real people. It’s nice to know if any of the fiction peeps get to be real PITAS, I can maime or kill them off without the threat of prison or the death penalty. I can even control traffic and the elements when I write. Fiction drama is so much easier to deal with.

But on a daily basis we all face THE CIRCUMSTANCES in real life that arise. You know, where your daughter gets thrown out of her apartment into the streets and you live like two hours away. And, you’re the only one who can help her.  Plus, it’s your day off and you’d already planned to write for most of the day. Yeah. Good luck with that, because you’ve now driven half your day away.

How about the day you wake up with your head full of snot? You’re feeling achey, chilly, and feverish. And, all you can do is sneeze and choke between gasping breaths. You’re so ill you can’t even write one word let alone plot out another scene. Crappity-crap-crap-crap, right?

Oh yeah, then there’s the job. Yup. Most writers have another job to deal with like I do and that sometimes means being called in on your day off or coming in earlier than originally planned. Things get in the way.

Who was the brain that quoted “You’re not a writer if you’re not writing every day”?  Really?

Hey! What is a writer supposed to do if a tornado comes along and blows away thier house, computer, pens, journals, and Post-It Notes?

 Well, I say ABSOLUTE NONSENSE to that wonderful quote of the day. Sometimes we need to take a time out to deal with life’s little or big surprises. Too bad we can’t wave a magic pen and throw around a couple Post-It Notes to make all the real life drama  go away.

But it’s okay. It’s all good or will be. I believe when we don’t get to write we’re somehow solving our stories in the darkest corners of our minds while we’re dealing with the real life stuff.

 So don’t fret over not getting any words on paper or across your computer screen today. Real life happens. Besides, those interruptions make great fodder for the next novel or possibly the current one you’re working on.

Anyway, I need to excuse myself from this piece. Hair Ball made it a point to jump in my lap and barf on me.  My bare foot is now  resting in a nice puddle of puke. Talk about a surprise.  ***rolling my eyes***

You’ve Got A Lot To Learn, Grasshopper.

Unbeknownst to Daniel, Mr. Miyagi was actually teaching him karate moves with his “Wax on-Wax off” motion. When the time came to fight, Daniel knew what to do, because of all the work he’d done at Mr. Miyagi’s house.

We all start out at the bottom of the totem pole, just like the executive who might have started out in the mailroom or cleaning toilets. Only a very few exceptional writers actually make it right out of the starting gate the first time and I’ll bet most of them probably weren’t that lucky. Case in point, J. K. Rowling.

One thing we shouldn’t do is ignore professional advice. If you can find someone who has “been there”, someone who will show you the ropes, to teach the craft of writing to you, you should jump on that chance. For goodness sake, don’t ignore it, disrespect or put them down. You might regret that someday.

Sure, reading a book about writing can give you some of the basics, but it can’t give you the personal advice of someone who is knowledgable, someone who has been around the same block a few times that you’re trying to get around once on.

Books can vary in their content, confusing the heck out of you. One book I read said that there should be some dialogue at the beginning of each chapter…to kind of pull you into the scene. Another one said that the beginning of the chapter should be  there for you to build up the scene with imagery and the surroundings. So, which one is right?

With a teacher showing you the way, you’ll find you’re a better writer for it. I’ve been blessed to find not only one teacher, but many teachers, published and unpublished alike, who have taught me more than what I could ever learn from a book.

Many people, myself included, learn mainly by doing. Oh sure, I’ve read several “How to write” type books, but my association with the Writer’s of Mass Distraction has taught me so much more than what a book could teach me.

No book is ever as encouraging as a friend, co-worker, teacher and advisor. I’ve learned from my critical colleagues what I’ve needed to change to make a story better, and maybe they’ve learned something from me. At some point, we make it to teacher status, in some way, shape or form. Just recently, an aspiring writer read my novel “Remember The Eyes” and was inspired to finish her own manuscript. I don’t know what I might have done to inspire her, but I was glad I was there to help.

Some writers have this pre-conceived notion that they know how to write already, without the courses and the degrees. I recently read a novella that was so poorly written, the author had obviously not taken the time to edit it. It looked like maybe a teenager had written it. Of course, maybe the thrill of the written word was all this person wanted (the book was free from Amazon), but obviously no teacher, or friend even, taught this author that just because you can self-publish, doesn’t always mean you should.

What makes a great teacher? How about a good student. If you’re willing to learn, then a great teacher will be able to get you where you need to be.

Some writers are the Never-Ending Mistake. Advice is given to them, whether it’s about a book that they have written or a question that they have asked, and you give them the information that they will need. Do they take it? No. And, therein lies the problem. Apparently the “Wax-on, Wax-off” method of repeating things to them endlessly, doesn’t get through to them.

I consider my colleagues here at WMD excellent teachers. Each and every one brings something to the table. As I said, I consider myself blessed to be in the company of such a great lot of wonderful teachers.

So, instead of reaching for that “how to” book, why not find yourself a teacher who will teach you all that you need to know to write a decent book. There are lots of Mr. Miyagis out there…you just have to go out and find one.

Thankfully I found mine.

Monsters! Monsters! The Writing Ones

“Monsters! Monsters!” That’s something I used to run around the house and say when I was about two years old. I loved them even though they made me pee my diapers. Really. I loved having the crap scared out me. *** I’m a weirdo*** Sort of. I guess. Um…still am.

“Monsters! Monsters.” My grandfather chuckled after I had my fifth daughter. “You’ve always loved them. Now you’ve got your own.”

“Monsters! Monsters!” I say now after I’ve read a few not-so-good novels by famous and newbie authors. Mistakes are splattered throughout and their story-telling skills went somewhere else because it didn’t end up in that particular book. It’s possible the monsters scared it away.  Total ugh!

That’s what this piece is about, our own monsters in writing. The ones that keep you from being published. The ones that get you the bad book reviews. The ones that keep you up all night angsting over how you can undo your subordinate clauses.  The ones that keep you away from your writing. Yeah, those monsters.

Here are a few of my monsters:

Stupid Monster Mistakes for The Whole World to See

I’m one if those who can’t edit myself all that well and will sometimes publish blogs (and chapters to my novels)  that make absolutely no sense at all. At that particular moment, I’ve self deluded myself into believing the post is blemish free. Only to go back, read it, and see thousands of stupid mistakes. Spelling. Grammar. Sentence structure. I hate those kinds of monsters. Totally embarrassing. It’s almost as bad as asking some  well-endowed (in all places) chick when her baby’s due.

The Muse

My muse can be an absolute Medusa turning my brains into absolute stone. I’ll sit for hours staring at my blank computer screen waiting for her to speak.

 On the other hand, she can be quite rude and bothers me when my hands are busy doing other things. Driving the car. Washing the dishes. Lopping someone’s hair at work. Walking the dogs. Preparing dinner. How rude is that? She can be such a monster. I can think of another choice word. It begins with a ‘B’. 

Sometimes My Critters

Well…sometimes. One time I handed in a chapter where one of the characters threw a pit bull across a room into a mirror. The mirror shattered and the dog walked away unscathed.  Three critters told me they’d stop reading it right there and would never read anything I’d write and publish in the future. ***me eye-brains crossed here***

Has anyone ever read the Hannibal Lecture seires? Why can we read about serial killers skinning peeps alive but not about pit bulls being thrown into mirrors? But then again, what do I know. Right?

And, there are those times when no one agrees and I’m left to my own devices. That one can be a big scary monster.

Research

Apparently, I don’t know the difference between a rifle and a shot gun. And, I have no clue about what a semi looks like on the inside. Research monsters! Yeah. If you don’t do the research you’re readers will probably trash your book. Bad, bad monsters!

My Job

It never fails when I’ve actually got a nice chunk of time to write, guess who calls me? The head slavemaster. “Do you think you can come in and work so-and-so’s shift today? Since you’re a shift-manager, you know the rules?”

Will these monsters ever leave me alone  and get their act together  so I can write uninterrupted and smoothly?

What are your monsters?

>The Autumn of My Life

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I’m the photographer here. The photos may not be professional, but I was blessed with four real supermodels….

The Autumn of My Life…I think that was a song title from the sixties. Bobby Goldsboro. He had a few big hits. This was one. Honey was another. He was known for sad songs about love lost.


But that’s not what this blog’s about, as you can see. This blog is about my favorite season, autumn. I love it! Moderate temperatures. Spectacular colors (if we’re lucky). Hayrides. Thanksgiving. I love taking a walk in the crisp morning air…the leaves falling, the wind blowing them around my feet. 


Okay, I confess. I don’t love it when the wind blows those fallen leaves through my front door and I have to sweep them up and dispose of them….


The arrival of autumn heralds the year winding down, coming to an end.  When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for one year to end and another to begin. My dad used to warn me, “Don’t wish your life away.” Now I know what he meant. Now I wonder how much I’ll be able to accomplish in whatever time I have left.  


Why, I wonder, does time seem to pass more quickly with each passing year?