Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Bad, Good Old Days

I mentioned in passing the different stories being put about in the publishing industry about ebook sales. Some reports say digital sales have leveled out or stagnated. The other side of the tales explains that this is actually only true when it comes to ebooks sales by the 5 big publishers and selected small presses. When you looks at ebooks sales taking in all the small presses and the indie authors, ebook sales are not stagnant at all. L. Diane Wolfe shared the truth that the Big 5 are trying to hide.

When I first started writing, there were few options to the Big 5. And there were rules to be followed if you wanted those entities to even look at your work. Everything was snail mail. They sneered at the idea of email queries. Not only did you have to send you submission in the mail, but you had to include a SASE so they can return it to you after a form rejection. An editor or agent might even scribble, No thanks, on your query letter. All that postage and trips to the post office and then waiting weeks and months for a reply. Some guidelines said they might take up to a year or more to get back to you.

Lots of agents and editors didn't even post their guidelines online, leaving you to search them out elsewhere. And those guidelines were sometimes very strict, especially for romance. Twenty pages per chapter and twenty chapters was an accepted length for a book. Some romance lines expected the hero and heroine meet in the first chapter, kiss by a certain page and other exacting plot points to made when directed. The number of words per page was also explained in detail.

This was if you could get an editor to read your manuscript. Many of the Big 5 won't accept a submission directly from a writer and will only look at something from an agent. If you happened to meet an agent or editor at a conference, you would hear tales of the six foot tall slush piles filling their offices. And horrors, what if your manuscript ended up in the slush pile!

Should you receive a contract, the standard time between signing and publication was around two years. If you were lucky, you might get more contracts during that time, but if that first book didn't earn back its miniature advance, the publisher probably wouldn't want that second book.

I signed on early with a digital publisher, years before the Big 5 were jumping into the ebook market. There were actually successful writers I knew who advised me I was ruining a chance at a writing career by doing that. It was the smartest career move I made. I've been with them for nearly eight years.

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent." Marilyn Von Savant

Now the latest news from the publishing industry is that many writers are finding success outside the New York overlords of publishing. Many are throwing the rules out the window and making their own way.

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do." Steve Jobs

Do you remember some of those old, strict rules? Have you been following the publishing news about ebook sales? How long have you been with your publisher? Any missteps along your career you would do differently?

Monday, September 28, 2015


Years ago my local branch of CPRW had a president who would spend five minutes at each meaning introducing what he would call a wall-banger book. Karl would hold the book up and explain why it fit the derogatory description. What he meant by wall-banger was that he'd purchased the book but it was bad, he would quit reading and throw it off the wall. He always ended his spiel by doing just that.

My husband is a painter and he can tell you what kind of damage throwing something at the wall can do. He has to fix little dents and dings in walls all the time. But the idea behind Karl's demonstration is legit without the tossing, of course.

What kind of things make a reader set aside a book without finishing? A slow plot. Nothing happens for pages and pages. Maybe it's backstory or world building filling those pages that turn a reader away. Or perhaps one of the characters is lost in introspection. That's okay for a little bit, but if it goes on and on .... I'll probably toss it aside especially if it get the feeling that nothing is ever going to happen.

Perhaps the writing is too simple, reading like a fifth grade storybook. Yes, I'm usually smarter than a fifth grader. If I'm reading a YA or MG book, then I expect appropriate prose but I don't want it in an adult novel. Or just as bad, writing that is too flowery as if the writer wants to impress me with their vocabulary or ornate turn of phrase.

Then there is a premise that is too bland to care about. The problems facing the protagonists just aren't compelling enough for the reader to care. The obstacles are big enough, the antagonists aren't threatening enough or are ill-defined.

Sometimes the plot is too confusing. Perhaps too many threads are tangled together. Or too many characters are involved with too many POVs. Maybe the created world is confusing or perhaps the names of places or characters are too similar and difficult to pronounce. Things within the plot such as the magic, science, technology or invented laws are poorly explained and it leaves the reader confused. All these things result in a book toss.

Perhaps the biggest reason for me to put a book down are issues with the characters. Perhaps they're dull and boring. I know people like that in real life, I don't want to read about them. Or they're unlikable. Is there anything worse than a whiny protagonist? As a reader, you just want them to grow up. Occasionally a characters comes across as unbelievable as in no one could be that naive or no one could be that forgiving and kind. Even the antagonist can be too unbelievable.

I recently read a book by a fantasy author whose previous series I had really enjoyed. I stayed with it for more than half the book but then decided I didn't have time to waste on a book I really didn't like at all. Bland characters, slow plot and vague, boring threats. But I didn't damage any walls with it. It will find it's way to a used book store.

It also reminded me that just because a book is published by a big fantasy publisher like Tor, it doesn't mean it's a good book. On the flip side, just because a book is indie-published or published by a small press, doesn't mean it's not better than many of those books filling the shelves in B&N.

Hope you got to see the Lunar Eclipse last night. It was cloudy here. My current favorite show, Once Upon a Time, turned last night and later this week, Sleepy Hollow will return. Good times.

Don't forget to get that short story finished and sent for the IWSG anthology. It's going to be great!

Have you started and not finished a book lately? Did you see the Super Moon get eclipsed? What favorite show returned this past week or so? Please don't say Monday Night Football.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Autumnal Equinox

Fall is officially here. It started around 4:21 AM in my part of the world. Today we're supposed to have equal parts day and night or very close to it. The days have been getting shorter and very soon, they'll be much shorter. I don't like the colder temperatures on their way, but I do get more writing done when the sun isn't calling me to go outside. Want to know how much daylight you're losing? Check out this chart.

September's birthstone, the sapphire, was once thought to protect the wearer from snakes. I know snakes are a common fear for lots of people so think about getting a pretty sapphire ring or bracelet maybe. Or better, an ankle bracelet.

The first episodes of Blindspot and Minority Report intrigued me so I'll be watching them again. And Limitless deserves a chance too. Notice how many of the shows I like have supernatural or science fiction elements? Add to Doctor Who, Grimm, and Once Upon a Time to the list and you'll see I have a favorite theme.

Hopefully, all of my fellow Americans are braced for the next fourteen months of election overload. This quote is something to keep in mind when listening to politicians.

"Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that the sometimes has to eat them." 
Adlai Stevenson

I hope you're working on your short story for inclusion in the IWSG anthology. Deadline is November 1st. Read the guidelines.

My publisher has made another of my space opera romance series into a boxed set available on Amazon.  All three Warriors of Gaviron books are at one reasonable price so I'm hoping it kicks up some sales.

Any new shows catch your eye this week? Dreading the shorter days? Bracing for endless political ads?

Monday, September 21, 2015

I'm Me, and You're You

I've been reading a book over the weekend where the pacing is terrific. I've been staying up way too late. Join me in a discussion about pacing over at the IWSG site.

It's so easy to admire the writing as you're reading a book or short story that really grabs hold of you. Then that little niggling voice inside your brain starts to suggest you should try to write like that. Or perhaps you read an article or post that describes your favorite author's methods or process. And you think you should try that.

We all have to make changes in how we work at times until we find what is right for us. But it should be your method, not a copy of someone else's.

Often I'll read a blog post or an interview where writers describe how they get the job done. Some actually work nearly the same as I do as in get the first draft done and then revise, revise, revise. Or they brainstorm while exercising like I do. Maybe they write late at night like I do. But there's never anyone exactly the same from start to finish.

In other news about the world, today is the International Day of Peace. A minute of silence at noon is asked as we all hope, pray or work for peace. And there is a lot of work to be done.

Have you been seeing a lot of sunshine lately? Then you must not live one of the ten most cloudy states in the USA according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. See if your state is there. After days and days of rain for us at the start of the summer, we're having a pretty dry August and September. Lots of sun for PA. If you live outside the US, how do you measure up against these states for days of clouds?

Here's a real shocker. According to the article in PW a survey from New Guild reveals that most authors make earnings below the poverty level? I guess none of us knew this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Quality Over Quantity

I made a tough choice earlier this week. You can read all about it over on the A to Z Blogging Challenge site. April, 2015 was my first year sharing administrative duties as part of The Challenge and regretfully, I won't be an admin next year and I'm a little brokenhearted  about it I will participate because the Challenge is terrific, but I'll mostly be worried about myself during that busy month. I'm hoping for a really rocking theme this year. If only my old brain would come up with one.

This will give me more time to concentrate on other great things I'm involved in like the first ever anthology sponsored by IWSG. Don't forget the November 1st deadline for your entry. Check out the guidelines right here.

My job as Pennwriters secretary is also taking up a bit of my time in bits and spurts. Sending out emails and postcards to encourage members who have allowed their membership to expire is one of my duties and is taking up a bit of September. And a board meeting that requires travel and an overnight stay is also on the agenda.

Some of my pages on this blog are really, really outdated so I need to get busy on that. I have two books I'm editing before sending them to my publisher. One is the start of a new series so there's lots or world building to keep track of.

In the TBR department, I have so many books I want to read. On my Kindle, on the hold list at the library and books I own that are stacked two deep on the shelf I keep for my purchases. I don't know where to start sometimes.

Next week lots of TV shows start with new episodes. I'm looking forward to Scorpion, Dr. Who, Once Upon a Time and Scandal. After that, I'll check out a few new shows but I can't say there are any I'm really excited about.

From The Old Farmer's Almanac:
On this day in 1857, James Pierpont's song, 'Jingle Bells,' was copyrighted.  
Thought I'd share that tidbit in case you weren't thinking about Christmas yet.

Did you know Jingle Bells was that old? Did you make up silly verses to that tune as a kid? Can you estimate how many books on your TBR list? Any new or old shows you're excited to see return this fall? Any new ones you recommend? Are you thinking about your theme for A to Z next year?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Interesting Things Abound

Today I have lots of tidbits. Let's start with the cover reveal and pre-order link for Stephen Tremp's upcoming release, Salem's Daughters, a paranormal mystery. A couple of my favorite genres there. Congrats to Stephen.

In more book news, some twitter link led me to this article at the Digital Reader about Walmart actually carrying a self-published book. As many of you know, chain stores like Walmart and Target sell a lot of physical books. It's always good for an author's sale to have their work on those shelves. Great news for indie authors.

If you walk into a book store, you know they have all the highly publicized books right up fronts, often with their own displays. Huffington Post but together this list of The 9 Most Talked-About Books of 2015 (So far). I'll probably read one of those for sure, maybe two.

As a charter member of IWSG, I found this post amusing and also pretty much spot on. It really is a kind of a pick up as it lists Four Things Writers Can Stop Stressing About Right Now. Does the list make sense to you.

Another interesting note was the Smithsonian Article about how scientists are excited about all the artifacts they're finding as ice melts in Yellowstone. Apparently, there are so many things appearing that they can't keep up. Ice preserves things like wool, animal hides and other things that they can't learn about from fossils.

On a fun in the neighborhood side of things, we had a rabid raccoon in the backyard. By the time our friend arrived with his gun to shoot it, the poor thing had staggered into a brush-filled woodland area beside our property and we couldn't find it. Now we're keeping an eye on all the wildlife that make their homes around us. Lots of groundhogs, a few skunks, squirrels, and the domesticated ones that often roam free. My youngest son once had to get rabies treatment for a dog bite. I wouldn't want anyone to have to through that.

I'm getting back to editing this week, a part of writing I used to dread but now it's my favorite part. My goal is to get two more books to my publisher by the end of the year so there's lots to be done.

Are you reading or have read any of those 9 books listed by Huffington? Did that article about stress relieve your mind on anything? Do you even buy books at stores like Walmart or Target? Even had a run-in with a rabid animal?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Summer is Over When....

Summer is over for me when we close the pool for the winter. Tomorrow is the day when we'll lower the water level and put the cover on. It's appears to be good timing as the days are mellowing from today's 90 degrees to seasonal 70's for the next week or so.

September is also the month when next year's Old Farmer's Almanac goes on sale, celebrating its 224th year. It's available now. I haven't share many of the Almanac's wisdom lately so to celebrate fall and the release of the 2016 Almanac I'm going to give you some Old Farmer's wisdom.

To eliminate garlic breath, eat an apple.

Dogs can hear sounds four time farther away than humans can and distinguish differences of as little as 1/8 of a tone.

Money is like manure: Unless you spread it around, it doesn't do much good.

A chicken can run at 9 mph.

"When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt." Henry Kaiser

I read a recent article in Poets and Writers by University of Michigan professor, Jeremiah Chamberlin that I found shocking at first but the more I read the more sense it made. Basically, after many years of teaching college students, he found a common belief among his students that rural people aren't as smart as their urban counterparts and are lacking in emotional depth and self-knowledge. He attributes these misconceptions to the facts such as 80% of Americans live in cities or suburbs and have little contact with the 20% living in rural areas. Also contributing is the media portrayals of rural types into either down-home, old fashioned values people or skin-head militias. Chamberlin believes it is a common prejudice that is never discussed though we discuss others like, race, sexual preference and religion.

Since I am one of the rural types, it worries me that the people holding these beliefs are the ones likely to be the future leaders in politics and industry. America has come a long way from our agricultural roots but is that a good thing?

Friday is September 11th, the day of infamy for our generation. Like many of you, I'll never forget where I was on that day. The feeling of being stunned, sickened and sad. I feel some of that all over again on the 11th.

Do you remember where you were on 9/11? Do you think us country folks are kind of dumb? Do you believe that is a common feeling out there? Did you ever try to catch a chicken?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Question of the Month and Reminder

The first of the month brings the Question of the month, a quick hop started by Michael D'Agostino. This month is an easier question than the previous months. Check out Michael's blog, A Life Examined, for his answer and a link to others.

“What’s the best job you’ve ever had?”

A very appropriate question for Labor Day. I grew up on a farm and we usually spent Labor Day bringing in hay or some other hot, difficult, exhausting job. My dad always said Labor day was for laboring. That was the hardest job I ever had. Being a mother is hard work but it's not a job, it's a privilege.

The best job I've ever had is the one I have now, being a full time writer. When I left teaching two years ago, I was saddened by losing all that time spent with teenagers. I really do love that group. I have so many wonderful memories but being released from a M-F, 7-3 job, is a dream come true. I concentrate on promotion in the mornings and do household chores or shopping. By noon, I'm caught up on all that unless I have to mow the grass. Then I exercise in the afternoon, swim in the summer, and do more outside work. Only in the evening do I actually write new material and then I often work until midnight. Can't quite quit the habit of writing late at night as I did when I was teaching full-time. But this job, the up and down life of a writer, is the best ever!

Also, don't forget to check out the contest sponsored by IWSG. If you missed the announcement last week, check it out here. You have until November first to get that story to the email provided. This is your chance to get a short story included in an anthology published by a small press on which you will earn royalties. It's another terrific opportunity from IWSG.

You'll often hear writers talk about being in the right place at the right time. Luck. So often I read about writers who received their first contract or met their agent through an introduction by a friend. It sounds like they got really lucky. But I firmly believe we make our own luck. We need to be open to opportunities and seek them out. Joining writing groups, in person if possible and online. Entering contests, reading industry news and craft articles and books. It's too easy to look ourselves into our writing office and forget about the business side of the business. Make your own luck.

Are you laboring on Labor Day? Have a best-ever job? Are you working on your short story? How do you go about making your own luck?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG: Special Announcement!

First Wednesday of the month means IWSG the fantastic group started by Alex J. Cavanaugh to share, complain and celebrate together as writers in this difficult business. Last year the members of IWSG joined together to write the non-fiction book The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond. This year, IWSG brings you another fantastic project. Read the details below and visit the IWSG site to learn more and join in this contest. It's been months in the planning and we're very excited about it.

The IWSG Short Story Contest 2015

After the success of last year’s IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond, we decided to create another book. This time it’s a short story competition with the top ten stories getting published in the anthology.

Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member. The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free.

Word count: 5000-6000

Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. That’s right, we’ve decided to go the speculative route. This theme has plenty of scope and we’re open to pretty much anything along these lines, except erotica or graphic violence.

Story deadline: November 1st 2015

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted, previously unpublished story to TheIWSG at gmail dot com before the deadline passes. Make sure to include your contact details.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges:

·         Laura Maisano - Senior editor at Anaiah Press for their YA/NA Christian fiction
·         Russell Connor – Author and owner of Dark Filament Publishing Startup
·         Candace Havens  - Author and Editorial Director for the Covet, Edge and Select lines at Entangled Publishing
·         Dawn Frederick – Literary agent and the founder of Red Sofa Literary
·         Alice Speilburg – Founder of the Speilburg Literary Agency
·         Michelle Johnson – Founder of Inklings Literary Agency and Writers' Center and Bookstore owner
·         Kendare Blake - Author
·         Lydia Mo√ęd - Associate agent at The Rights Factory

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press in the IWSG anthology next year. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title. The winners will also receive an exclusive badge to display on their blog.

We’re excited to see the creativity and enthusiasm that’s such a part of this group put into action. So don your creative caps and start writing. And spread the word!

Do you have a short story in mind or an old one you can polish up? How about that list of judges! Are you ready to get published? 

Hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend. We're off to another wedding, a nephew this time. But most of the time, we'll be relaxing at home and enjoying the last few days of having the pool open. Now get to work on that short story.