Monday, November 29, 2010

Price of Success

Now that my first novel, Aure, the Topaz, is released and being read, I am reminded that with success comes a price.  I was browse a torrent site I like to frequent.  I use the site to see what others are reading (or stealing) as a way to know what to read or consider reading.

As I browsed, I saw the book of a friend listed.  I wrote to her to let her know.  Let me stop here and explain that torrent sites are places where people upload files to share.  Often this is fine when the files being shared are public domain and not protected by copyright.  In this case however the book is under copyright protection.  So sharing the book is theft.  My friend's book hasn't even been out for a month and already people think it is good enough to steal.

I've known this has been a risk in this line of work for some time.  Writers, musicians, software publishers, and filmmakers all have this problem.  When a product is good, people want it and will find anyway they can not to pay for it.

Worse still it is very hard to stop them.  You can go after the site, of course, but they aren't really to blame.  It is the individual users who share the illegal content that are to blame.  Most folks don't try. But for a new writer each book not paid for is like a drop of blood out of the writer's veins.  Pretty soon, you've got enough for a transfusion.  No long after that, the writer is weak from blood loss and unable to write any more books.

And that's the real shame here.  My friend's success depends on everyone who is interested in her work paying for it.  And I'm in the same boat with her, having just released my first book.

So please, if you receive illegal content and you like it, but yourself a real copy to support the writer.  Thanks.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Promoting Yourself

It's been a busy time here as I promote my book and myself.  So far I've:
  • Posted announcements to Digg, Delicious, Buzz, and Technorati.
  • Posted announcements in Facebook and Goodreads
  • Sent out a press release
  • Emailed friends and relatives
  • Added links to the book here, on my blog, and other sites I have accounts
  • Adjusted my email signature to include a link to my book
I'm also in the middle of answering some interview quotes.  Hope to get some reviews of the book in place soon.  I've also got one or two other ideas to work through.

The nice thing about Smashwords is they provide a marketing guide to help me reach others.  As part of that effort, they suggest I include the following presentation.

Hope you like it.

These are all things you may want to do too if you need to promote your work. Food for thought.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Facing my Reviewers

After many months, my first novel, Aure, the Topaz is complete and published on Smashwords.  It is the first book in a series called the Aglaril Cycle.  For additional details go to

Now that the book is out and I am promoting it, I have to face facts: people are going to read it and make comments.  Like it or not, I have face my reviewers and hope for the best. I feel very much like an innocent man accused of murder wait for the sentence of the judge and jury to be handed down.

Frankly, I've been dreading this moment.  I think I've been living with the fear that the story is no good and no one will like it and that I'll be stopped before I start.  This is an irrational fear to be sure.  Many people have read the samples I've released and they have liked them. So the book should sell right?

Maybe.  One thing you'll notice if you follow the link I provided earlier:  the book is self-published.  The reason for that is partially because no small press has picked up the book and I'm tried of waiting.  I near to move onto book 2 so I can get the entire story told.

The fact that no small press has offered me a contract for the book does not mean the story is bad, of course, but it does cast some doubt for me.  Overcoming that doubt is hard.

But I am not letting that stop me.  I need to test the market.  I need to promote and sell my work.  I need  to get this story out so I can move on.

So I've published it as an electronic book for now.  A paper version can be provided later if there is interest for it.

Please keep your fingers crossed for me and if you can spare $4.99, buy a copy too.  Thanks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

In Memorium

My dog died.

More accurately, my wife and I had to put him down.  He bit her and drew blood and that's not good.

He was an old dog and a rescue from the local shelter so we don't know his really age but we estimate he was about 15 maybe more.  We had him for 9 years.

His name was Lucky and he was a good dog.  I loved him, of course, but biting others is a line no dog should cross.

And that's all there is to say really.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I need to grieve.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Adventures in Self-Publishing

It has been an interesting few days here.  As many of you may know, I am close to completing (for the umpteenth time) the first novel in the Aglaril Cycle.  Over the last few days, I uploaded a version formatted for hard cover print and software print to Lulu.

I then turned my attention to ebooks.

I knew I wanted a version in Kindle format, PDF, epub (for the Apple iBooks store), and one for Sony reader.  So I set out to determine how I can produce all these versions.

I started with Lulu because that's where my print version will be coming from unless a small press publisher picks me up.  The problem with that approach is Lulu wants you to pay for a conversion to epub format.  My goal is to try to do this myself.  So I scratched that option of the list.

Next, I hit the Internet.  I knew from previous research that Amazon provides instructions for creating a Kindle version.  I reviewed those steps and moved on.

Creating a PDF version was not an issue either.  I've been creating PDFs with Word and Acrobat for years.  The real issue was how to create formats about which I knew very little, like the epub format.  From what I discovered on the Internet, I could use Pages (an Apple word-processing application that is part of iWork) to export to epub.  I happen to have a copy of that application so that seemed like an answer.

Then I read a little further and learned about  They take Word files and create multiple ebook and electronic formats for free, including all the formats I wanted.  So I decided to join.

Let me stop here and say, I had heard of Smashwords before, but didn't really understand why so many people were using that service.  Dopey me. I really need to pay more attention to things like that.

But I digress.  Once I joined, I went through their process of formatting a Word file according to their style guide.  Then I uploaded the file as a test.  Several hours later, all the versions were available.  They look pretty good too.  The one I like the best is the epub version because I dropped it into iTunes and synced my phone with it and Bamph!  My book is on my phone.  That is very cool.

I'm not done exploring Smashwords.  They have a premium catalog that I'm waiting to get into.  And they all have a marketing guide I want to check out.  They will assign an ISBN to the book too it seems.

So that may be the way I start.  I don't know.  I am still investigating.  I'll post updates in future blog entries.

Stay tuned.  And if you are interested in checking out my book, go to

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is Self-Publsihing About Vanity?

I am very close to completing my latest draft of my novel.  This draft should be the final version, but I've said that before and it wasn't true.  One of my friends thinks I need to stop trying to make it perfect.  But that's not the reason I revised it.  I revised it because I had feedback that the characters were flat.  It can't be published with flat characters because the reader will not care about what happens.

Now that I am close, I bundled up the files and made a PDF which I uploaded to Lulu.  I decided to put a copy of the book there in case I decide to sell it on my own while I seek a publisher.  But a very odd thing happened when the process was complete.  I had the strong urge to order a copy of my book.

And why not?  I've been working on it for months.  I would be to see one possible incarnation of it.  But I had to remind myself it was not complete and not ready yet.  I still have edits to make the last few chapters. And it makes me think: is self-publishing about vanity?

How you answer that question says a lot about you and your goals in the writing field.  If you answer yes, then, I can say is good luck.  Obviously, for you writing and entertaining the reader is not your primary focus.  For me the answer is no.  Self-publishing is not about vanity; if I choose that path, it will be because I cannot find a publisher to take a risk on me.  In that context, self-publishing is about providing an alternate outlet for writers so they too can be heard.

Frankly, I hope it does not come to this.  But it could.  And I want options.  It could very well be that the publisher who does accept my work will only publish me electronically to start.  If that happens, I'll would a service like Lulu to offer hard cover and soft cover editions too.

We'll see. It should be much longer now.

Wish me luck.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Festival

I received a mail the other day about the Los Angeles Book Festival.  Here's what it said:


LOS ANGELES (November 3, 2010) _ The 2010 Los Angeles Book Festival has issued the call for entries to its annual celebration of books deserving more attention from the world publishing community.
The Los Angeles Book Festival will consider entries in general non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography, children’s books, cookbooks, science fiction, business, spiritual, genre-based, how-to, photography/art, spiritual, poetry, foreign language, romance and mysteries, teenage/young adult, how-to and the wild card (anything goes!) categories published on or after Jan. 1, 2007.
Entries can be in English, French, Spanish, German or Portuguese and can be from major publishers, self-published or issued by an independent publishing house.
Our grand prize for the Los Angeles Book Festival is $1500 cash and a flight to Los Angeles for our gala awards ceremony on February 25, 2011.
Submitted works will be judged by a panel of publishing industry experts using the following criteria:
1) General excellence and the author's passion for telling a good story.
2) The potential of the work to gain a wider audience in the worldwide market.
TO ENTER: Entry forms are available online at or may be faxed/e-mailed to you. The Los Angeles Book Festival is part of the JM Northern Media family of festivals, which includes the DIY Convention: Do It Yourself in Film, Music & Books, the New York Book Festival and the Hollywood Book Festival. The Los Angeles Book Festival is sponsored by eDivvy, the Larimar St. Croix Writers Colony, Westside Websites and the DIY

I've received mail like this before and I do plan to enter... when I have a book completed to my name.  That might be soon and it might not.

Regardless, I thought I would pass along the information in case you have (or someone you know has) a book to enter.  If that is the case then I would enter.  You've got nothing to lose and you might even win.

Friday, November 5, 2010

In the Beginning...

As you probably know, one of the basic tenets of good creative writing is to vary word choice and sentence structure to keep from putting the reader to sleep, if nothing else.  But this idea is also good practice for the start of any story.  If all your stories begin in much the same way, you might want to mix things up a little.

For example, do all your stories start with your hero riding down a dusty road for one reason or another?  Or perhaps you are using the variation of the same basic opening.  For example, in story 1, the main character is trying to join an organization but can't; in story 2, the character belongs to a guild, church, or cabal, or other group and wants to advance but cannot.   While the story can go anywhere from this common beginning, why repeat yourself in this way?  More importantly, by using a common beginning, you set up an expection in the reader that the current story will be much like the last one and who wants to reader the same story twice?

Rather you need to try and find a unique opening.  For example, if your hero is riding down a dusty road in one story then don't have him or her do that again.  Next time open in a tavern drinking with his friends or camping out in the wilderness or engaged in a heated argument or waking up in the morning.  Anything but the opening you already used.

The point here is that your opening matters... a lot. It determined whether the reader will continue to the end or stop before the story gets going.  It is up to you to enthrall the reader to the point where he or she cannot turn away.  When that does not happen, your story fails to do its job.  When it works, you've got a winner.

How do you do that?  There are lots of ways but the main thing is you need a hook.  The hook is something to engage the reader, like a mystery or some conflict that will be resolved by the end of the story.  Example:  in one of my stories, the main character finds a baby in the ruins he is clearing out.  The story ends when the readers learns who the baby is and what she was doing there.

Example: The main character wants to unveil a statue to honor the victims of a horrible attack on the town.  The resident ghost doesn't like this idea and plans stop the proceedings.  The story ends when the ghost is defeated.

So pay attention to how you start your stories.  Mix it up a little and have fun with it.  And by all means, don't repeat yourself.

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Novel Writing Month

These days we recognize and honor all sorts of people for their role:  for example, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Grandparent's Day, Veteran's Day, and even a day for administrative assistants.  We also recognize large sections of the population with observations such as Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month.  But none of this prepared me, a few years ago, for an event called National Novel Writing Month.

I discovered the event while I was trying to get the first version of my novel published.  The event's web site describes it this way:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.
Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.
When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.
Where: You write wherever you’d like. On your computer, on your iPad, on a typewriter---anywhere is fine, just as long as you’re writing! 

If you want more information go to their web site,

The reason I mention it is today (Nov.1) is the first day of the event.  So if you want to participate, you'll want to register at the site.

I am not participating this year.  I'm deeply engrossed in revising my first novel so I can put it back on the market, begin revision of novel #2, and start writing novel #3.  I may participate some other year as it is looks like fun.  So if you've been wanting to start a new novel, and need the structure of the event to get started, go for it.