What a Miserable, Mother-Swiving Profession

“What a miserable, mother-swiving profession it is…”

“. . . to be a writer.” Christopher Marlowe

I’d rather be pussy grabbed by Trump than re-publish a book of mine ever again. Flipka, my first book, has had four editors over the stretch of four years.  As a result, I’ve been hornswoggled into a flummoxed higgledy-piggledy, lolly-gagging pusillanimous puke.  It’s not the editors’ fault.  They just didn’t agree with each other which always puts the writer on a ride down the Iron Maiden.

Coincidentally I’ve also been watching the miniseries “Will” which focuses on the so-called “lost years” of William Shakespeare, in this case, the years during which he made a name for himself in London.  Since not much is known about those years, the writers took a few liberties based on events of the day. The first season focused on the dangers he would have faced in London because he was Catholic in a society dominated by blood-thirsty Protestants. This is not something I remember coming up when studying Shakespeare in college but perhaps it did and age has dulled my mind.  I do remember endless discussions about his sexuality which brings me to that other great playwright of the time: Christopher Marlowe.

In this series, Marlowe is the “writer,” agonizing over the meaning of life and the futility of it all, whereas Shakespeare just wants to make a buck to support his family.  He’s the story teller.  I know people who consider it a personal effrontery to be called a story teller. They are “writers.” Their work does not rely on a plot or characters but journeys to the soul of the reader through the divinity of their prose.  Well, that’s cool. But few people can actually do that and I’m not one of them.

Anyway, if I wanted to spend my days intellectualizing over a process no one really understands, I would have made my father a very happy man and gone on to graduate school.  So, my question for you all is, are you a story-teller or a miserable mother-swiving writer?

By the way, I’ve been reposting a lot of “cuttings” from Duke Miller’s soon to be re-released (hopefully) Living and Dying with Dogs, Turbo Edition.  In his over twenty years traveling the world working with refugees he’s seen things most of us only run into in sweaty nightmares of the Apocalypse. It’s a remarkable report from the wreckage of Planet Earth: the Human Edition.  Quite timely.

Onward Methuselah, Part Three

My foray into self-publishing was derailed this week. Not by my own procrastinations but by the death of a family member. It wasn’t an unexpected death but death always seems so sudden and absolute even when expected. So I allowed myself a swig of the morose with a chaser of the guilt for not doing more, listened to ragtime and wrote badly.

But yesterday I got back to business. I logged onto CreateSpace and finally began the process. The first thing you do is either enter your IBSN or you buy one from CS ($99) or you take a chance and accept their offer of a free one. Then you download one of their Microsoft Word templates.

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The Microsoft Clippy – used to pop up to “help” you use Word. I used to hate this guy!

Now, you don’t have to use their templates. They have a whole list of rules and regulations regarding things like “bleed space,” embedding fonts, eliminating orphans and widows, etc., etc.,  you can apply to your existing MS to get it print ready.  In my humble opinion, only do this if you consider yourself a Word expert. They made my eyeballs sting and I was a tech writer and documentation manager for years.

So I downloaded a version of the template with boilerplate text so I could see what they wanted a doc to look like.  Holy Cow.  It looked exactly like the ready-for-print version of my MS that my publisher sent me before they went belly up. I even did a Select All/Copy on my MS and a Paste into the blank template – almost identical. The one difference was a Table of Contents.  One of my books does not have a TOC.  So I sent an email to CreateSpace’s customer support email explaining the situation and asking if a TOC was necessary.  This was the response I received:

Hello Jan,

Thanks for contacting us about including table of contents in your title. I will be happy to assist you with your inquiry.

Kindly note, CreateSpace will not include a table of contents in your designed interior unless you have included one in your manuscript. You are responsible for listing the chapter and section headings you would like to appear in your table of contents.

In this case, you’ll need to include the table of contents in the interior file and then submit it accordingly.

th-3The rather oddly put answer was followed seconds later by this:

Hello Jan,

I’m sorry for writing another e-mail. Please disregard my previous e-mail as it was sent in error.

In my previous e-mail, I’ve missed to address the PDF part and sincerely apologize if this is of any disappointment.

CreateSpace will not include a table of contents in your designed interior unless you have included one in your manuscript. In this case, you’ll need to include the table of contents in the interior file and then submit it accordingly.

We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Unfortunately I don’t think I do understand!  Do you?

I decided it’s easier and less time consuming to upload the files and wait for their experts to yell at me! In the words of Genghis Trump “It’s easier to apologize than to beg permission.”

Without googling, does anyone know who is actually credited with that phrase?

Onward Methuselah, Part 2

IMG_2056I didn’t get a chance to read this book until this morning and then, I did not read the whole thing.  It’s almost 500 pages long.  However, just skipping through the chapters I could tell it is an exceedingly comprehensive book on publishing. I wish I’d read it twenty years ago because as they say in Chapter 2, A World Wide Wonderland,  “. . .these days it’s imperative to start assembling an audience long before you’ve written a word.” To someone who’s been writing as long as she can remember that’s like saying “assemble an audience before you’re born.” Sheesh. My first book Flipka was in final edits before I even knew about twitter accounts.

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Too late chicka. No audience, no book deal. Mom and Dad don’t count.

The chapter on blogging contains some interesting factoids I did not know, for example, you’re supposed to post pictures of yourself at various stages of life.  Readers love family pictures. Really, what do you think?

I was always a little odd.

I was always a little odd.

If you’re going the traditional route, there’s gobs of information on dealing with agents, how to get a larger advance from a publisher, and how to conduct yourself on television interviews. Ah, not my big worry right now.

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Ah, Miss Twissel, did you get the memo about being youthful, attractive and scintillating for your TV debut? You look a bit like Methuselah.

The chapter I spent most of my time reading was Publish Thyself which, as the title suggests, focuses on self-publishing. Here are some things I learnt:

  1. It’s not uncommon for writers to spend up to $50,000 to self-publish if they avail themselves of all the so-called “writer services” available. (so word to the wise)
  2. Upgrade to off-white paper instead of white. It looks more professional and is easier on the eyes.
  3. If you’re listing yourself as the publisher, get a PO box and use it for contact information on the copyright page. (amazing to think people would actually list their home address as contact info but apparently it’s been done.)

Regarding item 1, writer’s services include editing, proofing, layout, cover design formatting, ISBNs, website design, bio help (professionally done head shots), marketing, distribution, etc., etc. The book contains many stories of writers who’ve gone the whole hog versus those who’ve flown by the seat of their pants. In the end success generally came down to perseverance on the part of the author, no matter how much money was spent.

Regarding item 3, to list yourself as a publisher all you need to do (in the US) is register your name as a business with the county clerk.  For about $50 JT Twissel became a business with me, Jan, as the President.  Now if I could only afford an admin.

I want to thank Krista over at  Krista at the Heart of It All, for the recommendation of Silverwood Books.  I did check them out (even saw your book listed!) and they seem exceedingly professional. Their packages seem competitively priced and a good deal but I’ve already gotten fairly far along in the process thanks to my previous publisher.  I will probably go with CreateSpace. Now thanks to Cinda I have a good idea what to look out for and which services to spurge on.  Maybe I’ll actually get started tomorrow. Ya think?

Onward Methuselah, Part 1

Several people (well, at least two) have asked me to keep them abreast of my self-publishing adventure so here goes.

All weekend long I told myself Monday was the day I would finally do something about republishing. I planned to log into my account on CreateSpace and download one of their templates so that I could format my manuscript for print.  If you’ve ever used a template you know they can be tricky. The easiest way is a Select All > Copy and Paste from your doc into the template.  But it certainly isn’t without risks. I was looking at least a couple of days of insuring that the formatting held.

front cover finalThen I had an email from my buddy Cinda MacKinnon who successfully self-published her award-winning debut novel (A Place in the World) a few years back.  She invited me to her house for tea and advice and said she had a couple of great books on the subject of self-publishing. Always a believer that you can never have enough knowledge about a subject, I quickly accepted and I’m glad I did.

I won’t go into the subject of our chit-chat as it involved grandchildren and elderly parents, a common theme for those of us in the “sandwich generation.” Eventually we did get around to self-publishing. This is a book she highly recommended:

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Boy was she right. The author rates a bevy of publishers in the “self-pub” market by the following criteria:

  • Shenanigans lurking in legal contracts that could bite you in the butt (this alone would be worth the price of the book)
  • Royalty schemes designed to make publishers more money and you less
  • The quality of books published (as expected, you get what you pay for)
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Example of a royalty scheme to be avoided.

According to the author, CreateSpace is in the “Pretty Good” category.

ohnoOh no!!!  Panic struck. Was I about to make the mistake of a life time?  (okay I already made that mistake)

No one wants to settle for Pretty Good when Outstanding might be possible, right?  Only as expected the Outstanding were full service companies, prepared to take your book from editing to print, even throwing in some marketing assistance. My books have already been edited at least three times. All I needed was print and publish, right? (here that pernicious worm creeps to ear and whispers:”maybe not.”)

The other book Cinda recommended, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, covers “How to Write It, Sell It and Market It . . . Successfully.”  I’ll read it tonight and report any interesting insights tomorrow.

th-2So much for day one.  I have to remind myself of this fact: I’m not Methuselah, even though I might feel like him.  Eventually I better get to it – I can see they’re loading up the Ark already.

 

Untitled Number Five

According to people who interpret dreams, if you dream of a th-6house, it represents your self or soul.   Following this logic, if you dream of a dirty house, then you’ve got some soul searching to do. If you dream of a house without doors, you’re paranoid about something.  And, if you dream of a house that’s beautiful from the outside but a shambles inside then you’re vain and your soul is trying to clue you in.  As far as dreams go, I think of them as a garbage dump of my day and don’t put too much store in them.   

However I do dream of houses often, two in particular.  One is a magnificent white manse, either ultra modern or very old, which sits atop a grassy hill. I slip through a keyhole like vapor and then fly down the endless hall, gliding in and out of pulsating rooms always stopping to gaze at the tranquil fishing village below. I’m looking for something, the pianist I hear in the distance. A soft mist starts to fill the house as finally I approach the pianist.  He plays in a beam of sunshine beneath an enormous bay window.  Outside billowing clouds roll across a Grecian sky.

Then, at this exact moment (in every single dream!) I decide I really have to pee.  A toilet appears in the middle of the room which I can’t use because suddenly people have materialized from the mist. After a few moments of anxiety my bladder gives the urgent symbol and I wake up.  If it’s early in the morning I try to get back into the dream but I can’t. 

th-5The other house is a claptrap assortment of rooms and ill-advised add-ons, decorated in hideous wallpaper with roughed up wood flooring and windows that refuse to open. This house excites me as I ponder an endless series of renovations. Some day, this will be my dream house, I think, as I discover secret rooms and staircases.  Generally I’ll run into a celebrity in one of the rooms, like Brad Pitt or Oprah. It’s not by accident, mind you. Cleverly I’ve pulled them into my dream because, to do all those renovations, I will need money!  Lots of money! 

Oprah’s always on the verge of giving me a million bucks when that old toilet appears in the middle of the room.   

What are reoccurring dreams trying to tell you?  I think mine are saying that I watch far too many home improvement shows.  Also, that I probably shouldn’t drink so much tea before heading to bed (okay – it’s wine).

Learning to Ride, again. . .

MomJuggling

From childlifemommy.com

For the past month I’ve been juggling priorities and only finding bits and pieces of time to catch up with blogging buddies. Writing came to an almost complete standstill and blogging – well, I’ve been  re-posting older pieces.  Marketing and promotion – forget it!

Now that I have a day unfettered by priorities, I feel like someone who’s fallen off a horse and now must regain the confidence to ride again.  What to do next?  Revamp the blog?  Work on my WIP?

My goodness, I can’t even remember where I left Fiona Butters. Tied to a railroad track outside Ely Nevada while on the trail of her missing beau, Civil War Professor Lopinski?  Or, in a small town in New England trying to convince a group of horny teenage girls that the th-1rock pile behind their boarding school is not a portal to the underground world of H.R. Lovecraft’s macabre imagination?

And, while I think I’ve worked out the skeleton of a plot, what will it look like to me now after thirty days?  Total and utter crap?  Probably.

The good news is I’m about 130 pages into the story and a Cheeto has not crossed Fi’s lips.  I can’t promise one won’t or that she’s suddenly going to start fasting, purging or yodeling but all things are possible.

How about you – are you finding it hard to get back on that old horse and ride bravely into the New Year?


In news from blogging and non-blogging buddies:

  • Many thanks to Mary Rowen, author of Leaving the Beach and Living by Ear for including me in her list of bloggers to check out. I’m honored!
  • For those of you who are fans of his work, there’s a new Duke Miller poem posted here.
  • Gentlemen bloggers, Hugh of Hugh’s News and Views has a new award especially for you!

My Favorite Part of Writing

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Golden Poison Dart Frog. Cute but how do I fit him into my plot?

My favorite part of starting a new novel is the research.  Truth be told, I probably add unnecessary elements to my stories just so I can research something like “poison dart frogs” and find out their venom is used for treating stomach ulcers (oh yeah – gotta fit that into the plot!!)  Some stories don’t require a lot of research but when you have a protagonist like Fi Butters, a lover of all things odd and curious, you’ve got to keep your mind and a Google window open. That’s what happens when your characters are much smarter than you are, folks! 

red-hair-gaints

From the Giant Red Haired Cannibals – one of my most popular posts for mystifying reasons.

Of course, with the first Flipka book it was easy. The story is set primarily in Nevada, home to Giant Red-haired Cannibals, mysterious rock formations, prehistoric fish, whorehouses, nuclear fallout, Area 51, desert rats (the human kind), conspiracy theorists, UFOs, the Burning Man festival, the Virginia City Camel races, tumbleweed filled graveyards, the Cartwrights, plenty of goof ball politicians and, of course, Vegas. It’s a regular cornucopia of bizzarities waiting to be explored.

So you can understand my trepidation at setting the first part of Flipka 2 in the area near Hudson New York, home to farms and cows and cheese.  What delicious oddities about Dairyland could Fi Butters manage to fit into one of her long rambling asides? 

Headless

Said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper (mercenary hired by the British) who lost his head to a loose canon during a “nameless battle” near Sleepy Hollow

Well, luckily a headless horseman haunts that area, inspiring Washington Irving to write his classic tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  The problem is, I currently have no idea how to fit a headless Revolutionary War trooper into Flipka 2.  A possible rival to Professor Lopinski?

The good news is you can find plenty of oddities anywhere.  The problem, how to fit them into your story! What sort of things have you stumbled upon while researching a novel that you just had to fit into a plot?

BTW:  I’m considering adding a page to the blog for promoting writers who have specials going on their books or an upcoming release.  What do you think?  Would you be interested in participating?