Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Day Of The Year

It's been quite a journey to reflect upon.  I have no idea what I was thinking a year ago.  I had published Impossible Charlie (now Dream Horse)  in paperback using Lightning Source and understood immediately I couldn't do that again.  In Oct. 2009 I put Charlie on Smashwords as a test.  It was doing nothing and has continued to do nothing there.  I don't know what I was thinking about ebooks.  I had recently signed with an agent and had given him my mystery Mr Mitnick's Harem.  I expected he would read it and get back to me with a game plan for getting it sold.  November passed.  No word.  December passed.  No word.  I was angry by this day last year.  By January I was already ready to fire him.  It's unprofessional to make your client wait over 2 months to read and respond to a project.  (Fast forward many months and it was about 8 months that he had Sweeps/Love After Lunch and he never got back to me on that at all.)

I don't know when I found Joe Konrath.  Even he, a year ago, was more tradpub, uncertain about ebooks.  Things moved very fast for everyone in 2010.

Here's an interesting article about the music biz but pertains to artists of all kinds in this new world.
Kulash on Rock 

I hope to get Burning Daylight published today but maybe it won't, because I'm sitting here burning daylight.
It'll happen this weekend.  Maybe tomoro is a better day anyway.  Silly idea, really.

Two last thoughts.  Now that digital publishing is a real thing--don't make excuses, make good.
And to wish you a happy new year,  here is one of Neal Marchal's favorite songs in Burning Daylight.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tracht Gut, Zain Gut

Oh great, she's devolving into Yiddish now.  Translation please!

Think good and it will be good.

What does that mean?  Isn't that magical thinking?  This isn't a Harry Potter movie and all the New Age chanting doesn't effect the real world.

If *you* think good *you* will feel better.  Your life will be more pleasant to live if you think positively.  If you are smiling, you will make other people feel better, even if it's by one iota.  Have you ever had someone smile at you and it changed your day?

I used to drive to the New York City ABC studio every day.  I drove through Harlem and entered Central Park at the north entrance.  It was the short cut.  Nearly every single day I saw a quite mature woman jogging.  She wore these baby blue long shorts.  Saw her every day.  I named her Harriet.  One day, I have no idea why, I waved at her.  She waved back.  I was stunned.  I was elated.  I was absolutely over the moon.  I went into the studio and told everyone.  I felt visible to this stranger in the park.  It was a transformative experience.  Later I read her obituary.  Her name was Gwen and she had been a school teacher her entire adult life.  This was a teacher.  She knew how to connect and she knew how to teach.  She connected with me and taught me a valuable lesson. All it took was a smile and a wave.

I hang around (too many) political type forums, and I read Joe Konrath's blog.  It seems to me that wherever I go there are people who really enjoy being negative.  They enjoy making other people doubt themselves, doubt that good things can happen, doubt there's a future, doubt that we can overcome our difficulties (doubt there's a God).  I don't know how many posts I've made to forums basically echoing Edina Monsoon "Cheer up!  It ain't that bad!"

I don't understand this psychology and in this case, I don't want to. Life is hard.  Life is like an obstacle course.  Everyone has challenges.  Some tackle the problems head on, others ignore them, still others cave.

We're perched on the brink of a new year.  For those of you feeling doubts or fears, try to be a little braver each day.  Emulate someone who was courageous in the face of a predicament.  For those of you willing to cave, geez, keep it to yourself.  Why spread it around and bring everyone else to your level of misery.  For those of you who have a positive outlook, spread it around!  We need you.

Look around the world.  Everywhere you can see evidence that it is far easier to destroy than to create.  What side do you want to be on?  Make a positive difference in the world.  Contribute something good.  Contribute yourself.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why Don't People Go To The Movies Anymore

Because most movies are too lousy to bother with.  Hollywood movies are generally made for a certain demographic.  That would be men 18-34.  Hollywood used to make movies about adults and adult problems.  Now when they're not making movies based on comic books, they are touting a political agenda out of step with most of the country, or they make a movie like "Failure To Launch" which is about a Peter Pan type guy.

Then the Hollywood types wring their hands when they're not demeaning the rest of us for being dopes who refuse to support their trash.

I went to California to attempt to get into the film biz.  I was too old and I was the wrong sex.  The ideal screenwriter is about 29 and male.  That's why we get the movies we get.  They understand the target audience because they are the target audience.

If you make movies that are so expensive that you must take in astonishing box office receipts just to cover the debt, then this situation is understandable.  After all, it's business. 

What if you made less expensive movies and more of them, for a wider range of potential movie goers?  According to Hollywood, you would be a big dope.

What does this have to do with publishing.  Other than publishing is still seen as a way to find film properties, the publishing business is making the same dumb mistakes.    

I had a proposal for a nonfiction book called "True Brit: An Anglophile's Guide to Living a British Life".  The editor liked it but it wasn't "downtown" enough.

I'm sorry.  I don't know how to make that fix.  "Make it more like Bridget Jones," I was told.


I don't know how to make that fix either.

They want books that target a very specific audience, the rest of us can get lost.  Another really good business decision, you early retirees.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Great UnVeiling

I worked all day on the Burning Daylight cover and I think this is the version I'll use.

One thing I will readily admit is that I veer away from the predictably commercial.  I don't think this screams commercial.   I'm sure there are any number of ways to do this that other people would do.  I'm not them.

Is that good or bad?

Everyone talks a good story about being a nonconformist but when it comes right down to it, most people are pretty much like everyone else.  That's good because things that are different can be scary and threatening.  The people who do the best are the most like the group.  So if this describes you Huzzah!

Ebooks are all about having the freedom to implement your vision.

What the world needs now
Is Vampires, sweet vampires
That's the only thing
That there's not too many of.

Did you ever hear that song?  Yeah well it ain't one Neal and Truly will sing.

Talk About Creating a Cover

First, read this article if you're interested in epublishing.,0,1203901,full.story

Over the next couple days I'm going to be building the cover for Burning Daylight and I might as well share the process in hopes that it will help some of you or spark some ideas for others.

Bad Apple Book 2.  Okay we probably don't need fruit this time.  Why did I choose the apple instead of oh, say a gun, for Book 1?  Because the apple is a motif through the book.

What's a motif?-- 1)  a recurring subject, theme, idea, etc., esp. in a literary, artistic, or musical work.

In the beginning, we see Aunt Maude making cider from the apples and Neal is helping her.  Neal learns from Maude.  There is a family history entwined with apples.  This tells the reader (it should, I'm sure it doesn't for anyone blasting through the book reading for plot alone) there is something about history that's important.  The farm at Kent Mountain used to be a working apple orchard.  It used to be a vibrant farm, productive, nurturing.  Now there's no farming, the family sits in the house figuratively rotting while the land has gone fallow, literally rotting.  In Joe Kent, we see the fruit of the new orchard.  Isn't this what his mother, Janie, has produced?  He has become a bad apple.  Is he the only bad apple?  Discuss among yourselves.

Now we're at Book 2.  We're not at the orchard, we're not at Kent Mountain, altho we do eat apples and pears quite regularly because they are good.  What's a visual motif in this book?  They're musicians, so music.  What instruments do they play.  All strings.  Tru is a pianist but also has an affinity for the violin, he plays the guitar as well.  Neal started her musical journey with a fiddle (violin but not classical music, as in just fiddlin' around).  So some kind of image that suggests music.  Piano keys?  That leaves Neal out and she's theoretically our main character.  Violin then.  Wouldn't a guitar be better?  Maybe for a customer who comes to this book without reading Book 1 first.  But let's go with a violin for the moment.  Maybe it'll work.

I came up with this as a piece of interior illustration.  

The more I looked at it the more I liked it.  I thought maybe there's a way to use it as the cover.  It's perfect for what it is but totally doesn't work as a thumbnail.  It's not LOUD enough (no, you'll see some things really stick with me).  So how am I to enlouden the image above so it can be understood as a thumbnail.

Let's think about the title.  Burning Daylight.  What the heck does that mean?  It's generally meant literally, tick tock, you only have so many daylight hours to do your work.  You're wasting time.  We have the sense of time passing.  It must be going faster than we expect or we wouldn't have mentioned it.  Time is passing quickly, there's a rush.  To burn through something suggests speed.  Is there anything to be gotten from literal flames?  Do we burn the violin?  Do we put flames in the background?  How about going with the image above, pretty much but making the text burn.

I gotta admit this does nothing for me.  I'm glad I did the tutorial and now I can create flames in Photoshop, but by itself I'm not seeing its usefulness. 

I need to find something else.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Real Life Returns

Now that all the fun and excitement of Christmas is a memory, although I don't discount the hangover effect, it's time to return to the business of publishing.

I'd like to say, probably not for the last time, but for newbies to the blog, it may be the first time, I suspect the reason this was my most productive year is that I didn't have the dead weight of traditional publishing holding me back.

Sure, we can all envision a solitary writer in his garret room struggling away on his masterpiece.  Everyone considers him a loon but, with bravery beyond our ken, he persists.  Finally it's finished.  And still no one wants it.

Road Block!

Now it's different.  What a blessing.  Let's just put it in its least critical terms.  It's impossible to paper publish all the books that are written.  There aren't enough trees.  There aren't enough people to edit, format, create covers.  There aren't enough trucks to schlep them around the countryside.  Undoubtedly all these books don't deserve to be published given the limited resources.  Whether they deserve to be published because of their artistic achievements or entertainment value is a whole other issue.

I really loved, practically memorized, the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  She lived almost to 100, I believe she passed in 1957 or 1958.  No, I'm not going to go google it.  Think of what she saw.  As a child, she lived in a berm house with a dirt floor on the prairie.  Light bulbs, telephone, movies, phonograph, airplanes, radio, television, jet aircraft, the beginning of the computer and space travel were just some of the things Laura witnessed in her lifetime.

We're seeing changes too, big ones, and I wouldn't predict what will happen with ebooks by July of 2011 let alone in 5 years.  It's a great time for readers and writers.  A giddy time when the formerly locked, nay, barricaded and guarded, door has been flung open and possibilities rush forth to greet us like old friends.

For me, it's just time to get back to work.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Merriest of Christmases

My readers have made me blessed this week and I thank every one of you.

The sales have been incredible.  Having dyscalcula, I gave up trying to keep a spreadsheet a couple days ago when BN changed the format of their reports.  Just too many number for me.  I do know that yesterday Summer Horse sold more copies than all my books at Amazon for the month.  Today it's right on track to top those figures.  It's up to #422 which is unbelievable to me and I'm very grateful.

The beautiful surprise this morning was to see Bad Apple 1 sold 7 copies.  People are finding it, it must have gotten on a list.

All this suggests that there's a new generation of readers coming on  board now.  We had the early adopters who liked the violence and gore, then the vampires and now new people have Nooks (it seems, geez, I'd get a Nook Color rather than a b&w Kindle, too) and finding other books.  It's lovely and wonderful.  I can honestly say I have written or worked harder this year than any time in my life and that includes my years in television.

I still have so much to do, but I can only think just so fast and no faster.

I did finish Bad Apple 2--Burning Daylight yesterday and since the book itself ends on Dec. 31st, I would love to publish it on the 31st.  That means a brutal amount of work in the next 6 days.  Plus I have to create a cover.  Luckily I know more about Photoshop than I did 6 months ago!

Friday, December 24, 2010


I seriously never even thought of getting higher than 20,000 or something for any of my books.
But as I said earlier, Summer Horse is flying.  And for a kid's book that's not about horror or vampires or b*tchy little girls, this is great. 

What a great treat, especially since I had 3 really hard and unexpected days in a row with Bad Apple 2.

Since I said that, let me just say that, for me, that's the point of not outlining.  I want to be surprised.  I want the story to drag me.  I don't mind sitting here and thinking "I wasn't supposed to go there now" and stewing about it all morning.

One of the best Christmases ever!

30 Copies In A Day!

Wow, what a Christmas Present!  Summer Horse is's not really off the shelves, is it.  (Edit--It wound up making it to #8)  It's #700 in rank overall at BN which is amazing yet only #20 in its category.  I'm guessing that everyone is seeing the same kind of activity so the placing isn't changing.  I have no idea, don't listen to my explanations.  Here's another theory, maybe a better one.  Parents are buying readers for Christmas and pre-loading them with books for the kids.  The good thing about Summer Horse is that it really is age appropriate.  There's nothing "adult" or complicated emotionally about it.  There are no rivalries particularly, no difficult situations, no language, no sex (!) except that Wynne would like to see her mother get remarried.  No feminism, no gurrrlll power.  It's just about a summer full of adventures on horseback.

I thought I would be finished with the writing of Bad Apple 2 by now but I think I probably have another 30 or 40 pages to go.  It's less structured than Bad Apple 1, more episodic, more like a soap opera in that it's a continuing story.  While it does have an arc, it's not as well defined as in a stand-alone book.  The 3-act structure isn't there.

I must admit I find this somewhat troubling because it goes against the norm.  But what is the norm for digital books?  Are we going to reproduce what print books did or is there the potential for expanding our horizons.

One of the first computer games was solitaire.  First known as Patience, it was a card game first noted c. 1765.  So you have all the computing power to send a man to the moon and we're playing Free Cell.

It's something of a chance, I suppose.  If I wanted to do a sure thing, I would write about vampires and have a bang-up Act 3 with all kinds of fireworks.  But let's see how this works.  Let's see if there aren't other ways to tell story when you're not dealing with paper or bulk or storage or the fears of editors.  Let's see if compelling characters and situations like life, hold readers and make them want to find out what happens next.

Merry Christmas Eve.  This is my favorite Christmas carol, yes, a Jewish girl can have a favorite Christmas carol.  I first heard it in French so after much searching I found you a version that is stirring and induces chills..  (And not tarted up like some female singers insist on doing.  What's next the rap version?)

For those reading my blog at Amazon, here's the link

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Formatting, Irate Readers and Something Else

I don't know how well prepared some of these companies are for the explosion in ebook demand, from a publisher POV.   Amazon seems to be doing well overall.  They at least have a support department.  BN not so much.

There are some formatting issues for BN that don't exist for Kindle.  At the top of the frame for Nook there's a place for the title to be automatically inserted.  If it doesn't exist in that secret place, the program inserts "letterdefault" which looks terrible and I've had a complaint.

So here's a hint on that.  In Word (not at all intuitively as nothing is for Microscoff), go to Prepare>Properties>Summary.  Fill in the appropriate information.  If you're using html, you can see where you need to fill in the spaces at the top of the file.

This doesn't exist for Kindle.  And it shouldn't.  There's no reason why metadata or document properties should be getting anywhere near a book and its customer, but there ya have it.

I had a reader complain that the text wasn't dark enough.  Stumped.  I don't know how to fix that.  I opened the same document in Kindle for PC and it was terrific.  In Nook for PC, yes, it was lighter.  Again, it seems like BN's end but I'll accept the blame if it's my ignorance.

I went to view the Just Kate page at BN and someone left a review with 2 stars.   "uurgghhh" was very annoyed that she downloaded the book but it wouldn't load so it was a "wast of monney".  Since she didn't read the book because she couldn't, still she was mean-spirited enough to slam Kate for 99 cents.  Again, nothing I can do about her inability to download the book but I did contact BN and asked them to remove the unfair review.  At least READ the book if you're going to "review" it.

So it feels like BN wasn't quite prepared for all this since they don't even have a functioning support desk for independent publishers the way Amazon does.  We'll look forward to the new year and everyone, especially me, getting our acts together.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sleigh Ride

This is one of my favorite holiday songs.  There are so many good versions of it but let's go with The Ronettes.

Ronnie Bennett had a girl group in the early 60's.  Her sister and her cousin or friend/whatever.  They caught the attention of Phil Spector who was the wunderkind of pop music in those days.  He was really a genius, with a vision and an ear for what was possible.  He created the Wall of Sound.  Of course with all the computer programs today and Auto-Tune and everything else available, anyone born after Phil Spector's triumph will wonder what's so great about the Wall of Sound.  It was like a huge wave of music crashing over you.  It was revolutionary.  No one else was doing it.  He became influential and very famous and most of his singers became very famous.  Darlene Love made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this month.  She was his go-to singer.  She had so many fake names, she could have made it on the FBI list of 10 Most Wanted Women.  Ronnie was great too but she made the mistake of marrying Phil which pretty much tanked her career.  When, years later, she finally got away from him, Ronnie told horror stories about how crazy Phil Spector was, how he was abusive and kept her prisoner.  I don't think anyone believed her.  Fast forward 20 years and he's in jail for murder.  Okey Dokey.

I go into these details because they are a fine demonstration of character in action.  People don't behave in a vacuum.  There's always a reason and a motivation.  A story is not just simply plot it is also character being demonstrated through the choices the character makes.  And the arc of one's life is quite long so the past can suddenly be resurrected and impact the now most uncomfortably.

At any rate this version of Sleigh Ride is very enjoyable.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Expecting Less

This is likely to be all over the place and I'm not going back to edit it, sorry.  It's also likely to be somewhat political, tho I will try to avoid that, but if you're touchy, come back in 2 days.

There is an elite class in this country.  Or more precisely they've designated themselves as such.  They think they're better than the rest of us.  They know more, they're better educated, and they think deeper thoughts.  We're stupid because we believe in God and other things that are against "established science".  These people live on the coasts.  We live inland.  They run advertising and entertainment and publishing.  They know what's best for us.  We're too stupid to run our own lives, so with their wisdom, they will tell us how to live.  Yippee!  I always wanted to go back to the time when my people were slaves to Pharaoh.

So you have all these elitists in tradpub who are making up the rules as they go along--the writing isn't loud enough--and as gatekeepers, so the kulaks won't read the wrong material, they publish the best writing.  It's the approved material!  How dare you suggest otherwise?!

This morning I downloaded a relatively successful ebook because I wanted to see the chasm between this writer and me.  After reading a few pages, I learned quite a lot.  I learned why this book wasn't traditionally published and that was because the writing wasn't loud enough.  I don't know what loud means.  So unlike Ms Elitist Agent, I will say that it was just writing, just storytelling.  It got the reader to where they should go.  In other words, the writing did its job.  It wasn't elegant, it wasn't poetry, it wasn't profound, deep or reflective.  It was just storytelling.

And then it occurred to me that readers expect less than the elitists in NYC do.  Readers just want to be entertained.  Like in the first half of the 20th century with all the pulp magazines.  People do like to read, they love stories.

I don't know what the elitist agenda is for publishing.  I don't know if they know well enough to put it into words.  They say they want a good story and they turn them away time after time as proven by all of Joe Konrath's books that have been rejected and are now bestsellers on Kindle.  They're clevering themselves right out of an entire once-vibrant industry.

As proven time and again through history (some people just can't learn) the peasants can only be oppressed for just so long and then they start to squirt out at the edges.  Pretty soon it becomes a flood and the elitists are pushed aside.  People want to be free.  It's instinct.  The only people who don't want to be free are those getting well paid for their slavery.

Digital publishing is where the leak began for tradpub. 

First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.
~ Nicholas Klein

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advertisements And Added Content

As of this weekend Summer Horse has almost doubled sales of last month and the month isn't finished.  Any growth is a positive sign and I still cheer with every sale.  They're all important, especially to me, since I'm not writing in genres that are huge selling categories.

I got a non-personal email from Scott Nicholson over at and he's selling ad space in his ebooks.  Joe Konrath has talked about this but I wasn't paying much attention since my audience is miles away from anything either of them do.  But it occurred to me there is a writer who does do what I do and ads in her books might help me a lot.  And that author is me.  So I cross-promo'ed Dream Horse in Summer Horse and vice versa.  I promo'ed Bad Apple in Just Kate.  I did not promo Kate in Bad Apple because momentarily Burning Daylight will be promo'ed there.

People are probably doing this already for themselves but I was busy and the thought eluded me.  I'll try to pay more attention to that.

What I do consider, fleetingly, is added content.

The only place we have added content right now is a DVD.  Take the last Harry Potter I saw (and the movie stunk on ice).  There was an entire DVD of added content and actually the whole thing with JK Rowling was more interesting than the movie.  Do people care about this added stuff?  I'm not sure.  I feel the answer is no; that's because I generally don't care or watch it.  But if the audience wants to "extend" the experience, then added content is good.  (Extend being the word used to describe added content or action figures in a Happy Meal everywhere but San Francisco.)

But what is added content in a book.  One thing I do not want to hear about is the writer's process.  It's boring enough to have to live a writer's life, I don't want to experience second hand boredom.  If that writer is going to illuminate the process, make it universal in some way, help us identify with some aspect then I'm all for it. 

In Dream Horse, I wrote a couple paragraphs I called Behind The Book.  I talked about the real Charlie, to some degree.  Partial truth in some cases can be far far better than the whole truth.  The book is a novel, a fiction, why ruin the illusion?  Not every book comes with a history.  Not Low Maintenance doesn't have one.  Love After Lunch has too much history.

We'll just have to find content that's appropriate for our books.  Most self-published authors won't be able to afford professionally produced videos and would readers want to pay for it.  This isn't a movie set with cameras already rolling so the costs can be swallowed by the entire budget.  Ebooks are a bargain even at what Joe Konrath considers the perfect price of $2.99.  The price will necessarily go up if there is an increased financial investment for the writer/publisher.   I suspect we don't want to do this, especially not in this economy.  Besides the new gadget aspect, people come to ebooks for convenience and lower cost so we need to keep the costs low and the quality high.

I love Irving Berlin, one of the greatest geniuses of popular music ever.  Here's one of my favorite songs from White Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's Not Loud Enough

You may have gotten the idea, if you've been reading this blog for a while, that I'm not a newbie to writing.  I have books older than some of you.  There.  I outed myself.

Yesterday, after a considerable amount of time, I got a rejection from an agent for Bad Apple.  She said it wasn't loud enough.

WTF does that mean?

Ms. To Be Unnamed. If you were going to trouble yourself replying to my email, you should have taken that seriously and not blown me off with such an inane comment that defies translation.  What's "loud" mean when applied to something that inherently has no sound?  It's a book, not the 1812 Overture. The writing isn't crude and vulgar enough?  It should be more hyped and fervid?

The first line of this book is "I could smell the blood before I could see him".  I guess I should have gone right into the kitchen and said his head had been bashed in so thoroughly the jaw jellified.  I'm not sure that's a YA book, it sounds more like Konrath, but since I'm a writer I can't translate "loud" into anything I understand.

Maybe people should have been screaming in horror--altho that would have been out of character.  Maybe that's an old construct and we don't need characterization anymore we just need VOLUME.  Perhaps it's enough if you only arrogantly read a couple paragraphs and decided you are such a genius you know everything that's going to happen in the hands of someone who had already published 15 books traditionally and a good number digitally.

Who needs a whole freaking book?

So enjoy your future retirement.

These people richly deserve everything that's going to happen to them in the next few years.

I have to get back to Bad Apple 2, I assure you I will not be turning up the volume to 11.

I made this vid last year or the year before, maybe you'll enjoy it.  The song we know as Carol of the Bells is really a Ukrainian song from over 100 years ago that has nothing at all to do with Christmas.  But I put the song together with Christmasy images anyway.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

White Christmas

Most of the country will be having a white Christmas which I'm sure will be very scenic.

I was at a site where they asked for our favorite Christmas movies.  So this morning instead of using White Christmas I'm using Holiday Inn which preceded the use of this song.

Christmas is a wonderful holiday and I don't understand why there are a few people who insist on complaining about it and attempting to ruin the mood for everyone else.  That's not tolerance, that's pettiness.  Even if you're not a Christian, you can enjoy the colorful decorations, the music, and the spirit of giving.  Of course if you're a petty, small spirited individual, none of those things have any value.

I should make some popcorn balls.  What do you think?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Solstice Season

I had so much to do all year--formatting the books, rewriting, tweaking, writing, learning Photoshop (yikes, that was hard) that I didn't have much time to think.  Now things are slowing down just a little I've had time to consider where I am and where I might be in the coming weeks.  I decided not to publish the teen travel series from Berkley as it's too much work to get it to where I would be somewhat pleased with it.  I'm still on the fence about the companion book to Love After Lunch or whatever it should be titled.  I don't think I'll publish that any time soon. 

Amanda Hocking's experience gave me much to ponder in addition to the new situation we writers find ourselves in. As fast as you can write, you can have a book published.  I mostly love this very much.  I hope, not even to speak of others, I am not encouraged to revert to the speed I had when I started this career.  Taking time to reflect on the work is a good thing.  Even if readers don't care, I want to care.

It does seem like the current market is all about story and plot and not about depth.  Well, okay then.  I can strike a middle ground and please myself and my potential readers.

The winter Solstice occurs on Dec. 21.  Even the most rudimentary thinkers who lived in huts or caves could discern when the dark of the days ceased growing longer and began growing shorter.  Day lengthened and night receded.  Good for them!  So there was a celebration.  There was a renewal.  The evergreen trees were dragged out of the forest and paraded through town.  Yippee, life can return.  There is an organic reason to look to the future now instead of the artificial date of January 1.

I did a great deal of research and thinking about the story that became Blue Raja.  I think it will help me now.

I don't know how much I believe in astrology.  It's fun to play with.  I like tarot card, too.  My sun is in the 5th house which is the mark of the gambler.  I think being a writer at all is a pretty big gamble and maybe satisfied any further wish to gamble in my life but I tend to be a risk taker on my work.  Risks are not as huge as they were a year ago. 

If you write a book and can't find an agent or a publisher, you can be out 2 or 3 years of your life in an investment that won't pay off.  Plus you probably have written something to please agents and editors instead of readers.  Now you have the investment of the time it took you to write the book and the realistic hope it will find an audience.

This is such a good time to be alive.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Top Ten

Summer Horse got to # 7 on the charts at B&N today.  I'm not sure about the Louisa May Alcott publisher but think everyone else is published by a tradpub house.

Gee, that makes me feel swell.

Lady Snowfall

A Tale Of Two Writers (Minus One Plus One)

Now we have 2 writers both who have been dumped by their publishers. I feel sorry for them.

I've done my fair share of complaining, even on this blog.  I've been mistreated.  I'm often angry about it.  But when I saw there was real viability for ebooks, I sprang into action.  Critical acclaim?  Who am I writing for?  Readers.  I sell 1 copy of Bad Apple and I cheer.  I literally thank God.

Anyone here think Amanda Hocking is put out over having no critical acclaim after selling like 20,000 books so far this month?

If your book isn't selling it's because 1) it stinks or 2) it hasn't found its audience.

When I started this process in April, or actually last October when I put Impossible Charlie up at Smashwords, the market for middle reader books was negligible.  Charlie/The So Impossible Horse/Dream Horse still isn't selling well but Summer Horse continues to rise in the rankings.  Last time I looked it was in the 800's. Pretty great for a middle reader book that's over 30 years old.  Those girls in that book are now old enough to be Amanda Hocking's mother!

With each reader sold, the reading audience changes.  Today maybe no one gets Blue Raja.  In 6 months maybe they will.

Either write a different, more marketable book, hold your course with the books you have or keep wishing for the world that's gone by to return.

Years ago when I was in college, I'm so embarrassed to say, I wrote a story about a romance author.  It's impossible to say from this distance what I was actually thinking when I wrote it.  What was the point?  What was I trying to say?  Now, without a copy in existence, the business and tastes had passed her by but what choice did she have but to keep going.  I think it was about a woman who felt lost.  I think those two writers are like that romance writer.  They feel lost and scared and want the world they know (and that's been relatively good to them) to persist.  It's not.  I think the world we knew was largely an illusion but I'll put that aside for now and maybe forever.

That 20 year old me was stupid, especially in the specifics, because romances always sell.  They sell as well if not better than then.  I can name any number of women who have been writing romances for 40 or even 50 years and are still going.  Mary Higgins Clark tops the list.  Phyllis Whitney until she passed.  There is a good strong market for romances in ebooks.  Once retirement communities realize that the size of the font can be changed  in readers, the seasoned citizens will be thrilled to be able to read books without the hassle they experience now.

A number of years ago I took advantage of the local cable outlet and their local origination program.  You learned to use all the television equipment and you were free to make programs.  I was going to do a 1/2 hour playlet.  The script is at Smashwords for free.  Explosive Expose.  Go read it if you're so inclined.  Hundreds of people have downloaded it.  There was a nice man working at this cable place and we talked about the way entertainment was changing.  He was very convinced that the future was niche markets.  You don't have to sell zillions of copies, you sell to your fan base and you'll get a greater percentage of the $.  He was a visionary because ebooks didn't exist.  Youtube didn't exist.  I'm not sure Google existed at that point.  I don't think Amazon existed then.  We had just gotten out of Gopher at that point, I think.  If the www existed, there was almost nothing there.  Your own website?  Huh????

Times change.  Technologies change.  Tastes change.  Readers change.  What doesn't change is that everyone wants a good story.  Provide that and you'll achieve success.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I'm #942 I'm #942!!

Out of who knows how many ebooks (million?) there are at Barnes & Noble, Summer Horse is 942.

Overview -

Summer Horse

Product Details

  • Pub. Date: October 2010
  • Publisher: DashingBooks
  • Sold By: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: NOOKbook (eBook)
  • Sales Rank: 942
  • Age Range: 9 to 12
Excuse me while I go cry.

A Tale Of Two Writers

This has been an interesting week writing-wise.  With Bad Apple 2, I'm just about on the same day as the characters are in the story and, yes, it ends on Dec. 31.  I expect I'll be finished with the writing before then.

I have another idea percolating, unrelated to Bad Apple 3 caused by this week.

As an observation in general about ebooks, there is no greater cachet to selling one category over another.  If you sell well, it's all good unlike in the tradpub world where a big commercial bestseller is a lot better than a YA (barring the Twilight books).  You will receive greater accolades and credibility for Danielle Steele or James Patterson books than anything else.  This doesn't seem to be the case in digital.

This week Joe Konrath introduced us to Amanda Hocking.  She's 26, apparently never been published/gotten the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval from tradpub.  Up until just months ago agents were rejecting her if she was so lucky to get a response, but mostly ignoring her.  She decided to take her career in her own hands.  Now she's selling like 10,000 copies a week. 

No, that's not a typo.  She's selling 5X the books Joe Konrath aka The King of Kindle is selling.  She's writing very commercial fiction in a genre that everyone is clamoring for--yeah, vampires.  She has lovely covers and a good work ethic (edit edit edit) and obviously does what she does really really well.  Brava, Amanda!

A tradpub writer on a mailing list I'm on (nevermind I'm not saying more than that) just had another book published and even though it got excellent reviews, it's not selling well and she's experiencing dismay and despair.  "What am I doing wrong?"  She wrote to the list.  (The book is $26 and we're in tough economic times, let's start with that point.)  Everyone, feeling rightfully sorry for her plight, began patting her on the head and reassuring her.  No, she shouldn't quit, all will be well, just do more of the same.

Off list (because I am usually not a welcome addition to any discussion) I told her about Amanda and Joe and me.  I said ebooks are the future and she should explore what's going on, do some research and know that once tradpub collapses from its own motivated stupidity (I didn't say those exact words to her) there's a new life to be found with lots of readers ready to embrace good stories no matter where they come from.  I want to think I planted the seed of hope in her the way Joe and now Amanda planted seeds of hope in me.

I love Amanda's story.  It's better than Konrath's because he is traditionally published and has books out there and has an agent (I think it's actually an agent I worked with for a while, she was the "best" agent I ever had in one respect).  You have the traditional publishing model not able to comprehend what's valuable about Amanda, not able to see the potential in her projects, nor the stellar storytelling skills she possesses.  So in an overnight success type situation, altho it's months, she goes out on her own and without intention, proves them wrong.  What's not to love about this.

She delineates well on her blog the contributing factors to this success.  Go there and study.   We can all learn from her.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This Has Nothing To Do With Writing

Unless I'm really more clever than I suspect and am able to drag it around to it by the end.

She's quite striking isn't she.  A little Natasha Henstridge action going on.  You know she's from some Balkanized country but you can't quite place it.  She's all the rage in European high fashion circles this month.  I don't know how long flavors last.

Maybe what you can't place is that she's a guy.  His name is Andrej Pejic and he's 19.

Cool.  If you're an elitist type European who hates themselves so desperately they want to disavow their culture, their religion and now finally their sex.

Boys will be boys.  Not on your freakin' life!  Boys will be girls.  Finally the women in Sweden can stop calling men "walking..." the p word.  I don't want to get too graphic because I have an audience of 9 year olds.

I've said it before and apparently I'm going to say it again and again.  Men are big, they can be like goats with a scent all their own which is so pungent it can make your eyes water, and they break stuff sometimes intentionally and sometimes accidentally.  They can be clueless and impatient and don't want to snuggle on the sofa and watch White Christmas every year during the holiday season.  They are altogether lovely, necessary and can possess the most amazing instinct for protecting others.   Another great thing about men is that they're not women.  They are the other.  That's how this system works.  The only thing as good as a real man is a real woman.

But there ya go.  I'm not an effete elitist who thinks people are cluttering up the planet and we should all die so the snail darter can exist happily.  And I'm not going to be writing books where the female character criticizes men endlessly yet bemoans the fact that no man is interested in spending the rest of their life with a whining, inconsiderate shrew.

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Harder Than It Looks

That reminds me of the Led Zeppelin song Going To California that ends with the lines
Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams,
Telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.

No, let me assure you it's harder than it seems.

There is someone on the internet who's had a well-respected blog for many years.  I have been in absolute awe of him, copying phrases turned so well they would make a master craftsman jealous.  Heck I was if not jealous, dismayed by my own failings in comparison.

But one must press on with whatever meager talents they have, right?

Recently. this person published his own novel.  (Good for you!  And good that you Kindled it!)  So yes, I ordered it and Amazon says it's in transit (along with a cool book of recipes from a Boston bakery).  I've been a little trepidacious.  I expect to be blown away by the magnitude of his prodigious intellect and emotional depth but how will that make me feel personally?  I suppose I could lose a whole day of work on Burning Daylight while I nurse my wounds.

Then I read the first two reviews that came into Amazon on this book.  One was extremely positive.  Then other was not but it was astute and it made me believe the reader saw something quite accurately even though he also has vast admiration for this man.

The gist of the review was that whatever we see and admire so greatly in this man's blog, has not translated into the form and structure of a novel.

This novel writing trick--it's harder than it seems.

Today so much bad writing is successful.  Slap a story together about  whatever topic is currently popular and you can have a kindle bestseller overnight.   You can write mysteries about a donut shop, or anachronistic historical fiction.  You can appeal to an audience who doesn't know any better because that's about all there is out there.  But to do it well, that's harder than it seems and apparently even someone with greater intellectual wattage than I possess and an Ivy League education, can stumble.

This quote from the Academy Award winning screenwriter Karl Luedtke can be switched with any number of professions.  It's like the "Police Work/being a solider/being a firefighter/being a whatever is 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror."  I like to believe it originated with him but maybe it didn't.  "The easiest thing in the world to write is a screenplay.  The hardest thing in the world to write is a good one."

The easiest thing in the world to write is some crap novel.  People do it all the time.  Smashwords is flooded with them.  The hardest thing in the world to write is a good one.

Shop Vac from Jarrett Heather on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Here's a quote from Severn House's  website

Submissions--We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. All submissions should come via a literary agent. 

Yeah, blah blah blah.  Who needs you.

Then I thought if after 15 books published by highly respectable publishers, a stint in television and a WGA award, I can't get a real agent and a real publisher, what the heck is going on?  

 What did I say?  You know what I said.  I said "Screw it!  I can do it myself."

The publishers and agents have delusions of grandeur.  They can afford to cast me off for not meeting their requirements.  Okay.  Cool.  Multiply me by any number of midlist, perfectly competent storytellers who are saying and feeling exactly what I am and turning happily to ebooks.

Let's spin that scenario out a couple years.  More authors are made to feel like dreck and leave this tradpub treadmill scam.  Who's left?  Noobies.  The reading public will have still more crap books they can ignore.
I read (never mind I'm not going to be specific) a historical novel of some kind and it was shockingly anachronistic.  This author has published quite a number of books.  I thought it was unreadable, historically inaccurate and far too chatty and shallow for me to invest my time in.  Luckily I got it from the library.

This is not the first experience of mine like this.  And this is supposed to be tradpub at its finest, doing what it does best, what stupid writers can't do for themselves aka research and edit.  Okey Dokey.

 About an hour ago I was reading a mystery (I'll give you that much) and the English character complained about the French.  These bad feelings between the 2 peoples has only existed for about 1000 years.  Remember
Normans -1
But the other character in the scene said in response "You're a racist!"

No, nothing of the sort.  The Brits and the French are both Caucasians.  Same race.  The character might have been a countryist but not a racist in any real definition of the word.

I might not read further than this, it's too stupid for me to deal with.  Luckily, another library book.

I can't get past the idea that you could have a whole mystery series based on a donut shop.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I'm # 15 I'm # 15

The sprites of website navigation smiled kindly on me and I determined why Summer Horse sold so many copies yesterday.  It's #15 on the bestseller list for kids 9-12 at B&N. 

Since I don't know how or why that happened, I can't tell you or me how to make it happen with any other book.  Give it the best cover and the best description you can.

I can tell you things I didn't do.  It wasn't reviewed (there's a site for reviewing ebook kiddie lit???).  I posted announcements months ago at the Kindle Forum and Nookboards.  I think between the 2 maybe 10 people looked at the post.  (Ditto for Dream House, a total bore).  I didn't go around like a maniac talking it up.  I didn't have a link in my sig pointing everyone to it.  In other words, I did nothing to help it.  I was too busy and the whole scrambling around the net doing something I find distasteful is a snooze to me.

I find it annoying for writers to keep clobbering people/potential readers over the head with their desperate attempts at drumming up readership.  I am so wrong as proven by Konrath's sales as well as Karen McQuestion's and others.  This is the proven way to success.  But it's not in my personality.  So I don't do it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I'm #? I'm #?

Summer Horse is fast out of the gate and running down the track ahead of everything else everywhere.  But esp at B&N.  So I said to myself "It must have made it onto a list where people are seeing it."  After 15 min. of looking --boy is B&N ever hard to navigate--I gave up.  SH must have made it onto a list but what do I care.  I made donuts today and created a new blog for Jewish Writers.  We need a showcase, we need a place of our own. Once it's presentable I'll give you the link.

Happy Chanukah.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Not Low Maintenance or I'm #82! I'm #82!

This is a top addition to the post.  I don't make a big deal of trying to find out where any book is in rank because I figure if I break into the top 50,000, with the off-genre women's books or children's books I do, then I'm really doing good.  I can only take so much of comparing myself to Joe Konrath's wild success before I have to eat quite a lot of 72% chocolate and bolster myself back up.  But I happened to go check on NLM and it's

Does it belong in this category?  Blame it on the way Amazon has it set up.  Yes there's a murder.  Yes there's a sort of mystery going on.  Yes there's definitely a legal component big-time to the book.  Is this anything, anything at all, like a John Grisham book?  No.  This is a romantic comedy.  But there's no classification for that.

I'm grateful to all you readers who have purchased this book.  I hope you have enjoyed it.  No one's complained so I guess that's a positive statement.

Back to the original post--

If the deciding factor of a book's worth in tradpub is 20,000 units moved then probably they were quite correct to reject it continually and Not Low Maintenance is one big stinko novel.

If the deciding factor of a book's worth is its ability to engage the reader, then they were quite wrong indeed.  Today marks a new month and there was NLM as predictably the first title sold.

Summer Horse, originally published by Atheneum as Nicki & Wynne, comes with a pedigree since it was published by one of the top houses at the time.  Someone, that would be Jean Karl the well-respected children's book editor, believed it to be a very good book. It does continue to surprise me as my strongest seller, out selling everything.  Sorry, Kate!

I suppose in years gone by, in the age of Malcolm Cowley, he could take a chance on a crazy manuscript written on a roll of paper with no commas.  The writing was vibrant.  It told a story that hadn't been told that way before.  It was an important work.  Oh heck, let's publish On The Road because it deserves to be published.  And 60 years later we're still talking about Jack Kerouac.

That mentality doesn't exist anymore.  A book's intrinsic worth isn't important.  Sales are.

Isn't there a way for tradpub to bring books to readers that are worthwhile but might not sell 20,000 copies?  By the towering remainder tables and such books offered by Dollar Stores and Amazon sellers,  suggests someone is choosing these sure-sellers quite badly.

There are so many reasons why writers are, or should be, turning away from tradpub.  Yes, I know there is the cachet of having what's assumed to be the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval from a "real" publisher.  It's a rush.  When Disney called my agent about Charlie (aka Dream Horse) I was beside myself "Disney knows about ME?!?!?!"  You're not going to get that from epub.  The thrills are different.  And satisfying nonetheless.