Monday, October 16, 2017

Okay, so we're the bastards of publishing. What, we're going to stop writing?

Good afternoon friends!

It's been a bit since I've blogged, and there's a reason for that.

I've been down.

I've been very down.

My writing career has been up and down as many of you may know, but mostly it's been a career largely unknown to the vast majority of readers. I have worked with professional publishing companies, and I have published on my own, and my experiences with the professional companies have been 1 very good and 1 very not good.  I found out that a company that strokes my ego and asks for all of my books might seem like a good idea, but the end result can be disappointment.

So I'm back to 100% self publishing which puts me back the in the battle between those who are "legitimate" (Those who work with publishers and let publishers deal with marketing and cover art and all of that) or those who are not at all recognized.  (You know...those of us who are self published, the bastards of the writing world.)

Two things happened in the last few months that really got me down.

1) I found out that the person I'd paid significant cash to edit my novels not only didn't do a good job, they made things worse.

This was brought up by a customer at the farmers market where I've been selling my books for the last three years.  I put my trust in someone who was opening up her own publishing company and therefore I didn't go back and check her work. I should have been more watchful. The knock on self published authors is that the final copy isn't clean and I've long prided myself that my books are clean. This summer was humbling because I found out I'd been taken and some of my novels, indeed, were terribly edited.

Well, I've fixed that issue.  So there, no worries there.

2)  A customer of mine went to my local library asking if I could do some sort of event there. I've done library events before, but I've been hesitant to approach my own local library, probably because, well, I'm trying to sell books and libraries, well, they aren't so much with the selling.

And, in this case, they aren't so much with the self published.  It is their policy, they told my customer, NOT to do events with self published authors.  What they mean is this:  Self published authors are not real authors and therefore have no place in our precious collection of only legitimate publications.

Not much I can do about that attitude and that's had me down big time.  And, as we writers know, the mental aspect of writing is so vital. Being down means I haven't worked on any of my current works in progress for some time and I haven't blogged here.

The battle to be recognized as a legitimate contributor to the writing community may be a losing one for now. For the past eight years I've been self publishing and, this editing hiccup aside, I've put out some quality work.  Not my problem that publishers don't have the time of day to either look at or even acknowledge my submissions.  If I waited for permission (because that's what it is) from a publishing company to send my stories into the world, I would have exactly one book to my name and I would not be doing public appearances several times a year as I do now.

My own friends in writing look down on my work because they've got book deals with small presses and they are "legitimate." When the topic comes up I bite my tongue, I smile, and I say nothing because I'm not going away...and they aren't ever going to accept my work until I can wave a contract offering me 17% of the royalties if I sign away my rights to what I write.

Don't get me wrong.  If a publisher offered me the right contract, I would go.  But I've done enough wrong contracts (really, one is all you need) that I'm ultra careful about who gets to judge and/or reject my work.  Meanwhile, I'm not going to stop writing. And I'm certainly not going to wait by the phone (or email in box) like some desperate high school girl waiting for a boy to deign to call her and ask her out.  I'm going to continue to publish and I'm going to continue to sell my books.  I have a new editor now, one I trust completely and one who actually does a very good job.  My storytelling style is my own.  My content is what I want.  My covers are approved by me and only me. 

The people who read my work generally enjoy it.  I meet with book clubs and groups frequently and we have a blast.  I love the hands on approach, I love meeting people the way a local farmer or crafter would.  I'm proud of what I do, and I enjoy sharing it with others.

So, my self published friends, take heart. Yes, things are up and down in the world of self publishing.  And you're going to have to fight to be recognized.  But here's the thing: Things are up and down in the "legitimate" world of publishing, too.  I know authors who are published and guess what?  They have to work day jobs just like we do. They aren't world famous.  Most of them, the vast majority of them, continue to work and build what ultimately is a small reader base.

What's the difference?  Well, legitimacy comes at a cost.  Maybe it's up front fees. (I don't recommend that.)  Maybe it's the publisher taking the lion's share of the royalties.  But the only difference between many "published" authors and those of us that are self pubbed is this:  Someone looked at their work and said, "Hey, with a lot of rewrites this could be something. So turn over your rights to the book and we'll edit it, make a cover for it you may or may not love, and we'll take 80% of everything you make off the book."

Yeah, okay.

So my friends, those of you who are self published and those of you who are traditionally published, let me give you my battle cry:  I might just be one of those bastard children of publishing today.  But my work is out there, and I'm not going away.  What, you're going to make me stop writing?

I don't think so.

The one thing, my self pubbed friends, that you do need to be wary of is this:  Get the book edited properly.  Get an English teacher who knows how to spell (and read) to look it over. Do not trust spell check.  Contact your local high school or college and see if they have a teacher or a student willing to work for a small amount of money.  (Professional editors cost a ton.  And that's what I thought I was hiring...and I got screwed.  Don't be me.)  Make sure that the work you put out there is as clean as you can make it, editorially speaking.  YOU CANNOT LINE EDIT YOUR OWN WORK.  You just can't.

We, the growing army of self published authors, need to make sure we continue working, continue writing, continue making our voices heard.  We've come a long way, but there are still hearts and minds to change along the way. The goal, the focus, must always be on the reader.  Give the reader something good and you will always have a measure of success!

Friday, August 4, 2017

FREE BOOK OFFER! (No strings attached!)

Good morning!

So, this weekend, I'm offering downloads my office humor book, "Not While I'm Chewing" for FREE!

No strings.

Seriously...just click on THIS LINK and download the first volume of Elsie W's office antics!  FOR FREE!

No Kindle?  No can download it to your computer.  Seriously...FREE!

I'm trying to build my reader base, and the best way I can think of is to have people read what I write, and the best way I can do that is give away one of my books.  So click on THIS LINK FOR A FREE COPY OF "NOT WHILE I'M CHEWING!"

This is my one non-fiction book.  (Which is why the names have been changed to protect the me.)  Every word in this book is absolutely true, although some people have a hard time believing Elsie W. is a real person.

Believe me...I lived it. She's real.

This is the FIRST volume of stories I've written about my time working with Elsie W.  My second volume will be out the beginning of September. So...jump on this FREE OFFER and get the fruits of my hard labor for FREE!  JUST CLICK HERE!

I'm not sure I can make it easier!  LOL

This offer is for this weekend only. Sunday are out of luck!  So hurry!

Thank you! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Review You Can Use: Dunkirk

I don't generally give up the point of the review in the first sentence, but if you read nothing else regarding my opinion of Dunkirk, read this:  See it. See it. See it.

There, now you can move on with your day, or keep reading to know why I'm so excited about this film.

If the first twenty minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" and the nearly last forty minutes of "Titanic" had a baby, it would be this film.  And coming from me, that's high praise since I hold both films up in very, very high esteem.

There is no respite from the tension, not from minute one.  The music, provided by the genius Hans Zimmer (Gladiator), is a constant ticking of time, the underlying clock that drives every second of the movie.  Overall, the sound on this film is spectacular, sharp, alarming, and surprising.  This is NOT a film for small children, simply from the standpoint of the sound.  Someone brought a four year old to the movie last night (it's rated PG-13) and the kid didn't last long. Every sound battle sound is highlighted and not to be ignored. You very nearly feel each bullet.

While the sounds of battle are in the fore, the dialogue gets a tiny bit lost. But it's okay. There is very little in the way of dialogue, which might be a good thing for American audiences because the accents of the UK are sometimes a little difficult to sort out and the film moves too fast for some of the lines to fully register in the brain.  (I suggest you see this movie more than once.)

It takes a little time to realize, even if you're prepared for it, that the story is told from several viewpoints and not in a traditional linear timeline.  We see the battle as it unfolds for each of the four main views of the story: Tom Hardy, the fighter pilot, Kenneth Branagh, the commander on the dock, Mark Rylance, the private boat owner just trying to help, and Fionn Whitehead, a British soldier risking everything to get himself and his friends home.  Their stories wind in and out of each other's and are presented in a fresh way that keeps the audience from tuning out.

I saw this in 70 MM film, and if you have the chance, see it this way, because the extra flicker of the film just makes the experience that much better.  If you can't, then shoot for Imax or Ultra Screen. This is one of those rare films worth the extra cash to see it on the biggest screen you possibly can find.

While the battle scenes are loud,  director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), uses a light hand on the blood and gore factor.  Mindful of the pg-13 rating, the film hearkens back to a time when we didn't need bloody water and severed limbs to get a point across.  That's not to say there aren't disturbing images, there are.  But it's the human emotion and overall aura of tension pushes forward and carries the film.

"Dunkirk" gives US audiences a piece of history we are not all that familiar with...because America wasn't involved in World War II in May of 1940.  But it's a landmark moment in the world. Christopher Nolan and a cast full of British heavy hitters and surprising new comers do beautiful job of honoring the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians touched by the battle and the evacuation.

See it.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Can the pen be mightier than the sword...or the suicide bomb?

Good afternoon!

Normally I don't get deep into world events and politics because I believe politics and religion are topics that should be discussed only if two parties have agreed to discuss them. I believe what I believe and I'm perfectly happy to live in a world where other people worship and vote differently than I do, so long as we all understand that we still have to be kind and polite to each other.

That said, I feel like I have to say something touching on the horrible terrorist attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert.  What hit home for me in this story is that some ten years ago this could have easily been me with my daughter at a Jonas Brothers concert.  Every parent whose taken their child to a concert aimed at teens, I'm sure, felt the pain when they heard the news about this specific attack.  

See, what makes this one different is that it specifically targeted young people.  This was not an attack on a shopping mall or a political building or a bank.  This was an attack where the vast majority of the victims were very young, people who had barely begun to live, children who may not even understand what evil there is in the world.

Regardless of what religion you are or what your politics are, or even what your opinion of teen agers might be (and having raised two of them, yes I know...they can be less than a joy to be around) you have to understand that this is a dark, dark event.  When we as a species turns our violence onto our young, we are doomed.

What can we do?

As writers and authors, we've heard the whole "Then pen is mightier than the sword" many, many times.  And that might be true.  But I'm thinking we have enough flame throwing reporters and editors out there raging against violence and injustice.  And the world keeps getting angrier and angrier.

I propose this:  Maybe a different tactic, which might seem weak and silly, but it goes hand in hand with another cliche we writers know very well:  Laughter is the best medicine.

I've long said in this life you're going to face bad things and you can cry or you can laugh and I chose to laugh.  Believe me, I've seen enough fear, sadness, illness, anger, pain, and loathing in my personal life, I could dwell on it and never leave my house and never smile again.  But I think the courageous thing is to find the sliver of humor, that glimmer of joy and focus on that.  Only if we are able to find the good in anything will we be able to look at each other, no matter how different we are, and still be peaceful.

Those who laugh are often discounted as out of touch, silly, unintelligent.  I disagree.  I'm not talking about shrugging off these attacks and saying, "Well the world sucks and we're all going to die, but hey, isn't that hilarious?"  I'm talking about saying, "Yes, this is horrible.  But what is there in life that is good?  I'd like to focus on that."

I know it seems naive, but I think that we, as wordsmiths, call pull readers up from despair by
offering an escape into joy, humor, fantasy.  It's not running away from the issues of the world, it's offering a moment of respite and relief.  Books have long been the haven for those who wish to escape.

In doing personal appearances at odd places, like Farmers' Markets or Craft Fairs, believe me, I've
seen how many people simply do not read anymore. They just don't.  But maybe that's our fault as writers. Maybe there's just too much dangers and evil and negativity on bookstore shelves now.  I mean, how else do you explain Food Network's popularity?  An entire network devoted to cooking?  And yet, I know when I turn on "Chopped" I'm not going to see images of blown up arenas or angry mobs, or people protesting everything.  It's a moment away from it all.

So here's what I want to encourage both writes and readers: Let's find something funny and grab on to it.  Let's find joy and relief in words. We can do that.  We writers, we can offer humor, love, escapism, entertainment and joy.  And readers, even those of you who aren't readers, you can dip a toe back into the written word and see where it takes you.

Maybe escaping into a book won't stop suicide bombings or other acts of terrorism.  Probably not.  But still...if we are able to find joy in our lives, how much better are we equipped to reach out to others who are different from us and find common ground?  And if we have common ground, how much more likely will it be that we can find peace with each other?

Isn't it worth a try?

To that end, check out the comedy book listings on Amazon.  Maybe your favorite is in this list. (My personal favorite is Jim Gaffigan's "Food, a Love Story."

And yes, I have a couple humor books of my own. I've long been inspired by the works of the late, great, Erma Bombeck, and I write my own brand of humor with joy in her honor.  You'll find the links there on the right of this blog.  

Again, friends, think about it...finding a happy place might make us look on each other with a better frame of mind.  "Laugh and the world laughs with you."  Right?

I don't might just work.  I'm willing to give it a try.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Don't you just love that new cover art smell?

Good afternoon!

I know it's months away from the actual release of the new Nora Hill Mystery:  Warning in Waukesha, but I'm super excited about the cover...mostly because it came together SUPER quickly and while I thought it would be the rough draft, I might just keep it!

The fun part of doing my own publishing is that I have quite a bit of control when it comes to cover art and many cases I do my own.  The Nora books have taken on a theme of a single point of light in a fairly dark picture.  I love this one because of the purple hues, and because the image reminds me of the Fox River in Waukesha.

The book itself isn't quite done and I'm thinking it'll be a Thanksgiving release provided I stay focused and finish it in reality and not just in my head.    But I needed to share this with you!

Meanwhile, if you haven't read the first two Nora Hill Mysteries, check them out!

Nora Hill is a woman in search of many things: Plots for her series of best selling young adult novels; the perfect place to leave her father’s ashes; a reason why God would expect her to come to Him when He’s given her prosopagnosia, face blindness, and can’t recognize anyone’s face, least of all God’s.
Along the way, Nora finds herself searching for something else: Every time she turns around, there’s a child missing and Nora knows she has the ability, the gift to find endangered children who can’t, or don’t want to be found. Uncomfortable with the notoriety this ability gives her, Nora still answers the call to search for children because her beloved father told her this was God’s gift to balance out the face blindness.
Visiting her old hometown of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Nora hopes to send her father’s ashes into Lake Michigan and leave town before anyone recognizes her. Major car trouble dashes her hopes, and she finds herself trapped for a weekend in a town full of terrible memories. When the manhunt for a former classmate’s asthmatic daughter turns up empty, Nora must battle her own personal feelings and do her best to find the girl before it’s too late.

Nora Hill is a woman who likes to keep the people in her life at arm’s reach both from her and from each other. Her family knows nothing about her literary agent. Her literary agent, Connie, thinks she’s an orphan. And no one knows about her friendship with Jack Terrell and his daughter, Sam. Keeping them separated makes Nora’s life less complicated. Living life with face blindness and an unwanted, yet undeniable, ability to locate at-risk missing children is enough for Nora to manage.
All she wants to do is prove to her mother that Lake Superior is not too cold for swimming. But, when Nora loses her cell phone she sets into motion a chain of events that sends these separate segments of her life crashing into each other. Suddenly, everyone in her life has questions only she can answer.
Under strict orders to stay in Superior, Wisconsin until Connie can ship a new phone to her, Nora wants to pass the time as anonymously as possible. That hope is shattered the minute she checks into her hotel and she realizes she’s meant to use her ability to find Jamison Thatcher, a young boy who recently removed from his home when school officials discovered bruises on his body and accused his parents of abuse. One problem: Jamison Thatcher is not missing. He’s on TV, he’s at restaurants, he’s everywhere.
It’s a long holiday weekend and while Nora tries to unravel the mystery of a missing child who isn’t missing and clear the good name of Jamison’s parents, she accidentally uncovers a secret about her own past. While she’d prefer to stay in Superior and never face what’s lurking in the deep recesses of her locked memories, Nora knows she has to move forward and keep searching for the truth.

You can get either book in print or e-book form at amazon by clicking here!

Friday, May 5, 2017

First Weekend of the Season...First Novel FREE!

Good afternoon!

This is going to be short and sweet:

In honor of my first out and about appearance at the Waukesha Farmers Market this Saturday, I have decided to make my FIRST NOVEL ever published, the romantic comedy "DREAM IN COLOR" available as a FREE download starting today and running to Tuesday!

This book is sort of a love letter from everyone who ever had a crush on someone out of reach like a celebrity, an actor, a sports figure, anything like that to that crush...and back.  There are moments of laughter, tears, and one very gassy dog.

Here's a bit of what it's about:

Approaching middle age, Ramona Simms doesn't live a colorful life. She has a dead end job, a gassy dog, and a mother who believes marriage is the only measure of success for a woman. She dreams her childhood idol, the retired rocker Jesse Alexander, will take her away from everything someday, but the only Prince Charming in her real life is her coworker, the persistent, colorless, Virgil.

Then Ramona learns Jesse is coming out of a retirement to do a series of concerts. Convinced this is her destiny calling, Ramona sets out on the journey of a lifetime, dreaming to turn her black and white life to something far more colorful.


And remember, if you read it and like it, please leave a review!  We indie authors live and die by word of mouth!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It's personal appearance season!

Hello everyone!  It's that great time of year again when I emerge from my winter cave and go out into the public and do all kinds of personal appearances!

This year I'll be most notably at the Waukesha Farmers Market just about every Saturday (Except June 17, July 29 and whenever it's raining) from 8-12.  I'll be there not only signing and selling all of my titles, but also talking about self publishing and how to get started in the e-pub game.

While I have really nothing else planned at the moment  (because every Saturday out and about is a lot for me!)  I will say this:  I am available for in person or Skype events.  If you are a local book store, a book club, or a writers' group, I'm happy to come out and talk  to you, and I bring my own books!
I have TWO NEW titles out this season, if you haven't already caught them.  The first is the second book in the Nora Hill Inspirational Cozy Mystery series, Superhero in Superior!  

The second new title is the second book in my movie review series with my writing partner Linda Schmalz, and this one is called OH, the Drama!  This time Linda and I are reviewing dramas head to head.  We rarely, if every agree!  So much fun!

By the way,  you're a church group, I do presentations on growing up Lutheran, and I also discuss Christian/Inspirational fiction in our time.  (Ties in with my Nora Hill Series.)

Head on over to my WEBSITE for my contact info.

As for me, I'll be out THIS SATURDAY, May 6, at The Waukesha Farmers Market!  Look for a black Nissan Cube and a Red Wisconsin Badger tent.  I'm so excited that the season is starting!  can't wait to see you all there!

Friday, April 21, 2017

GET "Not While I'm Chewing" for FREE!

Heads up all!

Today, tomorrow, and Sunday ONLY get my latest release, "NOT WHILE I'm CHEWING" for free when you download it from Amazon!


Need to know what it's about?  Here you go:

My name is Sarah. I work in a small office.

The only other woman in the office is an unintentionally hilarious disaster of a human being. Every workday, I witness and chronicle her complete lack of social awareness, her non-stop eating, and her skewed concept of a work ethic.

I call her Elsie W.

These are her stories.

What you are about to read is true. Only the names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent (namely, me).

Oh, and unlike the Coen Brothers and their wonderful series "Fargo"...when I say it's all true...I MEAN IT!