Sunday, December 18, 2011

Writers & Readers – The New Partnership

I recently had the experience of asking my local library, The Mechanic’s Institute, for a review for my book – something they do for their members. Now I love this library and recommend it for any bookster-nerd who pines for the days of old leather chairs, 20 foot high ceilings with books climbing all the way to the top, balconies full of periodicals, and that special smell of leather and paper mixing in eerily quiet surroundings.

MI was kind enough to stock my book and even offered it up to its review panel. Getting reviewed by former Publishers Weekly editors is not something for the lighthearted, but I have to admit, the private critique wasn’t a surprise. It contained all the standard admonitions: poor use of flashbacks, character growth, relationships, coincidences, terminology, and the dreaded dues ex machina (God out of the machine) – a contrivance that authors sometimes use when they write themselves into a corner…hey miracles happen, right?

Actually, I had to smile when I read the review. The reviewer was very polite and earnest, obviously disappointed in the lack of literary standards in my story. But one of the reasons independent publishing is exploding onto the literary landscape is that we authors can finally tell the stories we want to tell the way we want to tell them – dues ex machina be damned. The gatekeepers lost the keys to the gates and many of them still don’t realize we’re coming through.

However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tell a good story. More important than reviewers and aging standards are the readers. We have to respect the readers and allow them to experience a well-told adventure between the pages. One thing the literary elite forgets all too often is the fact that over the years, readers have been disappearing. They were turning into an endangered species. Frankly, the publishing establishment deserves a large part of the blame. As they were protecting the gates against most newcomers, they were accepting celebrity garbage, political tell-alls, and biographies from 15-minute famers that were more fiction than reality. I mean how much quality writing do you think is in Kardashian Konfidential? But the publishers will rush Ms. K’s trash to the bookshelves in order to cash in on the celebrity factor. How about Justin Bieber’s biography? Really - a bio from a 16 year old?

So what I am thrilled about is that despite the same tired critiques that new authors receive from editors, publishers and reviewers, we can bypass them completely and get our books out there. We crashed the gates and there is no turning back. I get to tell the story I want to tell the way I want to tell it. We’ve cut out the middlemen and are going direct from writer to reader.

Night Flight is in local bookstores whose owners are pleased to have it on their shelves. It is available at all online retail outlets and is selling and getting good reader feedback. What more could an author ask for? In this new era where the reader is who really matters, writers need to seek their acceptance and worry less about dues ex machina.

And lest one thinks I’ve not met my obligation to the readers, here is the very first reader review I ever received from a reader in Canada and is no relation or friend. She awarded it 5 of 5 stars:

“What a great book. Great story and extremely well written. Very good character development and easy to identify with. I can be somewhat of a skimmer but Alessa's descriptions kept me right there with her the whole time. I was sorry to see the book end and I would definitely read more of this writer's books. Loved it.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stand Up 2 Cancer - No Thanks

American Cancer Society
Stand Up 2 Cancer
Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Breast Cancer Research Foundation
The Skin Cancer Foundation
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer
Love Hope Strength - The Worlds Leading Rock and Roll Cancer Foundation
National Foundation for Cancer Research
American Childhood Cancer Organization
Susan Cohan Colon Cancer Foundation
Prostate Cancer Foundation
Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation
John Wayne Cancer Foundation
Have a Ball Golf Foundation
The Children’s Tumor Foundation
Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research
Startup for a Cure: Pediatric Cancer Foundation
Pancreatic Cancer Foundation
Foundation for Women’s Cancer
Elsa Pataky: Cancer Research Foundation
The Skin Cancer Foundation
CURE Childhood Cancer
Avon Foundation Breast Center
Susan G. Komen 3-Day
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 
Relay For Life
Cure Canine Cancer: K9 Cancer Walks
Avon Walk for Breast Cancer
Before reading further, be warned - this is an angry, most probably unjustified, rant against cancer research, the health sector, and the foundations that support them. I have lost so many friends and loved ones to cancer that I can’t even count them anymore, and I know that most of us are in the same boat. 
I lost my mother and step-father to cancer. My step-father suffered for almost a year after he was diagnosed, enduring treatments while hoping for a cure, but which did nothing more than ruin what little quality of life he had remaining. My mother went in a matter of a few short months, going from diagnosis direct to hospice, the doctors telling her that treatment at her late stage was pointless. I remember taking my mother and step-father from Arizona to Washington state, his home, so he could live out his final days and be buried there. We were all pretty destitute from the cancer treatments, doctor’s and hospital bills. We stopped at an American Cancer Society office in Portland, Oregon during the trip in the hopes of getting some assistance. They were very kind people there and gave us a small amount of cash to help us finish the trip. I will always think kindly of them (despite my growing distaste for cancer foundations).
That’s what cancer has done to us: made us alternately thankful and bitter. The most recent death of an acquaintance of many years brings all the anger to the surface again.  This woman died of breast cancer as have so many others. She lived with the disease for more than three years, braving all the stone-age treatments including radical surgery and chemotherapy. She went in and out of remission only to have the disease come back more aggressively than ever and take her life from her family and friends long before her time. For me, the anger returns.
How many times have we turned on the news to hear of promising new treatments that hold out the promise of a cure? But has anything changed over the years - over the decades? No. Hopes are raised by the promise of an imminent new discovery and then dashed when nothing changes. When afflicted, we continue to endure barbaric treatment at the hands of the medical establishment who are so inured to cancer that they have little sympathy anymore. And those who are cured are often driven to bankruptcy - even if we are fortunate enough to be covered by health insurance - because of the astronomical costs that none but the very rich can afford. 
This chronic disease is exacerbated by the despicable medical insurance industry. Complicit are the public health establishment and federal government who sit idly by and let a populace suffer at the hands of the medical and drug industries. Depending on the reports you refer to, there are over 1.5 million new cases of cancer every year. Of those almost 600,000 will die every year. How is this possible with so many cancer research institutions and scientists being supported by hundreds of foundations and government?
I started this post with a list of cancer foundations, charities and walks; this is a small handful of the hundreds out there. I am increasingly beginning to believe corporations and individuals are slapping the cancer label on, establishing a 501c3 nonprofit, and raking in the dollars. I want to believe that these people have good intentions, but I don’t see anything changing. Where are all these dollars going? How many walks and bike runs must we endure before real change happens? Is this just a way to get a name out there and look like you’re doing something good while really doing little? How can Avon and Susan B. Komen spend so much money on TV and radio advertising months before a walkathon? Does a walk for cancer that gives walkers a feel-good moment really change anything? Are the dollars raised in these walks creating change, or paying for massive advertising budgets and salaries? Am I bitter? Am I becoming cynical? Yes, probably. But Chemotherapy has been in use since the 1950s. In all that time nothing better has been found? 
Look at how much money is being funneled into these foundations and charities while our loved ones are sitting in crowded little chemo rooms getting poison pumped into their veins - or their breasts and upper torsos’ radically removed - or testicles, colons and prostates - or radiated beyond reason. Stand Up 2 Cancer? Really? I’m sick of catch phrases when my loved ones are dying. I give to charities all year long and have been a supporter of The American Cancer Society, but I have to question future support.  
I’m tired of us pouring millions of dollars into foundations and charities while the drug and medical establishments treat us with barbaric practices and drive us into bankruptcy in the process. If somebody has a real reason to be optimistic about cancer treatment I’d like to know about it. Otherwise, I’m not walking for the cure, standing up, or contributing anymore.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pure Genius

I’ve been typing my stories on a MacBook Pro for more than 2 years - ever since I took the plunge and finally got exasperated enough to leave the Microsoft sphere of bloated software built on sub-par hardware. It’s not that I hadn’t wanted to leave for years; it was that I was afraid to learn a new system. Even hard-drive crashes, DVD-drive failures, and virus’s that decimated my Windows machines weren’t enough to convince me it was past time to break up (it’s not me - it’s you).
What convinced me? A donation of a Mac Mini to my office. The transition was incredibly easy because the way the software works is so intuitive. And it’s a complete package - hardware and software designed by Apple that operates together seamlessly. No bloatware. No going to the Internet to find obscure drivers for peripherals because Windows can’t install the new hardware. No buying software (or finding crappy free software on the Internet) to edit my home movies or put together picture albums or play my music. No virus software that bogs down my operating system and couldn’t stop a cold, no less a computer virus. Working on the Mac was like I died and went to computer heaven.
Within a year I had rid myself of everything from Redmond, WA. My underpowered desktop tower - replaced by a sleek iMac; Gateway laptop with never ending battery problems - replaced by a Macbook Pro; add a first generation iPad for eBook reading, watching movies, Internet surfing, and easy email; and I’m looking forward to an iPhone when my contract with Sprint allows it. Some say I’ve gone over to the dark side. I say I finally saw the light. 
This past week I decided to bump up my MacBook’s memory and bought a couple chips to more than double it. It was an easy procedure, but when I turned on my beloved laptop it simply beeped at me. It had never done that before. PANIC!
After calming down I decided it would be best to go the Genius Bar at the local San Francisco Apple Store. I’d bought a 3-year warranty and I figured calling the helpline wouldn’t probably help since I couldn’t get the computer to turn on. I’d been to the Genius Bar before and it is one of the things I love about Apple. Easy, same-day appointments, T-shirted people greet you when you come in, check you in and point you to the Genius Bar. Unlike the idiots at Geek Squad where they won’t even look at your problem without forking over a small fortune (even with a warranty)--then they keep it for a week and tell you you need a new computer--the guys and gals at the Genius Bar really know what they’re doing. 
I handed over my beloved MacBook explaining what I’d done. The nice young guy looked at it, turned it on and told me I’d need to buy a new computer...pause for my reaction...then a big smile...“just kidding,” he says. “I think I know what it is. I’ll check it out and be right back.” In ten minutes he was back, had my computer working perfectly, handed me the bad chip in a Faraday bag that was causing the problem, advised me how to get a refund from the vendor, and escorted me away from the Genius Bar after making sure I didn’t need any more help. Oh--no charge. Thank you very much.
I get this type of treatment in Apple stores whether I’m there purchasing something or getting software troubleshooting/advice/training, or whatever I’m there for. This alone is worth the price of the products they sell. No fuss, no hassle, people who know what they’re doing and value their customers. That’s what I call Pure Genius.  
Thank you, Steve Jobs for instilling this kind of culture at Apple into an otherwise bleak corporate world everywhere else. We will miss you and hope that what you started will continue without you. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Two Out of Three Dentists Are Impressed

It never ceases to amaze me how impressed people are that I am a published author. I had my dentist appointment last week and at the end of the appointment my dentist, the administrative assistant, and my dental hygienist were gathered around as I scheduled my next appointment. My dentist looked at me and asked me if I had a book published recently. I looked up from my calendar and as our eyes met he smiled at me--something that would scare most people in a dentist's office.

I asked how he knew that. He said that the dental hygienist at his other office read the article in the newspaper about my book signing at the local bookstore. Everybody at the desk was looking at me as if I'd just won a Pulitzer.  Then the questions came at almost machine-gun speed. Is it fiction or nonfiction? Where can I find it? How long did it take you to write it? Can I get it on my Kindle? Is it in paperback?

I answered all the questions as I tried to avoid blushing from embarrassment. I get this every once in a while and I don't think I'll ever get used to it. People approach me in the grocery store, the post office, at work and once, even in the parking lot. I really am surprised at how impressed people are that I wrote a book. And even when I tell them that it is self-pulished, they don't seem to care. Somehow, the stigma of being self (or indie) - published, as we say these days, is disappearing. I don't know if it's permanent; if indie-books begin getting a reputation for being poorly edited with weak stories, then we may be relegated to the virtual slush pile. But for now, I like the fact that people recognize how hard it is to get a book written and marketed. Even an indie-book.

Here is a link to the newspaper article in the Pacifica Tribune.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Support Your Local Bookstore

Florey's Book Co., Pacifica, CA
The advent of eBooks has been a boon to independent authors. Sites like Smashwords have made ePublishing virtually goofproof. Writers can get finished manuscripts from their computers to all the major online retail outlets within minutes. We have control over price, distribution, and marketing. Amazon has embraced the model to the degree that they have an entire division devoted to independent publishing and marketing: CreateSpace. But if local bookstores struggled with the advent of big-box bookstores, how is this new paradigm shift affecting them?

It depends. Florey's Book Co., Pacifica, California's own local bookstore has survived and thrived over the years. Owner, Aaron Schlieve has built a store that caters to the needs of the local community. He offers readers a wide selection of current titles, specializes in teacher supplies, and has a nice selection of used books. He also has a good location easy to access and offers a comfortable lounge area where people can relax quietly while browsing. He also accommodates people with computers and tablets with free wifi. And he features local writers.

Florey's is often lively and full with small groups discussing their favorite books, doing poetry reads or having author book signings. And the local paper, The Pacifica Tribune, supports authors with stories when having a signing at the store. So is all well with local bookstores? No, not necessarily. Despite all the great work that local bookstores are doing to try and stay relevant, it is increasingly difficult to do so in the sea-change of ePublishing. The brick and mortar bookstore is simply not necessary when instant access to millions of titles is available anywhere, anytime. So how does a local community bookstore adapt? I asked Aaron this question; he simply isn't sure. Staying relevant in a virtual world is even harder than competing with the big-box stores when they sprung up around the country. Just look around you and see what happened to the local music retailer. Music store? No More - they are rarer than a Chicago Cubs World Series Championship.

Yet Florey's Books is still there, still relevant and still serving local readers and writers. My most recent book signing was there. Aaron helped market the event, the Pacifica Tribune did a nice piece on me because of Florey's (thank you Jean Bartlett), and the turnout was great. We had a terrific two-hour event. That's something that just can't happen in a virtual world. So even as I embrace the new paradigm, I hold back the occasional cold chill when I sometimes picture a world without our local bookstores and their dedicated owners.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Author Interview - Sarah Williams

From time to time I'll be featuring other authors, both local and international. There are so many great up and coming young indie-writers that it is important to get the word out about them, how they write and about their books. So here is the first interview from an author who lives down-under.

Sarah Williams was born in Salisbury and grew up in the village of Heytesbury.  She went to Kingdown school in Warminster before studying Theatre and Creative Writing at Dartington College of Arts.  In 2008 she moved to Australia with her partner and now lives in the Illawarra region of New South Wales.

As well as writing, she enjoys reading, yoga, good food and wine, gardening, music and films.  She'd like to learn to play the piano, speak fluent French and (because she now lives next to the beach) learn to surf.

Tell us a bit about your book and where it’s available.

“Captive” is set in modern day England and tells the tale of Lux Swithin, a young woman who has been abducted by an old family enemy.  The relationship between Lux and her captor is complicated but she knows that escape is imperative.  Whilst Lux tries to take control of her fate she is oblivious to the fact that there are other groups actively tracking both her and her abductor.  The Luminita are sworn protectors of the Swithin family and seek to rescue her but at the same time there are more sinister parties that seek Lux for purely greedy purposes.  And there is one, a woman with hideous scars and a broken mind, who stalks Lux with murderous passion.  It soon becomes a race against time to see who will reach Lux first.

My book is available as an e-book through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords.

What was the inspiration for your book?

The concept for this book came to me with the simple idea of a young woman trapped in a room from which she couldn’t escape.  Things just snowballed from there and all of a sudden I had characters, back story and a plot.  The story is actually set in the part of England in which I grew up so I imagine this influenced certain elements of the book.

What was your aim for this book?  What did you want readers to think and feel when reading it?

I really wanted to write something that I myself would enjoy reading.  I wanted the book to be fast paced, entertaining and full of characters that the audience would relate to.  I wanted to incorporate a mixture of passion, adventure, drama and even some humour.  I hope that I’ve achieved this.

If your book was going to be made into a film, who would you cast?

You’d be surprised how often this comes up in conversation.  I think I’ve decided that Brad Pitt would work nicely as Feardorcha and Emily Blunt would make a good Lux.

Who would provide the soundtrack to your book?

I think it would be a combination of Massive Attack and Muse.

What is/would be the tagline for your book?

Sometimes it’s ok to be scared of that dark

Do you have any other books currently available?

Not at this stage.  “Captive” is my debut novel.

What will you be working on next?

I’m currently writing the sequel to “Captive”, which I hope to have released in 2012.  I also have the rough ideas down for a comedy.  I’ve not written in this genre before so it will be a new challenge for me.

What’s your normal process for writing a novel?

When an idea takes me then I normally just want to start writing but I’ve learnt from experience that I tend to benefit from a bit of planning.  I like to develop my characters, get to know their back stories and define their personalities.  I’ll also have a rough idea of the main events in the book and where they should take place.  More often than not I’ll have a very clear beginning, a very clear ending and my task then will be to fill in the middle.  When I’ve finished a first draft it does the rounds amongst my friends and family and I take down their feedback before starting a second draft.  When I’m happy with the story itself the book is then passed to my editor, where it will bounce back and forth for a while until we’re both happy that everything is just so.  It’s a fairly lengthy process but I try to do everything I can to ensure that my work is of a high quality. 

How did you originally get into writing?

I’ve been writing stories since I was about eight or nine years old.  I caught the writing bug very early on and was compelled to write down my ideas.  I used to grab a pen and paper and write stories about my friends and I having adventures.  I’d then read these stories to my younger sister.  I never stopped.  I’ve since upgraded to a computer and I’m no longer starring in my own adventures but my sister is still the first person to read my stories.

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

I love creating stories and losing myself in a world entirely of my own making.  When I write I can see the story playing out in my mind and I’ll lose myself for hours in front of the computer screen.  It’s a very satisfying feeling when you finish a novel and it’s even better when people enjoy reading it.

What do you find hardest about being a writer?

As a self-published author I find the marketing side of things the most difficult.  It takes up a lot of my time and I have to balance the marketing with the writing of my new book.  It’s a lot of hard work but enjoyable.

Who or what would you count as your main influence?

I think my work is probably influenced by my own personal experiences and by the people around me.  Nearly all of my characters have traits of someone close to me.  Generally, I’m influenced by all the books, both good and bad, that I’ve read over the years.  You come to appreciate certain styles of writing and storytelling and this translates into your own work. 

What do you enjoy reading?  Who is your favorite author?

I love thrillers, mysteries, horror and historical romance.  I’ll pretty much read anything but these are definitely my favourite genres.  I’m a big fan of Dean Koontz and have been reading his books for well over a decade now.  I’ve also recently discovered Carol Goodman and Sarah Rayne, both of whom are extraordinary authors.

What would be your ideal writer’s haven for creating your novel?  Would you have a desk in a quiet cabin somewhere or a laptop on the beach.

I need to be somewhere with as few distractions as possible.  I like a lot of space, a comfortable chair and my soundtrack.  I find it harder to write without music. 

Did you self-publish or publish through a more traditional route? What was your experience with the route you took?

I chose to self-publish as I’d become impatient with the more traditional route of publishing.  It always felt like unless you had the right connections or were very lucky, the chance of getting your book published were next to zero.  Self-publishing gave me the opportunity to take control of the situation and that was very empowering.  Self-publishing is hard work but I’m working for me and it’s nice to know that I have control of my book.

Do you read with an eReader? If so what kind? How many books do you have in your home?

I have a Kindle, which my wonderful sister very kindly bought for me.  I alternate between using the Kindle and reading paperback books as I refuse to take my Kindle in the bath with me or down to the beach.  I have a few books at home but I generally go to the library to get my fix.

Did you publish your book in eReader format, paperback/hardcover or both? What challenges did you face?

My book is only available as an e-book.  I would love to see it in paperback or hardback but there’s a certain amount of money involved to get the book to that stage and at the moment I simply don’t have the budget.  Generally I found the process to be very easy.  The biggest challenge now is getting the book some attention.

If you self-published and you were offered a traditional publishing contract, would you consider it? Why or why not?

I have actually been offered a contract but I turned it down as I wasn’t prepared to sign over the rights for a small percentage of the royalties.  Now that I’ve self-published I’d be reluctant to hand over the reins to anyone else.

What challenges did you experience getting your book marketed? How have you marketed you book in your local area?

It’s very hard to market your book when you’re new to the industry, have a small budget and it’s only you doing the marketing.  The internet offers a wide range of marketing opportunities that I’ve tried to take advantage of.  Social media can be great for getting the word out and participating in forums and blog interviews are great for raising your profile. 

What is your opinion about reader reviews? Have you had a reader review that surprised you?

I’m terrified of reader reviews.  I’m scared people won’t like the book.  I’ve had some really wonderful reviews so far but I know that it won’t be for everyone and at some point I will receive a bad review.  When that happens I’ll just have to deal with it.  For now I’m happy that my readers have enjoyed their experience.  

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Author Interview

Fellow author, Sarah Williams, interviewed me about my book, Night Flight, and my experiences writing it. To read the interview you can go to Sarah's blog: Words by Williams.

Sarah is a talented young writer living Australia with her partner in the Illawarra region of New South Wales. Sarah describes her book, Captive, below:

Lux Swithin wakes up in a hotel room that she has no memory of falling asleep in. Alone, disorientated and far from home Lux fears the darkness. She fears the man who will inevitably return for her. 

Unaware of the dark history that led to her capture, Lux is equally oblivious to the various groups that are desperately trying to track her down. The Luminita have only her best interests at heart and are sworn to protect her but others have a more sinister agenda. As Lux attempts to escape her fate, the Luminita use their own unique skills to try and protect her. But whilst some unsavoury characters are easily dealt with, there is a grotesque evil that seems unstoppable. It stalks Lux with a twisted mind, determined to make her pay for ancient crimes. 

Captive is available as an e-book on Amazon and at Goodreads.

Come back to this site to read my interview of Sarah - being posted soon!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book Signings And Other Thoughts

I had an interesting week - Wednesday, Oct. 5, I was a featured author at an event at my local library, The Mechanic's Institute in San Francisco. This is a wonderful library with a rich history. It is a membership library that is over 100 years old and has survived earthquakes, fires, depressions and recessions. The event was Book'toberfest, and featured member authors with published books. It was a wonderfully rewarding event with more than 100 people attending. There was a panel on self-publishing which featured local authors and representatives from Green Apple Books and Books Inc. of San Francisco. I had an opportunity to present my book, Night Flight, and to talk about my experience publishing it. It was quite a night. They even erected a website featuring authors from the Mechanic's Institute. The site is called The Mirror - Reflecting Bay Area Creativity. It's a great companion site to the official library site; you should check it out. Thank you, MI staff for putting on such a great event.

My real-life job is in disaster planning for the nonprofits in the City and County of San Francisco. And this week is Fleet Week. The Navy is here in full regalia with ships and planes. The Blue Angels are streaking through the skies scarcely higher than the rooftops, and they are impressive. Just as impressive are the ships and the sailors and marines who defend us. Disaster leaders in the city were invited for a two-day seminar this week on board the USS Bonhomme Richard. It was an incredible two days and I couldn't be more proud of the men and women who volunteer to serve our country--even if I don't agree with the political decisions to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At any rate, the San Francisco Dept. of Emergency Management, Marines Memorial, and sponsors provided us with an unprecedented look into how the U.S. military responds to humanitarian crises worldwide. And we learned how we can all work to collaborate better with each other when disaster strikes here.

Like I said, it was quite an interesting week.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yea, I Finally Have My Own Website

These days authors have to do so much more than simply write. We also need to be excellent at marketing, something I’m not expert at. There are millions of books available online, so how do we get our books noticed? There are new markets emerging to address that need. One of the experts I follow on Twitter is Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer.  She, and others like her are filling an important niche to help those of us daring to venture into the Wild West of self-publishing. And I have to say, her advice has been very helpful.

One of the things I learned early on was that I needed to have a website. Holy Web-Portals, Batman! That’s not as easy as it sounds. I had to learn about domains, hosts and platforms. Suddenly, I need to have familiarity with CSS, HTML and more. Yikes! All this to be an author? YES.

All right. I went out and got a domain, a host, and chose a platform that would be easy enough for me to use. I chose GoDaddy as my host (despite their commercials; they have great customer support). And I use Wordpress as my platform. There are hundreds of themes that you can simply drop into Wordpress, which makes it much easier on those of us who don’t speak HTML markup language.  Most themes are blog oriented, but there are more and more emerging themes that may be more appropriate for small businesses, photographers, authors, and others.

I don’t have my site exactly the way I want it yet, but at least it’s clean, navigable and a place to post events, contact information, how to order my books, and a little bit about me. That’s a good start.

So have a peek. My website address is: Unique, huh?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blogs Vs. Baseball

Is it difficult to keep up a writer’s blog during baseball season? Let me put it this way:
  • Is a Giants game better with a hotdog and a brew?
  • Can Barry Bonds go deep into McCovey Cove against – any pitcher?
  • Is Willy McCovey the best Giant’s first baseman EVER?
  • Is Will the Thrill?
  • Is Candlestick Park windy and frigid in the summer?
  • Can Willy make The Catch?
  • Is AT&T Park the best baseball park in the entire world?
  • Can the San Francisco Giants BEAT LA?
  • Is wearing a Panda hat ultra-cool when at a Giant’s game?
  • Is Lou Seal a great mascot?
  • Should you Fear the Beard?
  • Is Ross the Boss?
  • Is Timmy a FREAK?
  • Do only the most rookie fans want to do the wave at the stadium?
  • Do you throw the homerun ball back onto the field when LA hits one out?
  • Are the Giants capable of back-to-back World Series Wins?
You Betcha!
Maybe you’d better check back in here after baseball season.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reviews, Reviews...

Smashwords, the publisher and distributer of many indie eBooks, has a great service: authors receive email notifications anytime their work is downloaded or reviewed. During “Read an eBook Week” I made my novel, Night Flight, available for free. My Blackberry was firing off all week as people downloaded the book. It was gratifying and fun. After the promotion, the activity for my book went as quiet as a ghost in a graveyard, but I took hope in the fact that readers might start reviewing. After months of waiting – nothing. I figured that was okay. If readers weren’t motivated to write a favorable review, at least they weren’t on the site trashing it. Was nothing better than something? I was beginning to think maybe so.

Recently, at was speaking at a conference in Washington D.C. and I had some time before my flight back home to San Francisco to visit the Mall and see my favorite monuments, mostly those dedicated to veterans of the various wars and the Lincoln Memorial. My Blackberry dinged on the Metro back to the hotel and I read the Smashwords alert: Your book has been reviewed.

I tucked the Blackberry back into my purse in a bit of a panic. All of a sudden a cold sweat broke out on my forehead as I stared vacantly at the seatback in front of me. Oh my god, I thought, there are only two reasons someone would write a review: they either loved it or hated it. I couldn’t bring myself to look. I stayed away from my Blackberry the rest of the day, my anxiety constantly building. I recalled the feeling I had when awaiting grades on my final exams in college—this was the same. I had finally been graded.

I recalled the recent dustup between an author and the reviewer, Big Al from Big Al’s Books and Pals ( Big Al gave an honest review, which wasn’t all that derogatory. His biggest issue was the poor quality of the formatting and mistakes in grammar and spelling, an all too common issue with indie books. But this author, after reading the review, teed-off on Big Al, going absolutely ballistic. Big Al had the presence of mind to make a polite reply and the author went even more ballistic. Other readers of the blog started commenting about the exchange and the author went off on each of them. It quickly turned into a circus and went viral, lighting up the blogosphere and making Big Al famous and the author infamous. Maybe this was the author’s goal—any publicity is good publicity? But that was not who I wanted to be, and I had made up my mind to be a little more gracious and learn from what people said about my writing. Still, it was frightening.

Conference over. Now I’m sitting in the American Airlines terminal, my flight delayed because of severe storms over the Midwest. The irony of situation hits me as I think about the similarities to the plot in Night Flight, a book I would not recommend for in-flight reading to squeamish fliers. Then I remember the review notification, something I never really forgot, but now it’s front and center again. I have to make a choice. If I don’t look at it now I will not have another chance until I get home. I can’t stand it anymore and I pull out my iPad and head for the Smashwords site.

I see the cover of the book and 5 beautiful stars aligned under it, shinning brightly. I was so relieved. Somebody liked it. And the reader wrote a narrative that was so flattering that I had to see if the reviewer was a relative. She wasn’t. I was bursting. I had to tell someone. Would the people next to me be as excited as I was? I looked around and decided I’d call my partner and tell her. She was as happy for me as I’d hoped. Somebody liked my work. SOMEBODY LIKED MY WORK.

Needless to say, I was flying high even without boarding my flight yet. The feeling of somebody appreciating my work that I spent the better part of four years constructing was more satisfying than any “A” grade on a final exam. This was unsolicited acknowledgement. Thank you, Georgi Abbott from Canada. I always liked Canadians!

Since then, Night Flight received another excellent review on Amazon. I am very happy that readers are connecting with the work, and so appreciative of them taking the time to write a review. Thank you!

Click here to read the Smashwords review:

Click here to read the Amazon review:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Take a Chill Pill

Indie publishing is like the Wild West of publishing. There are a great deal of well meaning people out there trying to make sense of the incredible amount of writing that is exploding onto the scene because of the proliferation of eReaders. There are publishers like Amazon and Smashwords that are giving authors a chance to get their work right up there with traditionally published books. And there are reviewers, printers and every conceivable support structure coming into play to accommodate the explosion.

But it’s a crazy eWorld and we may be making it harder for readers to find quality work. That’s why I admire those daring folks who help readers by reviewing Indie Authors. But if there are less than high quality works of literary art out there, there are also some less than professional authors too. I hesitate to add to the viral nature of a particular event that has taken the Indie Publishing world by storm, but I can’t add many more numbers, and frankly, it is just so darn enticing.

I am referring to a review on Big Al’s Books and Pals and the author’s rants about her less than desirable review. And it wasn’t an entirely bad review. Add to that all the comments from others and the reviewer’s responses to the author and you’ve got a tasty little stew. Wow! So for those looking for a little taste of the Wild West Show in Indie Publishing, check out Big Al’s post. It is a must read.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Night Flight Trailer

I hesitate to post this video because it is a bit...silly.  But it was so much fun to make I just had to offer it up.  It makes me laugh.  It is a tongue-in-cheek poke at a writer's struggles getting published.  Hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

So It Begins

“Wait and hope.”  A quote from one of my favorite books: “The Count of Monte Cristo”, by Alexander Dumas père.  As I put the finishing touches on my first novel and put it up for sale, I use the quote to help me stay focused with my writing that is now – out there.

A writer may invest years in creating a story, compelling characters and a plot that engages.  This writer did.  “Night Flight” began as a short story, and through years (on and off since I have a real job) of writing and rewriting, the story became a novel.  It isn’t easy letting go.  The characters become family; you grow to love them.  You get angry with them when they go astray and you cry over them when they experience pain.  But at some point you must let them go and turn them out into the world for others to experience. 

Now I wait for a reader to discover the people between the covers.  And I hope you will find something in my characters to love, or despise, or relate to.  Writers will often say we write for the reader.  I’m not sure about that.  I think it’s more accurate to say we write for ourselves and hope the reader enjoys the ride. 

In any case, you now have the opportunity to own the book.  Not because you buy it, but because the characters are now yours, part of your family.  Well-written characters are alive and have a way of drawing you in and investing you in their drama.  And just as I cried over the Count, Edmond Dantes, feeling the pain of losing him as I closed the cover of the book for the last time, it is my hope that you will find the characters just as alive and compelling in “Night Flight”.

So I wait and hope.