Tag Archives: writing

My Smashwords Author Interview

abstract art

Did Knee

Smashwords has this really nice feature. Authors can select from a list of questions and provide answers that form an interview. There’s also the option of selecting your own questions. It’s a great way to explain one’s work, much easier than trying to do it in an essay or a blog post.

Rather than send you to my Smashwords page, I’ve included the interview here, just below. If you have questions of your own, please feel free to use the reply link and ask away . . . just don’t ask about my radio, okay?

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Is it true that you write naked?

 Now why does this question remind me of Marilyn Monroe? There was all those reporters asking her is she has anything on when she goes to sleep. She once gave me this fantastic response, “Did I have something on? Of course I did, I had the radio on!”

My writing doesn’t punch the clock, except perhaps when I’m writing about something timeless. I haven’t worn a watch in over a decade. I’m not always writing, but when I do it can be noon as easily as the middle of the night. When I actually sit down and type is another story. My mind is very active – sometimes too busy – I get lost in my thoughts. When that happens I may just as well be naked. But then, even with our clothes on, aren’t we all pretty much that way?

 What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

 I have a strong need for finding a creative outlet. It really is a passion and a very satisfying one. I’m an artist as well. While I’ve always felt that I would do a little writing some day, there were times that I didn’t think the joy of creating art could be found in writing. I’m so glad to find out that I was wrong! It seems storytelling is a bit of a gift for me, and moving people, making them happy, giving them something to think about . . . this process is one of my great joys in living.

What do your fans mean to you?

When I hear from a fan, when she tells me what the book has meant to her, that can go right to the heart. It’s one thing to write something, hoping that it affects someone in a very positive way – it’s quite another to find out about that when it actually happens. While I don’t need that kind of feedback for motivation, it certainly does help. It’s much the same with my art. Sometimes I ask myself, “Why bother, aside from my own joy in the process?” Then a few people come along and tell me how it has moved them somehow, and I know it’s not just about me, that it is simply something worth doing, and so I continue.

How do  you approach cover design?

 I’m a firm believer that the cover shouldn’t matter. I also know that from a marketing perspective, it is important, especially in terms of catching people’s attention, and even more so for an unknown talent. As an artist, it is a different kind of challenge, and I couldn’t be more pleased in finally coming up with a cover that matches the book in both content and tone. I guess I’m a bit of a tease, and my cover is a gorgeous tease, but also it’s an honest one. It’s also a little mysterious, as it’s supposed to be!

What is your writing process?

Basically it comes down to elements and rules. While I’ve internalized much of the “Element of Style”, I still refer to it in a pinch. I’ve been using it for over 30 years now. I’ve studied all kinds of writing manuals over the years, though it seems the best ones have to do with writing advertising copy. Those books really do teach one how to write concisely, yet effectively. As for rules, once again I lean towards simplicity. I follow W. Somerset Maugham’s teachings, something I stumbled upon over 20 years ago, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

Funny how it works. I read his “Of Human Bondage” in high school and now after all this time I begin my novel with three words, “Bound and impatient.” It seems like my characters must be somewhat like Maugham, just trying to figure out the rules of life are as they move along. One of them wants to be a writer.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

First of all, when I’m writing that is almost the only thing I do. Then there is the time spent on marketing, which actually takes up more time than the writing, at least for now, as an unknown independent author. When I’m not doing something book-related, by far my favorite activity is my art. Between the two that doesn’t leave much time, and that time is spent mostly with family, a little reading, watching a good movie, going for walks, trying to make the odd person laugh or smile – mostly strangers – or just being a pain in the ass for someone – mostly friends.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

 At my age, and almost without exception, there is this incredible urge to pee. Not to pee? That is out of the question!

Is there anything you want to say specifically about Dawn at Last?

 The most frustrating aspect of trying to describe the book concerns this issue of genre. I never gave it much thought until after the book was finished. It really crosses a number of genres, and I can’t find one where there’s a really snug fit. I really wish “Adult bedtime stories” would become a genre. That’s perhaps the best tag I could put on it, in a few words. My hope is that people will read the first few chapters and then decide if it fits for them. It really is one of those books that kind of grows on you as it moves along, so if you enjoy the first 10%, it only gets better.

What are you working on next?

 When I was about 2/3 done Dawn at Last it occurred to me that this could easily turn into a trilogy and I was quite excited about that. Since finishing the book I’ve vacillated on that notion, but readers keep telling me that I must continue the story. So given that, and my joy in cooking, for now I am stewing!

The characters make it easy to continue the story, but they also make it more difficult to keep them out of trouble. After all, there is only so much an author can do to protect the likes of Dawn and Sunni and Andrea. The trouble I see them getting into down the road is already starting to piss me off, and it doesn’t look like the men in their lives are going to help them too much, though I’m sure they will try their best.

Is it true that you once looked like Brad Pitt?

 Well yes, so I’ve been told, but you have to consider the source. She was only about 11 at the time, one of my two daughters, and the comment came shortly before her birthday . . . such a clever little girl! They are both gifted in their own ways . . . remarkable young ladies . . . now much quicker than their father. By that I mean it took me about 10 years to finally explain to my little one that since I’m older than him, in fact he looks a little like me. To clarify though, the actual statement was, “You know dad, if you had hair you’d look just like Brad Pitt!”

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Now please don’t be shy about using these share buttons – I’m honored when you do. 🙂

Dawn at Last – Book Description

Digital art

Some call it sinful, others say divine . . . they all call it refreshing.

A smart and sexy romance, perhaps the kind your mother doesn’t want you to know? Chances are she will love it too, even though this is definitely not old school shenanigans!

Secrets deeper than the Seven Seas . . .

Modern day Victoria, BC sets the stage for Donna Belauche, a professional intimacy counselor who keeps her client list short and her list of friends shorter.  Life is far from fun and games for Donna. In her quiet time, it is not her work that brings her to the brink of madness. It’s the weight of her past – so many deep secrets – almost crushing her. Holding love at arm’s length, she pushes men away, even one who especially adores her.

That’s when she wrote in her journal, “genuinely kind and charming,” but next to that she added “perhaps a little dangerous…be very careful.”

Making Dali Blush

As she pushes love away, Donna devotes her free time to the pursuit of a different kind of passion – a hobby involving tulips, a creative exploration of women – an exploration of what some call sinful, and yet others divine. She is not alone in this project. She and her partners do it all in the name of art . . . but have they taken it all too far?

As wonderful as it seemed, still is it even okay, or was it all just decadence? Yet such a sweet decadence, as fresh as the first drop of honey.

It’s funny how it works when love’s at play.

Some say this book is controversial because of its characters – interracial relationships, unconventional pasts, and affairs between lady friends who are oblivious to the label, “lesbian romance”. They see nothing unusual in any of it. For them it is just how they live. There is Ben, the house painter who will paint most anything, and a server named Sunni, with a thing for buns. Along with three others, they manage to help Donna find her way, almost in spite of themselves.  They don’t realize how important each is to the other, especially to Donna, as she scratches away at the ties that bind her.

Untwisting the Night Away

The lives of these misfits twist together like vines – never knowing exactly where they will wind up. Through all the intertwining, love offers up one amusing surprise after another.  Then, on one final night – three men and three ladies – everything finally comes together. Lives are changed forever . . . but for the better? How does one ever really know? At last, is it ever just about love?

Read these comments from fans of Dawn at Last . . .

Exciting and Adventurous – The intersecting plot lines led me on an adventure, an intriguing blend of humour and mystery.

Fresh and Amusing – The humor and wit throughout is really enjoyable. The interracial relationships feel very contemporary, and say a lot about love in today’s world.

Breath-taking and Sexy – The intimate scenes are seductive, making me want to be involved – a wonderful adult romance.

Complex and Mysterious -The emotional journey is challenging. It took me through many stages before emerging at the other end with my own thoughts and revelations.

Dangerous and Raw – There are times in the book where I sensed an element of risk and it heightened the experience.

Entertaining and Evocative – Overall the book is fun. It’s a wonderful adult romance. The story, themes and characters stayed in my mind long after I finished the book – waiting for the sequel now!

“Dawn at Last” is Now on Amazon

original art - Prayery

There’s a lot of playful mystery in “Dawn at Last” – six main interweaving characters.

It’s taken a lot of time and effort, but it was worth it.

Over the past month or so I’ve made some changes to my novel, previously published as Sunni Knows, but renamed Dawn at Last. By the way, did you know that apparently The Great Gatsby was once titled Trimalchio in West Egg . . . yes, books do go through title changes.

The content is mostly the same, with a little refining of the first chapter and a little addition to the ending. It seems that while my fans loved the book, for many the original ending felt unresolved. It took a lot resolve to fix that, but I’m glad I did – the ending is now more exquisite . . . at last.

You can see the new cover over to the right side – if you click on it, you will be taken to the Amazon page of Dawn at Last. I don’t mind saying that it’s fantastic and really goes with the tone of the book. A huge thank you goes out to Sandra Parlow, a wonderful lady and an excellent photographer. She allowed me to use some of her photography – the basis for the imagery on the cover – you can easily find her amazing work on Google+.

I’d also like to thank an anonymous friend for her musings and guidance throughout this process, the extent of which could fill an entirely different book!

Finally, it will about a week before Amazon has the “Look Inside” feature working – after that you can read the first 10% of the book for free. That should take you about half way through Chapter 3 – The Grape Squishing, although that’s a bit of a tease because by the end of that chapter things start getting a little juicy.

In the meantime, if want to get a feel for the book, I’ve posted first chapter on my Facebook Notes, and here’s the link to that: Chapter 1 – The Ending Begins .

A Little Magic

One thing I love about my kind of painting is how unpredictable it can be.

Last night I had a wonderful time polishing up colom, putting the finishing touches on it . . . for a comparison, see My Saturday Column – Pardon the Typoh! I lost track of time and almost packed it in when I was done at 2:30 in the morning . . . but I didn’t.

digital painting

colom – finally finished!

As often happens when I’m finally finished a picture, such as colom above, I’ll spend a little more time just playing with it – this where life becomes unpredictable – at 3:00 in the morning, after playing with a few effects, a little magic happened. The picture below is what I’m talking about . . . it’s still untitled, but I really couldn’t wait to put it up here, and soon it will also be on my site.

Finally, the funny thing is that I went to bed last night thinking about how much this new picture ties in to my novel, Dawn at Last, at least in the emotion of it all. For a minute I thought perhaps it would make a great cover, but I’m not really sure about that.

If I ever do a hard cover version though, I’m sure it will include some of this art as an appendix, or perhaps I will call it a heart – a book should have a heart, right?  🙂

tbd20f_square3b

A Pinterest Guide to Dawn at Last – Part II

Now for the rest of the story – Dawn at Last . . . and she wants to be in pictures!

This post is a continuation of yesterday’s installment of one Pinterest picture for each of 26 chapters – the first 13 are in A Pinterest Guide to Dawn at Last.

Here’s chapters 14 through 26 . . . as always, I hope you enjoy the show . . . that’s all folks!

Chapter 14 – The Gathering of a Monkey, a Toad, and a Chicken

Chapter 14 - The Gathering of a Monkey, a Toad, and a Chicken

Chapter 15 – The Goddess Awakens?

Chapter 15 - The Goddess Awakens?

Chapter 16 – And So They Dance

Chapter 16 - And So They Dance  Pilar - Shadow Dancing

Chapter 17 – Pushing Buttons . . . and Talking it Over

Chapter 17 - Pushing Buttons . . . and Talking it Over  Said Alice.

Chapter 18 – On to the Frying Pan

Chapter 18 - On to the Frying Pan

Chapter 19 – A Late Lunch of Cognac and Pastrami

Chapter 19 - Today, Instead of Robin, I have Cognac and Pastrami

Chapter 20 – Look Out . . . Wet Flooring!

Chapter 20 - Look Out . . . Wet Flooring! -     "Some things only women can do" - Jackass - hahahah

Chapter 21 – 317 Browning Road . . . Revisited

Chapter 21 - 317 Browning Road . . . Revisited

Chapter 22 – The Painting

Chapter 22 - The Painting -  “Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except yourself.”  Siddhartha Gautama

Chapter 23 – The Musketeers Get Defensive

Chapter 23 - The Musketeers Get Defensive

Chapter 24 – We Can Still Dance

Chapter 24 - We Can Still Dance

Chapter 25 – Sunni’s Happy Daze

Chapter 25 - Sunni's Happy Daze

Chapter 26 – Getting the Giggles

Chapter 26 - Getting the Giggles

There you have, and I’d love to hear your comments – have any favorites?

Going Where No Reader Cares to Go . . . in Cyberspace

This is a follow-up to my previous post, Reading, The Environment, though you don’t necessarily have to read it to understand this one.

A lot of what I wrote in that post is verified in a way by the following four articles I’ve found on this whole issue of ebooks, book publishing, reading and independent authorship.

Forbes Magazine – Excellent Article on Indie Books

The Verge – Ebook Self-Publishing

Publishers Weekly – Best Selling Ebooks of 2012

Huff Post (Canada Books) – Smashwords Owner’s Predictions for 2013

The pros and cons of self-publishing are really well described in these articles above. That need for filtering comes up time and again – essentially my list of Top 10 is my own attempt to do just that – here’s what I did.

Methodology

First, I picked a popular category, such as “Literature & Fiction> Romance”. From there, I went where no man dares to go – below the Top 100 – into the depths – as deep as 1,500 titles under the See! I’d have searched further down, would have liked to see what #28,043 looked like, but I couldn’t. The system wouldn’t let me get past 1,500 which means that if there is a book I want to look at down there, I need to use the search function, so I’d need to know the name of it, or author or ISBN.

Selection Process

To begin, the main sort I use in any given category is “New & Popular”. Basically, when I go deeper I’m looking for less popular, yet good reads – kind of like panning for gold.

My selections are close to random. I ignore popular authors that are down the list, dead or alive, and there are a ton down there – people like Charles Dickens, Herman Hesse, Hemingway and many, many more. There also plenty of living writers down there, but with their older titles. This is kind of odd though, given that the sort is “New & Popular” – huh?

I also found one sub-genre kind of amusing. Did you know that on one site, if you look under “Literature & Fiction” you can find a sub-category called “Literary Fiction” – too funny!

For any given category I pick out around fifty books to look at. I don’t look at price, try to ignore covers and titles, but what I do look at is page counts. On the lower end, I don’t include any under 200 pages – to me that’s close to a novella. Almost all the titles are around 250 – 300 pages, and a few are closer to 400. I’ve also kept away from books that are part of a series, unless it’s the first book.

Looking Inside and Then Some

Once I’ve gotten this list together, I start previewing more than reviewing. This is really a two-step process, and one that typically results in about 80% being discarded. With the remaining 20% I go back and take a closer look, and from there the list gets whittled down to titles that I’d definitely consider buying based on what I’d read.

This is not the same as doing a book review, nor was it ever intended to be. There are a few real benefits as an indie author in doing this kind of exercise, at least for me. I’m fairly well read, really eclectic interests, and I don’t need to read a ton of classics to know whether my book is worth reading, or is “marketable”. After all, if the classics are the benchmark, there are tons of successful, well-written books that fail that test.

Final Selection Criteria

First is the “flow” test. Call it style if you will. If something is written this century or the last, I really don’t want to have to work at reading every second or third sentence. I’m pretty sure everyone reading this understands what I mean. By the way, if you are thinking grammar should be first, that stuff’s gone with the 80% – I’m past that stage.

The next thing is the boredom factor – Have I read this before in one form or another? I realize there may be all kinds of plot turns and twists down the road, but one does get a feel for this. Often it’s uninteresting characters or overly long, drawn out setting descriptions, or perhaps a tinge of melodrama, that makes something boring. It’s almost like many writers are simply trying too hard to grab your attention, and it has the opposite effect.

Third, there is the novelty aspect – it’s pretty easy to tell when a story is just going to get better – kind of like it’s worth buying just to see what actually does happen. I really avoid copycats. As an aside, I’m guessing that in some genres, a solid 10% or more are basically fifty shade knock-offs, and I haven’t even looked in any “erotica” categories . . . yet!

Results

After all of that I had a list of 10 books that I’d say are worth reading as they are published. While I didn’t keep track of the ones that were “close”, I’d say there was about another ten – these are the ones who simply need a little editorial polishing – as stated in those articles at the top, there is a big demand and need for those editorial services.

As it turns out, I have a bit of egg on my face with my Top 10 list, but at the same time I also had one of those “ah ha” moments. The embarrassment came when I did one more final check for independence. I discovered that 7 of the 10 books I chose were actually published by a major publisher, in print first, so the authors are not indies. That means that in the end, after going through over 150 titles, I found 3 that I’d say are really good indie books, on par with the standard set by traditional publishers.

The “ah ha” aspect is that this kind of validated my process, and my skills, at picking out talent. By accidentally mixing indie authors with traditionally published ones, I inadvertently validated the results!

Conclusions

Realizing this is still a very crude process, based on the 3 of 150 titles I found, that means that perhaps 2% of indie titles really have market potential. What does 2% mean though? Well, first, how many indie titles are actually out there? Smashwords is definitely a major player in launching new indie works. They’re putting out almost 100,000 a year now, and cumulatively they are at about 250,000. Then there are other similar services, as well as number of indies who simply publish directly, with no intermediary.

It’s not easy to get a handle on that number. I’m sure there is a strange exaggeration out there about the total books available – the highest number I’ve come across is something 4,000,000 – I don’t think so!

My best estimate, and I think this may be on the high side, is perhaps there are 500,000 ebooks available, fiction only and by indies, and novels (say 70,000 + words). On the low side, using that criteria, it may be as low as 300,000. If my 2% estimate is in the ball park, that means that there are about 6,000 to 10,000 indie works out there with serious market potential – that’s where issues like discovery come into play.

To put that into perspective, as I found in one of those 4 articles mentioned at the top, the traditional publishers claimed that they had 1,000 titles that sold 25,000 or more copies in ebook format in 2012.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that . . . this post is getting very long as it is. However, aside from the numbers, I’d also say that it seems like the overall quality of writing that many readers’ find acceptable has certainly gone down. I’m saying that because I looked at a couple of current bestsellers by indie authors and I know that neither of them would have made the first cut in my selection process – that makes the market somewhat unpredictable, certainly from the traditional point of view.

Finally, through all of this, one huge intangible benefit is the confidence I’ve gained about SUNNI KNOWS. I’ll put my book up against any indie standard, or one for published works, so for me it really is an issue of discovery.

If you’re a non-Kindle user, you can order my book on Kobo . . . then you can read it on your favorite e-reading device . . . have a great weekend!

abstract image of leaves

Just me and my Leaves

This has been the slowest week since the last one, and boy has it gone fast!

If you came here thinking today’s blog would be about you, think again – this one’s on me – or was that the last one? What can I say? I’m a writer. Hemingway said we’re all liars, but then can you really believe him?

The week in Review (or is it Next Week’s Preview?)

Actually I’ve got a lot done this week, but almost entirely in my head, and a little on index cards . . . why do they call them that anyway? I mean, does anyone in their right mind actually index them? Why not call them what they are . . . illusions of being organized . . . I’m smart though, I put little page numbers on them in the top right corner, and even circle them. I’ve got about 50 of these cards all over the place. I think about 12 of them have a single vertical line inside a moon, in the top corner . . . wonder what that’s all about!

Actually, I’m in the process of writing about five separate blogs, all very related to each other, and way too much for one blog. My intent was to have the first one written last night and posted today . . . this is not that one.

They are all related to three main subjects:

1. Building an author’s platform – It sure would have been easier if this were the 70’s . . . then I could just go out and buy the shoes, click my heels, and all would be well. Time after time I’m reading about the importance of just being oneself, and doing that basically all over the place. That’s fine, but it sure would help if that Wizard could whip me up a storm of “online oneness” – I’m sure he’s got the brains, not sure about the heart, and as for bravery, hmmm?

It takes a certain amount (a lot) of constraint to avoid flogging one’s own creative output, especially when it’s your main source of income and not something done on the side, but that’s an issue all on its own. As well, what I do keeps me occupied for probably 60 hours a week, maybe more, so it could never be a sideline.

2. The Book Environment – I’m using the term environment rather than industry. Actually, more and more, it feels like one of my projects is doing a case study on the whole mess – oops, environment – it is the best of times and worstest of days – catch my drift?

As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking, especially for one person, and it is only one of many projects. It’s an important one though. It’s tempting to say that every indie author should try the same, but I’m not sure about that. To begin with, this is where I actually use my MBA skills, not just in marketing, but mostly in strategic planning, part of which includes doing an industry analysis.

I have already identified the big problems, and opportunities, and collapse them in a sentence or two. That only took three months, not full-time of course. However, that isn’t enough – I need to flesh in more details – then focus more on “what’s next” in this crazy world of platform building, selling books and art and so on.

When I’m done, I’ll be posting my insights on here . . . you can be rest assured that it won’t be the same stuff you find elsewhere . . . and you will learn something valuable, whether you’re a writer or a reader, or both.

4. Technical issues – Should I switch from a hosted blog to self-hosted one? Should I shut down my art site for now, or roll it into a redesigned blog? Technically, I can’t fully integrate this blog into my website . . . that would be ideal. Then there are all the design enhancements that I need to make . . . this is the more mundane topic, so I’ll leave it for now.

Now For the Rest of The Story

I found this link in a discussion group on goodreads. Whether you’re a writer or someone who sometimes wonders about writers, you need wonder no more . . . instead, feel free to laugh your ass off . . . some of you may want to pee before following this link:

The Secret Life of Writers

PS – I found these secrets from another writer – you can find her here: Dianne Harman