Friday, December 9, 2011

3 Places to Enter December Book Giveaway for EMILY'S HOUSE

December Book Giveaway for Emily's House

Contest Rules & Fine Print:

WHAT YOU WIN: A signed copy of the paperback version of Emily's House: Book 1 of the Akasha Chronicles, by Natalie Wright. For every 100 entries, 1 book will be given away.

HOW TO ENTER: Leave a comment here OR on my Facebook Fan Page  OR on my YouTube Channel. In your comment, tell me what special ability or power you would most like to have OR special power or ability that you DO have. You can leave more than one comment, but you will only be entered one time.

WHO CAN ENTER: Contest open to anyone 13 or older. No purchase necessary.

WHEN: Entries closed December 31, 2011 at midnight.

WINNER(S) ANNOUNCED: Winner(s) will be announced January 4, 2012 HERE, on my blog AND on my Facebook Fan Page.

*OTHER RULES: Please adhere to the rules of Facebook, Blogger and YouTube in your comments. DO NOT post obscene or offensive material. Any such posts will be removed and will NOT be an entry in the contest.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

5 Things I Learned on the Way to the NaNoWriMo Winner's Circle

Wow, what a month of literary abandon! I started strong, staying in track the whole first week. Then day job, parenting, Thanksgiving, and oh yeah - launching my first novel! - slowed me down. WAY down! But the NaNoWriMo pep talks got me back to the novel and then I started hearing from people who had read Emily's House, and they asked "When's the next one coming out?" That really fired me up and pushed me to the 50,000 word mark. Procrastination meant I had to write 15,000 in the last three days (I don't recommend this).

SO, here are the (top) five things I learned on my way to the NaNoWriMo Winner's Circle:

5. It is best NOT to fuel your month of literary abandon with Halloween candy and Thanksgiving leftovers.
I gained five pounds along with my 50,000 word manuscript!

4. I CAN write everyday. I won't feel the muse welling up from my soul every day. Some days, the muse has closed up shop and refuses to open, not for all the chocolate in the world. But NaNoWriMo teaches you to write anyway. And sometimes, unexpectedly, the muse decides to peek her head out and join the party. (But truthfully somedays that muse wench won't come out to play and it's just you at the computer by yourself with your Hershey's bar, staring at a blank screen or typing gibberish.)

3. It's not wise to cram 30% of the challenge into the last three days and writing for 10 hours in a single day isn't a lot of fun.

2. Writing is more fun with a community of friends urging you on. When you join the NaNoWriMo challenge, you have the great folks at the Office of Letters and Light there to support you with funny, amusing and effective pep talks. I especially enjoyed the pep talk from author Erin Morgenstern. Her bestselling novel (and a wonderfully imaginative read - I love it!), The Night Circus, was born during the month of November, several years ago, in Erin's NaNoWriMo months of literary abandon. What an inspiration!
And then there were the tweets and the posts and the applause and the "you can do its" from fellow Wrimos, all working toward the same goal. We held each other accountable and shared sentences and ups and downs (and virtual glasses of wine and chocolate and coffee - writer fuels). I wrote my first draft of my first two novels just about completely alone in the process. And that wasn't all bad. But it wasn't nearly so much fun as being in a community of folks all working toward the same goal and speaking the same language.

1. If you stick with it, you have given yourself a wonderful gift: a newly minted, messy, wonderful, surprising manuscript, beckoning you to dig in and mold it and shape it and play with it until it's a thing of beauty - a Novel.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Only 56 Hours Left and 12,500 Words to Go - NaNoWriMo 2011

The Writer on Deadline

This year I took up the NaNoWriMo challenge (that's short for National Novel Writing Month) this year. Write a novel (50,000) words in 30 days. If you're not a writer, to put this in perspective, my first novel, Emily's House, is about 84,000 and it took me over two years to get to the end of the first draft.
To make it really interesting, NaNoWriMo hit the same month I released my first book, Emily's House. A sane person would probably decide that doing both the same month wasn't a good idea. But who said we writer-types are the most sane people?!
And to make it even more interesting, my daughter was out of school for five days straight for the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a known fact that listening to the Disney channel and the Cartoon Network kills inspiration faster than alcohol kills brain cells.
No matter that it took me over two years to get to the end of the first draft of Emily's House. Or over a year to get to the end of the first draft of my second novel, H.A.L.F.
I figured that if I set my mind to it, I could do it. Hey, when I'm in the groove, I can write about 2000 words an hour. So only two hours a day times 30 days . . . I figured, I can even take some days off.
Here's what I learned this month. Some days it's hard to even find those two hours.
But I persevered and wrote whenever I could. And found out something important along the way.
When pressed to write every day, some days I just don't have much to say! This has come as a shock to me. I've never had writer's block. I've never been at a loss for words. 
But I've never forced myself to try to come up with words every day, day after day, for a solid month.
I'm at about 37,500 words, 12,500 to go and less than 3 days. The bad news is that's not a lot of time (especially when you consider that I have to work my "day job", take care of my family and eat and sleep).
But the GOOD news is that just last night I had the story epiphany I've been waiting for - the character and scene that I needed to pull it all together and juice it up. The inspiration I needed to push through and see how it all ends.
And I've been hearing from folks who have purchased Emily's House and they want Book 2! Having fans ask for more is a great kick in the pants to press on and keep writing.
Having a first draft is only the beginning, but oh, such an important beginning it is. I'm excited about Book 2 of the Akasha Chronicles, born during a crazy NaNoWriMo month, and I'm looking forward to sharing Emily's Trial with all of you!
If you're a NaNoWriMo-er, how did you do this year? What is the best part of the WriMo experience for you? The worst? And will you do it again?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

5 Things Indie Authors Should Know BEFORE They Self-Publish

My first self-published novel, Emily's House, just went live on Amazon on November 15, 2011. There were times during the self-pubbing process that I looked this this:

I learned so much - and much of it the hard way! But you won't make the same mistakes I made because I'm going to share with you what I learned. So brave virgin Indies who dare to walk the Indie Road, I'm here to shine a bit of light your path. If you're new to Indie publishing, read this now but bookmark it and come back and read it further down the road too. And if you find it helpful, Tweet it, Facebook it, Stumble it and pass it along to your Indie friends and cohorts. Here are five tips and truths you should know before you start:

1.  Being a Writer is a Crazy-in-the-Head Profession to go Into and to Voluntarily Choose to Become your Own Publisher is a level of Nuts Generally Reserved for People with Tin Foil Hats Having Conversations with Invisible People at the Bus Stop. Okay, maybe you don't have to be certifiably mental to self-publish, but at times you'll feel like maybe you should be committed for taking it on. In February and March of 2011, Amanda HockingJ.A. Konrath and Barry Eisler were in the news and splashing across Twitter and blogs. And you couldn't help but be infected by their enthusiasm and stories of how they'd done well - very well - without a publisher, thank you. None of them said it was easy. None of them said it was fast. And all of them were honest about the amount of time, energy, effort and published books - lots and lots of books - that it takes to "make it" as an Indie author. 
Okay to be fair, it is possible to write a book, run a spell check, maybe read it over a few times, do some corrections, then upload the puppy, slap a cover on and Voila! You have a book for sale. It is possible to do this for little to no financial investment and a fairly limited time investment. That is possible.
But you will not be successful if you do it that way.  Let me repeat that: If you put in little time and little money and little effort, you will get little to no return. Period.
There's a reason that publishing houses have a cadre of people working on putting out each book. It takes a good half dozen or more people to put out a good book! It really does.
And if you are your own publisher, then you will do a lot of the jobs that several people do at a publishing house + you'll hire people and/or beg and promise food and massages and a signed copy of your "sure to be a hit" first book to people to get the work done. So you'll have to manage those people and deadlines and review thier questions and drafts and e-mails and sometime pull out a bull whip and crack it on them to keep them moving toward your own deadline for when you want the book to come out (and God forbid you set a date and broadcast it across the known Universe).
If you self-publish, YOU are in charge of the project and the people and it's not always easy.
For Emily's House, I worked with six different professionals throughout the course of the writing, editing, and production of the book. This doesn't count the folks that I worked with on the book trailer. Each of these people have other projects and most have a "day job" and do this whole Indie book thing on the side. They are busy people. It is up to you, dear Indie publisher, to keep them all on task to produce the book that you've been dreaming of.
Tip #1 is this:  This is damned hard work and will suck up as much energy and time as a full-time job, if not more, so if you don't have the time and energy or desire to muck around with all the details and just want to write, don't self publish.

2.  Choose Wisely Who You will Entrust with Your Precious Baby. Here's the truth: It doesn't matter how many books the person has e-formatted or pdf'd or covers they've created or manuscripts they've edited, they may not be the right person for your project. Research the hell out of this. Don't just go with the person that created the cover for Josephina Millionseller Bookstar. Look at lots of covers and lots of e-books and Indie print versions of books and decide what you like and what you don't.  Then approach people who you think have done good work and ask them these questions: (1) How long will it take for you to complete my project; (2) What exactly will you do for me; and (3) How much will you charge and what does that fee include and what does it not include. You may have other questions, of course, but these three are essential. And once you've gotten the answers and compared amongst different providers and have chosen who you'll hire to do the work, then -

3. GET IT IN WRITING! Okay, I'm a lawyer so of course I'm going to say that. But believe it or not, I learned the hard way to get it in writing. And no, I'm not saying that I ran into anyone that was a cheat or fraud or anything like that. Get it in writing because it is extremely important that both you and the person doing a project for you have a clear understanding of what the project is; how long it will take; and the price. Don't take no or "I trust you" for an answer on this. If the person won't at least provide you an e-mail detailing the job and ask for your approval of it, then move on to someone else. It's good business to have a written agreement and bad form not to. And just because it's in writing doesn't mean it will happen, so - 

4. Follow Up but Don't Wait Until the Deadline for Their Work to Be Completed and to You has Already Passed. This one I learned the hard way - more than once! Don't be such a pestering PIA that your editor or cover designer wants to hurl sharp objects at you. BUT, don't be afraid to check in with them and see how things are going. If your designer said it would take two weeks and it's day 13 and you haven't seen or heard anything, check in with them. Send a short e-mail note saying something like, "Looking forward to seeing the draft of the cover. Do you have everything you need from me?" I had two significant delays (i.e. each time a week which, when you're on a deadline, can be killer) because I didn't check in with the person. In one instance, the designer thought she'd already sent me my file and hadn't. In the other instance, another person was waiting on a file from me and e-mailed me, but it was during a period was I was having a problem with the Cloud (that's another story) and I didn't get the e-mail. So there she is waiting for me and here I am (with a cloud over me) waiting for her, and in the meantime because I didn't want to pester I didn't have what I needed to move forward. Don't let this happen to you!
Remember, it's your proejct. It's your job to stay on top of it. You don't need to be an asshole. You do need to be vigilant and keep all the folks working for you on task.

5. It's Not as Simple as Pushing the Upload Button and There's a Whole Lot of Crap You Need to do / Should do After You Upload and Your Book Won't Be Available for Purchase in Every Store in Every State and Country Across the World in 24 hours so Don't Expect That. I'm not kidding on this one. It takes longer than you think. And until you hit "Upload", there's not a big note in bold from Amazon (or Smashwords or CreateSpace) telling you just how long things take (at least not that I saw). And this is important to know so take notes:

Kindle Direct Publishing - Once you upload your files for the Kindle version of your book, KDP says it will take up to 72 hours but generally it takes about 24 hours for it to go live in the U.S. That's actually amazing when you think about it but I guarantee you it will feel long! But remember: That is for the U.S. Amazon only. It can take 3-5 days for it to go live on Amazon UK, GE and FR (if you choose to sell your book there). So keep this in mind when you are announcing your book to be on sale on a specific date. To be safe, you better plan for at least 5 days for the e-book to be live on Kindle.

CreateSpace P.O.D. - Here's the scoop on timing. First, you will upload your files and you MUST order a proof copy (only order one because truly it is a proof - it will have "PROOF" written on the last page). You have to wait for this to ship before you can "Approve" your book to go to Review. Once you approve your Proof copy (and please, do take the time to thoroughly review this proof), then your book goes to the "Review" stage. My experience was that this stage only took a few days but they say to allow up to five (at least that's what it said when I did it).  So if you're doing the math as you read this, you'll see that from the time you upload your beautifully produced bestseller-in-waiting, you will need to wait approximately 7-14 days to have your book available on in paperback on CreateSpace. Then, if you want copies to give out or to sell yourself, remember that you have to order those and wait for them to be delivered (mini tip: CreateSpace shipping costs are pretty high and it will cost a fortune to have them rush delivered, so plan on enough time to get your books without rush delivery). CreateSpace is quick at printing and shipping, but still, it takes time so plan for it.

Print Version on Amazon: Even though the paperback version of your book will be available right away on CreateSpace, it will not be available right away on Amazon.  It took a full week for my book to show up on Amazon after it was uploaded at CreateSpace. AND, just because it shows up there doesn't mean you're all done (I'll go into more on that in my next blog post so check back).  My suggestion is that you plan on 10 days from the point that you upload your files to sending people to Amazon to buy the paper copy of your book.

Extended Distribution Channels:  If you upload to Smashwords (which I recommend) to get your book into the Barnes & Noble, iBook store and others, it will take 5-7 WEEKS for that to happen. You read that right. Same is true for CreateSpace paper version. So your book will be available on Amazon in print and as an e-book within a week of you uploading to CreateSpace and Kindle Direct, but your friends and family won't be able to go to their local Barnes & Noble and order your book - yet. And your legions of Twitter followers and Facebook fans and the rest of the world will have to sign on to Amazon or SmashWords or CreateSpace to obtain your book when it first comes out. Not that that's a bad thing necessarily, but some people in this world don't like to buy from Amazon.

Is sweat beading on your furrowed brow right now? Are you having heart palpitations just thinking about it all?

If you are it's okay. Take a deep breath, bookmark this page, and come back and read it again in a few days after you let it all sink in.  Then follow the links and get started, that is unless you've decided that writing query letters is easier after all.

COMING UP NEXT POST: A list of some really great folks that I worked with and can recommend to you as well as other nifty facts you should know before you leap over the edge of the self-pub cliff.

Friday, November 11, 2011

EMILY'S HOUSE: Book I of the Akasha Chronicles ON SALE NOW

My first novel, EMILY'S HOUSE, is now available on Amazon, with a list price of $2.99.

For anyone who does not have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle App for your smart phone, iPad, Mac, Windows PC, or just about any other device.

Or, you can go to Smashwords, where you can use this coupon code to get 50% off the cover: CZ42H. This coupon expires 11/30/11.

It will soon be available on all e-reader platforms including Nook, iBook and Sony as well as available on Amazon in paperback. It takes a while for it to get into the system for all platforms. I'll continue to announce here and on my Facebook page as it becomes available in new places.

If you pick up a copy, drop me a comment here or send me an e-mail and let me know what you think.
And if you really enjoyed it, please go to Amazon and post a 5 star review.
Thank you to everyone who has supported this endeavor, in small ways and large, and thank you to everyone who purchases a copy.
Spread the word. Join the Journey.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Evidence of Writers, Worldwide, Gone Mad? NaNoWriMo in Full Swing


Each November, novelists all over the world - young and old, newbies and veterans - take on the challenge: Write a 50,000 (or more) novel in just 30 days. It took me over three years to write my first novel, EMILY'S HOUSE, due to hit Amazon November 15 (*crowd roars*). It took me about six months to bang out first draft of my second, H.A.L.F., which I hope to have revised and on sale Spring, 2012. So I thought NaNoWriMo would be a good opportunity for me to challenge myself to write EMILY'S TRIAL, Book 2 of the Emily Adams series, faster. Fifty thousand words in 30 days? Why not! Two days in I'm close to 6000 words so I'm on pace. I'm pleased to share with you this guest post from Sean Madden. Enjoy!

NaNoWriMo: Writing a Novel in the Month of November

© Copyright 2011 Sean M. Madden. All Rights Reserved.

For years I've known National Novel Writing Month was lurking out there, occasionally making itself known via friends who brazenly placed NaNoWriMo badges on their blogs, spouted off about writing a novel in a month, and so on.

But, finally, after sitting on this for a few weeks, I decided late this past Saturday night that it was high time to sign up and commit myself — not to the loony bin, but to hashing out my own 50,000-word novel in the month of November.

That's right, a novel in a month.

On average, that amounts to 1,667 words per day, seven days a week, no days off. No small task, particularly when the vast majority of participants, referred to as wrimos, are likewise earning a living, earning a degree, or taking care of children and other loved ones.

Not only that. There are also children, or young folk at least, who are writing their own novels in a month. One such brave soul sent me my first NaNoWriMo ‘Writing Buddy’ invitation on Sunday morning. I don't know his whole real name, but his NaNoWriMo profile ( says he's a 17-year-old Harry Potter fan from the Philippines.

I accepted the invitation, of course, as I'll need all the help I can get despite the fact that I earn my living as a creative writing (and mindful living) teacher, guide and mentor.

My new writing buddy and I will be joining somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million participants, worldwide, who have likewise committed to writing a novel within the thirty days of November. For although the movement got started in the San Francisco Bay area in 1999, with just twenty-one writers apparently plying themselves with caffeine and muffins (, twelve years on it has grown into a global literary phenomenon.

More than ninety novels have thus far been published which were born out of this annual event. This includes two #1 New York Times bestsellers — Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus.

The intention, however, is not to complete a finely polished manuscript. Rather, the idea — which goes perfectly with the way I teach my creative writing classes — is to break through non-writing inertia as well as the tendency many writers have to heavily edit and harshly critique themselves as they write. So the emphasis is on quantity, not to the exclusion of quality, but in recognition of the fact that to produce a quality work, one must first get down the story in a first draft, what American writing teacher Julia Cameron ( calls laying track.

Now, Dear Reader, there's a good chance that you, interested as you are in reading about the writing of a novel in a month, are harboring thoughts of one day writing your own novel. Why wait for that ever-elusive “one day” when an ideal opportunity is at hand throughout this month? Don’t worry about the event having already started. Even the NaNoWriMo program director is late out of the gates with her own writing (

And, at the end of the month, wouldn’t it be infinitely better to perhaps fall a few thousand words shy of the 50,000-word goal rather than not to have written anything at all?

You can learn more about National Novel Writing Month by visiting the NaNoWriMo website ( And you can follow the latest goings-on via Twitter, either by following @NaNoWriMo ( or by searching on the #NaNoWriMo hashtag.

If you'd like to keep an eye on this writer’s daily NaNoWriMo and other goings-on, you're cordially invited to follow me on Twitter as well: @SeanMMadden (

Finally, as if writing a novel in a month isn't enough on top of everything else I do — and this is where it really gets crazy — I also intend to write regular blog posts on my website, (, about the mad-dash process of penning a 50,000-word novel in a month. Those blog posts, though, will have to take a backseat to the primary task at hand.

As a Creative Writing and Mindful Living Guide, Sean M. Madden teaches writing, literature and mindful living classes in the UK, and provides one-to-one guidance and mentoring worldwide. He invites readers to follow or contact him on Twitter (@SeanMMadden).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What Does a Message from God Look Like?

I don't know about you, but when I ask for guidance from the Divine I don't get bolts of lightning or flaming flora. Sometimes I ask for help. Which way do I turn? What's the path I should take?
It sure would be nice if I got clearcut answers. Should I eat a third donut? CRACK! Lightening bolt comes down from above and lands in the middle of the donut, incinerating it. That would be a clear answer.
Over the years I've consulted my astrological chart, read the Tarot cards and otherwise looked for signs to guide me in life. But as fun as these divination tools are, they are faulty. You may look at your astrological chart this week and think it's right on the money only to find next week, when you look back, that the stars got it all wrong. If these tools are channeling Divine wisdom, then is the Divine unreliable? Or are we, as the interpreters unable to see the answers clearly? Or perhaps these tools don't speak for the divine at all.
In recent years I have found a way to consistently get helpful guidance from the Divine, guidance that has led me down a path of great happiness.
What is it?
The method is simple. I pay attention to how I feel. I notice how it feels to be in the situation I'm in. I pay attention to how it feels to be with a certain person or group of people. I pay attention to how it feels to be in a certain environment or to do a certain job.
How you feel matters.  Life is short. Life is meant to feel good.
Follow the feel good feelings. If the person you're with feels good to you, then be with them. If being with that person always makes you feel bad or negative, then maybe it's time to move on.
I'm not the first person to figure this out and it's certainly not a unique thought. But I wanted to pass along to you my experience with it because it has been so life-changing for me.
Case in point:
While an undergraduate I had the brilliant idea that I should go to law school. I had been told by some people that I'd make a good lawyer (following guidance from somewhere outside of me rather than internal guidance) and so I applied and off I went.
From day one, I didn't like law school. I don't think I liked anything about it much (except for those few people who became cherished friends). From day one it was hard. And I don't mean just academically challenging (which it was). I had studied hard before and had taken subjects that were a challenge.
What I mean is that I found the whole experience of law school hard. The people didn't feel right (except for a few who became lifelong friends). The subject matter felt wrong. The whole experience just felt - off.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have recognized that "off" feeling as guidance. Through my feelings, the Divine was telling me "this isn't your path."
But I didn't listen.
The truth is, I ignored how I felt because I didn't want to be a quitter.
I began practicing law and I didn't care for that either. There I was, three years of graduate education and a large student loan debt to repay and I didn't like my chosen profession.  Oh, I rose to the occasion and found that I was reasonably good at it. But I didn't feel well. My stomach hurt. I felt nauseous. I began getting sick a lot.
I did this for many years. Plugging away, trying to find ways to make it feel better to me.
And here's the other thing - the thing that plays such an important role in this notion of guidance. Every thing I tried to do or accomplish as a lawyer was hard. If I tried to add a new practice area or teach a class, it was like running my head into a large brick wall, over and over and over. My head hurt from all the ramming it into hard objects but I'd get up, dust myself off and run at that wall again!  My motto was "I won't be defeated!"
But the truth is, sometimes giving into "defeat" is okay. Sometimes, when your head hurts from ramming it into the immovable wall, it's a signal that you need to stop running into that wall!
I'm slow on the uptake but eventually I got the clue. I needed to choose a new path.  A path that is more me. A path that doesn't make my stomach hurt and give me a veritable concussion.
I began writing fiction in 2008, my lifelong dream, and I can tell you that my path to becoming a writer feels so different than the law path. And that feeling confirms I'm on the right path. And by "right" I don't mean financial success or accolades and such.  "Right" means that it feels good to do it. It feels "right".
Every step of the way to becoming a published author, there have been helpful people that show up at the right time. Doors open easily (without me having to use a hatchet to get them open!). Divine timing is everywhere (for an example, see my post How I Used Real Magic to Win a Trip to Ireland).
Here's a latest example of what I'm talking about. I want to have a launch party for the launch of Emily's House, my first novel. But researching venues, the prices are just so high, I started to think it was an impossible idea. So I asked the Divine for guidance. Within a half an hour of me thinking the thought (please help me!), I got a call about a venue that I was told was impossible to get and it just so happens that they only have one spot the entire rest of the year.  And it just so happens to be the exact day and time I wanted! And the price is ridiculously reasonable (within my writer budget).  Booked. Easy.
When I ask for guidance I always get it, so long as I'm open to receiving it. No lightning bolts required.

What about you? Do you ask God or the Divine or your own spiritual guide for guidance to help you through life? If so, do you get answers? And in what form do you receive the guidance?

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Big Booo to Publishers that Don't Allow Sharing of E-Books

How many times have you borrowed a book from a friend?  Loaned a book to a friend?  A friend recommends a book to you, loans you their copy, you read it and return it and usually end up in a discussion about it.  If you loved it, you then recommend it to other people.  If you really loved it, you may go buy a copy because you just have to have it.  And then you may end up loaning it to a friend and so on.

If you buy a paper copy of a book, you have the right to loan away.  And book loaning is good for the publisher (and author and everyone else in the book selling food chain).  Why?  Because word of mouth is what sells books and the circle of loaning spreads the word just about faster than anything.  Book sharing is free advertising of the book and author.

Recently I heard buzz about the book Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  It sounded intriguing so I went to my local library web page and put a hold on it.  I was number 97 out of something like 10 copies.  Wow, I'm going to wait a long time.

So I mentioned it to a friend and it turns out that she had just purchased it for her Kindle.  "Cool," I said.  "Could you loan it to me when you're done?"
"Sure," she said.
But she can't.  Why?  Because each publisher can choose to make the electronic version of their book loanable or not.  The publisher of Night Circus chose 'no sharing' (this book is published by Doubleday and sold by Random House Digital).
This burns my biscuits.  My friend paid $12.99 for the Kindle version of this book.  You can get the hardcover version, new, for $9.99!  The Kindle version costs more than a paper version yet it has less value because it can't be loaned or shared.

Authors should be steamed with their publishing houses for this.  Sharing books NEVER hurts sales. Should we do away with libraries in order to bolster sales of print versions of books?  Neil Gaiman has stated his belief that book piracy has  increased his sales.  In this video he talks about how sharing books actually increases sales.

I've moved up to #94 on the wait list for The Night Circus.  One day I'll get to read it . . .

What do you think?  Is there a legitimate reason that publishers won't allow sharing of e-books?
Are there other e-books that you have tried to share but it has been disallowed by the publisher?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Drawing Characters can help a Writer Get to Know Them

Writers have various ways to get to 'know' their characters.  For me, I like to do a Q & A with my characters.  I'm like a reporter or talk-show host and I ask them questions and they answer.  This helps me get inside the 'head' of the character.

But when it comes to physical description, I have found it hard at times to physically describe a person (or entity) that doesn't really exist.  Because I'm a visual person, I find that drawing the character can help me get a better handle on physical description, especially for non-human characters.  Here a few that I've done.

For 'Emily's House', a character you'll meet early on is Hindergog.  He's not human though he can speak and he wears clothes.  Early on in the writing of that manuscript, I had to draw Hindergog to get a visual on him.

That's the first drawing I did of Hindergog.  I liked the eyes and the nose is just about right, but I wasn't sure about the fangs.  This is my second drawing, done about a year later.

I liked the ears better in the second one but I still like the eyes best from the first one.  Both helped me to really see Hindergog and I think that helped my description of him.

Lately I'm working on the manuscript for 'H.A.L.F.' (which is an acronym for 'Human Alien Life Form').  Because one of the main characters, Tex, is an alien-human hybrid, I wanted to get a handle on what that mash-up looks like.  I started with drawing first a 'grey' alien based on the 'alien autopsy' photos on the internet.

Drawing of a 'Grey'
This isn't great, but you get the idea.  Greys are often depicted with super-bulbous heads (some speculate because they have an extra lobe in their brain).  They are described as having very small mouth openings and small noses.  

What happens when you morph a grey with a young human male?  Here's my rendition:

'Tex', a H.A.L.F.

When I morphed them, the head is human just more bulbous.  He has ears while the alien does not.  His nose is more prominent.  His mouth is still small but slightly larger.  One of the things that came from this exercise is that Tex has a more human chin and jawline, not quite so angular - more square.

But the eyes are the same overly large, dark eyes.  This is a prominent feature of Tex and has impact on the storyline.

Do you find the last one, the drawing of Tex, unnerving?  He's hanging up in my office now on my bulletin board and I have to say, I find him a bit scary!  When I catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye he sort of freaks me out!

If you're a writer, do you ever draw your characters?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Ball is Rolling Now

I can't believe the day is finally here, but I will be sending the Emily's House manuscript off to the book designer and the formatter by the end of the week.  The story is complete - last edits done.  Right now I'm working on those little details like the Acknowledgments page and author bio.

So it has been a long haul from the seed of an idea back in 2007 to the first tentative words plucked out on the word processor in 2008 to a finished manuscript.

What a long strange trip its been!

I pulled the excerpt that I had posted online here because I had changed it so much, the post was irrelevant.  I've decided to put up the prologue only at this time.

In other news, my friend Mark Corneliussen, photographer and video editor, has graciously volunteered to put together the book trailer.  I'm very excited to see how Mark takes my own vision of the story, layered with the musical vision of the story created by my wonderful friend and musician/composer extraordinaire, Jill Robinson of Jill Robinson Music, and adds his own touch to come up with two minutes that sums it up.  I'll post more about that as the project progresses.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Follow Up to Bullying Post

A friend of mine posted this to her Facebook page today and I thought it was ironic that it showed up on my wall the day after my post "What is Bullying Anyway?" about whether being excluded is bullying.

R2-D2 Does Double Duty as a Hairdryer

Perfect, n'est-ce pa?  Thanks to Michelle Ansley Freno for passing this along.

Less than 25 words and a picture to say it like it is.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is Bullying Anyway?

School districts across the country are struggling with how to stop bullying in the wake of the teens who have committed suicide after being bullied.  My daughter’s school district has undertaken that task and this year sent home information specific to bullying.  They are taking it seriously, as they should, and I applaud the school for adopting a zero tolerance of bullying. 

But the new policy sent home with my third grader made me question:  What is bullying anyway?

For me the classic image of the school bully is the kid that pushes other kids around whether by physical intimidation or verbal threats or insults.  The bully isn’t always the largest kid in the class, but the bully is someone who gets their way through threats, intimidation and fear.

That’s what I thought bullying was.

Here’s what my daughter’s school sent home about bullying:

“Students who name call, exclude others, tease, and/or become physical towards another student will be written up and [the Principal] will review the situation.”  (emphasis added)

It’s that word “exclude” that caught my attention.  At first blush you may say of course, excluding is wrong and can lead to hurt feelings so we should ban it.  But here’s my question:  Are hurt feelings or feelings of being left out the same as bullying?

Please understand that I’m not insensitive to hurt feelings.  I was a geeky nerd kid with red hair – I experienced a lot of hurt feelings in my childhood.  But was it bullying for a particular girl clique that I wanted to be a part of to say “we don’t want to play with you?”

Kids, especially very young children, have virtually no choices in life.  Their parents and their school decide just about everything for them.  Even for teenagers there is a lack of freedom.  Should kids be free to choose who they play with on the playground and who they eat lunch with and who they hang out with?

Or am I being na├»ve?  With the advent of social media, I know that things have changed for kids and now bullies, especially girl bullies, have the entire Internet and social media web to use for their bullying.  Have things changed so much that we must quash freedom of choice in who we spend our time with in order to protect kids from hurt that can lead to emotional problems and suicide?

Here’s how the Oxford American Dictionary, 2010, defines “bully:”

n. A person who frightens or persecutes weaker people
          v. Frighten or persecute a weaker person

Synonyms are:  persecutor, oppressor, tyrant, tormentor, intimidator, thug

This definition fits with how I’ve always defined a bully.  When you imagine a bully, do these words fit your image?

I’ve been a divorce lawyer and mediator for sixteen years and unfortunately my work has brought me into contact with domestic violence issues.  Domestic abusers are bullies.  Whether the abuser is a man or woman (yes, women sometimes are the abusers though not as often as men), they use their fists or their words (usually both) to intimidate and oppress.  Put downs and insults are the abuser’s daily bread and butter, used to weaken the other person’s self-esteem and resolve.  The physical violence seals the deal so to speak and shows the other person “see, I’m stronger than you and I can get and do what I want.”

It is my belief that bullies are made in their homes where they likely observe bullying behavior by one or both parents.  The bully then hones their craft on the playground, in the lunchroom, and in the corridors of the school.  By the time the bully reaches high school, he or she has likely been bullying since pre-school and knows how to work the system to their favor.  In fact, I can foresee the bully using the “no exclusion” policy to bully someone into playing with them so they can bully them some more!

Bullying is very serious.  My concern is that if we water down and broaden the definition too much it will become meaningless.  Getting your feelings hurt because you didn’t get invited to a party sucks and dealing with mean girls can leave a scar.  But when someone engages in a campaign of constant insults, put downs, threats, and/or verbal or physical intimidation is different.  The latter is bullying. Is the former bullying?

It’s no fun to be excluded by the bitchy, mean, exclusive girls.  But are mean girls automatically bullies?  Is it their exclusion that’s the problem?  Or how they go about it?

Lets get some conversation going about this important topic.  What do you think?

Is excluding bullying?  Has bullying changed?  Do we need to broaden the definition to encompass new forms of bullying?

Have you been bullied in your life?  How do you define bullying?

If you’re still in school, do you agree with the new policies on bullying?  Do you think bullying is a problem and if so, how do we fix it?

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