Today is a Good Day!

Today is good, today I got up with the moon still smiling down, as it prepared to hand the sky over to the sun.  The characters were exactly as I’d left them, frozen in place for almost twenty-four hours. The relief on their faces was evident while they stretched muscles and loosened stiff joints. Yes, I allow them to stretch before we resume.

“Much better than yesterday,” Danne Stromgren, the main actor, declares. “You must have knocked out all of that dirt Mister Sandman stuffed between your ears.”

My finger traces an earlobe before I can stop it, checking for sand, just in case. I smile at the star of the show, he’s prone to fits of man-diva.  I can’t blame him on this one, however. This time the griping is justified. Yesterday was a scrambled dog’s breakfast. Here’s a brief replay of what happened.

Time warp to yesterday . . .

Computer on, coffee on the immediate left, within easy grasp, oxygenating greenery to the right, fingers at the ready . . . now type!

abcdebbacon! . . . Hungry! No . . . try again. abc! . . . Hey, is that a cobweb on the corner of the kitchen ceiling?

Sip coffee, ouch! Hot! Sniff oxygenating plant, better! Brain is giving me a dial tone only. Try some research . . . that’s it, type in ‘wild west, turn of the century’ . . . no, stop fingers!

Ooh, soo ugly, yet fascinating! Wingspan of up to six feet? Hmmm . . . take a lot of batter to coat those. Grab some cereal would ya and get back to work! No, Cheerios won’t cut it, left over chicken in fridge. Yum, now I’m good. Whoa! The clock is running down. Kids will be up soon. 

Dannne . . . whoops, Danne said, “You . . .” Aggh!!  “You . . .” YMCA! It’s fun to stay at the YMCA! Just go with it for a moment, that’s right, tap those fingers on the kitchen table you call a writer’s nook. 

“Dad, what’s for breakfast? I’m hungry!”

(sigh) Return oxygenating plant to windowsill . . . drink up cold coffee . . . close down portal to the nineteenth century Klondike . . . no saving required.

“Here you go.”

“Ewww! What’s that?”

“My white flag.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Self-Publishing, by Mark Bierman

Not too long ago, I had the privilege of being hosted by talented blogger, DA-AL, on her wonderful blogsite Happiness Between The Tails. I encourage everyone to visit her site, there is a variety of topics, it’s well crafted and there’s something for all! Thank you again, DA-AL for this opportunity.

Human trafficking occurs in every country, including Canada and the U.S. In light of this, Ontario novelist/blogger Mark Bierman dedicates 50% of profits from his book, “Vanished,” to organizations that help victims of this terrible crime. He first guest posted on Happiness Between Tails here. Read on for what he’s learned about self-publishing…

“Self-Publishing” by Mark Bierman

It’s 5a.m. as I climb out of bed and begin to brew the cognition ignition potion, or coffee if you wish to go by its scientific classification. The percolation underway, I pad off to my writer’s den, or the “spare bedroom,” as some in this house call it. The computer is poked awake and generates particles of light that spread across the mahogany desk until they reach the ‘bills to pay’ file box. A tiny shadow figure climbs into the box, and peers malevolently up at me.

“Karl Jackson, if you wish to pay my bills, that’s fine, just be sure to hop back into the story when you’re done.”

If anyone can afford to liberate us from debt, it’s the villainous King of the Klondike. I keep my voice calm to hide my concern. Oh, he goes on these forays almost daily but has never before managed to enter our world until the file marked, ‘trimmedprodigalson,’ has been opened. Hmmm . . . I must look into upgrading the firewall. The filename is not the title for the new book but rather denotes the concept. The ‘trimmed’ portion is the result of my cantankerous nitpicking of the original manuscript. I can’t speak for every author, but for me, a book is never really finished. I’ve yet to reread my first novel, Vanished, for sanity’s sake.

It’s a Wednesday, and I’m off from my survival job as a Correctional Officer. That means I have a full two hours of novel writing before the rest of the house is awake and the nineteenth-century morphs back into the twenty-first. When the clock chimes seven, my role as an author ceases, and I put my parenting hat on. There are kids to feed and drive to school, after that, chores, a workout, and whatever else the day brings. I try to squeeze in marketing between it all and combine it with other tasks. Instagram is often dealt with while riding the stationary bike, what else am I going to do, count the tiles in the basement ceiling? Twitter, best posted on between the hours of nine am to three pm, can be done at lunch, Facebook too. I’m careful not to crow about myself, too often. The rule of thumb is to focus 80% on others and 20% on yourself. So far, that formula has worked well for me.

bigrock

Blogs are the hardest and most time-consuming. I commit the sin of failing to post regularly, I know better. To truly grow your audience, you need to be consistent. Many bloggers post daily and have themed days. It’s something I’m working on, but time is not my ally here.

So, how did this all begin? How did someone in my profession decide to become an Indie Author? To tell you the truth, my job is precisely the reason. The pay is great, and with twenty years in, I have plenty of vacation days and a pension at the end of it all. Sounds great, right? Well, those perks come at a cost. The toll on your mental health can be overwhelming. Five years ago, I decided to find a positive outlet for my creative side, a place to share and bond with people who are focused on a dream and appreciate the work you do. The one positive thing I will say about my years in law enforcement is my vast collection of story and character fodder. Oh yes, there’s plenty of that in the good old Big House.

So why Indie? Are you not good enough to find a publisher? The truth is, I tried, but only twice. I waited six months to be rejected by both. I’m too impatient for that. Plus, I’ve heard stories of publishers changing parts of storylines or characters, nope, I wanted to control my own material. Of course, this may not apply to all publishers. Please don’t get me wrong, if you wish to pursue the traditional route, go for it! It’s a personal choice.

sunset

Whichever path you choose, I highly recommend using Beta-Readers and professional proofreaders. No one wants to get those Amazon Reviews that call in to question the author’s level of grammar comprehension. Some of the best reads I’ve come across are Indie, others, not so much. However, I can say the same about traditionally published works. Remember, tastes vary, and some will cry for more chocolate while others prefer vanilla. Don’t expect a romance junkie to read your thriller through the same lens. You can’t write for everyone, find your niche, and build your fan base.

One last thing, before I go, find your ‘people.’ By that, I mean your support crew. Be it fellow authors, bloggers, reviewers, those in the industry, and in the know. They will help you become a better writer, offer constructive criticism, encourage and open doors for you.

I love this gig but writing and marketing a novel is a herculean task. This may sound silly, but I liken it to pushing a giant boulder that resembles a half-moon. The flat side remains motionless until heaved onto the rounded side. There may be a brief reprieve as you watch it roll for a short distance, but then it lands on the flat side again. If you leave the stone too long, moss grows on it. Yes, you can keep hoisting that stone in solo fashion, hoping that the flatness wears into a curve, but you’ll probably end up overworked and discouraged. Wouldn’t it be nice to have loyal and encouraging people to help keep that sucker moving? You will, of course, do likewise for them. I’ve been fortunate to find such a community. This includes da-AL and the members of Rave Reviews Book Club. Rave Reviews, founded by author Nonnie Jules, is an online community of both Indie and Traditionally Published writers, of all genres, all walks of life, and from around the world. I’ve been part of this family, because that’s what it feels like to me, for several years.

I found them by accident one day, as I was searching for more book clubs to join. I had been a member of several at this point, but something drew me to Rave Reviews, they are genuine and committed to helping. Currently, it is the only book club I’m involved with. They have helped me grow as a writer. Yes, there is an expectation of paying it forward. While that does take you away from your own project for a brief time, just remember, others are doing the same for you.

 

bigvanished

There is a catalogue that includes books written by members. Everyone is encouraged to pitch in and do their best to support their fellow members by answering questions about writing, providing feedback about works in progress (Beta Reading), as well as advice and support on social media platforms. They have great programs such as, ‘Books of the Month,’ which feature member’s and their works, podcasts that allow a member to discuss their work, and even emotional support. I’ve personally been a ‘Book of the Month’ author and have also been featured on several podcasts. I once had a question about a book I was working on, whether or not to publish it as a series or as a single book. The problem was I had too much story for a single book, but not enough for a third. I was unsure and posed the concern to the group. Within a half-hour, I received advice that two-book series are acceptable. What a relief!

I highly recommend joining. You can find out more about Rave Reviews here.

Thank you, da-AL, for having me as a guest on your wonderful blog! I also want to thank you, the reader, for taking the time to visit this post. I wish you all the best in your writing career, or whatever you choose to do in life. Follow your passions, and take heart that setbacks are usually temporary and often the greatest teachers. Now if you’ll please excuse me, Karl Jackson is drinking my coffee and using my tablet to play Minecraft. It’s time to write him home.

Find out more about Mark and his writing at his website here and his blog here.

What’s your publishing game-plan?

Should you have your writing peer reviewed/critiqued?

Please welcome my special guest, Jessica Dejong! Today, she’s blogging about a very important, and potentially intimidating, topic that all authors must contend with: Putting our hard-earned words and stories on the examination table for others to dissect.

Without further delay, here is Jessica.

In short, the answer to this question is yes. But it depends on who is peer reviewing your writing; someone other than yourself and, preferably, not just your close friends and family.

You can study writing all you want, but you’ll never perfect your story all on your own. You’ve got to show it to someone else and let them tear it apart, constructively, and friends and family can’t always do this, either. It’s time to send your writing to someone else.

It’s scary, I know—downright petrifying. You’re afraid of what the critics will say, what they won’t say, what they might not understand. But that’s the point, and it’s not the only thing reviews can do for you. This post is about my recent experience with peer reviews on a website called Critique Circle. I hope you find it helpful!

Finding Tough-love Critics

There’s only so much we can do for our own stories. Having been immersed in them from the very beginning, it can be hard to separate ourselves from them. We can’t see all the mistakes, don’t notice all the confusing bits or the places where we overindulged by adding a bit too much description or by letting our characters ramble on for too long because we like them.

Up until recently, I depended on my family and friends to be my beta readers and critics. But, since they knew me and my insecurities, I was always afraid they were being too easy on me. I thought their ideas of me, as a person rather than as a writer, might affect the way they interpreted the story.

I’d already known, for quite a while, that I’d need to go way outside my comfort zone and send my writing to other people, preferably those who didn’t know me well. It was a terrifying reality, but with the book I’m currently writing (well, revising), I needed some in-depth commentary. I wanted it ripped apart like an editor for a publishing company might do. So, I turned to complete strangers. People who didn’t know me, my insecurities, who would have no qualms about tearing up my story. In other words, I went to the internet.

My First Time with Critique Circle

Like I mentioned above, I joined an online critiquing group called Critique Circle—a site I’d recommend to anyone. I’ve received so much great, specific advice.

I started out by giving a few critiques. Then, drying the sweat from my palms, I sent in the first chapter of my WIP (work-in-progress) novel.

It wasn’t a perfect chapter, but it was an important one. First chapters always are, since they need to introduce the main character(s), the plot, and the overarching conflict, to name a few things.

So, I waited for the queue my chapter was in to come up. It was five long days of nervous energy, all building up to that first day of critiquing. In that time, my insecurities went crazy. I was afraid I’d done it all wrong, that once people read it, they would no longer respect me as a writer. It wasn’t a fun thought, I’ll tell you that.

Then the day I’d been both dreading and anticipating came.

The Beauty of Critiques

As it turned out, my insecurities were unjustified (it seems they usually are, but here I am, still worrying). Within a few hours, I already had a critique for my first chapter. By the end of the week, I had eight of them.

Everyone was helpful, and although there were a few things repeated by the eight critics (to be expected, of course), much of what they were saying was unique to them. It can be a little confusing since you can’t be sure what’s personal preference and what doesn’t actually work (though the critics usually try to point out what might be just their preferences), but the reward is thoroughly worth it.

They gave me advice on pacing, characters, dialog, grammar, and sentence structure. They were nitpicky, and I loved it. Everything they pointed out made sense to me. I know I’m gushing, but it was a great experience. I learned things I could never have gleaned from books or blogs on the craft because it was personal. It was intensive and intimate. And yes, it could be a bit harsh at times, but that’s one of the best parts. If you want to share your writing with the world, you’ve got to have a thick hide. The people at Critique Circle (the ones I ran into, at least) were just nice enough to keep me from raising my fists and demanding a better critique (so to speak), but blunt enough to thicken my skin a little more.

Growing as a Writer

It’s incredible how much a person can grow as a writer, even in the span of a week. Not only have I learned about my own writing through receiving feedback, I’ve also learned from giving it (I find it’s a lot easier to find mistakes in another person’s writing than your own!). But knowing where other people make mistakes in their writing has shown me where I might be doing the same. I look at my own work with a more critical eye now when I’m revising, and even that has made a huge difference in my story.

I’ve become more aware of my weaknesses as a writer, as well as a few of the things I’m getting right. It’s a lot of work, writing and reading critiques, then revising your story to get rid of any weak writing, then applying your new insights into your future writing. But as writers, we know that story-writing was never meant to be easy, that it requires a lot of hard work and some amount of sacrifice, and in the end, it’s worth it. Having my writing critiqued has shaped my story into something tighter, deeper, and more alive, and I doubt I could have gotten it to this point on my own.

Support Among Fellow Writers

The point is, we don’t have to do this alone. We learn from each other, and critique circles/peer reviews are the most personal and intimate places to do so, in my experience. Just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. We have to eventually. Find a group of writers, or start your own group. It doesn’t have to be online. Many communities already have a group that meets regularly.

Sharing our work with other writers who struggle with the same issues is about the safest, most understanding way to begin. It’s also a great place to find and to give support, which is something we all need.

Thanks for reading, and best of luck with all your writing endeavors!

(Ps. You can find me on Critique Circle as Writerjess)

About Jessica:

Jessica DeJong is creative writer, nature-lover, and introverted bookworm.

To learn more about her writing, read her posts, or subscribe to her monthly email, please click on the link below.

jessthewriter.com