Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Happy Independence Day: Chill with IWSG

Monthly IWSG gets a Chill Pill

Guy Fawkes Night at Windsor, 1776: blasting off fireworks to celebrate GF’s foiled attempt to blow up the Palace of Westminster, London (in 1605). Fireworks have since been a tradition both in the homeland and the colonies. Print Paul Sandby, courtesy BritishLibrary

Firstly, may I wish all my American cousins, writerly, IWSGy or not, a stupendous Independence Day for 2012; I can’t help but notice that in the 236 years since you began this great celebration of your freedom—from the shackles of your colonial rellies—us Brits—relations between us have remarkably improved.

—Two cultures divided by a common language—
Geoerge Bernard Shaw

Although this time of the month I usually reserve for bloghopping, whispering our creative woes, or rejoicing in support of Alex J. Cavanaugh‘s regular bloghop/blast-off by insecure writers, IWSG, our fearless leader—with two sci-fi bestsellers in the bag; his third a WIP—has given us a reprieve*. Independence Day is, he believes, such a national holiday, a day of celebration, that it is worth setting aside any commitments or prior promises, and instead get out there and …er … blast off in another direction: with fireworks.

*Alex knows us writers well; technically, he gave us the option to post either today or tomorrow 🙂

Yeah for the grays: ET has rights, too

In Britain, ‘health-and-safety’ concerns make it illegal now to shoot fireworks, except on the anniversary of November 5th, when in 1605 Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament situated in the medieval Palace of Westminster, London. It seems in our shared nature that we like to explode spectacular visual patterns on our consciousness and feel good when we do it.

So I thought that, instead of having a monthly moan, or catching you up on my latest literary contest rejection, I would use this month’s bloghop as an excuse to have a bit of visual fun—a mini slideshow— with the new images appearing in the (mostly British) cornfields; It’s my way of contributing to the US holiday; and isn’t it interesting to explore why certain images, like going to the movies, make us feel good. It works, however much or little we understand about the phenomenon.

Catchup for Beginners

Disneyland Crop Circle, Stanton St. Bernard, Wilts June 29th, likened to the Abbey of Westminster Palace

Quick resume for total newbies: Cropcircles—designs of multiple forms—appear in English (& other countries’) barley and wheatfields in the summer months. Those considered ‘genuine’ are ones made—in a matter of minutes—where the light/energy creating them heatseals the stems into forming wave-like and woven patterns within an overall visually-exciting motif—when viewed from above. While there are still a few farmers who believe their fields are being ‘vandalized’ by locals with ropes and planks—some field designs have been cut out within hours to stop people visiting—the majority of Wiltshire farmers display honesty boxes, and are laidback about it. Because in the case of microwaved stems, the plant continues growing, some have even made beer from CC-anointed grain—on sale at the local croppie hostelry, The Barge Inn at Honeystreet. The Barge was built in 1810 as a stopping point on the newly-constructed Kennet-Avon Canal which still runs past the beer tables. It is croppie hub.

By far the most-favored fields are those in the ancient neolithic kingdom of Wessex—Stonehenge and Glastonbury come to mind. Mostly confined to a small portion of chalk—limestone—ridges and fields in central Wiltshire, whose underground aquifers measure highly as an electric/energy current conductor, crop circles have in recent years appeared to highlight their surroundings, manifesting in the vicinity of ancient sacred centers like Avebury stone circle and neolithic Silbury Hill—largest man-made mound in Europe.

Crop circle points to Silbury Hill

It is true that more people have become aware of their ancient heritage through following the cropcircle trail… And wasn’t it the Native American who advocated following the route led by Nature into the Sacred Ways of the Ancestors?

You Americans did well to burst out in your independence. We Brits are still culturally guilty of too much criticism and cynicism. Maybe the crop circles are telling us to lighten up. And it has not escaped anyone’s notice that we are now midway through the year predicted by the Ancestors as a year of ‘signs’—eclipses and Venus transit included.

Flower-of-life Crop circle near neolithic Avebury appeared July 1st within the ancient sacred precinct

While previous years have focused on dimensional and coded designs, it is too early to tell which way 2012 will go—both the flower-of-life and Disneyland palace have precedents—but the season is hotting up. There were fourteen English crop circles in June, and July usually doubles that number. For a more in-depth view, read my main consciousness and crop circle blog at Siderealview.

A couple of anthropomorphic designs—’alien mother’ and her babies—have gotten people excited into anticipating a heavy ET element. The internet has much speculation on UFOs and ETs creating the circles, particularly in Mexico and Italy, where more formations have appeared this year than ever before.

‘Mother Alien’ and her baby tadpoles: twin designs in 2012 crop circles in Wiltshire heartland

It is encouraging that several Facebook groups, some serious, others critical, do much to keep concensus and interpretation at a high level.

Like Alex’s wonderful IWSG initiative here, where through his intention and focus to get us together, he has built up a lovely group mind among us, encouraging us to stretch out the hand of friendship, to share, and help each other out; so, an element of cohesion or group consciousness can be seen developing in embryo form within the most dedicated groups in the croppie world.

And, besides, having fun has always been a good way to recharge our batteries. So I hope my little bit of holiday divertissement adds a cultural twist to what I’m sure has already been a roaring success on the other side of the Atlantic.

Besides, we may indeed be enjoying our way into a better future. There’s …..hope for us all.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

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July 5, 2012 Posted by | ancient rites, blogging, crop circles, culture, festivals, history, seasonal | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Crazy Cozy Spoof Pitch

Blogfest Crazy Cozy contest to celebrate Alyse’s launch

My friend and fellow author Hart Johnson (Tami Hart) is celebrating today because she has been officially launched~ as new “name” Alyse Carlson in the wide world of readers of cozy mysteries. Her Azalea Assault is published today by Berkley Press. Yet, true to form, she isn’t crowing from the rooftops about her newfound fame, but is sharing the honor with her friend and (longer-term) professional author Elizabeth Spann Craig, who also launches today, though not for the first time: her new Quilt or Innocence is released today by Signet.

So it is not surprising that some of us were asked to make the occasion a little more crazy (than it already was, and it is jolly: see other participating pretenders) by sharing in a Crazy Cozy Spoof Pitch: setting out the bones of a Cozy Mystery and letting the authors choose the zaniest.

So here’s mine—all apologies for uproarious laughter or convulsions subsequently induced—accepted.

CRAZY COZY SPOOF PITCH:
Protagonist: My detective is an amateur crop circle photographer, Colin, camping overnight with his girlfriend and accidental witnesses to what they believe is the manifestation of a light orb in the making of a crop circle.

Sidekick: his girlfriend, the lovely Linda; who has ideas of her own about who is making the patterns in the cornfields.

Manton Drove crop circle June 2nd, 2012, first CC in barley: “all the Cees”

Theme: you guessed it—the crop circle season has begun! endless imaginary designs conjured up to keep the croppies hoppy! er, happy.

Victim #1 and Victim #2: found together next morning in the middle of a newly-formed crop pattern: #1 is local rope-&-plank circlemaker Dave, known to brag about his alien connections; #2 is the lifeless corpse of a small, gray large-lidded alien. Their bodies are aligned to face an ancient burial cairn and passage grave on the distant horizon.

Killer: Locals suspect Dave’s partner Doug had been jealous of his partner’s ability to make board-and-stomp patterns in the wheat better than him; but when more “alien” circles start to arrive and they know they didn’t make them, they decide to split up and see what’s going on.

Aliens making crop circles? who would’ve thunk it?

But our trusty sleuth and the dedicated Linda have other ideas, when they camp out the following night and witness another ball of light descend and pick up the gray body, deliberately left to see if they could film any developments…

aha: the culprit… or do their eyes deceive them…?

Oh, yes: The real killer is the driver of the second “light orb” ship, who thought by sacrificing his colleague and the earthling, they would learn more about Earth jealousies. After all, they have full capability aboard to resuscitate his co-pilot and resume their mission…
©2012 Marian Youngblood

…and a postscriptum for the serious matter of the day:
If, by now, you haven’t figured out what a Cozy Mystery is—think Daphne duMaurier, Agatha Christie, rather than Blade Runner, Alien Resurrection—if you see what I mean…

And it may interest you, bloghop reader, to know that even Alyse’s publisher, Berkley, knows that she’s loopy; because this is their cover blurb for her:

“Alyse Carlson is the pen name for Hart Johnson who writes books from her bathtub. By day she is an academic researcher at a large midwestern university. She lives with her husband, two teenage children and two fur balls. The dust bunnies don’t count. This will be her first published book.”

Don’t you just love it? How can she fail? Go, Hart: woot woot.
Lots of love.

Azalea Assault is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other good book stores, June 5th.

June 5, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, crop circles, fantasy, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Bloghopping and Plot Bunnies

MONTHLY IWSG
Plot Bunnies

ABNA ...like nursing your Plot Bunnies and then putting them out for Adoption...

I’ve spent the last ten days in the hutch with my favourite bunnies: the ones that usually come out when my mind is in full right-brain (Muse-driven) fantasy, mid-novel-draft, to help me plot. At those times the Muse seems sensitive to a modicum of left-brain tweaking by these slightly-controlling little guys. Contrarily, these latest fellas came and crawled all over my keyboard and tried to get me to change things in the novel* I wrote for NaNoWriMo last November: that’s the novel even NaNoWriMo veterans suggest is worth submitting only two months down the road to its first literary contest.

We’ve all heard the sound advice: to let a newly-completed novel rest for at least a month before tackling the arduous (less-writerly, more-editorial, left-brain) process of tidying it up.

Plot Bunnies to the Rescue
I had kept nose to grindstone all November — assisted mightly by the little guys, above and below — released my little fantasy baby* into the Word-Cosmos on November 30th (50k in 30 days), and wiped my brow. I hadn’t looked at the MS once over Christmas.

ABNA pops up its timely head at the end of January. I succumbed to its persuasive positive hype last year. I thought maybe I should try a second time. So, throwing caution aside, I went for it again this year.

Thing is, I should never have ventured near the bunny hutch, because what I was supposed to be doing in the last two weeks of January was ‘polishing’ my novel for submission — edit/re-write, i.e. left-brain mode. I had no idea they could switch sides so easily!

Right-brained Plot Bunnies can sometimes appear suddenly during the editing process


But, seriously, nursing one’s progeny (literally your 30-day Wonderbaby) thru NaNo and getting your beloved WIP ready (edits, rewrites, reading by a friend) for submission and then being brave enough to release it into ABNA’s clutches, is emotionally equivalent to raising all your bunnies in one basket and then putting them up for adoption. I kid you not. I am sure they sensed that their babies (the ones I’d allowed them to help nurture all through November) were suddenly being thrown to the lions. That’s why they popped up last week.

Nevertheless, brushing them off lightly with a ‘you’ll get your chance for another WIP again soon’, I succeeded in submitting within the (still open) window and want to share a few thoughts today, on Alex’s bloghop. Somehow, the little guys made me say that. All because I’m submitting to ABNA.

ABNA is not for the faint-hearted. It stretches the writer’s creative schedule to the limits while also tempting her/him with long-term incentive. Amazon must know the vulnerability of the writer –always to have a dream ahead in order to reach her/his goal– how else do we survive the rebuffs of the query circuit? And the prizes are indeed one-of-a-kind.

Small print below: thanks to my intrepid friend and ABNA cohort (she’s done so much better than me in past ABNAs), Hart Johnson.

She says –and she knows– “If you’ve written a sure best seller, don’t enter. i.e. James Patterson should not apply.** The contest would tie up your work for six months, during which time you can’t apply to other publishers.”

Her other caveat:

One-trick ponies with intentions to sell this and only this work NOW. The contest puts you on hold with this work.

“If this is your ONLY work and you want to market it to publishers, you will not be able to do that for six months. That seems a very long time if you only have one book. You can, during this time, seek an agent. You can also write other books, shop other books, polish other books– you can polish THIS book– the only time that isn’t helpful is if they loved the earlier version so much they won’t take your changes.”
Hart Johnson

During the period your work is active in the contest, you give up:

The right to negotiate IF YOU WIN. The contract is the contract is the contract. (Hart already HAS a Penguin contract, and she doesn’t believe they gain anything by not giving a FAIR contract to a winner).

Also, if you win, you take that with you through your whole career.

What sponsors Amazon and Penguin and PublishersWeekly are on the lookout for are new writers. If that’s you, and if you are still in two minds about submitting your latest novel — 50,000 words minimum — I would encourage you to give it a try. What do you have to lose?

The contest started January 23rd, 2012, with a submitting ‘window’ open until February 5th; or until 5,000 entries have been received.

Briefly, the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest timeline is:

From now till Friday midnight, February 5th
open for entry and submissions
February 5th – 23rd
qualifying period in which Amazon editors evaluate the submission Pitch,
February 24th – March 20th
Second round- Amazon editors and Amazon Vine Reviewers evaluate Excerpts from the submission,
March 21st – April 24th
Quarter-Final period Excerpts are posted online for public feedback (through ratings and reviews) and PublishersWeekly reviews the full MS,
April 25th – May 22nd
Semi-Final period where Penguin editors review the full Manuscript to select the Finalists, announced May 22nd. There is a (Final) final period when Amazon customers may vote to determine the Winners.

Seems worth a try, doesn’t it? Besides, there are all of Alex’s fearless bloghoppers here to cheer you along.

Once again, I am grateful to Alex for his supportive leadership in perpetuating this First Wednesday IWSG bloghop. Among its network of versatile scribes, we get to pick up and throw in a few pointers along the way. Following Alex’s lead, in this fiercely competitive world called Publishing, (deeply immersed or on the writerly periphery), it is wonderful to feel there is a support network out there to share our joys and sorrows; and to know they are the first ones to give praise, chivy us along, or render a timely piece of advice. I’ve met some new friends in this bloghop.

It’s catching.

'Coco Bay: The Awakening', 2nd in Green Turtle Cay trilogy, deepsea, deepspace, deeptime

Even the naughty bunnies hope they triggered some good.

In BunnySpeak, they want to wish all ABNA entrants, veteran or newbie, the best of luck both with ongoing works (WIPs), and especially if they enter the ABNA enclosure (BunnySpeak). They also offer to dig a BIG HOLE in the compound’s predator-proof fence, if you need to escape at dawn… … oh those bad bunnies.

*Marian’s Bunny-inspired Baby is ‘Coco Bay: The Awakening’, a deep-sea, deep-space deep-time fantasy and the second in her Green Turtle Cay trilogy. It is set in the azure waters off Abaco in the Bahamas, on the southern edge of the Bermuda Triangle.

**Alex J Cavanaugh will also not be entering because, hold your breath, 🙂 his second novel CassaFire is being released by Dancing Lemur Press on February 28th. We wish him great good fortune.

©February 2012 Marian Youngblood
thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh’s Bloghop Wednesday and the
INSECURE WRITERS’ SUPPORT GROUP

February 1, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Granddaughter (8) wants to be an Insecure Writer

WiFi and Insecure Writers

Quadrantid meteor shower, first of 2012, peaks tonight and in the hours before dawn January 4th

First, may I wish all those reading this a happy, healthy and wholly miraculous New Year.

I have been on intermittent connection with the Ether since mid-December. My usual readers will please forgive me for sporadic internet connection, solstitial/Yuletide hibernation and Wifi-free preparation for a magical New Year.

So magical will 2012 be, I believe, though, that we won’t have any need to feel “insecure” any more; Alex Cavanaugh (just joking, Alex) will have done such a good job of getting us all to ‘spill the beans’—the raison d’être of his monthly Insecure Writers’ Support Group (IWSG)—that in the catharsis, we won’t feel insecure any more.

So far, Alex’s initiative to encourage writers into releasing their (writing) fears–as well as bloghopping every first Wednesday of each month, lets other writers feel not so shy of plunging in. Besides, it’s a lot of fun bouncing around other writers’ sites in the “wee hours” of the new year.

That little ditty aside, I have to admit that my 8-year-old granddaughter, Oriah, stole the show and has this month won the contest in subject matter for today’s contribution: she completely put all insecurities out of my head. Instead she is sharing the opening lines of her new story with me and with you, gentle Reader.

She wants to be an ‘Insecure Writer’, even though she doesn’t feel at all insecure.

Because she admits to not being scared of plunging in, her own fearlessness is itself a tonic. Her storyline, setting, atmosphere and mood are all set in a couple of sentences.

Would we all had started out this way!

She has decided her story will probably be a long one, and so it may have to come in instalments.

Oriah, author of "Time Stopped", aged 8, writing for this month's IWSG blog

So, thanks to Oriah, this is her first instalment:

The violets in the mountains had made sweet sweet music that time had stopped.
One little animal could
start time again but no-one could find her no-one at all.
But one little deer sad and
alone–she didn’t know

Oriah’s story continues …and the drama unfolds…

Oriah and I offer this blog-story-preview as our contribution to this month’s fodder for hopping readers. And we hope you enjoy its sweetness, its innocence, and the feeling it offers to all of us who once felt this way about putting words on the printed page.

Thank you, Oriah, for being brave enough to let Grandma put you in her blog; and for bringing such a youthful and fresh perspective into this group of writer-dreamers.*

And…thank you, Alex, for allowing me to bend the rules…a little 🙂

*Brief insight: My granddaughter’s name was inspired by the words of another Oriah–Mountain Dreamer–who wrote in 1999:

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

“It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

“It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

“I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

“It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

“I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes!’

“It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

“It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

“It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

“I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”
by 
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
 copyright ©1999

Thanks to the indulgence of Alex Cavanaugh and his intrepid January blog-hoppers.

IWSG January blog ©2012Marian Youngblood

January 4, 2012 Posted by | authors, blogging, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Going it Alone: the Self-Publish Author

First printrun in 1450 using wooden blocks and metal lettering: Gutenberg's Bible

When I decided to go the self-publish route for my historical ghost novel, ‘Phantom’s Child’, I really thought I was venturing alone into an uncharted wilderness. A few months down the line, I now realize I was mistaken. Where writers and authors in the past had to navigate the choppy waters of the publishing world on their own, often (if they were compulsive enough) without the support of family and friends, now the world of publishing has had to open its doors to contemplate other ways, wider avenues of communicating with its public. The internet has moved the goalposts.

With this more immediate form of communication come angels-in-disguise: I mean writerly sites in general (AmWriting, SheWrites, Facebook, MySpace, OmTimes, Google-plus) and the brilliance of sci-fi master Alex J. Cavanaugh in particular.

Alex Cavanaugh’s monthly sharing platform
Alex is the proud author of space adventure CassaStar, published by Dancing Lemur Press, with its sequel, CassaFire being launched early next year. But his heart goes out to those of us who haven’t yet made it in the Big (publishing) World, or who have struggled long and hard to jump through its hoops.

So he has initiated a ‘bloghop’ combined with an Insecure Writers’ Support Group, just so the rest of us can benefit from shared information, dos and don’ts of fellow authors who have been there, done that, and most altruistic, a network of help and moral support for those (recurring) moments when we feel like throwing in the towel.

His Insecure Writers Group page gives a full list of 121 authors already participating. I am just thrilled that I find myself no longer alone — that others have trodden this road before me and we are all together treading it right now.

So, Alex wants us to reveal — on the first Wednesday of the month — what troubles us most in these tricky times where publish-or-die is the option chosen by only the most crazy among us.

I admit to such crazies.

Releasing one’s inner fears
Having written for years (and continuing to follow that route dictated by my taskmistress, the Muse), I no longer have a choice in the matter. My fear is that, if my success as an author depends on my being agent, marketing director and girl-in-the-street selling my books, I shall fail miserably. There, I’ve said it. I know writers (according to Myers-Briggs) are perennially better bloggers than self-promoters, but I believe I must be the worst. I just can’t get the words together to say: ‘look at me; look what I’ve done’.

So is there hope?

With Alex’s new support group, I believe there may be, and I welcome his wonderful new arena.

While I am several years down the road taken by all serious authors: trawling the world of submissions, query letters and pitches to agents, editors, and publishers; entering publishing contests; I have only a little to show for the hard slog. One fantasy novel of mine has currently been accepted for publication by a Michigan publisher; I wrote a small history years ago which has had some success, but my current projects (my WIPs) are all still out to tender. From that perspective, and given that my educational background was historical mixed with linguistics, I braved the self-publish world.

Only to discover that my worst nightmare — my lack of marketing skills — would return to haunt me.

Paying it Forward
Alex wants us to share our deepest doubts. Because I had already worked on this blog to share my experience in the self-publishing arena — something which many contemplate but perhaps need a little extra shove to make them try — I’ve chosen to tack on my blog below, because it seems to fit the bill his group describes:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Alex J Cavanaugh

Please check out his page for a complete list of all the other authors participating. If you fancy, you can join in, too. It is an awesome throng.

Self-publishing: the Go-it-Alone route
Much has been said already about traditional publishing by bloggers more prolific and more regular than I. But there would seem to be a nouvelle vague in do-it-yourself. Dry-walling and combustion-engine-tinkering are so passé. The future is staring us in the face. They say anyone can do it.

It’s called Self-Publishing.

But it takes stamina. It takes drive–like nothing you’ve ever summoned before. And it takes time and patience.

This is one author’s small attempt to defuse and demystify the ‘rules’ of the game and to shed a little light on a brand new wave which is sweeping the Nation. Nay, I say it louder: It is sweeping the English-speaking world.

And while some say the e-book will eventually replace the old faithful hardbound or paperback novel, I believe the Jury is still out on that one.

There is something compelling about holding a favorite book, lovingly turning crisp pages to check out a piece of dialogue you may have missed, or — dread the thought — sneaking a peek at the end, that will always have more ‘reality’ than digging in your beach-bag for the Nook where you uploaded Amanda Hocking’s latest effort.

However, there is room for both. That’s the beauty of the new technology.

Merely ten-twenty years ago the publishing world on five continents went through the motions — much like newspapers and magazines before them — of typesetting, formatting, reformatting, checking ink supply and — usually with a sigh of relief — cheering when the first printrun came out all right. I used to work in that ancient industry. It had hardly changed since Johannes Gutenberg felt that first thrill of seeing his Bible come off the press in 1450.

I must still have a little Gutenberg in me, because I delight in choosing a new book from the shelf, smelling the quality of pages and ink (it’s still there), comparing page layout and print styles. It’s an artform. Academic monographs differ from fiction. Non-fiction has a different approach from poetry anthologies — but it’s the stuff of dreams: the miracle of writing and the printed word.

You don’t have to take my word for it. We have a classic rôle model to look to.

Leonardo's Notebooks --Codex Leicester, named for its patron-- one of the world's most sought-after books

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) kept notebooks of his inventions, his scientific theories and his sketches and in 1717 one of these — a 72-page Notebook — was acquired by Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester. When the Leicester estate was wound up in 1980, the Notebook moved on to a collector. That collector sold da Vinci’s Notebook to Bill Gates for a fabulous sum in 1994. He renamed it the Codex Leicester, after its original rescuer. It is refreshing to know that the founder of that electronic marvel, MSWord –like it or loathe it– takes delight in a unique manuscript dating from the 15th Century.

And, bottom line, as all writers know, there is something magical about seeing oneself in print.

Print-on-demand books
So, first the bones.

Old way: galley proofs checked before the print run

The Old Way
You were chosen by a Publisher in the Real World who screened you (with or without the help of an Agent) who has asked you to send in your completed MS to them. Your (approved) MS is run by the in-house Editor, the art department prepares artwork for your cover and the whole thing is sent to be printed at a Printing House of the Publisher’s choice and a print-run agreed upon by you both in a Contract is given the go-ahead. You may or may not receive galley proofs. (In the old days, galleys were always sent out before the final agreed version was run). The Publisher then markets your work at their expense to libraries, bookstores and chains, devising and orchestrating all publicity for your book. You are given a (negotiated) share of the sales of your book. You may or may not be offered a number of ‘author’s copies’ or ARCs (advanced review copies). You get to see your book on the shelves in mainstream bookstores. This will probably include a listing on Amazon.

The New Way
You do all of the above –yourself.

Let’s say you have completed your novel of 50,000-70,000 words, edited out all the passive voice, extra adverbs, made sure all the sentences end in a period, and generally done great re-writes, versions 1 and 2. You’ve had an editor friend read it and you’ve got a great cover design you want to use and you’ve gotten tired of the agent-reject circuit anyway, and still think you’ve got it in you to go it alone — because you love your main character and the storyline just ‘fell into place’.

That sounds about the right mood to approach one’s first self-publish (ad)venture.

Front cover, back cover all uploadable along with internal text: 'Phantom's Child' via CreateSpace POD

I decided first to try the CreateSpace route. The POD arm (‘print-on-demand’) of Amazon.com. To be honest, I was new to POD and had not yet heard of Smashwords.

I have subsequently done my homework on the Smashwords method. There are several positive points to both systems, depending on what you want for your final product; what computer you prefer and comp.language you are happy working in; also, how fluent you are in internetspeak.

It goes without saying, that afterwards you have to be a pretty good salesman of your own work.

Basically — while there are other systems out there, like Lulu — what appealed to me was that I thought I could get my head around the system.

Like Alex’s initiative, it was an experience in joining a community.

Plus Points
They offered help at every juncture along the way. You keep ahead of the learning curve and you’re mostly all right. The mechanism includes an author page where you upload your document in their specific (pdf) format. Your chosen cover design is uploaded separately. They approve these and you’re ‘live’ within three days.

Minus Points
CreateSpace is tailormade to fit into the Amazon.com system (but NOT into the Amazon.co.uk system except if you choose to publish in e-book format), so best to figure in shipping costs beforehand — if you live abroad — because your final books will only be shipped from the USA. International shipping, while offered in three forms (regular, superfast, and economy — superslow) adds quite a bit to shelf price.

You write your novel in a text document– .rtf or .pdf for CreateSpace; MSWord .doc for Smashwords.

Both systems have marketing support — nominally a List of recommended publications which they distribute to bookstores, libraries and wholesalers as part of their commitment to you. They do no active promotion on your behalf. That’s for you to do.

CreateSpace issue you with an ISBN in return for a share of any profit you make from sales of the book. The ISBN belongs to them. But this should not be a problem if you do not plan to sell your book commercially!! Beware of any company that asks for a set-up fee (some companies can charge hundreds of dollars), as you are unlikely ever to recover this money through book sales.

Lulu is upfront about what they do but they will charge $99, if you want your own ISBN.

If you can’t design your own cover, cover design assistance and marketing are offered for a fee. If you want to offer your book additionally in Kindle format, CreateSpace will charge you $69 to do this for you, but if you do it yourself on the Amazon interface, it is free. However the payment/banking/remuneration systems are held separately, so you have to enter your bank details individually for both systems. Mind boggles. It helps enormously if you already have an American bank account.

A friend used Lulu for a small project and found their interface simple, the cover designer easy to use (though not suitable for a large review on the back-cover). They were prompt and their delivery was affordable. Because Lulu has affiliates abroad you do not pay or have to wait for international shipping. However, she found paper quality not as high as CreateSpace or Smashwords.

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh for this helping hand along the way

If you don’t chose their inhouse help, both Lulu and CreateSpace encourage you to format the book yourself. This can be done in a text file and then converted to a .pdf file. These are also suitable for converting to an eBook. Smashwords e-book format is converted for you by them, but you must submit to them in MSWord. If you are an Apple-lover, like me, this may not be as easy as it sounds.

A few words of encouragement: the process is relatively easy if you set your mind to it — not daunting or over-techhie, or I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it. For those who want to see their work in finished, tangible form, it can be a revelation.

We probably all agree that the ultimate dream for a writer is to be snapped up by that great Publisher-in-the-Sky who will get us on the New York Times Bestseller list.

But, hey, we all have to start somewhere.

A big thank you to Alex for making the road-less-traveled a little easier.
©2011 Marian Youngblood

September 7, 2011 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, Muse, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments