Major Announcement!

It’s truly funny how things work out sometimes.

For the past year, since about the time my son began pre-treatment for his bone marrow transplant, my thoughts where publishing were concerned have turned dramatically towards self-publishing. I’ve seen countless friends self-publish in the past 5 – 8 years, some who even surprised me because of their vehemence towards NOT self-publishing in the same time frame.

I’ve spent numerous hours in the last year reading popular self-publishing blogs, listening to podcasts, and questioning key friends who have both self-published and been traditionally published. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that self-publishing was for me because of the certainty of having my words and stories in print, and because of the level of control I’d be able to have.

And then, a random post about a month ago turned things on its head.

On my personal Facebook page, I made a comment one weekend about the priciness of ISBNs–those 10 or 13-digit numbers that uniquely identify your book and its edition. I knew I’d need several in the next year or two, considering my plans. But, yikes! Were they expensive!! I’m a stay-at-home mom, and I can’t ask my husband for $500 for 20 ISBNs (or whatever the rate is.) We just don’t have it in the budget, and I haven’t shown him the evidence that I could earn it back yet.

So, back to the comment. I was surprised at how many people responded to my post–all authors, of course (because who else knows what an ISBN is??) It was an interesting conversation, especially because I commented that I almost wished we lived in Canada, where ISBNs are free to authors.

What I didn’t know is that they’re free in other countries, too. Like New Zealand.

One of my friends happens to live in New Zealand.

She also happens to have her own press.

She also has read my work, and was my mentor when I did the Team PYP challenge about two to three years ago.

And, late last year, I’d asked her advice on a short story I had wanted to develop into a longer piece of work, and she gladly gave me some advice which was key into developing it into a novella rather than a short story.

She also invited me to send her the completed novella to possibly publish it through her press.

My brain turned on its head. Traditionally publish? But… but… but… I’ve been planning to self-publish for the past nine months!

Still, this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. One thing I’ve struggled with was the idea that my stories were worth it. Another was what I’d do about editing because I knew I’d need at least a good polish, if not much more. If she was interested in the stories, maybe they do have worth, maybe they are good enough. If not, well, maybe she’d have some input on what I could improve.

I’m not going to prattle on much longer in my story, but long story short is: I sent the novella. She loved them. We talked. We agreed it would be mutually beneficial for us to work together.

A contract was sent. A contract has been signed.

As of March 25, 2014, I’m contracted with Splashdown Books. My editor is the fabulous Grace Bridges. I’m completely over the moon, especially since this is my birthday week. What better present could an author ask for but a contract?? Of course this year, I’m just thrilled to be home on my birthday, with my husband, daughter, son, and dog. But a CONTRACT! Probably one of the best presents ever!

We’re still working out all of the details, such as titles and time frame. That information will be forthcoming as it’s available. Check here, the Splashdown Books website, Twitter, my Facebook, or the Splashdown Books Facebook page for updates.

So, that’s my major announcement! I’m so, so happy to share this with the rest of you!

Until next time…

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Welcome Back! — an Update and a Re-Evaluation

Tap, tap, tap! Does this thing still work??

Ahem.

Yes, I’m back after a much extended break. So, let me catch you up on what’s happened in since I did a serious post back in January.

My little man +121 after transplant, feeling great!

In early February, we were told that we were ready for transplant, and March 1 found my husband and I driving from Kansas City to Seattle, WA, where we proceeded with my son’s bone marrow transplant. It  was slated to happen the last week in March, but he got a virus (which he wasn’t symptomatic for!) and forced a delay until May 1. From May 1 until July 23, we were outpatient for only 2 weeks, 14 hours! My little boy kept getting sick for various reasons, so we never got more than a week and a few hours out the two times we were outpatient.

However.

He has done AMAZINGLY well, and we were able to leave on his day +101 to come home!! We arrived home on August 12, which ended up being a bit of a whirlwind for us. We got home at 12:45 AM, rushed to make an appointment with our KC BMT doctor, then went to see my grandmother who was dying… and who passed away while we were with her.

I am so glad I got to come home and see her one last time.

___________

So, whirlwind 5 1/2 months means no writing, right? 

Nope. 

While I didn’t do near as much writing as I’d hoped to do in those five and a half months, I did more than I think many people expected I would. I finished the third draft on my suspense-in-the-future book, Reprisal, and moved further along with the first draft of my police procedural with a Sci-Fi-y twist, Dead Before Arrival. I also began drafting a short story that will be a prequel to Beyond Dead and Dead Before Arrival–and am actively brainstorming ideas for a series of shorts that could very well lead up to the publication of both books, plus the third book in the trilogy, which I’ve yet to name or do more with than have a few ideas for scenes that could or should happen in them. 

Which brings me to the re-evaluation phase of this post.

Something in me snapped last fall where publishing is concerned. Most of you who regularly read this blog will remember I’ve said repeatedly that I’m only interested in getting an agent and going the traditional route. I’m not sure what changed, but something has. Maybe it’s watching so many of my friends succeed in self-publishing, maybe it’s the further success of e-books, or the fact they’re now outselling physical books, but I’ve been re-evaluating what my desires are for publishing.

Over the last several months, I’ve been listening to podcasts like Self-Publishing Podcast and Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn with regularity–maybe even being on the brink of being a bit obsessive about it.  In the many hours of listening while driving or doing house chores, the things the hosts and their guests have said struck a chord with me, and I’m beginning to see how it’s possible for lilol‘ me to be successful in self-publishing. I’ve got a few hang-ups I’m working through, but thankfully, I’ve got friends whom I can pick the brains of. 

Currently, I’m formulating a plan to begin publishing in the next 18 months–maybe even sooner. We’ll have to see how that goes. I’m starting to chomp at the bit in order to make this happen, so if I can keep up that level of enthusiasm and have things come together, you may be seeing my name in print very soon!

As for this blog, I’m going to keep trying to plug away at it, though as I think I’ve said in the past, it’s going to encompass more of what interests me besides writing, so you may hear about kitchen disasters, anecdotes about my kids, or whatever else floats my boat. I’m also considering doing a non-fiction book about my experiences during transplant, although I’m not really sure about the direction of the project yet.

Until next time,

Tough Decisions, or, I’m Not a Quitter–Honest!

Being a writer means making lots of choices. Why did Uncle Melvin kill off Cousin Carl? How will Detective Haskins discover the killer? Why did Sarah run off with Luigi? And on and on…

One of the toughest things about being a writer is knowing when to quit. Not necessarily for the day, but when is the story done. Or when it’s not done, and there’s nothing you can do at this point in your life to make it done.

by Astroboy_71

I’m facing one of those times right now.

For the last 6 1/2 years, I’ve been working on a novel project. It’s had a lot of names, but right now, it’s “Homebody”. This novel predates my children being born, and the two main characters actually predate my marriage.

Over the last year or so, I’ve struggled with the book. I’m on like the 7th draft or some crazy thing, and I keep feeling like I’m circling around when it could be considered done, but just not quite there. Those who have read it say the same thing. But I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it, not now at least. For a while, I thought it was done: I submitted it to agents, and have received a few nice, even encouraging replies, but nothing that would have me thinking I’m almost there.

In a last-ditch effort, I asked Texas Momma (aka Linda Yezak) to take a look at it this spring. Between all her battles, she read a few chapters, but life happened and she had to return it, mostly unread, but with a few very helpful suggestions.

Then, last week, I got that niggling feeling again, like it was time to let it go.

I’ve had that feeling off and on for a while. I’m not sure why, but after it came back stronger than ever, I decided I’d e-mail Texas Momma about it. Even though I asked, I wasn’t quite prepared for the blunt reply:

“Give up on Homebody. Save the personalities for another book, if you’d like, but I’d quit on it.”

My stomach clenched reading those words. This book has become so much a part of my identity the last several years. How can I just give it up? It’s almost like abandoning one of my children at the grocery store.

One thing you should learn early on as a writer is to kill your darlings. In other words, that turn of phrase you think is so clever, or that scene that you love but doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of the book. Perhaps it’s the same way with this book–it’s become my darling in many ways.

When I first started it, I was a completely different person than I am today. I had different goals, different aspirations, different worries. And, writing… and rewriting Homebody was cathartic in many ways. In the past six years, I’ve started work on several other projects, most of which I’ve finished, one or two I haven’t for whatever reason–my creative juices ran out, I lost interest, etc.

Homebody wasn’t the first novel I wrote. No, that disgraceful thing happened back in my teens. I pray it never again sees the light of day. A couple more came in between, both before and after a hiatus in my last semester of college into the first year of married life. Perhaps Homebody is that transition for me–the one I needed to get out, but isn’t yet worthy of being published. Perhaps the next one or two books I’ve got on my plate will be it. I hope so.

For now, I must say goodbye to this story. Thank you for helping me grow as a writer. I’m sorry I had to use you to do it, that you never reached your full potential, that I wasn’t the writer you needed me to be. Just know that even though you will remain on my flash drive, and I may never open you again, you’ve been valuable. I will always have fond memories of writing you.

As for my characters, Amanda O’Flannigan and Richard “Rick” Pierce, I think they’ll be around again. Almost as soon as I made the decision that it was time to cut it loose, I got a new idea which would be perfectly suited (I think) for them. And, Homebody definitely allowed me to come up with a great deal of back-story for these two. I hope it comes to fruition, mostly because I love both of these characters dearly. I’m not quite ready to quit on them, even if I have to quit on one of their stories.

For the time being, I’m going to get back to work on “Reprisal”. I’m mid-way through the 3rd draft, and it’s lingered far too long as I’ve had two children, done NaNo, and tried to get that OTHER book done. I’ll try to post monthly reports, even if they’re brief, on how that’s going. Once I’ve completed the 3rd draft, I’m going to go back to my 2009 NaNo project, “Beyond Dead”. It’s very short–just barely over the 50K minimum to win NaNo, and ideally I’d prefer it around 80K. That’s a lot of words to add! But, one thing at a time.

If you’re a writer, how do you gauge when it’s time to cut a story loose permanently and stop working on it? Have you ever had to do it? Did you mourn for the story and/or characters as I feel I’m doing a bit of now?

Happy trails,

From Behind the Publisher’s Desk

What a Publisher Probably Wants From You

Guest Post by C. Maggie Woychik, Editor for Port Yonder Press

Much of what I write or read about, I do so because I want to, I like the subject, and it’s what I feel I need to do at the time. My topics of choice are a purely subjective matter. 
But what does that really mean? I make subjective choices based on individual personal impressions, feelings, and opinions rather than external facts. Every single publisher (and possibly editor) makes subjective choices with every single manuscript that crosses their desk.
What this means for authors is that the very slim chance you have of getting published by a traditional publisher is made even slimmer by a publisher’s or editor’s whims.
Okay, so how can we give ourselves the very best chance for publication within that very narrow slice of possibility? I can think of all the usual ways, ways which you’ve probably heard ad nauseum but bear repeating: write well, have a great proposal and opening chapters, have a spectacular marketing plan, platform, and social networking presence.
Well, is that it? Yes and no. You also want to know the specific genres a given publisher deals with, any nuances they may favor (such as our love of the sea at Port Yonder Press, our love of the unique or literary, our love of the bold and brazen without wallowing in the grimy smut of reality’s seamy side), and it certainly doesn’t hurt to know the editor / publisher on a somewhat personal basis (writing conferences are good for that).
Those are the basics.  Now for the specifics of one publishing company, the only one I can address with any authority: mine. And these aren’t “how-to’s” as much as some of this publisher’s whims mentioned above.
1)      “Write quickly and you will never write well. Write well, and you will soon write quickly.” -Marcus Fabius Quintilianus  (i.e., take your time and sculpt that manuscript until it’s worthy of our time and our readers’ time)
2)      “I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” -Blaise Pascal (i.e., a repeat of point #1)
3)      “The ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding.” -Francis Bacon (i.e., a repeat of points #1 & 2)
4)      “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” -Justice Brandeis (i.e., a variation of points #1-3)
5)      “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” -W. Somerset Maugham (i.e., a separate but similar point to those above: format/method is one thing; good writing is another)
6)      “To any aspiring writers out there — write for love, not money.  Only a small percentage of writers will ever be published but that should not deter people from pursuing their dream of writing a book. There is a great sense of achievement to be had from writing one’s own book regardless of whether it becomes a commercial success [or not].” –Philip Tatham (i.e., write from your heart; write when you feel no one will read it; write not to impress but to do what you must)
We are looking for the best books we can find. Period. If you write a good story but won’t take the time to make it better than just good, don’t submit to us.
If you’re finicky, hard to work with, have unresolved relationships around you (believe it or not, this *does* show up in the subtleties of a manuscript), find another publisher. We want authors we can live and work with, authors who have shown themselves disciplined and pliable.
Lasso your artistic temperament and funnel it into busting the bronco of mediocre writing: train it to produce works of lasting merit, works which will outlast all of us.
For the specifics, visit our comprehensive site at www.PortYonderPress.com and contact me if you still have a lingering question rolling around in your brain.  Contact@PortYonderPress.com.
Liberty, thank you for the opportunity to visit your fine blog.
Maggie, thanks so much for sharing with us today! 
Until next time,