Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Self-Publishing: Into the Wilderness

For the last three months, I've been dividing my time between editing, getting a book cover designed, and learning the ropes of self-publishing. The revolution going on in publishing is both good and bad for authors and readers. Embarking on a mission to get your book published is like walking through a Medieval forest overrun with gnomes, trolls, faeries, and wizards. If you're lucky, you'll encounter some of those generous souls who have pioneered their way to success and are showing the light for those that follow. But beware of being waylaid by the unscrupulous who prey upon would-be authors and the mountains of misinformation that can send you off in the wrong direction.

The first question people ask is why aren't you going down the traditional agent-publishing house path? Because you have to know all the magical incantations and bend your knee before all-powerful wizards. Because your freedom of choice is limited, but all the risk and hard work is yours and the chance of success is often small and thwarted by the powers that be. Because I want to be me.

So I decided to head out into the forest by myself. I figured it would be more fun to be in charge of my own destiny and possibly more lucrative. Yes, it is true that self-publishers don't get a whole lot of respect--yet. But I believe the day will come when people will no longer look down their nose. The problem is that in making self-publishing so much more accessible, it also encourages some people to think they can get by with a sloppy product. All I can say to that is that I've bought traditionally published books by established writers that were awful, books that any unknown author would not be allowed to traditionally publish and probably could not successfully self-publish.

It all comes down to this: if you want to write a book and publish, do it. Give it your very best effort in terms of knowledge, expertise, and hard work and then let the chips fall where they may. That's life.


So here's where I'm at with bookcover design. It still needs a couple of minor tweaks. I started out with my sketch of a man walking toward an old, red flatbed Ford on a country road. That Ford is a very important prop in my novel. I chose an artist clear at the other end of the forest (Taiwan) and we set out to PhotoShop my sketch but it was not to be. The result was too cartoonish. It is very difficult to come up with stock photos that capture what you want to communicate. The most important thing I learned was that, except for certain genres, readers do not want to actually know what your characters look like. They want to rely on their imagination. I looked through hundreds of photos but nothing really clicked. Then one day I stumbled across two images that clicked in my brain--a handsome man whose face you cannot see and a dream catcher. I like the final image the artist came up with for a number of reasons, but primarily for its connection to the dreams that drive the story line.

What do you think of my first baby steps in self-publishing?

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