My mother once told me that when you leave your old street for a new street, you know what you’re leaving, but you don’t know what you’re going to find. I kind of felt that way when some of my fellow small press publishers encouraged me to do my NTD printing through CreateSpace. The royalties are better, they told me, and copies are cheaper.
If you want extended distribution, such as Published By You in Lulu, it runs about $100 ($75.00 for distribution and $25.00 for an ISBN if you buy yours in lots of ten). I saw that I could get extended distribution in CreateSpace if I got the pro plan for $39.00, and then I read the fine print. CreateSpace does not sell overseas. Lulu does. Once you plunk down the $39.00 charge, you have to pay $5.00 a year to keep the distribution going. So..let’s say the book stays in print ten years. That’s $50.00. And there is still your $25.00 for the ISBN. CreateSpace will supply an ISBN but you can’t use it anywhere else. Funny thing, I never read anything about the $5.00 a year charge when I visited blogs to see why people esteemed CreateSpace.
There is another caveat I didn’t find on these blogs. When you upload files on CreateSpace, you must have them in PDF. That goes for the cover as well as the interior. Better go out and spend several hundred on Acrobat software to make PDF files if you don’t already have it. I don’t have Acrobat, but I have Word 2007, which enables me to convert the interior file to PDF but not the covers. Lightning Source is another company that requires you to own Acrobat software and be savvy about it.
If you don’t intend to go for extended distribution, CreateSpace may well be cheaper, and with that in mind, I contemplated CreateSpace as an adjunct to the Lulu printer. Perhaps it might work for the Night to Dawn magazine. So I gave it a try, using a PDF file I had gotten off of Lulu.
With the right kind of file, the uploading process wasn’t bad. The files passed muster, and it came time to order a proof. This brings me to my final caveat, payment. Lulu will give you the option of PayPal. CreateSpace only deals with credit cards, and the company wouldn’t accept mine. I’ve used the same credit card for ten years with no problems but CreateSpace would not accept it. I only keep one credit card that I use regularly, and I’m not getting another credit card just so I can place an order. So I did not get the proof.
Well, well. Two other sayings come to mind, these gotten from my husband. When you buy cheap, you get cheap. Stick with the one who brought you to the dance. If I tell Mike about my experience with Lulu and CreateSpace, that is exactly what he would tell me. And so with that in mind I will be happy to release Tom Johnson’s new book, Cold War Heroes, using my familiar Lulu printer, smile, and kick up my heels.
Which company would you use to print your books? What were your experiences with that company, and would you recommend it for others? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
I never thought I would blog about my balloon collection, but as the cliche goes, never say never. Today was an unusual day for grocery trips. I went to a different supermarket, one that didn’t tempt me to buy balloons. More bad weather was coming our way, so I concentrated on buying supplies. I decided to check out the dollar discount store to see if I could buy some of the things needed for less. The dollar discount had a huge array of paper products, everything costing $1.00 each. Since birthdays are coming up for people I care about, I headed down the gift aisle for wrapping paper and cards.
That was when the balloon trees nailed me.
Actually, the courtship began as soon as I walked in. Balloon trees filled with bright reds, silver, and Valentine messages swarmed toward me. The individual balloons there, plenty of them at that, didn’t tempt me so much, but they might have if the balloon trees hadn’t overwhelmed me. There were so many, they literally ran wild. Even the storekeeper couldn’t contain them. Each tree boasts six smaller foil balloons, plus one large one. It could be a Valentine frog or bear. I went with the frog because of its pretty shade of green. Total: seven balloons for $8.00.
I had to sit my passenger seat flat to fit the balloons in the car. They threatened to break loose, so I shut the door fast. Later, after I’d gone to the supermarket and came back, I noticed balloon ribbons sticking out between the door and floorboard.
Why a balloon tree? Perhaps I am celebrating Alien Worlds, the book that I collaborated with Tom Johnson. Newly released, it will be available on Amazon in a few weeks. Maybe I was thinking of giving a couple to Mike for his birthday, and I will. Maybe it’s just because I love balloons so much and couldn’t resist the call of the wild.
We lay in bed all day waiting for Barbara to lie down.
I’m referring to one of the verbs that give me and other writers a lot of grief – the difference between lie, lay, and laid. That and certain words that mean one thing when used as a compound, and something else when used separately, can mess up an otherwise well-written tale.
And so therein “lies” the problem:
Lie as an intransitive verb: I am lying down with my balloons.
Lay as a transitive verb: John, please lay the balloon tree on the table.
Sounds simple but when we move to the past tense, complications arise. For example, the present tense of lie is lie. Example: He lies on the rug. The past tense is lay. Example: Robert lay on the floor. The past participle is lain. Example: He’d lain in that bed for some time.
The present tense of lay is lay. Example: I lay my purse on the table. The past tense is laid. Example: Barbara laid her balloons in the cart. The past participle is laid. She’d laid the bags on the table an hour ago.
Looking at compound words, I found that certain words, when used separately or as a compound, mean two different things. One example is setup. Is it set up, set-up or setup? So I went to my trusty dictionary.
“Setup” is a noun, while “set up” is a verb. But it’s not quite that simple. You always use “set up” when you’re using it for a verb, so….
You must set up your computer software.
Mary set up her balloon tree.
Frank set up a bank account for his client.
As a noun and adjective, you would use either setup or set-up and each means different things. Setup is the noun or adjective used pertaining to computers and their setup. Set-up is the noun or adjective used pertaining to things unrelated to computers and their setup. So…
This PC setup screen is unique.
The computer’s setup is compact.
That bag of pot was a set-up from the beginning.
Some banks charge exorbitant set-up fees
The set-up of her entertainment center is precarious.
Sometime versus some time. It sounds simple, but isn’t…quite. When “some time” is used as a certain / unspecified duration of time, use “some time.” Example: I spent some time looking for the rose balloon. When “sometime” is used as an adjective meaning “former,” it’s one word. Example: That balloon salesperson is my sometime friend. If we’re referring to an unspecified point of time in the future, either “sometime” or “some time” is appropriate. Example. I plan to travel to the islands sometime / some time next year.
As I continue my work, if I find other compound words that stump me, I will post them in a future blog. For now, I have it clear in my mind which of the above words to use in my work-in-progress. Somehow, though, when I get engrossed in the heat of the scene, I’m liable to forget and mix up the verbs. A wise instructor once told me that English was the most difficult language to learn. I think she had it right.
Do you find yourself struggling with “lie” versus “lay,” or any of the compound words? I would like to hear about your experiences with compounds and words like “lie/lay,” and how you worked your way around them.
Yesterday, I learned about the evils of clutter when I purchased an outdoor trash can and attempted to load it into my Honda Fit. It looked so easy. Folding down the back seats would give plenty of room for my purchase, but so much stuff had congregated in the back seats and floor. Bending the trashcan wasn’t an option; I had to move all my stuff into the front seat. A Christopher Columbus expedition followed where I discovered books, throw rugs, pillows, magazines, tools, bags of old clothes, and more. All up, it took ½ hour to clear enough space for the trash can.
Then I got to thinking about the clutter in my stories and the way I try to jam my characters so that they’ll fit into the clutter, and then wonder why the story doesn’t make sense. In any novel, you have your central plot, with the subplots revolving around it. Let’s say a vampire flees his land and attempts to live among humans until his enemy catches up with him. Then you add subplots – perhaps the vampire falls in love with his neighbor, then he gets a night job, perhaps his enemy tries to steal his girlfriend. The clutter starts if you throw in werewolves, aliens, and a plethora of “walk-on” characters without duly preparing the reader for them. And whatever goes down, your character has to act true to his role. You can’t have someone with a phobia of heights climb the side of a building unless you’ve motivated and prepared him to do this way in advance. If your character prays in a monastery on one page, and then on the next, he commits a mass murder, you’ll lose your reader unless you’ve set up the story in a way that your reader might expect this.
At the last writer’s conference, a workshop leader gave me wise advice. Don’t just write a resume for your character. Take your character out to dinner. Watch TV with him at home. Bring him to work and family functions. Observe in your mind how he might interact with family members, what foods he might like, etc. Then let him tell you the story. This will help you avoid extraneous scenes that clutter your story, and the reader will keep turning the pages.
With the lessons at the conference and shopping trip in mind, I’m cleaning out the clutter from my present work in progress, and scolding myself in the process. That is my biggest challenge – the mess! It will take longer than ½ hour to clear it, but clear it I will.
What do you find most challenging about rewrites? Does clutter creep into your tales? How do you address it?
Today, I am pleased to be interviewing Chris Bauer. His debut novel, Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible has drawn attention from the National Writers Association and other media since its publication in November, 2009. He wrote this one with passion, addressing the mysteries of faith and fear, creating a plot that sizzles with suspense and tension. His work has earned 5-star reviews on Amazon asking for more, and he has made finalist for a 2009 Eppie award. So let’s hear what Chris has to say about the marketing process and future work.
BARBARA: I heard Scars on the Face of God: The Devil’s Bible made you a finalist for the 2010 EPIC award. Could you tell the readers a little about SCARS and how the publishing process went for you?
CHRIS: Yes, Scars is a finalist for the aforementioned award (awards were formerly known as “Eppies”) as best eBook horror novel of 2009. Winners will be announced in March 2010 at the EPICon Convention in New Orleans.
The elevator speech: Church caretaker Wump Hozer, 65, survived a knockabout childhood as an orphan and a stint in prison (nickname is from the sound a crowbar makes when it hits a man’s head) with the help of his beloved wife Viola. He’s lost his faith and has given up on one front, the Catholic Church, the Church having ignored the local monsignor’s salacious behavior. On a second front he’s taking matters into his own hands, looking for satisfaction against a tannery that is dumping waste into the local water supply, something Wump is sure has caused his son’s leukemia. What he doesn’t count on is resurrecting a nineteenthcentury hysteria that leads to confronting what may or may not be the anti-Christ. It’s old-school horror, suspense and mystery set in 1964 in the fictitious town of Three Bridges, PA, just outside Philadelphia.
The novel took three years to complete – think “day job,” then over a year to interest a publisher in it. Publisher Drollerie Press is an engine-that-could small press that delivers stories steeped in legend and fairy tale. Inspired by The Devil’s Bible, a thirteenth century religious artifact that according to legend was written in one night with the help of the Devil, the novel was a natural fit for the publisher. Available first as an eBook, Scars was also released as a trade paperback on 12/1/2009.
BARBARA: I read your excerpt and was intrigued, enough to want a print copy when I next visit Doylestown. What motivated the title?
CHRIS: Religious instruction during my formative years included talk of God’s perfect face. Hell, that sounds so sanitized. The grade school nuns and their discipline around having us learn our catechism drilled this and other teachings into our fertile young minds. But common sectarian sense (such a thing?) might say that if the anti-Christ expects to confront the Almighty, it’s only natural he’d want to scar his face up a bit, know what I’m saying? But I honestly can’t remember exactly how/when the title popped into my head. Best guess is it came from one early-morning Dunkin’ Donuts coffee-fueled epiphany or another.
BARBARA: I suspect Scars required a fair amount of research. How did you go about it?
CHRIS: The novel took shape in three areas. First, I began questioning what I recalled to be an abnormal cluster of impaired children I knew during my northeast Philadelphia childhood. Couple that with having just read Jonathan Harr’s non-fiction A Civil Action which chronicled the alleged effects of dumping carcinogens into the environment by corporations with leather tannery operations in the small town of Woburn, MA. Subsequent research taught me that there was a proliferation of leather tanneries around the Philadelphia region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (Be advised here that the tannery waste dumping issues and the impact they have on the novel’s Philadelphia setting is strictly fictitious.) When I learned through a writer friend of mine that tanning leather was hastened by the introduction of dog feces into the process, I endowed my protagonist’s childhood with a neighborhood doggie-dung-for-dollars (actually pennies) business.
Second, my social worker wife Terry told me that in the mid to late nineteenth century there weren’t enough U. S. laws to protect children from abuse by their parents. [Alert! Graphic image coming!] Child protection groups cite anecdotally that orphanages were built in some urban environments simply because the local sewer systems couldn’t handle the volume of infant bodies being discarded into them by poor families with too many mouths to feed. Plus, since there weren’t enough laws to stop such barbarism, it wasn’t uncommon for some of the citizenry to resort to invoking local animal rights/abuse statutes and penalties in attempts to stem this and other child mistreatment when it was discovered.
Third, the movie The Devil’s Advocate (Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves) produced an “aha” moment when Pacino’s Satan talks of rewriting history. It made me ask if religious history had ever been recorded from Satan’s viewpoint. A quick internet search produced The Devil’s Bible (aka Codex Gigas aka The Giant Book) mentioned earlier. This legendary tome became a plot anchor.
BARBARA: How did your signings go at Doylestown and Claymont? What are the advantages of working with an independent bookstore?
CHRIS: Had a great time at both. My post-signings Facebook entry: “Sign this, eat that, smile here, no, smile here, is there a real Devil’s Bible, can my eight-year-old read this (no), it cost what?!!, can I get the recipe for the cookies, you look mean in your picture, you’re shorter than I thought, nice poster.” Thanks to all who were able to stop by. I ENJOYED EVERY BIT OF IT.
Working with the independents is a more personal experience for both the author and the customer. Independent owners are in it more for their love of the literature itself, much as authors are. They’re readers and writers and community organizers and charity-givers and neighbors. And authors love the independents for the same reason actors like to do stage work: it’s more of an up-close and personal venue for serious, dedicated readers to interact with the authors they follow.
BARBARA: What suggestion would you give authors trying to market their first novel?
CHRIS: They need to realize that it won’t sell itself. That there’s a reason why agents and publishers are so damn picky: NOBODY KNOWS YOU. That even those of you with major publishing deals will still end up doing most of the work. That there’s a direct relationship between face time (internet based or other) and reader interest. The standards: you need a website; you need to blog, which I do woefully little of; you need to join Facebook, MySpace, Goodreads, Librarything, Shelfari, any place where readers and writers will friend each other because they, ah, read and/or write. If your book lends itself to identification with a group or a community organization or hometown, exploit the connection. Case in point: writer friend of mine author Marie Lamba (What I Meant…, an excellent YA title from Random House with a bi-ethnic teenage protagonist) does talks for Girl Scout troops. This has produced mucho publicity for her. I’m still looking for this type of plank for my platform. My novel has too much explicit language, violence and fright material for me to consider a marketing venue like the Scouts, however. Even knowing there are some less impressionable Scouts out there who no doubt already read graphic comics, pulp fiction and the like with their Scout-issue penlights at night, I of course can’t market directly to them. But you get the idea; these types of venues are of interest. I am accepting suggestions.
BARBARA: Like me, you’ve had the benefit of The Writers’ Coffeehouse meetings and forum. Have you taken any of Jonathan Maberry’s nine-month writing courses? How has Jonathan and other well-published authors influenced your writing?
CHRIS: My Jonathan Maberry exposure has been limited to the wonderfully interactive Writers’ Coffeehouse meetings plus one very nice gesture Jonathan made to me. A few years back he went out of his way to deliver on the spoils of winning a horror contest, this after the group hosting the contest had closed its doors due to financial issues. FYI my winning entry for this contest was the first chapter of Scars.
One other horror author I’m enamored with is Dean Koontz, this because of his Odd Thomas series and the terrific voice he’s given this twenty-something I-see-dead-people fry-cook protagonist. Great storytelling on Odd’s part. And this character’s first person POV delivery forced Mr. Koontz into more of a minimalistic approach with his prose, keeping the storylines on task and less literary, something I found refreshing.
BARBARA: Where may someone get information on the Devil’s Bible, other than the Library at Sweden?
CHRIS: Plenty of info on the internet. Pictures, background, real and legendary history. When Googling the topic you’ll also find it returned to the country of its origin, the Czech Republic, in early 2008 to be displayed for a short time. And the National Geographic Channel did a documentary on it which they occasionally repeat. I’ve never seen the show since my cable company doesn’t carry the channel and Blockbuster didn’t have it on disk the last time I checked, but I’m on the lookout for it.
BARBARA: Do you have any sequels in the works?
CHRIS: Pardon the pun, but it’s a long story. The short answer is maybe. I loved doing Wump Hozer’s voice so much that I feel I need to bring him back. My first novel The Rabbit, Stilled, unpublished as so many first novels are, actually begins where Scars left off (yes, this potential sequel in large measure had been written before the original) but with no Wump. And it’s a mainstream novel, not horror. Acknowledging that these are two formidable challenges to overcome in making The Rabbit, Stilled a sequel to Scars, I can only say “We’ll see.”
BARBARA: I notice you have a WIP: Hop Skip Jump. How is that work going for you?
CHRIS: I love the story but the writing’s not moving along as fast as I’d like. It’s a paranormal mystery about reincarnation and what might happen if a person returns to a place and time where she’s needed the most. I’m about midway through the first draft. Haven’t really tried to market it on spec. I’d much rather it be finished so I can deliver on any interest it might generate.
BARBARA: What do you think the future holds for horror / dark fantasy / SF and other genre fiction sales?
CHRIS: The future’s plenty bright for the dark arts for sure. Just look at the popularity of zombies and vampires and wizards. I do have a short story I’m just starting to shop called Zombie Chimps from Mars. Yep, we’re covering a few bases with this one: the walking dead; monkeys (they like to throw their own, ahem, excrement; how cool is that?); and a hint of fantasy/sci-fi. And while these topics are all worked into this 2000-word piece, I feel the story is about something else entirely.
Barbara, in closing, I want to thank you for the opportunity you gave me to talk shop with you. Folks can check out my website or reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Continued success with all your writing endeavors, and wishing good things for all of us in 2010.
Tonight, I’d like to chat with author Cynthia Vespia. Her project Demon Hunter has evolved into a trilogy, the kind of fiction that will compel you to sleep with your lights on. Demon Hunter: the Chosen One has attracted many readers, and Part II, Demon Hunter: Seek and Destroy will be out in print November 27, 2009. Cynthia has been a freelance journalist since high school, and has penned several other novels before joining Aspen Mountain Press. Stop by her website, www.CynthiaVespia.com; her trailers are awesome to see. She brings all her writing experience to the printed page. So let’s hear what Cynthia has to say about her Demon Hunter project.
BARBARA: Could you tell your readers a little about Demon Hunter? Would you summarize the theme by saying, “Be careful what you wish for?”
CYNTHIA: Absolutely. We can all find ourselves secretly wishing for a certain aspect of our lives to change but sometimes you get your wish and it winds up not being worth it, or not what you thought it would be. And sometimes it IS what you were looking for…but things don’t always come easily or run smoothly.
Demon Hunter really plays on changes. Life changes, changes of the soul, changes of who you thought you once were or where you were going. Costa Calabrese has just uncovered the truth about his past. Some truths should never be revealed. When you learn you’re the son of the world’s foremost and feared hunter of demons, life’s rules inevitably change. As his lineage is uncovered he must stay one step ahead of the demons who are intent on the destruction of his famed family. With the aide of companions he meets along the way, Costa will travel the great expanse of the land walking in his famed father’s footsteps and taking up the role his blood line now demands of him…whether he wants to or not.
Exploring the classic theme of good versus evil, Demon Hunter blends the highly popular elements of dark fantasy with the proven concept of high-adventure novels where believable, down-to-earth characters take the reader on a journey. It is the story about a nobody who becomes a somebody in the bloodiest of ways.
BARBARA: I was impressed with your book trailers especially DH on YouTube. How do they work for you? How did you set up YouTube?
CYNTHIA: Thank you, I make most of my own trailers. I believe that even readers are very visual by nature. Let’s face it, these days everyone has a touch of ADD! We want info now and we want it fast. Not everyone has the time to read a blurb; but if you can encapsulate your story in a compelling 2 minute trailer and hook them with the imagery, they are far more likely to seek out your novel for the big read. YouTube is a great place to host your trailers. It gets millions upon millions of hits per day. I essentially started my YouTube to showcase my fitness videos and the video editing projects I’ve done work on in the past. From there I segued into using it as another vehicle for my writing by displaying the trailers.
BARBARA: I see you’ve been a freelance journalist since high school. Could you describe a typical writing day for you?
CYNTHIA: Really no two days are alike…it’s chaos. I juggle a lot of different things (way too much right now) and I’m a terrible procrastinator. But if I have a deadline in front of me, watch me fly. Right now as I work on the third and final installment of the Demon Hunter trilogy I find I get drawn to it at odd hours. If my Muse is awake and wanting to play, I don’t dare deny her, I just go with it. It has honestly been a long while since something kept me up late or woke me up early to work on it so that tells me that DH3 is going to be something very special.
BARBARA:Demon Hunter and your other works have enjoyed great reviews, I notice. Do you have any forthcoming signings or writing events? Where?
CYNTHIA: As of this writing I’m making the rounds on the interview circuit to promote the release of Demon Hunter: Seek & Destroy. It’s the second installment in the DH trilogy. You can catch me on Reader’s Entertainment Radio on 9/13 at 8:30 est. and on Sin City Sessions on 9/25 at 9pm. And as always stay up to date on my official website www.CynthiaVespia.com where you can find the latest news and developments.
BARBARA: Do you think e-books will eventually outsell paperbacks? Why or why not?
CYNTHIA: I don’t necessarily think they will outsell paperbacks. Readers are always going to want to have the feel of a book in their hands. But I do think e-books have found their niche and they are here to stay. It is the era of technology and you have to be ready to embrace every possible angle. My trilogy of terror Demon Hunter is a proud component of the e-book agenda. You will see a lot more e-books and e-book readers in the future but there is no fear that bookstores will go out of business…people enjoy it as a social gathering, and most bookstores have great coffee too!
BARBARA: What is the once piece of advice you’d give a writer trying to promote their work?
CYNTHIA: Marketing and promoting your work is as important as writing the novel in the first place. You can write the Great American Novel but if nobody knows it exists then you’re going to have a hard time. You have to be a marketing machine. No one is going to be behind your work as much as you are. Even the biggest publishing houses can only delegate so much time and money to new authors. The rest is up to you. And my best advice would be to think outside the box. If you’re doing what everybody else is doing, someone is always doing it better…you need to do something different so you stand out from the pack and get noticed.
BARBARA: I notice that you’re a fan of Dean Koontz. How do you feel the up and coming dark fantasy writers compare with greats like Koontz and King?
CYNTHIA: Oh yes, Koontz got me started on my career as a writer! There will only ever be one Koontz and one King, but some of the new writers coming up have some really unique story ideas. Not everything is black and white in this world and I like when an author mixes shades of gray. There are so many really great authors out there getting lost in the shuffle of the mediocre writers due to the simple fact that they just don’t get enough exposure. I’d like to invite readers to step outside their comfort zone next time they’re picking out a book and try on a different author. You may find a new favorite. An easy way to do that is to get an e-book. They are convenient and not very costly. Demon Hunter: The Chosen One is running for $6.00 per download.
BARBARA: I hear you’re working on a new novel, a dark fantasy, but the rest is a military secret. Can you give us a few hints?
CYNTHIA: I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you! Heh, heh…no, I’ll let my stories slay you instead. The secret is out…Demon Hunter was always meant to be a trilogy. The second installment titled Demon Hunter: Seek & Destroy will be out on Nov 27, 2009. The main players are back from The Chosen One and this time they find their adventures take them out to sea, to the land of the dragons, and straight down into the pit of Hell. There is also a love triangle of sorts added to the mix with some very surprising outcomes. I am currently writing the third and final chapter to the series…I can’t give away too much here, but I will say the opening chapter alone will take you by surprise!
BARBARA: Can you tell us a little about the Fiction Writer’s Guild and how they help authors?
CYNTHIA: Anytime you’re part of a group of authors, you can always benefit from exchanging ideas, critiques, and the latest news events. Just be choosy in whose advice you seek.
BARBARA: Where may people order copies of Demon Hunter?