Friday, January 29, 2010

Waiting for Snow


We had a taste of it earlier in the week - now I'm waiting for the real thing - there are snow warnings all over the news.

 Well, I'm ready for it. There is a new round bale in the pasture - plenty of hay in the loft - grain in the pails.

The cold is a bit scary. After so many years in the 'frozen north' snow, itself, holds no fear for me. However, aging joints don't care for the cold. My hands complain the most, and the stalls are waiting for me.

 The sparrows feast at the feeder - a small brown flock of twitters and tweets. There are no other birds this year. I think the cats ate my doves. If I didn't need the cats for rat control, I'd bell them.

The rooster Sony paces off the confines of his Kingdom guarding his hens from the Barred Rock boys. Chicken World remains closed in bad weather. No sense in advertizing my flock as a meal for passing raptors, coyotes or stray dogs.

The horses are thick-coated, frosted-breath dancers - zigzagging around the round-pen as they head for the hay.

 If I should get the young mare under saddle again - the round-pen will become my garden. Close to water - out of the way yet accessible. It will make a fine winter chicken pen as well. Chicken World Extension - a place for hens to raise their chicks, doublely protected from dogs. Then the back yard will remain clear of temporary pens. I'm sure the neighbors will appreciate it – if not then my husband will.


 My urge to purge has taken over a couple of days this week. There is a lot of junk that will need cleared from my 'office' if it is ever to lose the moniker of 'crap room.' Until then I have the Den with its fireplace, French doors and the double windows onto the kitchen as mine. I invested in some fiberboard cubes (assembly required) from Wal-mart that are very useful and nice looking. I think I'll buy three for hubby's office and give all the computer stuff a home
.
 My chores await – writing will have to wait as well.
My writing has slowed to a crawl. The characters mill about in my mind – but Life has taken me in a couple other directions (barn-ward today). I'm happy to report I'm not the only writer with discarded characters at her feet. Jean of Discarded Darlings has the same problem.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Look - I have the Trailer for Vampire Kitty-cat

For all of us who are looking into Self-Publishing, I've been keeping an eye on Ray Rhamey's progress with 'The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicles.'

Here is his delightful trailer - embedded on the blog and maybe even going out with the emails. 

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Plan for "Let's Do Lunch"

I've been thinking hard about how to proceed.

This is what I've come up with so far:

  1. Take a shot at agents. Pick 10 and send out queries.
  2. Keep building the platform.
  3. Learn how to publish via Kindle and Create space – because in June royalties from Kindle go to 70%.
  4. Try the Otherworld Publications.

I know more than I did two years ago. The manuscript is better than it was a year ago.

Amazon changes Kindle percentages in June of 2010.

We have a plan.

Authonomy - Flame Wars

"There is no such thing as bad publicity." Maybe, but the latest dust-up has really disgusted me. This may be enough to make me dump the site.

Some writer's are whining immature idiots very, very thin-skinned, others have a brick building chip on their shoulders. Put them together, and you get a disaster.

I'm well aquainted with alcohol, bars and bar fights. Otherwise perfectly nice, intelligent people get drunk as hell and go looking for trouble. I've never known a Limey or a Mick who would walk away from a bar fight. Being both - I never did either.

I don't know who threw the first punch, but like a fight in a crowded Harbor bar - there has been epithets epitaphs slander thrown at everyone, blood is flowing and some poor sot is going to have to clean up the mess.

This weekend on Authonomy is going to suck.

I think I shall ban myself from the site, go do something useful - like query agents or clean the barn. Maybe get a root canal - something more fun anyways.

Gag me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Standing on the Edge

When I started writing 'Let's Do Lunch,' ten years ago, I had nice characters, pieces of plot and sub-plots that were very engaging – but after 50 pages the story went nowhere. I had a dutiful daughter, a shy gardener, a snarky sister, a sneaky waitress and a lecherous cook. Certain scenes hinted that the gardener had a crush on Lindsey. Others hinted that the cook was up to no good.

Then I had the 'outline' epiphany at our face-to-face writer's group Bard's Corner. I ran down some 'if/then' statements on the spot. What if the cook was the real villain? What if the waitress had two kids to raise. What if they were moving dope, not just stealing? What if the shy gardener was just back from Iraq – wounded and shell-shocked.

From there I created motives, conflicts and back-story for every character. I also made the commitment to one point of view character – this was Lindsey's story.

The next step was a timeline – I picked Derby Day as the start date – the story would end on July 4th. Everything that was going to happen would take place in eight weeks. I figured my villains couldn't hold on much longer than that. Eight weeks on speed would burn anybody out.

After that, writing was easy.

As I got closer to the end of the first book – I started working on the second. I had a bunch of ideas from the Breakout Novel books and a book on character archetypes & the Three Act structure.

Since I was better educated, I outlined the plot, created the calendar, typed up a few sample scenes. I was ready for NaNoWritMo – though I didn't bother to sign up. I had 25k words by the end of the month because I knew where this story was going, and how to get it there.

The result is 'Swallow the Moon' a paranormal romance, now in its second draft. While the book is short – I think that it will be a publishable length at 55k words.

For the 3rd book 'Tempest in a Teapot' I'm putting each plot-point on an index card. I have two parallel plot lines (his and hers) that need to mesh. There are two Point of View characters – Wendy and Leo – with all kinds of plots and counter plots swirling around them. This story will also get a calendar so I can keep the plot moving.

Why go to all this trouble?

All my research into publishing has shown me that selling one book, or even three, isn't going to cut it. I have to be able to market myself as an author. I have the base of a platform to grow over time. Each book will add to the base, as the structure of the outline builds the plot.

The question is do I want to jump into the cold pond of self-publishing or try the safer route one more time?

It really sucks to stand on the edge of the dock.

But, dude that water is cold!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Catching Up

I've been behind on things since the big freeze. The windows went in, but the day-to-day chores suffered.

Let's face it; I'm not up to cleaning stalls in a -5˚ f day, too many broken bones and arthritis makes for cold weather misery. That's why we live in Kentucky, not Northern Ohio, or god-forbid, upstate New York. Three days flat on my back with some disgusting virus put me even farther behind.

Today was in the high 40's, thanks to a good friend; we played catch up and won. There is a new round bale in the pasture. It wasn't easy moving a thousand odd pounds of hay for a couple of women, but we managed. Applied physics is kinda cool, when you have a tilting trailer. Shove here, push there, slide and pow! One hay bale unloaded. The stalls are clean. Four words do not do justice to the size of the task. The house is still neglected, but hey, nobody is perfect.

I've been researching self-publishing, not finding anything post-worthy. Most of it is the same information: self-published books sell less than 100 printed copies, unless a) they are a niche market, non-fiction book and b) the author markets the hell out of them. If the 'average' UK published book sells an average of 18 copies, then there isn't a hell of a lot of difference between publishing in the UK or self-publishing. (That sucks.)

I'm still looking for American numbers, but I doubt there will be much difference. Unless you are willing to sell via Kindle, and sell really, really, cheap – like $.99 or $1.99 – you are going to have to sell the books by hand, or out of the trunk of your car. Gathering new data is a slow process.

Tonight, around sunset, I went out for evening stables. Leo was waiting for me, scratching the old gelding's neck and leaning on a cane.

"Hey." His hair was still unruly, he was unshaven, out of uniform and he looked tired.

"What's up?"

"This is one ugly horse you got here."

The old gelding is gaunt, his legs are crooked, he's camel withered, swaybacked with a roman nose and a lump on his head. Most people never see passed the thick, shiny blue-black coat and the fact that he's 66 inches tall, or 16.2 hands. At 22 years old, the poor boy has seen better days.

"You know horses," I grinned at them.

"I rode horses on my uncle's farm, as a kid." No cut today, he wore jeans and denim jacket, both well-worn. The old gelding bumped him in the chest, demanding more attention. Leo flashed a smile as his fingers returned to the itchy spot.

"What brings you here?"

Leo didn't answer. Not that he needed to say it out loud. I had promised him November, but hadn't finished the second novel. I still haven't finished the second novel. It has yet make the novella stage of 55k, let alone the tipping point of 80k words.

Yet, Leo's story is barely a handful of index card with plot points, and one opening scene.

The term 'old war horse' came to mind as I studied him. The swaggering biker who appeared on my porch last summer was no-where in evidence. This was a man who had seen too much Рa terrible clich̩ Рyet he was more compelling for it.

I was reminded of the first draft of "Let's Do Lunch" – some 10 years ago – of a shy boy-next-door who would barely talk to his boss's daughter. That boy needed a serious back-story and a new name – but he became 'Tag' McTaggart.

Maybe it was time for me to get back to writing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

PA Ghost Town Revival

This is the story of a town that is actually worse off than Ashtabula.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33450516/ns/us_news-giving/ the link is to a story that I believe everyone should read.

Braddock Pennsylvania is one of the Rust Belt towns that was truly dead in the water.

I quote the article word for word off MSNBC here: "In the 1920s, the height of the Industrial Revolution, Braddock — about 10 miles from Pittsburgh — was a thriving suburban metropolis of 20,000 with a density similar to that of Brooklyn. Today, the population has hollowed out to under 3,000."

Here's another quote, one that should make you shake in your shoes: "Residents are preparing to welcome a film crew that will soon start shooting the movie version of writer Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel 'The Road,' using Braddock's forlorn streets as a backdrop.

"Even Hollywood knows where to find good post-apocalyptic America," says Fetterman.

Yet, even in this tangled horror story there is an interesting development. Even the tiny faltering population of 3,000 people needs to eat. Braddock Farms was founded in 2007, vacant lots turned into an urban farm. The plan for the 2009 growing season was 75 jobs. This would have been a mighty uptick in a population of 3,000 people.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find data on the project for this year.

As a writer, I'm interested in stories, all kinds of stories, the stories of cities and people – of growth and change – not just fiction, not just romance. This country is in transition, people like Fetterman are devoting their lives to renewing and restoring.

It's an uphill battle.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Construction and Installation

We are having every window in the house replaced, in the coldest week of the year. Five inches of snow fell yesterday and more is on the way.  Temps are in the teens. The water in the barn is frozen - it has never frozen before. I may need a heat tape for it.

The snow has complicated everything. The workmen spent yesterday's snowfall huddled on my porch  bending & cutting trim. Today they are doing the inside work, because it is so damn cold. Hopefully by afternoon it will be more bearable. They have been putting in 11 and 12 hour days, bless them.

I love my windows. They are the Alaska windows from USA Windows. The change these windows have made on my house is just amazing. The house is quieter, the annoying drafts by the windows are gone. My bathroom is warm. (We had to put an electric heater in there because nobody can handle a 50 degree bathroom in the morning.) The house feels warmer at 64 degrees than it usually does a 70 degrees.

Have I mentioned how pretty the windows look? What they've done inside is lovely.

We are looking forward to seeing the impact this has on our heating and cooling bills. The windows should pay for themselves. I'll post the results as a comment.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Marketing in the Digital Age


First and foremost – the economy sucks.

This fact is the one on which this series of blogs pivots. Traditional publishing (the Big Six) has fallen afoul of both the economy and changing times. The good news is that sales were steady this last year. The bad news is agents are saying things like this – "I'm passing on really good novels because currently I believe that really good might not be good enough in today's market."

There is a virtual sea of manuscripts, washing through the slush piles of editors and agents – a well-spring they won't risk tapping. They claim the Big Six only want blockbuster books, the next Dan Brown, J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers.

Is DIY the answer to clogged marketing channels?

Technology has provided the writer with unprecedented access to markets – should they dare to take the plunge into self-publishing in these troubled times. Some publishing insiders compare them to lemmings – following the crowd, going to the sea. I'm not so sure – after all a faint heart never filled an inside straight.

Many writers take the self-publishing plunge; more are teetering on the edge, not ready to jump, yet. The bad news is most will sink, unable to gain enough attention to make significant sales. Quality issues will sink many more. Yet there are still more indie authors, who are having a blast, gaining notice, actually making a little money.

Do we need a benchmark to put this into perspective? How many books does the 'average' mainstream published author sell?

You are going to love this!

The Daily Mail website posted this little gem. "Nielsen Bookscan has found that of 86,000 new titles published in the UK in 2009, 59,000 sold an average of 18 copies."

Well, hell – if that's the new benchmark for a mainstream novel – looks like we have a level playing field. Anybody can outsell 18 copies!

I'm posting, word for word – what Ray Rhamey is going to do to promote his Vampire Kitty book. Note that this is not his first time at the rodeo – oh no! Check him out on Flogging the Quill. For now I will content myself on quoting his marketing plan.

Vampire Kitty-cat rules

Ray Rhamey of Flogging the Quill has my favorite vampire's website ready. Check it out: The Vampire Kitty-cat Chronicals Ray and Patch are gearing up for a big push. And Ray's not shy about sharing all the things he's ready to do to get noticed.

1. I'm going to launch with a POD trade paperback, a bunch of e-book formats, a free podcast and, if I can get it listed on Audible.com, the gatekeeper for the iTunes store, an audiobook.

2. I'm putting up a website at vampirekittycat.com (it's not live yet). It includes special promotional features such as:

  • I donate a percentage of each sale to the ASPCA. The ASPCA is willing to consider the book for placement in their online store.
  • There are two cat "social" features: a photo gallery to post a pic of a Cat You Love; and a "tell me a story about your cat" section.
3. I'm doing a video book trailer with the help of a designer friend, no charge.

4. I've hired a copyeditor to do his thing with the manuscript.

5. I've bought an ISBN number, and been assigned a Library of Congress control number.

6. For the POD book, I've

  • Designed a cover and the interior
  • Created an account with Lightning Source, the biggest print-on-demand printer around, I think, and a partner with Ingram, the biggest distributor around. I'm signed up for distribution, too. Lightning Source doesn't offer the kind of complete service that Lulu.com or Create Space does—you have to provide your own press-ready material.
7. I've written to 17 published authors to ask for a blurb—so far, 4 have said they'd take a look. I made sure to disclose that this is a self-published book. I also gave them the agent comments above and this little snippet from the first page:

Just after dark, death grabbed me by the tail. The moon was full, and cool September breezes were scented with earthy hints that fall was coming. I trotted over a mound of fresh dirt, not an uncommon thing in a graveyard, my mind on a svelte little Siamese who was coming into heat--and a hand shot up and grabbed my rear extremity.

I twisted and went for it with my claws, but another hand burst out and seized the scruff of my neck. I went limp, just like when I was a kitten and my mom picked me up. The hands snapped my body straight, and then a woman's face poked out of the ground. She sat up, holding me in front of her. I figured I was about to kiss my furry butt goodbye, and I was right.

Sort of.

8. I'm going to send an ARC (advance review copy) to

  • Authors for blurbs
  • About 20 vampire websites
  • As many cat websites as I can find—surprisingly, there aren't many
  • The makers of Vampire Wine (I have a bottle, to be opened on publication day)
  • The makers of top cat food brands to try and sell advertising space and product placement in the book and on the website—hey, this is a business, right?
9. The e-books I can do for free on Smashwords, and earn a healthy percentage of the sales. They even do the Kindle format. I can also list it with Amazon for the Kindle—I need to see what the return is.

10. The free podcast, taking a page from fellow WU contributor J.C. Hutchins, will be performed by me. A nice plus—there's a song by the Grateful Dead, Dire Wolf, in which the chorus says "please don't murder me." It's my character's favorite song. I've secured permission, subject to seeing the book, to use an excerpt of that song for the intro and outro on the podcasts and the audiobook. I'm going to credit the song everywhere I can, and they're not charging anything for the right to use it.

11. Through Lightning Source, distribution will be open at Ingram, Amazon, Baker & Taylor, and other national distributors and book marketers.

12. Oh, and I'm going to send an ARC and my marketing plan to a couple of likely publishers on the extremely unlikely chance that they'll partner with me on the production of the paperback, which would give it the advantage of being available in bookstores. If they like the book, my design work, and the promotional plans, their production costs will be quite low.

13. I've designed graphics for t-shirts and coffee cups to sell on Printfection.

14. And I'll put ads on my Flogging the Quill blog.

Whew!

Now, that's a marketing plan!

I'm hoping he will keep in touch, and share some sales numbers. (I'm so geek when it comes to statistics!) The thing to keep in mind is that this is going to start slow. He may get a few hits here and there. But remember – he only has to sell 18 printed copies to equal the 'average' mainstream author.

I'll make a prediction – his e-book sales will be the first to take off. Once his pod cast of the book is finished and posted he will see the real increase in paper book sales. It will be steady from there but I do believe that the e-book sales will come first.

Stay tuned.