Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Politics of Books

While I don't write children's books, I have to wonder what the House and Senate did to the industry when, in October, they voted (apparently without reading or understanding) to allow the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act to check for lead content in all children's books on bookstore shelves. Check out these articles and

What the new law basically says is that since lead has been found in so many children's toys lately (thank you NAFTA for allowing everything to be made in China!), that books may also contain lead in the inks used.

"The first major requirement deadline is February 10, 2009 in which the initial lead ban goes into effect. Many in the retail industry are calling February 10th National Bankruptcy Day because of the devastating costs and testing requirements that apply to ALL children’s products," says the Convergence of Libraries and Technologies article.

Each book needs to be tested, and the largest problem is that there is only one place in the US that does this kind of testing. With a rather stiff fine of $100,000. per instance of non-compliance … well, let's just it's just pure stupidity.

I don't think I need to go on about how our elected officials are doing our bidding (NOT!), but it certainly makes you wonder what applying just a wee bit of forethought to their actions would have uncovered to prevent this mess of an already waning industry.

On the side of reason and intelligence, many societies and library associations are petitioning for a closer look at the law to make the necessary adjustments for a more realistic form of compliance.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Woes of the Newbie Author

As a published author, I get lots of questions about this elusive business. I say elusive because it's damned difficult to get your foot in the door. I like to think of myself as being knowledgeable about much of it, but find that there are still many things I don't quite understand.

Like, why don't authors get more of the money the publishers make off of them. It's silly, really. We make 12-15% royalty on what we've toiled over for usually a minimum of a year; many more, in most cases. That's literally $1.00 to $3.00 for every sale we make.

The average book sells between 300-600 books for it's average shelf life of six months. As you can see, I won't be retiring anytime soon! We can't all be best selling authors like James Paterson, Stephen King, or Nora Roberts, where they sell in the millions.

I always laugh when people assume I'm now a wealthy woman solely due to being an author. The layman hasn't a clue.

I am a researcher, so if I want to do something I've never done before, I research out the facts on how to get it done, where to apply it, what it will entail, and in the end, why the hell I would want to put myself through all of that!

But, lately, I've had several emails from new authors about these struggles. I'm always willing to help, if I can. We have to stick together in this, after all. Anyway, I think many new writers assume many things about their publisher. Like, they'll send you on a national tour; they'll schedule all your signings for you; they'll help you write (allowing you to overlook spelling and grammatical errors); and they'll get your book into every bookstore on the planet.

Tcha, right! In my experience—and this includes the big publishers of new authors—once the book has been released, you're on your own. Granted, the big publishers will get your book into more of the big chains, but those stores still have the right to pass over your work if they deem it not interesting or salable enough. Herein lies the largest struggle of them all.


As a POD author, there is even less of a chance of getting my work to a distributor. They don't want to take the chance that they'll be peddling a writer no one's ever heard of with no following.

Hard to blame them, if you think about it, so I've spent a lot of time nurturing a following. Oh, I know it's not all that big, but by god, my readers are loyal! I have a good many great promoters of my Eyes of Garnet trilogy who tout me to all their friends as someone they have to read.

Will I become a best selling author simply through word of mouth? Not terribly likely with only three books under my belt. But as long as I don't stop writing, keep improving my craft, and keep adding to my following of merry readers, perhaps someday.

And when those snooty customers come up to me at signings and ask if I've made the bestseller's list (because those are the only authors they'll read!), I'll just say, "Not yet, but if you buy this book and tell all your friends to buy it, I will!" You certainly can't be shy in this business.

Hang in there, newbies. Unless, of course, you don't deem the struggle worth your while.

Apparently, I've decided writing is worth my while, and find the struggle—and yes, it is a struggle—something I'm willing to put up with. Remember, I'm a Taurus born in the sign of the dog. Can you say ox stubborn and pit bull tenacious?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Can you say, holy crap, it's cold out?

This beautiful fox came around yesterday morning searching for food. Along with him came blue jays and crows. The scavenger birds tend to follow the crafty animals around just in case their furry brethren snag a morsel and there are leftovers. A gorgeous red cardinal even joined in the party, looking like nature's ornament when he perched in a cedar to watch the show.

Last night, as the temperature did a free-fall to 18 below zero, the bones of my house popped like my knees when walking up stairs. We haven't had this kind of cold for several years. You tend to forget what it feels like when you walk out into it. Your nose sticks together, your teeth ache when you breath through your mouth, and the wind; the wind steals your breath, makes your eyeballs water and feel as though they'll pop from their sockets, and pinches bare skin like thousands of tiny needles.

For all those reading in a warm place, or have never experienced frigid temps and have no clue as to what I'm talking about, count your blessings and your oil savings. Oh, and can I come for a visit?

The one thing it is good for is writing. What else can you do? So I've begun my fourth book. I don't know where it's going yet, but so far I know one thing: it's a historical novel set in 18th century Scotland. Why not, since I've already done so much research on that era. I'm also writing in the first person and as a man. I didn't think it would be any different than writing in the third person, but it is. In the third person, you feel God-like, directing your characters (or in my case they direct themselves), but I'm looking down on them, seeing the big picture.

In the first person, it's a bit like acting, really. I need to get into character, feel him in me, know him inside and out; his thoughts, emotions, likes and dislikes. It now becomes personal.

I'm liking it a lot.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Agent Quest

I'm going to what the Maine Writer's and Publishers Alliance calls a "Speed Dating" session with four agents February 2. The MWPA is hosting about a dozen agents from Maine, Boston and New York, and authors wishing to attend get to sit with four of them for a 7-minute session to pitch their work. There's no guarantee any one of them will consider me, but I feel that a face-to-face meeting will be beneficial for me to land one of these elusive creatures.

Now, mind you, most of these agents have already received one or two of my queries in the past, and all have turned me down for whatever reason. This is my chance to change that, so I'm polishing my pitch to a high sheen. I'm going in armed with chapters, manuscripts, synopses, books, and a smiling professional demeanor. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

On the book front, Double Vision has been sent to the publisher and is set for a release date in April. I consider this my best writing to date. I think I've got the hang of it now. I've found a certain rhythm and style, and feel comfortable about it.

Is there another book started, you might ask? Why, yes there is! It's way too early to tell you anything about it, except that it's another historical fiction. As with all my stories, finding the character's place, age, circumstances, feelings, and so on, takes time. Plus, since it's historical, I've got lots of research to do. I'll keep you posted as time goes on.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The New Year

I've never been one to make New Year's resolutions. I like to make my changes when needed and not wait for a specific date to begin. Goals are one thing, but I hate waiting for anything. Ha! Makes you wonder why I decided to write and play in the excruciatingly slow world of publishing, doesn't it? I've wondered it many times...

I've always liked the adage, "do what you are." One can't help what's inside, aching to come out. For some, it's music, others teaching, and so on. Me, I'm a creator. From creating memorable characters, to planting my flowers in the spring, to painting, pottery or sewing my own clothes, to setting the perfect table for guests when I serve the gourmet dinner I've prepared.

Making something tangible from nothing is a powerful thing. Speaking for myself, it gives me great satisfaction to know that, success or failure, I did it with my own hands and the tools of the trade and a little imagination. I'm always amazed by people who say they could never do what I do. But they don't even try, so how can they know?

In 2009, my goal is to "make it" in the publishing world. Why not? I say. I have the desire, I have willing characters ;0), and I have the tenacity of a pit bull to make it work. The way I measure failure is never trying in the first place. So, I won't be quitting just because it doesn't work out the way I have planned. My machete is out and I'm cutting through all the crap in my way that's slowing my journey. I see the end. Though it may not be the traditional way to get the outcome I desire, I will obtain my goal.

So, reach for the stars. If you miss your mark, who knows? Perhaps that was just the push to get you onto the path leading you to something even better.

Happy New Year!