This is where the older Blog-O-Rama posts go to retire. This is like the nursing home for old posts. It's about time you stopped by.
Renée Harrell's Old-O-Rama
So do we have somethin' to talk about...
(July 16, 2011)...or are we, simply, stuck in the Summer Blues? We're glad you asked, friends. Turns out, we do have things to talk about.
We've recently chatted with a local romance writer and she shares all (except her real name. But we have our own theory about that, too). We've done the Beta reader hunt, again, and ... well, with Beta readers you never know if they'll actually show up to play. There's a chance we've found a good one. Plus, we contacted a fortune teller -- yes, we really did -- and she has shared what the future holds for us and The Atheist's Daughter.
We like this image. No reason, we just do.
So why aren't we offering any of those goodies today? Because you and you have demanded we provide a blogspot that allows reader comments. We ALL know you're not going to offer any comments -- even popular blogs get no comments and our blog is far from popular -- but you've asked and we've finally found out how to reconfigure things so it just might work.
But there's hours of work ahead and we're busy actually working on getting things fixed. Plus, one of us has broken again and needs to see a surgeon (talk about "getting things fixed"!) so we're a little distracted. Soon, though, we should be good to go.
Tonight, the lovely Judith Ann Jance...
(July 12, 2011)...is speaking at the Elks Opera House, only minutes from our home. The library passed out free tickets (how do they make a profit? Volume) and it wasn't long before the show was sold out. And, really, why not? We have a town filled with people who love to read and many of them love to read the mysteries of J.A. Jance.
We've never read the mysteries of J.A. Jance but we wanted to go to the event, anyway. Sold out, remember? After all, we wanted to see exactly what a best-selling author does when faced by a theater full of fans. We assume she reads from her novels, asks a few questions, offers to sign bags full o' books. That's what we'd do, anyway, if facing a roomful of fans. Or a handful of fans. Or even if it was just you and you, standing at the curbside, trying to catch your breath and wondering why we were holding a copy of Something Wicked in our hand.
But what if J. A. Jance does something MORE than the standard author tour? What if she sings, dances, tells a few jokes? What if she juggles fire, because the newest villain in her book is a fire juggler? No, we haven't read her newest book. We find it unlikely that her villain will turn out to be a fire juggler. Wouldn't that be something?
There are other reasons to like Judith: She's a strong supporter of various charities (the "Betrayal of Trust" book tour will benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society), she's a U of A grad, and she answers her own fan mail. The people packing the Elks Opera House are in for a treat.
Even if she skips the fire juggling.
Boy, were we surprised...
(July 8, 2011)...to be vacationing in Surprise, Arizona. (Because we took a little r-and-r, the Blog-O-Rama is slackering of late. Now that we're home, it's time to catch up.) We were actually surprised to be vacationing in Arizona, at all. Initially, we were gonna see the world.
We'd made plans to take a fantastic trip with some of our family members. We'd all start off in Italy, end up traveling to Spain and Turkey and Egypt ... and on and on, the entire thing costing a fortune but worth it, and all to be written off as a travel expense. Because one has to do writing "research", don't you know?
The picture to the left? It should be an original and unique picture of ancient ruins, provided by brother Bill, the guy who COULD afford to take that trip and did. Brother Bill took thousands of photos and swears each is better and more amazing than the last. But Bill is a busy man and couldn't be bothered to send us an image to share. He suggested we use a public domain snap because "no one will know the difference".
Don't be countin' on a big check this Christmas, Bill.
Y'see, Ann Lippens, the heroine from our novel, Something Wicked, was somehow going to travel to Italy for the book's sequel; Bill Shakespeare, from BSNBM, would visit Turkey for Episode Two of the series; Mr. Stahmer, the dead guy from ATWB, would be mummified in Egypt -- okay, look, none of it made much sense on the surface but we'd find a write-off somehow. And, even if our car mechanic-slash-accountant disagreed with such tactics, the trip would still provide memories to last a lifetime.
Didn't happen. Health issues intruded, which meant money issues intruded, which meant we could no longer afford our plane tickets. We could, however, afford to see Surprise, Arizona.
Driving to our destination, we were surprised at how beautiful the desert is in the summer ... how empty the streets of Surprise were ... and how inexpensive the lovely Windmill Inns and Suites turned out to be. (We were surprised, too, when our bathroom shrieked us awake at 1:00 AM, its pipes clearly upset by some outside source. It may be the Windmill rates reflect a Toilet Demon discount. Plus, we don't remember seeing any actual windmills on the property.) We received our biggest surprise when, the next morning, we left our air-conditioned room.
The city of Surprise was fry-eggs-on-the-sidewalk hot. Skin-meltingly hot. It was of-course-the-city-is-empty-you-fools hot.
Next year, Renée makes the vacation plans....
Flush with Amazon's cash...
(July 2, 2011)...we've decided to share the wealth. No, not with you and you. You already have loads of money. Yes, you do, too. We saw you at the store, buying stuff. And if it wasn't you, it was somebody who looked a lot like you so that counts. Loosening our purse strings, we visited Kiva.org.
The lady to the left, the one with the stylish hat, is Juaquina Fur De Palli. She's 70-years old and lives in Peru. Juaquina and her husband raise and sell sheep, llamas and alpaca. While their kids -- all seven of 'em -- jump in to help with the animals, let's not forget that this woman is 70 years old. If she needs a few dollars to further her livestock business, we're in.
Plus, sincerely, we like her hat. Once upon a time, Renée had a hat exactly like it. Since this is Harrell's day at the blog, he can tell you: Renée still dresses in much the same fashion of Juaquina. Same sweater, same skirt. It's stylish, really, in a Peruvian way.
Yes, Harrell hopes that Renée does not read today's blog.
We've received our first royalty payment...
(June 29, 2011)...from Amazon. It's a quarterly payment, reflecting all of our sales to date, and we want you to know, our bank account has swollen by four figures, baby.
Which would be even more impressive if two of the four figures didn't follow a decimal point. Yep, that's right: After four months, our self-published writing, our Hunting Monsters Press empire, has earned us almost enough to have two lunch specials at Pasquale's Place, a little Greek restaurant in town.
Only if we skip dessert. And share a straw for our carbonated beverage of choice.
But we'll take it. After all, at the start of this adventure, things were looking glum. After Things Went Bad, our first attempt at self-pub, had a single download in February. (Thank you, lovely person, whoever you are.) Our take-home pay that month? Thirty-five cents.
Since then, according to Amazon's stats, our sales have grown. The month of May was our best month ever. So, while we're not getting rich, at this very moment we're a tiny bit less poor. How do we celebrate? With an Australian wine, the 2009 Banrock Station Shiraz. Inexpensive and fruity.
About to make our NEXT BIG MISTAKE...
(June 25, 2011)...and, yeah, we used this exact same title for our very last blog. But, since the rest of the post is going to be fresh and original, we oughta get a few points, right?
This time, we're talking about our new electronic book, Bill Shakespeare's Next Big Mistake: Our Television Pilot and What Happened. If you're wondering why the entire title isn't on the cover itself, well, remember that this is an e-book. For Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Smashwords shoppers, the cover image is going to be the size of a postage stamp (and absolutely smaller than the image on the left). If we made the title any longer, people wouldn't be able to read any of it.
Not that we expect many shoppers pick up our story. We don't blame 'em, either: An unsold television pilot is of interest to just about nobody ... except for half of our writing team. Half of our writing team loves to read unwanted t.v. pilots, forgotten screenplays, unsold movies -- it's a sickness, that's what it is. In our house, we call it Harrell-itis.
When our own television career didn't work out -- mostly because we never had a television career -- we decided to shoot our own television pilot and give Hollywood the opportunity to recognize our talent. Before we could actually film the thing, we discovered we shot a three-minute short and went wildly over budget (as you know, if you've ever seen this). Realizing we couldn't afford to shoot Shakespeare, we set the thing aside for some magical date when we won the lottery. So far, our lottery winnings amount to $4. To the penny. Still not quite enough to shoot a t.v. pilot.
Instead, we're putting the teleplay up for sale, along with a passage about our writing adventures in Burbank. Our not-so-secret hope? Someone, somewhere, will actually like the story enough to contact us about filming the thing.
The chances of that happening? Slim and None, and Slim just left town....
About to make our NEXT BIG MISTAKE...
(June 20, 2011)...and we remembered all of the fuss about another one of our "mistakes". It was in June, close to this very date, but years ago. We'd discussed our plan at length, we'd waited a full year to implement our huge, next step, but there were those who still felt we were being a little brash. We were simply too young to make things work.
In their minds, we were about to make our First Big Mistake.
We went ahead, anyway, and had a marvelous day. There was a band, and they rocked. Renée sang (beautifully), Harrell danced (badly but enthusiastically), there was food, there was drink, and a good time was had by all. The preacher said his words, rice was thrown -- sorry, birds, we didn't know any better at the time -- and our jump into the deep end of life didn't turn out to be a mistake after all.
This comes to mind today because ... well, because of the date that looms ahead. But also because we've heard from some lovely people who worry that we're making a Big Mistake when it comes to our writing career. They think we need to do the agent chase and the traditional publisher quest. They certainly make a compelling argument and they might be right. But today, especially today, we're in the mood to celebrate mistakes.
Love you, babe.
They call themselves The Reader Girls...
(June 15, 2011)...and for good reason. The 'Girls' love to read and they read books by the bucketload. They've even promised to read one of our books.
The Reader Girls are a family three-set, consisting of one adult (Laurie), one teen (Meg) and a tween (Caity). They run a fun and interesting blogspot, dedicated to reading and readers and fun (not boring) fiction. Go to their site any day of the year and you'll find an interview or an author post or a contest ... or a combination of all of those ... and, almost as frequently, a book review. We asked 'em to review Something Wicked and they agreed. Then, to our surprise, they offered us an "Author Stop and Guest Post" as well.
Has any individual Reader Girl actually gotten around to reviewing our novel? Well, not yet. But, like we said, they're BUSY.
Renée's guest post is called "Blame Nancy Drew" and she pretty much explains why Ann Lippens, the heroine of SW, isn't as pretty or smart or wonderful or talented or rich as the unforgettable Nancy Drew. In short, she urges the blogspot readers to abandon our creation and run out and buy a Nancy Drew novel.
Don't believe us? You can see for yourselves right here.
Looks kinda space age...
(June 11, 2011)...doesn't it? What you're looking at is Harry & David's posh packaging for their current shipment of giant strawberries. When the lovely Judy sent us this box of fruit and the beautiful 'berries arrived, packaged like this ... well, we couldn't wait to try them. Taking the first strawberry from the box, Renée actually said, "My Precious! O my Precious!" in a very Gollum-ish fashion.
Y'see, H&D knows that presentation matters. Make something pretty and people expect good things. Make a halfhearted effort and people notice. This is never more true than when it comes to electronic books.
In July, if time and life allows, we're going to add another 99-cent publication to our Magical Bakery. Because this new bit o' pastry is unlikely to sell well ... it's a television pilot and it's funny but who wants to read an e-script? ... there was some discussion about slapping up a quickie cover just to give the teleplay a face. The discussion was quite brief and very one-sided. Our in-house design team, 1 Rat Studio Graphics (a/k/a Renée, the Strawberry Queen), was willing to use a simple design but refused to give BSNBM anything less than a professional cover. As this blog posts, she's twelve hours into the project and hasn't finished yet.
Once she's done, we'll show all ... and tell even more.
Knowing that it takes least 30 days...
(June 6, 2011)...for an agent to respond to a query for representation, one of us decided to work on finding a home for T.A.D. Yes, we know, we're still waiting to hear from our beta reader and, yes, we know, this is a touch premature, but that's okay. We can do a lot in 30 days. If our beta reader wants fixes, we can do fixes. So one of us sent an e-mail pitch to a pretty impressive literary agency... and, twenty minutes later(!), we heard from the head of the agency.
He liked the pitch. Wanted us to send the manuscript, the actual pages, to his street address.
Not bad news, that's for sure, and wonderfully fast. So the "Harrell" part of "Renée Harrell" went to surprise his other half with the scoop -- and discovered the other half has no interest in finding an agent for our novel. This, too, was surprising to one of us.
Turns out, Renée has been doing some reading, about agents and traditional publishing, and she's not exactly loving what she's found. The experienced Kristine Kathryn Rusch sounded an alarm about agents here, in a June post, and previously talked about traditional publishers here, in a May blog. None of which applies to Proxima Books, our Aly's Luck e-publisher, by the way. The PB people not only offered us a fair contract, they also altered the terms of the contract at our request. However, Proxima is a UK outfit and haven't yet learned the evil ways of their stateside brothers. Renée thinks K.K.R. is one smart cookie and she listens to the things she says.She doesn't want our 'Daughter' to fall into the wrong hands.
What happens next? At this very second, we're still in discussion....
We're gettin' slower in our old age...
(June 2, 2011)...and, honestly, we didn't think we were that old. It's taken us weeks to do another rewrite of Atheist's Daughter and, frankly, we don't remember bein' such slowpokes in the past.
After all, if someone says "this novel could easily end up being a best seller" (check our 02/13/11 blog), well, you hope they're right. Since the "best seller" part of the equation was preceded by several paragraphs of "this part sucks and this part does, too", we had some work to do. Happily, we've always been pretty quick in the rewrite department.
We USED to be quick, anyway. Months later, we're only now finishing our newest version of T.A.D. And, sure, we think it's a much better book, all things considered. But we really liked the old version, too, so what do we know?
Well, we know this: We need to find someone experienced with YA to give us some feedback -- or, even better, someone who reads YA frequently and likes the stuff. We can't rush this kind of thing (the wrong beta reader is worse than no reader). We'll let you know how things turn out....
We know how a writer can make big money...
(May 28, 2011)...and we're gonna share the info with you and you right here, right now. So here it is: Sell out. It really IS that easy.
You know what we mean. If vampire novels are ringing up sales, then write the next Twilight. If wizards are magic (so to speak), pen the next Harry Potter. You won't make Twilight/Potter cash -- for that kind of money, an original concept is helpful -- but you'll still be able to retire early. If you're lucky, you'll spend your afternoons shopping beach houses in Costa Rica.
A quick fortune sounded good to us so we set aside our current project, The Atheist's Daughter, and started making notes. Young Adult is a hot genre right now so our next book would be YA. Romance is a necessity if you want a second/third/fourth printing, so romance would be at the core of our novel. Angels and demons are smokin' popular this very second so our heroine would be forced to choose between a bad boy demon (who isn't all bad) and a good guy angel (who isn't all good). Since series characters build an audience, the first book would be called The Demon Inside, the second book would be titled...hell, who knows? Something with Angel in it. The Angel Outside? Eh, we'd get it right soon enough. After all, if we were selling out, we wanted to hit all the notes.We think we did, too. We drew up the storyline, we wrote the first chapter, we liked the first chapter, and....
We got bored. We don't read demon/angel novels for fun so how were we going to write one?
So we didn't.
Instead, we popped open a bottle of Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec 2008, surprisingly available at Costco. Yes, we bought our wine at Costco. It's a pretty terrific drink, too. Exactly fruity enough...and spicy enough...to encourage us to finish the story we DO want to read, The Atheist's Daughter. But more about that once the bottle is gone.
So, yeah, the B-O-Rama is runnin' a little late...
(May 23, 2011)...these days but for good reason. One of our editors is in town.
Even if you didn't recognize him, you'd know this guy was an editor. He's a sharp dresser. Looks confident, almost to the point of being cocky. Wears a red corporate tie. And he knows you know he's sporting the latest in oh-so-trendy, NY designer sunglasses. Those babies don't come cheap.
Sure, he's young, but editors are getting younger all the time. Despite his youth -- or because of it -- he's a little pushy at times. Coming out of a power nap, he wanted us to tell him the story of DinoBob (a dinosaur sharing the exact same characteristics of SpongeBob Squarepants except that DinoBob is a plastic dinosaur toy) and we were a little confused. Was this a firm deal? Was this to be one book or a series of novels? Maybe a DinoBob trilogy?
And, really, might there be some serious copyright issues, especially since our young visitor demanded that "Squidward" and "Patrick Star" figure prominently in the storyline? Wouldn't the Nickelodeon people be upset?
He was in no mood for any kind of discussion. He wanted a story outline and now. When we didn't respond quickly enough, the room became a little tense. Happily, Ye Editor was distracted by an offer of juice and cookies. As we write this, he's proposing an entirely different storyline involving Wallace and Gromit and DinoBob in Bikini Bottom. He wants Elmo from Sesame Street to drop by.
We'll let him deal with the legal issues. Assuming the contract is solid, we think we can make this work....
"You killed my husband!" she cried...
(May 18, 2011)...and she said it on Facebook, nonetheless. We tried to deny it, of course. Anyone would. But we like your husband! we responded, hoping it might buy us a little time.We needed to figure out exactly when and where we murdered poor Keith.
If the grim nature of this post depresses you, might we suggest this "Cheer Up" thingie from D.A.S. Designs? This is one cute little basket. Just looking at it makes us happier so we stuck its image here.
You see, Debbie and Keith are friends of ours and we will, on occasion, put a friend's name in one of our stories. The name acts a temporary place marker, allowing us to visualize a character and truck along with our tale. Debbie herself appeared in Something Wicked, only to be replaced with the fairly generic "Jennifer Carr" when the book went to press. If your name is Jennifer Carr and you're reading this, you've got a GREAT name. Please order several copies of our novel. We thought, for a minute, maybe we'd killed Keith in SW but, no, he's absent from the high school crowd. We knew we'd killed him in The Atheist's Daughter -- his body sat in a car trunk for the longest time -- but the manuscript is being rewritten and Debbie hasn't seen it. ("Barry Collison" has since taken his place behind the spare tire.) Wicked Games, then? Well, death by werewolf does occur for some but not for Keith....
Which left our under-a-buck Kindle collection, After Things Went Bad, and, yep, there he was. In 'Wintebury Circle', the second of the three stories, our buddy gets well and truly scrunched. We'd like to point out that he's referred to as "a nice man" in the tale and that we felt no personal happiness at his demise. He's practically the hero of the story, really.
That's what our lawyers are telling us to say, anyway....
Sometimes, it really IS...
(May 13, 2011)...all about us. To our minds, this is a good thing.
We've been meaning to thank Kim, The Caffeinated Diva, for giving Something Wicked a 4 mugs review -- and then she posted the review on Amazon, too, helping boost our internet presence. So, thank you, Kim!
Meanwhile, we've been popping up a couple of other places, too. Much, much nicer places than the Blog-O-Rama but... important side note here... these particular places are YA-oriented and, so, don't offer any talk about wine. You want a sniff of booze with our writing, you still gotta come here. Jessie Harrell (she says we aren't related to her) brought us over to Oasis for YA, where we discussed what drove us to self-publish SW. It's a sad, sad tale....
Then Alanna, the Flashlight Reader herself (she says we aren't related to her), drove us over to the Flashlight Mansion and we did the full-fledged Author Interview thing. If you'd like to know what Jack the Ripper has to do with our YA mystery, you'll find it there... and pretty much, nowhere else. The interview is fun, a little silly, and made all the better by Alanna's own comments.
That's the news from our neck o' the woods. How'za 'bout you?
We've HAD publishers and we've BEEN publishers...
(May 9, 2011)...and we think each option has its pluses and minuses. If you have the right publisher, as we think we have in Proxima Books, then you have a strong team working with you. There are dedicated people behind you and your book to help with editing, cover art, and publicity (even tattoo design publicity) -- and life is good.
If you sign with the wrong publisher, things can get rocky. We've had that experience, too. So our ears perked up when the lovely Patty Jansen mentioned that she'd been offered a book contract for Watcher's Web but decided to publish the book her ownself, anyway. It's available right this second on Amazon or Smashwords, a quick $2.99 for the whole darn thing. Fun cover, too, eh? It's the rare author who walks away from a contract so we wrote her and asked, um...why. When she replied, she didn't really give us that particular answer but she did provide us with an entire Blog-O-Rama post about signing with certain kinds of publishers -- and we thought it was interesting, too. This is what she said:
Do you sign that contract?
By Patty Jansen
It’s happened to me, and I’m seeing it happen to several of my writing friends. In the race to be published, you submit pretty much indiscriminately to agents and publishers who publish your genre and are open for submissions, and are not on the Predators & Editors blacklist.And one morning, you download your email and lo, there is an offer of publication.
OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book! OMG, someone wants to publish my book!
Once you’ve finished jumping around, you sit down and have a look at the contract. But really, you don’t know anything about contracts. You don’t know what’s supposed to be in them, and what the standards are. The publisher making the offer is a small publisher. You don’t know them. You don’t have an agent and have never been able to get one for this particular book. You don’t have the publishing credits to belong to a professional writers’ organization. You check the internet for information, but it contains cases about contracts that are obviously dodgy, and you’re reasonably sure this publisher is not a scam.
So you’re stuck up the creek. You feel you should be happy, and all your friends are happy for you, but there are a number of things that make you uneasy.They could be any of the following:
The publisher is also using the press to push his or her own books. It happens. There is nothing as such ‘wrong’ with it, but do you want to be published by someone who may give his or own work preference when it comes to marketing?
The contract you get asks for rights the press doesn’t intend to use. For example, they sell only ebooks, but they want you to sign away the print rights. They are inflexible about changing this.
The person you are dealing with comes across as not very professional. For example, not all your questions are answered, or it takes an extra-ordinarily long time for you to get a reply. There may be deadlines (if you don’t accept this by…), or pushing of a certain editorial service. Whatever it is, it’s not illegal, but you feel uneasy about it.
You check the press’ web presence and the listings for a couple of their books (randomly-chosen—don’t pick their most popular titles) are not encouraging. You can barely find the books on Amazon, and when you do, there are no covers and no reviews.
The venture looks like an author-mill: it has books listed by many authors, and seem to be pushing quantity over quality. None of those things are illegal, and some of their authors seem reasonably happy.But you’re still unsure.
Let me ask you a question: if you were to plan an extensive home renovation, and you asked for quotes, and the company offering the cheapest quote had a lousy telephone service, took three days to get back to you, and only sent the quote after you rang them up and asked them for it, would you sign with them? Would you trust them with your money and your beloved house?
A publishing contract is a bit like this. Moreover, once you sign, you’re stuck with these people for a while. You had better like their professional conduct and feel that they could do the best by your book.
If you feel iffy now, imagine what you feel like three years down the track. A publishing contract is an agreement of service: of the publisher, to you. You are going to have to work with these people. One of them will edit you work. Any inter-personal difficulties or differences of opinion will be blown out of the water by this process. You don’t want to start off feeling dubious about their professionalism. These people will design your cover. They will send you regular sales updates. Do you feel confident that you’ll like what they do?
If you have doubts that you’ll be able to work with these people, I’d think twice about signing.
About Patty Jansen:
Besides a writer of crazy fantasy and hard Science Fiction, both self-published and in traditional media, Patty Jansen is slush reader and editor at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. She blogs at http://pattyjansen.wordpress.com/, about writing, about science and about editing and slush piles. Patty is a winner of the second 2010 quarter of the Writers of the Future Contest and has published in the Universe Annex of the Grantville Gazette and has a story forthcoming with Redstone SF. Find her fiction at Amazon or Smashwords.
We're not exactly feelin' great...
(April 30, 2011)...and we're blaming the big bowl of chili we picked up at the local wine-and-dine a couple of days ago. Yep, both of us are stomach-churning sick.
But that doesn't mean we won't force ourselves to stumble over to the Blog-O-Rama and provide some kind of weak-ass update for you and you. The good news is, Editor Steve Haynes and Proxima Books have started their Big! Amazing! Design a tattoo for 'Aly's Luck' contest!
The bad news is, the contest ends on May 13th -- so that the PB cover artists can create a cover for our lovely s-f adventure novel before it comes out in September -- and the worse news is, the prize isn't exactly overwhelming. When the contest was first announced, we were thinking: New car. Trip to Spain. At the least, an Ipad.
The gang at Proxima felt differently.
But, really, it's fairly terrific that there's any kind of contest at all involving an unknown s-f novel written by relatively unknown writers like us. You can see for yourself right here.
So we write some Amazing science fiction stories...
(April 25, 2011)...then we put 'em in a three-pack, call the whole package After Things Went Bad, introduce the collection to the world for less than a buck -- and nobody cares. No one. We dedicated the stories to a pair of our friends and even they haven't read the stories.
So we go to Absolute Write, our writing hangout, and we make this offer: We'll give anyone ATWB, free, if they'll please post a comment about the stories on Amazon. Say something nice, say something mean, we don't care. We'd rather have an honest opinion than a total lack of reviews. One person takes us up on the offer, reads the stories, then contacts us to say that Amazon won't let him post his comments because this was a gift item.
Such is the world of the self-published. No sales, no comments, no luck. *sigh*
The image on the left is not the cover of our book but, oh, how we wish. We like the cover we used, don't get us wrong, but we love us some giant ants.
We were about to give up hope when we staggered across something called Sift Book Reviews. Sarah Nicolas, an engineer-writer, and her team of fellow reviewers (an eclectic group, including a nanny, a software engineer, a psychiatrist-in-training and a speech-language pathologist) were actively reviewing self-published sci-fi. And, friends, no other Gang O' Five anywhere else in the universe is actively seeking self-published ANYTHING to review.
Quick like bunnies, we write the woman and make our pitch. Which pretty much boiled down to please, please review our stuff. She e-mails back and agrees to give our collection a look.
On Friday, she posted her review -- right here.
You know how much we love us some giant ants? Today, we're loving Sarah Nicolas even more....
WICKED smart? Sadly...
(April 20, 2011)...not us. Turns out, there's a boatload of book titles called Something Wicked. The image on the left belongs to Julie Leto's version, an ultra-sexy, edgy story. We don't really know if the story is ultra-sexy or not; we're going by the spin we've read on-line. But, if you've read the novel and it IS ultra-sexy, let us know, would you? Plus: Define 'ultra-sexy'. How is this better than 'regular sexy'? Is it better than 'super sexy'? Than 'mega sexy'? Turns out, you type in 'Something Wicked' in the Amazon search box, and it'll provide you with 137 different options. Our book is nestled somewhere at the bottom of the bunch.
Maybe, just maybe, we should have grabbed a different title. Once upon a time, we considered using Whispers as our moniker but we're glad we didn't. Put that title in the Amazon search box and you'll have nearly 5,000 options. No one would EVER find our little YA mystery.
Happily, we have a few friends trying to offer a hand. The wonderful Lainey Bancroft gave a hearty shout-out to our story right here (and she didn't tell us about it, either. We like to wander past her website and discovered it on our own). The not-related-to-us-but-amazing-nonetheless Jessie Harrell also spilled a few hundred words at our request...right here...and we're grateful to them both.
So, maybe it's okay we're not that smart. With friends like these, our writing career might somehow survive, anyway....
Ready to get WICKED?...
(April 16, 2011)...we hope so. 'Cause our novel, Something Wicked, is finally available for sale.
For the few that have hung around since the start of the B-O-Rama, you know it's been a long haul. We started Mars Needs Writers.com back in August of 2009. We kinda had to start it back in '09. We'd signed a contract to publish our YA mystery novel, whis•pers, at that time and Ye Olde Publisher required a website for all of the company's authors.
A year later,Ye Olde Publisher didn't put out our novel, after all. When things went ka-blooey, our manuscript was returned, our rights were returned, and we decided to go rogue. We also decided to change the name of our novel to Something Wicked. (Turns out, most search engines don't like interdots in the middle of a name.)
Since SW was appearing under the Hunting Monsters Press label, we decided to do it right. One of our early, big decisions was to find the right cover artist. We did, too. Matthew Turner, graphic designer -- he did the HMP logo -- created exactly the cover we wanted. But better. We couldn't be happier.
We'll share more about the book soon. But, as these words appear, we're a little busy. Right now, we're grabbing a bottle of red and starting to celebrate!
Whipped like a rented mule...
(April 13, 2011)...and we've been struggling to keep up.
Y'see, we're planning to publish Something Wicked on 04/16/11. Yep, we have an actual publication date and we foolishly timed our novel to come up just before tax time. Although this will undoubtedly cut down on book sales, we've already promised the date and given an interview to promote the book. So out it will come.
This means we have to format SW for the Trio of Evil: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. It's already good-to-go for the print version. If that wasn't enough -- and with techno-idjits like us, it certainly is -- we recently received an e-mail from our Proxima editor, giving us a deadline for the final edit on Aly's Luck.He wrote, and we quote: "Let's make May 1st a final wrap" and, if you know editors like we know editors, you know this: What he's really saying is, Get this done. Now. OR ELSE.
We're on it 'cause Steve's not a patient man. When he says, "Jump!", we ask, "How high?" And, when he says "May 1st!", we lower our noses to the grindstone and get to work....
Our editor, Steve, got in touch with us...
(April 8, 2011)...to let us know that Proxima Books is starting to do a little movin' and shakin'. We're pleased and we thought we'd share.
The image on the left? We don't mean to suggest that this is a picture of Steve and shame on you for thinking such things. And, yes, you're right, we can't prove this isn't Steve, and he is British, and he is an editor so it's perfectly natural...well, never mind. Again, we want to be clear here: We are NOT suggesting this is an image of our beloved editor. You are, of course, free to draw your own conclusions.
The Proxima Books website is under construction and should make an appearance in the next few months. And the folks at PB have started to beat the drum, very quietly, about Aly's Luck. If you wander over to Facebook, you'll see the initial promotion right here.
There's more to come -- including a tattoo-based contest -- but we'll share those details once we have 'em. Right now, we have to get back to work, editing A.L. for publication. As Steve may or may not have said, "I want that final edit by May 1st or, I swear to you, you'll burn in Hell...."
E-mails, we get e-mails...
(April 3, 2011)...and, this time, it's definitely our fault.
Last time we posted, we mentioned how much we liked Michelle Muto's cover for her novel, The Book of Lost Souls (still available right here for under a two-spot). You and you responded rather quickly via electronic letter.
It seems this cover isn't unique to MM's masterwork. Wanna see the cover? Just give a gander to the post below.
One of our correspondents felt the image had a strong similarity to The Dream Spell by E. Daniels, published a few months back. (We see DS is selling very nicely on Amazon. Damn those 99-cent books.) We also had people talk about a listing on Pegasus News -- here -- and something or other at OmniMystery -- here -- and on and on. We realize now that this is a graphic that gets used a bunch.
We want to be clear here: When we asked about the cover, MM was honest with us. She told us she used a stock photo for her cover. It's a great and cheap way to provide a great and cheap but not necessarily unique image for a self-published novel. We did the same thing for After Things Went Bad (like DS, it's a 99-center but, unlike DS, it remains largely unloved) -- and a quick search found a similar cover to our book, too. It's here, you dirty, dirty person.
So... Michelle's cover? Maybe not totally new and fresh. But her novel? That's completely original. Which is the important part, right?
It's the cover that grabbed us...
(March 29, 2011)...and isn't that always the way? Find the right image for your book and we're halfway to buying the thing.
So we contacted the author, Michelle Muto, and asked about the cover design. Turns out, a limited budget spurred her to do the cover on her own (with some help from fellow indie writer, Sam Torode). One question led to another and, the next thing we knew, we were getting darned nosy about MM's self-published debut title, The Book of Lost Souls.
Her storyline sounds fun ("Hexes, hunks, and magical mayhem!") and we'd have downloaded it by now if our newest story didn't involve magic and demons, too. Maybe we're weird but, when we write YA, we won't read YA. When we write s-f, we won't read s-f. And, when we write steamy romance -- well, you get the drift. We're easily swayed and the conventions of a genre lead too many writers down the same pathways...and we'd rather wander into passages that haven't been explored. In fact, her storyline sounds SO fun, we wondered why she didn't go the traditional publisher/agent route.
Wouldn't you know, a lot of the old school folks liked her manuscript and said encouraging things. When economic issues seemed to hinder the novel's acceptance, "I started toying with the idea of self-publishing," she says. "I'd read about so many bookstores closing their doors. Agents were posting that they weren't taking on as many clients and editors were buying less manuscripts. Some agented friends were dropped, either by their agent or their publishing house."
So -- especially considering our post of 03/25 -- does she have any concerns about indie publishing? "There are many good writers who never got picked up without going indie. Now, many of those same writers are outselling their traditional counterparts. People are reading their books. A few have never made it to the NYT bestseller's list." And, she continues, "It's just important to make sure your write a good book and then polish and edit it until it is as clean and professional as a book from the Big Six. I believe self-publishing or indie is only going to get bigger."
If you'd like to help prove MM right, wander over to Amazon.com and pick up TBoLS (right here). It's a bargain at $1.99 for a full 79,000 words -- or about 316 pages, if you're a papyrus-reading cave person. You won't find that kind of deal over at B & N.
A fellow writer contacted us...
(March 25, 2011)...to warn us about the consequences of publishing our own novel. "There might be some readers who mind, I don't know," he said. "But the only people who have ever been in-my-face offensive about (his self-published sci-fi novel) have been other writers."
Since we frequent several writing boards, we know our fellow scribblers are definitely divided into two camps on the subject of self-publishing. There are those who celebrate it as an act of independence -- and others who view it as the last refuge of unsuccessful authors.
One electronically-published writer has posted, now and again, to complain that most self-published work is bad (which is why she's made every effort to avoid the self-pubbed). She's clearly stated that she'll never, ever self-publish one of her tales. And, when another writer mentioned he'd just put out his own novel, she dared him to match his Kindle numbers against the sales of her erotica novels.
We were delighted when she said that! We immediately e-mailed her, offering a challenge. We told her that Something Wicked would be self-published in a few weeks and we knew her new e-novel was coming out this summer. So, said us, let's compare sales results. Every three months for the next two years, let us publish the number of copies sold for SW versus the sales of her spicy story. She could show the results on her own website, too, if she'd like. Deal?
Now, we knew her sales figures would make us look silly for the first year or so. Smokin' hot sex novels are huge and will remain so...and this writer has built a following and, yeah, she knows how to write. But we think we know how to write, too. Young Adult mysteries, even with romance and a paranormal element, have a much smaller audience but we know this is going to change as e-reader prices fall. It's our belief that, over time, we'll grow our audience and sell more books than the woman we challenged. And we're willing to show the world if we're right.
Her response? It's been over a week now and all we've heard are crickets....
"Damn it, Valentine, you never plan ahead...
(March 21, 2011)...you never take the long view," Earl says. "I mean, here it is Monday and I'm already thinking of Wednesday." After a pause -- "It is Monday, right?"
Let the movie critics keep CITIZEN KANE; we'll stick with the 1990 flick,TREMORS, thank you very much, and this bit of dialogue from the movie drifts into our conversation every now and then. It came to mind recently when a writing friend wanted to know our long-term goals for our writing career -- and one of us answered, "Here it is Monday and I'm already thinking of Wednesday."Then the other half of our sad-assed team said, "It is Monday, right?"
Our friend didn't get it but he pressed on to make his point. As it happens, he's developed a FIVE YEAR plan on what he wants to happen with his career. It got us thinking, which is never a good thing, and it made us reflect on the progress we've made so far. We started this website in August of 2009, when a publisher offered us a contract for whis•pers. Despite our efforts, the manuscript never went to press. We realized we could use some long-range thinking, too.
So we sat down and developed our own long-term plan. It's not as ambitious as Scott's plan, not even close, but it'll do for now. We've devised a solid two year outline. Next month, we're going to bring out whis•pers under its new and better name of Something Wicked. Tentatively, Aly's Luck comes out later in the year (from the lovely people at Proxima Books) and we've started a new project with a publish-in-December deadline.
Will better planning lead to financial success, as Scott predicts? Dunno. Kinda doubt it. But, as Valentine says later in TREMORS, "See, we plan ahead, that way we don't do anything right now."
About to pull the trigger...
(March 16, 2011)...and getting a little anxious about it.
Y'see, we can't help but notice all of our friends leaping into the self-publishing pool. The lovely Valerie Chambers has done it (if you've got $3.99 in your pocket, just look here) and now the wonderful Lainey Bancroft has done it (right about here, if your pocketbook only contains $1.99).
In case you're wondering, if all of our friends jumped off a cliff, would we jump off, too? Why, yes, we would. Our friends are smart people. If they're jumping off a cliff, they must have a good reason to do so. Since we're not quite as bright as them, we'll follow their lead.
When Lainey dipped her toe into the self-pub waters, we knew this was a significant move. She's been blogging about the possibility but had never taken the next step. Now she has and we're impressed. It's time we quit talking and finally acted.
You'll notice that both of these women were smart enough to find great covers for their writing. (V. J. Chambers does her own cover work and she does terrific work. Seriously. Lainey went with a pro and the pro did a wonderful job.) We've contacted our professional graphic designer of choice and he's hard at work. If we can get the formatting in place, our novel goes into the ether in April.
But more about that in a few days.
A bad day for Fenckens...
(March 12, 2011)...okay, not really. We just liked the idea of a blog post with that particular title. It sounds like a cheesy Western -- starring, say, Ernest Borgnine and Telly Savalas -- and we'd be first in line to see it.
The guy on the left is not a Fencken.
Back in 2009, we first discussed the Fencken tribe. We were finishing our third draft of our sci-fi novel, Aly's Luck, and the manuscript started with a newly-written excerpt from "Fenckens Guide to Intergalactic Travel". Cynthia Fencken Maynard found the Blog-O-Rama and seemed pleased the family would be represented in the book. If, of course, said book ever found a publisher.
Joyous day, we found a publisher ... but not before we'd jettisoned our Intergalactic Guide. Wanting to get to the action-y part of our book a little quicker, we'd dumped the beginning and started the whole thing just outside of the Cave of Doom.
Not that the nation of Fenckens is missing all that much. For the handful who care, we offer our first draft of Fencken's Guide below (and give you the opportunity to see the origin of our book's title).
* * *
Aly shifted in the chair, feeling it react to the movement and remold its surface to her body. Artificial sunlight sparkled down on her and she caught the scent of a mountain fir in the recirculated air swimming around her. All at once, the building’s silver walls seemed to press upon her, a metal coffin threatening to seal her life away.
Stay in your seat and get this done, she told herself. You fill in some forms, you pay a lot of money, and you take a vacation. Everyone takes vacations. Even you.
So why was the skinny man with the weirdly-translucent skin arguing with her?
In front of her, the name plate on the desk proclaimed the argumentative man was HEBER BLAUVELT. Beneath his name were the words, Travel Agent. The man said, "Please call me, 'Heber'."
Heber Blauvelt blinked at her, his mouth forming an uncertain half-circle. Aly said, “Travel’s no longer prohibited. Not for years now. Tourists do go to T’ing.”
“Not the sane ones,” he said. “Have you read the guide? You must have.”
“I’ve seen the brochures.”
“Not nearly the same thing.” Pressing a skeletal finger against his desk, Heber transformed the face of his desk from cherry wood into sim-glass. Letters appeared inside the glass and Aly read:
Fenckens Guide to Intergalactic Travel
Your Destination: T'ing (the Bugworld)
Preferred Carrier: Boorian Spaceways
Suggested Travel Dates: N/A
Holiday Calendar: N/A
Recommended Accommodations: N/A
That Romantic Getaway: N/A
Fenckens Tips for Travelers: Following the Great Slaughter (Bugworld vs Universe I), severe restrictions were placed upon the import of advanced technology into T'ing. Initially, all weapons were banned while devices of limited technological value were allowed for import. Seven years later, following the Rain of Blood (Reign of Blood/Bugworld vs Universe II), further restrictions were imposed. At that time, the first Father Lygt took office and assumed the leadership of the planet in its entirety.
Under the various Father Lygts, T'ing has made little progress. Seemingly bereft of scientists or researchers, the planet remains technologically backward. An inhospitable environment, T'ing provides few leisure opportunities for anyone including the native-born.
The Council of Worlds Recommends: Dangerous, unsafe for the foreseeable future. Not suitable for travel.
Aly lifted her eyes. Heber tapped the desk again and its surface rippled briefly before adopting its wooden face. He smiled at her. “There are other options. I can show you holos that’ll make your head spin. With your budget, you can go almost anywhere.”
“I’ve been there.”
His brow wrinkled. “Been ...?”
“The rings of Trimurti –“
“Two years ago.”
Pausing, he said, “Maybe a different galaxy. Once you’ve stood on the rim of the Hanzuo Crater –“
“The wilds of Radegast?”
“Six weeks ago.”
“You have an adventuresome spirit.”
“Those trips were work-related. I need a vacation. I’m a transporter.”
“Oh,” Heber said without inflection. “How interesting.” He didn’t sound interested, at all.
Mustn’t blame him for that, Aly decided. He’s probably spent his whole life as a Dome drone, riding the tube from home to work and back again. Never feeling the kiss of a summer breeze or the bite of an arctic wind. Never tasting fresh rainwater. Never inhaling the scent of freshly-spilled blood.
Such a sad, wasted life.
“The customer is always right,” he told her, “even when she’s wrong.” He tapped on the desk, tapped again, then leaned back. “Consider it done. You’ve just bought yourself a round-trip ticket to the Bugworld.”
“It’s your funeral.” He laughed. “Who knows? You’re a transporter. You might survive. You might even come back.”
“I’m lucky that way,” Aly said.
With a house full of visitors... (March 7, 2011)...we were faced with a dilemma: Play with our friends or update the B-O-Rama? We chose Option #3: Play with our friends and update the blog just a teeny bit behind schedule. And, so, here we are.
Our latest bit of excitement was when a new, small, publisher said they wanted to publish The Atheist's Daughter. They sent us a contract and we've reviewed their offer. Ye Old Pub is talking many good things, including print and ebook versions of T.A.D., promotion, audio books, an advance (still to be negotiated) and other goodness. What's not to like?
Well, no contract is perfect and neither is this one. New or not, the publisher wants to pencil us into the end of their 2012 production schedule, almost twenty-two months away. Our story remains under the publisher's control as long as our book remains in print ... and, in this brave new world of technology, "in print" is an increasingly flexible term. Essentially, as long as the thing is selling any copies anywhere, they keep our novel. So, while there's some upside, there's some notable downside, too. But that was the deal.
Did we take it?We did not.
Even as we type that sentence, we wonder what the hell we were thinking. Although, really, we know what happened. Last month, our beta readers said the manuscript needed a major rewrite. We agreed with 'em and outlined pages of changes. As much as we like our story, we now want to try to do it better.
What happens next? Realistically, we'll probably wreck the story's flow, lose the one publisher that liked the old version, and remember this event bitterly for the rest of our lives. But we'll have learned a valuable life lesson, whatever that will turn out to be.
Hmmm. What the hell WERE we thinking?
Snow? AGAIN? We were about to complain...
(March 2, 2011)...when we realized, we don't have it so tough. A little snow is nuthin'. Just ask Irma Ernestina Perez.
We don't really know I.E. Perez but we suspect she's got it tougher than we do. In order to support her three children, she started selling general merchandise a little over 9 years ago. (Nope, not from a store. She doesn't have a store. She moves from place to place, selling t-shirts, pants, cosmetics and the like to earn her pay.) She's 61 years-old now, at an age where the kids oughta be putting food on HER table, but she's still earning a living in the general merchandise biz. All she needed was a loan of $400 to stock up for the summer season in Nicaragua.
We thought about putting Irma's picture on the site but, frankly, she just didn't look that happy about things. So we snapped our own snow photo and here it is.
We made our contribution to the cause -- at kiva. org -- and received notification, the next day, that the full amount had been covered. Good news. Yes, yes, we know we haven't talked about writing or wine ... and, we promise, we'll get back to that stuff soon enough. As it happens, we have some news but it'll have to wait 'til next time. This is Irma's moment to shine.
We've been studying serial killers lately...
(Feb. 26, 2011)...for a possible new writing project and, it seems to us, an unusually large number of s. killers have been based in the United Kingdom.
The British psychos have also claimed more than their share of the cool nicknames. There's Jack the Ripper, of course, as well as the Camden Ripper and the Yorkshire Ripper. But there's also the Vampire of London, the Moors Murderers, the Lambeth Poisoner and Doctor Death. There's the Beast of Manchester, the Crossbow Cannibal and the Stockwell Strangler. Mary Ann Cotton lacked an interesting nickname -- "Killer Cotton" would have been a natural -- but she did inspire this nursery rhyme (we are NOT making this up): Mary Ann Cotton/She's dead and she's rotten/She lies in her bed/With her fingers up her bottom.
The last couple of days, we've had some time to puzzle over this rhyme. The evil Mary Ann worked as a nurse, for a time, and poisoned her victims. Caught and convicted, she dangled at the end of a hangman's noose in 1873 before being buried. So why does the rhyme say, She lies in her bed? And why, disturbingly, are her fingers up her bottom?
Is it an English thing? We have to know!
In any case, we've had the opportunity to discuss this little ditty because we're finally done polishing our s-f manuscript, Aly's Luck. Tighter and smaller than ever before (at 85,000 words), we wait to hear if our editor is pleased with the finished product. (Our editor is the dashing fellow in the photo above. Despite the bow tie, Steve is NOT a serial killer. We're almost positive.)
While we wait to hear from Ye Olde Ed, maybe we'll wander over to kiva.org and see about lending a few dollars to those in need. We have to do SOMETHING to quit thinking about Mary Cotton's nursery rhyme....
It was one of those WTF moments...
(Feb. 22, 2011)...that occur in life. You've had 'em, too, everyone has, so we shouldn't have been so surprised when this happened. But, somehow, we were taken completely off-guard.
When last we spoke about our YA paranormal/horror novel, T.A.D., we were sharing a tale of woe. Our trio of beta readers had been brutal with our story. When we say 'brutal', that's what we mean, too. (If you're new to the party, just check the O-Rama of February 8th.) After we recovered from the beating, we outlined all of the changes we needed to make. It was a 3-page, single-spaced, lots-of-work-to-do outline.
Yep, it snowed again in our part of AZ. This was an early-on snapshot; more white stuff fell to earth shortly thereafter. We're tired of snow.
We'd completely forgotten that the manuscript was still in circulation with one publisher. This weekend, we received an e-mail from the publisher and then we remembered our submission. The publisher said nice things to us, such as, "We really, really like it" and "The reader we're trying to reach would truly enjoy your book" and...here's the WTF moment..."We'd like to publish it in the upcoming season." As we write this, it seems they want to publish the novel in e-form and in print.
One of us has always believed the book works as-is. The other worries that it needs a rewrite, as suggested by our beta readers. But.Still.
We've asked to see a contract. And, again, our minds are boggled.
We should have posted yesterday but...
(Feb. 18, 2011)...frankly, we've been burning the candle at both ends.
We know this is a weakass excuse and you're much too smart to fall for such a weakass excuse. However, one of us decided today's Blog-O-Rama was worthy of a non-public domain candle photo and we took this snap just for you (and you). So that oughta count for something.
While you may not be impressed, we're busy right now. We're doing another edit on Luck...and, despite Sweet Editor Steve's encouragement, we've made hundreds of corrections on our pages. Again.
First, one of us edits the words then the other one of us edits the words -- and then BOTH of us edit the edits -- and, frankly, it takes forever. If we'd written the manuscript correctly in the first place, we wouldn't be in this mess.
We're rushing along because publication may well happen in the next seven months. When the Proxima Books e-pub appears, we want the print version to follow soon after. In an effort to make this timing a reality, we've been researching cover artists. The guy we really liked? He wanted TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS for an image we stumbled across on deviantArt (here, dear hearts) -- and we didn't like the image anything close to that kind of money.
The guy we didn't love so much? He said he'd do the job for a single C-note. But then we remembered the swell job 1 Rat Studio did on our short story collection ... and the extra swell price she charged, since Renée is the Queen Rat. As these words are being typed, she's editing and painting and graphic-izing. Stick with us and we'll show you what she comes up with.
Harrell? At this mo', he's busy thinking deep thoughts. Which he does best while imbibing a fun red wine. In this case, we're talking a glass of DAOU Vineyard's Gingerberry wine. Cheers!
There is such a thing as 'too much honesty' and...
(Feb. 13, 2011)...we're not big fans. We've discovered, when we give our manuscript to a beta reader, we mostly hope the beta reader will love everything we've written. The reader might offer a telling comment or two -- 'This is too good! You need to reduce the wonderfulness by a third!' is suggestion we'd welcome -- but, overall, we prefer it if you just offer us a big bucket of praise and then step away.
To the left? A happy dog. Originally, we had some sad sack, weepy image to illustrate the post but then we heard from Wonderful Steve, the Aly's Luck editor. He likes our latest edit of the book, thinks we'll be doing a final pass pretty soon, and appears positive we'll go to e-press in 2011. Yay!
But, as you know, our latest trio of readers didn't have the good sense to flatter The Atheist's Daughter and wander off. Instead, they responded openly and savagely. Yes, we'd asked for a reality check but they work in publishing. They should have known better than to give us a real reality check.
One of the kindest things they said was, 'The writing itself isn't bad at all' which is like telling someone, 'Your baby's face doesn't repulse me'. The comments grew stronger and harsher from there. We read comment slam! after comment slam! after comment slam! and we realized, with sinking hearts, that we'd have to rewrite the entire manuscript.
When all hope was lost, toward the end of their comments, there was this: 'I do think these authors have an interesting premise, and with some hard work this novel could easily end up being a best seller.' Of the three of them, only one reader wrote this.
But. Still. Our minds boggled.
Our life doesn't suck. Our manuscript, though...
(Feb. 8, 2010)...may be a different story. We'd run The Atheist's Daughter past more than one beta reader and the response was lovely. That said, no one wanted to buy our manuscript. Three agents read the words and passed. Our Dream Publisher took months and months...and passed. So, wondering if we were truly ALL THAT, we rolled up our sleeves, called in favors, and found a trio of hotshot professionals.
We located three readers, all of them female, with two of 'em working in the publishing biz and the other having worked in the industry before. They agreed to read the book individually but to discuss the story as a group. When they sent us their comments, they'd be open and honest...and they'd package all of their comments in one letter. They wouldn't charge us a penny but we'd never know which person said which statement.
This arrangement worked for us. Our thought process went like this: When a crowd offers praise, does it really matter whose voice is the loudest? A couple of days ago, we received their response. And, friends, their e-mail was more than honest. It was brutal.
Our confidence in our novel was apparently misplaced. According to our new readers, nothing truly worked. Someone said the story's pace was jagged (and all of them thought Chapter Two c-r-a-w-l-e-d). (Another one wasn't that fond of Chapter Three, either.) One reader thought there was logic issues -- two readers didn't, so it could have been worse -- and one of our pros was confused by our Big Bad's motivation. As a group, they liked the characterizations we offered except for our MAIN CHARACTER. She was called two-dimensional. No one loved Kristin like we love Kristin. And then...and then....
When we were ready to build a fire and use T.A.D. for kindling, they ended their comments with a statement so semi-astounding that it gave us pause. We think you'll be amazed, too, but, hey, this is the Blog-O-Rama SUCK post. The Beta Group's end statement may be deranged but it definitely doesn't suck. Swing by in four and we'll share.
Is our Bacon cooked? We're...
(Feb. 4, 2011)...starting to wonder. If you remember, we came up with Secret Project X, featuring our Lord Bacon tale. If you don't remember, look for the Nov. 29, 2010 blog post featuring the cutie-pie piglet. SPX isn't a short story, novella or book length manuscript but it involved a storyline, two hundred-plus pages of fiction writing, and -- uh, marketing, of a sort. We remain vague-ish about the project because we still haven't seen anyone try anything like this. Given a few months respite, we might decide to roll the dice.
It's not that LB has beaten us. At least, we hope not. Currently clocking in at 156 pages, we know every tick of the story's heartbeat. We're going to finish writing the pages. It's the other half of SPX -- the part requiring a big piece of our time and a not-insignificant chunk of our cash -- that has given us pause. As much as we'd like to try something bold! something different!, what we really want to do these next few months is to create a new novel.
It's a crazy idea, we know, writers abandoning a load of peripheral ancillary bull puckey to focus on their writing. But it's so crazy, it just might work....
Recently, we decided to take a day off from writing...
(Jan. 30, 2011)...and with good reason. We were feeling a little toasted from editing Luck, one of us was still recovering from the surgery thing, the other one had developed a humsucker of a cold, we'd spent too many hours researching landing spots for Whispers, and neither of us was happy with our progress on Lord Bacon. So, going to bed, we made the happy vow to just take the next day off. From writing, from work, from everything.
When we got up the next morning, the kitchen floor was covered in water.
So we called out a repairman -- hey, we were sick-ish -- and the repairman tell us our refrigerator has gone bad. Needs to be replaced. Immediately, if we want to keep things cold...like the dog medicine we use to keep our useless but beloved pekingese from going blind. So we spend the next several hours, shopping at the few places selling appliances in our pint-sized town, check reviews, select the cheapest too-expensive model available, and go home. To rest. To just take the remainder of the day off. From writing, from work, from everything.
Finally back in our nest, we hit the garage door button...and the garage door goes BOING, a metal something flies through the air accompanied by a variety of screws, and the entire assembly thumps earthward. Because we've spent so much on a repairman's visit and a new refrigerator, we roll up our sleeves and get to work.
As day goes into night, we fix the thing. And vow, next time, screw it, no more days off. We can't afford 'em and the inactivity just wears us out....
Good things come to those who wait...
(Jan. 26, 2011)...or so we've heard. We wouldn't know. Trying to keep up in this go-go world, we've discovered we're not the waiting kind. While we wish we could embrace the concepts of calm reflection and gentle patience, the truth is -- we demand our patience now!
As Woody Allen famously said, the heart wants what it wants and we want things to happen quickly. Sadly, there's nothing satisfyingly fast in a writer's world. It takes months to finish a novel. More weeks to polish the novel. More weeks to polish it again. Then, even after it's ready to submit, we know we'll be in a holding pattern for months or years (we kid you not) before we get a response. This is tough if you're part of a team that believes Minute Rice takes too long to cook.
Short stories are written more quickly than longer works but the submission process (and response time) is about the same. After we wrote Mr. Tinker, we sent it off to our favorite big money publisher. One of the Major League guys, the only one we wanted to pursue. Several weeks passed so we worked on one of our older but still enjoyable s-f stories (once upon a time, it won a tiny, tiny cash award from a tiny, tiny literary magazine). Then, more time passing, we thought of a story title, After Things Went Bad, decided we had to write THAT tale, and did so.
More weeks passed, taking us past the six month mark. We withdrew Mr. Tinker from editorial consideration -- our story was one of thousands of submissions and the delay grew tiring -- and we jumped into the ereader world (here). Yesterday -- two months after we pulled the story from submission -- we heard from the editor at the big bucks publisher. She apologized for the long delay between submission and response, said her reader had recommended Tinker for publication (quoting the reader as saying, "I really like this one. It's good"), but she, the editor, hadn't had time to read it. Since it was no longer available, she wouldn't read it unless we resubmitted. But, if we did, she'd be happy to take a look.
There's no guarantee the editor would have liked our story, of course. And we try not to think of the $900 check that may or may not have been coming our way....
How much sharper than a serpent's tooth...
(Jan. 21, 2011)…is a surgeon’s scalpel? One of us recently had the opportunity to find out and, as it turns out, an MD’s blade is quite a bit sharper than the average snake fang. We share this information with you freely, in case, y’know, the question comes up on your next job interview.
With half of the team now missing a gallbladder, you’d think we’d slow up a little…and if that IS what you think, congratulations, you know us well. Realizing we’d be momentarily out of action, we gunned through the first edit of Aly’s Luck and did (says us, modestly) a pretty good job of it. We listened to our editor mostly and followed his advice mostly and we’re pleased with v.2 of the manuscript.
Once Ye Olde Ed received said manuscript, did he e-mail a quick note of congratulations? Did he, perhaps in passing, mention what a sterling job we’d done? Regretfully, no. He sent us a message via Facebook, writing: “Back to the SALT mines for you two soon, I think.”
Back to the SALT mines -- with half of the team sobbing for sympathy, day and night, and the other team member missing one of their most important bladders. You’re probably thinking, Ye Ed must be a cold-hearted monster. We beg you, don’t judge him too harshly, friends. It’s not his fault. He's an editor. He doesn't have human feelings like you and I….
If you're wondering why the Blog-O-Rama wasn't...
(Jan. 16, 2011)...updated yesterday, here's our suggestion: Blame Steve.
In this case, you'd be right to do so. Ye Olde Editor Steve piled the homework on us and we've been buried in work on Aly's Luck. Worse, his tidal wave of changes has forced us to tinker with other bits and pieces of the manuscript and, now, we're almost starting to wonder why we ever thought the thing was good enough to submit. Almost.
Our manuscript is shrinking, our free time has disappeared, and we find ourselves snapping at those who are nearest and dearest to us. When they ask us why, we always answer: Blame Steve.We feel you should remember this admonition once the book is published and you, foolishly, disregard the reviewers, buy a copy, and hate the story. We'll tell you it was a much, much better novel before Steve started working on it.
On the other hand, should you buy a copy and love it...well, we'll tell you: Steve who?
Today, we talk about a different kind...
(Jan. 11, 2011)...of whine. As we wake up this morning, we're feeling a little sorry for ourselves.
Looking through the back window, we find there's still snow on the ground. We live in Arizona and snow is not something we welcome for more than three days. Yes, we understand that you and you are not sympathetic to us in this regard. You and you don't even regard a season as 'Winter' unless you're buried under four foot of the white stuff. Well, not everyone is as tough as you, big guy.
Snowed in, we continue to be harassed by our UK editor. We don't know how much longer we can take the pressure. He speaks of 'proper punctuation' and 'simplifying' and 'National Print styles'. (We're pretty sure he's made the last bit up.) We've told him that true artists don't worry about things like proper speling or real good grammar but he refuses to listen. It seems less and less likely that this demanding taskmaster will allow us to wait until 2014 to review his edits.
Finally, let's mention our wine of January 2nd: The 2010 Electric Reindeer California Merlot. We say, without qualification, that this is the finest $2.99 bottle of wine we've ever had. It's not 'poison', as one friend warned, or 'vinegar', as another chum threatened.
But it is the LAST bottle of under $3 wine we'll be buying....
Have we ever mentioned the time...
(Jan. 7, 2011)...we went to the United Kingdom? It was wonderful. The streets were filled with interesting and exotic people from around the world. The landmarks were fascinating; we'd still be at the British Museum if time and life allowed. We even enjoyed the food. (Of course, this is coming from two people who are delighted with boxed mac-and-cheese.) But one black evening in England we saw something that still haunts our memories.
Walking in Soho, we'd gone in search of Frith Street Tattoo and its incredible tattoo artists. Yes, one of us has a tattoo. No, it is NOT the image of a skeletal crow pecking at the empty eye socket of a human skull. Why would you even think of such a thing? A turn here and an alley there and we were lost. We found ourselves looking down on an unmarked basement window. Through the window, we saw a man sitting by himself as he pored over some papers. He lifted a red pen and scribbled over the pages, again and again, making a mockery of the words in front of him.
"You don't want to linger here," said a voice from behind us. Turning, we saw a man in a bowler hat. He was a stranger to us. "This is private property," he said. "The man inside, he doesn't like it when people watch him work."
"What kind of work does he do?" one of us asked.
"Collects a check from Proxima Books," said the stranger. "Goes by the name of Steve. Steve! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old book editor! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel has ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. Pray you never fall into his clutches."
Tipping his hat, the stranger went on his way. So did we. We never did find Frith Street Tattoo.
We're reminded of this today because we've received an e-package from the UK. Aly's Luck has gone through its first edit and the publisher wants us to roll up our sleeves and get to work. At a glance, our 400 pages have at least 4000 corrections.
The first name of the editor demanding all of these changes? We suspect you already know....
So the new year is upon us all...
(Jan. 2, 2011)...and the really lazy bloggers are posting their New Year's Resolutions. We'd do it, too, but we make the same damn resolutions every year and we're getting tired of it. Every year, we want to lose weight. (This year, both of us did. Funny what medical maladies will force upon you.) We promise to exercise more frequently. (This year, both of us did. Funny what fear will force upon you.) We promise to spend less/save more. (That SO did not happen.)
Yep, it's been snowing at our house. How are things lookin' in your neck o' the woods?
This year, we thought we'd try something different. Instead of vowing to live better or write more...we really can't write more, we're exhausted...we decided to try a new red wine.Not a big deal, you say? As they say in the infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
This is a bottle of 2010 Electric Reindeer California Merlot. Taken from the clearance shelf at World Cost Plus Market, inspected, and purchased for the price of $2.99. With the other people in our party begging us to leave the bottle in the store. "You're paying for poison," one told us. "Vinegar," the other said.
We think not. We think 2011 is going to be a year of surprises. A year of exploration and adventure. The year we sign with a major publishing house or Hunting Monsters Press comes forth with its first novel. (Our novel. Turns out, we love our writing and are eager to offer us a contract -- if Penguin Books doesn't offer us one first.) It's also the year we uncork a bargain bottle of clearance wine, too. After all, how bad can it be?
Meanwhile, After Things Went Bad: Three Tales of the Near Future is now posted at BookBarista.com. It's a new web advertising site and it has a total of four books on the site. Normally, we wouldn't bother listing our mini-collection on such a new and tiny website but...
It's 2011, friends. Time to be bold.
Christmas arrived early at...
(Dec. 24, 2010)...the Blog-O-Rama this year. That's what we thought, anyway, until we checked the calendar. Turns out, we were wrong: Christmas is still arriving on the 25th. Doesn't matter. We've had some early good news and we want to share it with you.
There's more than one bit of goodness, actually. Smashwords (finally) moved After Things Went Bad into their Premium Catalog. Yowza. We still have no reason to suspect that people will download the thing but, now, it can fail to be downloaded on more devices than ever. This is great!
Then this happened: Long after we'd given up on anybody saying anything new about Wicked Games, the good people at ParaNormal Romance asked Missy Brown to give the story a look. We thought about quoting great chunks of her review but our quiet modesty prevents us from doing so. Plus, if we steal too much of their review, the folks at ParaNormal Romance might get mad and call on their Dark Gods to punish us. We're delighted by her response. Clearly, unlike lesser journalists, Missy Brown knows her stuff. You can see for yourself right here.
And, now, we've received even better news. Our joy of joys, David Danger, is going to have a sibling. We're months away from the happy event -- DD's mom is still in the magical "grab the toilet bowl and puke" first trimester -- but we're thrilled. After all, WE'RE not the ones permanently stationed in the bathroom. Tomorrow is gonna be great but, in our house, the celebration has already begun.
We survived 2010. Howza 'bout...
(Dec. 20, 2010)...you?
Looking back at the year that's about to pass, we've found some good stuff to appreciate, we've found some bad stuff to review. We had our first romance novella published and actually made a few bucks for the effort (good!). We were supposed to have our young adult mystery/paranormal story out in August (good!) but, instead, burned through three editors, a cover artist, and one entire publisher (bad!). We established our own press, partially because of the fiasco, and finally put our mini-anthology up for sale (good!) but still can't get Smashwords to approve it for their Premium Catalog (bad!).
We signed a contract with a UK publisher, finally finding a home for our quirky science fiction novel (good!) but, wouldn't you know?, now they want to edit the thing...and you already know how things go with us and editors (bad!). Most importantly, we recently had to deal with a scary medical prognosis -- and 2010 suddenly seemed like a dark year, indeed. Thanks to some good doctors, we're moving into 2011 with a happy step and high hopes. Assuming, of course, that the medical bills don't kill us first.
That was our year. How was yours?
Now that we're a couple of Big Shot Publishers, we want to say...
(Dec. 16, 2010)...what a gigantic pain-in-the-ass it is, being a couple of Big Shot Publishers.
Here was the plan: We'd put together three damned good sci-fi stories (we like 'em, anyway), we'd offer the collection up on Smashwords and Amazon, and we'd go away. We'd be done. We could celebrate the holidays and After Things Went Bad would enter the world as the first HMP publication.
But, as you know, it's never that easy. We had trouble formatting the pages for Smashwords so we tracked down Lucinda Campbell, who did the job for us. Then we knocked on Amazon's door and THEY didn't like what we offered, either. We hadn't changed a thing but paragraphs had gone wonky, the indents were madness, and we couldn't figure out how to fix any of it. We whined at Lucinda so she stepped in and corrected those problems, too. (And charged us not a penny. She's swell.)
Finally, finally, we were done. Except...we weren't done yet. Our novella had appeared on Smashwords but only in its Standard Catalog. The Standard Catalog alone is a terrible place to be. Y'see, with the Standard Catalog, only the seven people who visit the Smashwords site will ever see the story. And those seven people aren't looking for End-of-the-World sf tales. They're primarily searching for romantic super-porn, involving the Girl Next Door, Congorilla, and Tootsie Roll Pops.
No, ATWB needed to be in the Smashwords Premium Catalog. When something is in the Premium Catalog, it can be seen throughout the known universe (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony -- and on and on) and there's a chance that, someday, somewhere, someone might even download the story. It takes days for Smashwords to approve any work for its Premium Catalog. No one knows why. It just does.
We discovered yesterday that Bad was NOT approved by the Smashwords Premium Catalog Committee. Turns out, we had macros in our book (we don't even know what macros are) and we'd spelled "Smashwords" as "SmashWords". So we removed the story, placed it in Word, and hit buttons at random, trying to vanquish the evil macros. We corrected the spelling mistake. And we sent everything back to Smashwords which is, again, going to take days to see if our work deserves to be in the Premium Catalog.
This publishing thing is madness, we tells ya. And expensive, too, but that's a post for another day. It's time to open another bottle of red.
How hard was it to become...
(Dec. 11, 2010)...a couple of Big Shot Publishers? Not hard at all. How hard will it be to become a couple of Big Shot Publishers who manage to sell a significant number of copies of their first publication? We're guessin', that's gonna be tough. Nearly impossible, in fact.
It took us months to get our science fiction mini-anthology on line and that was the easy part. Sell a few copies? That's where we may stumble.
See, even though this delightful mini-anthology contains three full science fiction stories (Mr. Tinker, At Home on Wintebury Circle, and After Things Went Bad) for the low, low price of 99 frickin' cents...and even though you can read it on just about any ereader-like device out there (here)...nobody knows about the thing except you. And, since we hate the hard sell and the soft sell, and since we're not sending out review copies or doing any advertising -- well, it'll be pretty much a miracle if anybody downloads the thing. (When we did our dedication for ATWB, we kept that a secret, too. So there goes a couple of copies we might have shoveled out the door. But who knows? Our friends are as cheap and broke as we are.)
There's a name for trying to sell things without telling anyone about them: Subsurface marketing. The theory goes like this: Instead of Tweeting or Facebooking or doing a worldwide Blog Tour, the Subsurface writer spends their time writing another project. Then another and another. Some fine day, if they're good enough and lucky enough, they'll build a readership and some kind of following.
Then, kind friends, THEN our mini-anthology will sell. That's our weak ass theory, anyway.
We have battled Smashwords...
(Dec. 7, 2010)...and Smashwords won. Damn it.
As we've said a few times before, we're techno-ignorant.Still, it's not like we can't do simple things. We can not blow-up a computer, occasionally pay a bill on-line, we even set up a website. This website so don't be too impressed. So, when the time came to self-pub our own set of stories, we figured we could do that, too. We've read a bunch of self-pubbed work and, frankly, not all of it appeared to have been written by Mensa candidates. We thought, if those guys could figure out Smashwords, so could we.
Turns out, we were wrong.
We wanted After Things Went Bad: Three Tales of the Near Future to go the Smashwords route because, well (a) Smashwords is free; and (b) Smashwords is a really convenient way to make our sci-fi mini-anthology easily available in a lot of formats. The formats? There's a bucket, including formats for the PC, Amazon (Kindle), Barnes and Noble, and the Sony Reader. So we went over to Smashwords (here) and started looking for the Beginner's Manual to All Things Smashwords. Sadly, we found it.
The thing is 77 PAGES LONG. Written in a friendly and confusing manner, it talks about buckets of stuff. Already overwhelmed, we randomly flipped through the pages to find a section called Choose a Paragraph Separation Method -- and our blood ran cold. We flipped again and discovered HOW TO DEFINE TRAILING SPACE FOR BLOCK PARAGRAPH METHOD (their capitals, not our's) -- and it was, game over, man. We don't want to choose a paragraph separation method. We don't care to ever define trailing space for block paragraph method...whatever the hell that means. Let somebody else CHECK FOR EPUBCHECK COMPLIANCE (somebody at the Smashwords factory loves to capitalize stuff, we guess). We threw away the Smashwords Manual of the Damned, opened a bottle of red -- a fun Murphy's 2005 Merlot, as it happens -- and pondered what to do next.
This is what we did next: We found Lucinda Campbell, romance author and a woman without fear. She stepped in, fixed the files, and sent us on our way.
Thanks to her, we're about to become e-publishers.
With the holidays rushing upon us...
(Dec. 3, 2010)...and crushing upon us, we realize we've done little to prepare for the season. Oh, hell, let's be honest: We've done NOTHING to prepare for the upcoming holidays.
Not one inch of the house has been decorated. We've bought no presents. Failed to contribute to a charity. Haven't put up a tree. We've done Dick and All and All just left town.So we'll be brief here and toss in a couple of updates because we know you and you aren't ready to play Santa, either. We can't let the Blog-O-Rama tie up too much of your time, busy peoples. We've all got shopping to do.
To our great surprise, Wicked Games continues to sell digital copies to the discerning readers of sculptor/werewolf/romance lovin'. We actually sold more copies last month than the month before...despite a complete lack of internet interest or book reviews. Oh, don't let us fool you. We're not getting rich here: The average Cobblestone publication sells 200 copies in its first year and we're on track to hit that number. In case you've never been here before, the image to the left is not the cover image to our novella. This particular image is by the wonderful Mimexart and we only wish she'd provided a copy of her work in 300 DPI. You want to see the actual racy photo cover, you'll need to look down below or over in The Bakery Thing section. Still, we were pleased to get our last royalty statement.
On the we've-signed-a-contract front, our editor tells us the publisher has received the signed contracts for Aly's Luck. This would, on the face of it, appear to be wonderful news -- except that we've dealt with editors before, dear hearts, and we know better. Now that the contract is signed, Ye Editor will roll up his sleeves, dig in, and force us to improve our manuscript.
Doesn't he know it's the holiday season? We're not in the mood to work....
Here's lookin' at you...
(Nov. 29, 2010)...pig. No, no, we don't mean you or you. We actually mean this cute little pig.
We've received an oddly-concerned email, wondering if we're still skating along on past pages or if we're working on a new project. We're not machines, you know. AND, last month, we finished the mini-anthology, After Things Went Bad, which oughta count for something. Even if we haven't taken it to the digital press just yet. Honestly. Some people.
Since you ask: We're currently working on a project called Lord Bacon and this public domain picture allows us to go for the cute. We like "cute".
Lord Bacon isn't a short story or a novella or even a novel. "Lord Bacon" isn't, truly, the name of our project at all. But it's awfully close and we're keeping the tale's true name under wraps for now. We've dropped a veil of secrecy over the project because....well, we think we're trying something new with this one. Something no one else has ever done. Something that will stand out, impress our target audience, and give us a shot at a really impressive paycheck. Unless we're wrong.
Because, hidden away in our tiny mountain town, we're truly behind the times. We never text. Harrell rarely carries his cell phone (and hates the thing). We don't Roku or TiVo. So, even when we think we're doing something bold and different, know that we once thought a book trailer was a startlingly fresh idea. Then we adjusted our glasses and found the web is packed with the damned things.
Once we've finished with Lord Bacon (we're on page 62 and the whole shebang should run about 180 pages) and once the project's been launched, we'll share more details. We're calling the whole thing Secret Project Weapon X. As things stand, we think we're looking at March, maybe April, 2011, before we go "live". When that happens, we promise to tell all.
If you're like us, and you like to read comic strips...
(Nov. 25, 2010)...then you hate it when a holiday arrives and the comic writer can't be bothered to do any actual work on that holiday. (This comes to mind because today is American Thanksgiving. Just in case, y'know, you're reading this in the back bedroom of your Romanian cottage.) On a holiday such as this, we've found a few Sloucher Cartoonists who can't actually be bothered to produce a worthwhile strip. Instead, S.Cartoonist will draw a single panel of the strip's main characters. Those characters will be staring out at the readers with a rather vapid expression on their faces. Then the cartoonist will ink in something like Happy Thanksgiving from the gang at Gasoline Alley! -- and call it a day.
This isn't a slam at the beloved Gasoline Alley, one of the world's longest-running comic strips. Yes, during the Dick Moores years, we saw a few of the "holiday strips" but that doesn't mean he was the lone offender. Oh, no, my friends, not even close.
We hate opening a newspaper and finding a non-strip. At least, we used to hate that kind of thing. Now we realize what was really happening.
We now know that the Brave Cartoonist was willingly sacrificing his desire to write a particularly funny comic strip so that his beloved readers would put down their newspapers and wander back into the family circle. Sure, the B.Cartoonist could have delivered a terrific comic strip on that particular holiday (whatever holiday it might be) but consider the cost. Someone would read the strip, start laughing, and that laughter would have drawn the entire family to the newspaper. Everyone would read the strip, laugh...but a few eyes would wander, distracted by the headlines...then they'd start discussing the headlines...then political discussions would start, turn into arguments...and, within minutes, a dear family holiday would have dissolved into tears and fisticuffs.
When those kinds of things happen, the terrorists win.
The B. Cartoonist refused to gamble with his readers' feelings -- and, we know now, neither can we. We'd written a tremendously funny holiday-themed Blog-O-Rama to post today before we realized your laughter would bring your family members to gather around you and your computer...and then someone would want to explore the rest of the 'Rama...and, within minutes, the screaming and the shouting would begin. But not today, dear friends, not a chance. To avoid this possible calamity, we've decided to hold off posting this particular blog until families no longer celebrate American Thanksgiving (should be right around 2021 AD, by our reckoning). If the world's true heroes, the cartoonists, can make such a sacrifice, then so can we.
Still, in keeping with tradition, let us close with this: Happy Thanksgiving from the gang at Gasoline Alley!
So did we sign a publishing contract...
(Nov. 21, 2010)...or did we walk? Funny you should ask.
Well, since nobody comes by the Blog-O-Rama on Sundays except you and you, we'll tell you as long as you keep it a secret: We signed.
How could we not? Ye Olde Publisher and its Board of Directors really stepped up and we got almost everything we'd asked for. The only issue still in contention? Our new publishers refused to move their company from the UK.
No, no, we know what you're thinking but you're wrong. This picture is not out-of-focus and fuzzy. Sadly, your eyes are beginning to fail. It's all the book-reading you've been doing. Now, you could go to one of those expensive Eye Doctors and hope that he (or she) isn't one of the many Insane Killer Eye Doctors that practice in your home state...or you could pick yourself up an e-reader, relieve your eye strain, and live happily ever after.
Your choice: Insane Killer Eye Doctor versus attractive and fashionable e-reader. We know you'll make the right call.
You see, the original contract was for both print and electronic versions of Aly's Luck. As best as we can tell, Y. O. P. expects their writers to show up for the book signings they arrange (this was stated pretty emphatically in our first contract)...and the only book signings we've seen take place in Britain. Which is why, in the end, we wanted to keep our print rights. If a book signing is to take place, let's do it here, in the USA. Because, although we have great hopes for our novel, we're kinda opposed to being out-of-pocket in an accounting of Royalties vs. Air Fare.
We're cheap that way.
Do we have lift-off...
(Nov. 17, 2010)...or are we grounded? Specifically, did we ever receive a contract for Aly's Luck or was someone just blowin' smoke up our skirts? If you're new to the Blog-O-Rama, look at the Nov. 1 listing to get up to speed. And it's about time you got here.
Well, we did receive a contract for our s-f novel. When the contract arrived, it was a pretty decent document but it wasn't perfect. (We've yet to receive a perfect contract but hope springs eternal.) Here's a couple of our concerns:
This isn't a new publisher -- it is, instead, a highly-regarded publisher and one we've enjoyed reading in the past -- but science fiction is new to them. The publisher has always been print-based in the past but this newest effort involves establishing a new imprint and the new imprint is going to focus on e-books, with print to follow (presumably, if sales warrant such an adventure. Because how insane would you have to be to print a book that can't even sell electronic copies?). Since this is a British publisher, and since they want the authors to attend book signings in the UK, this is a problem.
There's also this: In the past, this publisher has always asked for a loooooong lead time prior to publication. When you're publishing award-winning books, you need time to massage the words thoroughly. We love our book and we'd give it an award but nobody else is stepping to the podium to announce our names. So we don't believe the loooooooong lead time is necessary for our manuscript.
So we contacted our new favorite editor and asked for an amendment to the contract. We want to retain print rights. And we want a much-reduced lead time before we go to press. The rest of the world may not be drumming their fingers anxiously, while they wait to see our book, but we'd like to have it available no later than 2012.
Ye Editor says such requests have to be floated past the Board of Directors (!) and he'll have to get back to us. When he does, we'll get back to you, too.
The #1 reason we admire this...
(Nov. 13, 2010)...Mark Ellis guy? He's got BALLS.
Y'see, he's been writing full-time since forever. Hooking up with Gold Eagle, he wrote a little Mack Bolan (the Executioner character) and a few of the popular Deathlands novels. He did such a good job that the Eagle people asked him to create a new series. Working under the James Axler pen name, he did just that, inventing the Outlanders-verse.
How did things work out? He managed to write 45 volumes (45!!) in the series. The novels sold, according to BookScan, two quadrillion copies. But when other writers began working on Outlanders and the story continuity went wonky -- per Ellis, "The series turned into a big glop of nonsense" -- he turned his back and walked away.
"It's my feeling I'm pretty much the last of the breed," he told us. "A guy who created a successful mass market paperback series and kept it going for well over a decade with no publisher promotion and sales that were generated basically word-of-mouth. I don't think we're likely to see anything like it released even by mid-level publishers again. The audience simply isn't there in any substantial way."
On his own, he wrote a mega-manly novel called Cryptozoica. (Harrell thinks the title is hard to spell. M.E. doesn't care: "I wanted a title that suggested Cryptozoology, as well as hinted at ancient mysteries," he responded. "There was, of course, the Cryptozoic Era, during which the first multi-celled life forms appeared. So, all things being equal, Cryptozoica is the perfect title for the book." Think: A more colorful, ballsier, Jurassic Park.) The manuscript was good enough to land him one of the world's top literary agents, Richard Curtis. But even Curtis couldn't sell the manuscript when Black Wednesday arrived and the publishing world crumbled. Nobody was buying anything. Sadly, we know. So Ellis and his wife sucked it up --
-- and published the book themselves. This was a tremendous gamble. M.E. has a reputation. He has a monthly nut to meet. We mentioned Ellis Mansion out on Fisher's Island, right? And all of his polo ponies? He's used to a certain level of success -- and a self-published novel offers no guarantees. Even with his fan base, it was a risky move.
Here's what happened: "The response -- both critically and financially -- has been overwhelmingly positive, beyond what I'd hoped," he tells us, "and, yes, we plan to do it again in the near future with a couple of other projects. Jeff Slemons, the illustrator, is definitely on board for the sequel but it's a ways down the road. And, yes, there has been interest in Cryptozoica from a couple of Hollywood quarters. Hopefully I'll have more information about that in the near future."
When he gets that info, we won't report it here. We're already so jealous of Ellis & Ellis that we could spit. Still, we have more than a grudging admiration for anyone with the courage to take the self-pub leap. So we tip our hats to this Mark Ellis guy. And we think Cryptozoica sounds like a blast.
But enough about him. It's time we got back to talking about our own work....
The #1 reason we can't STAND this...
(Nov. 9, 2010)...Mark Ellis guy? He's got us spooked.
We first noticed Ellis several months ago. He'd self-published an s-f adventure novel (more about the novel later) and the book's cover caught out attention. The storyline intrigued us. So we did a little investigation and we discovered...Ellis is living our whole damned life. But better.
Harrell's first published-for-money story? A comic book story in Eerie, a horror magazine. It's also Harrell's only professional comic work. Meanwhile, Mark Ellis co-founded his own comic book COMPANY. He's worked for a bunch of comic publishers and he's written dozens of comics. (Check here if you don't believe us.) He is -- at this very second -- writing still more comics for Moonstone Books (two different series, including one about the Justice Machine).
Our first published novel? A tiny YA mystery, with decent sales and a follow-up printing in the UK. Ellis? He wrote a half-hundred novels, built a huge fan following, and his books can be found, to this day, well -- everywhere. His Outlanders series alone sold over a million copies.
Ellis also has a lovely wife, Melissa. Melissa works with her husband -- like Renée works with Harrell. Melissa is a graphic designer -- like Renée. She's an artist -- like Renée. She writes -- like Renée...but, unlike Renée or Harrell, she and her husband have created a wonderfully popular non-fiction book called The Everything Guide to Writing Graphic Novels. So, just as M.E.appears to be a more successful version of Harrell, M.M.E. appears to be a more successful version of Renée.
It turns out we're the Bizarro-version of the Ellis clan. We am not happy about this. No wonder we're forced to make-do in a modest desert shack while they romp about their 55-room mansion on Fishers Island. Okay, yes, we might be wrong about the Fishers Island thing. We don't have any idea where Mark Ellis lives but we're positive he and his wife must have a mansion somewhere. Staffed by maids and gardeners and a poor, arthritic man servant named Burksley. And the masters of the house treat Burksley poorly, yes, they do, just because they can.
Ellis and his wife even have better hair than we do. Seriously. You can look it up, here or here or here (or at the two sites shown above -- because, of course, M.E. & Co. have several different websites while we struggle along with our lone Blog-O-Rama). Coiffed and talented as they are, the Ellis couple have one saving grace. One single redeeming feature that we admire very much.
But this post has gone on too long already. Come back in four days and learn all.Let us pause for...
(Nov. 5, 2010)...commercial interruption.
At this very moment, Prescott's own Sacred Bean is sponsoring a show for one of the city's finest artists. (Hint: It isn't Harrell.) The Bean is a fun coffee house, offering poetry readings, live music, spontaneous karaoke and whatever madness fills the proprietor's head on any given day. Francesco is unlike any other shop owner we've ever met. He embraces the beauty of the weird and different and he does so every day. He welcomes just about anybody even you and you to have a Certified Organic cup o' joe while you ponder the universe.
This November, he's dotted the coffee house walls with 19 of Renée's oil paintings. If you stop by, you'll see half-skeleton women, lovely flowers, an evil Barbie and her beautiful twin, Cinderella Barbie. You'll see works with titles like Who's Zoomin' Who? and Devil's Claw. There's no guarantee you'll like the artwork but, we promise, you won't be bored by the sights around you.
Swing by tomorrow night and Renée will even offer you some nibbles and a glass of wine (or, if you're not yet of age or inclination, a glass of cider). And, if neither appeals, you can always grab a Certified Organic cup o' joe.
See you there.
You want to win our hearts? You...
(Nov. 1, 2010)...don't need to compliment our home (needs some yard work) or our cooking (we prefer take-out) or our kids (they're brilliant and gorgeous but that goes without saying). You want to make us smile, all you need to do is comment favorably on our work.
It's been awhile since we've had such sweet nothings whispered in our ears. When we have heard good things, our beta readers have been saying them -- and, as much as we love our beta readers, we've been kinda hoping to hear something positive from someone in a more official capacity.
A couple of days ago, a wonderful thing happened. We heard nice things about Aly's Luck.
Of all our literary babies, Aly's Luck is one of our two favorites. We know you're not supposed to have favorites when it comes to your babies but everyone does. It's time our actual children knew it, too. Sorry, Matthew and Rachel, but Todd's our favorite. Todd, honey, this December you'll find an extra twenty in your Christmas stocking. Just like last year. Nobody's been interested in our science fiction novel lately. Oh, one editor asked for the complete manuscript in March but, since then, he's practically vanished. We contacted him a few weeks ago and he said he still hadn't read our work. He made no promises as to when he would read it, either. If we'd written something with a Steampunk vibe, we'd have had a better shot. Humorous science fiction is a tough sell.
So we sent Luck's first three chapters to a new publisher. The executive editor liked the beginning (!) and bumped the pages over to her company's s-f editor. He liked the beginning (!) enough to ask for the full manuscript. Yesterday, he sent us an e-mail.(WARNING! BRAGGING AHEAD!!)The e-mail read like this: "I've now had the opportunity to read your manuscript and would be happy for ******* to publish your hilarious book. There's a kind of eclectic mix of 'The Stainless Steel Rat', Monty Python, Indiana Jones, Dr. Who and the Bob Hope, Bing Crosby 'Road to...' movies. There's even a sense of 'Trainspotting' (or 'Shawshank Redemption') with the escape through 'the worst toilet in Scotland' scene."
And then he went on to say many other lovely things about the novel. We know, we know, it's hard to believe. So what happens next? We have to see the contract and decide if it works for us. We know we like this particular editor, though. We like him bunches.
He had us at "hilarious".
What do women want? Turns out...
(Oct. 27, 2010)...many of them are interested in sweaty man-on-man erotic action. At least, that's what we're hearing lately.
The other day, we heard from a friend who writes science fiction. (We met him in one of the SF forums because we, too, enjoy dabbling in s-f.) He wrote a fun, futuristic novel, sent it out for submission to the greater part of the Western world, and the book landed with a tiny but respected publisher. It went to print, a few ads were run, and the novel garnered some nice reviews. Our buddy pounded the drum, loudly, with interviews and blogspots and a strong internet presence. He had high hopes for his creation. Then he received his first royalty statement. In the first six months -- which often counts as the best months for book sales -- his numbers are in the double digits. As in, he's sold fewer than a hundred copies.
Yesterday, we heard from a friend who writes romantic fiction. (We met her in one of the Romance forums because we, too, enjoy dabbling in romance.) She writes the dirty, wet 'n' wild words that we don't even have the courage to read and her e-book sales have always been solid. Lately, she's been making some serious money. She explained: With her last two novellas, she exchanged boy-meets-girl for boy-meets boy...and provided some interesting twists on some kinky activities. She writes under a pen name, doesn't do interviews -- even with US! -- and her internet presence is limited to her website. Her last two works have each hit four digit sales in their first month. She expects to see sales in the 3,000-5000 range before the year is out and she collects a big piece of each download.
We assumed her audience was largely male but she says not. "Boys do the freaky stuff," she wrote. "Girls like to read about it." Hey, she's the expert.
None of this changes anything. Our s-f writing friend loves what he wrote and he's currently writing a sequel to the book -- which, he assumes at this point, he'll have to self-publish. Our romance-writing friend loves writing about heartbreak and bed sports and she'll continue doing so while collecting some lovely paychecks.
And us? We'll ponder the mysteries of the literary world as we pop the cork on another bottle of wine. A 2007 Chalone Vineyard Syrah, since you ask. They produced 28,879 bottles of the stuff -- they really did -- and someone has to help them drink it. Might as well be us.
Get your reviews while you can...
(Oct. 23, 2010)...because internet book reviewer, Luke Forney, is considering closing his doors for awhile. He's doing it while he's at the top of his game, too. Last we heard, Luke Reviews was getting as many as 1,000 hits a day.
Burdened by a huge class load and a new job, the man's simply too busy to keep the site running. Oh, he'll finish the books that are in queue for review and if a publisher sends him a new tome, we expect that volume will get the Luke Review treatment, too. But after that? After that, we're all out of luck. Personally, we expect LF to focus on his future -- and that includes writing his own novels.
We've never met Luke face-to-face and he has steadfastly ignored our requests for a photo, even after we said we were only joking about the voodoo curse. We're almost positive he's this guy, though, because we found his pic under the "F" listing of public domain photographs. Clearly, this is either Luke Forney or William "Ice Pick" Forgi, pig butcher and suspected serial killer. We're going with Luke 'cause, clearly, this gent is dressed exactly right for book-reviewing.
The scorecard, as we see it, reads like this: We lose our favorite book reviewer. And a talented new writer will soon have the time to provide some strong competition in the battle for the handful of publishing slots out there.
*sigh* Another shark in the tank. Ain't it the way?
Our newest effort might be a Dollar Store special to you...
(Oct. 19, 2010)...but it's pretty important to us. We wanted a good cover for the piece but we realized the really terrific cover artists demand hundreds of dollars for their work. If money was no object and we wanted an image to sing to our readers, we'd knock on their doors in a heartbeat.
Sadly, that's not our situation. Money is most definitely an issue when someone is about to attempt their first self-published 99-cent mini-anthology. It might be different if science fiction fans were e-mailing us daily, begging to get a peek at our words. It might even be different if we had a more upbeat title for our collection. Something like Happy Bunny Gets Even Happier. With a title like After Things Went Bad, we're figuring our audience will be pretty much composed of a single depressed s-f fan with an e-reader. For that kind of following, we just can't afford one of them there high-priced graphic artists.
We locked our cover budget at ten bucks. Nothing but the best for you and you. We rummaged through a half-dozen stock photo sites, found a striking image that reflects the mood of ATWB, and bought the picture.
Then we put Renée to work. Once upon a time, she was a graphic artist and her owned-and-operated 1 Rat Studio did some impressive work. Although she's currently busy with...well, a lot of stuff (some of which we'll share)...she blew the dust off of her design software and went to work. A few hours later, she was done.
Came in under budget, too.
Today, we learned a pair of life...
(October 14, 2010)...lessons. It turns out, no matter what the Las Vegas Review-Journal says, you need to be wary when you buy a bottle of red wine with a screw top. That's Lesson One for this fine Thursday.
We've been avoiding Australian wines because, more often than not, those crazy Aussies prefer to place screw tops on their vino. They use the metal caps because they have no other choice; cork is impossible to find on their lonely continent. In fact, cork is so rare Down Under that's it referred to as corkanium and sells for thousands of Australian shillings per cork foot.
None of the cork stuff is true. Less than delighted with our screw-topped 2006 Bleasdale Langhorne Crossing, we've decided to drink the bottle away and it could be...just possibly...that we're feeling a little silly.
What's Lesson Two for today? It seems, if someone is going to publish their own work, they need an ISBN before they go to print. An ISBN stands for "International Standard Book Number" and it's the worldwide and unique identifier for every book out there. Sure, YOU knew that but not everyone is as learned as you, dear heart. We could get an ISBN number for free from Amazon but...BIG but here...Amazon would then become our publisher of record. Screw that. We'll buy our own ISBN and become our own publisher.
As an ISBN-owning publisher, we wanted a corporate logo. We contacted Matthew Turner, graphic designer, to provide the logo and here it is.We like our new logo.
Even though we're now corporate moguls, we hope you realize we'll still here for you and you. Most days, anyway. Well, not on holidays. Or weekends. And we try to wrap up early on Fridays and we come in late on Mondays. But other than that....
Maybe it was just the wine talkin'...
(Oct. 10, 2010)...but we were getting pretty jazzed about the whole "Magical Bakery"/self-publishing thing. After all, if things worked out, we'd be done with the slushpile forever. Acting as our own publishers, we could be done with literary agents as well. (Our previous agent experience wasn't exactly swellegant.) Life was looking good.
The wine doing all that talking? It was a lovely 2004 Sheep's Back Barossa Valley Old Vine Shiraz. You'll taste a little vanilla, a lot of black cherry and plum, and your mouth will be glad it's part of your face.
Then we made a terrible mistake and did some research. As you and you know, research is the killer of dreams and needs to be avoided unless you want to deal with the ugliness of reality. The reality we had to face was this: Once After Things Went Bad goes live as a 99-cent download, how much of that not-quite-a-buck do we get to take home?
Since AFWB is going to be available via Amazon, Smashwords, iPad and PubIt! (a new Barnes and Noble thingie) and since EVERY one of the outfits pays their writers differently, we had to do some legwork to get the numbers. Turns out, Smashwords will give us a big piece of every dollar download. The folks at Apple will give us 60% of the sales price. PubIt! drops our cut to 40%...and Amazon, the world champion of e-publication, the King of electronic Kings, will ship us a mere thirty-five cents for every download.
The Amazon people would really like us to raise the price to $2.99 a copy. If we were smart enough to do that, they'd spike our royalty rate and we'd collect over two dollars of each sale. But we're not that smart. Also, we ARE that cheap. We'd never pay three bucks for three electronic short stories and we know you: You're just as miserly as we are. As broke, too. And we love you for it.
But what does that mean, as far as paying for file conversions, an editor and cover art? Since we anticipate selling far fewer copies or our s-f collection than of our spicy werewolf romance, we're gonna have to pinch a few pennies if we ever want to get into profit. As techno-ignorant as we are, we'll be doing the e-files ourselves. We may have to go cheap on our editor and rely, instead, on a ragtag team of beta readers to slap our words into shape. For our cover, we considered looking for photo images in public domain -- like that cool skull image above, from Media Militia -- before deciding, no, we had to get a good cover, no matter how much it cost.
As long as "no matter how much it cost" is under ten dollars. We'll let you know how Things turns out.
We first learned about the Magical Bakery concept...
(Oct. 6, 2010)...from Dean Wesley Smith, semi-famous author and a writer possessed of an unusual trait for writers: Common sense.
DWS (called "the Deanster" by his friends) first talked about the Magical Bakery on his website. His concept goes like this: A baker makes a pie, carves it into slices, and sells each slice of the pie until it's gone. For a writer, his/her words are the pie and the writer's stories make each slice of that pie. But the writer's bakery is a magical one, in that s/he can sell the same slice of pie over and over again. For instance, DWS ("the Wes-inator" to those who know him most intimately) sold a story to an anthology...and then sold the same story to ANOTHER anthology...and then sold a hold on the story to a Hollywood media outfit...and still has the story to sell again and again, should he chose, via Kindle or Smashwords or iBooks...and on and on.
By the way, you don't have to be a writer to start your own Magical Bakery. An artist selling glicées is doing the same thing. A photographer selling prints or stock images is doing the same thing. But, we've gotta tell you, it's a nice business to have, this Magical Bakery.
Inspired by DWS ("Mighty King Smith!" to his legions of fans), we're about to open our own M. Bakery with After Things Went Bad: Three Tales of the Near Future. And, absolutely, this will be our first venture into self-publishing -- DWS strongly supports self-pub, wouldn't you know? -- and, absolutely, this bold new step makes us nervous.
But we'll talk more about it next time.
When we're not writing or wining, we...
(Oct. 2, 2010)...frequently end up wasting much too much time just screwin' around on the internet. Oh, you and you do, too, don't deny it. You're just smart enough not to blog about it.
We haven't been complete slackers. We managed to finish After Things Went Bad: Three Tales of the Near Future yesterday and we're shipping it off to one of our lovely readers today. (We know a great reader for this project but we've imposed on him before. This time, we're knocking on a different door.) Today, desperately needing to roll us the sleeves and tackle a new writing project, we wondered, instead, how we'd look if we were Simpsons characters.
We found a "Simpson character generator" but the damned thing doesn't work. So we wandered around the 'net -- Hey! Tony Curtis has passed away...and writer Christopher Pike is stirring up a controversy! -- and came across the character-generating "SP Studio" right here. We put down our glass of wine and went to work.
Since you're asking, yes, Renée was without clothing when she painted herself with an eye in her mouth. Harrell is still NOT a cowboy but continues to look good in a hat.
If you ask us, this has been a day well-spent.
Hey! Our novella received its first review and it turns out...
(Sept. 28, 2010)...we suck.
Okay, that was a little harsh. It's probably just our bottle of FLORAL de Uncastellum 2009 talking. (Good wine. Screwy spelling.)
Since Cobblestone Press e-shipped our pages, we've knocked on several doors, trying to get someone to read and review our paranormal romance, Wicked Games. Of course, YOU know about that! But what if this is the month that a new person comes to the Blog-O-Rama? They need a little back story. To our surprise, the good people at Sensual Reads.com finally stepped up and did the job. We were surprised because -- well, um, we'd never thought to ask them to take a peek. Just like they never thought to let us know they'd reviewed the darn thing.
So, today, we stumbled across their quickie review. (That's not a slight, by the way. All of their reviews are quick reviews. It's actually kind of a fun site if sensual romance reading is your kind of thing.) So what did they think of WG?
Well, it got a thumbs' up -- which is 'way better than a thumbs' down -- and they flagged the novella as Like. Like is good, as it turns out. It certainly beats, "Don't waste your $4.99!" But on the star rating? 3.5 outta 5.0.
Their bottom line? An interesting were tale with the were consumed by the blood moon. The story unfolds with a mystery twist that throws Kelli and Dravon back together. The love that Dravon feels for Kelli projects through the story and I really liked the sculpture elements that play into the heated attraction they feel for one another. The reviewer gave the story a "Sensuality Rating" of Sultry which, in Sensual Reads lingo means,"Like kissing your hot first cousin".
Still and all, our very first review. And, now, time for another glass of red.
Since you've asked...
(Sept. 23, 2010)...we might as well share with you: Things aren't goin' so bad right now.
On the plus side, we're completing a mini-anthology of s-f stories called After Things Went Bad. We're so tired of waiting for someone else to acknowledge our existence, we just might electronically publish this puppy by ourselves. Because it's time for all of us to start saying "yes" to what we want instead of waiting for other people to say "no".
Si a todo! Atomico!
Maybe it's time to say...
(Sept. 18, 2010)..."yes".
A few years back, British humorist Danny Wallace wrote a book called Yes Man. In the book, he claimed to have met a wise, spiritual, Christ-like man who told him he needed to say "yes" more often. So, for a period of six months, that's what Danny did. He said "Yes, yes, yes!" to everything and then wrote a book about it.
Do we think Danny really met a wise, spiritual, Christ-like man who told him he need to say "yes" more often? We do not. We believe Danny met his literary agent, who told him he needed a nutty new idea in order to sell another book. Whoever gave him the idea, he produced a funny little story from it, sold the funny little story to the movies, and saw the film become a big hit. We begrudge him nothing.
It got us to thinking. Maybe we should be more open to new ideas. Maybe we should go out on a limb and try...well, try that certain something we've been discussing. And discussing. And discussing.
For us, it's a bold idea. A huge change in our professional lives as writers. But it's waaaaay out of our comfort zone.
Do we have the courage to say "yes"?
At the beginning of the year...
(Sept. 11, 2010)...we had a brief correspondence with the lovely Zellie Blake. We don't remember how we came across ZB -- probably through one of the writers' boards -- but she caught our attention and held it. She came across as someone who was bright, upbeat and funny. She was a willing beta reader (for people who like that kind of thing and, hey, we were people who like that kind of thing) and she was a writer herself. She'd written a novel called Spliced Lightning and we had the opportunity to read a chunk of the book. It was a little rough but entertaining and the story had real potential. Zellie was on the agent hunt, back then, and we wished her well.
We knew we'd see her again because Zellie had offered to interview us for Chimera Critiques once Whispers came out. We were delighted. Then, when our publication date went wonky, we forgot to let her know. A couple of days ago, we decided we should drop her a line and let her know our book's publication had been...well, delayed at the least.
We shouldn't have waited.
Sadly, we learned that Zellie had just passed away. If you go to her website, she tells her story with humanity and a great deal of bravery. Cancer, that awful bitch bastard of a killer, found her in June and took her in September. Two days before she died, she was able to announce that Spliced Lightning was now available in print and as an ebook (and, if you'd like to order it, go here. Proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society).
If you're a creative person, you know why this matters. Zellie's words, her story, made it into the world for others to see and read and enjoy. It doesn't make things right but it does makes things just a tiny bit better.
We shall Tweet no more...
(Sept. 7, 2010)...forever. Or, at least, not until next year.
When we signed our YA mystery/paranormal/romance contract, we had to agree to create a web presence. Because of the contract, this website appeared. The publishers suggested we join Facebook. Then MySpace. Then CrimeSpace. You didn't even know there WAS a CrimeSpace, did you? You'll find us here. And, finally, Twitter.
Although we contractually had to create all of these accounts, we didn't actually have to do anything with them. So, on the advice of several fellow writers, we mostly didn't. Our fellow writers had homes in these same places and none of them had seen an uptick in book sales. That doesn't mean we didn't do anything: We started this website and, amazingly, discovered we enjoyed posting on the Blog-O-Rama. Because we like being here, MarsNeedsWriters.com is stickin' around. We've grown fond of you and you. But for the rest?
We've made a few weak, blind stabs at making Facebook work but we gave up on MySpace the millisecond our MySpace account appeared. (Our friend, V., told us her MySpace account had thousands of...MySpace friends? Followers? MySpacians?...and no one cares.) We continued to exist on CrimeSpace -- if you call two postings in a year's time an "existence" -- because we actually like to visit CrimeSpace.
Then there was Twitter. Twitter just irritates us. For quite awhile, we had one follower, which was one more follower than we'd earned. Then we got another. Another. On a roll, we tried a few rifts on ebook writing but our hearts weren't in the game. We wanted out. So out we are.
If you're one of our eight Twitter followers, we'd like to say (a) sorry; (b) it wasn't you, it was us; and (c) have you considered following us on MySpace?
So what would a Christian think...
(September 3, 2010)...think of our horror novel, The Atheist's Daughter? We kinda wondered ourselves. Happily, we've found out.
A few months back, we found a beta reader for T.A.D. Kathy read the book and gave us some terrific advice. Even better, she really liked what we'd written. But Kathy is very much an adult and we wanted to know what a teenager would think of the manuscript. After all, we'd like to appeal to all ages because, we've discovered, almost all ages have enough money to buy books.
We found our target audience in the 15 year-old C.B. She didn't know us, had never heard of MarsNeedsWriters.com, but we found her, anyway. C.B. is no fool -- she wasn't going to volunteer to read some stranger's entire/possibly terrible novel -- but she was willing to give the first few chapters a try. After the first few chapters, she offered to read the rest. When she was done, she gave us her report.
Until then, she hadn't mentioned her religious faith (and we'd never thought to ask); we were surprised to discover she was a Christian. Our novel isn't faith-based...after all, our heroine is an atheist and so is her mother...but it isn't against faith, either (after all, our hero wants to be a preacher). So we breathed a huge sigh of relief when C.B. said she liked the book. She made our day when she said she looked forward to seeing the novel at the bookstore. And that she wanted to read the sequel. AND that she was volunteering, in advance, to be our beta reader for the sequel.
Thanks, C.B. You rock. Despite all of the kind words -- and they are appreciated, truly -- we want to do one more rewrite. If things hold true to form, our 60,000 word novel is about to shrink a little smaller....
Here's what we've learned about...
(August 31, 2010)...writing sexy werewolf romance novellas: It pays.
Thanks to you and you and, especially, you, we've just received our very first royalty checks from Cobblestone Press. When August rolled past mid-point and we hadn't seen a royalty check for July, we honestly wondered if anyone had bought a copy of Wicked Games.
Y'see, we've continued to shake the bushes for our very first review of the story...and, so far, we've had a some promises but no results. No one has knocked on the Blog-O-Rama door to say they've loved the story/hated the story, our family members haven't purchased the thing (a strange group, our family members, and they almost never visit the website. Which allows us to say things like, "a strange group, our family members"), and even our financially-stricken best friends haven't picked up a copy. (But those friends DO come to this website so we want to say right here, right now...you rock!)
So we were feeling a little down. Then, today, Renée received a royalty check. She was delighted. Then Harrell received a second royalty check -- we forgot that CP pays each half of a writing team their half of the royalties -- and we were doubly delighted.
Oh, don't let us kid you: We're not gettin' rich here. (If we were rich, our family members would haunt this website like a mausoleum. They may be a little weird but they're not that weird.) Our windfall is in the three figures and we've got several months to go before we have a shot at being thousand-aires. If we ever get there at all.
We don't care. Tonight, we open the GOOD wine.
One of us has put on a little weight...
(August 26, 2010)...we're just sayin'. Not pointing fingers or anything like that but can you guess which one of us is tipping the scales?
So we've both gone back to the gym and, again, missed our every-four-days update on the mighty Blog-O-Rama. It's not like we haven't been busy, it's just that...well, we haven't been busy with fun stuff. No kayak trips, no wine tastings, just the ol' nose to the grindstone. Always (seldom) trying to improve ourselves, we're willing to try to improve our manuscripts, too. To that end, we sent The Atheist's Daughter out to a former reader for Writers House.
Writers House is a NYC literary agency and so smokin' that even their assistants have assistants. One such person appeared at Absolute Write -- our favorite writing forum -- ran through her credentials and offered to give a free looksie at the first 50 pages of any writer's manuscript. She used to give a thumbs' up/thumbs' down on the novels that came over the transom at W. House and she volunteered her critical eye for the AW writers. She promised to say what was good, what was bad...and she'd do it for free.
We love free. So we jumped at the offer, shipped off our pages, and waited to see how we should change our book's beginning. Caitie F. quickly responded with this: Your novel is the worst, most cliché-ridden garbage I've ever read in my life. By the time I'd finished your first page, I was praying for death so that I wouldn't have to read another word of this injustice to the English language. Quit writing. I beg of you. Quit writing now.
Naw, she didn't say that. (Although we feared she'd say such things.) (Well, one of us worried about it.) (Okay, okay...it was the hippo.) To paraphrase, she said the writing was good, the story was interesting, and she liked the descriptions/the characters/the creepy bits. She pretty much gave us a high five for the full 50 pages. She also liked our query letter, saying -- "This is the kind of query I always hoped I would find in my stack."
Many thanks, Caitie F. We appreciate your feedback. We only wish you STILL worked at Writers House....
We look up and it's...
(August 20, 2010)...past time we update the Blog-O-Rama again. Pardon us if we're a little grumpy this morning. We hate to let you and you down.
We'd be a little grumpy, anyway: Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show (it's an electronic magazine, we tells ya) just passed on our short story, At the Circus. It didn't come as a big surprise -- OSXIMS rejects stories by the bucket load -- but nobody welcomes a rejection. Plus, y'know, now we have to find another market, make another pitch, work, work, work...and, frankly, we're feeling a little lazy.
The Atheist Daughter, meanwhile, sits without answer in an agent's submission pile -- after the agent requested it. Aly's Luck sits without answer in a publisher's submission pile -- after the editor asked for it. In both cases, we sent the pages out weeks ago....
Rather than sit around whining, we should be plotting our next novel. Instead, we hit the local cinema this afternoon to watch Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The theater was nearly empty and the movie's weirdly quirky...but we really enjoyed it. After the show, we picked up a bottle of Clos Du Bois Pinot Noir 2006. We like fruity wines and this one is supposed to contain all kinds of cherry/strawberry/raspberry goodness.
Just because the day started in a bad way doesn't mean it needs to end up that way.
Not all stories...
(August 15, 2010)...have a happy ending. Whispers, our Young Adult mystery novel, does have a happy ending but you'll have to wait to buy it. Our original publisher isn't releasing our book this month. In fact, our original publisher isn't releasing Whispers at all.
This is a good thing.
Understand that we don't have a beef with the publisher. Owning a small, independent company, the CEO is trying to fight the good fight. (Although she's oddly offended if someone refers to her company as a "small" independent publisher. But a cat is a cat, even if you glue feathers to its legs and call it a bird.) When we asked for our release from our contract, she responded warmly and returned all of our rights to us. She did us a solid and we like her.
That said, why didn't we stay in her stable of writers? We had our issues with the company but, c'mon, this isn't the time or place to discuss them. Even with you and you. And you know how much we love you guys. Just know that our novel isn't coming out in August.
And know that we're okay with this. But we're not okay with the knowledge that we are absolutely and completely out of red wine. Oh, the humanity....
Exactly how are we spending...
(August 10, 2010)...these dog days of summer? We're glad you and you asked. Things are happening -- but not all of those things are good.
Oh, our $5 ebook cover experiment worked out nicely. The amazing Mimexart did us proud and the image to your left is proof of that. This is cover #3 of 3 and we like every one of 'em.
We're still dropping by Kiva.org on occasion and have just made a loan to Telman Varosyan of Karnout, Armenia. Telman needed more fertilizer for his vegetable farm, Kiva provided the cash, and we've just chipped in $25, too. It seemed to us that writers and fertilizer were a natural fit.
But dark clouds are gathering over our Young Adult mystery, Something Wicked. Even though our publisher continues to show the title as Coming Soon, we wouldn't bet on it. An August release date isn't happening. Even a September release seems doubtful.
Right this very minute, we're feeling pretty grumpy....
So how is our sexy, saucy, spicy...
(August 5, 2010)...bit of werewolf romance doing? We don't have any idea.
We DO know that two romance sites have promised to review Wicked Games but neither one has gotten around to it. We've discovered a file-sharing site, where a couple of bums are asking someone to post the novella for free. But has anyone actually bought a download? Only Cobblestone Press knows for sure.
So what do we know, at this point in time? We know how much we like the covers that Mimexart created for us and our novella. The image in the left-hand corner is one of our covers; the second cover is directly below this post; and sometime in the near, near future, we'll post the third cover. Each cover was sent to us in 2D and 3D and we received .jpg and .psd files of each. We were so impressed we just had to ask Mimexart a few questions about herself.
Here's what we learned: Miriam Uribe is Mimexart's real name and she became a professional artist in 2003. She received her Art degree in Mexico in 2006 and decided to travel the world in 2008. Primarily Spanish-speaking (and if you go to her website -- here -- know that it's primarily written in Spanish, too), she e-mailed us to say, "I wanted to see the world and learn from others. I wanted to meet other people, see other races, experience other languages. I wanted to develop my character and enrich my creativity." In 2009, she went to the Caribbean, where she received an invitation from the Prime Minister (!) to become a teacher at the Community College of Saint Vincent. In Christmas, she went to London with her boyfriend. Since then, she's remained in the UK while continuing to model and paint. In the next few months, she plans to have her first art exhibition.
If you're like us, you're wondering how somebody so damned cool ended up at fiverr.com. "To be honest, this is the perfect way to keep me busy in all aspects, creatively and mentally," Miriam tell us."Also, the jobs are helping me learn a new design program (which is my nightmare because I'm not a graphic designer but I like to teach myself to do new things)." Okay, we get that. But doing an ebook cover for five bucks? Why, oh why, did she ever take the gig?
It turns out, our request amused her: "I created your book covers because nobody ever asked me to do one for a romantic-drama-novella before. It was fun and I'm happy that you like them."
That we do. We've posted the covers on Facebook, we've talked about them at Absolute Write, and now we're telling you and you. Spread the news! If you feel like spreading the news. It's not like we're your bosses or anything.
Sure, we like to save a buck...
(August 1, 2010)...but we're not stupid. When we wanted to find the cheapest ebook cover ever, we knew better than to contact one of those fancy-dancy big money illustrators. Those guys wouldn't have given us the time of day. Instead, we went to fiverr.com.
At fiverr.com, people do all kinds of things. You want someone to build you an "awesome website"? Somebody at fiverr promises to do just that for just five dollars. Want someone to pose as your Facebook girlfriend for a week? You can buy that, too, for five bucks. What we wanted was an ebook cover -- and we bet you can guess how much we paid.
Fiverr offers all kinds of people willing to do ebook covers. We could have had a "high quality" cover, a "professional" cover or a "fabulous" cover. We contacted our first designer and told him we'd written a sexy romance novella. Told him the story had already been published, already had a lovely cover that we liked very much and this cover is the one we'd continue to use and promote. But, said us, we wanted the cheapest ebook cover ever and we thought it would be fun to get one for five smackeroos. We told the designer that we'd blog about it and might use his cover at other locations, such as Absolute Write. We told him we might mock the cover ("Look what you get for five bucks!") or might praise the cover ("Look what you get for five bucks!") and there were no guarantees which way we'd go.
We said the novel's name was Wicked Games and the storyline was this: College girl meets the man of her dreams, a talented sculptor, but he's really a werewolf. Everything ends with a Happily Ever After but not before much drama ensues. After our initial e-mail, we never heard from this designer again.
So we contacted a second designer, told 'im what we wanted...and never heard from him again. We contacted a THIRD designer, told 'im what we wanted...and he delivered a cartoon skyline of a city. We asked him why and never heard from him again.
Finally, finally, we found the lovely Mimexart. Living in England, she's an artist and a model and she'd never done a romance cover before. Our pitch struck her fancy and she dug in. She did THREE covers for our $5, sent them for our approval, and we ended up picking...well, all three. We'd forgotten to ask for our name on the cover so she went with the title only. (So why does this cover have our name on it? When we contacted Mimexart again, she added the author's name just because.) This is the first of the covers. Next post, we'll share another cover and tell you all about Mimexart, the World's Finest $5 Ebook Cover Artist of all time.
If you ever decide to hire your own cover artist...
(July 26, 2010)...you should know, they charge hundreds and hundreds of dollars. The good ones do, anyway. You knock at Carl Graves' door -- he did the terrific cover to J.A. Konrath's TRUCK STOP -- and you can expect the conversation to start at $300 and climb from there. He's absolutely worth it. Cris Griffin isn't cheap, either (and, Cris, we loved your illo for FantasyFlightGames), nor should she be. These artists are some of the best in their field and the e-book industry is so new that their fees are in flux. You ask us, they're charging less than they should be.
We've been having conversations about e-book cover art because, recently, we came across a terrible e-book cover. When we poked about, we discovered the artist had been paid $350 for the cover and its electronic file. Just to be clear here, the artist is NOT Carl Graves or Cris Griffin and, for our money, isn't worthy of carrying their digital paintbrushes. THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS for a cover so bad that we started laughing when we saw it.
So. Terrible cover = $350. Being in one of those moods, we tried to assign a dollar value to the terrible cover. We finally decided on a satisfyingly low number before one of us wondered how cheaply we could really, truly get an e-book cover. Because if the end result is going to be embarrassing, why pay the big bucks? Why not save a few dollars?
And we did. We found an artist who agreed to provide us our very own original e-book cover for a five-spot. We've received notification that the work is done, the cover's complete, and we'll receive our electronic file in the next few days.
When we do, we'll share it with you. Good or bad, you see it first.
A woman of mystery...
(July 22, 2010)...this Emily Veinglory. We know her real name is not Emily Veinglory and her past is hidden in the mists. We know she has a cute "bedroom" name but she refuses to divulge what it is. (We're guessing, "LeeLee". She knows why.) Following our extensive interview, what else have we truly learned?
She's a Kiwi. Not the flightless bird endemic to New Zealand but, rather, the flightless human endemic to New Zealand. She left home over ten years ago and has traveled the world ever since. She's worked in the UK, in Canada, and she presently toils in the USA. No one (except, possibly, E.V.) knows where she lives at present. No one (except, again, E.V.) knows what she does for an outside income. She may have followed in the footsteps of the legendary John Steinbeck and found work as a freelance Podiatrist but we've been unable to confirm this rumor.
We've never seen a photograph of the woman so we're making some educated guesses here. Because she's an NZ native, she must be a stunningly beautiful redhead (but insists she's a brunette). Her eyes are green (possibly brown) and her personality is so vivacious that most people never notice the hunch on her back. She has many of her own teeth. We've heard she's worked as a Supermodel in the past and may be a Diesel Mechanic at present but we've been unable to verify either occupation.
She started writing out of...Boredom, mostly, she tells us as soon as we quit inventing her personal history. I kind of enjoyed making up stories so writing them down wasn't much of a stretch. I think I started my first book, Broken Sword, around 1997. I'd already started off by getting good feedback in fandom, then non-profit 'zines, then publishing. Without an audience, I probably wouldn't have written these stories.
About that pseudonym: The Veinglory origin story is rather dull. I was trying to get a Hotmail address (back when Hotmail was cool and dinosaurs roamed the earth). At the time I was writing what I thought would be my first novel and the main character was called Vesper Vainglory. "Vainglory" was taken...so Veinglory it was. If I knew I was going to be using this as a pen name twenty years later, I might have put a little more thought into it.
To this day, the sun shines a little less brightly because she never finished her Vesper Vainglory the Vampire novel. But she still managed to produce, oh, a story or two. If you exclude stories under 20,000 words, she tells us, I've written five novels and fifteen novellas. Because I'm predominantly an e-publishing author, I favor novellas. If you take into account price points and relative sales, the most profitable length of ebook is to write them in the 20,000 - 40,000 word range. Her specialty is gay romance with a paranormal twist. (You know what sells BIG these days? Guess....) I write whatever I want and that's the theme that emerged. I write in the overlap of what I enjoy and what the publisher wants. I could write more commercial books but it would quickly become a chore. My editors at Loose Id and Samhain have been very good at indulging me to some extent. We both know that paranormal with lots of hot sex sells the best but sometimes I just want to write high fantasy with a paraplegic hero. Maybe it won't sell as much but it will still do okay. Right now, I tend to stick with those e-publishers I think can make me close to $1000 a title so that narrows the field considerably.
As it turns out, she writes more than we do (and had the chops to write a non-fiction book for a scientific publisher but not under the glorious Veinglory moniker). She makes considerably more money than we do. She tells us nothing about her personal life -- a telltale sign of a serial killer, we're just sayin' -- and seems offended when we press to know more about the creepy mechanical monkey she keeps in the shoebox under her bed. But we like E.V., we like her a lot. And you know why?
She tells it like it is. She shares her experiences with publishers. She freely tells people how much her writing earns. (People are sometimes a little shocked, she says, like I said a bad word or flashed my boobies, but they don't seem offended. It just isn't something they would be crass enough to do.) She also runs a terrific website at ERECsite.com, where other people also share the scoop on how much money they're seeing. One of the reasons ERECsite.com reports sales is that it is a little less worrying to people than reporting their actual earnings (and, of course, the reports are confidential). So far, I've not had a single person say something negative about the project, at least not to my face. In fact, several publishers -- including Ellora's Cave and Changeling -- have been very supportive and encouraging.
At the end of the day, then, what can we tell you about Emily Veinglory? Well, if you're an e-writer, she's got your back. If you're an e-publisher, she's going to tell the world the good AND the bad about you. If you're an e-reader, she's got a sexy story coming out in September (see the image above). But if you're a pair of investigative Blog-O-Rama writers, trying to find out the truth about our elusive Em?
You'll learn so little about her personal life that you'll be reaching for a bottle of red wine by interview's end. Which, y'know, is kind of a win. Pass the corkscrew, would you?
When we needed to find a publisher...
(July 14, 2010)...we went to Absolute Write, our favorite writing forum. Because Wicked Games is a steamy romance -- and because we were new to the genre -- we wanted to get some advice from the pros. We were hoping to learn which publishers did the right things the right ways. As Harrell posted on AW, "Which publishers treated you and your manuscript right and provided you with a positive life experience?"
There were several suggestions but one respondent stood above the rest. Emily Veinglory told us about the good publishers...the not-so-good publishers...even the bad publishers. She made it clear she was only sharing her opinion but she shared that opinion publicly and for the good of her fellow writers. A brave move, if you ask us. We listened to what she said, too, selecting Cobblestone Press for our werewolfish novella.
CP provided a great experience, from contract to cover art, from editing to marketing. (PNR says they'll be reviewing WG soon. Stay tuned!) Impressed by this Veinglory person, we started to watch for her comments at Absolute Write. We followed her blog. She turned out to be open and forthright with her thoughts. She seemed to be on the penny with the advice she gave. We decided she just might know ebooks better than anyone else we'd ever met.
So what did we do? We picked her brain, of course, asking about ebook publishers once again. We wanted her list of favorite publishers, a list of the up-and-comers, and we wanted her take on Ellora's Cave as a publisher ('cause rumors abound). This is what she told us:
I tend to list five strong publishers based on sales and lack of enormous red flags: Samhain, Ellora's Cave, Loose Id, Liquid Silver and Cobblestone. Amber Quill and Changeling could probably be added to that list and Ellora's Cave is a bit iffy based on their contract and occasional crazy behavior (pink flags). My main publishers are Loose Id and Samhain but I placed The Highwayman with Cobblestone because it fitted well with their "Outlaw" line and they are more accepting of first person narratives. It has been a good experience. I would also suggest Aspen Mountain Press as an e-publisher that is steadily developing into a front runner.
Then, because it's been on our minds lately -- and, oh, what a story we could tell -- we asked about ebook covers. Seems to us that some publishers have great covers while other companies provide terrible cover art. Since E.V. has a long string of titles with her name on 'em, we went with the obvious question: Does an ebook cover matter?
Never shy, she told us -- I do think covers matter. I think my breakthrough novella, Eclipse of the Heart, was helped a lot by its cover. Funnily enough, I didn't much fancy the cover when I saw it so I've learned to trust the publisher and cover designer. I always give frank and honest feedback on cover designs but at the end of the day I consider that the publisher's call because they know more about what helps sell the book than I do. In short, I'm not fond of mantitty but a lot of readers clearly are.
We have to admit, this woman intrigues us. She willingly talks to strangers of a publisher's crazy behavior and doesn't hesitate to bring up the ever-popular mantitty. Isn't "man titty" two words? And aren't you glad to be visiting a Blog-O-Rama brave enough to ask the hard questions? Oh, and there's one more thing: As much as E.V. talks about publishing, she never, ever talks about herself.
Is she a shy little minx...or a New Zealand super spy? We wanted to find out more. We did find out more. In a few short days, we'll share all.
When life throws you lemons...
(July 10, 2010)...you're in real trouble if you're allergic to lemonade. Something to think about, eh?
Here's the good news: Beta reader Kathy has finally finished reading The Atheist's Daughter. The great news? She really liked the manuscript. As always, Kathy has been supportive and encouraging, and she's provided some insights that absolutely rock. If you're a writer, she is the kind of person you want at your back. We'd tell you more about her but...she's a mysterious person, this Kathy. No last name. No home address. She's provided no personal information, no picture, and no one way to find her. But, if she's willing to read your words, she'll find you.
That's what happened with us, anyway.
The image above? Looks good, doesn't it? It's a gift basket from DAS Designs and -- in theory -- you're supposed to send the thing to people who are in distress. In reality, one of two things will happen: You'll either eat the cookies yourself because impulse control is not your strong point; or you'll send it to the distressed person, they'll eat the cookies and love them, and then they'll grow even more depressed because they can't buy THEMSELVES a basket of lemon cookies because that would just be pitiful. Better not to buy the basket at all, that's what we say.
But Kathy's words and suggestions definitely fell in the Good News category. So where's the Bad News? Who has thrown lemons in our direction?
Our publisher, that's who. The senior editor contacted us last night with some news. It seems we have a new editor for Whispers. Another one.Our third new editor in the last five months, if you're counting.
He's enthusiastic ("I still think we can make the August publication date!") but he's never done this kind of work before. Any kind of editing work, any kind of work in publishing at all. He's sent us an "edited" chapter and, we've discovered, he simply rewrote the thing. Which makes us not very happy. There's a long road ahead, we fear.
Woe is us. We could really use some lemon cookies right now. Or wine. We're flexible.
The fireworks may have ended two days ago...
(July 6, 2010)...but not at this house. And that's because our very first romance novella has just gone into print!
You'll find Wicked Games on the front page of the Cobblestone Press website. Top row, dead center, just look for the book with the extra fun cover. And, yes, the publisher does want a wallet-tingly $4.99 for a download --- available in PDF, LIT, HTML or MobiPocket format (whatever the hell MobiPocket is) -- but look at what you get for your money: A great cover, an erotic romance, "explicit language and graphic sex", and the always popular college girl-meets-werewolf paranormal sexiness.
Plus, the college girl is pretty positive her guy is cheating with a female werewolf. Because she kind of, um...caught 'em in the act.
Look, we don't expect you to drop a fiver on our wicked little tale. We know you. Some would say you're frugal. Yes, 'frugal' is the word we use when we mean 'won't buy our damned novella 'cause they're so darn cheap'. That's okay, we're frugal, too. But if you go here, you'll get to read the story's first chapter absolutely FREE.
And FREE is always good.
Sometimes you need a little...
(July 2, 2010)...pick-me up. Later this evening, our pick-me-up will likely come in bottle form, with a cork and couple of wine glasses. Specifically, we're planning to pour a bottle of Rex-Goliath Cabernet Sauvignon...picked largely because it's label shows a drawing of a giant rooster. Plus, y'know, it was cheap and available and had won a bucket of gold medals for wine goodness.
Still, you may wonder, why do we need a pick-me-up? Here's why: Our editor for Whispers is no longer working with us. Yes, we know, we've often complained about her demands. We shared how she abused us, time and again. We've related her insistent demands for chocolate and her bitterness over the "chokolute" substitute we sent her. But, bottom-line...we miss her. She truly is a lovely person and she wanted the best for our words. We teased her and she laughed about it. Because of life issues, she's had to step aside from this project and our hearts are heavy for her. We wish her only good things.
We've had a new editor assigned and we'll do our best to welcome him with open arms. Not really. It just seems more professional to say that. But given a preference? We'd take our last editor back in a heartbeat.
Coming soon? Well...
(June 28, 2010)...in a sense, we guess you're right.
When we wandered through our publisher's website, we discovered that our YA mystery, Whispers, was Coming Soon. (Why didn't anybody tell us?) Wanting to know if our book was truly Coming Soon -- since we lack a cover and our manuscript is still in edit -- we contacted the head of the company. (You can do such things when the company is very open and very small.) Turns out, the CEO thinks everything will come together shortly. Our pages remain on schedule and our book should be available no later than August 15th.
Feeling pretty damned well upbeat, we strolled over to the Cobblestone Press website. If you check here, you'll see that our spicy romance, Wicked Games, is Coming Soon! at their site, too. The cool thing about the CP site? They show the book titles AND covers and everything seems the more official because of it. We're pegging the release date for July-August but there's no official word just yet.
Seven things you'll NEVER hear...
(June 24, 2010)...from an e-book writer.
(1) Let's use our royalty check to go to Italy!
(2) Think I should bring extra pens for the book signing?
(3) We're finally in our second printing!
(4) Do you think Universal will buy the movie rights?
(5) Honey, he was just another one of our groupies. He meant NOTHING to me. (Actually, no writer has ever been able to say this.)
(6) The foreign edition has a much better cover.
And finally --
(7) My agent told me....
Let's talk about Vino Lisa, SexTV, and the amazing...
(June 20, 2010)...Lyman Dally. This guy ranks fairly high up the cool meter -- and, better yet, he creates some really fun and interesting paintings of wine.
Our good friend and photog, Ralph DeHaan, knows LD and thought we should meet him, too. Turns out, Lyman's a Renaissance man. He's been a competitive bodybuilder and fitness trainer, created over 5000 editorial cartoons, had a comic strip called Max Rep that ran for a decade or so (and continued as a comic book after that), is the genuis behind Maxim's "Most Popular Cartoon Ever", has his own web comic called Living with Les...and, according to IMDb, appeared as "Himself" on SexTV.
A bodybuilding fine artist that's been featured on SexTV? Oh, yes, my friends, you can definitely count us in on that action.
Sadly, the SexTV thing isn't nearly as titillating as we'd hoped. When we pushed LD to tell all, he did. "Hah! I totally forgot I was on that!" he said. "Anticlimatic as it is (no pun intended), I was interviewed by the show about the female lead in my Max Rep Cartoon series. Nothing tawdry; and no naked three-way girl orgy scenes, dammit."
We strolled over to his website, Oentourage -- go here -- and we found some terrific artwork that we desperately want to own. We know you'd like us to own one of his paintings, too, because you're generous that way. Figuring our royalty rate on the Renée Harrell books, we need each of you to download at least 378 copies of one of our volumes and, bam!, we'll be able to buy a Dally original! Score! Following Ralph's advice, we knocked on Lyman's door, snooped around the premises a little, and thought we'd share our findings with you.
Turns out, LD picked up his paintbrush and started his Wine Art That's Fine Art™ not very long ago. This was a huge leap from anything he'd done before and, we assumed, the people around him must have thought he'd gone crazy. "My mother-in-law is still trying to convince me to do something else," Lyman says, working on the theory that his Mom-in-law will never read the Blog-O-Rama. "But that's what mother-in-laws do, right? Friends and family are totally behind me. They all love wine, too."
Working primarily in oils, it took him two years to feel confident enough to display his work. He recently had a gallery show called Imagination Uncorked. "Despite the terrible economic times, I've found a few collectors who like my vision," he says. "Others seem to struggle with my grimmer work (which, of course, I especially love!)." So he's building a fan base but still hasn't made oodles of money: "Those oodles you speak of still hover on the horizon. I've made perhaps an 'oodle'."
When you visit the LD virtual gallery, you'll find canvases with titles like No Beer in Heaven and Wine Knot. You'll see wine bottles twisted and curled and skeletons pouring themselves a drink. You'll see artwork that teases the brain while presenting images you've NEVER seen before. "I like to deal with the odd and emotional elements of wine drinking," Lyman tells us. "Every wine drinker experiences these whether they realize it or not so I try and capture that 'flavor' in my work." Somehow, someway, we think he does.
We're ending the post here so we can swing on by and drink in a few more of his paintings. You ought to try it, too.
Things were going wonderfully until...
(June 15, 2010)...she said, "The cover of Wicked Games looks just like a REAL book."
Now, we wanted to be insulted by the "REAL book" comment but, c'mon, our friend was only trying to be kind. Besides, S.Grey did a terrific job on the WG cover gig and, if you didn't know better, you'd think you were looking at an actual, off-the-shelf, romance novel. E-book sales may be soaring but for people without e-readers, a real book only comes in paper -- and we get that.
This image is from Only You, Dick Daring! by Evan Rhodes and Merle Miller. A few years ago, Harrell bought the volume for a dime and he thinks it's great. OYDD! is absolutely a real book. Harrell only wishes the publisher would make it a little less real and provide an electronic version.
Recently, another well-meaning person asked us, "So how much was the advance for Games, anyway?" (Family can ask these things without being rude.) In answer to the advance question, let us say this about that:
We researched this, we really did, and the average e-book advance is...zero dollars. If you write two of 'em, your advance doubles. So how exactly do we hope to make a profit by writing these things? Volume.
This is pretty much how things look at our house...
(June 11, 2010)...during the summer. We let our hair down, remove articles of clothing (hey, we're in Arizona) and relax. But this hasn't been our typical summer and we're stressed. Our friends are stressed. The whole world is stressed!
Why are we so stressed? Well, we've spent three weeks working on ANOTHER preliminary edit of Whispers and have just-this-second sent it out the door to the editor. Said editor is a demanding taskmaster and has forgotten that SW is a just an e-book. She's intends to make us work on it and work on it until it's actually good. She doesn't care that our royalties from the book are going to only amount to coffee money -- and not Venti coffee money, either. That's one reason we're stressed.
Another reason? T.A.D. is in the ether, waiting for beta reader Kathy to share her wisdom before we submit the pages to a publisher so we figure we'll need to make changes on it, too. Kathy is good but she ain't quick. Meanwhile, Renée is still preparing for her solo art show and Harrell's decided to...well, work on Secret Project X but only because Renée isn't available for playtime.
Summer used to be all playtime, all the...uh, time.
Enough is enough. Once the Blog-O-Rama is updated, we're dropping the paint brush, turning off the word processor, and reaching for an alcoholic beverage. For the rest of the week, we're cruisin'. We hope you are, too.
You're probably wondering how Wicked Games...
(June 7, 2010)...shot from contract to cover art so quickly. We're wondering about that, too.
So let's run over the time line again. We signed the WG contract on April 9th and were assigned an editor about a month later. That editor was the lovely Leanne Salter.
Please note: This photo is not of our editor, Leanne. Cobblestone Press didn't supply us with a picture of Leanne and, so, we're forced to imagine what she looks like. Now that we're done editing our romance novella, we imagine she looks something like this. Only better.
In mid-May, L. Salter e-mailed to say we'd be receiving our first round of edits in about a week. Instead, we received them one day later. A week after that, we received our second round of edits. Three days later, our third round of edits. Then we were done.
But, you ask, what about our other manuscript and our other editor? Y'know...the pages that motivated us to start this website waaaaaaay back in 2009? We're glad you asked.
Whispers is undergoing a second marathon writing session. Once this rewrite is done THEN we'll start the official edits!
We'll keep you posted.
This cover? It wasn't our idea...
(June 3, 2010)...not by a long shot. If you want to blame somebody, blame Sable Grey. Sable is the Art Department Administrator for Cobblestone Press and she designed the piece.
In April, shortly after CP offered us a contract for our weremance™ (our term for a sexy werewolf/romance novel), the editor invited us to select our cover artist. We were strongly tempted by the amazing Cris Griffin -- and listed her as our #2 choice -- but we went with S. Grey. Sable's a writer and a graphic designer and we liked the cover work she'd done in the past. Her covers seemed fresh but contemporary and we felt her talents would best reflect our modern romance story.
We assumed she'd be able to follow simple instructions so we sent her our cover ideas. Our hero is a werewolf by night so we wanted to see the moon or some moonlight in the piece. One of us suggested giving the hero glowing eyes (but subtle) so we tossed that in. Dravon's a talented sculptor so...let's see...we thought she should add a couple of statues in the background. Oh, and we wanted to see our heroine on the cover somewhere. Kelli should be doing -- something. Naked. Mix the elements all together and -- voila! Super Terrific Cover Art!
Now take a minute and ponder the image above. Do you see a naked heroine? Naw, didn't think so. Statues in the b.g.? Nope, missed out. Glowing eyes (but subtle)? Didn't happen. How about the friggin' moon? Do you see the friggin' moon anywhere? After all, every weremance™ ever written has a cover with (1) wolves or (2) claws or (3) the MOON on it somewhere.
Not our story. Not Wicked Games.
And you know what? We're delighted. Sable nailed the look of our two main characters. We think the cover is sexy, enticing and one of Cobblestone's best. Would it be even better with the moon in the background? Probably not.
But what if she'd put in TWO moons, glowing eyes, some claws and some naked wolves? Well, now you're talking.
So what have we learned...
(May 30, 2010)...about expensive hotels, kayaking, and wine tasting? Frankly, we think we should do these things more often.
The expensive hotel (expensive for us, anyway): We stayed at the Sedona Rouge, right off of the main drag, and it was an eye-opening experience. In the past, we've tended to stay at places with "Budget" or "Econo" or "Super" or a number in their names...and you're never going to have a swank experience in one of those joints. You can have a good experience but you're not going to have a swank experience. Still, we live in the hope of someday finding the Super Econo Budget 8 Hotel. We assume it will be staffed by cockroaches and cost eight cents a night. Our favorite thing about the S. Rouge besides the complimentary bottle of wine they provided? We loved our super sized shower. It fit, roughly, eight people. But Harrell wanted a bathtub, too. "Just think of how big it would be!" he said, over and over.
The kayaking: Our guide, Felipe, is used to running large groups down the river so we were surprised to find only one other couple in our party. The other couple was surprised to find us in the party. A decade younger, infinitely richer, attractive, fit, with stomachs so tight we bet they're doing crunches right now...the Johnsons spent much of the trip talking about their NEXT adventure. (Hiking the Grand Canyon. They figured they could do it in eight hours or less.) They mostly pretended we didn't exist as we sent our individual kayaks into the trees, onto the rocks, and deep in the bushes. At the end of the excursion, we'd learned two things: (1) The other couple knew much, much more about kayaking than we care to learn; and (2) the Johnsons are apparently ignorant about the value of sunscreen. When we waved goodbye -- and they pretended not to see us wave goodbye -- they were the color of Petit Verdot grapes. Ah, but we had fun and our guide was charming.
The wine tasting: At the end of the river, we found Alcantara Vineyards. Owners Bob and Barbara served us cheese and crackers, poured us wine (again and again and again because Felipe was driving us back to the hotel) and talked about their ambitious plans for the future. Bob went into the wine biz once he'd retired; it seems to us, he's working harder than ever. Barbara, the visionary, charmed him into starting their empire. If everything goes to plan, they're going to build a bed-and-breakfast, a bistro, other shops, bring in all kinds of artisans...and we're not betting against them. For now, we were glad we had a chance to kick back and enjoy their 2008 Merlot (Harrell's choice) and take home a bottle of their 2007 Moscato Allegro (Renée's pick).
And now we're home and ready to get back to work. Mostly.
Renée and Harrell, sittin' in a tree...
(May 26, 2010)...K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
We first met each other many years ago. (And no, smart mouth, dinosaurs were not roaming the earth at that time.) We shared a college class and Harrell was immediately attracted to the lovely Renée. So he asked her out on a date. And he asked her and he asked her and he asked her...and then he stopped. Because even a Turner can catch a hint once in awhile.
So Renée approached Harrell, wanting to know when he was going to ask her out again. He jumped on that, P-D-Q, and we've been together ever since.
It really was a long time ago. With our anniversary looming, we're setting aside word processors and paint brushes for kayaks and a wine-tasting tour. Oh, and many thanks to Matthew & Co. for staying at the house and watching the dogs. We'd bring you back a bottle of wine but we're pretty sure that most vineyards have sold out of the stuff. When we get back, we'll update you on the editorial process and tell you where things stand. (Some good news. Honest!)
Happy and sad because...
(May 22, 2010)...of all the things we've learned this week. Being short on time, we're doing the happy/sad thing as a way to update the Blog-O-Rama.
A happy/sad moment: Allergy season has hit us hard. Both of us have been sneezing, wheezing, and coughing for days. The evidence suggests that our gorgeous butterfly bushes -- yep, they DO attract b'flies -- will have to go. This makes us sad (we love us some butterflies)...but happy if it ends the no-sleep fest we're currently enduring.
Another happy/sad moment: Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal published a piece called, "E-books Rewrite Bookselling". You'll find the article here. The WSJ estimates that digital books will end up grabbing about a third of the book market. This makes us happy because we've got two e-books coming out this year. This makes us sad because the same article suggests that many brick-and-mortar bookstores will be forced to close and we LOVE our physical bookstores.
Happy/sad: Puppy pictures make us happy but we find it sad that such pictures help drive traffic to a website. Just know that we'd never stoop to such tactics. Let other websites brag about their thousands and thousands of followers. We're happy to have you and you.
Happy/sad: We're happy to have two manuscripts in edit but sad because we have to edit them. (We wanted to hear that both pieces were perfect. Plus, we're lazy. Is that so wrong?) We've learned something about ourselves in the process, though. One of our editors opened her first e-mail to us with a comment on how much she liked our story...and then made some pointed comments on how much work we needed to do to get it ready for publication. The other editor opened her initial e-mail with pointed comments on how much work we needed to do to get the pages ready for publication...and followed her suggestions with why she enjoyed our masterpiece-in-the-making.
The editor who complimented us first? We instantly liked her more.
Enough about us. How are YOU doing?
It's time for William Shatner to quit whining...
(May 18, 2010)...about that darned gremlin on the wing of his airplane. Bill, old buddy, we've got you beat. There are TWO gremlins on the wings of our plane.
In the classic Twilight Zone episode, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Bill plays Robert Wilson, a salesman freshly discharged from a sanitarium and taking a flight home. Once airborne, he spots a gremlin on the wing of the plane -- and the gremlin is casually dismantling parts 'n' pieces of the airliner. He flips out, yelling and shouting, but no one else ever sees the gremlin. Once the plane lands, Robert Wilson/W. Shatner finds himself getting fitted for a straitjacket.
Once upon a time, we thought the show was only a fun fantasy. We know better now.
Our tale to date: After months of no interest, some folks said they wanted to see The Atheist's Daughter. Trying to be adult-ish (not easy for us), we put our noses to the grindstone and started rewriting the novel for this would-be publisher and this unlikely-as-Hell agent. Halfway through the manuscript, Renée had to visit the internet on a synonym-chase. Seconds later, she shrieked in alarm: "She's baaaaaaaaaack!"
Shockingly, our Whispers editor -- our own personal gremlin -- has returned to the Airship Arizona and is once again casually dismantling our lives. Almost magically, she's zipped through another round of edits on Whispers, is somehow dissatisfied with the superlative job we've done on the book, and she wants us to work on the thing again.
Harrell wasn't prepared for this quick turnaround and took the news poorly. But we sucked it up, put the projectaside, and picked up Whispers. Renée wandered off to the internet again, this time on an antonym-hunt. "Oh, my God!" she cried, seconds later. "There's another one!"
Yes, friends, to our horror, another editor had alighted on the Airship. This one called herself Leanne Salter, she claimed to be the Managing Editor for Cobblestone Press, and she'd written to say she'd be editing our romance novella, Wicked Games. Like J.R. Turner, she refused to supply us with a personal photo or her bank account information. Hmmmm. She'd contacted us to say she'd have our edit available in a week.
The very next day, she wrote again. Caught up in WG, she stayed up all night to edit the damned thing. She sent the manuscript back to us, with hundreds of teeny, tiny changes. So what did she want now? She wanted us to fix the story. Right this second.
In short: Bill Shatner, if you thought gremlins were trouble, we'd like you to meet our editors.
In case you're wondering, Harrell wears a man's large straitjacket, extra-long sleeves. Renée fits nicely in a woman's medium. How do we know this? None of your business, Snoopynose..
Ever wonder what's involved in creating...
(May 5, 2010)...a story from scratch?
In our case, it works like this: One of us has an idea (it's usually Renée) and a vague storyline (usually Renée). Then one of us grows enthusiastic about the project (Renée) and we decide to write it. We plot the tale together, off of the base idea that Renée has provided, and then Harrell takes the pages and does the stuff he enjoys -- like characterization, dialogue, and the occasional bizarre plot twist (to see if it makes Renée laugh).
That's our usual M.O., anyway. Toward the end of April, things went askew when the female half of Team Turner was offered her own art show in November. She'll need a minimum of fourteen paintings for the exhibition and this means she needs to focus on her painting. But...but...while she's busy in the studio, what will Harrell do?
No, we're not yet selling WWHD bracelets. We're waiting for the demand to build.
Y'see, characterization, dialogue and bizarre plot twists generally require some kind of story behind them. But, fear not, gentle friends: Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, Harrell used to write without a partner. He doesn't enjoy the solo act, anymore, but he figures it must still be part of skill set. To test that theory, he just punched out his first short story in over a decade.
And then Renée got involved. Fixed the broken pieces, smoothed the rough, patched a plot hole or two. At the Circus is complete at 3800 words and (thanks to the ease of electronic submissions) already in a publisher's slush pile. We'll let you know what happens.
Feeling SHATTERED? Some of our friends...
(May 1, 2010)...are feeling that way, too. Battered by bad luck, bad relationships, circumstances or just life its ownself, they're suffering. They're hurting and we hate it.
As an artist, Renée wanted to say something about the pain around us. Although she almost never puts a name on a painting until it's completed, this time she knew the title of her next canvas: SHATTERED. She'd do a self-portrait, painting her image as reflected in a broken mirror. Her first task, then, was to break a mirror.
(The "seven years bad luck" thing that's supposed to happen when you break a mirror? Apparently, it dates back to Roman days when it was believed a person's soul could be trapped in the reflection of the glass. If the mirror was broken, your soul was broken, too, until your body managed to renew itself. The length of time for renewal? We know you'll figure it out.)
Using a Goodwill-special, she protected the mirror's face with newspaper and then hit it with a hammer. Nothing happened. She hit it again but harder. Still nothing. When she finally broke the thing, the shards tumbled from their frame. What was left of the mirror was useless.
A second donation store mirror was located. Covered with long strips of clear packing tape, it took one shattering blow to splinter it.The tape mostly held it together, too. The bad news? The tape refused to release itself from pieces of the mirror. Pocketed with air bubbles and cloudy at the point of impact, the tape left her with a second unusable mirror.
Out of mirror-money, she collected the first mirror's broken shards and, piece by piece, glued it back together. It took her hours but, as you can tell from the image above, it worked. She's three days into the painting and...well, hell, it's actually a pretty freaky-looking painting. Still, she's pleased. Sometimes in art, as in life, you only succeed by refusing to give up.
(If you're counting, you know one of us is looking at FOURTEEN years of crap luck. But there's an out! To free her soul, all Renée has to do is wait for a full moon then bury all of the broken mirror pieces under a tree. We don't know why exactly this is supposed to work but there you have it. Score!)
Hallelujah, brothers, we've...
(April 28, 2010)...finished the first edit of Whispers! Pop open a bottle of a moderately-priced wine -- say, the 2003 Moncaro Rosso Conero Riserva Vigneti del Parco -- and toast to our success. Then quickly call your local wine merchant and pay them to ship us a bottle of the same. Hey, moderately-priced or not, WE can't afford it.
We started the rewrite a little over two weeks ago -- and this isn't a big book. We worked on our pages every morning and a few too many evenings. Some sixteen days later, Whispers is now an even smaller book. So far, we've lost about 5% of the thing to the relentless demands of our editor. And, the thing of it is, we haven't begun a REAL edit yet. This was a get-rid-of-recurrent words/themes edit.
But here's another bit of good news: Months ago, we contacted our publisher and asked if our little YA mystery could go out the door at far less than the standard $6 price. Ye Olde Pub said she'd consider it and now she has. We're quite happy to say Whispers will ship out the e-door at half the usual cover price.
If we can convince her to drop the tag by one more penny, we'll be able to offer the story for $2.99. Let's see Nancy Drew beat that!
Up to our armpits in alligators...
(April 24, 2010)...and desperately trying to finish the initial edit of Whispers, we nearly forgot about the Blog-O-Rama. This is a bad thing and it comes from (a) overwork and (b) a lack of good wine. Like you, we blame this "overwork" situation on our publisher's demanding new editor, Cruella DeVille -- not her real name. Don't think poorly of Cruella, however as we have reason to believe she was raised by wolves and never learned the social niceties.
Which leads us to this: It's a tradition in publishing circles for a new editor to send a bottle of good wine to each of her writers. It is, too, a tradition. We're not the type to make up traditions just to get free wine. We hit the post office box daily but, as of yet, Cruella has failed to ship our bottle of 2004 Jackson-Triggs Vidal Ice Wine (under $20 almost anywhere). We're getting tired of waiting and we're more than a little burnt out on gerunds.
So here's the deal, C.D.: Get us our wine, you get the manuscript. Capiche?
In happier news, one of Renée's newest paintings is featured on the Mountain Artists Guild's latest postcard. MAG is having their annual Emerging Artists show this summer and RAT's The Fourth World is part of the show. Swing by the Guild anytime from May 6 - August 21st and take a peek.
Since sex sells, we're hoping werewolf sex...
(April 20, 2010)...sells even better and puts a few coins in our pockets. We're about to find out, anyway, because (drum roll, please!) we've just signed a contract with a publisher for our werewolf romance, Wicked Games.
This is good news. Wait, wait, let's use italics: This is good news!
A few days ago, Brandi from Cobblestone Press e-mailed us. She'd received our manuscript a few weeks before and the gang at Cobblestone liked the story...but they wondered if we'd be open to making some changes. She didn't know it (and we weren't about to tell her) but this wasn't a small issue with us. Directly prior to sending the manuscript her way, we'd been contacted by another editor at another publisher and they liked the novella, too -- as long as we did a pretty significant overhaul on the storyline.
We liked the publisher but thought the suggestions didn't work. We decided, instead, to submit the story elsewhere. When a writer we respect told us Cobblestone was among her top three romance publishers, we were intrigued. After a touch o' research, we knew exactly where WG was going next.
As it turned out, Brandi's list of changes were minor and, more importantly, we agreed with 'em. We made the revisions, sent her the pages, and here we are. So the really, really good news? We sold our romance novella (!) and checked off one of our New Year's resolutions.
The bad news? Soon, we'll have ANOTHER editor on our backs.
But, for now, it's time to howl.
Now that we have an editor for our book...
(April 16, 2010)...we finally realize what a pain it is to have an editor for our book. Things were truly much easier before, when we could pretend our manuscript was a thing of glory. These days, our e-mail box is filled with all kinds of editorial complaints and suggestions. Who knew anyone would waste so much time talking about "problematic structure" and "narrative distance" and "gerunds"? We wanted our editor to talk about our genius, our brilliance, our nifty wordplay. That's why people want an editor!
What the hell is a "gerund", anyway?
Please note: This photo is not of our new editor. Our new editor didn't supply us with a picture and, so, we're forced to imagine what she looks like. We imagine she looks like this person. We also imagine this person is a woman.
Then, of course, there's the chocolate.
You remember how our editor adores chocolate? Of course you do. So we buy a frickin' big box of the stuff at a surprisingly reasonable price and we pay more than most e-book writers make in a year to send the tonnage off to Ye Olde Ed. You think she's grateful? You think, for one minute, she quits harping about "repetitious words" or "multiple story issues"?
Actually, she does.
Instead, she wants to know why the box is labeled "Chokolute". She asks why the first ingredient listed isn't cocoa and is, instead, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride. She starts tossing out words like "allergic reaction" and "anaphylaxis" and "lawsuit".
Editors. Once you get one, you'll discover they're nothing but trouble.
With a website this good...
(April 12, 2010)...it was only a matter of time before the bigwigs noticed us. That's our theory, anyway. A couple of days after we posted our slick, purplish and free Logosnap logo on this site, the movers and shakers at our publisher sent us an e-mail. Even though the e-mail cleverly avoided any mention of the website -- and, in fact, pretended not to know it existed at all -- the message still offered some terrific news.
We finally have an editor for our YA novel, Whispers. We're pleased to get one, too, with the August release date rushing upon us.
Our new editor is a professional artist/writer/editor, she has her own critique service and, as we write this, she's had seven novels published. Clearly, she knows her stuff. But here's the part that bugs us: In only her second e-mail to us, she mentioned she loves chocolate. It was at the end of the e-mail and it was dropped casually ("Most of all, though, I love chocolate!") but her message was clear -- You want a good edit, I'd better get good chocolate.
This scared us. We're okay with the shake-down but, c'mon, good chocolate is expensive. In the past, we've always bought the off-season chocolate-like candy offerings we found in the discount bins at the warehouse stores. To this day, our children believe chocolate is supposed to taste kinda waxy with a chemical-smell. We send that brown-colored poison to our editor, we're in big trouble.
We'll keep you updated.
Want to get branded? Apparently...
(April 9, 2010)...it applies to cattle AND writers. At one of our favorite writing forums (Absolute Write), a group of wordsmiths are debating the issue of "creative branding". The theory goes like this: Agatha Christie built a readership by writing about Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot; she built a Mystery Brand. Zane Grey wrote story after story about the Old West; he built a Western Brand. Smart writers pick a genre and build on that genre in order to create a career -- or so the theory goes.
Meanwhile, Renée Harrell flits along happily, writing a little of this, a little of that, and building a very small following, indeed. (By our count, there's you... and you. We're so proud.) If we want to be successful, dammit, we need to pick a genre and stick with it.
The subject comes to mind today because an Acquisitions Editor has contacted us, saying she's interested in Wicked Games. If things work out as we hope (minor story-tinkering involved), we'll soon be signing a contract for a sexified werewolf novella definitely intended for an adult audience. Then, in August, our Young Adult mystery novel comes out.
There are those at AW who'd say we need to adopt a new pen name for the werewolf tale, when and if it comes out. Presumably, they fear we'll develop a following for our YA mystery and those same readers will rush to buy the much steamier WG, assuming it's another YA mystery -- and their brains will explode.
What the hell. Ignoring the collective wisdom of all of those other writers, we've decided to keep the same semi-pseudonym on everything we write. After all, it's not our brains. But since we're gonna continue to write all kinds of different stuff, we thought we might come up with a logo to represent the Renée Harrell Brand. You see the logo on a book or a novella or a short story or a bounced check, you'll know that Renée Harrell was involved. Plus, if we farted around with logos, we wouldn't have to do any real writing today.
We checked with a top design firm to see what a logo could cost. They said they'd want a minimum of $25,000 to launch the project -- and our brains exploded. So we went to Logosnap.com, instead. Logosnap charges a lousy ninety-nine bucks to design a corporate logo. Or, if you're just too darn cheap to drop a C-spot, you can use their site to design your own logo for free. People who go the "free" route will find limited fonts, limited graphics, limited...everything. But -- and we can't emphasize this enough -- it's free.
So guess who branded themselves and still saved ninety-nine bucks?
Christine Griffin likes her men HOT and...
(April 5, 2010)...intelligent, thereby eliminating one pretend cowboy from her pool of potential cover models. She does terrific digital artwork for a slew of publishers and we've been impressed by her talent. (The image to the left? It's a piece she did for FUN.) Since there are so many bad e-artists out there, we thought it might be fun to contact one of the good ones.
An artist herself, Renée wondered how a nice girl like Cris went from earning an MFA at George Washington University to illustrating book covers for electronic novels. Turns out, full-time mother Cris put her paints away to keep tiny fingers from getting into her work. "That didn't last long," Cris told her. "The muse wants what the muse wants so I segued into digital art. Out of the blue, an author stopped by my fledgling digital gallery at Deviant Art and suggested I look into e-covers. My first gig was with Loose Id Publishing and I still work for them today."
Does she work with any paints or acrylics to help create her covers? "The majority of my covers are digitally-generated. Digital paintings are usually executed with Photoshop or Corel Painter, in the same way a traditional painting is developed. The big difference is the malleable nature of digital art. Tweaks are relatively easy compared to repainting in oils or acrylics, so it's great for commercial projects."
Y'see, this is the kind of stuff only the professionals know. And, now that she's established as a pro, CG must finally have complete artistic freedom to create her wonders. Right? Right?
"Wonders? That's a great term because most days I say to myself, 'I wonder what on earth possessed me to think this was a good idea?'" Say again? "In a commercial project," Cris said, "the artist is at the mercy of her client. Of course, the artist tries to exhibit as much influence as possible but, ultimately, you have to sell the product. Right now, e-publishing is really dominated by romance and erotica and there has evolved a 'uniform' for those covers. This is what buyers want to see. I'd love to work on other genres and work on cover designs that were a bit more out of the box."
If we haven't made it clear by now, Cris is one of the top talents in her field. She's an award-winner (her cover for To Trust a Wicked Man collected the 2009 ARIANA Best-in-Category trophy). Being the considerate souls that we are, we offered to stop by her house and help her carry her sacks of money to the local bank.
Or, then again, maybe not.
"In terms of freelancing, these covers won't pay your rent," she told us. "E-pubs pay their artists three different ways: royalties, a flat fee, or a combo of both. The royalty system only works if the publisher does mad marketing. A flat fee is typical but getting e-presses to pay more than minimum wage (or less!) is often like pulling teeth. They must think we can crank these covers out in an hour, or don't have to pay for stock photos, or we're just so tickled to see our art on a cover that we'll work for free. Dream on, Alice...."
It was at this point in our conversation that we noticed Cris gets a little worked up about -- well, starving for her art."More small e-presses open every day and they have no real clue what a good business model looks like," she said. "There are some publishers who don't know the worth of good product design. The bottom line is all that matters for them: 'How little can we pay for a cover?' Boo. Some publishers have lost great cover artists because they refused to supply raises for loyal years of work. What good is a solid novel if you slap a crappy cover on it? They'd sooner let their more costly artists go, despite of how hard they've worked for the company, and use newbies who don't know any better. Yeah, slimy."
Our Artist-at-Large tells us there are good e-publishers out there (and she's currently working with some of them) but she wasn't nearly as excited and quotable when talking about those guys. We know what our audience wants. It wants the DIRT. She's also worked with people who've published their own books: "Self-publishers have been great to work with! Sometimes they're shocked that a cover costs more than a sawbuck but they're committed to selling their baby. It doesn't take them long to understand how vital it is that their book looks professional. I love the teamwork between artist and author. It feels more symbiotic. Both of us want the very best for the product."
We admire an artist this talented, committed, and passionate about the work she does. If you'd like to cruise Christine Griffin's digital gallery, you'll find it at deviantART, where she goes by the name of "quickreaver". No one knows why she uses that name. It's one of those crazy artist things. If you'd like to contact her directly, go here.
If you do contact her, tell 'er Renée and Harrell sent you and she just might give you her recipe for banana muffins.
We love bad e-book covers but...
(April 2, 2010)...not in that good, I-can't-wait-to-read-that-book, kind of way. No, we love bad book covers because they make us laugh. Still, no matter how much we laugh, we've never downloaded a book with a bad cover.
Old homilies be damned. We ABSOLUTELY judge a book by its cover.
We figure it this way: If a book's publisher doesn't know the difference between good cover art and bad cover art then it's a fair bet this same publisher doesn't know the difference between good writing and bad writing. Clearly, some publishers remain confused about the role cover art plays in book sales; in a recent New York Times article (you'll find it here), the president of Ravenous Romance said she'd changed the cover art on one of her titles and that particular book's sales tripled.
A better cover = better sales. Seems kinda basic to us but we somehow find a new book cover e-trocity almost every day. While such discoveries fill our house with laughter, we wondered: Just why are there so many bad e-book covers? Since we'd recently been in conversation with digital artist Christine Griffin, we decided to ask her.
This is what she said:
"There are a couple of fundamental reasons why there are so many bad covers. First, the publisher just doesn't know any better. Their visual vocabulary is naive and their understanding of design non-existent. Cover design looks easy but there's more to it than meets the eye. I'm still learning myself after ten-plus years! You never stop learning.
"There's another truth in e-publishing: You get what you pay for. Many e-pubbers look at cover art as a necessary evil that cuts into their overhead and, therefore, try to pay the bare minimum. What they don't digest is that the cover is the best way to hook a reader who is unfamiliar with the author and get them to read the blurb as well as buy the book."
And then she went on and on because, honestly, the woman's trapped in her house with the computer all day and you can only do digital art for so long before you go kind of wonky and suddenly, bam!, you're desperate for adult conversation, desperate for ANY kind of human interaction, and you keep talking and talking and you end up saying so much more than you ever intended.
Too much for us to share today, in fact. But be here on Monday and you'll see what we mean when...Cris Griffin tells all! Well, no, it's not really all that juicy but it IS interesting. Y'all come back now, y'hear?
We've returned from a far and distant land...
(March 29, 2010)...where our hosts lacked an internet connection. Truly, in this day and age, we found the one home in this fine nation that is without any form of internet access -- and, indeed, without any kind of computer. Who knows what we've have done if our gracious hosts didn't have cable?
Of course, we're going to call our hosts "gracious". (1) They were gracious; and (2) their kids damned well have internet access and they know enough to peek in here now and then. And THOSE blabbermouths talk.
On our return home, we scampered gaily to our computer and looked for fresh scoop. Happily, our Mars Needs Writers inbox provided many interesting offers for sex, money and drugs -- and, even more interesting, a long and detailed letter from cover artist and digital magician Cris Griffin. We've asked Cris many, many questions about working as an artist in the e-world and she's answered everything. We'll be posting a lengthy and fun Blog-O-Rama exclusive just as soon as we've recovered from our latest excursion.
It's so vulgar to talk about money. Let's...
(March 26, 2010)...be inappropriate, shall we?
Professional writers, for the most part, aren't Livin' Large. Is there no justice? Turns out, the average US/UK novelist doesn't collect much in the way of a yearly income. If the Western world's storytellers had to live on what they were being paid for their words alone, over 80% of the literary crowd would qualify for food stamps -- and not just occasionally. We're talking every year of their writing lives.
It's not that way for every writer, of course. John Scalzi (he wrote the enjoyable Old Man's War and its sequels) has openly discussed how much he makes at the word processor -- right here, at the Scalzi version of the Blog-O-Rama. In 1999, his sci-fi fiction brought him roughly $400. In 2002, he was collecting $1,000. In 2006? That year, he collected $67,000 from his s-f efforts. This excited us 'cause JS still relies on Old Media for his daily bread; y'know, the printed stuff. But, as Will Shakespeare said, "Print is dead!" (1609 A.D.; you can look it up). Even Shakespeare knew that the future belonged to ebooks, baby!
So far, the e-cash register isn't ringing too loudly. We know of one talented sci-fi writer (Hi, Chris!) that knows all of the electronic bells and whistles and, man, is he promoting his new novel. He should, too: The book has received a couple of glowing reviews. Chris has been open to interviews, he's hit all the social networks, he's established his blog, he's talked up his story at most of the s-f/writer/novel forums...and he's sold less than ten copies of his ebook in the last three months. By his own accounting, he hasn't quite collected $15 in royalties.
But give him time. W. Shakespeare and us, we believe in Chris and electronic publication. But short-term? We're keeping our day jobs
If selling books is difficult, then...
(March 23, 2010)...selling ebooks is almost impossible. A smaller audience creates a smaller demand and this means, dear hearts, you've gotta hustle to make any money in this business. (If you want some of the actual facts and figures about the book business, we suggest you wander by the Pimp My Novel blogspot, where Eric talks about the publishing world.)
Our new publisher knows the literary biz is tough and they want their writers to push every button to make a sale. We understand this attitude. When we're not feeling lazy, we even applaud this attitude. But when our good publisher suggested we do an electronic book signing when our YA novel finally comes out...well, it took us back a bit. We didn't think an ebook signing would work but we didn't know it wouldn't work. We realized there was a world of stuff we didn't know about peddling ebooks. An internet search didn't help much. Writers' forums did, a little, but not enough.
So we started e-mailing e-writers and asking them about the e-business of selling e-books. Almost everyone responded and, to our surprise, quite openly. We collected their replies to our questions.
This is what we learned:
There's a general feeling that electronic publication offered only a small financial return for author and publisher alike. Turns out, a lot of e-publishing sells poorly. At the top of the sales chart is hardcore erotica (BDSM, M/M, super kinky trysts, that kind of stuff). Contemporary M/F romances, even the steamy ones, don't have as many fans. Those novels are selling between 200 - 700 copies. Other book genres sell even fewer copies. The list ofless successfulgenres definitely includes YA novels, including our own Whispers. One YA author revealed she'd written four young adult novels and not one of them had topped 100 book sales.
But what about an electronic book signing? We really wanted to know if this could actually work and we were delighted when someone managed to answer the question. "I tried it and found it to be an embarrassment and a disappointment," wrote the only author who'd arranged a "signing" of their electronic book. Total sales from the signing? "Zero, zip. Because I bought a coffee to take to the signing, I actually ended up losing money."
But, honestly, our correspondents aren't big-name writers. (Stephen King, you bastard, why didn't you answer our e-mails?) We asked, had any of them tried advertising their books? Say...on the internet?
Three of our correspondents had spent the cash to advertise and all three said it made no apparent difference in their book sales. As one wrote, "IF it made any difference, I can't spot it. I'm damned sorry I put 90 bucks out of pocket." Well, then...how about trying something a little more creative? Had any of them made a book trailer? A writer makes a 90-second book commercial, they stick it on YouTube, all the kids love YouTube, they'll build an audience. Won't they?
"Most book trailers are crap," one of our writers said. "I spent a lot of time and too much money so that mine would be better than most. I've never had a reader tell me she bought one of my books because of my trailer. I'm not making another."
If the new media wasn't moving product, how about trying the old? Had anyone sent out press releases?
"Mailouts?" one novelist wrote. "Epic fail." Another writer told us she'd sent out thirty press releases to the publications in her area and heard back from one of them. ("They published a single paragraph about my book. I felt lucky to get it but the sales meter didn't budge.") A couple of writers felt that giving away free bookmarks had sparked interest in their novels but they weren't sure if anyone bought an e-dition because of it. However, they did say that people were still asking for the free bookmarks many months later.
Knowing what we know now, what do we think we should do next? This is our plan: We'll write some really nasty, wicked, embarrassing sexy-thing, find a publisher for it, follow the tips in the blog below, and notify our banker that we're about to get rich. Richer, anyway. Rich-ish.
So how do you SELL an ebook? Ninjelephant says...
(March 20, 2010)...you start with an eye-catching cover. Study after study has shown that a good ebook cover moves the merchandise more than any other single factor except for book genre. (To no one's surprise, hot romantic porn sells better than armchair mysteries. Even if the armchair mystery has a really cool cover and the people on the porn novel look like they've sprouted extra genitalia.)
Those same studies have shown more people visit websites that feature fun images. Absent a new graphic, we contacted Matthew R. Turner and asked if we could spotlight his Ninjelephant design (© him). This is a work-in-progress but he said we could use it and here it is. ALL FEAR NINJELEPHANT!
Our survey is done, all but one of our correspondents have spoken, and we're about to spill the ways an author can lose money while pushing their ebook. But with a ninjelephant in hand and book covers in mind, we thought we might address how an author can sell a few electronic copies of a book that no one really wants to buy. No, not even your mother. She might have said she wants to buy your book but she's lying. What did you expect her to say?
As we've said above, start with a popular genre. Pick a cover at least as good as one you'd find at the local B&N. Price your book in the consumer's "golden valley" (currently seen as $1.99 - $2.99, either via Amazon or Apple or through your own website). Facebook it, Myspace it, Crimespace it, Twitter it throughout the world. Hit every website forum you've ever encountered and casually pimp your pages. Offer free copies to anyone willing to review your manuscript; reviews help, even if they're bad ones. Oh, and ask everyone you encounter if they'll buy your book.
It helps, too, if you actually have some writing ability. But according to the people answering our questions, good writing has almost nothing to do with book sales....
Finally, someone has heard our plea and...
(March 16, 2010)…brought us a bottle of wine. Not one of those Two Dollar Store bottles of rotgut, either (we know what you were thinking). No sirree Bob, this stuff is drinkable.
(Since you’ve asked: The phrase, “No sirree, Bob!” first appeared in the 1800’s as an English catchphrase. It hit its crest as a popular saying in 1916 when the five minute short, No Sir-ee Bob!, appeared as an episode of the “Chronicles of Bloom County” comedy series. Sadly, this ancient idiom has fallen into disuse as today’s young whippersnappers are no longer under the sway of silent pictures. Dagnab it.)
“For inspiration,” Arnold Brooks said, offering the bottle of wine to Renée. It seems the good Doctor has read the Blog-O-Rama and picked up on our subtle admiration for the grape. In his travels, he'd come across a bottle of Canyon Oaks 2007 California Zinfandel and decided to give it to us. We decided to accept it.
At that moment, all was well with our world.
But where the hell is Canyon Oaks?, you ask. Is its wine any good? How does the stuff taste? Well, you know the Mountain Dew/Dr. Pepper combo that the hunky Aaron from Pepboys seems to use as a substitute for water? The chemical stew he calls, “Taco Bell champagne”?
This is nothing like that.
The 2007 C.O.C.S. is a fun little wine, with a rich plum taste that tickles the tongue. (The C.O.C.S. abbreviation? Us wine connoisseurs love to use abbreviations.) Sip it and you’ll find a touch of vanilla, a hint of cola, and a tease of black cherry. Sip it some more and, pretty soon, you’ll discover the entire bottle is gone.
At least, that's what happened with us. And we're feeling very inspired.
V.J. Chambers is TREMBLING...
(March 13, 2010)…at the thought of appearing in the Blog-O-Rama. Well, no, that's not true at all. However, V.J. Chambers did write and publish a book called TREMBLING and we thought we’d use her title as our hook today.
We wish she’d written a book called NAUSEOUS. Wouldn’t that have been fun?
In our last post, we talked about J.A. Konrath, self-pubbed e-author and a writer making some serious coin from his words. How much money?, you ask, giving not a thought to the propriety of such a question. This much: Joe Konrath believes he’ll collect a minimum of $60K next year from Amazon e-sales.
Even with our limited knowledge of the e-publishing word, we know Joe is doing exceptionally well. We wondered what the market was like for the self-published authors that aren’t J.A. Konrath. Just about then, we discovered Valerie Chambers.
Writing as V.J. Chambers, she’s published five YA novels. With titles like BREATHLESS, TORTURED and DEATH GIRL, a reader knows s/he’s wandered into pretty dramatic territory. Intrigued by her body of work, and knowing she’d published her own manuscripts, we poked into her den at VJChambers.com and started to bug her. We wanted to know: What’s it like to self-publish your own novels?
For some crazy reason, she actually told us. Then, her madness magnified, she let us share the scoop with you.
Valerie’s been writing since she could hold a pen; does it for the joy of the thing; and only considered self-publication after manuscript #4 had been rejected thirty-odd times. She said, “Honestly, I was discouraged and I saw in self-publishing a way to have more control over whether anyone would ever get to read my stuff. It wasn’t the greatest reason to start self-publishing“.
The easiest thing about self-pub? “Uh, nothing about the process was easy.”
The hardest thing? “Editing!!!! God, I suck at editing my own stuff. Furthermore, it is no, no, no fun. Laying out the book is no cakewalk, either.”
Her biggest surprise about being her own publisher? “I was surprised at how hard I worked and how little results it actually produced. I started having panic attacks shortly after starting and started neglecting my boyfriend. I really had to back off for my own sanity.”
But she’s making a lot of money, right? “Absolutely not.”
Then, um – “I love the direct interaction I have with readers,” she says, “and I love that they feel comfortable enough to talk to me and interact with me.”
Which is what writing is supposed to be all about. That’s what we think, anyway.
She might not be J.A. Konrath but V.J. Chambers has done okay. She's sold hundreds of copies of her various works (BREATHLESS, alone, has had a thousand readers) and one of her novels lingered on the Smashwords bestseller list for months. Visit her website and you’ll find her blog, some book trailers, and several *free* sample chapters from her novels.
We like free. We also like Valerie Chambers. (And wine. Did we mention that?)
J.A. Konrath knows how to sell ebooks. The first thing...
(March 10, 2010)...he does is, he writes an interesting story. Then he gets a good cover for that story. Not surprisingly, he believes a strong cover helps sell an electronic book. We liked the Truck Stop cover so much, we asked if we could post it here. (And, if you'd like to drop $1.59 to download this story, just go here.)
J.A. Konrath is an ebook bestselling author, collecting some serious coin on the 30,000 downloads of his books last year. His blogspot is viewed by 500,000 visitors a year. (How many do we get? You and you. And not even that on Sundays.) Before we discovered his "Newbie's Guide to Publishing", we wondered if anyone could make a living selling ebooks.
Now we know. Joe Konrath makes a living selling e-books. Everyone else?
Okay, that's harsh. And it's not true. Not entirely true, anyway. You see, after we questioned whether people were earning anything from their books, we decided to go further. We collected the names and email addresses of twenty-five e-authors. We wrote them, asking how they promoted their ebooks and how successful they'd been. Many of the writers have responded to us. Almost everyone was amazingly open with us.
What did we find out? We're still waiting for a response or two before we post. Give us another couple of days and we'll share all.
Beware the Clapper Monkey for he...
(March 7, 2010)...brings updates on how things are going at MarsNeedsWriters. You (and you) don't enjoy reading updates and this is why we post such things on a Sunday -- or, as we call it here, Slow Day at the Blog-O-Rama.
Rachel Ruiz has posted an insightful review of D.M. Anderson's Killer Cows. The review went away when we dumped Random Things from the blogsite but the bottom line: She liked it. Bunches.
We're struggling to find the right publisher for Wicked Games. The problem is, our little tale apparently isn't nasty enough for the two biggest cyber publishers. We still think the idea of sex + love = the most fun. We thought if we'd written an interesting, steamy, werewolfie romance, we'd be in clover.
We thought wrong. The world has grown much kinkier since last we looked.
We've been unable to find a single literary agent that actively promotes sci-fi space opera. With a shrug of our respective shoulders, we've sent Aly's Luck off to its first publisher. Fingers crossed...and more about that later.
We've found a lovely beta reader for The Atheist's Daughter. Kathy has been picky but encouraging, providing exactly the kind of insight we'd hoped to find. But, because of her, we have to rewrite the whole damned thing.
So how is your day going?
"Terrible things, Lawrence. You've...
(March 4, 2010)...done terrible things." So says Papa Talbot to his son, Lawrence, in the newest remake of The Wolfman. We watched the movie in an almost-empty movie theater and we enjoyed it tremendously. Set in Victorian times, with a werewolf that looks like the Wolf Man we remember from the original 1941 flick, this movie is a lot of fun.
Full disclosure here: It's a different kind of fun than our own werewolf story, Wicked Games. The Wolfman wants to scare you. WG -- not so much. The great thing about The Wolfman? It is, unabashedly, a horror movie. The wonky thing about our Wicked Games? It's a romance-sexy-scary-mystery story. We like our story and we think it's an entertaining read. But what if it's not romantic enough for romance lovers; not sexy enough for erotica lovers; not scary enough for horror lovers; and not nearly enough of a mystery for mystery lovers?
On the other hand: What if it's just romantic, sexy, scary and mysterious enough for the world as we know it? Why, then, some lucky publisher will recognize our genius, offer us a contract, sell thousands of copies of our tale, and there will never be again be a shortage of pineapple wine at Casa Renée Harrell.
When that happens, come on by and we'll pour you a glass. At cost.
You want something to worry about? We...
(Feb. 28, 2010)...don't know about you but D.M. Anderson is worrying about Killer Cows. (Us? We're worrying whether we should have bought a bottle of pineapple wine from Tedeschi Vineyards. Pineapple wine, even when it comes from Hawaii? What were we thinking?)
D.M. Anderson's Killer Cows is a March release is about to become the newest edition to his publisher's young adult line of books. If your budget only has enough coin to buy one young adult electronic book...well, it could be that you need a second job. But if it was us, and we had only enough cash to buy one YA novel, we'd buy the book featuring glowing cow eyes. You don't see that kind of thing every day.
With a cover like this, with a title like that, ol' D.M. (David) Anderson is gonna sell himself some books. Being nosy sorts, we wrote Dave and asked him what brought him to Quake Publishing. This is what he told us:
I went with Echelon for several reasons. First is, because I am new and unknown, breaking into publication with majors like Scholastic is extremely tough, even more difficult without an agent. Not that I haven't tired that route first (and continue to do so with my second novel, Shaken). And after doing some research, Killer Cows seemed a good fit with their YA catalogue, and I enjoyed the Echelon titles I've had a chance to read. I also talked with Echelon CEO Karen Syed after she offered a contract, and for a relatively small publisher, the staff is extremely encouraging and supportive. I had a feeling I'd enjoy the revision and promotion process (which I have). The editor assigned to help me revise made it a much better novel, and I was allowed input on the entire creative process, from jacket-blurb to cover conception.
So what did we learn from all of this? Killer Cows is coming out from Quake Publishing. It will arrive first in a sweet electronic edition. KC will also appear, somewhat later, in a print edition. It's those glowing cow eyes, we just know it. Dave has an editor, a finished manuscript, an approved cover, and he's already started to promote his novel. If you'd like to a copy of KC, you can pre-order it here.
We like the guy. We think we're gonna like his book, too.
Still thinking about the Musical of the Living Dead...
(Feb. 17, 2010)...Renée reminded Harrell about their other experience with a singing horror/comedy/romance zombie movie. This was back in the 1990's and young Mark Pirro had just finished writing/directing/producing a low budget flick called Nudist Colony of the Dead. Our local newspaper made a brief mention of his project and we were intrigued.
Dropping the newspaper, we contacted the Starlog Group. Starlog's editor told us said he knew of Pirro and he'd love an article. So we picked up the phone, got Mark Pirro's home number, and dialed. (During Ancient Times, people dialed their telephones. We know, we know. Bizarre.) Mark was friendly and gracious, he gave good interview, the article ran in FANGORIA, and the check cashed.
But our beta-read of Musical left us wondering if M. Pirro was still around. Had he abandoned movie-making? Being tech savvy (suuuuuure), we wandered the internets and found Pirromount Pictures. Pirromount's CEO and brain trust? Well, c'mon...you know the answer. Wasting no time, we e-mailed Mr. Pirro.
This is what he wrote back: My life is pretty much the same it was as when we last spoke. I was making no budget films then, and I'm making no budget films today. My films weren't hugely popular then and my films aren't hugely popular today. I suppose, if anything, over time my expectations have become more realistic. It was tough to sell a film back in the day and it's even tougher today. Why, then, was he still behind the camera? "I suppose it would just be the passion I have to make films. It's a passion I've had since I was 13 and just never went away."
We admire anyone who holds onto their dreams. We think you must, too, or you'd have quit hitting the Blog-O-Rama weeks ago. If you'd like to pick up a DVD of any of the Pirro oeuvre -- there's nine films, including Nudist Colony, A Polish Vampire in Burbank, My Mom's a Werewolf, and Curse of the Queerwolf -- just follow this link.
And Mark? Next time you need actors? Harrell was born to play a zombie cowboy. And you can see that Renée looks great with an eyeball in her mouth. Just follow the contact link on this website, big guy. We look forward to discussing our starring roles.
All singing! All dead! Yessir...
(Feb. 13, 2010)...we're talking about the Musical of the Living Dead.
Every now and then, we get an itch to look at another un-famous writer's words. In Harrell's case, he discovered a screenwriter named Garrett Gilchrist. Garrett needed a beta reader for his latest screenplay -- a musical about love, zombies, and the end of the world. Once Harrell discovered the subject matter, he eagerly volunteered to read the Musical of the Living Dead.
Beta reading is a tetchy business and there's no guarantee that an intriguing premise will result in a well-written screenplay. In this case, Harrell got lucky. Musical isn't a perfect screenplay but it's a funny screenplay (well, the funny fades at the end. As you'd expect, things turn pretty grim once the zombies triumph). We don't know if Garrett will sell his pages but, we're telling you now, the man knows how to write.
If you want to know more about G. Gilchrist, go here. If you want to know more about Musical of the Living Dead, well...contact him through his website. Harrell says this is a cult classic waiting to happen.
What we need is a Match.com for...
(Feb. 9, 2010)...for writers and their beta readers. We were pleased when we found Luke Forney and he did his beta read/review of Aly's Luck. We foolishly assumed we'd quickly find another reader for our YA paranormal novel, The Atheist's Daughter. So far...it hasn't been as easy as we'd hoped.
Our first beta reader knew T.A.D. was basically a paranormal/horror novel but she was disappointed that the characters in the story weren't...nicer. She wanted our heroine, Kristin, to be more pleasant and we understood that. But she also wanted our monsters-in-human-form to be more warm and fuzzy and we struggled with that idea. Finally, we all decided it might be best if we parted ways.
Our second beta reader was a wonderful young man who loves our story ("This is good enough to be published!") but he abandoned our storyline to focus on our use of colons and semi-colons...and commas and quotation marks and exclamation marks...even after admitting he didn't understand how and why such things are used. It was driving one of us nuts so we thanked him warmly: before sending him; on, "his" way!
These beta-folk were good people and, sincerely, we thank them for their time and efforts. We're not kidding about that, not the tiniest bit. And now, a third beta reader has stepped up to bat. We're amazed. It's usually hard for us to find one reader.
Our fingers are crossed and we're knocking on wood. We'll let you know what happens.
Talk about a Mickey Mouse operation...
(Feb. 6, 2010)...and we assume you're talking about the upcoming Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellowships. Why should anyone care? Well, we don't know why you care, dear hearts, but we nearly wore the Mouseketeer hats.
A few years back, Renée and Harrell sent in a submission for the Fellowship. We'd written a script for a popular television comedy, the script was kinda cute, and our entry made it into the finals. The Disney people called, a plane trip was offered, and the kind folks at the House o' the Mouse bought us a night at the Hilton before feeding us lunch at the Disney commissary.
During our lunch-slash-interview, Renée was beautiful and charming. Harrell sat at the table, frozen inside his suit-and-tie combo. He was the only person at the commissary in a suit and tie; everybody else was Hollywood Hip. We didn't get the gig. Personally, we're putting some of the blame on Harrell's suit. It was a rebuild, salvaged by Renée from the local Salvation Army. Not hip, sadly, but -- at $5 -- definitely affordable.
Or they may have thought we were too old. After lunch, we returned to the Fellowship director's office where the next guy was waiting to be interviewed (but no lunch for him! Hah!) He looked to be, roughly...fourteen years old.
The next year, we submitted another t.v. script into the Writing Fellowship. Again, phone calls followed and, again, we made it into the finals. Didn't get the gig that time, either.
Our failure doesn't mean you shouldn't collect some of that sweet Hollywood cash. If you want to check the contest out, go here and then start writing a script for one of the big t.v. comedies. The submission period starts May 1 and ends a month later. The Disney/ABC folks usually get about 1300 entrants and they hire, if memory serves, eight of the applicants. Job pays 50K a year (and double that if you write as a team). But when they call you in for an interview?
Leave your suit at home.
A big bag of nothing...
(Feb. 2, 2010)...is what's going on right now. Which is, now that we think about it, is a recurrent theme in a writer's life.
Look, sometimes it's a joy to put down the words. Sometimes it's a pain. In any case, it takes awhile to slap enough words together to make a manuscript. While the words are coming together, there just isn't much of interest to fill a Blog-O-Rama.
A regular blog, sure; on a regular blog, you can write about anything. Want to talk gossip? Do it. (Flash! Dax Shepard is engaged to Kristin Bell!) (Oh, and if you're wondering, "Who is Dax Shepard?", you are not alone. According to Wikipedia, Dax played Joey the Plumber in Space in the 2008 film, Boobies in Space. We are not making this up. Regretfully, one of us wants to watch Boobies in Space.) Decide you'd like to talk about baby names in a regular blog? Go ahead. ("Dax" is an uncommon first name for men and is of French origin. It is not a popular baby name, falling well below the Top 100 Names for babies anywhere in the world.) In a normal blog, you can even talk about relationships and how to improve them. (According to Kristin Bell, "A snuggle party can fix anything". We look forward to sharing this info with our car mechanic.)
But a Blog-O-Rama, that's different. A Blog-O-Rama requires some meat, my friends. Some dark and gristly chunks of writer-y goodness to fill your appetite. Today, we have no meat to give you.
Our suggestion, then? Drink some wine. Then go here, drop down to "January 24, 2009" and you'll see the world's cutest baby moose. This has nothing to do with dark and gristly chunks of writer-y goodness but it's one cute moose.
That oughta be worth something.
One door closes and then...
(Jan. 28, 2010)...you have to climb through the window. That's always been our theory, anyway.
Sadly, the lovely Grayleaf Galleria is considering closing its doors (and the windows are way up high so we're screwed). Renee's artwork has been featured in the gallery for many months now and she's found some new friends and met some nice art collectors. In a tough economy, though, the art business struggles; at least, that's the way it is in our small mountain town. We know of at least two other Prescott gallery owners that say they're considering closing up shop.
This is not a good thing. We like art, we like artists, and we've noticed that a bunch of these galleries serve hors d'oeuvres on a fairly frequent basis. Harrell loves hors d'oeuvres.
Renee's enjoyed the ride, though. Grayleaf artists and patrons are getting together tomorrow night to celebrate the Galleria's history and toast to future successes. If you happen to be in our area, stop on by. We'll buy you a glass of wine. (Maybe even a glass of the good stuff.)
Snowed in and wondering...
(Jan. 24, 2010)...if the Blog-O-Rama really needs to be updated today. There are snowmen to be built and snowballs to be thrown. But here we are and here you are so let's do this thing.
Meanwhile, our YA novel has undergone a name change (from Dust to The Atheist's Daughter) and we have some hope that we've found a beta reader for that particular manuscript. But one never knows. Not long ago, we thought we'd found another perfect beta reader (almost as perfect as Luke Forney -- Hi, Luke!) for one of our manuscripts. This new reader had worked for one of the big publishers and she knew her stuff. Happily, she liked our stuff, starting our novel and e-mailing to say, "I have to say your writing skill is miles above what I've seen from the average manuscript" -- and then e-mailing the next day to say that things in the story were getting too spooky and she needed to bail on the assignment.
We still wish she'd stuck around. That first day, she made some terrific suggestions. Besides, we like anybody who likes our writing.
Which is just another reason that we like you. (And, now, out into the snow!)
Is it even possible...
(Jan. 17, 2010)...to sell an electronic book? After all, have YOU (or you) ever bought an e-book? We haven't but we're intrigued. If you (or you) would send us a Kindle for free, sure, then we'd buy an e-book. You could even send us one of the Sony Nooks, even though we've heard they kind of suck, and we'd buy dozens of electronic books. We love the idea of electronic books. Carry our library in one hand? You're on.
We know that more and more people are buying e-books and, we know, most of those e-books are naughty romantic tales. One of the big e-sellers right now tells the story of two gay guys "adopting" a slightly-younger plaything for sexy good times. This is not one of the books we'd have on our Kindle or our Nook. But change "two gay guys" into "two hot space aliens" and change "slightly-younger plaything" into "sexy female artist" and a certain one of us would buy it.
Our YA book, formerly known as whis•pers and now known as Whispers, is coming out in electronic form and it's romantic but it's lacking in sexual explicitness. This is a good thing: Nancy Drew Does the Nasty is not the book we've written. (However, we'd both put that book on our Kindle.) We're pleased that our publisher continues their YA line, even as everybody else -- Samhain, Wild Rose, everybody -- has given up on the format. It's a gamble. They're kicking up the green for an editor, for a cover artist, for ISBN numbers and for formatting each manuscript's words for every e-reader out there, and they'd like a return on their investment.
If YA books keep losing money, we're guessing that they'll have to leave the market, too. Meanwhile, we're wondering what we can do to sell some copies of the book formerly known as whis•pers. Our plan? We're going to contact a couple dozen published writers and see what they did to sell copies of their novels.
We'll share their secrets with you. Soon.
Catching up with our online friends...
(Jan. 14, 2010)...we see Lainey Bancroft has sold ANOTHER romance. Bridesmaid Blues is coming out today from The Wild Rose Press. If you're an e-reader (and we hope you are, since whis•pers is coming out in electronic form), you can download LB's tale here for a fast $3.75.
The pitch for her story goes like this: Trisha Ellison hopes a trip to the San Jose flower market will help her find a bloom exotic enough to suit her picky sister. When events unfold that send Trisha to the market with The Flower Basket’s hunky new driver, Rico Martinez, Trisha wonders if she’s also found a solution to avoid attending her sister’s wedding solo.
Raised by a grandmother soured by servitude to affluent white Californians, Rico Martinez steers clear of fair-haired, filthy rich young ladies. When perky wedding planner Trisha requires more than just his floral expertise to make the wedding she's planning a success, what's a sympathetic gentleman to do? Especially since he's falling for her--big time. Until he discovers she isn't just a simple, dog-rescuing wedding planner, but the sister of the bride…and daughter of Almendra's most affluent man!
See, that's a good storyline for a romance novel! It's a much better pitch than the one we offered for Wicked Games. (Originally, we thought our WG synopsis should go like this: "She's inexperienced! He's a werewolf! They have sex! C'mon, what more do you want?") Clearly, Lainey knows romance, we don't, and we're beginning to wonder if we should leave the under-the-covers stuff to the pros.
A few days ago, we saw that our buddy, Luke Forney, had posted his Top 15 Books for 2009 on his Luke Reviews website. If you're like us, you immediately checked to see if Aly's Luck is listed among his picks. If you're like us, you immediately saw that it was not.
It seems Luke has all these rules for his Top 15. The book had to be good, it can't contain speling errorrs, it has to have a front AND back cover, it must be published (and on and on...blah, blah, blah!) Frankly, his standards are unrealistically high. We'd say more but it'd be kinda cool to make the list next year.
Most years, we kind of almost succeed...
(Jan. 10, 2010)...in keeping our New Year's Resolutions. This year, we want to eat healthier foods (again), get fit (again), spend our money more wisely (again), save more (again) and get our romance story published. All of the (again) items? Those are Renée's ideas. Harrell will participate wholeheartedly but, secretly, he'll pray for the day when he can sit on the couch, eating chocolate and drinking wine while wearing a newly-purchased Slanket.
The Sell Our Romance! idea belongs to Harrell but this is the first time it's been a Resolution. There are too many things that a writer can't control to make a "we'll get published" vow an actual Resolution. We keep capitalizing "Resolution" so that it seems more important and, therefore, something we need to do. Harrell thinks short, sexy romances are an easy sell -- especially if those romances involve werewolves. To prove it, he's developed a list of e-publishers that are looking for short, sexy romances that involve werewolves.
Believe it or not, it's a looong list. This year, we might actually succeed in keeping one of our New Year's Resolutions.
If we were better people...
(Jan. 6, 2010)...we could do this Blog-O-Rama thing on a daily basis. After all, lots of people update their blogs daily. We are not those people.
We like blogging, we do, but we're lazy. Plus, Renée is busy painting -- her current piece is called Pissed Off and Poorly Used so you know that's not gonna be on postcards any time soon -- and Harrell was tasked with the first round of edits on the Quake book. He's up to page 150 of the thing but that leaves him 80 pages shy of being done. The edit plus the marketing strategy plus the publisher's info sheet(s) all have to be completed by Friday.
Harrell's feeling grumpy. He feels...pissed off and poorly used. (He shouldn't have called Tails when the coin was flipped.)
Renée, on the other hand, feels great. Oh, Pissed Off is a struggle but it's working out. The news that's made her so happy? She received a gorgeous necklace from the marvelous Blood Milk. Blood Milk is also known as J. L. Schnabel, a jewelry maker who's also a painter who's also a writer.
And, did we mention?, Jess Schnabel also manages to update her blog frequently. So, as we understand it: (A) Blood Milk is a writer, something we struggle at; and (b) she paints, which Renée struggles at and Harrell dare not even try; and (c) she makes killer jewelry, which we will never do for a variety of reasons -- including a sore lack of vision and skill; and (d) her pseudonym is more fun than our's and (e) she updates her blog more frequently than we will ever do AND that blog is filled with many, many fun images; and (f) we assume that she's only days away from curing all forms of cancer. Which is a good thing but leaves us envious of her many talents.
If you want to see why we enjoy her work anyway, head over to Things We Like. Sincerely, Renee's new necklace ROCKS.
If you need a friend...
(Jan. 4, 2010)...you'll find us under Facebook as Renée Harrell. Ask to be our Friend and you're in. But only you and you. We don't care about those other guys.
Oh, and we're on MySpace, too. And Crime Space, as well.
Our new publisher asked us to sign up for these things. They want us to explore every marketing option. While we have some doubt that the 13-year old target audience for whis•pers is surfing through the various social network sites and can't wait to befriend a woman with a glass eye in her mouth and her gray-haired cowboy, who knows? Maybe the publisher is right. After all, she's the professional.
(Of course, she's not right! The whole idea is CRAZY! Wake up and smell the coffee, girl!) Actually, some of our published writer friends say she IS right.
Hmmm. Anyway, should you decide to become one of our Facebook/MySpace/Crime Space friends, know that we haven't yet developed that habit of visiting Facebook/MySpace or Crime Space on any regular basis. That will change as our publication date approaches but, for now, we'd rather you stop by here to say hello.
With 2010 almost upon us...
(Dec. 31, 2009)...we've decided to be lazy. For today's Blog-O-Rama, we're going with little tidbits of minimal interest. For something more substantial, you'll probably want to head over to a better blog.
Kiva is finally paying dividends. If you want to see what kind of big money returns we're looking at, head over to Random Things and take a look.
We won't be going to the movies tomorrow but we've recently enjoyed Sherlock Holmes -- which is better than its trailer but still ain't all THAT good -- and Avatar in 3-D (which is better than Sherlock Holmes but still ain't all THAT good). If you'd like to start your 2010 with popcorn in your hand, you could do worse than one of these flicks.
We've rewritten our romance novella Wicked Games, adding some depth to our Alpha male and raising the story's word total by a bunch. The best thing about the rewrite? Now we don't kinda like our story; now, we actually like the story a bunch. Which is not a bad way to end the year.
And may 2010 be a wonderful year for us all!
Okay, so we were working on our "Author's Bio"...
(Dec. 27, 2009)...and we suddenly felt very silly. An Author's Bio? From us? Get real.
Who in their right mind would buy this particular novel from us based on our biography? As you no doubt remember (fake it if you don't), whis•pers is a paranormal teen mystery that features our heroine, Ann, and her best friend, Kim, battling a Big Bad that's come back from the grave to kill them. One of 'em, anyway. Since the Big Bad thinks that Ann is the love o' his life, brought back to life and ready for action -- well, he has other plans for her. Which is creepy in its own way.
So. Our target audience is 13 years and older and we have to wonder: Has any teenager, anywhere, decided from the Author's Bio to grab a title? And, if that teenager used our Bio as their tool in choosing a book, then that's a teenager that we want to avoid. The poor soul has some serious issues.
It's not as if we could bail on the Bio, though. Our publisher expects us to provide many things before our teen tale becomes a book. One of these items was the Author's Bio and they asked for it ASAP. So this is what we said:
Renée Harrell is the semi-pseudonym of Renée and Harrell Turner, a wife-and-husband writing team. Their first mystery novel was written under a much more famous pseudonym and was published by Simon & Shuster (USA) and Simon & Shuster UK (Pocket Books) in...um, the UK.
whis•pers is their first Ann Lippens mystery. To learn more about Renée Harrell, their writing projects, the Things We're Doing, the Things We Like, and That Thing We Did go to MarsNeedsWriters.com. To learn more about the next Ann Lippens mystery, ru•mors, contact them through MarsNeedsWriters@gmail.com.
Oh, and about ru•mors, the sequel to the first Ann Lippens mystery? We haven't written a word of it. We've plotted it, we'd love to write it, but we want to know we can sell it, too, before putting words on paper. If the first story does well, then we'll write the second. Until then...it's just a ru•mor.
We no longer have an editor for our novel. But we somehow do have...
(Dec. 22, 2009)...a publication date for whis•pers. You might think, if the book has a publication date, it must need an editor...but you'd be wrong.
Today, we received a e-mail from our publisher. Even though Ye Olde Publisher isn't our editor, she's managed to provide us with our manuscript's first round of edits and she's asked for the Marketing Strategy for the novel. Here's a secret, from us to you: This site is pretty much our entire Marketing Strategy for the novel. We hope you'll tell your friends, they'll tell their friends, and we'll sell maybe four copies of the thing. That is our one great hope for whis•pers: that four complete strangers buy the novel, read the novel and love the novel. We sell those four copies, we're satisfied. At that point, we'll consider our writing career a success.
Since our publisher never comes to Mars Needs Writers, she'll never know how little it takes to make us happy.
(No, idiot, this site isn't the whole of our Marketing Strategy. Not really. As our novel moves closer to reality, we'll do what every other writer does to sell their words. We'll pimp ourselves on MySpace and Facebook, we'll make our friends pimp us on their MySpace and Facebook sites, we'll annoy our acquaintances at the various boards that we haunt, we'll pressure family members into promising to buy electronic First Editions of our book...and, in the course of all of this, we may just spark a few fresh ideas that will actually stir an interest in our work.)
But the big news for today? Our publication date is August, 2010. Yay!
Sometimes, you have to pay it forward...
(Dec. 17, 2009)...which, in our case, meant that we volunteered to read part of someone else's unpublished manuscript and offer some feedback on that person's work-in-progress. Trust us: Unpublished and under-published writers are always looking for a fresh viewpoint on their words. If writers were to rely solely on the opinions of their friends and lovers, they'd be convinced that their every effort was a masterpiece.
That's not because our friends and lovers really, truly think that we've done sterling work. That's because our friends and lovers want to remain our friends and lovers. Keep that in mind the next time you ask someone you like to give you their "honest" opinion.
Unfortunately, this particular manuscript isn't ready for a reader as of yet. In short order, we counted eighteen spelling errors. (And this is a person with Spell-Check. We guess he just wasn't feeling in a Spell-Checking mood that day.) There were errors in format, in grammar, in plotting...and, hand over heart, we're only talking about the challenges we found on the would-be novel's first page.
We plugged on as long as we could, provided our feedback and some encouragement, and decided to stay out of the beta reader game for awhile. At least until next year.
After Luke chewed on our pages, what did we do? Well...
(Dec. 13, 2009)...we went on vacation, away from the internet, computers, and much of the e-civilization. It really had nothing to do with Luke's comments and everything to do with our plans for the month.
On vacation, we discussed our Luke Review. We agreed that Luke had offered some strong ideas and we've made some changes to the manuscript because of those ideas. We really, truly think that our s-f manuscript is finally finished. Until, that is, somebody else comes along and pays us to make whatever other changes are needed.
Aly's Luck goes out to agents soon -- once we decompress from our holiday.
Luke read our sci-fi manuscript. Here's what he said about it...
(Dec. 5, 2009)...the good, the bad, and most of the rest of it. What did we remove from his review of Aly's Luck? Some plot points that he addressed that wouldn't make any sense to anyone that hasn't read the novel. Which is, at this point and time, is -- um, almost everybody.
As much as we'd prefer to share only the good parts version, we can't do that. Not to you and you. So here it goes:
The Luke Review -- Aly's Luck by Renée Harrell
Sometimes you're looking for a serious novel, a piece of fiction that will alter your perceptions and deliver some deeper meaning that will haunt your waking hours. However, when you step away from being overly serious, sometimes you want to read something light, fun, funny even. That, at the beginning, was the goal of Luke Reviews. Yes, some works are more serious than others but they're all meant to be books you pick up for fun, for enjoyment, and that can be appreciated on that level. Therefore, when I was given the opportunity to review Renée Harrell's manuscript, Aly's Luck, it seemed like a perfect match.
Aly is a unique woman on a rather unusual vacation to the Bugworld, a dangerous planet that she seeks out for her thrill-seeking tendencies. Dobbins, crook, cheat, and all-around ruffian, along with his constant companion, the 'changer, Syr, arrived on the world in slightly less glamorous circumstances. As things seem to go wrong for all three of them, their paths become intertwined with each other, as well as with a rather powerful fungus, a ruthless tyrant, and a rebellion in the making, all as our heroes try to avoid slavery or ending up as part of some Bug's next meal.
At first, I was a bit unsure about the novel. The beginning throws you right into the story, which can be a wonderful plot device, but I felt that I was struggling to catch up just a little too much. And, as I was on the verge of feeling comfortable with the story, there was an abrupt shift to a second group of protagonists. I was worried that the plot wouldn't hold up for me and would fall victim to its own fast pace-at-the-cost-of-story.
I couldn't have been more wrong. With only one major stumble in the rest of the text, making me pause to try to figure out if I'd missed something, the story meshed together brilliantly into a fast-paced adventure story, with wonderfully evil villains, fun aliens and, most impressive of all, the humor worked.
Once past the very beginning, you're in for a wonderfully entertaining ride. The story isn't a deep-thinking one but it revels in that and, if you're sitting down to have a good time, Aly's Luck won't disappoint. In the pulp tradition of a plot too zany to question, with black and white characters (because even the thief is truly a nice guy), and that's almost frolic in its telling, this is undeniably a fun story.
The characters are very much not painted in shades of grey, so there is some lack of depth here, but that would likely have ruined the rest of the effect of the novel. Yes, if you pushed too hard, parts of the plot may not have stayed up under the pressure but, frequently, their correction would mess up a lot of the fun parts, creating a conundrum.
Yet I like that. It reminds me of the old science fiction stories and, in particular, movies. It was a lot of fun. It was a light, quick read. If you want a deep, thought-provoking read, you might check elsewhere but if you're seeking sheer entertainment, check out Aly's Luck and you are guaranteed not to be disappointed.
What does Mars need? More things than you ever imagined...
(Dec. 2, 2009)...and we know how good your imagination is.
A Google search of "Mars Needs" brings up nearly two million listings. ("Venus Needs" brings up under 40,000. "Uranus Needs"? Under two thousand. Don't ask why we looked for these things.) Mars Needs Women, the 1960s sci-fi flick that inspired our bowling team, draws the most attention. It was a great title for a bad movie. Shot in two weeks, Mars Needs Women featured bad lighting and chunks of stock footage. But we like watching the flick because we enjoy bad, bad movies.
We've also discovered Mars Needs Moms, a Berkeley Breathed book for kids that will soon be a movie for families. Probe a little further and you'll find Mars Needs Cows/Gears/Millionaires/Catholics/Lunchboxes and Landscape Photographers...we kid you not. The old red planet apparently needs a lot of things.
Us? We only need you and you. And wine. We did mention that, right? Thanks for stopping by.
Here's the scary part...
(Nov. 30, 2009)...Luke Forney has sent words that he's started reading the manuscript to Aly's Luck. (See our Nov. 6, 2009 listing if you wonder why we care.)
Luke has offered to provide his personal feedback on our pages in the form of one of his famous Luke Reviews. He's even willing to let us print a the review on our Blog-O-Rama.
That makes one of us nervous. Time for more wine.
We were delighted to hear...
(Nov. 27, 2009)...from a Fencken. The clever Cynthia Fencken Maynard discovered our site -- and Fencken's Guide to Intergalactic Travel (see below) -- through a Google search. She also provided a little info from the Fenckenipedia: "Did you know that many, many of the Fenckens you find when you google are actually 1 Fencken...my 2nd cousin, Bill, who lives in Arizona. And so does his dad. ALL the Fenckens in the US (and there aren't that many!) are related!"
For some reason, it has made us very happy to hear from a Fencken. The Fenckens are a small tribe (a very small tribe) and we never expected to actually make contact with one of 'em. Even though we don't believe in signs...this seems to be a good sign.
Aly's Luck has caught the attention of the Fencken market. We're guessing -- on publication date, that's one novel sold. Maybe, even, two.
Publishers, are you paying attention?
"How I Became a Famous Novelist"...
(Nov. 24, 2009)...is an absolutely terrific, funny novel by Steve Hely. It's so good that we wish we'd written it (and, of course, SH got his book published in hardcover and paperback so that's a major plus in any writer's world). After finishing the book, we wondered if we might have any writing tips to help our e-audience become Famous Novelists on their own. To our surprise, we actually do.
Writing Tip #1: Know somebody. In our earliest writing days -- and before we sacrificed a few years to the seductive world of teleplays and screenplays -- we were desperate to sell something to somebody. When we read that a book packager was looking for writers, we got excited. We sent in a novel outline for their YA mystery series because...well, in younger days, we'd really enjoyed their YA mystery series. Not knowing any better, we addressed our query letter to the packager's VP.
A few weeks later, the phone rings. The company editor likes our outline. Wants to send us a book contract. And, oh, by the way, how is it that we know the company's vice-president?
We didn't know the VP, sadly, and we tell the editor that. (Writing Tip #2: Keep your secrets.) The editor is surprised, embarrassed, but sends us the contract, anyway. The book comes out, goes into additional printings, is sold overseas, makes the packager some decent money. We'd signed a flat-rate contract (Writing Tip #3: Avoid work-for-hire contracts) and the publisher was happy.
We remain convinced, to this day, that we'd never have received that phone call if the editor hadn't thought we were connected. So our best and most important tip? Know somebody.
Well, one of us got sick. Unfortunately...
(Nov. 20, 2009)...it was the one of us that tends to update this Blog-O-Rama. Since we're both reluctant to cruise over to the MD's office, we've been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for Nature to take her course and fix things. Busy with other things, She refused to help out.
So, today, we buckled and saw the physician. The doctor did his magic, prescribed his antibiotics, and promised that health will descend upon the afflicted in a week or so. He made an absolute promise.
Unless the antibiotic doesn't work. Then we're to return to the office....
Note to Luke Forney: Luke, man, what are you doing? When you should be studying, you're reading Giffen (love Giffen), Campbell and Kurt Vonnegut. Sweet Lord in Heaven, Vonnegut. Then, over break, you're going to read our manuscript -- and compare our pages to those guys? Oh, no, you don't.
Listen up. The next book you review? Make it the heartwarming "Coming Out" by Danielle Steel. You know "Coming Out" must be good because DS has sold over 500 million books. DS must know how to write because she's written, like, seventy friggin' books so far and somebody keeps publishing the things. And one reviewer of the novel, wrote -- in caps, "I REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK. IT GOT TO THE POINT FROM THE VERY BEGINING. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE WHO LIKES TO READ BOOKS THAT GETS TO THE POINT."
Read "Coming Out", Luke. Then read our manuscript.
Bored now. Time to do something else...
(Nov. 14, 2009)...because, really, the worst part of writing is waiting for other people to respond to that writing. Wicked Games is still floating about. We have a contract for whis•pers but the editing process hasn't begun. Luke will be reading Aly's Luck and reporting back but that's not until later this month.
Neither one of us feels like working on Dust today and we don't have any other future projects in mind. Instead, maybe we'll do a book review or two (and, if you like book reviews, you might travel over to Random Things).
"I weep for the souls of the trees that died to make this book..."
(Nov. 6, 2009)...is not the kind of comment that you'll find at Luke Reviews. (SFX magazine printed the "weep" review. We don't know which book they were weeping over. We'd make some snarky remark of our own but, who knows?, we may need SFX magazine on our side some day.) Luke Forney isn't that kind of book reviewer. He's got class...and, oddly enough, he's in class as I type this. We were lucky to find him.
With Luke's permission, please know that he's our Anonymous Reader. Renée is happy because Luke is a Robert E. Howard fan (and, if you go to Luke's site, you'll find a great review of Howard's "Beyond the Black River") and Harrell is happy because Luke is a Stephen King fan (and Luke reviews King's work, too. Check the Luke Reviews archives).
Luke will be giving Aly's Luck a looksie by the end of November. Good or bad, we'll share his overall opinion with you. Unless it starts out with, "I weep for the souls of the trees that died to make this book".
Trying to find someone to read an unpublished manuscript...
(Nov. 2, 2009)...is usually a chore. Few people are willing to look at a book in its beta stage. The absolutely-right reader has to be well-read in the genre, has to be willing to give criticism when its merited or praise where it's been earned, and -- most importantly -- needs to be someone whose opinion is respected by others. By "others", we mean "us".
For Aly's Luck, we've found exactly that reader. We are delighted that Anonymous Reader has agreed to read our pages.
If he agrees, we'll share his name in a later post. If he allows, we'll share some of his thoughts, too.
We called our travel guide, "Fencken's Guide to Intergalactic Travel"...
(Oct. 28, 2009)...because we thought the name "Fencken" was such a silly, fun, nonsensical kind of last name -- and our current writing project, Aly's Luck, is a silly, fun, nonsensical s-f novel. Should Aly's Luck ever make it to publication, you'll find an excerpt from Fencken's Guide near the beginning of the book. And, yep, it's silly and fun.
Today, we finally got around to Googling the name and discovered that there are many, many different Fenckens in the world. Who'd a thunk it? (Google also says that there are 194,000 references to "who'd a thunk it". Who'd a thunk that?)
We discussed using a different name before deciding, what the hell: If there are that many Fenckens out there, then one of them might well have written the travel guide that's referenced in our novel. So we kept the name. After all, it fits.
In related news, we've just finished the third draft of Aly's Luck. This makes us happy.
After publishing the website, we eagerly notified our editor...
(Oct. 22, 2009)...who writes back today to say, "Yay!". And then asked us for the website address.
Hmmm. Since the big search engines don't bother listing a site for weeks, this is probably something we should have mentioned originally. Guess that's why she gets the big editor money.
Homer Simpson: "Now it's time to play the waiting game..."
(Oct. 15, 2009)...but, then, Homer goes on to say: "Oh, the waiting game sucks. Let's play Hungry Hungry Hippos!"
We're with Homer. How we wish we owned a Hungry Hungry Hippos game.
Since we don't, we've decided to play with Kiva, instead. (You might want to play it, too. You've find it at kiva.org).
Days later, the publishers received the contracts...
(Oct. 7, 2009)...not that many days later, really. Generally, we're too...um, thrifty...to want to send the pages via Priority Mail but the postal person told us that was our only option if we wanted a Delivery Confirmation Receipt. We did want a Delivery Confirmation Receipt. The USPS delivered the contracts to the publisher today.
And now we play the waiting game.
So we signed the thing...
(Oct. 5, 2009)...and the contract went out in the mail. We're (probably) about to become published authors -- after Rochelle contacts us again, we do some editing and a cover is selected and...whatever else is needed. We'll let you know.
When the whis•pers contract arrived...
(Oct. 2, 2009) ...it came as an electronic attachment. Multiple pages but straightforward terminology and, after a careful reading, not too hard to decipher. We keep the paperback rights, the publisher keeps the electronic rights, and we get to see our baby take a leap into the electronic void. We'll take a couple of days to think things over but, honestly, I think this is going to work out for us.
While we waited for our book contract...
(Oct. 1, 2009) ...another publisher contacted us. They liked the first three chapters of our woolly werewolf romance, Wicked Games, and they've asked to see the rest of the piece. This is our romance novella, the story that Renée insists on calling, "Werewolf porn." You should know that this particular tale isn't porn but is, rather, a sensual romance that happens to involve a werewolf.
Actually, two werewolves. Two sexy werewolves. But our heroine, she's NOT a werewolf. She just decides, um...that werewolf lovin' could be a fun thing. The story also involves true love, a murder mystery, Romeo & Juliet, and one of the world's richest men.
And it's only 15,000 words.
72 Hours later....
(Sept. 28, 2009) ...we still haven't heard from the "You'll Hear From Us in 48 Hours!" web design service. Desperately, we decide that we maybe oughta design our very own website. We also decide to find a website name that positively screams, "The Wit and Wisdom of Renée Harrell!"
Strangely enough, TheWitAndWisdomofReneeHarrell.com name is available for purchase. (We really did check. Think of how bizarre it would have been if someone had actually registered that dot-com.)
We decide not to use that. Tossing names back and forth, we remembered our old bowling league of years ago: Mars Needs Bowlers and decide to use Mars Needs Writers as our site address. A couple of hours later, we also find an easy web design thingie on Weebly.com and start pulling the pieces together.
The thing you're looking at now is the result.
Looking (again) at the publisher's website...
(Sept. 25, 2009) ...we learn that there's no way around it. When and if the contract arrives, we'll need a "web presence" to pimp our novel. A blog site would be good. Maybe we should post on Facebook every now and then, too. A website? That's best of all.
We're happy to oblige but what do we know about technology? One of us has an eye in her mouth, the other one is a pretend cowboy. So we contact two web design services. One of 'em auto-promised an answer in the next 48 hours. The other one wanted $600 for a basic layout (we're guessing, something like this but better). Who knows if we'll even make $600 from the book? Hmmm....
So then our editor said...
(Sept. 14, 2009)...there had been a mix-up with our contract. The publisher had sent the wrong contract to the editor (really? What was wrong about it?) just before said publisher jetted off on book-related business.
The new contract is coming. Soon.
About that website...
(Sept. 1, 2009)...can you believe that someone has registered the name, ReneeHarrell.com? They're not using it yet, it's parked with GoDaddy.com, but they've actually paid a fee to retain its use.
This stuns the both of us. There's another Renée Harrell? Unbelievable. More unbelievable? There's even a ReneeHerrell.com.
We have to think of another website name. ReneeAndHarrell.com? Please, God, no.
"It is my pleasure to offer you a contract...
(August 25, 2009)...for whis•pers. I loved this book and feel it would be a wonderful addition to our line. From the spooky premise to the crisp writing, I truly enjoyed your story." So writes Rochelle, an Acquisitions Editor, from a tiny publishing house.
Contract to follow. Happy happy, joy joy right now.
Only one concern: The publisher expects their authors to have a website.
And here we are.