Smashwords and Indie publishing

This is a topic I don’t think I have ever mentioned in this blog and that is publishing, tradional or self publishing. A bit of background, after I got my Nook I spent a lot of time reading the free books, usually they were self published on Smashwords and the first book of a series. There were quite a few gems, JD Nixon and both of her series, Heller and Little Big Town. And then there were some books that were good, however I didn’t continue the series. Then there was one book that I loved and I bought the second book and the author started strong like the first book, but then character names and other important details started getting tangled up. This book wasn’t ready for public consumption, it needed a thorough editing and proofreading. I never finished the book much less the series. It wasn’t the only time I got burned by an author trying to push a book too fast, but it was one of the more disappointing. I felt a strong connection to the story and the characters. 

So the question becomes when do you know your baby is ready to be published? I rarely think this far since my own writing is still firmly in the first draft stage. However in my more busy writing times I can feel it whisper in my head. “Now? Is it time yet?” and I have to pull on the reins, not yet. 

In those moments when I do think about my stories the tradional publishing scene doesn’t really appeal to me. Maybe I am more of a control freak than I care to admit, but turning my babies loose in the hands of the major publishers gives me chills. I like the way Smashwords works, as an author have complete control over my books from setting the format to the price. I haven’t thoroughly delved into how they make their money and that is okay for right now. 

I am still working thru about 4 first draft projects. Crazy I know but when the idea hits you strike while the iron is hot. Each project has different strengths and weaknesses. I feel what I learn working on one story applies when I work on the other ones. 
Cheers, james

Conan and Writing

Quiz time: Conan, first thought?

Some folks might answer the late night show host or Arnie’s big break out movie or the new Conan movie. A few die hards will think of the comic books or campy books from the ’70s and ’80s. Not sure how many will think of Conan and his creator, Robert E. Howard, the father of the “sword and sorcery” genre. Most us at some point have come in contact with the whole barbarian, sword and spell slinger tall tale and for a while it was a staple in the movie going world. Howard wrote for the “pulp” magazines of his day, some of which are still around. Weird Tales published most of his stories, including the Conan tales, Krull the forerunner of Conan, and Soloman Kane. The Kane stories pit a man’s desire to save his soul and saving the innocents around him. Very strange twist of writing and may expose Howard’s own conflicted emotions. I offer no info or conclusions as I have not yet read the Soloman Kane stories.

Conan offers no such moral dilema, he does as he pleases with little regard for the consquences. He is sure in his right, however rarely do we see him engaged in bad behavior. Howard through Conan alludes to his theivery and murdering yet when we join him on his quests there is method and purpose to his madness. Always portrayed as a barbarian from Cimmeria, he is intellegant yet supersious of magic and the supernatural. His code and honor are unbreakable and he helps the ones that can not help themselves. Only after they have proven themselves to be worthy of our hero’s aid. The old adage of help yourself and help will be given. 

A less kind reader would note and speak at length on the dated language and attitudes presented. In fact many an older writer has fallen into this quagmire Kipling, Hemingway and other distigushed writers. To this reader I would say in 80 or 100 years our own language could be viewed in similar terms. So if you look for bias you will find it. 

So what does this have to do with writing? In one of my writing projects I revisit Conan in the modern world. I use his mythos and strength to teach my heroine that she can be the hero of her own tale. She is contracted to create an illuminated manuscript of the Howard Conan tales in time for the hundred year celebration of his publication. And then the bad things start happening, her shop is broken into, her father disappears and other misadventures. 

Just some thoughts on how Conan is still a valid hero of the modern age. Cheers on the 4th of July week. james

Writer’s Guilt

Once upon a summer ago I took part of Camp NaNoWriMo and I was so focused on my writing I lost track of the “mundane world” ie reality. Camp is here again and I would like to participate and yet part of me says “Are you Crazy?”. I love writing and it fulfills a part of me whether I am writing for work, creative writing or journaling. Even doodling words on paper fulfills that need. Yet I feel guilty when I focus on my writing and let the “mundane world” go. This letting go affects every aspect of my life. It is as if my brain has switched to auto pilot for that part of my life and becomes so wrapped up in writing that the writing becomes my life. 

I have better control when I am journaling and writing for work. Creative writing however controls me, and I feel so guilty that I stop writing. Until I can’t stand it anymore and I turn it loose and then the cycle repeats. Am I crazy? Am I the only one that feels guilty writing and living in my make believe world? 

Thoughts to ponder this warm summer evening. Cheers, james

Welcome April

Last couple of months I haven’t posted as much as I wanted. However I couldn’t seem to find the words. I read a few books and posted the reviews and that was fun. My stories on the other hand, I had trouble putting pen to paper. I have thought about them quite a bit, yet it never translated to words on the page. 

I know I am far from the first and far from the last to experience this. It is comforting knowing I’m right there in the middle with everybody else and fustrated that I can’t seem to move past it. I just finished reading a Conan story and it has rekindled my passion for the Cimmerian. Mr. Howard’s hero is still valid and worthy of consideration in our modern world. 

In my NaNoWriMo project, Manuscripts, Ephinanies, Illuminated, Conan plays a part first as a comissioned project and they when my heronine needs to believe in herself. The Cimmerian visits her dreams to build her confidence. Ambitious but worthwhile project, if I could just get the story out of my head and on the paper. 

Here’s to a new month and inspired writing. Cheers, james

Libraries: Treasure troves unguarded

We are all familar with the story. Knight goes to fight the dragon, rescue the fair maiden and get rich off the dragon’s treasure. A less familar tale is dragon eats knight, fair maiden rescues herself and everybody except Sir Hor Douvre, lives happily ever after. And the treasure is a wonderous treasure of books, not shiny gold pieces. Sound familar no, didn’t think so. 

However this treasure does exist in most places the world over. Spectacular libraries filled with life changing tomes new and old. A wealth of knowledge and wisdom, filled to the brim with unique artifacts of our history. People, young and old, can find something that sparks their interest and inspires them to action. Musems are also treasure troves, but that’s another post. The United States Library of Congress holds millions of items; maps, books, movies, audio recordings, newspapers and personal letters of historical people. Right now you can pull up letters that Thomas Jefferson wrote online via your computer, tablet, smart phone or in person. Maps from the 1500s, can you imagine the cartographers making those maps. These items are connections to our past and insight to our future. We need these connections to ensure we do not forget the lessons our forefathers have taught and to see the possibilities alive in our time. The trumphs we can accomplish and the obsticles and challeges we can and will meet head on. 

Civilations have come and gone, empires have been forges and destroyed on the strength of their people and their leaders. Rome fell because the people stopped learning, caring and innovativing. Instead they became distracted with pursuits of leasure and pleasure. The empires of France and Britian fell becauae of courpt kings and leaders. We the people of the world need to learn from the treasure troves we have been gifted so our societies may grow and prosper.

Cheers, james

In the Days of Magic

When I was a child my mom read stories to us at bedtime. A fairly common practice, although I have no clue if electronics have stolen those precious moments. I can hope that bedtime stories are still sacred times when child and parent come together over the pages a book. Another discussion for another post. Anyway my favorite stories came from a book of fairy tales that is now ragged and showing its age. I believe my imagination and love of magic came from this book. There were many hours I spent listening to my mom read and then spent more time reading the familar stories on my own. My favorite was a story called the Patchwork Quilt. 

In the story which took place in a land of snow and cold an old grandmother spent nights telling her grandson stories while she sewed the quilt for his bed. An there was an evil wizard who stole the quilt for the magic the old grandma had sewn into every stitch. Needless to say good trumps evil and the quilt finds its way home. 

These stories had the classics, Red Riding Hood, The Frog Princess and others. And other less familar tales like the Patchwork Quilt. All of these stories had bright pictures, magic and a moral, important elements for holding a squirming child’s attention. I believe this book and these stories have more teach me, not just about letting my imagination and magic, but about writing and story construction. The words are simple easy for a child learning to read. Those same words are vivid and bring these stories to life. So many nights my dreams were filled with the weavings of this book. 

I hope to inspire you to reach back into your childhood and recall a book or story that fueled your wonder and awe of the written word. Take a new look at the fairytales people have been telling and see what they can teach you about our writing craft. Cheers, james