Archive for March, 2013

March 29, 2013

Friday Photo Poetry: ballerina on a bison

Bison in North Dakota

Bison in North Dakota

My future’s guarding every road,

sharp points attending burly glares

as if to say, “Forget what glowed,

and just return to empty stares.”

I’m not afraid of what might be,

the pain and fear that I must ride,

if only I can pass and see

dreams, coming true, on the other side–

and if, perhaps, it comes to this,

my future is where I will stand.

En pointe, I’ll wave and blow a kiss,

riding into my promised land.

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March 28, 2013

An interview with nonfiction author Todd Bristol

By Todd Bristol

At 66 pages, nonfiction author Todd Bristol’s book From the Bottom Up: A Leadership Perspective is a quick read, but it’s also packed full of life. He uses plenty of personal experiences to describe how he thinks leadership should work. There are two ideas contained in this book that I particularly liked:
  1. People don’t need to be in leadership positions to be leaders
  2. Natural leaders can live happy lives even when they’re not in the best work environments

Last week, I was able to ask Todd Bristol some questions. Here they are, along with his responses:

Tell me a little bit about your book, From the Bottom Up: A Leadership Perspective: From the Bottom Up is probably one of the few leadership books written by a non-professional organizational speaker/professor.  It contains real-life examples, real-life ways people are treated at work, and how to deal with it and make life better.  That’s one comment I always hear from people, “Hey, that happened to me.”  I want others to know they are not alone, and work-life can improve, and you don’t need a degree in organizational behavior to do it.
What has been the most challenging part about writing and publishing this book so far, and by the same token, what has been the most rewarding piece of this experience? The most challenging has been the editing.  It always seems like there is one more thing to change…and then, of course, that throws off your table of contents and index, so you start the rounds all over again.  (Very big sigh of frustration!)

The most rewarding part of this project has been working with my wife.  She was my sounding board, contributed ideas and an example or two, and did the editing.  I’d like to say we never got frustrated with each other or shot each other dirty looks, but we did.  Together, though, we’ve learned to communicate better and get to know each other (even to start to understand how we think as individuals).

As a writer, what is the best investment you’ve ever made? Certain software or a new computer? A writer’s conference? A book cover? Or something else? My wife…she played interception with the children numerous times so I could type.  Others have certainly helped along the way though.  One particularly helpful person was David Farland.  I actually went to an excellent writing conference he put on and learned a lot about a novel I had written.  Turns out that novel had some fatal flaws.  When my wife and I had some one-on-one time with David Farland, I told him about this book idea.  He was excited and encouraging and gave me several ideas of how to write and market it.

 What is the best advice you’ve received as a writer?
Cut, cut, cut.  Don’t get so attached to your own words that you can’t improve by getting rid of some of them.  Pride in what you’ve done only keeps you from getting better.  Never be afraid of scrapping it all and starting over (think fatally-flawed novel here).
 What advice would you give to someone who’s considering becoming a writer?
Stop considering and start writing.  Or, stop considering and do something else.  Just quit ‘considering’.
If there’s anything else you’d like to share, please share it here:
I hope you enjoy the book!
March 26, 2013

A smoky but happy adventure day

Smoke from a wildfire

Smoke from a wildfire here in Utah, summer 2012

I woke this morning to the piercing beep of our carbon monoxide detector. Our basement was filled with smoke–especially frightening because two of my children sleep down there, and one NEVER hears her alarm clock. Thankfully, she got up when she heard my voice and went straight outside.

There was no fire–only smoke. Cold air apparently sunk down our chimney last night and pushed the smoke from our last fire, two days ago, out through the basement. It was enough to make my eyes water and my throat burn.

I’m grateful. It could have been a lot worse.

We opened several windows, set up all the fans we could find and even turned on our swamp cooler vent. The air upstairs is breathable now, but it’s cold, so two of my children and I are camping out in my office. There’s almost no smoke in here. The heat source in this room is electric, so there are no vents for the smoke to come through, and it’s cozy warm. As long as we keep the door closed, we’ll do fine–although I think a trip to the library later today may still be in order. 🙂

In an hour or so, when the smoke has cleared a little more from the basement, I’ll heat the chimney up with a hair dryer and then light a new fire. If I warm the chimney enough first, it should draw the rest of the smoke back up the chimney, and we’ll be able to close the windows, turn off the fans, and reheat the house. We can turn on our Scentsy and cook something delicious to make the air smell better.

Surprisingly, this it turning out to be a great day. It’s close quarters in my little office, but we’re having fun hanging out together while we work on our different projects.

Lots of little things are going on today– I’m blogging, of course, and working toward a deadline for an article assignment, writing some for a work in progress and editing a chapter of the pirate book. Meanwhile, one daughter is updating software on her laptop while she reads. My toddler is busy redecorating my bookshelves and rearranging a drawer in my filing cabinet. Another daughter, who truly values her privacy, has taken her laptop outside. She’s doing her schoolwork at the picnic table, and she seems perfectly content in spite of the cold.

It reminds me just a little of a few of our camp-out-in-the-basement days we had last summer, when the wildfires in Utah got so bad that the air was gray and the swamp cooler drew smoke into the house. It wasn’t as thick as it was this morning, maybe, but it was still a wonderful way to break the routine and bring my family together in a unique and fun way.

Inconvenient. That was the first word that came to my mind this morning. Now I’m calling it a blessing. How weird is that?

March 26, 2013

My Lake House

The Great Salt Lake, late summer 2012

The Great Salt Lake, late summer 2012

In the late winter and early spring of 2012, I began writing a book for my eldest daughter. She always enjoys action and adventure, especially in unreal or historical settings.

This is the daughter who loved the first Pirates of the Carribean movie so much that she choreographed a pirate ballet when she was seven. She and a ballet-class-friend performed it at their Christmas recital. After that, how could I not take her interest in pirates seriously? So she learned about Anne Bonnie and Mary Read, and when I finally got around to starting her book, her love of all things pirate-y was my inspiration for it.

I can’t say that it’s gone without a hitch. The first draft needs some major re-writing to fix plot holes. I’ll spend days editing it to deepen the characters, enhance the writing and clean up the grammatical errors.

I set it aside this winter when I began blogging because I needed a break from it. Now that there are hints of warmer weather, I think I’m getting ready to tackle it again.

That’s partly because I’m reminded of it every time I drive past the Great Salt Lake and see sail boats out on the water.

In the spring, when the water is high, I can see a small sliver of the lake from my office window. The fact that it’s about twenty miles away doesn’t matter. I’ve never lived anywhere with a lake view of any kind before, so by default, this has become my lake house. I’m finally settling in, but for the first full year here, that’s how I thought of this place. It felt temporary.

Moves always do that to me. For quite a while, I feel like I can set my new home aside as easily as I set aside a manuscript I’m not in the mood to edit. It takes a while for the feeling of home to seep back into my skin. It’s finally happened. I realized today, as I was thinking about picking up the pirate manuscript again, that I’m ready to resume life as normal.

I’m not on vacation. This isn’t temporary. It’s real, and it’s wonderful, and it’s a life worth embracing. I think I love it here.

I’ll be working on the edit for this particular manuscript through the spring. I have a goal to get a solid next-draft done by the first of June. I’ve even contacted a book cover artist, and I’ll be commissioning a cover with her as soon as I’m able to pull the money together. It feels good to be sailing ahead on this again.

Speaking of which, there’s something else really great thing about this: in order to make my plot believable, I’ll get to learn at least a little bit about sailing.

I’m really, really looking forward to that–and if anybody out there sails and feels like answering questions, please let me know!

March 26, 2013

So much fun! I’m afraid I blushed a little, but I’m happy. Thank you, Ionia, for all you do!

readful things blog

It’s Monday! Wait…don’t run away and hide I meant that in a positive way:) It’s time for the Blogger of the Week.

This week’s blogger is a hard working and genuinely nice person. She is an author, a mother and is always a positive person to converse with. I have enjoyed getting to know her and read her book and I always look forward to reading her posts. Everyone say hello to Gwen Bristol You can find her blog at gwenbristol.com where she discusses a variety of topics and offers insightful information for all of us who are on a writing/publishing journey.

She has just finished her new cover art for her book “the Night Ones Legacy” and it looks wonderful!

Here it is along with a link where you can find the book:

The Night Ones Legacy

Not sure if the new cover has gone live yet, but the…

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March 25, 2013

The Night Ones Legacy gets a new look

New book cover!

New book cover!

This is an exciting day for me: The Night Ones Legacy has a new cover! (Well, as I write this, it’s been uploaded to KDP but it’s still under review.)

The need for a new book cover grew out of feedback I got from some terrific reviews and the contest I hosted earlier this year. The story itself was earning five-star reviews, but the cover was detracting from the content inside.

There were about six concepts to choose from, and I was able to narrow it down to four fairly quickly. From there, I asked for opinions from a diverse handful of people. The concept above was the one liked most by almost everyone I asked.

Most importantly, the daughter I wrote the story for likes this one the best.

I also made a few changes to the text. There were a few grammatical errors to be addressed (a ‘to’ that should have been a ‘too,’ etc.). There still may be a few mistakes, but I’m not anticipating any other changes to the book.

I’m slightly apprehensive as to how the updates will go for Kindle owners who already have the book. I’ve never had problems with book updates before, but I’ve never been on this end of it before, either.

One other thing that I learned from the contest: it seems my writing is geared more toward a young adult audience, even though I tried to make this first book a middle-grade read. The sequels will most definitely be written for a young adult target audience.

I’m ready to focus on the sequel, which I’m tentatively hoping to publish at the end of April. We’ll see how that goes! My chapter-by-chapter beta readers are already hard at work as I write, and I have a list of full-book beta readers in place. I’m looking forward to the feedback.

I was so shy when I wrote The Night Ones Legacy that I really didn’t ask for any help. After fourteen drafts, there were still quite a few changes that needed to be made. Hopefully most of them are addressed now. If nothing else, writing and publishing this book has been a great education. I really love that part of my life.

Just for comparison, here’s the first book cover one more time:

book cover possibility three point seven five

March 25, 2013

Click-able tables of contents for e-books

It's hard to see from this photo, but the progress bar for this book doesn't show any sections. Creating a table of contents using headers could change that.

It’s hard to see from this photo, but the progress bar for this book doesn’t show any sections. Creating a table of contents using headers could change that.

On Saturday I attended a meeting on formatting self-published books. While we worked mostly with Amazon’s CreateSpace, I learned some very valuable tidbits for creating an e-book, as well.

The best piece of information I received was how to make a table of contents that links to your chapter headings. When I upload the new cover for The Night Ones Legacy, this is one of the changes I’ll be making to the text (along with cleaning up some typos).

So just in case you’re interested, here’s what I learned about making a table of contents:

  1. Open your  manuscript in Microsoft Word. 
  2. As you scroll down through your manuscript, center and highlight your chapter headings (I did this one at a time).
  3. With the chapter heading highlighted and the ‘home’ tab open in Microsoft Word, hit ‘heading one,’ kind of on the right side and above the open document.
  4. Right click on the ‘heading one’ area. A small menu pops up. Click ‘Update heading one to match selection.’
  5. Repeat until all your chapter headings are highlighted.
  6. Go back to the beginning of the book. Now is the fun part–adding a Table of  Contents between the first pages (title page, dedication, acknowledgements, etc.) and your first chapter.
  7. Open the ‘References’ tab in Microsoft Word.
  8. The Table of Contents icon is on the far left. Click it. Then choose the style you want and click on that.

If I’ve remembered everything and explained it correctly, your table of contents will be created with each individual chapter showing up as a separate, click-able section. This means that someone heading to your Table of Contents in a Kindle version or other e-book version will be able to click on and move directly to the chapter they want.

I love learning. When it applies to other things I love, such as writing, I like it even more.

Deep thanks to author Roseanne Wilkins for hosting this workshop.

March 22, 2013

Friday Photo Poetry: When summer sweeps in

rose hips 2

There’s fruit now, where the roses have been.

The promise of life and the gift of snow

will bring the roses once again

when Summer sweeps in from the lands below.

This one is simply because it snowed…again…and I’m missing the sun. 🙂 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

March 21, 2013

The Sneetches: a book that helped shape my life

DSC08807

Last week I bought two more books by Dr. Suess for my toddler. They’ll go into his Easter basket. I’m sure we’ll all have them memorized by April Fool’s Day–and I’ll probably regret this, but…I came home and ordered The Sneetches on Amazon. It should be here in time for his second birthday.

I have fond memories of The Sneetches. I remember checking it out from my grade school library. Mrs. Hansen, the school librarian, was the best storyteller I’ve ever known. I was only ever afraid of her on Halloween. She always dressed up like a witch and walked up and down the lunch line, talking to children about how tasty they probably were.

When I was sixteen, I was whisked away for a leadership retreat. A video of The Sneetches was a focal point for a great discussion on elitism and compassion and the importance of treating other people with respect and love. The best leaders, I learned, were the leaders who saw everyone as equals. They devoted their time and energy to serve the people around them, constantly, not caring about class or status of any kind.

When my first daughter was a toddler herself, we bought a bunch of Dr. Suess videos (they were musicals, even). I got soooooo tired of them. And now, today, I found myself with my son on my lap, looking up those same videos on YouTube.

These are happy memories. I can’t help but feel grateful–all that learning, all that fun came first from one book, from one writer.

March 21, 2013

Interview with author Charles Yallowitz

Charles Yallowitz is the author of Beginning of a Hero.

Charles Yallowitz is the author of Beginning of a Herowhich is the first in a series of fifteen books.

In a recent post, epic fantasy author Charles Yallowitz described how his book sales are continuing even though he’s slipping out of the top 100 list rankings.

I’ve been watching his book, Beginning of a Hero, which he’s had quite a bit of success with. As of writing this post, his book is ranked #1,688 Paid in Kindle Store. He’s also ranked #37 in the Kindle Store for literature and fiction: epic fantasy, #44 for action and adventure, and #50 for science fiction and fantasy: epic fantasy. While these ranks may be slightly lower today than they were yesterday, what I’ve been most impressed with is how consistent the high rankings and decent sales have been for this book. I don’t think that happens to many debut authors.

Of course I had to ask about it, and Charles Yallowitz graciously agreed to a blog interview. Here it is:

Please tell us a little bit about your recently published book, Beginning of a Hero.

Beginning of a Hero is the first book of my first fantasy series, which follows the adventures
of Luke Callindor. He is a young warrior from a famous family, so he is driven to prove that
he is as heroic as his ancestors. To earn his first adventure, he lies to a royal messenger and is
hired to pretend to be a student at a military academy. His job is to protect a hidden heir from a
demonic assassin, but Luke never bothers getting a name or description of the heir. So, he has to
uncover the identity of the heir while keeping an eye out for the assassin and avoiding being put
in detention by the headmistress.

What was the most challenging part of writing and publishing Beginning of a Hero?

I would have to say going through with publishing on Amazon was the most challenging
because it was the most nerve-wracking. It really is a big step for an aspiring author since you’re
taking everything into your own hands. This meant that I was responsible for all of the editing,
formatting, and marketing for my books. I had spent years focusing on the writing that I had to
learn everything else as I went along. Compared to figuring out how to market a book, the actual
writing was easy.

What has been the most rewarding part of the experience so far?

I really like how I found a community of fellow authors at various levels of their careers. I got to
learn from those who had already published and done their marketing. At the same time, I found
that authors who were still working on their novels were asking me questions about my own
process. I had never been in this type of community before and it really helped reduce my fear
of pursuing self-publishing. More importantly, it allows me to talk shop with other authors and I
don’t have to keep confusing my friends who don’t always know what I’m talking about.

How many books do you have planned for this particular series?

Legends of Windemere is slated to be 15 books and a secondary character will have a single book
after that.

When do you hope to release your next book?

I’m hoping to have the second book, Prodigy of Rainbow Tower, released by the end of April.
It depends on how long the cover art takes. The third book, Allure of the Gypsies, is also in the
cover art stage, so I’m hoping to get that released two or three months after the second.

How much time do you spend each day marketing your book, and what venues do you use most?

At first, I spent a lot of time looking for sites to get my book noticed. I used Goodkindles,
Kindle Mojo, Novelspot, Bookpinning, and Askdavid.com within the first week of my book
being out. I also talked with other ebook authors to trade books and reviews, so I still try to find
authors to discuss that with. Recently, I spend most of my marketing time on my blog, which
connects to my Facebook page and my Twitter. I try to make at least one sales pitch tweet every
day to go along with the blog posts.

What kinds of results are you seeing as far as sales figures go? Is this consistent with what you
expected?

I’m seeing an amazing set of results with my book being at 650 ebook sales as of writing this
piece. I really didn’t see this coming because I was always told that things would get to this
level until the sequel comes out. So, I’m really happy and thrown entirely off my game. I guess it proves that you should be ready for anything.

Are you able to connect visibility with book sales?

Visibility is a very important factor. I think the combination of all of the sites I got my book
onto made a powerful first impact with people. It meant that people from each site were seeing
my book at the same time, which led to a faster word-of-mouth campaign. This multi-site
visibility got my book onto one of the Amazon Top 100 lists for epic fantasy. That seems to be
where a lot of the success if coming from because my book is being seen next to those of Terry
Brooks, Robert Jordan, and George R.R. Martin. If your book can be viewed on the same page
as the established authors of your genre then you have a great chance of readers being curious
about you.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

A friend of mine told me once to just write what I wanted and not what people wanted me to
write. I had been considering trying to write a book that fit in with the popular trend of the day,
but my friend warned me that it could put me into a genre that I hated. So, I continued writing
what I loved and hope that it comes across to draw readers into my world

What is the best advice you could give to another writer?

This is going to be the cliché that goes around, but writers should keep writing. It sounds
ridiculous, but we are an easily distracted lot and we need to focus at times. I’ve met many
aspiring writers who tell me about a great story and they end it with the ‘hope’ that they’ll find
time to write it. I can tell you from experience that you can’t just hope for the time. You have to
put some effort into making that time and pushing forward with your writing.

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