Sunday, April 29, 2012

Independent Publishing

Independent Publishing

There are pros and cons to publishing one’s books independently.  The pros are that you don’t have to submit your book and wait for someone to read the slush pile at a publisher and get back to you.  You no longer have to go through a vanity press and pay thousands of dollars to publish your own book.  Companies like Smashwords and CreateSpace will help you format your manuscript and allow you to upload it for little or no cash up front, and will even help you design your own cover art.  If you can afford it, many of these companies (including CreateSpaced) even offer editing services.

The cons are that many authors cannot afford editing services.  And not everyone who thinks they can write better than the author whose book they just read can write professionally.  Some of these novices have talent that, with the help of a good editor could be honed and polished.  Others, well… Others I wouldn’t even agree to review next door on Rochelle’s Reviews.

This is not to say that there aren’t some really good independently published books out there.  I have colleagues who have published some of their books independently for various reasons, and I published my first book, Rock Bound through CreateSpace after it went through two e-book publishers.  Inara Press was a start-up company that just didn’t make it.  I parted amiably with the publisher and went to another company, Red Rose Publishing.  Stay away from them.  That’s a whole other blog.

The point is, a professional writer will work with a critique group, a beta reader, even his/her spouse to be sure the book s/he’s putting out is as polished as possible.  The way to tell what you’re getting is to read the blurb and excerpt.  If they’re messy and difficult to understand, the rest of the book will be, too.  In the indie publishing world, the motto truly is “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware) when reading an independently published author with whom you are not familiar.  And, okay, shameless plug:  check out the critics like me.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Line-Up at the RT Corral

Chris Winters Mr. Romance 2008, Me, and Len Gunn Mr. Romance 2011

Being part of a convention is much more fun than going in as a tourist.  I don’t necessarily mean that you have to be on panels or the staff of every convention you attend—I mean it’s much more fun when you pay full price and attend the whole con.  That way, you can go to all of the workshops, hang out in the con suite until all hours, attend the banquettes (depending on the con and whether they cost extra), and go to all the various parties in the evening.

It is, however, even more fun if you participate behind the scenes so to speak.  I don’t know if this applies to romance conventions, but at science fiction conventions if you put in enough volunteer time, you can get your registration either reimbursed or rolled over for next year.  In fact, most sci-fi cons have a “gopher hole” for people who volunteer to run errands throughout the con.  It’s a large room where you can bring a sleeping bag and crash for the duration and not have to pay for a hotel room.  If you’re on a panel, you can hang out in the green room which usually has better food than the con suite and sometimes you can even hob-nob with the guests of honor.  I had a nice long conversation with two best-selling authors in the green room at one convention, and have since become a fan of their books.

I must preface this paragraph by saying that I think the Romantic Times people did a fantastic job of crowd control.  There’s only one suggestion I could make—they should have given out tickets to see the best-selling authors at the door.  Going in on Saturday as a reader, I felt as though I was at an amusement park going from the line for one ride to another.  For the E-Tickets (Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, Sue Grafton), you had to find a person with a red shirt and get a ticket to wait in line.  Of course, if you could spot the person with the red shirt, you had to wait in line to see them.  The signing room doors opened for convention-goers an hour before they opened to the readers, and when it was time to check out, the authors and conventioneers were, of course, first again.  I’m not used to attending a convention as cattle, but that’s a bit what I felt like.

There were high points.  If any of you are fans of Mary Janice Davidson’s Betsy Taylor vampire series “Undead and…,” Mary Janice was at a regular table with everyone else.  You did not need to get a ticket to stand in line to see her.  She’s a wonderful down-to-earth Minnesotan, and we connected!  I bought the last copy of an “Undead” book from her and got her signature.  I can’t praise her enough—either her writing or her graciousness toward her fans.

Jennifer Brown (J.D. Brown, Danielle Ravencraft) and Charlene A. Wilson
My other high point was meeting people I know from the internet but have not met in person before.  The first two were Charlene A. Wilson, who writes “The Chronicles of Shiloh Manor” series.  I’ve edited both books and they’re really good.  Charlene says I’m prejudiced, but believe me—I don’t praise every book I edit.  The next is Jennifer Brown who writes as J.D. Brown and Danielle Ravencraft, depending on the heat level of the book.  Charlene came up from Little Rock and the three of us car-pooled from my house and shared a hotel room.  We went sight-seeing in the Loop and up the Magnificent Mile, and of course before we left here we checked out the Volo Auto Museum which is practically in my back yard and where my daughter and her fiancé both work.  And while we were downtown, we made sure we walked up to the House of Blues so we could take a photo of Jennifer since her short, hot Danielle Ravencraft series “A Trace of Love,” “A Trace of Passion,” and “A Trace of Hope” takes place there.

With Mary Alice Pritchard aka Marla Munroe
And finally, at the signing, I ran into Mary Alice Pritchard, who was the first author I ever edited.  I was her first editor and she’s another author of whom I was proud.  Talk about laughing and crying at the same time!  It’s been almost ten years since we worked together, but we became friends and it was so good to see her.

My next big convention will be Chicon 7, the World Science Fiction convention that’s being held here in Chicago over Labor Day weekend.  I’m attending the whole thing.  I’ll be on a panel, I’m “wrangling” a speaker (helping him/her find his/her way around the hotel, etc.), and I’m doing clerical work for the Executive Committee.  Don’t know that I’ll have time to schmooze in the con suite or the green room, but I sure won’t be a tourist.  I will, no doubt, have to wait in line for elevators.  At Chicon 6 there were lines for the elevators and hotel security making sure people didn’t cram on and overflow them at night when everyone was going back and forth between the con suite and the parties.  It was, of course, a basic safety precaution.  Anticipated high point?  My former roommate of eighteen months who moved to Colorado will be here!  More hugs and crying!

Charlene A. Wilson

Danielle Ravencraft

J. D. Brown

Mary Alice Pritchard

Ghostly Mistakes Buy Link:

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Welcome Home, Viet Nam Vets

There was a story on the news last night that caught my eye because it took place in Mahomet, Illinois.  Where in tarnation is Mahomet, what does it have to do with Viet Nam veterans, and why would it pique my interest?

Mahomet is maybe ten/fifteen miles west of Champaign in the area referred to as East Central Illinois.  Because of my bi-polar disease, I gave up custody of my kids and they lived in Farmer City, Illinois, a few miles farther west from Mahomet.  When my daughter was in band her Freshman year of high school, the first parade she ever marched in was in Mahomet.  I moved down to that area when I found myself on disability and unable to afford Chicago rents.  So, hearing that the Chicago news picked up a story in Mahomet kind of shocked me.  Not much happens down there.

The story was about a young veteran who lost a leg in Iraq.  When he came home, his neighbors got together and built a house for him, but it turned out that he couldn’t maneuver his wheelchair in it very well.  He was fairly alright during the day, but at night getting from his bed to the bathroom proved difficult.  I’m not sure how they heard about it at the Art Institute of Chicago’s School of Design, but they did and some students and an instructor decided to turn it into a class project.  They went down to Mahomet, took measurements, then came back to Chicago and came up with a design that would be more accessible.  They made another trip downstate to install and implement their designs and the young man can now get back and forth between his bed and bathroom without bumping into anything or scraping the paint off the walls.

Okay, so what does this have to do with Viet Nam?  The said she instructor came of age during the Viet Nam era.  She remembers how the young men who returned home from that conflict were treated—pretty abominably.  They weren’t welcomed home; they were spat upon and pelted with rotten fruit and vegetables by protesters when they deplaned in uniform.  They didn’t dare set foot in public until their hair grew out so people wouldn’t immediately identify them as military or recent vets.  There were no yellow ribbons or flag wavers for them.  The instructor and her team have created a not-for-profit organization so they can create accessible living spaces for veterans of all ages.

Very few of us were able to separate the men from the politics back then and say, “This Viet Nam War sucks, but it’s not the soldiers’ fault.”  I’m rather proud to say I was one of those few.  I was a USO volunteer for two years before I enlisted in the Navy.  I sometimes feel guilty accepting VA benefits because I enlisted for purely selfish reasons and I got pretty much everything I hoped for or expected from the Navy, as well as a few perks after I got out that I didn’t expect.

Today, I thank anyone who has served in harm’s way regardless of the campaign in which they served, but there’s an extra-soft spot in my heart for Viet Nam vets.  They finally got their welcome home parade sometime in the eighties, around the time the Viet Nam Memorial was unveiled, but I think they deserved a lot more than that—an apology from the American public would help a lot.  I met a man this morning when I was doing my daily walk at the Volo Auto Museum.  He was not only a Viet Nam Veteran—he’d been a POW.  He got a thank you, a hug and a salute after a good half-hour’s chat.

Part of the problem is that no one knew why we were in Viet Nam or how we got there.  Viet Nam was a French colony until the early fifties when Communist China started infiltrating the country, and a Communist regime took hold.  Somehow, the country split in half with the Communists running the North and the South teetering on the brink of communism.  The French retreated and asked us to cover their derrieres.  For a short time, they allowed people to move to South Viet Nam.  We had hospital ships in Hanoi Harbor to help process the refugees, and military advisors in Viet Nam as early as 1954, and we didn’t leave until April, 1975.  We withdrew from North Viet Nam and tried to prevent the Communists from taking over South Viet Nam.  We were involved in the Vietnamese Civil War for 21 years, spanning the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon Administrations, and for those of you who love trivia, Nixon was Vice President when we went to Viet Nam and President when we came home.  Should we have left when the last French citizen left?  Possibly.  Probably.  We lost that war and communism took over South Viet Nam.  Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, and now the place is a tourist attraction.

Anyway, when you see a veteran—thank him or her.

Happy Easter; or Shalom.