Tag Archives: self-publishing

You’ve got to enter to win.

You’ve got to enter to win – and Suzanne Blaney’s Impressionism: Inspiration & Evolution got runner up in San Francisco Book Festival Awards. I’ve helped a few authors with their books, but so far as I know, Suzanne Blaney is the first to enter her book into a contest. (Thank you, Suzanne.) This is an especially big deal because this contest was open to all publishers – not just indies.

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After Claude Monet (French, 1840 – 1926), The Houses of Parliament, Sunset, 1903, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection 1963.10.48

I edited, designed the interior and cover, and coached Suzanne through the self-publishing process. She had worked on this book for years and I pushed her to do more to make it better. We were happy with the final result when we got the paperback from Amazon, but getting this award is really nice validation.

Of course you won’t always win, but if you don’t enter you definitely won’t.

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Defining Moments: Where Ponderosa Pines Stand Guard

coverimagespbcBefore the story, I have a brief announcement:

Carla King’s 4th Edition of Self-Publishing Boot Camp, Guide for Independent Authors is available tomorrow (2/1/19). Check it out here. Disclosure: as an Amazon affiliate, I get a few cents if you buy anything after going there from here. But whether you do that or look later, this is my primary resource as a book coach and when publishing my own work. The best part? She stays on top of all the changes in the industry and provides free updates.

Now, the story: “Defining Moments: Where Ponderosa Pines Stand Guard”

Karen was the last to leave. She pulled on her fleece-lined jacket, hat, and gloves. As she said goodbye, she yawned.

“Are you sure you don’t want to stay over until morning?” Mary offered.

“I have a lot to do tomorrow.”

“It may be April, but you could still run into snow up on the rez.”

“There was a little on my way over this afternoon, but the sun was melting it off as it landed.”

The road passed through the edge of the Apache reservation. For thirty-some miles there would be no house in sight, just high plains on either side, broken by stretches of Ponderosa Pine and Aspen groves. In the summer, driving across it in a thunderstorm was humbling and exalting at the same time. Tonight it would be dark and peaceful; a good ending to a full day.

Mary was skeptical. “Well, watch for elk; they’re always on that stretch.”

“I will. I haven’t hit an animal in thirty years.” Karen gave her friend a hug. “I’ll see you next weekend.”

Mary watched her walk to her car. “Call me when you get home.”

“No, I won’t. It’s an hour drive and you’ll be asleep by then.”

Karen started her car. As she drove out of town, the bank’s marquee flashed the time and temperature – twelve o’clock, twenty-seven degrees. She had to turn down the heater, though. The car might be old, but everything worked except the air conditioning, which she didn’t really need living up here in the mountains.

She continuously scanned ahead to the edges of her headlights’ beams. It was habit, ever since she’d killed two deer six months apart, long ago, before she moved to Arizona. Elk were much larger than deer, and harder to see from her little car because when they were close, their eyes were above the range of her headlights, and their dark coats blended in with the night shades of shoulder and roadside brush.

She spotted a group of large dark shadows off to the left and automatically slowed in case one should suddenly decide to cross the road. They were far enough away that her headlights flashed off a pair of eyes; the other animals continued feeding. She decided to stay well below the speed limit, to be on the safe side.

She passed only one car, going the other direction. There would be no sign of civilization until she reached McNary, a little town on the reservation. While her eyes continued watching for elk as she drove, Karen slipped into a meditative sense of peace. Clouds blocked whatever light the sky might have offered as she drove the deserted miles on top of the world, but she knew when the road dipped she was moving from the vast open fields into a stretch of forest.

Suddenly, anxiety hit, jerking her out of her reverie.

There was no good reason for it. She turned off the radio; maybe the car was making a noise that disturbed her subconsciously. But the car was okay, knocking a little, but that was normal at this altitude.

A cold shawl of prickles dragged up and across her shoulders and her breathing became so shallow she was almost holding it. She forced herself to inhale deeply. She lived alone; she didn’t jump at shadows. She tried to chide away the unwelcome sensation of fear.

But the chill was palpable inside her winter jacket. She cranked up the heat and still felt icy. Goosebumps were lifting her shirt off her arms.

She hadn’t checked the back seat when she got into the car; hadn’t done that since she moved up here out of the city. She resisted the urge to look back or even in the mirror, as if not knowing would make it not real. And if she didn’t see anything, she still wouldn’t be sure.

The pines rose high on either side of the road.

Suddenly, something dark poured into her and constricted her breath. A triangle of lights off to the right came and went so quickly she wasn’t sure she’d really seen it. Silently she recited the 23rd Psalm, as well as she could remember it.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He maketh me lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters, He restoreth my soul.” There was something else she wasn’t remembering, then “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.”

Death and evil, that’s what she felt pouring at her from the forest. It wasn’t someone in the car. It was something out there. She drove a little faster, but not so fast she wouldn’t be able to stop for an elk. She definitely didn’t want to have an accident here, not tonight.

At last she saw the sign announcing the edge of McNary. The feeling eased away from her as she drove through the little town. She passed someone walking along the other side of the road in dark clothes. She was almost home.

By the time she got to her cabin, she no longer felt the presence of evil, in fact she felt a little silly about it. She fixed herself some warm milk. Once it was gone, she was barely awake enough to slip under the covers of her bed.

Karen’s life went on. She forgot all about that unpleasant feeling and there was nothing to remind her. The Apache girl’s disappearance never made the newspaper Karen read.

The first assumption was that the teen had taken off with her boyfriend, but then he came back from visiting relatives out of state and asked for her. He’d been in Oregon when she last left her mother’s house, and he could prove it. In Karen’s world this was still not newsworthy.

It was fall when a hiker’s dog happened upon the girl’s shallow grave – not far from the road, where the Ponderosa Pines stand guard.

Defining Moments is a series of character studies and defining moments – short sketches to whet your appetite. If you’d like reading more about one of these characters, leave a comment.
Thanks.

Sheri McGuinn Photo Signature

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Information Overload

Before computers, the difficult part of research was finding materials. As a kid, I had to ride a bus a half hour downtown to the big county library when I needed to do serious research for school.

Thanks to the internet, I can look up anything that pops into my mind immediately, I can search any question. I can not only pull up a map of a place I want my character to go, I can see the satellite view of it and, most places, pull the little guy onto the map and see what my character would see driving down a road, turning to look side to side.

It’s beyond awesome. I love it.

However, the old dilemma of when to stop researching happens more quickly and is compounded by the necessity of sorting through to discard information of questionable value. Libraries used to do that for us.

Now, even when you’ve narrowed it to solid sources, it’s likely you have an overwhelming amount of information to review. Personally, I procrastinate at this point. I let it all sit, hoping it will somehow sift itself into some kind of logical order.

That doesn’t really work, though. I eventually start sorting through everything, shoving it into physical or computer files labeled by categories of information. Then I attack one category at a time.

This is an imperfect process. For example, I have a four-inch stack of notes on my table about marketing right now, and folders within folders and files that overlap folders floating around in the main folder unfiled. There are a lot of resources that fit more than one part of marketing.

My method to deal with this information overload?

I start with the best resource – the best NEW resource if there are several.

For my marketing project, I’m starting by reading Carla King‘s Self-Publishing Bootcamp Guide, 4th edition. I’ll take notes specific to my project and make an outline or timeline. Then I’ll quickly review old books I’ve read before, scanning for anything to add. If I hit a better outline, I’ll combine the two.

With that solid base, those other piles of pages will read quickly, because most of it will be review. I’ll be skimming through, looking for unique information. That makes the prospect less daunting. And the details will be plopped into the right place on the outline as I find them.

Yeah. It’s not so bad. I’m ready to get to it!

Sheri2012RGB2inch

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Profession or Hobby?

You’re writing a book. Are you approaching this as a profession or is it a hobby?

Given how difficult it is to be successful, it might be healthier to approach writing and self-publishing as a hobby, something you do for fun.  However, are you approaching it seriously enough you don’t harm others?

Self-publishing is gaining respect because of writers who are approaching writing and publishing professionally. They make sure their books are edited. They pay attention to genre and industry standards for formatting. The hobbyist who publishes a rough draft rife with errors and formatted poorly hurts every serious self-publisher, not only by putting a dent in the self-publishing image, but by making it that much harder for a reader to find the good books.

You can approach writing and self-publishing as a hobby and still produce a well-written, professionally-produced book. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

A good critique group can help you polish the writing. Your library, book clubs, and English teachers at a local college may be able to suggest good editors and proof-readers. When it comes to formatting, you can buy templates or do it yourself using your word processor—if you know how to use styles, show all formatting marks, paragraphing, and other tools. If you don’t, head back to the library and local college and ask for a word processing guru. In any case, make sure you have copies of traditionally published books in the same genre to use as examples of how it should look. Pay attention to details.

This takes more time and effort than throwing up a rough draft, but friends who buy it may actually read it, and you won’t be hurting other writers.

2012SheriWaimuPicchuForProfessionalwww.sherimcguinn.com
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Never Pay to Publish – and OMG

I had this writer’s blog, Never Pay to Publish, ready to post today. For anyone following this for writing tips, it’s below.

But sometimes life happens.

KatieRiver2My daughter Katie has always been a risk taker – when she was twelve, she bought two tickets to whitewater the Colorado River for my birthday. She knew it was the only way she’d get to go. That’s her grinning. I’m under the wave, still in the boat.

After college, she surfed the beach off San Francisco alone – worried me sick. When she and her husband first met, they surfed the Pacific beaches all the way to Panama. She has a little scar where coral ripped open her lip in Costa Rica. Now she lives in far northern California where she can teach safe kayaking and surf year round – with a wet suit.

She’s gotten old enough to call people in their late teens and twenties “kids” and when she and her husband saw the surf near home was big and rough this morning, they decided to go north to a different beach. On the way home, they stopped on the cliff overlooking the beach they’d decided was too rough to surf – they always take time to enjoy life like that. What they saw was three “kids” on boogie boards in an area they NEVER surf because of the rip tides, two boys and a girl in their late teens or twenties. They saw the white of the boys’ backs and realized they had no wet suits. Even in August, the water up there is icy cold. The “kids” were caught in a rip.

Katie and her husband drove down to the beach, where the kids’ friends were finally calling 911 – they’d already been in the water at least 45 minutes. Katie and her husband got their boards and headed out, through the waves they’d chosen not to surf, out into the rip they’d never go near.

When they got to the kids, Eric took charge of the two who still had some strength to help them back to safety. Katie took the boy who was sinking into hypothermia.

At first she tried to tow him to shore, but he was too weak to hold onto the board. So she pulled him onto it, got on top of him, and paddled the best she could.

Once they got back to the break, they still had to ride the waves into shore – the waves that were big enough Katie and her husband hadn’t surfed that beach earlier. The other two were still strong enough to ride in on their own and walk out of the water. Katie’s kid couldn’t hold onto the board. She had to ride in on top of him.

They made it most of the way before they got dumped and she lost him. But by then, the fire and rescue crews were on the beach, ready to help, and they got her kid to shore and onto a stretcher for the ride to the hospital.

The helicopter that would have looked for them at sea was still at least 15 minutes away.

Today, my daughter called me from under a tree, where she’s sitting, still shaken up by the whole episode. She didn’t want me to find out by reading about it somewhere. But there were no news cameras, so it may never be noticed by media. She found out the kid she helped warmed up and was released from the hospital.

I’m still tearful. My daughter saved that kid’s life by risking her own. I’m terribly proud of her – both her actions and her need to sit under a tree and absorb it all today.

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Adventure of a different sort

For those who read the last post, it took about three months, but my son’s back at work! Life is good.

So I missed the India adventure, but I’m revving up for a major life change and, since I’m not sure what shape that will take yet, this is an adventure of a different sort.

I’m finishing my Masters in Administration, emphasis professional writing, in December. I’ve already started my final project – designing and implementing the marketing plan for my new book, Self-Publishing for Schools. As part of that plan, I’ve revamped the formatting on all my novels and revised Running Away in an uncensored version. Both that and SP Schools have LCCN numbers, so they’ll be more marketable to libraries. I’ve begun lining up some major marketing, including Book Expo America, the American Library Association’s Conference in June, and the ALA pre-conference catalog that goes to about 17,000 people. It’s gambling on myself.

All of my books will be at the IBPA booth at Book Expo America (Javits Conference Center, NYC) May 29-31. I’ll be at the IBPA table on Thursday, May 29, from 4-4:30. Hope to see you there!

NYC is so expensive, I’m arriving early Thursday and flying out late Saturday. Javits Conference Center is Midtown Manhattan, and I found a posh resort that has hostel-style shared rooms less than a mile from the conference. That will also be an adventure.

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Sheri McGuinn

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