Tales in Publishing: Cover Reveal

Tales in Publishing: 

Cover Reveal

It's been a long wait, but when you tell your publisher you want something that is pretty extravagant for your cover, it takes time to deliver. The same comes for the manuscript, so I apologize that my books take a year to produce. It's worth it to do things right. I'd like to show you the cover of Draca (book 2 of Celestial Spheres).

We decided to continue the circular object and flames theme, but I wanted it to be slightly different than inserting another cool stone. This book is both about Toury and Alex, of course, but more so about Alex figuring out how to fix his kingdom and the rocky relationship he has with Toury, all while finding himself. So this book is named after him in a way, since the Sapphirians are linked to the draca (an Old English word for dragon) in legends. The blue fire is to emulate his sapphire stone ancestry, and the medallion is the king's showing the torch of leadership has been handed down from father to son. Like the labradorite stone was central in book 1, Fyr, this medallion--particularly the weight it figuratively brings--is central in book 2. On the medallion itself, the dragon was intended to show what the draca look like but also to appear more crest-like since the world is heavily constructed after pre-Victorian British culture. The motto on it in old English: Se Draca sciele riscian moncynne, translating roughly to the dragon shall rule mankind.
Stay tuned for more Draca info. Be one of the first to receive Draca by looking out for my preorder announcement. Also, get the first chapter earlier than others, as well as important announcements, by signing up for my semi-annual newsletter (promise no spam). Can't wait and love reviewing books? Snag it on Booksprout right now here. Not into reviews? You can preorder Draca here.

If you need to catch up and read book one, pick up Fyr today.

Author Feature: Judy Lynn

Author Feature: 

Judy Lynn

The Author herself:
For Judy Lynn, writing stories has always been a pastime. Writing novels has always been a dream. Her favorite place to write is near the ocean in Northern California or in the middle of the woods. Nature calls to her and she loves camping, hiking, and just being outdoors at any time. She combines her love for nature and her love for writing into the same pastime. Currently, she lives in Northern California where she is the Circulation and Technical Services Manager for the library of a small college. 

She's not fond of the city, but if you must live in one, being perfectly situated halfway between the mountains and the ocean is good. Judy has three boys to keep her busy, so finding time to write can be a challenge. But with the publication of  her first novel Veil of Deceit, it is all worth it. She also writes fantasy short stories: Life After the War and  To Pay a Debt.

Her Debut Novel:
Prisoner 7578359, Commander Jayla Sans, is innocent. Framed by her own godfather and convicted of treason, she’ll spend the rest of her days on the prison spaceship Tarsha—however few she has left. During her last investigation for the military, she found a vast and insidious conspiracy, and now, various factions will kill to acquire or destroy the information in her head. Jayla must protect the truth at costs, even if that means severing ties with her loved ones. But is Jayla truly alone?

You can check it out here.

The Interview:

The age old debate--Are you a plotter or pantser? Tell us your process.

I am a complete die-hard pantser. When I wrote Veil of Deceit, I had no idea what the story was when I wrote the first line. Usually, I have a tiny piece of the story in my head when I start, but no plan on how to write it. I write on paper as it comes. When the basic story is done, I type it into my computer. At that that point, more scenes may get added, and more than once I’ve skipped over a part with the thought of “What was I thinking when I wrote that?” By the time that draft is done, it’s usually not more than a skeleton. A few more passes add detail, fix holes (because there’s always plenty when you don’t plan ahead), and solidify the POV. Then comes all the editing. Usually it’s a few more passes before I’m comfortable letting anyone read it. When I am ready, I use a critique website to get input from other writers. I have to say, that without these critique partners, none of my stories would be ready for traditional publication. I would be one of those writers who give a bad name to the self-publishing industry because I thought my first novel was ready before I even understood what a POV character was! I thank God for this website. As my critique partners work through the draft, I make many changes. They ask lots of “Why didn’t this character…?” and “What was the logic behind…?” Not to mention pointing out when emotion and descriptions were lacking, and when a new scene is needed to round out the storyline. The first rewrite is always the largest. After that, its several tweaks, then with each pass, less and less get changed, until the piece is ready to send to my publisher.

I will die on my pantser platform too. I think our methods are similar but I do less rounds and only have a couple betas. I'm naughty for that, I've been told.

Moving on, what is your preferred category and genre to write? Why?

I love both science fiction and fantasy. Asking why is like asking why I like soccer better than basketball. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just what naturally comes out of the end of my pen. One benefit to it: My science fiction is in the future, so to a point, I don’t need to research things like laws and modern medicine because it’s simple enough to make the story fit what I want. 😉

I haven't fully dabbled in sci-fi myself but love writing fantasy too. My current work is a lot of real-world research so I feel you. Future and fantasy is kind of easier. So tell us what is next for you.

I currently have two fantasy books contracted with Authors 4 Authors Publishing. They are the first two books of the Tribes of Chalent series. The first, Chieftess of Acora, is set to come out in June of 2021. The second, Guardian of Kelvia, will come soon after. The third in the same series, Healer of Simot, has gone through it’s first major rewrite, but still needs some tweaks before it’s ready to send off to them, but hopefully it won’t be long. I also have another short story that is ready to be exposed to my critique partners, and then to the publisher, with a couple more not far behind.

Wow, I thought I was busy! Sounds like you've earned yourself a seat at the table in the publishing industry. What have you learned most through your publishing experience?

There are no quick roads to success. I guess that’s something I already knew, but every new author, even though their head knows it, hopes they will be the exception. The realty can hit your heart hard, even when it’s something your head knew.

 No truer words.

Check out Judy Lynn's work and keep track of her journey through the following links:





Romance Book Review: Ask Me No Questions...I'll tell You No Lies

Romance Book Review: 

Ask Me No Questions...
I'll tell You No Lies

Ask Me No Questions...I'll Tell You No Lies, by Ann Jeffries, is a heartwarming look at the interestingly glamorous side of the elite rich that shows there's always a second chance at life and love.
Loretta Hill Mason, a long-suffering wife of a womanizing and oppressive husband, is told they are getting divorced when their last of three children (two being his love children) goes off to college. Heartbroken and lost because she knows no life but with him, she ends up at Oceans Inn Resort during a hurricane. This is where Justin (Willis) McCoy finds her in a catatonic state and gets her inside. Justin is a business rejuvenator and happened to be in town trying to protect and rekindle business for the inn. That's not the only thing rekindled. A couple weeks of spending time with Loretta and this former ladies' man is in love. But with so many complex things in his life from his teenager daughter, money-hungry ex-wife, to a shady mob-like family, the Delawares, trying to force his hand into doing business, Justin has more to lose than his heart. Instead of declaring his love for Loretta, he instead attempts to fulfill her every wish and give her the future her past should have been before Mason and Loretta's family dashed her dreams and her self-esteem repeatedly. Torn apart by careers and danger, will Justin and Loretta be able to fulfill the last dream they both have and be together? Or will the Delawares strike where it would hurt Justin the most, his heart?

First, let me say Jeffries is amazing at creating characters you love and ones you love to hate (ugh, Mason). It quickly pulls the reader in empathizing with Loretta who has given herself over to her family and is completely self-less, so much so that the feminist in you wants to smack her upside the head. But this is a wonderfully done move on Jeffries part for Loretta to have a wondrous and realistically-pace ascension into a mighty powerful woman. Justin is middle-aged yummy, and deep down a sweet guy under his professionally closed-off demeanor. The two suited each other, and I loved how he wanted to rejuvenate Loretta, a girl he once saw in a beauty pageant. 

The plot was oh-so-complex, but awesomely so. Jeffries writes a saga and carefully weaves familiar characters from other books and plants seeds for future books. This is ingenious and now I want to see how so-and-so ended up together and what will happen between Dustin right-hand man and Loretta's badass sister. The plot is weaved so well. You have chapters of Loretta's story and of Justin's story separately, and at times they weave together. Side characters are also given some attention playing key roles the main characters' lives and setting up the next thread for another book. It creates an amazing tapestry of love, danger, and soulful healing. 

I recommend this book to any reader who loves a slow-burn romance with inferno highs, and who enjoy seeing people have a second chance to fulfill their dreams. I got sucked into the Family Reunion saga, and with 20+ books in the series, it will take me a while to read them all. 

If interested, check out the book here.

Book Reflection: Judy Blume's Fudge Series

Book Reflection: 

Judy Blume's Fudge Series

My son is eight. He loves books. He also has autism and ADHD. Despite reading above his grade level, he isn't patient enough to read chapter books unless they have lots of pictures. (Thank you for your works Dav Pilkey and Jeff Kinney!). However, he loves MG stories, so I never stopped reading to him. This was a tradition my mother passed down to me. She read to us until my brother was probably about 15 and I was 12. She would read my brother's reading-list books to us when he was overwhelmed. When he didn't need her to anymore, neither did I because I was devouring my own reading late into the night. My mom also told allegorical stories to me to make me overcome my fears when I was little. I do the same for my son. 

The past 2 years, I read him the entire Harry Potter series and then Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Next came Roald Dahl which he loved. Then we bounced around trying to find a series he'd fall in love with. Every book he likes, but after those three series, I didn't have many more chapter books. We searched. There were ones about video games, dinosaurs, and other kid-friendly action books. He liked them of course, but I longed for him to hear a book that he could not stop talking about or acting out as he had before. 

If you know about autism, socialization and communication skills are a difficulty. We talk to my son, teach him through books, and he communicates back through them. If fact, he relies so much on literary conventions, like similes and metaphors, creating parallels, analogies, contrasts, etc. (and lines from movies he's watched), to describe his feelings which helps us further immerse ourselves into his world. 

So I was out of books to read him when COVID-19 hit. The library closed, and he gets distracted by the device if I read from a kindle so ebooks were out. I kept a lot of my childhood books. One that survived the years was Judy Blume's Fudge-O-Mania. The title and cover sucked him in. Out of four classic kids books I had, he choose that one.
Old-School Cover

He loved it. Not only did he love it, he would stop me continuously to ask questions. As an only child with only a couple friends, he soaked up sibling relationships and friendships like a sponge. He would retell us the story with his cousin replacing the main character's friend, his friend was cast as Fudge, the little brother who you love but annoys you. He also saw how Fudge's behavior was much like his own; he could see himself in Fudge. I was surprised how much he loved it. When the libraries reopened for pickup only, we snagged the rest of the series. Now he's studying and understanding time and growing up. He realized Fudge-O-Mania was not book 1. Where was the little sister? he demanded right in the beginning of Super Fudge where the mom announces she's pregnant. Basically, my son is learning so much about life, about people. 

Frequently, we are told kids want to be entertained--action, page turners, mysteries, anything to keep them reading! In reality, sometimes they like the beauty in everyday situations that crop up--mom having a baby, annoying siblings, moving, etc. They love things they can relate too--like when Peter has to pee so bad he contemplates going in the living room plant (I had to reread it twice, my son was laughing so hard)--or ones kids cannot relate too, like having a sibling (like my son). Us parents of autistic children are also told to cater learning toward the child's interests, while some other experts proclaim we should push them into the unknown just a little bit so they learn to adapt to new situations. There's a fine line between my son embracing an experience with glee and having a meltdown, so I tend to teach him down the middle of those camps of advice. I push the boundaries through books; he learns about things that in real life would make him uncomfortable (like when he hides in a friend's room when there are four other kids around and takes out every single toy to sooth himself). Seeing the interaction with the children in the books can help him see how human nature works, so when he sees those kids again--hopefully soon--he'll be able to watch them and see Peter and Fudge and transpose that story onto them and understand the sibling dynamic. Once he understands, I hope he won't have to hide and he can at least watch them, if not fully engage.

So, this is a long-winded way to thank Judy Blume, and all the writers of the 70s and 80s, for writing truly timeless pieces about children's human nature in everyday settings, while still being able to entertain. Forty years later, Judy Blume, you are helping kids deal with common issues. Not only that, you're helping one little socially disadvantage kid understand himself and others. There is beauty in simplicity and reality that maybe kids books should return to.

So tell me, what classics should I read to my son next?

Tales in Publishing: Progress Update!

Tales in Publishing: 

Progress Update!

Here's a progress update of what I've been up to lately and hopefully tell those of you who are eager for more what is to come. Trying to answer the questions I've been asked.

Celestial Spheres

The draca (dragons) are coming! Draca book 2 of Celestial Spheres is on it's way with a July 19th release date. We are currently gearing up for the final touches--copyedits, back cover blurb, cover art, and marketing plans. We'll see the dragons for the first time, and see what happens between Toury and Alex after their relationship was left a bit rocky (to say the least). We'll also meet some unexpected--and perhaps unwanted--family members. 

Stay tuned for the cover reveal, book launch party date, and pre-order date. If you are behind, book 1 can be found here: Fyr (Celestial Spheres book 1) 

The Immortal Transcripts

The Immortal Transcripts book 2 Fever was accepted by the publisher late last year and we have completed the first round of edits. It is slotted for February 2021 roughly around Valentine's Day. I'm currently working on book 3 Shudder. I enjoyed writing this story and the first draft will go fast, but draft 2 where I do a lot of research will take me a long time. Our gods will take us to many worldwide locales. (Thank you Google for your street maps and Earth satellite app.) If you're behind, book 1 can be found here: Quiver (The Immortal Transcripts book 1).

The publishing world varies. While my publishers for Fyr and Quiver are working hard with the voice actors making them audiobooks (stay tuned--might have a fall/winter release of the audio of Fyr). My former publisher, however, didn't do audiobooks at all. That means in the contract I held the rights to my book for audio. I had no idea where to start but luckily my critique group went over this in a meeting and taught us how to easily get it done through Amazon's service ACX--where some Audible books are made. It was easy and fun. The voice actors come to you, virtually, auditioning. Then you use Amazon's contracts and then it is now magically being made. Considering all the goes into making one, I believe the release of this audiobook will be early August.

Possible Future projects?
I'm working on and off on a children's chapter book for my son. If I can pull it off, I actually think it could hit it big. However, a lot will need to go into it and I'm calling it my top secret project because I don't want anyone to take such a good idea and get it done before me (it happens). Also, I cannot get two spin-offs of Celestial Spheres out of my mind, so I think the series will continue with two other characters. The Immortal Transcripts has five books altogether so those will continue. Other than that, I have about 8 shelved full rough drafts to choose from as my next endeavor, but those will have to wait a few years, obviously.

You see I'm busy. I hope other authors stay busy fulfilling their dreams of publishing as well. What are you working on?

The DNF Debate: When Do you Stop Reading?

The DNF Debate: 

When Do you Stop Reading?

Recently, as a reader, I've been in a slump. I rarely have a DNF (did not finish) novel. In fact, I used to finish everything I ever started for the most part. Then I read a book that was so badly written it felt like I was staring back at 14 yr-old me (no offense 14 yr-old writers, but personally I wasn't the best--explained below). This DNF was way back, on my first Kindle. Although the book I read was awful and research led me to finding out the author was my age at the time, 23, and self-published, it spurred me to actually write a novel. So every DNF does have a lesson for us as a reader and writer. 

During my adolescence, I had written short stories and screenplays, doing well with plots but not sharp enough to pull off descriptions and POV to my higher standards. This DNF was my first that I can recall. As a broke college and grad student after, I went for cheap or free books. That was probably a mistake. Some goodies go on sale at times, but otherwise I started reading reviews to weed out some. 

I do have to admit here I've got older and pickier about books. After degrees in English and becoming a published writer myself, I see the work that goes into it. Recently, I added an extra vetting step: downloading samples. There have been a lot of samples that deterred me from buying, particularly recently. And I have bought a few anthologies where 1 or 2 novels in them have becomes DNF, although the rest were enjoyable. 

So what makes me DNF or not buy? (in no particular order):

Terrible grammar--
I mean terrible, like sentences with 2 or more errors and maybe 1 sentence a page I have to read 3 times to make sense of it. It turns on my grading brain and I correct it so I understand it clearly. I recently downloaded a sample of a novel and it lacked commas and shifted tense so much, I became lost in time and what was happening. 

Now this could be subjective but I can't get sucked into a book if things are overly described, like I don't need to know the level of details when describing exactly each needle on a pine tree branch. So much description slows down pacing. Then again, it could be worse to not have enough. In the same example above, the author also had someone leave the room then he talked as if he was still there, but the part where he returned was missing. I like to call this the Goldilocks rule: description should be "just right."

The dreadful lull.--
All stories have a lull. Constant action can make someone's head spin. However, if the scene is not propelling the plot forward or character growth, it is wasted pages. This one book I recently read, I made it through 2/3. It had amazing world-building, a fantastic action-packed beginning, then a slow burn romance that sucked me in, and then...it fell flat. I keep trying to go back to it, but I keep falling asleep...literally, unfortunately. 

As part of description and lulls, pacing can also be affected by other elements in the story involving the plot. Sometimes books move too slow. Sometimes that bores us. Sometimes they move too fast. Rarely have I heard people complain about page-turners, but I've read a few fabulous ones that I wish went into more depth with the characters and narrative. 

Character, POV, narration--
I'm putting these together since they overlap so much. I've read books that lacked in point-of-view, meaning I put it down after the character made stupid decision after stupid decision but we never had her thoughts to know why. I also didn't finish one from a famous author because the narrative was so purposely emotionless and the character was an anti-hero but bland. When his life was on the line, I found I didn't care if he die--and I'm usually a very nice person actually. I realized as a reader that I need to connect to a character or the world. I've tried this book 8 times now--it is long, but I've made it to the 2/3 mark.

False advertising--
I recently read a book that was a DNF for sure, but I made myself read it to find the plot promised in the synopsis. Let's call it a "I wish I DNF." The cover art and the synopsis were intriguing, reviews were in the middle, and I skipped a sample because it was 99 cents for just one day. Big mistake. The premise given happens at the 62% mark from the character who you didn't see since the prologue. I finished to a cliffhanger. I was half a book plot-wise drawn out and boring. The false advertizing? The book blurb told pretty much the entire story.

There are more things I think that bother some readers, but if I go into more it would be personal preferences or genre based. From this exercise, I think I've learned two things. One, a couple of these used to be my greatest weaknesses, so no wonder I notice them. Two, your book seems to be safe if I make it through the 2/3 point. Most likely I tend to finish because the writer at that point should be building towards the climax of the story. That is the point a reader should find it impossible to put down, and so I won't. 

What makes you DNF a book?

YA Review Double Whammy: The Heir, The Crown

YA Review 
Double Whammy: 

The Heir
The Crown 

After reading the Selection series, I fell in love with America and Maxon. When the story ended, I bought the extra short stories and found them enjoyable, for the most part. When the next two books came out about another selection, I was excited--until I read a sample. It didn't wow me. I hated the protagonist, Eadlyn--America and Maxon's daughter and heir. Not eager but not able to ignore it, I put the two books on my Christmas list and they were bought for me. They sat on my shelf. Then, I found out the series (at least the first 3 books) are being made into a TV series. I was excited and wanted to reread the books but had lent them to a friend prior to the pandemic. Then I saw the spin-offs on the shelf and just had to read them.

I can't mince my words on this one. I didn't like them. Note my subjectivity in the sentence prior. I'm not going to say the books were bad, as I'm sure lots of people liked them, and they were well written. I personally saw so much potential in a spin-off and this didn't deliver for me. To keep this short, I'm going by categories I normally look at most (lumping the books together in one commentary).


Pacing: good, but one book would've sufficed.

Characters: Eadlyn, the protagonist and America and Maxon's daughter, was god-awful--an entitled, conceited brat who was self-centered, clueless, and cruel at times--the big B-word. I knew the character would arc for the better (oh, it takes loooong), but I was more annoyed that my favorite characters could raise such a monster. First stab a America and Maxon. Her siblings are flat characters. Understandable for the younger ones since they are not central to the plot, but her twin brother, Ahren, was bland. None of the suitors in the selection are appealing to her or the readers, but the person she chooses is so vanilla that I was annoyed. I guess this is the win for nice guys who normally finish last, but he was so dull and basically Eadlyn will continue to be the little tyrant she is over his life instead of a kingdom. America and Maxon are week, clueless, seem much older than the pushing the 40 they're supposed to be (I'd know), and in comparison to the first three books, they're flat; instead of continuing and developing these characters, they are pawns for the plot of Eadlyn. Second stab at my favorite characters.

Plot: Um, so Maxon and America are exhausted from running the kingdom for 20 years? They managed to mess it up so bad the people hate them? The plot alone makes no sense and dismantles the entire point of the first 3 books. Another dig at my favorite characters. There's a random villain that she is too naive to know is bad, but he seems like a thrown-in cameo. There were also so many "surprise" cliches thrown in. I knew who she would pick 1/3 through and was bored and annoyed when it came true. I really wanted it to be a story where she fell in love with her friend, but it started too early then just stopped, fizzled out without explanation before she went for Mr. vanilla. She destroys her entire kingdom pretty much and all the work her father did to fix his ancestor's wrongdoings of the castes.  Basically, she throws the towel in for love, although it might be because she doesn't want to do her job. This turned into a character bash again, so moving on.

Message: It was pretty straightforward in the Selection--equality--between men and women, the rich and poor. In these last two books, I grappled for meaning (and I have degrees that taught me how to dissect even the most difficult literature). Follow your heart is the only thing I could think of. It's a nice sentiment but to follow her heart, Eadlyn destroys the legacy of her parents and by that, I mean the first 3 novels.

If I could give the first three books of the Selection 6 stars out of 5, I would. They inspired me and influenced my own writing. But the successor? Nope. I would have to give it a generous 3 stars because it is much better than some books out there, but that's not taking into account how she destroyed my vision of America and Maxon. I need to reread their story to get my America and Maxon back. On a chipper note, I can't wait for the TV show!

Author Feature: Matthew Pritt

Author Feature: 

Matthew Pritt

The man with a plan: 

Matthew Pritt is the author of The Supes as well as many poems, songs, and microfiction stories. He currently lives in West Virginia with his wife, Lauren, and an ever-increasing number of cats. He hopes to see the Colorado Rockies win the World Series during his lifetime. 

The Book:

Slip Stephenson has the lamest super power of all time. His father, a world renowned Super, can turn himself invisible, but Slip has never managed to do anything more than turn himself an underwhelming shade of black.

According to the rules of the School for Underage Power Enhancement and Refinement (SUPER), Slip has to pass his final test by the end of this year or he must give up his superpowered dreams and live as a regular civilian. He spends his senior year studying with five other nearly useless would-be Supers. Together, they must work as a team and overcome their watered-down powers if they want to make it in the world of superheroes.

As this ragtag group comes together, they notice that strange things are happening in the Super world. A mysterious villain has set up base next to Slip’s school, and famous and powerful Supers are turning evil. To protect the ones they love, Slip and his team must take matters into their own hands.

Can Slip and his newfound friends unravel the mystery? Will they be able to take on fully-powered supervillains? And will they be able to save the world?

    Buy here

The Interview:

What made you become a writer?

I’ve always been a writer. I don’t think I could have ever escaped it. The first thing I ever wrote was a song about my favorite blanket when I was three years old. As I got older, I dove into songwriting, exploring topics beyond bedspreads. When I got to college, I studied music composition, and it was there that I had a change in my writing.

I was never very skilled at writing “art” music. I still wrote in a modern pop-rock style for fun, but that wasn’t acceptable at college, so I tried to do more artsy things in my music. My comp professor noticed that I kept working narrative into my music to some degree. My pieces, even if they didn’t have words, were telling stories. He pushed me to develop that even more, which led to my temporarily becoming a playwright!

After I graduated, I wrote songs for a few years, but then I got an idea for a YA superhero novel and decided to write it. I had learned a ton about structuring a narrative from my music writing, and I was able to expand on that when I started writing The Supes.

Are you a plotter or pantser? Tell us your process.

I almost never write without first doing an outline, but I don’t always adhere to those outlines very strictly. I have to have some sort of idea of what I want to accomplish within a section or else I’ll end up rambling. But I also try to be aware if something I’m writing doesn’t feel natural. I’ve noticed that when I stick too closely to my outlines, I end up with forced dialogue and plot holes.

I reset pretty often too as I’m writing. I keep outlines for 3-5 chapters in the future (with a pretty good idea of where I’m going after that), and then once I write a couple chapters, I’ll redo my outlines. That way, I have a sense of what’s coming next and what I’m working toward without getting too bogged down and feeling like I have to obey the notes I’ve left for myself.

What have you learned most through your publishing experience?

I learned so much through my publishing experience! I had no idea what all went into making a book. I had completed my draft before I looked into anything about publishing, and I thought I had the hard part out of the way already!

Every step of the way turned me into a better writer. When I was querying, I took feedback from my rejections and rewrote the first couple chapters of my book to make it more engaging. Eventually, I landed my book with a publisher, and once it got into their hands, I learned more still. 

Working with editors taught me to see my book in terms of how I’m communicating. As writers, we tell stories, and just like having a conversation, our intentions in what we’re saying matter less than how they’re understood by the readers. There were sections in my first book that I thought I had nailed, and when my editors made suggestions, it was helpful to see where I wasn’t communicating clearly.

Going through editing helped me see that books can be very collaborative. When I first started writing, I shared my work with my wife, she reviewed it and we talked it over, but other than that, I didn’t get much feedback until I started querying. It helped to have outside voices make suggestions and show me where I had room for improvement. We can learn a lot from each other, and that process will almost always make the book better in the end.

How to find Matthew: 




Publishing: Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing


Pros and Cons 
of Self-Publishing

I discussed an overview of the main types of publishing and warned about looking for services versus a vanity publisher (see here), then the pros and cons of traditional publishing (here), and last week small presses (here). Today, we conclude this series by focusing on self-publishing. Remember, there is no "best" path as it depends on the author's preferences when it comes to money they want/can invest, the control they desire, and their goals for their novels. 

Self-publishing—an author publishes a book by themselves

Pros: You have complete control over every decision with the book which is the most hailed benefit among self-published authors. You get the highest royalty rate (around 70-85% depending on platform's cut--Amazon, I've been told only takes 30%) since not sharing with an agent of publishing company. There are few limitations on what you write about, preferences for book length, or expectations. These days it has become a simple setup process and can publish as quickly as author wants--no waiting, no querying to agents or publishers. It can be free if you are qualified or learn to edit, create covers, and format (or sharing your story overrides professionalism--no judgment, it depends on goal).

Cons: There is quality control stigma (addressed below in red). The higher royalty percent depends on distributor, and pricing is still mildly controlled (ex. Amazon must be between $2.99-9.99 to get 70%, otherwise only get 35%). Self-published books are difficult to get into a bookstore and contracts can be POD (print on demand) only and limited to one distributor (there are ways around it). You are responsible for all marketing and finding reviewers/reviewing services. If you want or need an editor, book cover designer, help formatting, you must find and hire them: all upfront costs are all on you. Aspiring authors are often shocked at the costs that go into a book, but you must be fair to someone who works hard helping your book shine. The largest overlooked drawback: no legal protection. This means if someone pirates your book, plagiarizes and uses your writing to make money, slanders you, give you fake reviews out of spite, etc. you have to sue with your own money.

In short, highest royalties and control, but little help (or must hire it) for publishing process; can be free but can become costly

My experience with self-publishing is limited. Personally, it was never a path I was going to take, ruled out because my job. In academia, self-publishing is not considered a "publication" because technically "anyone can do it," so there is no validation from professionals, no vetting process for quality. This gives this path an unfair stigma since there are many quality books through this path. The problem without a clear vetting system is that one bad apple can spoil the bunch for some readers. 

The second reason is monetary. You'd think I could easily self-publish a book myself for free--I'm an English Lecturer who teaches grammar, but rarely can anyone catch all her mistakes; even professionals like editors hire editors. I also am no book cover designer--even with an artist husband, we have limited computer graphics knowledge. And the list goes on. Can I write and edit pretty decently? Yes, but I would never assume I was good enough to go at it completely alone.

So what experience do I have? I've learned a lot--all the hows--through my writing group who are mostly self-published. They end up with quality books because they critique each others work, pay professional editors and book cover designers, or spend long hours learning the craft of each step and becoming professionals in their own right. They care about quality and work hard to produce amazing books--no matter the cost, time, and effort. It is admirable to see authors who can do everything I do and what my publishers do. In this way, self-published authors are amazing.

The takeaway: quality is important and easily attainable with help.

Publishing: Pro and Cons of Small Presses


Pros and Cons 

to Small Presses

I discussed an overview of the main types of publishing and warned about looking for services versus a vanity publisher (see here), then the pros and cons of traditional (here). Today, we focus on small presses also known as independent (indie) publishers. Next week, I'll visit self-publishing. Remember, there is no "best" path as it depends on the author's preferences when it comes to money they want/can invest, the control they desire, and their goals for their novels. 

  Small/indie presses—independent publishers, pretty much every publisher outside of the Big-5 and imprints who is not a self-published label, a vanity press, or a publishing service (I’ll get into these later).
   *note: these vary greatly so I’m generalizing a lot here. Basically, don’t go for one that doesn’t fit this pro model below.
Every March!
Pros: They produce quality products, and are hands-on, small-knit and personal (because they only publish so many a year and have smaller staffs). Their royalty rates tend to be higher than traditional (varies, seen 15-50%), and some have cost models--after they break even on the costs of your book, they up your royalty percent. No agent is needed, so not sharing of royalties and you can query them directly. They have expert editors, formatting folk, and book designers. They include you in every decision and step, and let you be as involved as you want to be. They will market a little for you, and find a few professional or unbiased reviewers. They offer some to all legal protection. The best have reputable distributors, so books can go in independent bookstores. The time from acceptance to print varies, but usually faster than traditional. Some presses do all book formats Most importantly, it should cost you nothing up front.

Cons: They are usually genre niche only, so finding the right one can take research and can be hard to land because they only put out a limited amount of novels a year (averaging 10 titles a year according to several sources). Like traditional, the price is controlled by them as well as promos. They have a smaller budget than the Big-5, so could have less quality or limited marketing, limited exposure and readership, so author must promote (this is expected in trad too, but more vital with indie). Some presses are only POD (print-on-demand) which means bookstores cannot take the risk without profit or a return policy. You could be bound to publisher for a timeframe, genre, or series (read contract carefully before signing). Some can be limited in book formats like not offering print or audio.

    In short, higher royalties and control, experts on it free of charge, but lower sales and exposure than traditional; more professional support and cheaper than self-publishing.

My experiences will sound biased, but I think it is because I found the path that suited me best. Whereas traditional didn't work out, and I did not wish to go self published (the reasons I'll explain next week), small press I found to fit me like a glass slipper. I worked with two different publishers thus far. I don't wish to compare them, as they both are great and taught me loads, but the one I'm with now hand down is so personal, hand-on, and thorough; I feel like I am friends and coworkers with them--my voice counts. I'm getting fair royalty rates, some exposure, and most importantly, I didn't have to change my vision or spent a cent. As opposed to agents wanting me to change everything, both my publishers had made subtle suggestions for improvement that don't completely alter the bones of my novels. If you think you want collaborative control, but can't afford to self-publish a quality novel, or you are tired of agent rejection or hate the idea of having little say, then small press is for you. Here are my works through small presses:

    They can be found for purchase here.

    Join me next week to see the pros and cons to self-publishing.

Publishing: Pros and Cons to Traditional


Pros and Cons 

to Traditional

Last week, I discussed an overview of the main types of publishing and warned about looking for services versus a vanity publisher (see here). Today, we focus on traditional publishers. Over the next couple posts, I'll visit small presses and self publishing. Remember, there is no "best" path as it depends on the author's preferences when it comes to money they want/can invest, the control they desire, and their goals for their novels. 

This day is dedicated the the traditional path: query an agent, get a contract, then agent gets you a publisher, and your book comes out through mainstream venues.
You'll get a quality product, with a famous name housing your book. Your novel will be on the big store bookshelves, have wide readership, and most distributors will produce (not POD--print on demand). Your publisher will market some for you, and find you professional reviewers. You'll usually have higher sales due to more exposure. Lucky authors get advances (can be a lot of money, but rare). When preparing your book, you'll have access to expert cover designers, experienced formatting folk, and the industries most qualified editors free of charge--they are years of successful experience behind them. In comparison to other routes, you don’t have to do much; you do have a say with edits, and the perk of having full legal protection. These powerhouses pump out lots of novels annually, make all book formats including audio, and costs you nothing. There is higher potential for fame or becoming a bestseller.

You need an agent to negotiate for you, who are difficult to land sometimes (they do not take unsolicited manuscripts), and an agent usually takes 15% of your royalties and a percent of the advance (but nothing until the book is sold to a publisher). The publisher will give you roughly 8-12% in royalties, which means as an author, you make nothing until advance is paid for and then only get that percent thereafter. The price of book is controlled by them as well as promotions. The biggest complaint by some authors is that the mainstream industry caters for sale--not the most artistic, well written, or unique book. Authors have reported their books being altered so much that it no longer felt like theirs. You don’t have to do much (some people like full control, so this is a benefit or drawback depending on the author). Depending on the wording in the contract, an author’s input during edits can be overridden; he/she could be bound to agent and/or publisher, so a lawyer is a good idea before signing. It can take a long time to publish, so prepare for 12-18+ months for query agents through seeing it on the selves.

In short, lowest royalties and control, but the best experts given at no costs and higher sales and exposure; the main path to becoming famous. 

My experience with traditional publishers is limited, but with agents I dabbled. The above is through years of research, but I was at the stage where negotiations and contracts were in the works with an agent. Unfortunately, it fell through, and I made the decision to choose a different path: see the inspirational story here. The short of it is I queried about 30 agents, and had 5 full manuscript requests, that resulted in the aforementioned deal falling through after I thought I was so close to "making it." I also had 2 R&Rs (when an agent asks you to revise and resubmit). These R&R's were too much to ask--drastically changing the entire novel's tone, scope, and frankly would make it "vanilla." It was a moment in my life where I could sellout to get a chance at a book deal or stick to my vision. I chose the latter. My book was later picked up by a small press who did not want to change my vision. See this book here.

Small presses--or indie publishers--I'll visit next week. I'll try not to be biased as my experiences with two of them have been fantastic.

Publishing Tales: What's Your Path?

Publishing Tales: 

What's Your Path?

I was asked through two different avenues to do a lecture for the community through the local library and the university where I teach. Since my writing group got the library to house our workshops--that sadly won't happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic--I decided to collect my thoughts here as my lectures at the university might still happen in the fall. I also wanted to pass on the information the public won't get to hear in person.

A few people from my writing group tasked me with discussing publishing. I have researched publishing for about a decade--my, it is ever-changing!--and I've published 3 novels (2 more are with publishers now) via a small presses (the traditional route sans agent). I have some experience with agents as well, despite not choosing that path. I will also discuss self-publishing, something I have learned a lot about from author friends, particularly my writing group.

Let me preface this by saying the most important thing you need to know about publishing that some authors argue about endlessly: which path toward publishing is the "best" way? The fact is there is no best way to publish, but different routes that subjectively depend on a person’s preferences for costs, control, and goals. I'll be presenting pros and cons of each over the next few weeks including my own stories. This week is an overview. I will also break down each path as we go. Today, I want to focus on the most important aspect: avoiding scammers.

Traditional publishing: a legitimate, prestigious publisher releases your book to the world. “The Big 5” refers to the huge publishing powerhouses in the US—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster
*note: these 5 conglomerates have imprints, meaning smaller houses they run that might be genre or reader-age specific (for example, Hachette houses Disney and Hyperion labels)         

In short, lowest royalties and control, but the best experts given free of charge, higher sales and exposure; the path to becoming famous. Extensive research and long process to find an agent who will make the deal for you; from getting an agent to seeing your book in print roughly is 1-2+ years

Small/indie presses: independent publishers, pretty much every publisher outside of the Big-5 and their imprints who are not a self-published label, a vanity press, or a publishing service.
*note: often referred to as indie publishers for "independent," people lump them in as indie yet traditional. I have given them their own group here as I feel they are in between.

In short, higher royalties and control than traditional, experts on it free of charge, but lower sales and exposure; extensive research for ones that have everything you want, roughly 6 months-1 year from contract to publication.

Self-publishing: an author publishes a book themselves
In short, highest royalties and control, but author must do it all (or must hire help) for publishing process; can be free but can become costly (depends on talents, hired assistance, and preferred quality one wishes for), extensive research needed, but instant publication once it is ready.

There's something that was called "hybrid" publishing. I don't like this term as the definition simply is something between traditional and self. With tons of small presses popping up, this definition is too vague. A legitimate publisher, even if small press, shouldn't ask for money. A "hybrid" these days is more like a service you pay for that helps you get your book in a publishable condition and format with the intents to self-publish. I warn anyone who is contemplating paying for any service through someone calling themselves a publisher to do your research. There are two kinds of these companies and others that fall in between them, making it difficult to see the difference between a great company and a scammer.

Publishing services—these are legitimate companies who help authors with any publishing service, usually a-la-carte, in order for someone to self-publish a quality, professional book. Authors can choose marketing, editing (levels of editing), and/or book cover design, etc. They take no royalties and should not lock you into a contract after payment is met. To tell them apart from scammers (below), they are transparent about what they do, how they are not publishers but help you independently publish, and about their rates. They are pickier about manuscripts, meaning if it is too much work for those rates, they might suggest having others read it and help you get it more polished before submitting. Here is an example of legitimacy (they have an ethics award): https://www.palmettopublishinggroup.com

Personally, I did submit to this company when they had a tier system that they don't do anymore (they were bought over and became a service connected to a bigger publishing company). I had sent my manuscript in during the transition, so they had to tell me they wished they could've published it, but they were now only a service and offered me amazing rates. Instead of going for it, I queried elsewhere and the book was published. You can see the novel here. I thought they were courteous, transparent, and professional.

Vanity press/publisher—these are scammers (for the most part) who prey upon inexperienced people who want to publish or use publishing services to self-publish. They pose as “real” publishers but escape legal implications because they say they do charge for their service. They accept almost every manuscript they receive because only a smaller pool of people will be able to afford their rates. Some will pose as more honest and give you a quote, only after you pay that, more is needed. Some authors never get anything back from them (after they do this to too many people and receive threats and poor reviews, they create a new website and name). Others do the service to avoid being sued, but give poor quality (ex. $1500 for them to run it through the free version of Grammarly that you can do on your own). The most “legitimate” will perform all the editing and book cover services for high rates and “market” it by placing it on their website, but care little for the quality of the content. They can take royalties and might have a contract that drops you after so many years and allows you to self-publish it; this is to avoid too many bad reviews with their name on it. The plots get deeper and scarier. If they say they are a publisher (rather than a service) and ask for money up front, DON’T DO IT!  Here are 8 red flags to look for: https://www.wiseinkblog.com/self-publishing-2/8-signs-your-publisher-is-a-scam/

I recently looked into a situation for someone and what I found in the contract was full of terrible traps preying on those who are inexperienced with the industry. Bottom line: if you can afford to pay these people for their services--thousands of dollars, 5k+--you can hire a lawyer first to tell you they aren't worth the money. Never sign a contract you don't fully understand. 

Everyone's path is different and scammer versus legitimate services are hard to discern. If you feel uneasy at all, please don't go with it.

Next week, I'll discuss the traditional route and my experience with it.

Author Feature: Fred Nolan

Author Feature: 

Fred Nolan

The author

Fred Nolan was born in Pennsylvania and has hazy recollections of Erie, Atlanta, Denver and a small, wooded development north of Houston. By age 15 he settled in Dallas, where he has worked with a commercial subcontractor for 24 years. Empty Oaks Magazine (RIP) published his first short story in 2015. Emery Press Books published his debut novel, Alexei and the Second Empress, in November 2018.

Where to Find Him:
Other Links

Alexei and the Second Empress  

These are the final days of the tsars and Alexei Shafirov, an infirm skeptic, is bedridden after a fall. Throughout the long recovery his loved ones speak to him of fables, uprisings and a royal family under house detention. At the heart of their stories is Alexei Romanov, the heir apparent. Like him, the Romanov boy is a hemophiliac, near the center of a decades-old political cabal. Both children are prone to mischief, self-indulgence and illness. But some insist their connection runs deeper than that.Alexei and the Second Empress is an account of the end of Imperial Russia, told in equal measures fairy tale and cruel realism. It is a story of opulence, folklore, addiction and secrets. And the most profound of those may not come to light without a price.

Check it out here.

Some free stories from Fred Nolan can be found here.

The Interview

What’s next for you?
As I type it’s April 5, 2020. It is about a month since the U.S. began its various COVID-19 responses. Tomorrow will start my third week working from home, in near-absolute quarantine. My job is secure, my family is healthy. I am working on a book and a play. I am certain both could reach audiences in some form. I hesitate to use the word privilege, but I am in an extremely fortunate position, there is no doubt.

So how, then, would I dare charge for either of these forthcoming works when people are dying alone in hospitals, or struggling for breath in their bedrooms? For all we know, this will be our annual September routine: hospital personnel will be exposed to a horrible contagion without proper equipment; they in turn become sick and then suffer or die alongside their patients. North Texas shoppers will empty supermarket shelves faster than grocers can keep them stocked, and their food bill will be two, three or ten times what the checkout clerks could afford. They will defy shelter-in-place laws and then, on social media, hail police officers as heroes.

In this climate, in which people are contributing so much and receiving so little, it seems a betrayal to charge $16 for a book.

I’ve mentioned this on Twitter at least once, but it bears repeating. I would love to create a Bandcamp-styled web platform for distributing books with a name-your-price option. Bandcamp might already be the best choice: it has an audiobook section and allows sellers to list various merchandise types. But people know Bandcamp for the music, and audiobooks aren’t exactly cheap. Studio time is about $1,000 per 100 pages; double that if you aren’t narrating it yourself. Even if you read your own book in a home studio, you’ll need expensive software and a professional-grade microphone.

So the short answer to your question is this: What’s next is a lot of deliberation. In fifteen years of writing I’ve never had a moment of writer’s block, but my gut-check on the subject of distribution is every bit as crippling as writer’s block.

What a moving and truthful look at the future of our industry, including marketing which is vital for authors. What has worked best for you?
My pre-2020 answer was: Start locally. Let your spouse, parents and loved ones do some of the heavy lifting. Appear on a friend’s podcast. Submit your novel to local book groups. Do readings at a nearby bookstore. A writer can’t live without Twitter, but you won’t sell many books there. To sell more than a few hundred copies, you’ll have to turn the computer off and go do things inherently mortifying to writers.

Today, what constitutes effective marketing is anyone’s guess, and we should cast a jaundiced eye on any headline that mentions a resurgence in reading. I suspect the best a writer can do now is to engage with the reader. Ask them not just what they want from fiction, but what they need from book publishing. 

Yes, marketing is anyone's guess and we have to learn what works for our particular brand at a given time. Aside from marketing, what have you learned most through your publishing experience?
Someone is going to intensely dislike your work, and take it personally that you wrote it at all. It will insult them that they read a single page. Never engage with them, there is no sense in both sides of the argument taking things personally.

On the other hand, someone is going to love your work, and for reasons you were not prepared for. They will totally miss your creative intent yet still connect very deeply to the story.

Your favorite of your short stories might never be published, yet the ones you aren’t sure about will almost certainly be published, sometimes nominated for awards. Do your best to fall in love with those works, if for no other reason than someone else has.

Thank you for your time. Please, check out Fred Nolan's book and those free stories (links above). 

Writing Tip: How long does writing a book take?

Writing Tip: 

How long does 
writing a book take?

This question came up on Twitter by a nice guy who had a lot of free time because of the pandemic. He wanted to fulfill his dream of writing a book. He had a poll that asked how long it took to write the first draft of a novel and in it the choices were 1) under a month, 2) 1-3 months, 3) and 3+ months.

Well, most of the #writingcommunity was nice and supportive, but there was a lot of sarcasm and insistence that it must take years for a first draft of a book to be quality. Remember, he only asked about the first draft, not start to finish. One person said nothing good could come out of a novel written in under 1 month. I simply posted (not with that comment because the person might've attacked me) to the main thread that I have written a first daft in a month when I wasn't working (this man admitted he had lots of free time now too), but normally takes me 2-3 months. Taking in the responses, I wasn't alone in being a quick writer, even though answers did vary from 1 month to 15 years.

It ruffles my feathers when authors make ultimatums--and tell a novice--when it comes to advice that realistically hinges on the individual not some set formula. Instead of engaging with this person who inadvertently called people's writing like mine inferior, I decided I would create a blog post in response.

First off, we are talking first draft, and the man's post made that clear. If you are a writer who has a messy first draft (guilty), who is a pantser, meaning no plotting or limited research included (guilty), time on your hands and write every day (I don't work in the summer), and your first draft is usually about 10-20k words shorter than your final draft (obviously describing myself), it is easily possible to write a 60,000 worded manuscript in 1 month (I've slayed NaNoWriMon's 50k in 3 weeks, working full-time and being a mom). Do the math: that's 2000 words a day. I timed myself once in a group writathon and hit 4,005 words in a hour (that's 66 words per minute--when going for a typist job that I didn't get I took their test and clocked 75 which wasn't good enough). I could write 2000 easily a day because theoretically (without interruption, lol), I could write that in about a half hour. I type fast to keep up with my brain which thinks super fast, and I see my story as a movie I must record. All this speeds things up, and I hardly consciously think or pause. Therefore, Twitter person, I can write a book in a month--first draft. And it probably won't be as rubbish as you proclaim it must be.

On the flip side, the person whose first draft took 15 years might have had limited writing time, life obstacles or setbacks, a slower or normal paced of typing, and maybe had writer's block or a lack of inspiration. It happens. Also, some genres need more research than others before a writer can start--historical and sci-fi, for example. Some people plan a lot, take their time. But to insist that someone's work is inferior because they are too quick or too slow is not very understanding of all the different practices and approaches to writing. I think the person who was having a go calling fast writing inferior misunderstands the idea of a first of many drafts. This writer might be one of those authors whose first draft takes a couple years but it looks like my draft 4. They may be an edit-as-you-go type writer.

For me, I simply write, then I have two revision stages of sometimes "killing my darlings," but mostly adding, doing research to fix things, or add detail, like "street in New York" turns into an exact intersection after referring to a map. That takes me about 2-4 months on top of that 1 month it took to write. If that is what this person considers a first draft--everything put in up until line editing, with no additional content or words added--then it takes about 5-6 months for me. But to insinuate my speed of my now published books must be inferior to one's own because they took more time to write than me shows a willful ignorance or a snobbery towards one's way being the only right way.

Taken in Swansea, Wales
This is one of many posts I have made defending my methodology of what I believe are good books. I know a lot of fast writers who are great. I know a lot of slow writers who painstakingly plot every beat and character arc out, who edit as they go who are great. Never could I distinguish merely off the book itself whether it was created quickly or not. That is what editing is for.

So let's stop giving ultimatum advice to newbies. Let's support new aspiring authors who want to fulfill their dream and say exactly what the quite more knowledgeable Twitter folk did tell this man--everyone is different and it takes as long as it takes. In short, don't worry how long, enjoy the process, and even more so others should stop judging authors who don't write the way you do.

To put it all in perspective, my local writing group only allows in authors who plan to publish a book within a year (self-pub or contract in hand), as they deem that the line of a serious writer. "Serious," however, is not a mark of talent, but of ambition and time. "Ambition is critical"--Twin Town


Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...