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The Hybrid Publishing Experience

Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

The Hybrid Publishing Experience

Today’s guest blog is written by Christopher Valen, author of the award-winning John Santana mystery series. The sixth novel in the series, The Darkness Hunter, will be released in September 2015. Christopher hails from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. You can learn more about him and his books at www.christophervalen.com. By Christopher Valen When I completed White Tombs, the first book in the John Santana mystery series in 2007, I did what many writers do. I mailed query letters and sample chapters to publishers––and waited. Although some expressed interest in the novel, no one offered a contract. And so, left with the choice of leaving the manuscript in a desk drawer or taking a chance, I formed Conquill Press and decided to self-publish the book in 2008. White Tombs garnered positive reviews, including one from Library Journal, and won two national small press awards. However, because I had no distributor, White Tombs was considered a POD book and was not warehoused in Barnes & Noble, a significant disadvantage if I wanted to do signings and events. In 2009 I wrote The Black Minute, the second book in the series, and was offered a two-book contract by a Midwest publisher. The book was well-received and reviewed by Booklist and others, won a national award, and was a finalist for the Midwest Independent Publishers Association Mystery of the Year. I now had national distribution but was making little money. There had to be a better way. Around that time, I met author Jenifer LeClair. A small east-coast press had published her first novel in the Windjammer Mystery Series, Rigged For Murder. The book received positive reviews and sold well, but she found herself in the same dilemma as I was in. Frustrated with the lack of control we had over our books, and by the small amount of money we were making, we decided we could do better on our own. I was able to re-acquire my rights for The Black Minute, Jenifer her rights for Rigged For Murder. In 2010 we signed a contract with a national distributor, began hiring our own editors and cover designers, and re-launched our books under the Conquill Press banner. Over the course of the next four years, I published three more John Santana novels. The Darkness Hunter, the sixth in the series, will be released in September of 2015. Jenifer’s fourth book featuring Homicide Detective Brie Beaumont, Apparition Island, will be released in March of 2015. Conquill Press has grown from two to five authors and now includes thriller writers Brian Lutterman and his Pen Wilkinson series, and bestselling authors Steve Thayer and Chuck Logan. We refer to Conquill Press as a “hybrid” publishing model. Each author funds their individual novels, marketing, and travel, but each collects the money from their print and e-book sales. This allows us to fund our future books, while keeping our rights and profits. We believe strongly in print books, but we also see the value of e-books, particularly for international distribution through Amazon. If you’re a writer struggling with publication and/or are frustrated with your current publisher, this model might work for you. Feel free to email me with questions at www.christophervalen.com Thanks to Lynn for giving me this opportunity to blog about my experiences and our press. Sincerely, Christopher...

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There is No Write Way to Right a Novel

Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

There is No Write Way to Right a Novel

Today’s post is written by author L.D. Bergsgaard, who currently lives in sunny Arizona, but for many years braved the Minnesota winters. Larry is a retired Special Agent with unique experiences adding a rare dimension to the crime story genre. Fellow writer William Henry says, “There are many authors who dream of being cops. Few do. There are many cops who strive to write. Few can. L.S. Bergsgaard is the rare exception of a street harden cop who can write like a poet.” In addition to writing crime novels, Larry also pens some darn good western stories. By L. D. Bergsgaard I ask you to suspend your belief in what Ms. Hammersmith told you in high school creative writing class about penning your masterpiece. Please toss aside the dozens of enticing promises that offer a sure fired system to write your novel. Why listen to me? I just finished my 7th novel and have failed in a dozen methods. I had read a dozen how to books and attended more seminars than I care to count. I tried each method so carefully laid out as the only way to write. I learn by failure. Take, for example, the author who insists on outlining the entire plot then covers the four den walls with handwritten Post-It notes chronologically detailing each chapter, even each paragraph. Down she plops in the swivel chair and with keyboard on her lap. As she swivels she types out a remarkable novel. Her debut novel reaches the New York Times bestseller list. Her second book is a How to Write Your First Novel. Does this mean every writer must run out to purchase Post-Its and a fancy leather swivel chair? Perhaps, but what about the equally successful and acclaimed writer whose nimble mind conjures up a mystery, gives birth to a few colorful characters, and lays the puzzle at their feet to solve as they see fit?    “Ridiculous!” the Post-It crowd screams from their swivel chairs. “You must have a plan, an outline. Yes, you must know the ending before penning the first words!” Not necessarily so. When a bottle of wine and flowers show up unexpectedly on your desk, do you know who sent them and will the flowers lead to a relationship and romance and marriage? No! What happens will be determined by you; what you think, what you say, how you react. So, you floundering authors without a proven method of writing consider this: What would make a compelling plot? What conflicts will your characters encounter? Then, perhaps most importantly, who are your characters? A wise author once told me, “Unfortunately for you every story has already been told.” She let those words sink in then mercifully added, “But no one can tell your story like you.” And no writer can create characters like yours. Think of the power. You can form these really interesting people then put them in difficult if not impossible situations. You know these characters so very well because, well, they live in your head. They talk to you. You know they hate eating sushi and are klutzes. They have a birthmark on their butt shaped like Triceratops. And when told they are “fired” they will punch the boss in the nose. Unlike Ms. Hammersmith (she has the dinosaur birthmark by the way) I’m not instructing you how to write. I do however suggest you keep open to the possibilities and creativity of experimenting with different approaches. Learn by your failures. For more information about L. D. Bergsgaard, visit his website at www.ldbergsgaard.net and his Facebook page....

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The Writing Process: A Personal Experience

Posted by on Jan 12, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

The Writing Process: A Personal Experience

Today’s guest blog comes from award-winning author Duke Southard. After retiring as a public school educator, Duke directed his energies to writing and has published three novels, one memoir, and a commissioned nonfiction history. He currently is working on a true crime novel and a memoir about growing up with a “Greatest Generation” father. His novel, Live Free or Die, the second in the Parker Havenot series, will be released this Sixteen years ago, I ended a thirty-five year career in public education and redirected my energies to a career as a writer. Initially, my writing process was filled with rookie mistakes that I’m no longer making. I now make new and much more interesting veteran mistakes. Here are a few things I no longer do because they interfered significantly with my writing process. 1. I never go back to the previous day’s keeper-pages. Nothing stops the progress on a writing project faster, in my opinion, then revising and editing what I thought was good enough to keep yesterday. 2. I don’t interrupt my writing to look at e-mails or surf the internet unless I need to check something for the content of what I am writing. 3. I try, with varying degrees of success, to not allow everyday things to get in the way of my writing time. Here are a few things I do now that help my writing process. 1. I set a goal for the day. (e.g.minutes, hours, chapters, pages—something realistic like three keeper-pages a day) 2. I write “end notes” (a Stephen King idea) when I’m finished so that tomorrow I know exactly where I’m going without looking back at yesterday’s work. 3. I ignore those irritating little red and green lines when I look up at the screen, telling me I misspelled something or have a grievous grammatical error. (will fix them later) 4. I allow for thinking time, staring ahead as I imagine how an upcoming scene to going to play out or how my dialogue is going to sound. 5. I do not stop thinking about the story or my characters when I stop writing for the day. The plot and characters are part of my life and are waiting helplessly for me to move things along. If you’ve incorporated other ideas into your writing process, send them on over. Writing is a personal experience, but fortunately, we can all learn from each other. Duke Southard www.dukesouthard.com...

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The Art (and Challenge) of Writing Dialogue

Posted by on Dec 2, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

The Art (and Challenge) of Writing Dialogue

By Kathryne Squilla I recently listened to a great segment on NPR’s Morning Edition in which the author Mallory Ortberg discussed her new book, TEXTS FROM JANE EYRE. In the book, Ortberg, a humorist who often turns her satirizing eye to western literature, imagined what many of the greatest characters from the history of the novel would say to each other if they all had smartphones and were communicating via text message. The examples she gave made me laugh out loud, but after the segment was over I got to thinking more seriously about dialogue. We often hear about how modern technology has “dumbed down” the way we communicate, or how young people devalue the importance of face-to-face conversation with their ultra abbreviated text speak. But it occurred to me as I thought about Ortberg’s book that many a fiction writer today might glean something from your average text conversation: namely, brevity. As an editor I often meet fiction writers who are struggling with dialogue. It isn’t easy (little to do with writing is), and it can make or break a novel. You might have a brilliant plot, multidimensional characters, and fresh narrative descriptions, but if your dialogue is clunky, unnatural, or overwrought, you’re sunk. Often times the problem is simply that the characters are saying too much. Of course I’m not suggesting all dialogue be reduced to the contents of a text message, but when we send texts we say what we need to say as quickly and efficiently as we can, and this approach works in fiction writing as well. In addition, we usually only send text messages to the people with whom we are most familiar, and when two people are well known to each other, there is much that goes unsaid because it is already understood. I believe the true art of dialogue writing can be found in what the author choses not to have his characters explicitly say, yet conveys to the reader nonetheless. Edith Wharton, in her essay The Writing of Fiction, described narrative as “the substance of the novel” and dialogue as “an adjunct to be used skillfully and sparingly as the drop of condiment which flavors a whole dish.” Or more poetically: “The use of dialogue in fiction seems to be one of the few things about which a fairly definite rule may be laid down. It should be reserved for the culminating moments, and regarded as the spray into which the great wave of narrative breaks in curving toward the watcher on the shore.” We may not always be able to compose dialogue that is like the spray of a metaphorical wave, but we can certainly embrace Edith’s words as an exemplary guide. When it comes to writing dialogue, less is...

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Authors & Libraries: A Match Made in Book Publicity Heaven

Posted by on Nov 19, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Authors & Libraries: A Match Made in Book Publicity Heaven

These days we authors should be loving libraries, and if not loving them, at least courting them. Not merely because libraries have shelves that hold our books and services that loan out our ebooks. We should love libraries because many of them have made it a common practice to host author talks. Just like our beloved indie bookstores, libraries are intent on increasing traffic. Who frequents libraries? Readers. Who do readers love? Authors. What do authors love to talk about and sell? Their books. Could this cycle have LOVE stamped on it any clearer? Here are some tips for scheduling a library presentation. Plan in advance. Find out how far in advance your local library schedules events. The Denver Library, for instance, is booking authors six to 12 months in advance. I’m heading to the Cedarburg Public Library the first Saturday of December to give a presentation about The Horse Lover; an event scheduled back in August. Pitch local media. Newspapers, TV, and radio often like to support libraries. For the Cedarburg talk, I pitched the local paper about eight weeks in advance. “Thank you for giving us plenty of notice,” the reporter said. The story just came out. Contact Friends of the Library groups. These are the fundraising arms of libraries, which often sponsor luncheons and special programs. Who best to speak at such events? Why an author, of course! Also contact retirement community libraries. Here in Tucson we have two major retirement communities. Both have libraries, each supported by Friends of the Library. Two Friends from one of the communities attended a presentation that my co-author, Alan Day, and I did at our local library. After the talk, they asked us if we would speak at their annual luncheon. Attendance: 300 readers. Happiness is.   So after your next morning coffee, head over to your local library and ask to speak with the events coordinator. Bring a review copy of your book. For libraries located beyond driving distance, give a call. Again, ask for the events person, and if possible, get that person’s email. A pitch by email is another way to make contact. And remember, librarians talk among themselves, so in addition to putting your best writing forward, put your best author-foot forward too, one that leaves a lasting, positive impression and results in future invitations to speak. Write on!...

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A Cowboy Hits the Book Writing Trail

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

A Cowboy Hits the Book Writing Trail

Today’s guest blogger, H. Alan Day has spent more time riding a horse than writing on a laptop. Yet, he co-authored the  New York Times bestseller, Lazy B, with his sister Sandra Day O’Connor, and this year published an award-winning memoir, The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs, with University of Nebraska Press and co-authored with Lynn Wiese Sneyd. His book writing journey is as unique as they come. I came to writing in a very oblique way. I never had dreams of writing a book while I was growing up or during adulthood. But then one day, the phone rang and my sister Sandra, who is pretty plain spoken and gets to the point in a direct fashion, said, “Alan, I think we should write a book together.” After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said, “Tell me more. Why would we want to write a book? And what would that book be about?” Sandra said that we had been raised in a very unique environment that had taught us both a very strong work ethic. Being raised on the Lazy B cattle ranch, a 200-square-mile chunk of Sonoran desert, taught us to be problem-solvers because out on the ranch nobody was going to solve your problems for you. I had never taken any writing classes and certainly had minimal skills in that department, so the book Sandra was suggesting felt about as big as that ranch. I had a hard time getting my arms around it. Sandra was far more skilled than I in terms of writing ability. She wrote many legal opinions not graded for literary quality but read by many lawyers and historians. After stumbling and fumbling with an answer and not wanting to look like a fool, I finally said, “Well, how do I go about this? How do I start to write a book?” Her answer was Sandra simple. Yellow legal pad and number two pencil. “What if the product sounds dumb or doesn’t make sense?” “Whatever you have on paper submit it to me and we’ll make it work,” she said. I have a feeling that not many would-be authors get that kind of a send off in their writing careers. Having been given an assignment, however, I rolled up my sleeves and tackled it. A lot of days I would only get a paragraph or two written, and then after sitting and contemplating it for awhile, I’d tear it up the sheet and throw it away. Other days, I would say to myself, okay big boy, today’s the day for writing. And then I would find fifteen excuses why not to write. Progress was very slow. After six months of writing, I had several chapters that seemed a little bit appropriate. I sat down and read everything that I had written. It was so bad that shame consumed me. The thought hit me that even if I could rewrite these pages twice as good, they would still be bad. In a fit of depressed anger, I tossed it all away. I had attempted to write the history of the ranch chronologically beginning in 1880 when our grandfather settled on Lazy B. I decided I needed a whole different format to make it more interesting. Since I didn’t know what other formats were used by writers, I gave myself two weeks to come up with another way to write the book. I spent time each day jus trying to think up a different way to write the story. Toward the end of my two week self-imposed deadline, I finally had a bright...

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