Sunday, May 29, 2011

Meet Penelope

Here is the protagonist in my mystery PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE. The talented Joleene Naylor did a spectacular job capturing her. Joleene is also a writer, designer and photographer. Catch more of her work at and

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sell-Out or Next Phase?

Not too long back I read with great interest JA Konrath talk about the virtues of self-publishing and then I later read about him signing with Thomas & Mercer (  Barry Eisler joins the self-publishing band wagon and turns down big book deal.  Now he has jumped to the Amazon imprint for a six-figure publishing deal (  Aparantly this is the next big shift in publishing (

I am mildly confused. Is this back sliding or the next big thing ?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What do you hate about writing?

For me it’s the first draft. Getting the words on paper. The story is in my brain, but getting it out is the challenge. I write some words and realize it doesn’t really say what is going on. I’m a pacer so I get up and walk around.  Some days I only get a hundred words out. I try little tricks.  Write only the dialog; then come back later and fill in the in-between parts.  Add notes about what happens and go on with plans to rewrite later.  But once I get it roughed in, I embrace the rewriting.  I can over and over the same thing until it sounds just the way I like.

What do you like... or don't like about writing?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Novel is now on Smashwords

Done It.

I loaded PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE  to Smashwords.  Surprising I did not run into any problems that caused the system to hiccup, although I did take four shots at getting it to my liking.
After the first load, I read it and found blank pages preceding chapters. The problems comes from a suggestion in the Smashwords style manual to add some blank lines, a few squiggles (~~~~) and a few more blank lines to mark the chapter end.  The problem is that blanks at the chapter end mean possible blank pages if the ereader goes to next page on a blank.  I removed all blank lines at the chapter end, left in the squiggles and added a final page break.  That fixed the problem. I reloaded.

The second time I saw a blaring format error, fixed it and loaded it the third.  I downloaded the epub version to my ereader last night and decided to read a bit of the story.  Then I realized I had a lot more format errors such as missing italics, things that shouldn’t be centered and smart quotes going the wrong way. I spent the rest of the evening and most of today reading it carefully. I corrected the problems and loaded a fourth time.

Now I wait for the uploaded copy to be reviewed by some human at Smashwords.  Upon success, the novel should move on to B&N, Amazon, Apple Bookstore and a few others. The whole process will most likely take another 2–3 weeks before it shows up on the big name websites.

So I wait.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Always Judge a Book by It's Cover

My blog title is counter intuitive to what we were taught as kids, but someone probably didn't want us to miss out on a good read and told us otherwsie.  When it comes to shopping online or in bookstores the cover is the first thing that the customer sees, making or breaking a potential sale.  The mind goes "I like this" or "No way."

 Here is the cover for my book.

The particulars of this cover are 1800 x 2700 pixels at 300 dpi which translates to 6 x 9 trade book size.  The high resolution is needed for a clear image when the cover is printed.  When used as an e-book cover a lower resolution/size will be used.

The artwork is two images licensed from  Having the right to use the images is important.  Either you must own them or license them.  The license fee here was about $40 which allows me 499,999 impressions.  After that the cost goes up, which I would welcome.

My daughter the graphic designer, who helped me with the initial cover, wanted the lettering to look "edgy." The original font looked really good, but became unreadeable when shrunk down to a thumbnail.  Since e-readers and images on bookseller sites will display the tinier version, I changed it.

The actual story is not as graphic as the images display. I polled a number of people including a mother and a twelve year old and everyone seemed fine with the images.  The look is more likely horror, although the story fits more in the thriller/mystery genre. Also, my daughter shadowed the knife to look like it was lit by the candles, which is good since I wanted the blood to not be too prominent.

Also, I changed the title from what it was orginally to PENELOPE AND THE BIRTHDAY CURSE, adding the protagonists name to the title.  A friend has suggested going back to just THE BIRTHDAY CURSE and add "A Penelope Amour Mystery," but I think that sounds too adult like and I wanted this to sound YA/Tween fiction.

Those are some of the considerations for my cover that may help someone else on the self-publishing path.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Chapter 1 of Penelope and The Birthday Curse

Chapter One
Something's Waiting in the Forest

Sometime in the Past…

From her bedroom window, Penelope spied something moving through the trees at the edge of the property line. She had seen deer in the thicket, but this was different. Without Mother knowing, she sneaked out to the woods to investigate.

Whatever she had seen was gone, and yet she had the feeling of not being alone. A brisk wind caused the hairs on her neck to stand up. A twig snapped. She stiffened and turned but only saw a bush shaking in the wind.

Above her, a bird roosted on a tree limb, puffed up in the January cold. "Poor thing. Did your friends fly South without you?" The bird tucked its head under its wing and shivered.

Tap-tap. Tap-tap. The noise startled her, but it was only a shutter on the old cabin, flapping in the wind.

Penelope had discovered the shanty four years ago when she was nine. She spent her summer days there, defending the fort, feeding hungry pilgrims, and doing whatever else she imagined. One evening, Penelope failed to come home for dinner. Mother found her rubbing two sticks together by the fireplace in the shack.  After an hour long lecture of the dangers of playing in abandoned buildings, Mother banned her from returning to Fort Penelope. Father put a hasp and padlock on the door.

Flakes of snow drifted from the gray sky. She held her hands out, letting them land and melt in her warm palms. She opened her mouth and let the ice crystals fall on her tongue.

From the corner of her eye, something moved. She gasped and turned, but again nothing was there. Perhaps it was her imagination.

In the distance, she heard Mother call, "Penelope Angelique Amour."

Tonight was the meet and greet party. Guests packed the house, and tomorrow was her birthday party. On January 8, she turned thirteen. This was the first real birthday she'd ever had. She had begged, pleaded and sulked for a real birthday party, and Mother finally relented.

As she hurried home, she looked back. Something flashed yellow by the old cabin, but then it was gone.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


After some e-mail exchanges with a friend who also is planning to self-publish by the summer, I realized I needed a marketing plan.  I don’t usually plan things out on lists.  My normal modus operandi is to see what pops into my head.  I figure the ideas are brewing somewherein the recesses of my mind.  When something does appears I usually make a memo to myself. Sometimes on a sticky note tacked to my computer terminal.  Sometimes on the closest scrap of paper.  Right now I have fifteen notes scrawled in the margins of an instruction sheet for a colonoscopy, but that’s another story.

I sat up past midnight brainstorming a to-do list.  Now I’m at the age were sleep is more important than nightlife, so this was out of character.  Awoke sometime past six AM after dreaming I was being chased by a big dog.  Even heard him woof.  Probably a Freudian thing. Added a few more thoughts to my list.
I need to flesh out better areas.  Places for press releases. My friend suggested e-mails, but I don’t want to be a spammer.  Building list of potential book review sites.  The business card aspect will be fun.  Went to some websites looking for ideas. (That’s where the past mid-night came in.)

1.     Press releases.
2.     Websites devoted to promoting books.
3.     My websites
4.     Social networks
5.     Blogs and guest blogging
6.     E-mail
7.     Product Reviews
8.     Sales or giveaways
9.     Signing at Indie bookstores
10.   RSS Feeds
11.   Newspaper coverage, especially local
12.   Interviews
13.   Increase "hit probability" on search engines
15.   Business cards
Suggestions are always welcomed!