Covers, exclamation points, and angelic fist-bumps!

If anyone in my house saw me holding my fists in the air today and whisper-shouting, “Yes! YES!” they didn’t say anything. I think my family has learned that odd things happen when I’m at my computer.

Today was a day of rejoicing, of fighting a battle that only I knew I was in, and that only I knew I’d won.

The great demon that I’d exorcised from me? I’d finally figured out how to do that cool little trick I did almost a year ago on GIMP.

Yeah, that’s all: a little bit of formatting for my COVER! YES!  (Fists in the air! Waiting for my angel to fist-bump me back! Thank You!!)
(Sorry—residual joy, leaking out of me.)

book 3 coverAA

I’m sharing this sneak peek with you, my friends, because I’m so stoked! (Yes, I did actually write “stoked” there. And yes, I know how it dates me, but I don’t care because I’m so . . . stoked.)

No one in my home knew that for a week I’d tinkered with my cover off and on, trying to do this one thing and that other thing that any other semi-savvy person could have figured out in 15 minutes.
No one knew that I uttered inane little prayers along the lines of, “Dear Lord, I realize there are far, far greater problems in the universe, but for the life of me I can’t get a shadow on this text. If You’ve got someone up there who could flick me on the side of the head to figure it out, that’d be great, but only if a butterfly doesn’t need saving first . . .”

I got flicked. A few times. AWESOME! THANK YOU! (Fists are still in the air, still waiting for my angelic fist-bump. My angel’s blinking at me, either unaware of this earthly custom, or smirking at my silliness.)
(That darn joy, leaking again . . .)

David o McKayI wonder how many of us have these private triumphs—and private tragedies. In the Olympics we saw the public joy and humiliation of athletes, but I’m convinced that David O. McKay is right, that probably 99.99% of all our jubilation and sorrow occurs silently in our heads, or in private cheers to the ceiling and Those beyond, or in the shower with the door locked and crying in the water so that even we don’t know how many tears we shed.

Because for as often as we are among others, critical moments in our lives are usually exceptionally private. (Except for a few families on TV with no boundaries, and we all send up additional prayers of gratitude that we’re not them.)

And every once in a while I think it’s ok to share an awesome moment, and even a few sad ones. (Hey, what’s Facebook for, right? Middle-aged women nattering?)

So here’s to a private triumph, shared with you. I FINISHED THE COVER TO BOOK THREE!!!
That means I’m on track to RELEASING BOOK THREE in APRIL!!! The Mansions of Idumea is coming!!!
(Man, all those exclamation points are exhausting.)
(But here are a few more, just because I’m in such an awesome mood!!!!!!)
(Now I feel like a fourth grader. Forgive me.)
(!!!!!)

So here’s also to hoping we all have very few private sorrows. Because I think that’s where my fist-bumping angel went: to sit with someone who thinks they’re alone, but they’re not.

Wishing each of you a good day of triumph–and a legitimate reason to use exclamation points–very, very soon.

 

Book 3 is coming! (And so is some other great stuff, but you have to read to the end to find out)

Book 3: The Mansions of Idumea is in its final editing stages (meaning, I’m going through it when I’m not grading students’ essays, or taking children to lacrosse practice, or cleaning the toddler’s jello mess, or helping another child with homework . . .)

I’m hoping to release it by the end of April (yes, of this year, and that clarification is pointed to a wonderful but annoying friend; you know who you are, so don’t act all innocent).

Thanks so much for asking, for prodding, for rolling your eyes at me when I promise that it IS coming, but I want to get it as good as I possibly can, and that takes time.

You see, I’m a fast and sloppy writer; I actually have the entire 8-book series fully drafted and waiting in my computer, and I completed the saga in just over 14 months. 

But oh, is it messy!  “Fast and sloppy” also means “rather crappy.” I never claimed to be a good writer. But I am a decent editor, if not slow. And since I don’t notice issues on the first edit—or even on the thirtieth (and honestly, that’s about how many times I go through each book, cleaning it up, tweaking the language, improving the pacing, clarifying the dialogue, etc.) it takes me a bit of time to make it readable. And even then, once I have the paper copy in my hands, I find about a dozen minor proofreading errors that eluded me each pass. (That’s what revised editions are for, correct?)

Self-published authors don’t have the luxury of professional editors (well, they could if they shelled out the big bucks, which I don’t currently don’t have) so we rely on marvelous friends who are generous with their time and help go through our drafts.

And we also rely on understanding readers who embrace the story and overlook teeny tiny errors that they’re sure will be fixed on the next release.

For some more exciting news (aren’t you glad you read this far?) I’m currently turning Book One: The Forest at the Edge of the World into an audio book (and as I read it I circle those nagging typos to correct later this year). Once it’s ready, it’ll be available as FREE DOWNLOADS from podiocast.com.

So no, my friends, I haven’t been sitting around doing nothing since I released the first two books, and there’s still a great deal more to come!

Don’t read this, don’t write that

Like every indie writer, I’m hoping that my efforts to self-publish will someday be enough that I can pay a bill or two. I have no fantasies of big J.K. Rowling bucks (ok, not realistic fantasies), but I’m always looking for ways to knock down my car loan a bit. 

So when an indie publishing company sent me YouTube testimonials from their best-selling authors, I eagerly watched to see what the grand secret is to making money.

Turns out, it’s writing smut.

Now, to be fair, I didn’t watch every last testimonial, but after the third one I began to see a distinct pattern, and it made me very uncomfortable.

The videos were well done, predictably following around the authors as they walked in grass, or along a beach, and maybe sniffed a flower or two, while the voice-over discussed how frustrating their former lives were (interestingly, most were school teachers) and how after independently publishing they had enough cash flowing in each month to not only take care of their children and pay their bills, but to quit their former jobs and take exotic vacations.

At some point I began to feel like I was watching an infomercial, so I wrote down the authors’ names and looked them up.

And my jaw dropped. 

Women’s porn.
That was what each of them was writing (one even with her husband; I wasn’t sure if that made things better or worse). Now, I realize that genre of books goes under tamer titles, such as “graphic romance” or “erotica,” but the snippets I read in the previews—before I looked away after only a few lines—fit my definition of porn.

Not only did the subject matter shock and disappoint me, so did the books themselves. Many weren’t even 50 pages long and priced at over $5 for the e-book, which is hardly a bargain.

There were dozens of titles from the authors, all on the same themes of lonely women finding unrealistic men who are obsessed with, well . . . you know.
And the reviews were also disturbingly the same. I’ll spare you the details, but it was obvious by the hundreds of reviews that not one of the gushers cared about literary merit. 

Occasionally I ran across a one-star review, and it was filled with dismay. “What a piece of trash! I can’t believe people are writing—and buying—this crap that reads like the notes we passed in 7th grade. Write the word ‘boobies’ and everyone gets all in a titter. Is no one noticing this?! What’s happening to books?”

I don’t know, but I agree—literature is taking a nosedive.  I’m sorry—I shouldn’t even call this literature. Let’s stick with “smut.”

These books are in the same vein as Fifty Shades of Gray, which is all about a woman repeatedly “achieving” something, and sold more copies than the Harry Potter series.

Really.

Our society is fond of believing that reading is good. Hey, it’s better than (fill in the blank yourself). In fact, it’s quite difficult to find anything that encourages against reading (I know—I’ve been looking). Because . . .

Reading is empowering!
Reading let’s you escape!
Reading improves your mind!

Not always.

What you read changes you, for good or bad. And novel reading hasn’t always been held in great esteem. For many generations, calling someone a “bookworm” was an insult; you should be out working, laboring for your family, instead of lazing about the house with your nose in a book.

We’re all influenced by the books we read, some more than others. I can tell what kind of stories my children are reading based on their behavior that day. It’s not rocket science; it’s human nature. If we weren’t influenced by what we read, why would we bother?

There is something sacred, I think, about a great library because it represents the preservation of the wisdom, the learning, the pondering, of men and women of all the ages accumulated together under one roof to which we can have access as our needs require.  ~Gordon B. Hinckley (emphasis added)

Books can uplift and motivate us, but they can also send our thoughts into despair and fear, and everywhere else in between. There’s a certain magic there; but according to every fantasy book out there, magic is temperamental, and can go in any direction.

I’m anxious when I see how many sexually explicit and graphic books are now being written by women and for women. I can’t help but wonder, what does such an adolescent fixation on sex do to a person’s psyche and relationships? 

There’s been truckloads of research done on the negative effects of porn on men, but I’m beginning to think we need to start evaluating women as well. According to the book reviews I marveled at,  some of these readers do little else than indulge in these pubescent stories. I personally know of two marriages that suffered when the wives became too obsessed with a particular book series dealing with vampires and werewolves; so what’s happening in the lives of those who read books that are far more explicit and unrealistic?

Now, I’m sure there are those who will say I shouldn’t judge books and their contents. But to that I say, why not? Look at the reviews for any item on Amazon—those are judgments. Any time you think about reading a book or going to a movie, you ask for other people’s opinions (judgments) about it.

But what those who play the “don’t judge” card really mean is, Hey—you’re hitting a bit too close to home, and I don’t want to think about that right now. I’ve got another novelette about fat girls and their “achievements” to read.
The “don’t judge” argument is usually a front for, “stop making me feel guilty.”

This post is certainly not to say that all indie writers fall into this hole of smut. I’m acquainted with many self-published authors who create marvelous pieces of fiction and fantasy, who enjoy controlling their own work, and have written books that earn the title of “literature.”

In fact, I’m writing this rant in defense of the rest of us indie writers—the majority of us laboring to develop stories with character and purpose—to demonstrate we’re not all out to make a buck off of “low-achieving” women.

Our books are as different from these smut-o-grams as homemade, hand-breaded chicken fingers are from Chicken McNuggets. They may have similar names, but one is carefully prepared, finely balanced, and tastes marvelous, while the other is nasty chicken sludge boiled in oil.

That’s why I promise, right here and right now, that I will never make nasty chicken sludge, or write smut just to pay the bills. Some time ago a beta reader suggested that if I made my books more “interesting” (i.e. add some salacious details in the first chapters), I could really “make something of myself.”

That left a horrible taste in my mouth, and I told the reader I didn’t need them as a reader anymore.

Because how you feel after consuming something I created is far more important to me than my paying off my student loan debt. (And if you knew how big that is, you’d be even more impressed.)