Indie Author News – Multnomah Co. Library Wants to Read Your Book

I was tipped off to The Library Writers Project just this morning. The Multnomah Co. Library is looking for books by local authors:

From October 11 to December 15, 2016, the library will accept submissions from local authors who would like to see their books added to the library’s e-book collection.

The book needs to be available on Smashwords.

You don’t have to live in Multnomah County to submit your book, but you do need to have a MCL card.

Live outside Multnomah County?

You can get a free library card if you are a resident of:

  • Clackamas County, Oregon – except for Johnson City
  • Hood River County, Oregon
  • Washington County, Oregon
  • Clark County, Washington
  • Klickitat County, Washington
  • Skamania County, Washington
  • Yale Precinct, Cowlitz County, Washington
  • Cities of Ariel, Cougar or Woodland, Cowlitz County, Washington

Also, October 8, 2016 is Indie Author Day.  You can check that to see if your local library is participating.

I Do It My Way

writer at deskI try to write the best books I possibly can, and with my limited free time to devote to writing, it should be no surprise that it takes me a while to finish even a first draft. Once that’s done, the revisions and rewrites begin before I allow beta readers to see it. This flies in the face of some of the advice to indie authors these days that you should be putting out several books a year. It simply can’t be done, or at least not done well. I take writing very seriously, and rather than toss out a sloppily written novel I try to put out the best product I can. Why should I expect anyone to pay money and spend time on anything less? I do aspire to be a better writer and I’m always looking to improve.

As a writer I love to discuss the craft of writing with other writers. To that end, I participated (briefly) in an online writer’s chat on Twitter the other day. It turned out to be more of a coffee klatsch than writing talk. Questions were things like “What’s the best review you’ve ever received?” Being at work while the chat was going I was only able to participate in the first question which was “Where are you in your writing process?” Most of the rest of the participants (not all) mentioned several projects that are in various stages of writing or revision. I answered that I’m working on the sequel to my first novel. I do have other stories started, but I’m focusing most of my time on the sequel. The moderator (who has apparently heard me discussing this before) said, “Still? How long have you been working on that?” I replied that if I didn’t have a day-job, it might go faster. The mod does not have a day-job. Yes, it’s taking me a while, and I’m sorry for that to those of you who are waiting for the sequel but I have to keep the day-job as I have bills to pay and I’m not a kept woman. Add in everything that needs to be done around the house on weekends and it leaves very little time to write.

That question rankled. It’s no wonder the market is flooded with poorly written books and indies have such a terrible reputation. People are cranking out multiple books a year, but how much time and attention are they giving to any of them? Could my own book have been better? Of course, and I wish I had the money to hire a professional editor to go over it. I may yet release a revised version, now that I’ve discovered ProWritingAid. I’m dying to run the whole book through it and make it better. I can already see things I’d like to change and tighten after using that program for just a couple weeks. I expect Revenants Within to be a much stronger book.

Before self-publishing became an option, it was the norm for a writer to take six months to write a book. Now, if you don’t publish six books a year, you’re pretty much told you’re slacking. I will never be able to write at that pace. If you can, godspeed. But don’t denigrate others who don’t.

And if you’re a slow writer like me, you’re not doing it wrong. You’re doing it at your own pace, which is exactly how you should.

World Dracula Day 2016

 

Bram_Stoker_1906

I didn’t know there was one! Today is the anniversary of the first publication of “Dracula” in 1897. In honor of that, here some links to fun Dracula-related things (sites, podcasts):

http://www.bramstoker.org/novels/05dracula.html

The Dracula Chronicles

The Vampire Historian – World Dracula Day Mini-sode (from 2015, don’t see anything more recent)

The 1977 “Count Dracula” from the BBC, starring Louis Jourdan. One of the more faithful adaptations. Sorry, can’t find one without the subtitles. Subtitles just annoy me.

And remember, “The dead travel fast.”

Vampire Tarot Magician

 

Do Your Research

On Twitter this morning, an author I follow retweeted another author that he follows, who spake thusly:

 

Still looking for the right publisher for my newest #book . If anyone knows of a good publisher or agent, please let me know. No selfpub plz

 

And I thought, he’s kidding, right? There is no way anyone can answer this because the author in search of a publisher gave no info about the book he’s hoping to publish. Nada. This person has apparently already self-published one book, but didn’t specify if the new book is a sequel, in the same genre, or something completely different. Maybe some of his followers know more about the book, but retweeting it to people who don’t is pretty pointless. Frankly I wasn’t interested enough to even ask. Nor do I have any info on agents, but it’s not that hard to find.

Here’s the thing: Agents and publishers are very specialized. Writers need to do their own research and find an agent that handles the kind of material they write. An agent who reps (represents) Young Adult books may or may not also rep erotica (very likely not). Some will handle a variety of genres (mystery, historical fiction, women’s fiction), whereas some may have a much narrower focus. A poetry publisher will not be interested in a memoir of a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Newbies to the writing and publishing business have to understand that it IS a business, and they need to become as informed and in-touch as any business professional who hopes to succeed in their chosen career. And here’s the biggest thing: It is no one’s responsibility to do it for you. Even if someone does have a working relationship with an agent, that doesn’t mean it would be the right agent for this particular book. I thought we were past the time when writers thought all they needed to do was sit in a coffee shop typing out their masterpiece and then turn it over to a publisher who would instantly recognize their genius and deliver it to the world. Apparently not.

Agents are like anyone else, they have their likes and dislikes. This is why it’s so important to do research, see who else the agent has published, if they seem to be interested in what you’re offering. Just because that agent likes one writer doesn’t mean they’ll like what the next writer sends along. To use a dated analogy, they’re not like phone booths – “Oh look, there’s one.” Just wastes everyone’s time.

This kind of plea makes me wonder if this author also thinks signing a contract is the end of the work for the writer. Whether self-publishing or getting a contract with a publishing house, the bulk of marketing and advertising will still fall to the writer. Unless you’re Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, your publisher is not going to be taking out full page ads in the New York Times to advertise your book. To quote Westley in The Princess Bride, “Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.” Do your homework. Read up on publishers and agents. They’re all online now so it’s much easier than it used to be. Back in the dim time writers had to head down to the library to read the mastheads of magazines for editors’ names and addresses, most of which would be out-of-date by the time you read it. I honestly don’t know how people found agents in those days. Probably going through the phone book.

Nowadays agents and publishers are all online. Try a quick Google search for “literary agents on Twitter” and follow the ones who rep what you write. Read their bios on their sites. They will spell out in glorious technicolor detail what they handle, and what they’re looking for. If you’re pitching a military steampunk novel to an agent who only reps childrens’ books, don’t be shocked when they don’t even respond to your query.

Follow the hashtag #MSWL (My Secret Wish List) on Twitter to see what agents are really looking for right now.

Pick up the Writer’s Digest “Writer’s Market” or “Fiction Market” or “Poet’s Market.” They even publish a separate “Guide to Literary Agents.” Writer’s Digest site is a great place for any writer to begin. There’s a wealth of information there no matter what you write. Check here. I’m not shilling for them, but I would have been lost without their magazine when I first started writing.

Read  Writer Beware, which will steer you clear of scams and shady publishers and agents.

That tweet this morning reminded me why I don’t hang out in writing chat groups online. They’re full of newbie, aspiring writers (which is fine in and of itself) who spend half the time begging other people for ideas. “I don’t know what my main character should do, can someone give me an idea?” Hand to god, I am not making this up. I feel a little bit like I’m channeling Harlan Ellison here, but if you have no ideas you should probably do something else. It’s the writer’s job to write the book, unless you plan to credit the person who supplies all your ideas as your co-author on the book.

I have no way of knowing how much info the tweeter this morning expected other people to provide since I didn’t respond, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was expecting other people to research agents for him and get back to him with the details. That could be a full time job. But I bet the pay is lousy.

UPDATE March 24: Here is a searchable database of agents  http://agentquery.com/

 

End rant. Here, have a pretty picture for reading all that.

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WellREAD and The Wonder of Witches

Last weekend I was sick with a cold, and because I was sick I turned on the tv and thereby caught this program about books, WellREAD, on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting).  I’m always excited to find a show about books, and it was doubly exciting to come in on a show discussing books on witches with the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff. She was talking about her latest, The Witches: Salem, 1692, which is another exploration of the witch trials.

Schiff clearly has a real passion for her subject. I also liked that she said she can’t seem to write a book in less than four or five years when authors now are pressured to crank out a book every few months to keep up momentum (although this likely applies solely to fiction. I can’t see any sort of respectably researched historical book being done well in less than a couple of years). As much as I’ve read over the years on the witch trials I will consider adding Ms. Schiff’s book to my TBR pile. The reviews on Amazon are split pretty evenly between those who loved it and those who thought it was a ‘tedious slog’ so my expectations are tempered.

Be that as it may, the show itself was going great until about the last five minutes when Mary Ann Gwinn, who gives further reading suggestions, excitedly talked about Alex Mar’s “Witches of America.” Mar’s book has been roundly criticized by the pagan/witchcraft community, and you can read one take on that here. It’s obvious Gwinn knows absolutely nothing about modern witchcraft, or was even aware of its existence. I got the impression neither of the show’s hosts has ever met anyone who didn’t believe exactly what they do; they both seemed amazed that there are people today who call themselves witches. Gwinn went on to mockingly describe modern witches saying, “In one way you want to make fun of these subjects: the weird tattoos, the costumes, blue hair, the free-form sex, the witches’ convention at a Doubletree Inn. Really?” Nice. She openly wants to make fun of them. Ok, I admit the Doubletree Inn is a little weird seeing as how my coven always meets in Lucifer’s penthouse. But what the hell.

Maybe she thinks we should all look as bland and asexual as she does. Finally, the show’s host Terry Tazioli gives a shudder and says “I’m done with witches.” Good for you, buddy. Very disappointing to see such a derisive dismissal of alternative spirituality in this day and age. Their way or the highway, it would seem. They might be interested to know witchcraft practitioners and practices are as varied as any segment of the population, and many hold advanced degrees, including PhDs, and careers in the sciences and academia. I, for one, look more like a Sunday school teacher. My hair is not blue (although I really like the look) because I need to fit in in Corporate America. But not everyone does, and this is not the 1950s. You can watch the show here.

I shudder to think of the judgment the two of them sit in towards other marginalized population groups.

And for your edification and enlightenment, here are some reading suggestions if you really want to learn about paganism and/or Witchcraft in the modern world:

Margot Adler, “Drawing Down the Moon”

Scott Cunningham, “The Truth About Witchcraft Today”

Scott Cunningham, “Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner”

Pauline Campanelli, “The Wheel of the Year”

Starhawk, “The Spiral Dance”

For real basics, The Witches’ Voice website has “Witchcraft 101: So You Wanna Be a Witch?”

If nothing else, Mar’s book introduced people at The New York Times to the idea that there are practicing witches today. We may not fly on brooms (the old joke is we ride Hoovers now) but we have been known to dance under a full moon.

Full moon

2016, We’re Counting on You

I gave up making New Year’s resolutions years ago. Generally, it seems a week into the new year most are already forgotten. It’s not that I don’t have goals, but sometimes the resolutions I’ve made were not all that intrinsic to my interests or that important in the long term. Lose weight? Sure. Exercise more? Sure. Who doesn’t want to do those things?

Who sticks with any of that past January? Hmm? Raise your hand. Yeah, that’s what I thought. (Ok you, in the back: pipe down. You’re an anomaly)

Still, for the first time in years, I actually have three things I am resolved on for the coming year:

  1. Read more. I signed up for the Goodreads reading challenge thingie last year, and hilariously said I was going to try to read 3o books in 2015. Counting a re-read of “Sense and Sensibility” I appear to have read seven. That’s pathetic. I stand here before you to confess my shame. I really need to make more of an effort.
  2. Write more. Gotta get on the stick there and finish the first draft of  “Revenants Within,”  sequel to “Revenants Abroad.” I also have several other projects half-begun so I need to get with it.
  3. Spend less time on Twitter and get back to posting more regularly here on the blog. Maybe even get my other website, ddsyrdal.com back up and functional. I still own the domain name, but let the site slide.

Best wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy, prosperous new year!

Here are a few recent photos:

Ten Brides

This is a flash piece I wrote for The Future Fire’s Tenth anniversary writing contest. Even though the word “contest” is plainly stated, my brain somehow glossed over it and I didn’t realize it WAS a contest until I was contacted and told I’d tied for the win. So I’ve got a couple of lovely free books coming! Yay! So, something a little creepy as we go into Halloween season. And Blessed Mabon to all.

Ten Brides

The winter Will Gannett’s mother died, the ground was so frozen they had to wait for the spring thaw to bury her, as if the earth wasn’t ready to accept her.

In the spring, the earth gave up her dead. The hole they opened in the ground for the widow Gannett revealed a skeleton: unknown, unnamed. A trade. A new body for the old.

An ill omen, said the elders.

Soon after, like trooping fairies ten lovely women arrived in town. Within days, each was betrothed to a young man of the village. In due course the weddings were accomplished. Each of the strange beauties, while barely able to speak the local tongue, were obedient, compliant wives to the young men who could scarcely believe their good fortune.

The first to die was the miller’s son, trampled by the donkey that turned the millstone. Soon after, the parson’s son fell ill and perished. The blacksmith’s son fell into the forge and was burned alive. Within a year, all ten were dead, leaving behind wives who were soon mothers. Within days of each other, each delivered a daughter.

Gathering in the field where the ancient body was dug up and the Widow Gannett and the young husbands now lay buried, the new mothers met in a circle. In the center lay the bones of the mystery corpse. The women chanted and sang:

“This is the spell that we intone
Flesh to flesh and bone to bone
Sinew to sinew, and vein to vein,
And each one shall be whole again”

as the bones again grew muscles, sinews, blood veins, and skin. And when it was whole again, the corpse that was now a woman looked around at the women assembled around her.

“The old god is dead, and we will reign again.”

And she led them back to the village.

Around the ‘hood and beyond

Just a few more recent pics. Here’s the nearly-full moon on June 30, and the Venus-Jupiter conjunction that same night (basically the moon was to the south, and I turned around to face west-northwest to see the conjunction). The brighter of the two planets is Venus. Even though Jupiter is MUCH larger, it’s so much further away it looks smaller.