Monday, November 19, 2012

Leaves In Autumn -- Now Available!

Book 2 of the Moonridge Memories series, Leaves In Autumn, is now available on Kindle! Click the image below for more information:




Description:
In book two of the Moonridge Memories series, it's seven years later and Theresa and her friends begin a new chapter in their lives: marriage and parenthood. Theresa's marriage to David is tested as he struggles to find a job and turns to an unexpected source for comfort. Life becomes all the more complicated when Theresa's mother reaches out to her and the Jordan brothers come back into the picture.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dog Days of Summer -- Freebie!

Today through Friday (Nov 16), Dog Days of Summer is free to download at Amazon! Get your copy today.

The free promo is in celebration of the sequel, Leaves In Autumn, which will be out this weekend! Be sure to check back for more details!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Update on "Leaves In Autumn"

This has been a crazy month for me. I know I haven't blogged since September, but I've been very busy. I did want to post a quick update on Book 2 of the Moonridge Memories series, "Leaves In Autumn". Originally, I had it planned to be released on October 30th, and sadly the book just won't be ready by then, and I don't want to put out a substandard book just to meet an unrealistic deadline I set for myself. So its release will be pushed back to November.

The thing about self-publishing is that everything's a bit of trial and error. I know now not to set release dates too far in advance, especially when the rough draft isn't even finished. Live and learn. I'm sorry for any disappointment this may have caused. The book will be out very soon, just not as soon as I was hoping for.

Since this is my last post this week, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Halloween! It's my favorite holiday, and I hope you're looking forward to it as much as I am :)

For kicks and giggles, here is another old poem from my youth. In high school, I had an assignment to write a poem which includes an example of a simile, metaphor, and personification. Of course I wrote about Halloween. Enjoy!


Halloween Night
a poem by L.M. Pfalz

The ghosts come out,
in the graveyard,
dancing about.
The gates stand guard.

The reaper comes,
like sudden death.
The cold air numbs,
catching your breath.

The darkness hits.
Pumpkin is light.
Be careful, it's
Halloween Night.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Welcome To Moonridge

I'd like to take a moment to introduce the small fictional town of Moonridge, located in Ohio. In my series "Moonridge Memories", the town of Moonridge is both the background setting as well as a bit of a scapegoat for some of the horrible things that happen there. The main character of the series, Theresa, often reflects on the state of the town and in turn, the people who live there. I always wanted to write a book or a series where a town is almost a character unto itself, and although it's not very uncommon in horror fiction, I haven't really seen it done in mainstream fiction...at least not that I can recall. I often wondered if it was too much of a stretch to make a town almost its own entity, but it occurred to me that there are cities and towns in real life that seem to have their own heartbeat and personality.

First, allow me to give a little bit of history of how Moonridge came to be in my mind. When I was brainstorming for the "Moonridge Memories" series when I was a teenager, I drew a lot from aspects of my life and the things I knew well, as many writers do. After all, this was my first book, and I didn't want to overwhelm myself with trying to write a novel about places and people and things that I would have to heavily research. So, one of the most basic elements a writer needs before beginning their work is a setting. I knew I wanted to set the book(s) in a town that had a lot of history and was sort of old-fashioned, almost antiquated. This led me to the city I was born in and still have a great love for: Cincinnati.

I lived in Cincinnati until I was two years-old, before my family moved to Florida. Sadly, I don't recall living in Cincinnati, but every year my family would take a trip back there when I was a kid. Because Cincinnati was a vacation spot for me and very different from any city I've lived in in Florida, it had an almost magical quality to it. It was so rich in history, and all the homes and businesses were old and had a lot of character to them. Although Cincinnati is far from being a small town, it always felt like there was a sense of familiarity among the people who lived there. Both of my parents were born and raised in Cincinnati, so I feel like that's still where my roots are and my home away from home. When I was young, I often longed to live there and be near family and feel connected to my roots. So, when I sat down to write the "Moonridge Memories" series, I knew I wanted that for my characters, for better or for worse. In Theresa's case, she complains about the town and often longs to leave it, but really, she has a deep rooted loyalty to the town she grew up in, and it is home for her, despite all the horrible memories that dwell there.

I wanted Moonridge to be a living, breathing entity even if it is only in the background of the story. As the series progresses, there is this sense that the town is cursed when terrible events keep happening. I think of the town as being haunted by the tragedies of the past, and this leaves the residents in a pretty bad state of mind, which only perpetuates the dreadful events that plague the town.

Fun fact: the town of "Moonridge" was named after a street in Cincinnati by the same name.

So, there you have it! A little bit of insight into the "making of" Moonridge, Ohio. Consider checking out the first book in the "Moonridge Memories" series: Dog Days of Summer

And book two, "Leaves In Autumn", will be out next month!

Friday, September 14, 2012

How It Really All Began

About a week ago, I was thinking about the question, "When did you start writing?", and I realized my kneejerk response is always "At the age of 13, when I wrote my first novel." And although I believe that is when my true lifelong passion began, I suddenly had a memory of the third grade when my class was making accordian-style books. The memory is vague, but as I recall, we were allowed to make extra books for extra credit or some sort of reward. I can't remember how many I made, but I kept churning them out and ended up having the most in the class, I think somewhere between 10-15 books. I wish I still had at least one of them to show off, because this memory made me realize that writing has always been a part of me, even before I really gave it any thought or any real importance.

My third grade memory made me dig a little more into the dusty recesses of my mind, and I remember now that I used to write short stories in fourth grade as well, usually when I was supposed to be paying attention in class. Even then, writing was an escape.

When I got to middle school, life became very difficult for me. I had a hard time adjusting to the new school environment, and I felt childhood slowly slipping out of my grasp. I was teased mercilessly by my peers and didn't really have any close friends, and I developed a lot anxiety which pretty much made me depressed all the time. At eleven years old, I felt hopeless and suicidal. I turned to writing to help me through it, because I felt like it was the only way I could really express myself. I ended up writing a lot of depressing poetry and morbid short stories, just as a way of getting all that hurt and anger and fear out of me. I still have trouble thinking about that time in my life, and that's probably why I never talk about my writing from before I was thirteen.

As a bit of a side note, I remember everyday when my mom would drive me to middle school, I would see that old gray building looming in front of me, and I would have these vivid imaginings of watching the school burn down. It looked and felt like a prison to me, and I just wanted it to go away. A few years ago, they did actually tear my old middle school down and rebuilt it from scratch. For me, it was like seeing hell destroyed, and it gave me some closure. It's a bit surreal though when I have nightmares about that school, and I wake up and realize I'll never set foot in that building again because it doesn't exist anymore.

Anyway, when I started this blog post, I had no intention of delving into that time in my life, but it's been oddly therapeutic. I often wonder if I hadn't been able to express myself through writing, if I'd even still be here today. And on that note, I want to leave you with a poem I wrote during that time in my life. This hasn't been edited, and was copied down just as it had been written at the time.

"Into Your Heart"

They laugh in my face
And slow down my pace
Then I cry all through the night

I lay down in pain
Then go insane
Never winning the fight

Oh why can't they tell
This is the hell
I suffer through everyday?

Are they too blind to see
I'm in misery
I'm lost, alone, and afraid?

If life is a gift,
what is with this?
Why must I pray for death?

If I'm left here to suffer
and strength I must muster
Why do they call this the best?

I'm supposed to have peace,
where's my release?
Why has my soul been bruised?

When I grow up,
will the sun show up
And chase away my sorrows and blues?

But what of today
what can I say
As they kick me and treat me like dirt?

Should I hold my head high
keep my tears inside
And pretend that I am not hurt?

I just can't that strong
All this wrong
Why must they fill me with hate?

Where are the adults
This is their fault
why can't they ever relate?

So, please, oh Lord
I just can't afford,
to go on while they stand still.

Help me to show them
I just can't forgive them
if they go on crushing my will.

So here are my prayers
they have many layers,
But it's truth from the very start.

I hope you can hear
the fall of my tears
and enter me into your heart.
~
Copyright, L.M. Pfalz

Aaaaand We're Back!

I haven't updated my blog in several days, and that's because my keyboard broke. Ugh! So I promptly ordered a new one and it arrived yesterday. Still getting used to the slightly different layout and the amount of pressure the keys require. I was making do with the On Screen Keyboard all week but didn't have the patience to type up a blog post with it, so forgive the lack of updates! I'll be blogging regularly again now.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Amazon Genres

Boy, I feel like an idiot right now. It's always bugged me when browsing through books on Amazon that the product pages don't list the genre of books. Sure, usually the cover and blurb are enough to tell me the genre but not always. I even emailed Amazon requesting they add the information. Little did I know, the information is there! If you scroll all the way to the bottom of a book's product page, the genre(s) is listed. Now seriously, has that always been there? Am I THAT unobservant? Oh well. I guess I should just be glad I noticed it at all ;)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Free Ebook Promotion & Book Update

The free ebook promotion for Dog Days of Summer is still going strong, and there's still a whole day left to get a free copy!

I would like to point out that I noticed a minor formatting issue with my book early this morning that I have since fixed. Some of you may be familiar with it. The text was defaulting to a very tiny font. My apologies to those who downloaded my book prior to the fix, and if you go to Manage Your Kindle in your Amazon account, you can delete the old download and re-download the book again, if the text issue bothers you (it bothered me, so I completely understand!). You can also request an updated file from kdp-support@amazon.com (Dog Days of Summer by L.M. Pfalz - ASIN: B008ZLPVR8). Again, I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. There's a lot of trial and error happening since this is my first Kindle book, and with any luck (and if Amazon doesn't change formats again), my future books should be published without issue.

Since the problem turned out to be a pretty easy fix, I thought I'd share it with my fellow writers/publishers, since it seems to be a pretty common problem (and undetectable in Kindle previewers, unfortunately). In Kindle's latest update, they have introduced Kindle Format 8, which I guess is for use with the next generation of Kindles, I'm not entirely sure. Anyway, for whatever reason, this new format doesn't play nice with font-size tags in the html file of your book. Even though I liked the idea of a larger font for the title page and chapter titles, I ended up not worrying about it, as I didn't want to keep playing around with the file during my free promotion days. Once I removed all my font-size tags (and for good measure, the font-face tags), the text on the Kindle now defaults to the proper size (nice and readable!). And I actually am not minding having the same size font for my chapter titles, so it seems like a small price to pay for my readers to have an easier (and hopefully more pleasurable) reading experience.

These posts helped me solve my issue:

Text Shrunken on Kindle

Kindle Touch Showing too small font

Free Ebook of Dog Days of Summer!

Well, today and tomorrow starts the free giveaway of my ebook, Dog Days of Summer! Click the link below to get your copy!

Dog Days of Summer

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Quick Announcement

Just a quick heads up that my Kindle book Dog Days of Summer will be free this Friday and Saturday (Aug 31-Sep 1)! Link below:

Dog Days of Summer (Moonridge Memories)

Don't forget! :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Writing Process (long)

I'm not sure how many people care about this, and maybe I'm in the minority, but I love reading about a writer's process. Their method from starting with a blank piece of paper or a blank word processing document until they have their finished manuscript, fascinates me. I think part of my fascination, as a writer, is wondering how similar or dissimilar I am to other people. I'm not someone who has ever "fit in" easily...anywhere. I've always been a loner and very shy and a bit unusual to many people. When I started writing when I was thirteen, I didn't really know anyone else who wrote creatively. My sister used to keep lots of journals; she was always scribbling down her thoughts and feelings. But her writing and my writing were very different. I could never keep a journal, because I felt like my imagination was far more interesting than my regular old daily thoughts.

It's funny talking about writing a novel, because it can sound very easy, and it's really not. It comes naturally to me, but I wouldn't say it comes easily, and I think there's a big difference. Some people might have a natural talent towards music for example (unfortunately, I'm not one of them), but that doesn't mean they never have to practice or that they can play any song without effort. The same goes for writing, and I wish someone would've told me years ago that writing is a skill that can and should be honed. I've come a long, long way from where I was eight years ago, but eight years ago, I thought I had come a long, long way from eight years before that. In another eight years, I think my writing will be even more improved. Writing is a skill like any other, in that you have to practice at it and continually learn all the little technical things that are easy to ignore or overlook.

I'm someone who second guesses everything I do. In fact, I fell into a very sad trap for years with my writing, where I doubted myself so much that I could hardly write a page, let alone a whole novel. This stemmed from a previous publishing experience I'm not going to go into right now, but my point is this. A single quote I read one day at the Absolute Write forums made a world of difference for me: "You can't edit a blank page." (Btw - a quick Google search tells me this quote belongs to Nora Roberts, though I heard it second hand.)

The quote altered my entire view. Not overnight obviously, but it's become my mantra any time I start to feel stuck. You see, in all my second guessing, I realized my problem was that I was trying to write perfectly right out of the gate. When I was a teenager, I never worried about such things. Writing was a hobby, I scribbled out novels long-hand in composition notebooks, and never gave a second thought about going back and editing them. The story was told (sloppily), and that was good enough for me. When my writing career took a wrong turn, I lost all confidence in my writing and felt like if I couldn't produce perfection in the first draft, then it wasn't worth writing. Here's the kicker: no one's first draft is perfection, even bestsellers. Every writer has to go through a process, and there aren't shortcuts. The only truly important thing that needs to get done in the first draft (the rough draft) is getting the story out and bringing the characters to life. Because, guess what? Characters don't mind if you misplace a comma or misspell a word or give a weak description. They just want their story told. "You can't edit a blank page." Indeed. You can always read through and fix mistakes. You can't fix a manuscript that hasn't been written.

So! Here's my process. I sit at my laptop with a fresh blank Word document open and type "Chapter One" or "Part One" or however my story starts. I never start with a title page in my first draft. To me, title pages are added to a polished work, when I'm ready to see my name on it. I stake my claim when I deem it time, and not a moment sooner. I write long hours--I love when I can finish a chapter in a day. When I finish writing for the day, I can't rely on my memory to know where I was going with a particular scene, so I usually end with a quick note to myself in parentheses wherever I left off, telling me what comes next. That's usually enough to get the flow going the next day without taking too much time trying to re-enter the world of my creation. When I can't think of a word, or I know I'm using the wrong word or a weak word, I very seldom take the time to look up what word I want to use. I usually use the "filler" word and then put question marks around it like so: ?word? Yes, Word yells at me with its judgmental red squiggly line for doing so, but I ignore it and move on. I trust myself to know during the first round of edits that that wasn't the word I wanted to use, and that I have research to do. Sometimes (and I'm always a little amazed by this) the proper word will come to me as soon as read the sentence again and no research has to be done.

What is the first round of edits, you may be asking? For me, once the first draft is done, I set aside the manuscript for a day or two. Sometimes I write something else, or read a book, or just take the time off. Then it's time for the rounds of edits. The first round isn't too bad. The story is fresh in my mind, I look forward to revisiting the characters, etc. This is where major edits come in to play usually. I add descriptions (I tend to be very flimsy with descriptions in my rough draft), I clean up dialogue, look out for grammar, typos, punctuation, etc. This could also be called "teacher mode". Basically, this is when the book gets a thorough checking for major mistakes, poor sentence structure, poor flow, continuity errors, etc. I also jot down quick notes on anything I need to fact check (sometimes I do this during the rough draft too, just so I don't forget later on). When round one edits are done, I take the time to research anything I need to fact check. This can range from all sorts of things. For example, in Dog Days of Summer a good portion of the book takes place in 1983, so I had to make sure that everything lined up correctly for that year, that items used by the characters actually existed then, etc. In modern books, sometimes it's just a matter of looking up topics I don't know much about, such as medical references or gun makes and things like that. So, once I finish research, I implement any necessary changes to keep the book as accurate as possible, and then comes the third round of edits.

The third round of edits is the round where I read the book out loud and really focus on reading each word carefully to ensure I haven't left any words out and to ensure the sentences aren't confusing and read okay without stumbles. Internal reading is much more forgiving then aloud reading, so usually if the work sounds good when read out loud, it will sound good in the reader's head as well. During this round, I try not to make major edits. I mostly just try to read through aloud with as few distractions and interruptions as possible.

The fourth round of edits consists of making cuts. This is one of the toughest parts for me, because I get very attached to scenes I write but keeping a critical eye, this is the round where I cut any bits that really aren't necessary and that I believe don't add much to the story. I always compare this to how movies have Director's Cuts, where you get to see a lot of scenes that the director liked and filmed, but didn't make it to the final film. I like to think of the third round editing stage as my Author Cut, and then the fourth round is getting the book closer to being a finished product.

There was a time when I would know when a book was finished based on the number pages (usually when I wrote long-hand). Now, because margins in Word can make page numbers fluctuate, I go by word count. Though it's not set in stone, I've read that 80,000-100,000 words is about the average novel length. A lot of my early drafts ranged from around 55k-65k, give or take. So when I go back and rewrite these, the word count increases, because a lot of my old drafts are sort of the bare bones of the story and really need some bulking up (don't mistake this for "padding". One strengthens the story, the other is just fluff and doesn't really belong). Nowadays when I write a draft, I keep the word count in mind of about 75k-80k words. This isn't set in stone of course, and genre makes a difference (fantasy tends to run longer; one of my first draft fantasy books is 110k words for example), but it's a good guideline for me to follow sort of subconsciously as I'm writing. I never ever rush an ending for fear of word count or cut my books off abruptly. The word count is just a guideline...a book is finished when it's finished.

After the fourth round of edits where things get cut, it's time for another re-read. I call this the fifth round, but very little editing takes place at this point. I usually still find some minor mistakes, or even non-mistakes that just don't "feel right", which I change (this could be replacing one perfectly fine word with another perfectly fine word. Sometimes I'm just picky). By this point, the manuscript should be well-polished. If I catch a typo or something glaring that escaped my eye the first four rounds of edits, I usually start to distrust myself and plan for another read-through (a 6th round). Only once I read-through without spotting any technical mistakes is my manuscript finished. Sometimes I set the manuscript aside for a week and re-read it again, and other times I don't. It depends on my confidence level, and that's like a roller coaster ride through the entire process. I have to be careful not to give into doubt, because it's so easy to do.

This blog post is very long, but it's impossible to illustrate just how much goes into writing a novel without getting a bit wordy about it. My final tip is basically if you want to write professionally, get out your first draft no matter what, no matter how bad you think it is. Get the story on paper (or on screen, as the case may be). Then, edit edit edit! Find a process that works for you and stick to it. Write down your steps if you have to and follow them. Routine can really help ease the pain and difficulty of the editing process.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

Well, as I already mentioned, Dog Days of Summer is now officially for sale, exclusively on Kindle (for the time being). The price is $2.99, but Prime members may read it for free via the Kindle Lending Library! Click the link below for purchasing options:



Summary:
When Theresa receives a phone call from an old friend, it triggers a series of flashbacks to the summer of 1983. Between troubles at home and encounters with the sadistic Jordan brothers, Theresa's childhood memories begin to haunt her. When the Jordan brothers return fifteen years later in the summer of 1998, Theresa is forced to face her past...and the present. ~

I am very excited to have my first ebook available! Through all the rounds of edits and the formatting, I was beginning to wonder if this day would ever come. I had set a goal for myself to have it out by August 20th, so I actually came in a little ahead of schedule...shockingly.

But anyway, now it's time for me to go back to work on the sequel. Can't slack off now ;D

Oh! And I added links to my new Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon author page at the top of the blog. I've never been much into social media, I find it a tad overwhelming being a bit of an introvert, so right now I'm just getting my feet wet. I'm hoping to get more used to it and utilize it more in the future though.

Book Announcement!

So, big news! I finished my book, and it's in the process of being uploaded to Amazon as I speak. It's called Dog Days of Summer, Book 1 in the Moonridge Memories series. I originally planned the series as a trilogy, but then decided to do a seasons theme, so now it will be at least four books long. More information will be posted tomorrow, once the book is officially for sale.

Cover:


I hoping against hope that all the formatting comes through correctly. It looked great in the preview, but being as this is my first e-book, I'm not sure if there will be any unexpected surprises. The process actually was less complicated than I was expecting, and I think I sort of psyched myself out by reading sooo much information about it beforehand, trying to prepare myself. I'm hoping next time I'll remember exactly what to do, so I don't torture myself again and get so stressed out!

Oh! Sheesh, I almost forgot. I made a quick trailer for my book using Animoto:






Monday, August 6, 2012

Still Going Strong...

Well, gee, time sure does fly! My book is going well! I have finished the rough draft and first round of edits, and now I'm on the second one. Just need to find all the little things I might've overlooked, misplaced commas, typos, etc. It should definitely be out by the end of August *crosses fingers*. It's just a matter of making sure all the little details of the self-publishing adventure are hammered out. The devil is in the details, as they say!

I redesigned the cover while taking a breather from edits. So that should be good to go. I will try to get a pic posted here before the book "officially" comes out.

I'm a little nervous about tackling the formatting for Kindle, but hopefully it won't be too complex. I'm pretty computer savvy (not to toot my own horn or anything!), so I'll figure it out I'm sure. I just hope it doesn't take too long and force me to push back the release.

Well back to edits, and then, bedtime for me (yes, 8 a.m. EST...ack, such a night owl!). 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mini Update

I haven't posted anything here in awhile, because there's not much to report right now. The rewrites on my first book are going a bit slower than anticipated. I've been altering a lot more in it than I thought I was going to, and it turns into a bit of a domino effect wherein changing one scene, changes the next and the next, until things are in a drastically new place, and I have to figure out how to tie everything together. There's also more fact checking about the time period I have to do, so the research aspect slows the process down as well. I should probably save that until the end, but I tend to be someone who is easily distracted by things like that nagging at me, so better to get it out of the way as I'm writing.

I was trying to set a goal for myself of 5,000 words a day, and that just hasn't panned out, and I don't want my work to suffer just to hit my goal. I'd love to have this book out by August, but we'll see how it goes. Deadlines might actually work in my favor, and I might have to try to stick to one, so my writing doesn't slow to an absolute crawl or stop entirely for a period of time.

At the moment I'm roughly halfway through rewriting this book. I'll reveal the title soon (I'm oddly superstitious about disclosing details about my work early on).

For now, I'll leave you with a humorous video I found on Writer Stereotypes. I'll admit to being the "tortured artist" at times ;)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tweeting Is For The Birds

I have a confession to make. I've never signed up with Twitter, mostly because I just don't understand it. D'oh! I've been on Facebook for awhile, and I was very active on it initially, but got away from it a bit. The whole social media thing is a bit foreign to an introvert like me. However, I know if I decide to self-publish that social media is a great way to network with readers and people to show off my work. So I'll probably try to re-familiarize myself with Facebook at some point.

But Twitter! Argh! I wish I understood it. Even just looking at other people's pages, I can't seem to figure out what the deal is. There seems to be a lot of disconnected statements/replies, and I don't know what anything is referring to. What makes someone worth following? Are tweets as random as they seem or am I totally missing something? Sounds like I have some reading up to do...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Genres and Pen Names and Publishing--Oh My!

Something's been tormenting me, and I'd like to talk a bit about it. Ever since I first started writing, I've written in multiple genres. It first started out as just me experimenting in a new hobby and figuring out which one I liked the best. There were no clear-cut winners in my mind. Sure, I've always had a soft spot for horror, but I've written in many genres and enjoyed them a lot. And I've never given it much thought.

Here's the thing. When I started researching publishing/self-publishing, I kept seeing things brought up about building a "brand". Now, I figured this meant getting your name out there, publicizing your books etc, but apparently if you write in different genres you run the risk of ruining your "brand". I kind of get the point of this. For example, if Stephen King suddenly started writing romance novels under his current name, there might be a bit of an uproar from his horror fans. However, the funny thing is that Stephen King doesn't just write horror. Different Seasons, for example features a collection of four novellas: Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil, The Body, and The Breathing Method, none of which are horror. If you haven't read the book, maybe you've seen the movies the first three were adapted into (The Body became Stand By Me). Either way, the stories were more general fiction than horror. Even other books by him, such as Misery, to me are not so much horror as they are suspense/thriller. Firestarter could be considered "supernatural", but it too is not really horror. I could go on and on, his library of novels is so huge. But this makes me beg the question, is breaking genres or this so-called "brand" really going to alienate readers?

Some authors love to use multiple pen names to "organize" their work. But in self-publishing especially, marketing seems like a nightmare when it comes to juggling names. How does this work with social media for example? Or blogging? It seems like it would be hard enough putting one name out there, let alone 2 or 3 or more. I've contemplated using multiple names and not making it a secret to readers and using a "main name" for marketing, but this still seems overly complex to me, so I'm incredibly conflicted.

There's also the aspect of that, I don't really like the idea of using pen names. The ones I've come up with are variations of my own name, just because, as silly as this may sound, I don't like the idea of someone else taking credit for my work--even if it's a made-up "someone".

The only exception I can think of where pen names seem like a necessity are for widely different genres, like erotica and children's books (or even young adult). But what about horror vs romance? What if you write horror, romance, and paranormal romance? Is the bridge then gapped? ;) Ugh! Too much to think about!

With the vast number of books being put out there now with how accessible self-publishing is, I have to wonder if author names are even being remembered that often. I know that sounds a bit sad, but seriously. Even as a writer, I've read books I loved, but I couldn't tell you the author's name. I tend to remember titles, and go back and re-search the title to see the author's library of books. It's not that it's not important (obviously), it's just one of those things. It's sort of like I tend to forget who directs movies, even if I love them. I guess I'm better at remembering content rather than names. But is this common, or am I the exception?

I'd love to know what people think about this. Would you be "turned off" by an author who wrote in multiple genres? Would you lose interest in their work or feel betrayed? I have such mixed feelings about all of this, and it's driving me batty!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cover Design Blues

When you self-publish, one of the major obstacles, imo, is cover design. I know many authors opt to pay a cover designer, and of course if you can afford that, great! But for me, because money has always been tight, usually if there's a free or cheap way to do something, even if it takes more work on my part, that's pretty much the path I travel. I guess you could say I'm more afraid of debt than hard work.

I have no graphic design experience. I've dabbled in the past, just playing around in Paint Shop Pro, but never really had mad skills at it. Several years ago, I tried my hand at self-publishing, long before the surge of ebooks and e-readers and what not. I went with the company Lulu.com, which actually is not a bad choice if you wish to self-publish print books. I thought their quality of printing was very good, and I really liked how my book turned out. But I digress.

When it came to self-publishing that book, I had to do a cover design or pick out one of their designs, which I didn't want to do. I always want my books to stand out and look as unique as possible, so that they have the potential to be memorable at first glance. Call it ego, or call it strategy, whatever you want. This is just how I feel. So I got to work researching cover design and figuring out if and where I could find pictures to use, since I have next to no talent in drawing.

If you're like me and have limited artistic ability, I'm going to share some tips that will hopefully help you out. And these are tips I've learned in my own limited experience, so take it for what it is. I'm not a professional cover designer, but I strive to do the best in any endeavor I take on.

For the sake of this post, I'm gonna gear this towards authors who can't afford to hire a professional cover designer. Just a quick FYI, depending on what you want and who you go with you're usually going to have to spend anywhere from $50 to upwards of thousands of dollars for a cover design. For me, thousands of dollars might as well be millions, and even $50 is more than I can afford, especially considering my personal goals of how many books I'd like to release in the long run. So, let's examine free options.

First and foremost, you need a program to actually do the work in. The pros tend to use Photoshop. Ever see the price of Photoshop? Yeah, I knew that was out for me. Luckily, there's a great option called GIMP, which is free and available for Windows and Mac. If you've never used a "paint" program, it does take some getting used to. It can be very overwhelming at first, and for this reason you'll probably want to keep it simple if you're going in with zero experience. Start out by playing around with the program and learning the tools and "doodling" on a blank canvas, before you start your cover design. It'll get you more familiar and comfortable with the program.

I'm not gonna write a whole tutorial on this subject, because there are ample tutorials out there already. The one at AbsoluteWrite is very helpful.

If you aren't a total newbie at graphic design, and want to learn about Photo Manipulation (the act of taking multiple photos and editing them together to form a new image), I highly recommend these tutorials: Gimp-tutorials.net

The important thing is not to read a tutorial and then attempt your own project. Actually follow the tutorial exactly, to see how the end result is accomplished. This will help you learn the tools within the program. Learning how to deal with layers will be your best friend, trust me.

If you're looking for free photos to use, I highly recommend you checking out the links here: 15 Best Places for Designers to Get Free Stock Photos Online

A couple things to note about royalty-free images (whether free or purchased) is the legal aspects of model and property releases. Starting with model releases, if you use an image with a recognizable person in it (usually this means a face shot), it is important to contact the photographer to see if they can offer a model release. If they can't, you might want to see if they can get some sort of written permission from the person in the photo. If not, you're best bet is to move on. This can be frustrating when you find the right person to represent a character in your book, but it can save you a lot of legal trouble in the future. Just because someone takes a photo of something, doesn't mean they have the right to give permission to use it, if it infringes on someone's privacy or property. For example, if someone takes a picture of the Dumbo ride at Disney World and puts it on a royalty-free site, and you use it, you're looking at big legal issues from Disney. Not so much for personal projects, but for anything you wish to use on a product (such as a book), you need to be careful. Properties (buildings, stores, houses, etc) also require a property release, if the property is recognizable. This gets a little bit more complicated because how far is recognizable? If you can alter the image to a point where the original building looks very very different, you might be in the clear. I'm not a lawyer, so take my advice for what it is, but if you're worried, try to pick out "neutral" pictures, where you won't have a problem at all.

Another issue I tend to see a lot with self-published books are font choices. The basic fonts (Courier, Arial, Times New Roman, etc) are free to use, however aren't usually the nicest choice for book covers. I recommend checking out FontSquirrel. These fonts are free to use for commercial purposes, and a lot of them look very nice.

If cover design is still too daunting or you just can't get the hang of it, I recently heard of a site called Fiverr, where people offer a multitude of services for $5. If you search for "book cover design" you will find people who are willing to design a cover for you and it'll only cost $5. I can't vouch for this, I have never used the service, so I'm unsure of the quality or reliability. Other authors have used them though and recommended it. It might be worth a shot for $5.

I hope this blog post helps some of you.




Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blog Revamp Done! Yay!

So, I finished re-doing my blog, and I hope it looks a bit snazzier than it did before. I actually had to re-do it twice, because my first design was very dark and had light text on a dark background, and then I read that a lot of people struggle to read light text on dark backgrounds. So I certainly didn't want that, so I redesigned it. It's funny, because I have difficulty reading black text on a white background. Even in MS Word, I darkened up the background to tune down the stark contrast when I write. Hopefully, for my blog I've found a happy medium.

I'll be adding more content in the future. Right now I know it's pretty basic, but I don't have a lot to show off at the moment. I really want to focus on writing and getting my first book published. Since I've never really done much blogging (especially a more personal blog), if anyone has any suggestions for ways I can improve, feel free to leave a comment on this post (or any of my posts), and I'll take them into consideration :)



Monday, May 28, 2012

Back to work...

Yes, I've been lax with my blog, but I have a good excuse this time. I've been sick with a cold and haven't had the energy to spend much time at the computer. I'm finally starting to feel better, and catching up on some writing.

I know this blog needs some re-vamping. I designed it quickly, and haven't even set up links or labels or any of that good stuff to help people, you know, actually navigate this darn thing. I'll get to it, honest. I know how badly it needs sprucing up.

What else is going on with me? Well, before I got sick I was trying to decide which Kindle to buy at Amazon.com. It's between the basic one (ahem, *cheapest* one) or the Kindle Keyboard. The idea of being able to take notes easily in books is appealing, but I wonder how much I'd really do that. Hmm. Decisions, decisions.

Oh well...back to writing...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Silly Little Blogger

Did I forget to mention how terrible I am at updating blogs? It's not that I don't want to or that it's time consuming, I just either forget or lose time in other things and just don't get around to it. Maybe it's just tough right now because I don't have much to update.

Maybe for now I'll talk about some of my writing goals. Yes, yes, that's the ticket! But first a quick rewind. Since it's my birthday next week, and I'm gonna be 29 (le gasp!), I realized it's been ten years since my first excursion into the publishing world. I'm not gonna go into details about that experience (yet...maybe someday), but I have to say it's been a long strange trip. Since I first started writing, I had a pretty modest dream about my writing career. I just wanted to be able to write and make a living. I never saw myself as the next Stephen King, making millions of dollars and becoming famous. To me, fame and celebrity attached to an author seems like a surreal thing. Writers have to delve within themselves to put pen to paper, and stay inside a world of their own creation. Many writers are introverts. Some are shy, and some are even socially phobic/anxious. I'd classify myself as all of these things. In group settings, I was never the social butterfly; I was the observer. I acted like a sponge and absorbed the nuances of people--the way they acted, the masks they wore, how they spoke, etc.

The reason why an author being a celebrity seems bizarre to me is because it makes the "observer" the "observed". Since I'm not famous, I can't weigh in personally on how this must feel. But I know myself well enough to know that I wouldn't thrive on fame. Success, yes. Fame, no. I actually think Thomas Pynchon has the right idea. As a writer, I enjoy solitude. I've been called a hermit before. Doesn't bother me. I've often joked that I see myself becoming a crazy cat lady, living as a recluse. Hey, it could happen! The funny thing is, it doesn't even sound half-bad to me. Perhaps I need to start worrying for my sanity.

This has turned into an odd tangent. Going back to my writing goals, I've decided to try the e-publishing (self-publishing) route, once I finish with rewrites on my first novel. I've been going back and forth between deciding whether to seek a literary agent or self-publish, and in the end, I thought I'd give e-publishing a shot, since e-books seem to be the wave of the future. Once I get the ball rolling, I should have more to update on this blog.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Where The Journey Began

Hi. I'm Laura, and I'm a writer. When I tell people this, I often get the dreaded question of "Well, have you been published?" which can lead to a long story about past experiences or a more simple "Not yet, but hopefully someday." and leave it at that. I just want to say for the record that being published or unpublished doesn't make you any more or less a writer, and fellow writers will understand this. Writing is in the blood, in the soul, consumes the mind, and sets up house in your dreams. If you're writing to strike it rich or become famous, odds are you will be sorely disappointed. And if that's all writing is to you, you'd be better off buying some lottery tickets.

For me, my passion for writing began when I was a child, and the title of my blog is inspired by the events that led me to writing my first novel. When I was twelve, I made a very important decision: it was time to pack a way my toys and grow up. After all, soon I would be thirteen. ThirTEEN. Yes, a teenager. And certainly teenagers aren't supposed to play with toys. Teenage girls are supposed to learn how to apply makeup (still haven't), have slumber parties (never did), and start dating (yeah right). Oh boy! What fun being a teenager would be!

So, I got to work packing up my toys. The last and most painful ones to see banished into a cardboard box and eventually my closet were my Barbie dolls. I had neverending storylines going on with them...for years! I tried to wrap up the loose ends and put my mind at ease, but it was no good. When I went to bed that night, like so many nights before, I thought about the continuing saga I had developed through my dolls, and I nearly drove myself insane. Usually, the cliffhangers gave me something to look forward to the next day. I couldn't wait to come home from school and play with my toys and act out all the scenarios in my head. But the next day came, and the dolls weren't waiting for me. Oh, that's right. They'd been banished. I was too old for that stuff now.

 Every night was the same. I couldn't go to sleep, my mind raced with story ideas, and I had no outlet for them. Until finally one day, I sat down on my bed with a stack of notebook paper and started writing out my storylines...from the beginning. I got stuck after 30 pages, but I didn't give up. I took a break from it, and decided to take a different approach. I got my parents' electric typewriter and started typing away. The story came easier now. It was somehow clearer in my mind and more organized. 150 pages later, my first novella was complete. I was satisfied. The story was told. My dolls could rest in peace.

But of course, it didn't end there. I started writing another novel and another and another, and didn't stop. I never took a break from it during my teen years. And you know what? Being a teenager WAS fun, but not for any of the reasons I thought.

As hard as it was to come to terms with no longer being a child, and having to give up the play things I loved, I realized that something so wonderful came out of it. And even once those childish things are put away, they still live on in one way or another. For me, it's through writing. And what a magical journey it has been, and will hopefully continue to be.