Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: July 2011

Indie Author Spotlight: Danielle Blanchard Benson

Red Carpet Dreams by Danielle Blanchard BensonThis week the spotlight falls on indie author Danielle Blanchard Benson, a world traveler and university student earning her degree in Creative Writing with a Minor in Specialized Languages (French). She has written The Beautiful People series, which will be released in eight separate volumes.

Ms. Blanchard Benson is currently working on The Vamp Saga (Death Wish: Book One will be released in January of 2012), Murder, Inc: The Pop Stars series (which will be released beginning in autumn of 2012), and a full-length novel, DeGeneration (which will be released in winter of 2013).

Ms. Blanchard Benson has lived abroad in Stockholm (Sweden), Manchester (England), Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland. She currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In her own words, here’s a little more about The Beautiful People series, currently available for the Kindle on Amazon, for the Nook on BN.com, and for a variety of devices and reading formats on Smashwords. The series is also available in trade paperback from CreateSpace (some cover images mildly NSFW):

The Beautiful People is a unique look at young Hollywood during a particular time in the film industry when movie stars still carried their own particular magical brand of clout and films made mega-bucks. From the gritty streets of Canoga Park and Reseda to the ritziest addresses in Beverly Hills, the Pacific Palisades, Bel Air, and Santa Monica, The Beautiful People takes you on a ride. The journey to fame and fortune in the entertainment industry is not for the faint of heart.

You can follow Danielle’s blog at thebeautifulpeopleawritersjourney.blogspot.com, "Like" her work on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Book news, if Russia will let me share it

Well, that was a fun break from blogging. THANKS, RUSSIA! But now that we’re back (…for now), here’s some book news that I’ve been meaning to share.

  • Restless Spirits is now available in trade paperback. If anyone is interested in signed copies (…Bueller?), let me know, and I’ll figure out a way to make it happen. Just keep in mind that it would have to ship twice–once to me and then to you–so that would need to be reflected in the price.
  • Fragments & Fancies is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s 99 cents at both, because that’s the lowest price point those sites allow you to set. It’s still free on Smashwords, although I’m not sure how much longer it will stay that way.
  • Speaking of Smashwords, there are only three days left on their site-wide summer sale, during which you can get Restless Spirits for half off with coupon code SSW50. On August 1st it goes back up to $2.99.
  • Also, Restless Spirits got it’s first (totally unsolicited and by a total stranger) review on Amazon, and it was a good one. They gave it 5 stars and had this to say:

    This is an imaginative take on the traditional ghost story. Ghost hunters might think they’re smart and informed about hauntings, but as this story demonstrates, the reality just might be that they not only don’t know anything, they probably don’t even suspect anything. That’s what I liked about the story, as it gradually revealed the intricate secrets (that never make it into official accounts) of the lives and deaths of everyone who had ever lived in the tiny universe of a single address, and how the fate of the spirits who haunt it could inspire the lives of the living and the dead. The story is well told with creative character development, charming wit and ever-increasing suspense. It is as they say, "a ripping good yarn."

    To which I say: Squee!

I have another Indie Author Spotlight coming up soon, but I’m saving that until actually being able to post is more of a sure thing. Right now I have zero confidence that this will actually go through (as I’m currently on my 3rd 4th [I stopped counting] try). *crosses fingers* But here’s hopin’!

 

How George R. R. Martin Killed My Novel (except not really)

This is my least favorite time of year. Strike that — it’s my second least favorite, behind those long dreary (and occasionally icy) weeks of winter when the holidays are done and you just want it to be spring already. Now the summer holidays are done and I just want it to be fall already, but it’s not quite as bad as the winter doldrums, because that time of year is depressing, whereas this one is just irritating. And hot. I will never be a fan of Oklahoma summers.

But the writing is plugging along. I passed the 50,000 word mark on Dominion last week, which NaNoWriMo has trained me to see as this great milestone and feel like I should have a party or something, even though with this book that’s only the halfway mark. But it’s not as far along as it should be, mainly because I made the mistake of deciding it would be a good idea to re-read the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series so it would all be fresh in my mind when I read A Dance With Dragons.

BIG mistake, at least as far as my writing goes. It’s generally just not a good idea to read a book that you’re fannishly obsessive about while you’re in the middle of trying to write your own story. It’s especially not a good idea to engage in an entire series that you have such feelings about, and ESPECIALLY when the shortest book in said series weighs in at around 700 pages.

So now when I sit down to write, I find my mind wandering to George Martin’s characters instead of thinking about what my own should be doing, and instead of writing I want to go outside and sit in the shade with a tall glass of lemonade and lose myself in Westeros all day forever. It’s especially bad now that I’m up to the third book, which is my favorite (so far) and heavily features my three most favorite characters (who I can’t even mention by name because even that would be a spoiler to you TV show fans who are trying to stay pure). In fact, I would be reading it right now, but I promised myself I’d post a writing update today, so here we are.

Clearly, I need to get me some ASoIaF/Game of Thrones icons Got some.

But I am still forcing myself to write, and once I get going I remember how much I love my own characters and care what happens to them, so that’s good. I’m planning to have Dominion ready for publication by October, in time for Halloween–which seems fitting, seeing as how it began on a Halloween.

And now I’m off to read.

Indie Author Spotlight: Katrina Parker Williams

Trouble Down South & Other StoriesMy guest this week is Katrina Parker Williams, a prolific indie author who teaches English composition and grammar at a community college. She is a Barton College graduate with a B.S. in Communications and a Masters of Education in English from East Carolina University. She is the author of a novel titled Liquor House Music, and three short stories, Rock, Missus Buck, and Slave Auction. Her works have appeared in Charlotte Viewpoint, Muscadine Lines, Usadeepsouth, and on the Wilson Community College website. Her writings have previously been published at The Saints’ Placenta, All Things Girl, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Pens on Fire, and Muscadine Lines.

Her latest release is Trouble Down South and Other Stories. Here’s the blurb:

Enslavement, murder, abuse, illness: there’s real trouble for the characters in Trouble Down South and Other Stories. The short stories take the reader on a journey to the past through a collection of interestingly crafted pieces of flawed humanness, social injustice, and redemption, and even humor. The short story collection of historical fiction chronicles events spanning more than 150 years and addresses a wide range of experiences from African-American perspectives. The stories are set in the South amid a changing landscape in which the characters are forced to wrestle with the social issues surrounding Native Americans, slavery, racism, Prohibition, World War I, the Korean War, Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, health, religion, mental illness, and education.

Learn more at troubledownsouth.wordpress.com.

Throughout July, Trouble Down South and Other Stories is available FREE on Smashwords with coupon code SSWSF. It’s also available for the Kindle on Amazon, and for the Nook on BN.com.

Check out Katrina at her blog, katrinaparkerwilliams.wordpress.com, and don’t forget to like her book on Facebook!

Author Interview: Arshad Ahsanuddin

This week marks my first time participating in the Indie Writers Unite! blog exchange. You can read my guest post, all about what scares me, at the blog of horror author Todd Russell.

My guest this week is Arshad Ahsanuddin, author of the indie vampire fantasy series Pact Arcanum, who was gracious enough to answer some questions about his self-publishing journey.

JWG: What first motivated you to become an indie author?

AA: I wrote a novel, kind of accidentally, and posted it online. One of my readers kept pushing me to try and publish it, so I showed it to a couple of agents, who basically laughed in my face. Then I did some research and discovered substantive editing, so I sent my book to an editor, who really gave me some positive feedback and helpful advice on things to improve. Then I did more research and discovered that traditional publishing is a huge game of beg-and-wait, with years of crushed dreams in my future. So I decided it wasn’t for me, and decided to self publish. I didn’t know it was going to become a second profession.

JWG: What has been the biggest challenge for you when it comes to self-publishing?

AA: The writing, definitely. Good marketing skills will get you in the door, but if you don’t have a good product, then no one will be interested in what you’re selling. Learning the skills to be a better writer and not to rely on an editor to fix my shortcomings was a long, drawn-out, and difficult road, which I have not yet completed. I am improving, however, though I don’t think anyone ever feels they are as good as they could be.

JWG: Has any aspect turned out to be easier than you expected?

AA: At first, I was terrified of ebook formatting and cover art design, but as I saw the difference between what I initially paid people to do and what I eventually learned to do myself, there really isn’t any question that having the skills to DIY is the way to go.

JWG: Do you take a strictly DIY approach, or do you hire help with things like editing, cover art, etc.

AA: I hired people to do the illustrations, cover art, back cover copy. Afterwards, I took an active role in modifying their designs/text to be more in line with my own vision. Again, it’s a learning process, and advertising copy and marketing are probably the hardest things for me to get a handle on.

JWG: How has the decision to go indie turned out for you? Overall, are you happy with the choice?

AA: The fact that people are reading my books now, rather than waiting two years for traditional publishing and biting my nails the whole time (assuming I ever got a book deal in the first place), means that I have succeeded in my goal. I’ve put a lot of effort into this, and if people enjoy what I have written, then it was all worth it.

JWG: Are there any stand-out lessons you’ve learned about self-publishing that you’d like to share with my readers?

AA: You need at least three levels of editing to make a book ready for market: Substantive editing (themes, overall structure), line editing (word choice, language refinement), and copy editing (spelling and grammar correction). Skimp on any of those, and your actual subject matter will take a back seat to the fact that your book is unreadable. Whether you find one person to do this task, or many people, you must take the time to edit your work, or no one will give it a chance.

Bio: I am Canadian-born, but lived in the United States for most of my life. I moved back to Canada for work a few years ago. I am a hematopathologist, a physician who specializes in using biopsies and laboratory data to diagnose diseases of blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, such as leukemia and lymphoma. Yeah, I’m a blood doctor writing about vampires. The humor is not lost on me.

The first book of the gay vampire saga Pact Arcanum, Sunset tracks the Daywalker Nicholas Jameson as he fights for peace among the Human, Sentinel, Nightwalker, and Daywalker races.

Visit Arshad at Pactarcanum.com. You can also find him on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sunset: Pact Arcanum: Book One is available on Smashwords. Get a 100% promotional discount for the month of July! Just enter coupon code SSWSF at checkout. Feel free to leave a review.

Free E-book: Fragments & Fancies

My new collection, Fragments & Fancies: Ficlets, Flash Fiction & Shorts is now available for FREE on Smashwords.

Here’s the official description:

Three vampires walk into a bar…

A suicidal widower is talked down by a mysterious, chain-smoking stranger with an ulterior motive…

A picturesque sea-side chalet harbors a disturbing secret under its serene waters…

A kindly grandmother runs a pie shop that is a gateway to time and space…

A mysterious house with a dark reputation tempts one bored little girl…

Angels, vampires, ghosts and faeries mingle with the lovelorn, the desperate, the weary and the brave in this collection of quick-fire stories from Restless Spirits author Jean Marie Bauhaus.

Most of these have been posted here and/or at the defunct Ficlets or the new Ficly, so long-time friends-of-the-blog have probably seen them already. But if you enjoyed them, here they are gathered up in a handy-dandy collection, along with a never-before-released excerpt from Restless Spirits.

Here’s the link again.

Enjoy!

Get Restless Spirits for Half Price at Smashwords

Restless Spirits is part of Smashwords’ site-wide Summer sale. From now through July 31st, enter coupon code SSW50 at checkout to save 50% on the format of your choice.

Look what I got today!

It’s just an uncorrected proof, but it’s so pretty and I can’t stop petting it.

A short while back I remembered that I still had a NaNoWriMo winner’s coupon to get a free proof copy of my manuscript from CreateSpace, so I used it for this. I wasn’t planning to release Restless Spirits in paperback, mainly because it’s under 60,000 words long, which I figured would amount to a thin enough book that even I wouldn’t be willing to shell out 7 to 10 bucks for it (which is what I’d need to mark it up to in order to make a profit). But now that I’ve actually seen it, it’s substantial enough that I would actually have no qualms about paying that much for a trade paperback of this size. And as I really have nothing to lose by offering it up as a trade paperback… well, why not?

Before I do, there are a few things I need to change. I forgot to replace all of my double-dashes with em-dashes, for one thing, and I also forgot to include cover photo credit. This is why it’s good to order a proof. I think I’ll also upgrade to a better quality of paper. That will eat into my profit margin a little, but it will make it look even more professional and “real,” which will be worth it.

Over all, I’m impressed with the quality of the book, and CreateSpace makes the whole process pretty simple. I’d still like to try LuLu some time for comparison, but for right now I’m thrilled with CreateSpace.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pet my book some more.

Camp NaNo and the Zero Draft

The Office of Letters and Light, aka the folks behind NaNoWriMo, have finally caved to the demand for a ‘WriMo-style challenge during a different time of the year. As such, today kicks off the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, a “light” version of NaNoWriMo that lacks the organized off-line social aspects of the November novelling frenzy. To make up for this, apparently, Camp ‘NaNo takes place over two months, with the challenge to write at least 50,000 words per month. Participants can pick one month, or go for both.

I might have joined in if I’d had more warning, but by the time I found out about it I was already deep into writing Dominion, and I’ll probably still be writing it, albeit wrapping up, next month, too. If they were doing the off-line stuff, particularly the write-ins, I might have declared myself a “NaNo Rebel” and done it anyway, just continued to work on my current book at my own pace but used it as an excuse to get out and be social for a change. But without that, there’s not really an incentive for me to take part, at least not this year.

I’m a little surprised about the months they chose to have it in. One of the main criticisms I’ve seen about the NaNoWriMo Prime is that it falls during one of the busiest months of the year, with people having to work around Thanksgiving preparations and, oftentimes, writing thesis papers and studying for finals. So you might have expected that they’d have chosen a less busy time of year than a month with yet another major U. S. holiday, and one during which a lot of families plan their summer vacations, followed by a month during which much of the country is starting back to school.

But none of that has anything to do with my decision not to participate. I already mentioned the lack of social gatherings, but that’s not my only incentive to hunker down and hammer out my 1,667 words per day every November. In five years of doing NaNoWriMo, I’ve learned that the most useful thing I get out of it is what I call my Zero Draft.

I think others call this an Exploration Draft. Whatever you call it, it’s some combination of expanded outline, character sketch and actual manuscript. I call mine a Zero Draft because I usually end up tossing it out and re-writing the actual First Draft from scratch. That might make my Zero Draft sound like a waste of time, but it has proven to be an immensely helpful tool over the years. It helps me get to know my characters, my settings and where my story needs to go, what works and what doesn’t. When writing my Zero Draft, I have the freedom of knowing nobody but me will ever see it, which makes it so much easier to be experimental, try new twists and turns–basically, throw everything I’ve got at the wall to see what sticks.

I wrote my Zero Draft for Dominion of the Damned during 2009’s NaNoWriMo, and even though I only made it to 30K words before life intervened and forced me to drop out, those 30K words that I have never bothered to look at again have gone a long way toward helping the current draft to flow smoothly and the story to come together. When I sat down to write this draft a few months ago, I already knew the characters; I had confidence in their voices, and in my settings’ sense of place, and in what needed to be done. I haven’t had writer’s block once since I started (and here’s hoping I didn’t just jinx myself). All hail the Zero Draft.

I still plan to do NaNoWriMo again this November. I haven’t decided yet whether I’ll be “zero drafting” the sequel to Dominion (yup, already planning a sequel) or whether I’ll take a break from that world to explore this YA fantasy. Whichever I decide to go with, I look forward to getting to know it better.

As for any Camp NaNo Campers on my list, good luck, and have fun.

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