Author interview: Lisa Winkler – On the Trail of the Ancestors

Lisa Winkler is the author of On the Trail of the Ancestors, A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America. It’s the story of Miles Dean, a Teacher from New Jersey, who rode his horse from New York to California to celebrate the contributions African Americans had made in the settling of the United States. I first came across her through her blog, and decided to interview her about the book, in particular because I wanted to know more about how Lisa became a published writer.

GC: Could you give us a brief summary of your writing career?

LW: I worked as a newspaper reporter and magazine journalist for years. When I became a teacher, I continued to write for professional journals and have had study guides published for Penguin Books. I write now for Education Update and have assignments for JerseyMan Magazine.

GC: Your latest book, On the Trail of the Ancestors, is about a black ‘cowboy’ riding across the USA on a horse. It’s an unusual topic, to say the least, particularly since it’s non-fiction. How did you come across the story? And what made you decide to write about it?

LW: I met Miles Dean while I was working as a literacy consultant in Newark, NJ. He taught at one of the schools I visited.  As a teacher, I’ve witnessed how little young people know of history. In urban areas, youth learn about slavery and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a few more facts during Black History Month. Yet they have little if any connection with these historical figures. When I began my own reading after meeting Miles, I became fascinated with these people whose contributions to the development of the US are largely unknown. Most adults haven’t heard of these people. American history needs to include all races and genders to truly demonstrate who built this nation, their struggles and sacrifices and stories.  From my research, I couldn’t find any records of other African Americans who have ridden a horse across the country with this purpose in mind. A cross- country journey is a story in itself. I loved the idea of Miles growing up watching western movies and television shows and dreaming that he too could become a cowboy.

GC: My readers are always interested in the process of writing and publishing. Can you tell us what was involved in researching and writing this book?

LW: I read a lot of books that I found in libraries or bought. These included biographies, geography and books about horses.  I consulted maps and also interviewed some of scholars Miles met on his journey. I pored through the Internet. I read Miles’ website and transcribed the podcasts he did for the Star-Ledger and interviews he conducted with people he met.  I spent hours and hours interviewing Miles.

GC:  And what was your publishing process? Who edited the book? How did you decide on pricing, design etc?

LW: I nearly quit a few times. I submitted to about 100 agents before deciding to self-publish.  I researched the self-publishing companies and chose CreateSpace. For the most part, it was efficient. I hired a book designer who also is a copy editor and that is crucial to anyone considering self-publishing. We’d exchange emails six times a day, debating proper grammar usage, sentence structure, etc.  I priced it low as an eBook – $2.99 – and played around with the paperback price. $12.95 seemed fair for the size of the book.

GC: How can readers find you? Are you available to give talks?

LW: Yes! I’d love to talk about the book to any groups, bookstores and libraries that will have me. I’m available to present the book to all ages, and especially to educators who will use the book in their classrooms. The study guide gives a range of activities, including writing, literature, drama, math, geography, and research topics. It is available via my website. Readers can reach me via my website, and the book is available in all formats from Amazon etc)

The e-book’s not for burning

Dwight Garner, book critic for the New York Times, recently wrote a fascinating piece taking a look at the value of e-books as a medium. I was particularly struck by the idea that you couldn’t burn an e-book, so the book fascists will never again be able to tell us what to read. Here’s the beginning of the article. Click on the link below to read the rest.

Illustration: Jeffrey Fisher

THE case against electronic books has been made, and elegantly, by many people, including Nicholson Baker in The New Yorker a few years ago. Mr. Baker called Amazon’s Kindle, in a memorable put-down, “the Bowflex of bookishness: something expensive that, when you commit to it, forces you to do more of whatever it is you think you should be doing more of.”

The best case I’ve seen for electronic books, however, arrived just last month, on the Web site of The New York Review of Books. The novelist Tim Parks proposed that e-books offered “a more austere, direct engagement” with words. What’s more, no dictator can burn one. His persuasive bottom line: “This is a medium for grown-ups.”

I’ve been trying to become more of a grown-up, in terms of my commitment to reading across what media geeks call “platforms” (a word that’s much sexier when applied to heels), from smartphones to e-readers to tablets to laptops.

It’s a battle I may lose. I still prefer to consume sentences the old-fashioned and non-green way, on the pulped carcasses of trees that have had their throats slit. I can imagine my tweener kids, in a few years, beginning to picket me for my murderous habits: “No (tree) blood for (narrative) oil.”

It’s time to start thinking, however, about the best literary uses for these devices

Read the rest here:

 

Re-post from Ebook Friendly: 5 Bestselling Kindle Singles So Far

A while ago I wrote a post about the increasing market for short stories one could read on the go in a busy world. I figured this is good news for writers, and here to help make my case, is an article from the website Ebook Friendly. I came across  this site because I follow a Polish blogger named  Piotr Kowalczyk, self-publisher, author of short stories for geeks and a declared enthusiast of electronic books. And, by the way, a writer of impeccable English. Joseph Conrad could have taken lessons… He has a blog, Password incorrect, about mobile e-books, self-publishing and digital storytelling, and a website called Ebook Friendly.  You can find him on Twitter at @ebookfriendly  or @namenick. He’s more than happy to answer questions about self-publishing in a mobile world or about Ebook Friendly.

Here’s his report on the winning singles so far (and you can buy them via Ebook Friendly);

Good news travels fast. Over 2 million Kindle Singles were sold since they launched in January 2011. There are only 161 titles so far, you can browse all of them in Kindle Store. For your convenience we list below 5 most popular titles.

This list is based on a chart published by paidContent, where you can also check the approximate number of units sold, the date of publication, and the publisher.

Two titles, Second Son by Lee Child (#1 on a paidContent list), and No Time Left by David Baldacci (#3) were removed by their publishers from Kindle Singles section, probably in order to increase the price. They are not included in the list.

Mile 81 (Kindle Single)

Stephen King

With the heart of Stand By Me and the genius horror of Christine, Mile 81 is Stephen King unleashing his imagination as he drives past one of those road signs…

At Mile 81 on the Maine Turnpike is a boarded up rest stop on a highway in Maine. It’s a place where high school kids drink and get into the kind of trouble high school kids have always gotten into. It’s the place where Pete Simmons goes when his older brother, who’s supposed to be looking out for him, heads off to the gravel pit to play “paratroopers over the side.” Pete, armed only with the magnifying glass he got for his tenth birthday, finds a discarded bottle of vodka in the boarded up burger shack and drinks enough to pass out.

Not much later, a mud-covered station wagon (which is strange because there hadn’t been any rain in New England for over a week) veers into the Mile 81 rest area, ignoring the sign that says “closed, no services.” The driver’s door opens but nobody gets out.

Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, is driving his Prius to a conference in Portland. On the backseat are his briefcase and suitcase and in the passenger bucket is a King James Bible, what Doug calls “the ultimate insurance manual,” but it isn’t going to save Doug when he decides to be the Good Samaritan and help the guy in the broken down wagon. He pulls up behind it, puts on his four-ways, and then notices that the wagon has no plates.

Ten minutes later, Julianne Vernon, pulling a horse trailer, spots the Prius and the wagon, and pulls over. Julianne finds Doug Clayton’s cracked cell phone near the wagon door — and gets too close herself. By the time Pete Simmons wakes up from his vodka nap, there are a half a dozen cars at the Mile 81 rest stop. Two kids — Rachel and Blake Lussier — and one horse named Deedee are the only living left. Unless you maybe count the wagon. List Price: $ 3.99

The Moonlit Mind: A Tale of Suspense (Kindle Single)

Dean Koontz

In this chilling original stand-alone novella, available exclusively as an eBook, #1 New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz offers a taste of what’s to come in his new novel, 77 Shadow Street, with a mesmerizing tale of a homeless boy at large in a city fraught with threats . . . both human and otherwise.

Twelve-year-old Crispin has lived on the streets since he was nine—with only his wits and his daring to sustain him, and only his silent dog, Harley, to call his friend. He is always on the move, never lingering in any one place long enough to risk being discovered. Still, there are certain places he returns to. In the midst of the tumultuous city, they are havens of solitude: like the hushed environs of St. Mary Salome Cemetery, a place where Crispin can feel at peace—safe, at least for a while, from the fearsome memories that plague him . . . and seep into his darkest nightmares. But not only his dreams are haunted. The city he roams with Harley has secrets and mysteries, things unexplainable and maybe unimaginable. Crispin has seen ghosts in the dead of night, and sensed dimensions beyond reason in broad daylight. Hints of things disturbing and strange nibble at the edges of his existence, even as dangers wholly natural and earthbound cast their shadows across his path. Alone, drifting, and scavenging to survive is no life for a boy. But the life Crispin has left behind, and is still running scared from, is an unspeakable alternative . . . that may yet catch up with him. List Price: $ 2.9

Thorn in My Side (Kindle Single)

Karin Slaughter

It could have been just any night, and they could have just been any two brothers–but it wasn’t, and they weren’t. The scene is an Atlanta bar. The music is loud and the dance floor is packed. The good-looking brother picks up a girl. But when dark deeds ensue out in the parking lot, what happens next can only be described in two words: vintage Slaughter. From the opening scene to the last line, Thorn in My Side is as wicked as it is entertaining–an unforgettable piece of writing from one of the most beloved storytellers working today. List Price: $ 0.99

Leaving Home: Short Pieces (Kindle Single)

Jodi Picoult

Leaving Home brings together three, previously published short pieces, each dealing with a variation on the theme of leaving home. The first, “Weights and Measures,” deals with the tragic loss of a child; the second is a non-fiction letter Picoult wrote to her eldest son as he left for college; and, “Ritz” tells the story of a mother who takes the vacation all mothers need sometime. List Price: $ 2.99

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way (Kindle Single)

Jon Krakauer

Greg Mortenson has built a global reputation as a selfless humanitarian and children’s crusader, and he’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is also not what he appears to be. As acclaimed author Jon Krakauer discovered, Mortenson has not only fabricated substantial parts of his bestselling books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, but has also misused millions of dollars donated by unsuspecting admirers like Krakauer himself.

This is the tragic tale of good intentions gone very wrong.

100% of Jon Krakauer’s proceeds from the sale of Three Cups of Deceit will be donated to the “Stop Girl Trafficking” project at the American Himalayan Foundation (www.himalayanfoundation.org/live/project/stopgirltrafficking). List Price: $ 2.99

Re-post from Larry Brooks at Storyfix – How to Position Your Book To Go Viral

Larry Brooks is  a published author and owner of a terrific, maybe essential, blog for writers: Storyfix. Larry has a great way of helping you plot a novel, and he should know. IN addition to his great how-to books on writing, he’s published several novels, to great acclaim. Larry writes thrillers, and they’re page turners. When I wrote my NaNoWriMo novel in November, that’s what I wanted it to be. Not a thriller – I haven’t the first idea about how to write a fight scene – but a page turner. So before November 1, I followed his plan for structuring a novel. And it worked.

Now here’s his take on going viral:

It is the Holy Grail of instant success as an author.  The elusive grand slam home run of literary home runs.  It is better – beyond – getting published, or even making a bestseller list.

It is the dream.  Bigger than your highest vision of The Dream.

It is called “going viral.”

For in the Luddites among us… going viral means that word-of-mouth and the media, especially the internet – which in this case are simply responding to an initial word-of-mouth phenomena — conspire in a dance of co-dependent cause and effect to explode a book beyond the bestseller lists into a feeding frenzy of attention, demand, praise and bookstore waiting lists.

For most readers, this sudden attention is the first time they’ll hear about the title, or its author.

Think The DaVinci Code, Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Lovely Bones, The Help, The Bridges of Madison County… books that seemingly appear out of nowhere and sell millions within a few weeks, and more millions afterward, almost always resulting in a movie and a sequel.

People who wouldn’t have been interested before are now clicking onto Amazon to pick up a copy, in some cases simply because they want to see what all the buzz is about.

How did they do that?  How can we do that?

Good news and bad news: we can enter the game, we can go for it, but once qualified and out there, it’s a total crap-shoot.  One over which you have, after meeting the criteria for viral consideration, absolutely no control.

It is beyond social media.  You can’t tweet or Facebook yourself into viral status. Your publisher can’t even make it happen.  It rarely happens to the common A-list author names – they became A-listers after their viral debut – it’s usually something fresh, from a fresh face.

And yet, going viral is a paradox.

It is something you can wish for, but once the book has been written, cannot create or execute.  The best you can do is write a book that is positioned – that delivers the right stuff – to be discovered, ignited and launched on a viral journey at the scale required to wear this name tag.

Many books qualify.  Few hear their name called.

The paradox is this:

The criteria for putting your book into a position to go viral is almost exactly that associated with getting published in the first place.  The book has to work.  Really, really well.

That said, viral books tend to do a couple of specific things really well:

They are often “high concept” (rather than character-driven, even though they introduce great characters), with exceptional execution across all of the Six Core Competencies.

They also deliver something else, almost without exception: they seize the inherent compelling power of underlying story physics in way that exceeds the competition.

These two realms of story – compelling concept, with exceptionally strong underlying essences, is what gets you into the viral game.

And if that sounds underwhelming, welcome to the paradox.  Doesn’t everybody try for a compelling concept and the blowing of their story physics out of the water?

Answer: not really. Mostly because they don’t address these as goals.  Some authors just write their story, write it well, let it unspool organically, and hope somebody out there gets it.  This may get them published, but it doesn’t usually get them on Good Morning America.

If you want to go viral, you should address high concept and the optimization of story physics in the story development process.  You should be aware of their inherent compelling power, or not.  And if the latter, jack it higher.

The Latest Example of the Viral Dream Come True

Just this morning Good Morning America did a feature on the latest viral sensation in the book world.  It described a mad frenzy of word-of-mouth obsession, and during the segment the GMA anchors were literally grabbing the book from each others’ hands to swoon over randomly selected sentences.

Not because the sentences were astoundingly eloquent.  Rather, because the sentences deliver more than one of the basic elements of story physics like a bullet to the brain.

The book is called “50 Shades of Grey,” dubbed an erotic novel (part of a trilogy) by a little known English author named E.L. James.  As I write this, a mere four hours after the GMA love fest, less than two weeks after initial release, it resides at #1 on the Amazon Kindle list, and #4 on the overall bestselling books list.

Almost all because of reader word-of-mouth.  And media that listens and jumps on board.

Interestingly, it isn’t yet registering on the New York Times bestseller list.  Why?  Because that’s an insider industry list based on wholesale distribution to bookstores and a lagging nod to digital books, and 50 Shades of Grey is barely in bookstores and is too new to crack the old boy network that the NYT represents.

But wait ‘til next week.  It’ll be there, and probably at #1.

Let me tell you why this book has gone viral.

And in doing so, identify the simple elements of story physics that this book delivers.  Read and learn, this is your ticket not only to the viral world, but to finding a publisher and a readership, as well.

The book is about a young woman who has an affair with a billionaire.  In one reader’s words, it is full of sex, money and clothes.  It is Sex in the City times ten.

One interviewed reader calls it “mommy porn.”  A guilty pleasure perfectly suited to the anonymity of a Kindle in a crowded mall.

High concept?  Not particularly.  But here’s what it does do well:

It is fueled by two things, both of them among the short list of essential story physics that capture readers:

The book is driven by hero empathy, while delivering a vicarious ride.

Read that again.  It isn’t the plot, and it isn’t character.  No, this is about the reader.  This strategy shoots for the result of what you’ve written, the impact on a reader that creates a reading experience beyond the intellectual curiosity of plot, the reward of laughter or any marveling at great art.

It’s about the reader transporting themselves into this world… going on this ride… feeling it… wanting to be the hero… wishing it was them… the reader completely engaging in this journey on a personal level.

You may enjoy the heck out of the latest detective thriller, but really, is this something you want to actually do?  To actually feel?  No, that’s a voyeuristic read.  50 Shades of Grey, while perhaps voyeuristic, is actually more masturbatory and vicarious in nature.  It delivers an emotional experience that taps into something deep and forbidden and unavailable.

It mines pure gold from the power of its underlying story physics.

That’s it.  Do this, and do it within a compelling premise with professional-level execution, and you are in a position to go viral.

And if you don’t happen to win that particular lottery, at least you’ll have increased your chances at publication or digital success exponentially.

For now, ask yourself what about your story delivers a vicarious ride, where your story takes the reader, and at what level your story makes the reader feel and actually become a part of the story in a vicarious and personally empathetic way… rather than sitting in the literary grandstands and watching it all go down.

Re-Post from eChook – Free short story app until February 12th

This is a re-post from Tessa Smith McGovern, award-winning author, founder of eChook and teacher at Sarah Lawrence College. She founded eChook in 2010, and after creating an app of her own short stories for iPhone, iPad, and Android, Tessa realized that she had, in effect, become a publisher. eChook’s goal is to give readers around the globe unprecedented access to quality prose by providing them with transformative short stories that they can read on their phones. I have to admit an interest here: Tessa published one of my memoir stories as part of her first collection of other people’s writing: Memoir 1. You can find out more here: http://echook.com/products-page/ Here’s her original post:

How Writers Can Build a Global Readership and Flash Sales in iTunes

Every now and then, we hold a sale in iTunes and every time, we’re delighted with the results. We get hundreds of downloads from dozens of countries around the world – China, Russia, Japan, Australia and England, to name just a few. It’s a wonderfully simple way for our writers to be read by hundreds of people and build a global readership – all with just a few clicks. And it’s all because of the technology that supports iTunes apps.

Here’s how it works: People all around the world download free apps that monitor price changes in the app store. (To find them, go to the app store on your device, search for ‘app price change’ or ‘app deals’ or ‘apps on sale’ and you’ll see different ones pop up. There are about a dozen.) Then these people check their newly downloaded apps to see what’s on sale (reduced price or free) and they download the ones that take their fancy.

But wait, there’s more, and this is the best part…because people around the world are buying new iPhones and iPads every day, there’s a constant influx of new readers coming to the app store. In fact, Apple doubled sales of iPhones and iPads in 2011, and sold 37m iPhones and 15m iPads in that year’s last quarter alone. Common wisdom has it that there are still many unpenetrated markets and that Apple is still far from saturation, so the future looks bright.

What can we say? We love Apple.

Memoir, Vol. 1 and London Road: Linked Stories are free in iTunes now until Sunday 12th Feb at midnight. Just go to the iTunes store and search for eChook.

Quick! I need something to read, and it needs to be short

In an age when a Twitter size concentration span is becoming the norm, publishers are looking for ways to reach new readers by offering them shorter works to read. The British book market is buzzing with new short titles from the major publishers.

Penguin, for example, has just launched Penguin Shorts – a collection of  short e-books from major authors. They’re available across all the digital platforms, but here’s the kicker: they’re only available in Britain. You’d think that with technology being what it is, they could allow a person to buy an e-book in London and download it in the US. They would still get their money and so would the authors, presumably. (I know it’s more complicated than that, but still…)

The Penguin collection includes memoir, fiction and essays and they retail in the UK for about $3.00 per download. Most, but not all, of their titles have been commissioned specifically for this imprint (if that’s the right word), so there’s a new memoir from Colm Tóibín, and short works from Anita Brookner and Helen Dunmore, among others, as well as How To Set Up A Free School – by Toby Young and The Battle of Alamein by Colin Smith and John Bierman.  The idea behind the essays was that instead of waiting six months for a book about some current event, a Penguin Short could be produced from scratch in less than a month. I see some opportunity for new writers here.

Random House is doing the same thing, except that in their case, you can buy some of the stories in the US.  They’re hard to find on Amazon, however. I searched in the Kindle store for Storycuts and found 25 of them, all by Su Tong. I’m pretty sure there are others….They are releasing about 200 short stories, generally culled from their current collections rather than new work.  Ruth Rendell, Alice Munro and A.S. Byatt as well as the famous Su Tong, are among them.  These retail for around $2.00.

And there’s PanMacmillan, who publishes under the ShortReads label. Again, a limited selection of these are available here  in the US, but I daresay there will soon be more of them. Emma Donoghue, Bret Easton Ellis and Andrew Lane are among the authors here. If you want to check for any of these on Amazon (I haven’t checked the other sites) you’ll need to follow the links here, find the titles and then look for them by name. Cumbersome and not exactly quick. In fact, for those of us with a Twitter-type attention span, hunting down these books can be a pain in the neck.

On the brighter side, Tessa McGovern of eChook Digital Publishing has long since had an app available for all e-book platforms, that includes short story and memoir collections designed to be read in about 10 minutes. You can check them out on the eChook website, and maybe submit something for possible publication. Perhaps Penguin and the rest should have consulted her about how to go about this…

Ether Books, based in England, has published digital short stories for an iPhone application for between 50p and £2.39, depending on length, since last summer. The stories are only available on the iPhone, Android and Blackberry, so far as I know, but they should be available in the US. They take submissions, too!

The Secrets to Self-Publishing: A Panel Discussion

The Darien Public Library, in Connecticut, http://www.darienlibrary.org/ has been focussing recently on writers and their needs. One of the results of this is the installation of one of only 25 print-on-demand book machines in the whole of North America. (See my post on 11/16/11 https://writeconnexion.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/the-writers-espresso-machine/) Now they’re running a panel all about self-publishing – the newest way to get your work into print if you’re tired of waiting for Penguin to realize how talented you are.

Here’s the basic information from their web site:

Have you ever dreamed of publishing your own novel, memoir, or cookbook of herring recipes passed down from your Norwegian grandmother? Well now you can! And you can do it all using Darien Library’s brand new Espresso Book Machine.

On Thursday, February 2 at 7 p.m. in an event co-sponsored by On Demand Books, we will host a panel presentation to show the secrets of self-publishing.

Panelists include:

– Self-Published Author William Edgerton will speak about his experience publishing his mystery novel “Wine Killer.”

– Self-Published Book Designer and Author Sandy Garnett will recount his experience with designing self-published books and publishing his memoir “Baloney Express.”

– Award-Winning Author Adair Heitmann will discuss how to promote oneself as an author.

– Stephanie Anderson of WORD Brooklyn will discuss the decision-making process in purchasing self-published works to sell.

The chance of talking to people who’ve actually been there is what makes this an evening not to be missed – be there!

PS You can RSVP on their Facebook page, if you like.

Guest Post from Alex McNab of the Fairfield Writers’ Blog

Alex McNab has been a force for good in Fairfield’s writing circles for a number of years. The author of a novel and the leader of one of the (free) writing groups at the Fairfield Public Library, he also publishes the Fairfield Writers’ Blog. You can find it here:  http://fairfieldwriter.wordpress.com/ Recently he wrote  a blog about how he became converted to the e-reader. Read on!

One Man’s Introduction to E-Reading

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of an abiding interest in reading and writing must be in need of an e-reader.

Otherwise, that man would be unable to read The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life by Ann Patchett (State of Wonder, Bel Canto), a delightful “Original” from the digital publisher Byliner. It was the first work he downloaded and read on the Kindle Touch his household received for Christmas. It also was his first time reading Patchett, whose style as well as substance made that maiden voyage on an e-reader memorable.

Consider the charming way she describes the aspiring writer’s dilemma:

“Logic dictates that writing should be a natural act, a function of a well-operating human body, along the lines of speaking and walking and breathing,” Patchett writes. “We should be able to tap into the constant narrative flow our minds provide, the roaring river of words filling up our heads, and direct it out into a neat stream of organized thought so that other people can read it. Look at what we already have going for us: some level of education that has given us control of written and spoken language; the ability to use a computer or a pencil; and an imagination that naturally turns the events of our lives into stories that are both true and false. We all have ideas, sometimes good ones, not to mention the gift of emotional turmoil that every childhood provides. In short, the story is in us, and all we have to do is sit there and write it down.

“But it’s right about there, the part where we sit, that things fall apart.”

Byliner defines its digital offerings as running “at lengths that allow them to be read in a single sitting.” In that space, The Getaway Car blends Patchett’s personal development as a writer with astute advice in smooth prose. Here are two other for-instances:

“Novel writing, I soon discovered, is like channel swimming: a slow and steady stroke over a long distance in a cold, dark sea. If I thought too much about how far I’d come or the distance I still had to cover, I’d sink.”

And,

“Although my [first] novel [The Patron Saint of Liars] was written in three separate first-person sections, I wrote it linearly—that is to say, page two was started after page one was finished. . . .Even if you’re writing a book that jumps around in time, has ten points of view, and is chest-deep in flashbacks, do your best to write it in the order in which it will be read, because it will make the writing, and the later editing, incalculably easier.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading on the Kindle, and I certainly enjoyed paying only 99¢ each—at the time I downloaded them—for three titles about writing that are not available as printed books. Waiting (or is it still permissible to say “shelved”?) for later perusal in the e-reader are The Liar’s Bible: A Handbook for Fiction Writers and The Liar’s Companion: A Field Guide for Fiction Writers—from mystery maven Lawrence Block, whose trade paperback Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers has long been a favorite.

And for future consideration there is another Byliner Original, Sara Davidson’s Joan: Forty Years of Life, Loss, and Friendship with Joan Didion. What piqued my interest in it was an update Davidson wrote, which you can read at the Byliner website, answering the question, What’s the most important thing you learned about writing from Joan Didion?

“Anything can be fixed,” Didion told her. There’s more good stuff there, so follow the link above. But let me leave you with Davidson’s final thought for us fellow writers:

“It took me 30 years to have faith that this is true. Once you’ve got something on paper—anything, no matter how bad it seems—you can fix it, steadily, one word or phrase at a time. You can turn something awful into something reasonably good.”

Oh. One final note: The Fairfield Library now has a digital collection from which you can borrow eBooks and more. And at the time of this writing, at least, you can download the prequel to the opening sentence of this post, along with the rest of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, from amazon.com to your Kindle for free.

The Writer who Made Millions by Self-publishing Online

We all know the writer is Amanda Hocking. The London newspaper, The Guardian, has an interesting interview with her today by Ed Pilkington. here’s the beginning of it:

When historians come to write about the digital transformation currently engulfing the book-publishing world, they will almost certainly refer to Amanda Hocking, writer of paranormal fiction who in the past 18 months has emerged from obscurity to bestselling status entirely under her own self-published steam. What the historians may omit to mention is the crucial role played in her rise by those furry  wide-mouthed friends, the Muppets.

To understand the vital Muppet connection we have to go back to April 2010. We find Hocking sitting in her tiny, sparsely furnished apartment in Austin, Minnesota. She is penniless and frustrated, having spent years fruitlessly trying to interest traditional publishers in her work. To make  matters worse, she has just heard that an exhibition about Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, is coming to Chicago later that year and she can’t  afford to make the trip. As a huge  Muppets fan, she is more than willing to drive eight hours but has no money for petrol, let alone a hotel for the night. What is she to do?

Then it comes to her. She can take one of the many novels she has written over the previous nine years, all of which have been rejected by umpteen book agents and publishing houses, and slap them up on Amazon and other digital ebook sites. Surely, she can sell a few copies to her family and friends? All she needs for the journey to  Chicago is $300 (£195), and with six months to go before the Muppets exhibition opens, she’s bound to make it.

 

To understand the vital Muppet connection we have to go back to April 2010. We find Hocking sitting in her tiny, sparsely furnished apartment in Austin, Minnesota. She is penniless and frustrated, having spent years fruitlessly trying to interest traditional publishers in her work. To make  matters worse, she has just heard that an exhibition about Jim Henson, the creator of the Muppets, is coming to Chicago later that year and she can’t  afford to make the trip. As a huge  Muppets fan, she is more than willing to drive eight hours but has no money for petrol, let alone a hotel for the night. What is she to do?

Then it comes to her. She can take one of the many novels she has written over the previous nine years, all of which have been rejected by umpteen book agents and publishing houses, and slap them up on Amazon and other digital ebook sites. Surely, she can sell a few copies to her family and friends? All she needs for the journey to  Chicago is $300 (£195), and with six months to go before the Muppets exhibition opens, she’s bound to make it.

Here’s the rest of the article:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jan/12/amanda-hocking-self-publishing

A guest post from Tessa Smith McGovern: plus a free, live, online Q&A

Tessa McGovern

This is a guest post from Tessa Smith McGovern, award-winning author, founder of eChook and teacher at Sarah Lawrence College. She founded eChook in 2010, and after creating an app of her own short stories for iPhone, iPad, and Android, Tessa realized that she had, in effect, become a publisher. eChook’s goal is to give readers around the globe unprecedented access to quality prose by providing them with transformative short stories that they can read on their phones. I have to admit an interest here: Tessa published one of my memoir stories as part of her first collection of other people’s writing: Memoir 1. You can find out more here: http://echook.com/products-page/

And if you’re interested in writing and publishing short memoirs, you might like to bookmark this free online chat: Wed, December 7th 2011 @ 3pm ET: How to Write and Publish Short Memoir, (Ed’s Note: if you aren’t able to attend on the day, don’t worry; the video of this chat will be posted in Story Studio. Sign up on top right of eChook’s home page.) She’ll answer your questions live at 3 p.m. ET at booktrib.com and discuss her three essential memoir-writing tips.

Whether you’re a seasoned writer, occasional journaler, or if you’ve never thought you could write something before, stop by, ask a question, and be entered to win lovely eChook prizes.

Where: booktrib.com
When: Wednesday, December 7 @ 3pm
RSVP: memoirchat@booktrib.com

http://booktrib.com/so-you-want-to-write-a-memoir/

And now, here’s here blog post:

A Prompt to Inspire Your Most Powerful Prose

If the end of the world was nigh and you only had one piece of paper, torn out of a blank-paged journal, and an almost-empty pen – what would you write about?

It might seem obvious, but there are so many things we can choose to write about, it’s easy to forget that readers want to read about what really matters. What is that, for you? What is the one experience that, if you were to scribble word after word on the page, without even realizing it, you’d find you’d stopped breathing?

If nothing from your own life seems to fit the bill, imagine a character. Decide her/his age, name, hometown, personality traits, and situation. What might be the single big event that really mattered to this character?

And then describe this event – or a moment during it – as the event unfolds. Don’t describe the character’s response or how he or she felt, just record in detail what happens. Imagine your eye is a camera, and simply report what can be seen.

Some of your most powerful material can be written this way.