A year ago, I posted a two-part review of an online seminar called Self-Publishing School. Those reviews have begun to get new comments in the past few days, and sure enough. the seminar is back in action. Since it can be sometimes difficult for authors to weed out the good fiction advice from the non-fiction, I thought I'd gather up a few resources and articles to help those in their search ... and maybe throw in an article or two to boost your spirits. Ready? Let's get going!
Website: Self-Publishing Formula
This website has an ongoing series of podcasts with self-pubbed fiction authors, and the topics are wide and varied. One of the few folks I found worth my time at Self-Publishing School, Nick Stephenson, recently joined them as a guest. For those who do not care to listen to the podcasts. there are transcripts provided, as well.
Article: The Anatomy of a Book Blurb
While I do not use BookBub, they have a very fantastic article which breaks down the Achilles heel of so many fiction writers: the book blurb (or "jacket copy", if you feel like getting fancy). This is, of course, if you feel up to rolling up your sleeves and pulling your blurb apart yourself. I am happy to do that legwork for you, since I am a rare and magical bird in the world of fiction authors, and actually like this sort of thing. A lot.
Article: Reader Magnet Ideas
The term "Reader Magnet" is new to me as of, well, this blog post, but the concept is not: this article provides some fresh ideas which you can use on your website or social media of choice to get readers' attention and get them interested in not only your book, but you. There are some pretty fantastic ones here. if I do say so myself, and I may adapt a few for this September's release of In The Cards.
Encouragement: From Forbes, of all places
If you're deep down in the indecision hole that is "traditional publishing vs. self-publishing", or if, like me, you still wonder sometimes whether or not you should be sending out queries to traditional publishers ... Forbes Magazine has some interesting insight into what works best for fiction writers. There's a caveat, though: those of you with Ad Blocker will have to disable it to access the site.
Encouragement: From Alan Moore, epic graphic novel legend
If you don't know Alan Moore's name, maybe you know these graphic novels, or the films based upon them: V for Vendetta. Watchmen. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. From Hell. He's a hell of an author with an amazing ability to create detailed worlds and amazing characters that make his readers think, and challenge their own opinions about the world we live in.
And he's in favor of self-publishing. So we've got that going for us.
Article: BookRiot on Where to Find Good Self-Pub Fiction
Finally, if you've finished your hard work and want to get out there and start supporting your self-publishing tribe, you're going to want to know where to find them! BookRiot has a great list of sites to get you started ... and of course, you may want to see about getting your work on some of those sites, as well.
In case you missed it last year, my cautionary tale of Self-Publishing School is in two parts: here and here. I hope you've find something of use in this post, and encourage you to share any links to other favorite resources in the comments! Facebook groups. blog posts, websites, you name it!
Happy writing, happy reading, and I'll see you all here next week!
Or: unsolicited reviews of A.B. Funkhauser's first two novels...
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will remember A.B. Funkhauser's name, as she was kind enough to interview me back in February about From the Desk of Buster Heywood. At that time, I had already read her debut novel, Heuer Lost and Found, and known I'd found a new favorite author. Funkhauser's Unapologetic Lives series follows the surprisingly zany ins and outs of the Weibigand Funeral Home. I was expecting eclectic humor on par with Carl Hiassen and Christopher Moore ... I got that, and far more.
The lost Heuer in question is Jürgen Heuer, a lawyer whose life was about as unapologetic as anyone's can get. Rude, lewd, and thoroughly self-serving, Heuer despises his neighbors and alienates his colleagues. So when he dies in an apartment that would make episodes of "Hoarders" look tame, it takes a good, long while for anyone to notice he is missing... much to Heuer's dismay, as his spirit still remains, kicking around the apartment and forced to come to terms with the life he lived.
When Weibigand's is hired to handle Heuer's preparation and funeral, mortician Enid Krause is sent to the scene with her co-worker, Carla, and has a nasty shock: Heuer was a lover in a summer long ago, and she had put him far out of her mind. Now she must be intimate with him again, in ways she would not have imagined... and Heuer's spirit has his chance to redeem himself.
In introducing her readers to the Weibigand home and its denizens, Funkhauser makes it plain from the very start that her funeral directors, embalmers, and owners are very real people, and just as prone to the same sort of drama as any workplace: scheming Jocasta Binns hopes to gain control of the family business from her half-brothers, manager Charlie strives to hold it all together with a little of the old-school decorum, and Carla Blue is navigating her fair share of relationship issues, while finding solace in her friendship with the funeral home's resident rat. Oh, and then there's the fact that Heuer's spirit finds its guru in a possessed floor lamp...
There is something for everyone in this novel: romance, drama, and suspense are all interlaced into what Funkhauser has aptly dubbed a gonzo style of novel writing. Anything goes, and almost everything does, told by a narrator who is as unapologetic as her characters: matter-of-fact, even as she's winking at you and nudging you in the ribs. Every single character is fully developed, and you will fall in love with all of them - even those you love to hate... and yes, even the floor lamp. (I'm not kidding. That lamp is pretty fantastic.)
With a little bit of horror, just a dash of magical realism, and a lot of heart and humor, Heuer Lost and Found teaches us that there is beauty to be found everywhere, as long as we still have the will and the eye to look ... and that it is never, ever too late for a soul to redeem itself.
Scooter Nation brings us ahead in time, to a year after the events of Heuer Lost & Found. Carla and Enid have both recovered as much as they can from what they endured, and have been joined at Weibigand's by Carla's old friend Scooter Creighton. I think that "old coot" would be the most fitting label for Scooter, and I apply it in as endearing a manner as possible.
The scheme Jocasta Binns has been brewing comes to full fruition: the funeral home is sold out of its generational ownership to a chain, and the repercussions of the sale shake every member of the Weibigand's staff to its core. The more liberties Jocasta takes with the home, the more her employees fight to keep their own integrity intact... and eventually, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Weibigand's isn't the only place having trouble with its status quo, however: a gang of motorized scooter owners is becoming more and more vociferous about their right to full access. Their ringleader, Alma Wurtz, is the worst of them, with a personal vendetta against Jocasta Binns. Scooter and Carla make an alliance with her in an attempt to save the dignity and decorum of the trade and the home they have come to love over the years, and the death of a public figure provides the perfect opportunity... but will they go too far?
I came into this novel expecting something on par with its predecessor, and was not disappointed in the least. The characters who were so full-fledged and rich grow and develop by leaps and bounds, especially when pushed to their boundaries. Funkhauser digs down deep into each character and shatters the lines of morality, showing us the darkness and light within all of them... and forcing us to take a good, hard, look at it ourselves as we decide, as readers, who we should really be cheering for. It is a difficult decision, in the end, and I think a second read is in order to really decide.
There is not quite as much in the way of magical realism in Scooter Nation: no spirits or sage advisory objects ... but the spirits of Weibigand's are still very present in the imprint they have left upon the people who remain. In the midst of death and chaos, life endures ... unapologetic, plain, beautiful, and crazy. To be reminded of that should be the goal of every good book, and Funkhauser passes that test with flying colors.
You can acquire Heuer Lost and Found and Scooter Nation here, on Amazon.com. To read more about the author, please visit her website, or follow her - as I do, happily - on Twitter.
Thank you for joining me for another indie author review! Next week, I will have a status update on In The Cards, and some surprises!
Until next week, I remain your hostess,
In which yours truly helps spread the word ...
It is a writer's job to draw readers into the fictional story so completely that they forget the real world. Our goal is to render them powerless, so despite the late hour, mountain of laundry, or workday ahead, they cannot give up the journey unfolding within the paper-crisp pages before them. Strong, compelling writing comes down to the right words, in the right order. Sounds easy, but as all writers know, it is anything BUT. So how do we create this storytelling magic? How can we weave description in such a way that the fictional landscape becomes authentic and real—a mirror of the reader's world in all the ways that count most?
Well, there's some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers. In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Urban Setting Thesaurus: Police Car.
And there's one more thing you might want to know more about:
A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking...if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.
Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of Writers Helping Writers is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions. To find out how to do your part to help unlock the vault, click here!
You can be sure I'm going to be doing my part to help Rock The Vault ... I hope you'll all join me in doing the same! Join me next week for a double review - two books by the same fabulous author!
Until next week, I remain your hostess,
Or: An Unsolicited, Bias-Free Review
Over the next few weeks, I will be helping to review and promote my fellow authors ... two of which have something interesting in common: they each use their initials in place of their first name. Maybe there's something to it, because both their books are fantastic!
This week's review is for R. R. Willica's debut novel, Darkness Falling: Soldiers and Slaves. It is the first of a trilogy, following the political intrigue and tensions of Sa'Toret-Ekar, an Empire in a world which knits together elements of traditional fantasy and dystopian science fiction. Sa'Toret Ekar was ravaged by a plague in recent years, and in order to survive, its Emperor set forth a very strict rule system which puts the royal family in a high, heavily-guarded tower to look down upon its struggling subjects below.
The main character, Impyra, makes a startling entrance when she falls from the tower at the feet of Imperial guard Brosen. Startled to find her still alive, Brosen brings Impyra to a hospital, and from there, their journeys become intertwined in more ways than even they know. Soon enough, they are on a wild, breakneck chase out of Sa'Toret-Ekar, in search of the fabled Resistance which will help them right the Empire's corruption... and maybe help explain the unique abilities which made Impyra the prince's slave.
R.R. Willica does several things right with this first novel. First, she grabs our attention right away and holds on tight. I didn't know too much about Brosen and Impyra when they were introduced, but their circumstances made me want to follow them anyway. Along theway, more is revealed, and the allies and enemies they meet are just as well-developed, with quirks and flaws that make them compelling to read about. Spoiled, angry prince Xander, spunky and impulsive Sheyra, and the enigmatic Garinsith are just a few of the people I grew invested in ... even the supporting cast are memorable, and the plot weaves the threads of their lives together in ways that surprised me, even as the plot and its themes felt as familiar as a favorite old story. It is hard to make a story equal parts new and familiar, but R.R. Willica has done a fine job of it.
My only concern with Soldiers and Slaves is that it had a large number of typographical errors and missing words... but the story and the characters were its saving grace. Those who know me are well aware that I am a stickler for grammar and spelling ... so it is really a compliment to the novel that I not only continued reading it to the end regardless, but still absolutely loved it. The second installment, Darkness Falling: Shadow of the Seeker, is due out on June 18th, and I'll be waiting in line for it to see how the cliffhanger ending of Soldiers and Slaves resolves itself!
Please join me next Wednesday, when I'll have news from my friends at Writers Helping Writers!
Until then, have a fantastic week!
Or: The Best Ten Minutes I Ever Spent Before Creating
I've been a little stuck, recently. After a May full of busy life and very little writing, it's been difficult to wrap my poor, overloaded brain back around The Proper Bearing... and yet, here I sit, with a novel I intended to finish by the end of July, only half complete. It occurred to me that perhaps I needed to revisit my outline. So I took a machete to it, earlier today, and in doing so, I had a few revelations about the plot. But I still didn't feel completely re-energized, as though I could create at my ideal level. When I realized this, I did what I've been doing more and more lately ... I went looking for a guided meditation.
I know there are many people who say they just "can't" meditate, but I find it extremely helpful when my brain is just too full to get out of its own way. So I went to YouTube, typed "guided meditation for writing" into the search bar, and gave the first video I found a try. It is ten minutes long, and by the time I opened my eyes again, I was totally ready to rock and roll... but I knew I had to blog about it, first.
The meditation guides you through the desert, to "a box the size of a warehouse". Instantly, I pictured a cross between the flat-pack metal storage sheds my father erected in his backyard, and Warehouse 13....
The meditation then instructed me to fill the box with whatever I wanted ... as long as I did it with the mind I had "before I grew up". I went wild. I put paint on my feet and tracked rainbows across the floor. I grew a rainforest with a tree house, which had a zip line off the deck into a gigantic pile of pillows and bean bag chairs. One wall was lined floor-to-ceiling with bookcases. There was a stream in one corner that was a miniature replica of the river I talked about in last week's blog, an old-fashioned typewriter, massive stained glass windows. flocks of birds ...
And all of this was only the briefest part of the meditation. I filled a gigantic room with my own whimsy and dreams in a matter of minutes. I won't spoil the end of the meditation for those of you who want to give it a listen ... because the surprise at the end was part of what made it so amazing.
But it got me to thinking ... hey, friends and fellow "volatile creative types" ... what's in YOUR box?
Leave me a comment below ... in the meantime, I'm off to go write!
Until next time,
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