I'm back from book release recovery and rolling up my sleeves, friends. I was going to ease my way back into my weekly routine with something nice and easy, but kismet had some other plans. Let me blow the dust off my soap box ...
I recently stopped by one of my local bookstores - a place I've frequented and enjoyed for decades. The manager is a good colleague, and she recommended a new company she learned about at a recent book expo: DartFrog Books. They are the first distributor geared exclusively toward independent and self-published authors, so my interest was piqued. She gave me a bookmark with their URL and the not-so-subtle hint that if I were to say she referred me, she'd get a finder's fee. So I went on my way.
It took me a few days to get around to looking DartFrog up. Something about the interaction gave me a strange vibe, and I was right, but I'll come back to that. Here's their mission statement: "Every year there are an estimated 450,000 self-published titles released into an overcrowded literary marketplace. Unfortunately, most of those books will live forever in total obscurity. But, there are within that mass of self-published books, some real gems. DartFrog finds those gems and distributes them to our partner bookstores."
O-kay. So, sounds good, but how does it work? I clicked on every link that looked as though it'd give me a straight answer. "About Us"? Mission Statement and glamour shots of the staff. "Why Dartfrog"? Buzzwords and all the stuff that sounds too good to be true, no numbers or details. "Our Standards"? Some stuff about quality control that's just a little bit condescending, if you ask yours truly... and it had typos. (I laughed. A lot.)
Oh, wait. "Author Agreement". Finally, I thought, something that should lay it out in black and white. Click: "The author agreement is a straight forward document that seeks to remove all the legalese that most of us don't read or understand anyway! But there are a few highlights that you should know." Not only is that on the edge of condescension ... but the full, actual text of that agreement isn't anywhere I could find on the website. Presumably, you only get it after you've started the sign-up process.
So I made a mock order for In The Cards. It asks some straight-forward questions about your book: did you edit/format it yourself, how long is it, what's the ISBN/genre, etc. But it doesn't even tell you what your order form is doing. Or how much it'll cost. I hit "proceed to payment" and was hit with the sticker shock: $350.
Let me reiterate: I still don't know what, exactly, I'm paying for, here.
I clicked back out of the cart - or, in the vernacular, "noped out like nobody's business" - and tried to dig a little deeper to see what that price tag entailed. The closest thing I could find to ANY detail about what my money would buy was on "Why DartFrog":
DartFrog evaluates your book to ensure that it meets a standard-of-excellence bookstores require. Those books that do, we make available for distribution to our network of partner bookstores. If your book is not ready for distribution, we will tell you what needs to be fixed and allow you to re-submit when the changes have been made. We do not charge an additional fee for a second evaluation.
Oh. So I'd be paying DartFrog $350 to pat me on the head and tell me my book is good, and then add it to a catalog they give to a (so far) very small list of indie stores. How is that any different than an agent or a publisher? I don't really think it is. Sure, that 70/30 split afterwards is pretty nice, but I'd have to spend an initially HUGE chunk of money that I don't have. There's very little about their evaluation team, so I don't even know if the people I'm paying to vet my book would be fair or unbiased.
Given that I had to do a half hour's worth of web surfing to find all this, I'm pretty unimpressed. If you're a web-based service, you're catering intrinsically to people who are used to very fast service: go to the site, find what you need, get it, get out, move on with your day. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but self-published authors' time is precious enough without having to constantly verify and vet their potential allies and business collaborators. I could have spent that half hour connecting with my peers, making marketing graphics, preparing for my new collaboration release, or - oh, hey! actually writing more. Instead, I'm here. Because I get the increasing feeling that I need to share these experiences with you all, to save you the time and make your life as fellow authors a little easier.
We're all in this together. I've never felt that it's about the money - but saving it where and when we can is crucial. Being transparent and communicating about what works, what's fair, and what things really are is even more important.
In the end, I passed on BookFrog because I just can't spare that kind of money for a random person's validation. If you can, I don't judge: in fact, I'd love to know what you think. If you've had experiences with BookFrog, yourself, please leave me a comment or shoot me an email. I want to be proven wrong: I want to believe that there really are people out there who genuinely want to help find the good indie books, give them the love they deserve, and build a mutual relationship ... not just take our money and laugh all the way to the bank.
Until next time, dream on, write on, and stay amazing!
The moment we've all been waiting for has arrived! The Proper Bearing is now available in print and digital formats! A special note for you, dear readers: if you are buying a print copy, please do so via Lulu.com... you would be supporting me far more that way than through any other channels.
I have drawn winners for both raffles: congratulations to Michelle, winner of the artwork, and Laura, winner of Nick's Private Stash! Both have been privately notified... thank you to everyone who entered!
As a special promotion for The Proper Bearing's release, I have put my other two books on sale over at Amazon - those of you with Kindles need only pay 99 cents each for In The Cards and From The Desk of Buster Heywood through Friday, September 22nd!
They say the third time's the charm, and since this is my third novel, I see plenty of reason to celebrate. If you happen to be in Laconia, NH, tomorrow, please drop by The Studio on Main Street from 5-7 PM, where I'll be having a Pop-Up Bookshop with snacks, drinks, and fantastic company! You can check out the Facebook Event Page by clicking on the invitation below!
As always, these books wouldn't be possible without you - my readers. Thank you so much for continuing on this journey with me ... I look forward to where it takes us from here!
Until next time, keep readin'!
Nicholas Forsythe is a self-proclaimed bookworm, and proud to be so. References to his favorite books are littered throughout The Proper Bearing, and they are as tied to his life as our own dear stories are to us. To honor and celebrate the impact books can have on a person's life, I'm giving away what I'm calling Nick's Private Stash: three of his favorite books and a few things to help make your own little cosy reading corner.
The package will come with the following, lovingly wrapped:
To enter ... simply comment here on this blog post! Leave me your preferred method of contact: email, or private message via Twitter/Instagram/Facebook. (I received some feedback which said Rafflecopter was confusing, so we're going the easy route here.) Due to shipping costs, this contest is only open to United States residents (sorry, my international friends!). The deadline for this contest is September 17th, and a winner will be drawn on the following day during the online release party! Until then, please spread the word about both contests, and good luck to you all!
Hello, Readers! You may remember that as part of the celebration of last year's In The Cards, I created and gave away a piece of artwork. This year, I'm continuing the tradition! The Proper Bearing contains many pivotal scenes, but the image which seemed a natural choice was one that another character creates:
The Three Musketeers stood large-as-life in all their finery, each with their foils in the air and a defeated, unconscious Cardinal Richelieu at their feet: but their tunics were Oakridge navy and gold, instead of the robin’s-egg blue and shining silver that Nick had seen in countless illustrations. Each of them bore a familiar face: Scrib had done an amazing job of capturing Terry and Cris’ likenesses, as well as his own. It was clear that she had only had Terry’s caricatures of Goddard to draw on, but even so, there was no mistaking who she had used as her model for the scheming Richelieu.
The original was done with Chameleon pens on 9x12 Bristol, and I will be mounting it on black mat board. In my art shop, Gifts of Awen, this would sell for $60 ... but you've got the chance to own it for FREE! All you have to do is enter the giveaway over on Rafflecopter! You even have chances to gain extra entries in the raffle by helping spread the news about The Proper Bearing on social media or following me ... and if you haven't bought my other two books yet, you'll get super extra entries by doing that.
The deadline for entries is September 17th.
Good luck to everyone who enters! I hope you'll join me next week for the second giveaway!
For many months now, I've had a place-holding cover for The Proper Bearing floating around my website. It had the most basic element I knew I wanted: a vine-covered wall, reminiscent of stately old school buildings. But it wasn't enough. I knew it needed something more: something which hinted that The Proper Bearing is more than just a standard coming-of-age tale. So I went prop hunting.
There's a particular item of significance which helps drive the plot forward after its inciting incidents, and I had a very clear picture of it in my mind... so I went antiquing. I'm lucky enough to live within walking distance of an amazing antique store. The Laconia Antique Center was converted from an old Newberry's department store, right down to the still-functioning soda counter. I could lose hours in there - and have! - but going with a specific item in mind made things a little easier. Soon enough, I found what I was looking for, along with the vintage postcards I used for my new marketing material.
Some careful lighting and a little dance with Photoshop later, I may now happily introduce you to the final front cover of The Proper Bearing, and along with it, the magical artifact known as The Dawning Urn...
Story time! Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then we'll begin.
Once upon a time, there was a young(ish) girl who had loved books since kindergarten. An only child, she made some of her earliest and oldest friends between their pages: precocious girls like Pippi Longstocking and Anne Shirley were her favorites, but she soon grew just as fond of super-sleuths Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, and went on adventures with the brave mice of Redwall and discovered the creeping, delightful horrors of Edgar Allen Poe and Christopher Pike. Around that time, she was also beginning to discover the prospects of responsibility, as her teenage years loomed on the horizon, and her parents, wanting to coax her into it in the best way possible, suggested she get a job at a bookstore.
The bookstore was tiny, tucked away on the shores of a nearby lake, and catered mostly to tourists looking for summer beach reads, but our heroine loved it nonetheless. She learned how to open up shop, run a register, and create workshops for the kids who came in to amuse themselves on lazy summer afternoons. (One particularly memorable afternoon was spent teaching them how to draw Mushu from Mulan... which might tell you how long ago this was, if you're very clever and know how to use IMDB.) She discovered the joys of coffee, classic literature, and mystery novels, but more importantly ... she discovered the concept of book signings.
She was only able to work at one of them, but one was enough. The author, though no one she had previously heard of, was a mystery author, just like the books she was starting to love so much, and was willing to talk to her at length about her craft. Not only that, but she signed a book for her:
The advent of the internet (yes, this IS an old story, isn't it?) meant that she began to meet other people who wrote their stories in secret, same as she did, and one of them, a little older and a little braver, convinced her to share her own stories with the rest of the world. The wide anonymity of the internet made this all seem so much safer, and she began to gain a little following, which made her think that maybe her writing wasn't so terrible after all. College and the so-called "real world" took their turns at her confidence, but eventually, she began to share stories which were entirely her own, and discovered self-publishing, and all the freedom and challenges that came with it.
There's no neat dovetail to the end of her story - of course, she's sitting here typing it to you. ;) I will say that things have managed to come full circle: later this month, I will have my second-ever book signing at the store that started it all. I invite those of you who are able to come and join me ... it's not quite a Happily Ever After, but as far as I'm concerned, it's damn near close enough.
I hope you'll come back next week, when I'll drop some exciting stuff: the cover reveal for The Proper Bearing, and the party schedule for the month leading up to its release! Until then, I'll see you in the stacks...
If you've been with me for a while now, it's no secret that I'm a proud dork. Movies, video games, comic books, TV, cartoons ... you name it, I've probably flailed about it for a couple of months at some point. But there's one common thread running through them all, which I believe accounts for the success of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU for short) films over the last nine years: they all tell a damn good story. I'd like to illustrate this point by comparing the first of them with the most recent. If you'll kindly indulge me, there are some great writing and plotting lessons to be had amidst all the explosions and - yes - spandex.
Exhibit A: Iron Man (2008)
I shouldn't have to worry about spoiling anyone for this one, but the gist? Super-smarmy, self-important, booze-soaked billionaire Tony Stark gets a serious reality check when he's kidnapped by terrorists and has to invent, engineer, and snark his way out to freedom. Once he's out, he realizes he's got to fix the mess he started, and thus, we get Iron Man. That, alone, sounds like a pretty good story, right? It gets better. The writers (it took four of them) add in little subtle layers to raise Tony's stakes even higher. He's got family issues in his past, which seem a little obligatory, but provide great hooks for his later development. He's got a romantic arc which, to my great delight, didn't actually resolve itself by the end of the first movie... or even the second, or third, or ... you get the point.
But the best thing about Tony's story isn't necessarily his "jerk-to-good-guy" redemption: it's the growth he has to undertake to get there. He doesn't just lose his creature comforts. He's reminded of some hard truths, he loses, he fumbles, he falters. People around him fail to understand what's going on in his head, because they weren't there for these things: they just see sudden change, and react with frustration and bewilderment, which makes it just that little bit harder for him to maintain The New Tony Stark. Why does this make a better story than the "bad things happened, now it's time for REVENGE" tale it could have easily been? I have a one-word answer for you: empathy.
Everyone knows what it's like to go through personal changes and not be "heard", to be understood or completely validated. Everyone has multiple stakes in their lives, and everyone has issues which can't be resolved within a two-hour or two-hundred-page storyline. The key to a great story, for me, is the growth. It's not just about how much they lose (I'm looking at YOU, George R. R. Martin), but how much they gain back, and how. It's about shedding any previous conceptions about the world that may have been keeping them from moving forward. Enter Exhibit B.
Exhibit B: Spider-man: Homecoming (2017)
This is, refreshingly, not a third take on "oh no, my Uncle Ben died, with great power comes great responsibility, and now I have to save my girlfriend from a villain who I thought was a mentor". Marvel does themselves a favor by skipping the bits that we, the audience, already know, and dropping us into the thick of something new. Peter Parker knows he's got these awesome powers, and he's pretty high on them. He caught Tony Stark's attention - he feels like the king of the world. He knows he can help, he can make a difference, and he's very eager to do so. He reclaims a bike without even knowing who it's been stolen from. He helps old ladies cross the street. His heroism is both big and small ... but it's the big stuff that gets him in trouble when he gets in over his head. Despite his great intentions and his giant squishy heart, Peter's Achilles' heel is the same as Tony's - his ego - and because of that, we're cringing for him from day one, because we can sense where this is going to go. Downhill.
Downhill it does, in spectacular fashion: not once, not twice, but three times, and by the end of it, you really just want to see the kid figure it out and triumph, because by this point, he really deserves it. Again: empathy.
So, what can a writer learn from these movies? SO much, but I'll give you the biggest bullet points:
I hope you enjoyed this little foray into fandom as a teaching moment ... If you have any movies, shows, or other media which have taught you about story structure, drop me a line in the comments: I'd love to start a discussion on this! Please join me back here next week, when I'm going to take a brief detour into crafts and DIY to show you a great writing tool.
Until next week, be yourself, create something good, and have FUN!
Despite how busy and strange this month has been, I still managed to cross the Camp NaNoWriMo finish line for the fourth straight year in a row! It's hard to believe I've been at this, in a constant and dedicated fashion, long enough for it to theoretically be a college degree. This is, by no means, to say that I feel like I know everything about How To Be A Self-Published Author: that'd be impossible. I will say that there are probably a few secrets lurking in the practice of surrounding yourself with people and experiences which make you happy and/or inspired. (For the curious: those current experiences, for me, include watching the entirety of Twin Peaks, attending a community theatre performance of The Hound of the Baskervilles, helping a friend move, picking blueberries while there's still dew on them, and stepping up my artistic noodling away from the written word.)
Those of you with a sharp eye may notice that I've changed the Arts & Crafts section of my website and removed my link to my DeviantArt gallery, replacing it with an onsite one. Not only does it make it easier for you all to see my art, but it helps pave the way for my secondary creative venture: an arts and crafts storefront called Gifts of Awen. Some of it is related to Aviario, but a good deal of it will be more inspirational and metaphysical in nature, focusing on the intent of creating magical and/or peaceful art for small spaces. My first project for Gifts of Awen is a series of artist cards dedicated to the seven chakras. Here's a peek at the first two, which I completed last night:
My goal is to also create postcards and other prints of these, along with other small art designed to help people find insight, inspiration, and a moment of peace in a busy, cluttered world. Commisssions will also be available through the site: I have several slots currently open. If you would like to see what else I have up at the moment, I'd be honored if you'd join me over at the storefront. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will also see pictures of new pieces as they're completed and posted! This may also mean the return of The Author's Oracle ... only time will tell. For now, I'm headed back to my creative corner to chip away at The Proper Bearing and work on some more illustrations. I hope you all have a lovely week!
Life is like a hurricane around here. (Blame all the D23 Expo stuff this Disney girl has been seeing online.) I'm juggling a lot of great stuff: a short story and graphic novel project with fellow author and artist Julianne Black, the two novellas Nature & Nurture, and of course, my release preparation for The Proper Bearing. I'm also knee-deep in great books right now, so you'll have more reviews from me soon, too.
This is that funny little quiet lull in between all of it where I don't have a Big Thing to share, but I have a lot of Little Things. Mostly, though, I want to get you all excited about The Proper Bearing, which is coming out in just shy of two months!
My beta readers (or CPs, depending on which author lingo you prefer) have it in hand, but I could still use one more. If you're seriously interested in helping me make this a better book, please shoot me an email or direct message through the internet grapevine of your choice. I would ideally need it back with your comments by August 15th.
I have a front cover prepared, and will soon be working on the back. Cover reveal will be going down a month prior to release, on August 18th, so that'll be exciting. I have to say, this is my favorite cover so far, and I can't wait to share it with you all! Special thanks to my friend and fellow author Tim Savage for scoring me a photo for its creation during his recent trip to the UK.
I'll also be giving away a couple of prizes on the week of the release: my protagonist, the wonderfully bookish Nicholas Forsythe, has helped me brainstorm a few of his favorite things to give away to my readers, so that their escape into my world can be just that little bit more complete. I'll be sharing more details about that as time draws closer. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at part of that amazing cover ...
If the suspense is absolutely killing you, and you can't wait ... you can always go and pledge your support to me on Patreon! Patrons get to see the full front cover TODAY! I hope you all have a wonderful week, stretch those imaginations, and I'll see you all next Wednesday!
The more independent authors I meet, the more I realize just how diverse yet wonderfully alike we all are. No matter what the genre, no matter what our involvement in social media, our politics, our personal lives ... we all have stories to tell which we are incredibly passionate about. When an author's passion combines with a long-simmering desire to share those stories, the results often touch the heart: and Timothy Savage's debut, Davey's Savior, is no exception.
The eponymous Davey is a four-year-old growing up in Avila Beach with his single father, Sketch: and from the first chapter, we know they have secrets they are keeping from the community. Sketch goes out of his way to keep a low profile: it becomes clear fast that no one in Avila actually knows his full name. Davey's curious and outgoing nature is a dangerous counterpoint to this secrecy, and secrets begin to come to light when a whale shark is found washed up on the beach.
The owner of the local coffee shop, Anthony, is convinced that a blemish on the carcass looks like the face of Christ, and manages to make a photo of it go viral, drawing more and more people to the town. Among the visitors are a trio of Mexican nuns on a pilgrimage and a marine biologist, each with their own problems and challenges to face. As Davey and Sketch's secrets come to light, every one of them comes together in a climax I did not expect.
The novel starts out at a slow burn: Savage makes it very plain that Sketch and Davey have things to hide... big, potentially dangerous things. Aside from the discovery of the whale shark, this is the major thrust of the first third of the book. I admit that at first, I was frustrated by how much The Secret was dangled in front of my face: how often Sketch would fret and worry and obscure, despite any further clues to what he was hiding. I was so preoccupied with this that I missed the artful, tiny clues peppered throughout the story which foretold the climactic moments of the book. In retrospect, then, my frustration was negated, and I feel like I owe Tim Savage an apology for judging him a little in "stringing me along". What he did with his story is masterful: not just in its obfuscation of the plot twist, but in completely leading this reader in one direction at first, and then turning my expectations upside down in terms of theme, as well.
There were a few rough patches: notably the text conversations of Kendra, the marine biologist, which were a little jarring next to the prose, and some of the build-up between the whale shark's arrival and the furthering of the plot. But for those willing to forgive the novel its flaws, it has a fine reward.
When Anthony first hatches his plan to draw in customers through the miracle of the whale shark, readers may assume - as I did - that the titular Savior was meant to be Jesus Christ, and that the novel was about to take a heavily religious turn. The trio of nuns reinforced this ... but each character's own personal challenges eventually make it clear that this is not a novel about the saving power of Christianity, but the role of any form of faith in life. By setting the reader up and then dropping his twists and turns, Tim Savage makes them think right along with the characters ... connecting them to the book even more deeply. The book I found so slow to start was impossible to put down by the time I reached its second half. Davey's Savior is the literary equivalent of a log flume ride: you drift along for most of it, but the climb and the plunge at the end are so satisfying that you'll end up wanting to go again.
You can get your own copy of Davey's Savior here on Amazon. Tim Savage can be found most often on Twitter, and occasionally at his blog, Extemporalia.
I hope you've enjoyed my two cents this week, and that you'll join me again next Wednesday for whatever the moment brings!
Until next time, I remain your hostess,
Site news, reviews, and book-related fun. Updated Wednesdays,
I'd be grateful if you'd help support me by clicking below: