So it’s the writers turn to vote. Writers how important do you think reviews are?
Author name: Abbie Johnson Taylor
Please tell us a little about yourself. What makes you a #Uniqueauthor (or artist)? I’m the author of five books: two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. My stories and poems have appeared in various anthologies and journals. I’m visually impaired and live in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, I cared for my totally blind late husband who was partially paralyzed by two strokes three months after we were married. Before that, I was a registered music therapist and worked for fifteen years in nursing homes and other facilities serving senior citizens. I taught braille, facilitated a support group for blind and visually impaired adults, and served on the advisory board to a trust fund that allows the blind and visually impaired to purchase adaptive equipment. To learn more about me, please visit my website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com.
Please tell us about your publications/work.
My latest book, The Red Dress, a novel, was published in 2019 by DLD Books. In 2016, my memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, was released, also by DLD Books. In 2014, That’s Life: New and Selected Poems, was published by Finishing Line Press. In 2011, another poetry collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, was published by iUniverse. In 2007, my first book, another novel, We Shall Overcome, was released, also by iUniverse.
As a disabled author, how do you overcome the extra challenges involved with producing your work? Because of my visual impairment, I use text-to-speech software on my computer that reads to me what’s on the screen and tells me what I’m typing. I also use a braille tablet, both as a display with my computer and as a stand-alone device for email, word processing, and other tasks. I read print with the help of a closed-circuit television reading system.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Do you think the publishing world is disability-friendly? For me, the most challenging part of being a writer is marketing my work. Because I don’t see well enough to drive, I can’t just hop in my car and drive around my state or country, selling books. I have to rely on others to take me places. So, I’m limited in what I can do to promote my work.
However, I’m fortunate to have discovered Tell It to the World Marketing, a business that promotes authors mostly through social media. I recommend them to any writer or business owner needing help with publicity.
The publishing industry is not friendly toward disabled authors. Many sites like Amazon are a challenge to navigate for a visually impaired person with screen reading computer software. Traditional publishers like Finishing Line Press have proofs in formats that are not accessible and stringent requirements that make publishing a book difficult for a visually impaired writer.
Thank goodness for DLD Books. They help authors with editing and format manuscripts for publication through Amazon, Smashwords, and other online retailers. Their rates are reasonable, and they do great work. What’s more, they contract with Tell It to the World Marketing so you’re not paying extra for those services. I recommend them to all authors.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey? Too late, I learned that if a piece is published on a website or blog, it’s considered previously published, and most journals and anthologies don’t accept such work. If I’d known that when I first developed an online presence in 2005, I would never have posted so many of my short stories and poems on my website and blog.
What’s your greatest networking tip? Start a blog and post regularly. I post to mine at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com three days a week. It’s also important to categorize and tag your posts so readers can find topics of interest and search engines can more easily discover you. You’ll be amazed at how much traffic you’ll draw when you do this.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? I’ve been told to eliminate adverbs and elaborate dialog tags when writing fiction. Although other authors, even bestselling ones, don’t follow this advice, I’ve discovered, over the years, that my writing flows more smoothly as a result.
What’s the worst advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Get an agent. In the summer of 2005, when I was ready to publish We Shall Overcome, on the advice of my sister-in-law and a writer she knew, I researched agents and sent queries. Most were rejected, and I didn’t even hear back from some of the agents I queried. I also contacted some publishers directly with similar results. A year later, I decided to self-publish the book with iUniverse.
If you really want to be a bestselling author, find an agent or traditional publisher. Good luck. If you just want to get your work out there, don’t bother. Self-publish instead.
Which authors have influenced you the most? Danielle Steel has influenced me but not in a positive way. After reading her work, I’ve figured out how not to write. Although she tells compelling stories, and I’ll continue to enjoy her books, her habit of providing too much description in her narrative drives me up the wall sometimes.
What is your writing space like? My office contains a three-corner desk which holds my computer, printer, closed-circuit television reading system, and other odds and ends. Behind me is a smaller desk I use for labelling and stamping envelopes. In one corner is a stereo I rarely use. I play music on a smart speaker while working. I sometimes write in my recliner or outside when the weather’s nice.
Tell us about your latest piece. The Red Dress is a work of women’s fiction about how such a garment is related to the lives of three generations of women. Here’s the synopsis.
When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.
Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.
What’s your next writing adventure? Several years ago, I started a collection of short stories set in my home state of Wyoming. Reading a similar collection by Ann Beattie inspired me to do this. Her stories are set in Maine.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Abbie-Johnson-Taylor/e/B00GDM1BWK/#nav-tophttp://
Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies. She lives in Sheridan, Wyoming. Please visit her website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com.
Author name: Robert D. Sollars
Please tell us a little about yourself. What makes you a #Uniqueauthor (or artist)?
I want to save lives and entertain people. My personal belief is that if I can help save someone’s life through my training and consulting or achieve success by getting published as a writer themselves…my mission is complete and accomplished.
Do you think the written word (or art) bring power and freedom? Absolutely it does, depending on the political persuasion and how well it is documented, without omissions or lies, then a work of non-fiction or fiction can literally change the world. Having said that, you must research and discover for yourself what is being said and the facts presented and not necessarily take the given facts as the facts…statistics and facts can be massaged by omissions and not reporting of the entire set of facts.
As a disabled author how do you overcome the extra challenges involved with producing your work? I am very fortunate that I have several people who can help me with technological issues with the computer, which is usually the only issues I have. My wife, best friend, and others all help me get over the inaccessible websites and when I can’t access websites and other items I need for the books.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Do you think the publishing world is disability-friendly? The publishing world is definitely not disabled friendly. They have tried, but despite federal laws that require that websites be accessable many, far too many, are not…still. There are numerous barriers in submitting your work such as one popular site where it is nearly impossible for a blind writer to submit their own work…someone has to help us do it or do it completely themselves…and then there are other issues with trying to sign up for webinars and stuff and the sites won’t let you do it…coming back to forcing you to have someone else do it for you if you want to listen.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey? Write what you want when it comes to fiction and with non-fiction write what you are passionate about. I would far more successful if I had learned that before going blind in 2003.
And how hard it was to raise the greenbacks to self-publish books like mine and how hard it is to get people interested in your topics. Most of the media outlets, I’m sorry to say, are mired in their own sensationalism to report real facts and research.
What’s your greatest networking tip? Get out there and mingle with other writers, editors, publishers, publicists, and the myriad of others who may be able to push you forward with your career.
How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? The wildest subject I’ve ever looked at? I’m not a wild and crazy guy in my non-fiction, LOL. I’ve researched BDSM and other fetishes for fiction
As for my speciality…I look at all the pertinent facts, papers, reports, and etc. for anything I put into my books. The only one I didn’t do any research for was my customer service book in 2018…it was all based on personal experience and things I’ve learned in 40 years in the security field.
I don’t generally have to do a lot of research for my non-fiction books, since it is my work speciality. As for fiction, I create my own worlds and fill in the blanks along the way and if I have to, I’ll go back and revise it to keep a proper perspective on it so it doesn’t distract.
How influential is storytelling to our culture? Everyone tells stories, whether they believe they do or not. Story-telling is a tradition that dates back hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. It is a way to pass along information and to entertain. If we stop telling stories, usually for entertainment purposes then we as a culture will die of asphyxiation.
Our culture began with storytelling. Long before language, the written word, and alphabets, we had storytellers. They were known by different names to whatever culture you were in but they were all storytellers. It was a way to stay abreast of the news, stories from far away, and entertainment.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Write what I want to write and don’t worry about the critics.
From Tim Allen “Never give up. Never Surrdender!”
What’s the worst piece best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? You’re not a college graduate. Go to school and learn the book way of doing things and you’ll be better off.
No one wants to read that crap (speaking of security). Write something interesting if you’re smart enough. This from a former publicist.
*Please tell us about your publications.
I have 4 books out since 2009. The first one was so poorly edited I won’t even discuss it.
The 2nd one was “One is too Many: Recognizing & Preventing Workplace Violence” (Amazon 2014)
“Murder in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Prevention” (Amazon 2018)
“Unconventional Customer Service: How-to Break the Rules to Provide Unparalleled Service” (Amazon 2018)
What first prompted you to publish your work? I’ve been writing for nearly 40 years, ever since high school. I’ve published innumerable articles and blogfs but never a book, which was always my dream. I started working on the One is too Many & Unconventional Customer Service nearly 2 decades, but after going blind…I had the time, expertise, and knowledge I decided now as the time to do it.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Knowing when to stop writing and say enough is enough so as not to confuse the reader! All experts in their field can talk all day about it but the trick is to know when to leave without the reader wishing they’d picked it up…in other words, make it readable and not like a textbook.
Are you a ‘pantser’ or a ‘plotter’? I would have to say a pantser with fiction but not really a plodder with non-fiction. I pick out the facts and research I need to utilize, not hiding anything of course, and then decide where in the book it needs to go. Sometimes the same facts appear in several plaes in the books…just depends on the topic.
Fiction is definitely pantser…I get my ideas from my dreams and let the characters tell me what the story is, including their names. When I get up in the morning…voila the story nearly writes itself and is, most of the time anyway, not bad.
If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat. Al Giordino or Dirk Pitt from Clive Cussler…the beer and burger guys, not the fancy smancy cuisine that they can eat.
What are your views on authors offering free books? Do you believe, as some do, that it demeans an author and his or her work? Well, while it is expensive, if the author is proud of their work and think that people will enjoy it…then give away a few free copies! You don’t want to break the bank doing it, but if you get it into the community and around your region, state, or city, then people will start talking about it and hopefully, it will generate sales. I try to give away copies to those who helped me in some way during the proves…whether it be advice, computer issues, or anything else. Others I give away and have gotten some sales from doing. I just have to remember that talking about death & destruction in real life is not a sexy topic and people don’t like discussing it in ‘polite company’.
What are your views on authors commenting on reviews? If an author doesn’t comment on a negative review, then they can open themselves up for even more ‘abuse’ from the reviewers. If they respond without getting nasty and refuse the ‘invitation’ to be as nasty as the reviewer, eventually those trolls will go away and you can delete their reviews.
If the comment are good, a simple “Thank you. I appreciate your review on my book.” (and you could add if you desire…Please pass your comments along to friends & family)
How do you deal with bad reviews?Answer them with politeness, courtesy, and professionalism.
Sort these into order of importance:
- Good plot
- Great characters
- Awesome world-building
- Technically perfect
If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why? Jim Qwilleran on the “The Cat Who” series by Lillian Jackson Braun. The reasoning is this simple. A simple man who happens to be a reporter falls into billions of dollars because of an obscure family relationship. He then stll lives simply but begins benefitting the small rural community and county he is now a resident of.
I want to give away that kind of money to help innumerable organizations but alas…no billions for me!
Which authors have influenced you the most? Rod Serling, Clive Cussler, Lillian Jackson Braun, John Scalzi, Diane Carey, & A.C. Crispin.
What is your writing space like? I have my desk in a spare bedroom against the wall, a window on my left, where my cat spends her time watching me and the birds. The door is on my right, my wife’s desk behind me and surrounded by filing cabinets & shelves…some would call it cramped but why do I care? As long as I can type…
Tell us about your latest piece? I am in the process of doing the final editing on several pieces, including “Murder in the Office: A Practical Guide for Prevention” and a series of novellas based on sci fi and fantasy “Three for Victory” & “The Cat”
What’s your next writing adventure? After I finish those above, I intend to begin finishing all of the other writing projects I’ve had hidden away since getting cancer last winter…a ton of novels, novellas, and other things that are just languishing at this point.
What was the last book you’ve read?“The Cat Who Blew the Whistle”
Is this the age of the e-book? Are bricks and mortar bookshops in decline? Yeah, well, but the brick & mortors are still there and probably will be for a very long time. I worry about the possibility of an EMP and the fact no one knows to read a book without a screen any more.
With the influx of indie authors do you think this is the future of storytelling? Absolutely, so many wonderful stories out there. Fantastical worlds filled with wonder, awe, & cataclysmic destruction. Then it resets and you can read another!
Are indie/self published authors viewed with scepticism or wariness by readers? Why is this? They used to be, but with the advent of so many independent publsihers such as bookbaby, and several others, anyone can write and hae a bookpublished. I do have to say though a quote from Ambrose Bierce is very appropritate in these times “The covers of this book are too close together!”
Is there a message in your books? I would like to say that, even in my security books, everything has hope to it and you just have to keep working towards it is all. I try to convey that but whether I succeed or not…
How important is writing to you? Let me put it this way…I’ up and at the computer by about 3:30 every morning (mon-fri) and usually don’t quit until about 4:00, taking time for the news and lunch if necessary.
A somewhat strange 58-year-old blind guy with what has been called weird, unique, quirky, and ddown right stupid ideas, Robert has been blind since moving to the Phoenix area in 2003, 6 weeks after getting there. He lives with his wife, lover, a cat, and a volatile sense of volcanic anger and hostility.
Irritating the hell out of most people. he follows his grandfather’s habits of going to bed early (by 1800 hours) and rising between midnight and 0200. Coffee is drank black and he has more than a few health issues to fight along the way…cancer, kidney transplant, intestinal issues, and too many to mention.
Meet Author and Visual Artist:
Lynda McKinney Lambert lives and works in the Village of Wurtemburg, in rural western Pennsylvania.
- Please give us a brief outline of who you are.
I wear a variety of different hats. I use this word, hats, to describe an actual object, as well as a metaphor that portrays myself. It is a little thing – but important.
Today, I am working on P.R. for my latest poetry book, Star Signs: New and Selected Poems, just published on July 15.
Star Signs: New and Selected Poems showcases my professional career as a poet from the mid-80s and takes readers to the latest poems, written just before the book was published.
I give readers 54 poems in this collection.
2. You’re a writer and artist – how is this reflected in your typical day?
Now that I am retired from my international teaching career, my days are more flexible, even, unpredictable. I love it because I embrace randomness and chance in my life.
In my Writing Life:
I am often writing during the nights because I’ve never been one who sleeps much. I sleep in short periods of a couple of hours at a time. Typically, I am up working in my office between 2 and 5 am.
My days begin early because I have 2 dogs to take out – they like to be out by 6 or 7 am. It gets me moving, so that’s a good thing.
I do very little work after 5 pm. Evenings are my downtimes when I might watch some TV, or just listen to a book or relax. I like to sit and think – thinking takes a lot of time. You have to intend to think, and then set the time aside so you can actually do it.
In my Artist Life:
I make art only during the daytime. Because I have profound sight loss, I use an Acrobat CCTV – which is an electronic device that greatly enlarges my working area – it is a closed-circuit TV. My eyes are only able to work at this intensity in the mornings or afternoons. After that, they are too tired to work any longer. So, you won’t find me making art in the evening or night.
On the days I am making art, I like to focus only on that. I go to a place of “timelessness” in my studio and I am always unaware of the passing of the day while I am working.
Either way, my writing or art day begins after I’ve taken care of the dogs and cats. Bob will get up around 10 am, and he can take care of his own breakfast or whatever else he wants to do. We often begin to work outside in the summer months, or inside the house in cooler weather. In summertime, I tend my flower gardens. My husband takes care of the yard work.
Like everyone else, we have appointments and essential trips to different places for groceries or exercise or social communications. Typically, we go to the gym 3 mornings a week for weight resistance training or cardio workouts.
Nature is a predominant theme in my writing and my mixed-media fiber art.
I observe the day, the season, and watch for changes. I listen to the sounds of life, changing weather, and all the little details and nuances that we experience at any given day or night. I am so conscious of changing seasons, the quick turning from one to the other almost like magic.
In my writing, I describe the natural elements in my world, and in my art, I use the natural elements such as water-worn river stones; gemstones & crystals from different locations in the entire world; fabrics, and found objects. I use the objects in the art, and in my writing, I also use them as metaphors or subject matter.
Other themes in my work:
*The passing of time
*Memory as in collective memory or place
*History – searching out the historical context of ideas
*Passage or Journey; a sacred Pilgrimage from one place to another
*No separation between sacred and secular
3. Do you work at another job?
My job is to be at work when the Muse arrives.
My responsibility is to arrive at work on time each day.
When I was working as a professor of fine arts and humanities, I had to fit my writing and art-making in-between my responsibilities at the college. I wrote my first book, Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage, from my journal jottings, drawings, and research that I did each summer. I taught a month-long course, “Drawing and Writing in Salzburg.” Whatever the students were working on that day, I was working right alongside them in the classroom or in the field. We met each morning at 8 am to begin our day. By 9 am we were often on a bus on our way to a location for that morning’s creative work. Our class ended at noon (Monday through Thursday), so this gave me afternoons and weekends that were free for me to pursue my personal work. I usually travelled to a different country each weekend, where I wrote in my journals and did photography and drawings.
As a professor, I had to squeeze my personal work in-between my heavy workload during the semesters. Not only was I working on my own art and writing projects, I was also actively exhibiting my art in galleries and museums all over the world. It took a great deal of discipline to be able to do this intensive work. So, I’ve always been a person who is focused and willing to put in the hours that it takes to be successful in what I am doing. Retirement just opened up the door wider for me to create even more work because it eliminated the rigid teaching schedule I lived with for many years.
4. How did you fit in a family or ‘real life’?
I married my husband Bob, when I was seventeen years old. He was twenty.
We celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary this year.
We have 5 children and my life was completely occupied with cooking meals, doing laundry daily; managing our home and the children’s activities and needs. We were active in their school and church life. My children were the center of my life and it was important that I was there to take care of our home, and all of them. My first commitment was to my family.
My heart’s desire, was that I wanted to go to college, and I wanted to be a teacher. That part of my life would not begin until I was forty-two years old, and the children were all in high school.
My academic career began at age forty-two, and I had a single focus. I intended to “go all the way” with education. I intended to earn not only a BFA in Painting, but I would pursue the terminal degree in fine art, which is an MFA. I intended to be a college professor. I actually earned the MA in English along the way, too. I had a passion for writing and making art – so this seemed like a good idea for me. From the beginning, I worked across disciplines. And, this eventually led me to my teaching position at Geneva College, a Reformed Presbyterian college in western Pennsylvania. Because of my dual degrees in fine art and English, I was hired to use my expertise in the Humanities at the college. This work is both challenging and educational as a life-long learner. I loved doing research in my fields.
I advised students:
“Don’t give yourself permission to do less than what you have a passion for doing.
Follow your passion and your abilities – you want to do work that makes you happy to get up each morning.
You want to do what you dreamed of doing.
Never make a plan for your life out of fear. Go for your highest purpose and you will get there.”
I also believe in excellence. This does not mean I think that perfectionism is to be admired. It is not an admirable trait but perfectionism is a liability. By the word, “Excellence,” I mean to be your best. Perform at the highest level you can, and do the best job you can possibly do. That is not perfectionism. It is holding on to your highest potential and working hard to make your dream, Plan A, your reality.
In 1976, I took my first class in painting. Soon, painting was at the heart of my creative life. It was pure magic.
With 5 children and a husband to take care of. I realized from the beginning that I had to be time conscious in order to live a creative life that was separate from family obligations. We have to have our personal identity, something that is ours alone to pursue. Our “do” is not our “who,” and I’ve always believed in my purpose in life – to create beauty and to keep memories alive for others.
5. Are you very organized?
This is a tricky question to answer.
At first, I thought, yes, I am very organized.
Then upon further reflection, I thought about how we live surrounded by chaos. It is our normal condition of being a human creation. We are finite creatures; we are flawed.
How we think about chaos matters –
I think it is better if we begin to think of mastering the chaos.
A plaque in my office reads:
“Nur kleine Geister brauchen Ordnung,
ein Genie beherrscht
“Only little spirits need order,
a genius mastered
An Introduction to Lynda McKinney Lambert: https://www.lyndalambert.com/
My Books: https://llambert363.blog/lyndaslinks/
Lynda’s Media Kit: https://www.lyndalambert.com/media-kit/
“My Books” on my blog: https://www.lyndalambert.com/lyndas-books/
Listen to my poem, “To the Curator of Small Things,” in the Summer 2016 issue of Wordgathering. read by Melissa Cotter:
LINK_ to my poem and voice recording of “Star Signs: in the December 2016 issue of Wordgathering – Read by Melissa Cotter:
Lynda’s Authors Page- Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/author/lyndalambert
Lynda’s Official Authors Page: http://www.dldbooks.com/lyndalambert/
Smashwords – get my ebook: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lyndalambert
Link to Lynda’s author Site at DLD Books:
Website & Blog: Lynda McKinney Lambert – Official Author’s Website
Scan-A-Blog – A quiet Place of Inspiration, Art, Nature, Literature
Below – Photo: “Lynda with Tamukeyama,” by Bob Lambert
Photo of Lynda – wearing one of her original hand-knit jackets in ombre shades of blues and aqua.
She is also wearing a one-of-a-kind necklace of Swarovski crystals and gem stones. She designs knit clothing, talismans, jewelry, and wall works.
Lynda is seated in front of her Tamukeyama Tree in her Zen Mediation Garden. Photo by Bob Lambert.
Author name: Phyllis Staton Campbell
Please tell us a little about yourself. What makes you a #Uniqueauthor (or artist)?
I was born blind in Amherst County Virginia, the youngest of two sisters and a brother. We moved to Staunton, Virginia, when I was seven, where my sister and I attended the Virginia School for the blind. Reading has been an important part of my life, since I can remember. I sold my first short piece in the sixties, and have been writing professionally ever since. I have published six books, both in the traditional market place and self-published. In addition, I did a true-crime book, under contract to the family of the victim. My latest book is “Where Sheep May Safely Graze” inspirational. I’m currently working on a sequel.
Please answer 12 of the questions/discussion points below.
What first prompted you to publish your work? Writing is, hard work, if enjoyable. I felt that that effort should be put into something to share with others, and perhaps bring some tangible reward to me.
As a disabled author how do you overcome the extra challenges involved with producing your work? I faced many challenges in the beginning. There were no computers, no braille aware devices, permitting ease in proofreading. The first piece I sold was written with the slate and stylus, meaning that the braille dots had to be punched individually by hand. I lacked the money for a proofreader, meaning that I had to work very hard, first doing the work in braille, and then painstakingly typing it to send out for consideration. Today, I feel I have few challenges after that.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Do you think the publishing world is disability-friendly? Like most things that can be answered with both “yes” and “no”. Some publishers are friendly, some not. The real challenge there, is knowing which. Some will claim interest and then say they’ve taken on their quota for the year. Have they? Others such as Barbara Brett of Brett, will go beyond the last mile for the disabled writer.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey? The public taste in books varies greatly. Study the market carefully before submitting to be sure that you’re meeting the needs of that publication.
If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat. Harry Potter, and we’d have pumpkin pasties.
How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? I write three columns, so I do a lot of research. Years ago I wrote a piece on vampires, not the interesting ones in popular literature, but the real thing. Well, those who believed themselves to be real, and acted accordingly.
How influential is storytelling to our culture? It has been influential to all cultures, but I feel it is perhaps less today, because of TV.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Study your market and be persistent.
If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why? A sphinx I like cats!
Which authors have influenced you the most? For my current series, Jan Karon, and Janice Holt Giles. For my early stumbling efforts, Lucy Montgomery, Gene Straton Porter. In other words, they’re tied to what I’m doing, and where I am in my writing journey.
What is your writing space like? My writing space was once a dining room with a door to the kitchen, and French doors on either side of the chimney, leading to the living room. My house is quite old, and when I sit quietly, I can feel the echo of all of those who have lived and died here.
Tell us about your latest piece? “Where sheep May Safely Graze” is the story of Pastor Jim, who was blinded serving in Iraq, and his wife, Amy. It tells of his struggle to adjust to his blindness, her struggle to adjust to her new role as his wife, and their struggle against the prejudice of the wealthy church where they both serve. They are further challenged when they go to serve in a rural town.
What’s your next writing adventure? I’m working on “Goin’ Home, a sequel to “Where Sheep May Safely Graze.
Is this the age of the e-book? Are bricks and mortar bookshops in decline? Brick and Mortar shops are definitely on the decline, witnessed by how many large chains have closed.
Are indie/self-published authors viewed with scepticism or wariness by readers? Why is this? Some people will always be wary of self-published authors, but this has changed drastically. One reason is those self-styled writers, who pay little attention to proofing and editing, and who, in many cases, have no real story to begin with.
What is your greatest success? To this point, my greatest writing success has been “Friendships in the Dark” published in hard cover, paperback, large-print in the US, and translated into Chinese, as well as publication in the British Isles, all by a traditional publisher.
How important is writing/art to you? Writing is a large part of my life.
A Day in the Life Of and Questions with Phyllis Cambell. Welcome.
Phyllis Staton Campbell was born in Amherst County, in a small village similar to those featured in her books. She had two sisters and one brother, all of whom are now gone. She and her sister were educated at the Virginia School for the Blind. She has worked as a teacher of the blind, private music teacher, accompanist at a ballet academy, peer counsellor and youth transition specialist. She married Clarence (Chuck) Campbell, in 1967. She says it was a good marriage, lasting almost forty-six years. During his last months, she was his only caregiver except for a visit from a Hospice worker to take care of his bathing and shaving. She says the hardest thing she ever did was sign the Do Not Resuscitate order. She promised to walk with him to that final door we call death, and she has every idea that he will be there waiting on the other side of that door.
Are you writer, publisher or designer? Writer
Do you write primarily, fiction or nonfiction? Fiction
Do you restrict your work to a single genre? Yes
How long have you been writing? Since the 60s.
Are you self-published? Traditional published? Both
Thank you. Please tell us more.
- If you write more than one genre, what are they, and why? I’m interested in a number of genre. What I write and when, depends on my mood. When I’m in the middle of a project, I often have to use self-discipline to keep from wanting to start a different project. No, I’ve never abandoned one project for another.
- Are your characters, real people? No, but I think most writers slip in character traits even speech patterns of real people.
- Do you ever become tired of a book, while working on it? Absolutely. After I’ve worked over several drafts and edits, I’ve often never wanted to see the thing again.
- Have you as a blind person had an unpleasant experience with a publisher or agent. Explain. I once had an agent tell me that no publisher would even look at a book featuring a blind person.
- If the answer to the question above is yes, how did you handle it? I ignored her. Even if I had insisted, and she had represented me, we would never have had a satisfactory relationship.
- Do you use any special equipment to aide in your writing? I use a computer with screen reading software, and a braille device, The Braille-Note Touch, for proofreading.
- When you submit your work to a publication, do you tell them that you’re blind? If characters in the book or short story are blind, I do to verify authenticity.
- Does your environment or work experience ever feature in your writing? In what way? I have worked as a teacher, peer counsellor, and youth transition specialist. People with disabilities often feature in my writing, as do small towns and rural areas, environments I’ve lived in most of my life.
- Do you use anything to set the mood for your writing? Yes, I often use music to create the atmosphere.
- Have you ever become discouraged about your writing, and if the answer is yes, what did you do about it? All writers become discouraged, and some go through what might be called a dark time. I try to step back and think about what has discouraged me. Usually, it’s a rejection slip from somewhere that I had felt would give me an acceptance. In my case this usually passes in a day or two.
Do you work at another job? If so tell us about fitting in the writing/cover design/editing. I am a church organist. I have a schedule allowing time for practice and writing, varying sometimes if one needs more attention than the other.
Do you have a family? What do they think about your job? I do not have a family. When my husband was alive, he was very supportive. Do they assist you?
How do you fit in ‘real life’? Actually, my writing and my music are real life for me.
Do you have a particular process? No
Are you very organised? Yes, but not so organized that I can’t change when it becomes necessary or desirable.
What time do you get up/go to bed? My ideal day starts around six AM, and ends around ten PM when I read in bed, until I fall asleep.
Do you find it hard to fit everything in? Like most people some days things demand more time, but in general, I finish what I’d planned.
What is your ideal working environment? A quiet place with few interruptions.
What do you eat for breakfast? It varies, according to my schedule. If I’m in a hurry it’s something like a frozen English Muffin with a filling of egg and sausage. Otherwise the usual, eggs bacon etc.
Give us a brief rundown of your average day from getting up to going to bed. I wake around six, and make a cup of coffee with my Keurig in my upstairs bathroom, take the coffee back to bed to listen to the weather and news. Shortly before seven, I come down, and go through email, taking care of anything that requires attention. I get breakfast, following which, I work on my writing and any publicity. If it’s close to the time for my columns, I do research. Lunch. Practice at the organ, and braille music if necessary. Following this, I do chores such as laundry, straightening the kitchen, unloading and loading the dishwasher. I listen to music, and/or read.
Prepare dinner, following which I may visit with friends on the phone, visit with friends online etc. This, of course, for instance, I get my hair done to go out to lunch etc.
Would you recommend your chosen craft to those interested in doing it? I certainly would, but would urge them to understand that to become a professional they must learn disappointment and patience.
Check out Phyllis’s author page here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Phyllis-Campbell/e/B001KC40ZI
14 Manuscript-Formatting Tips for Writers and Poets
Don’t press the Publish button until you read this post.
Whether you self-publish or work with a traditional publisher, you should perform a thorough check for hidden codes that might hinder your book’s conversion.
Even if you’re not at the publishing stage, a professional-looking document will impress agents and slush readers. A haphazard mess will have them reaching for antacids.
Save yourself the embarrassment.
This article discusses a few common formatting blunders and how to fix them in Microsoft Word. If you prefer a different word processor, you can still use the information here to isolate the same problems in your software.
Before we begin, open your WIP in Word.
You’ll need to activate the function that allows you to see paragraph marks and other invisible symbols:
Navigate to the Home tab of Word and press the ¶ icon.
Tip #1: Never copy and paste from a website.
If you’ve already done this, you might be in for a bumpy ride.
And I’m not talking about legal issues if you’ve hijacked information from internet pages. You’d never do that, right?
No matter what you copy online, you could pick up weird spacing, tables, headings, undesired page breaks, non-standard colors and font sizes, tabs, highlighting, special characters, et al. These unexpected anomalies could prevent conversion to eBook format.
Tip #2: Select a standard font such as Times New Roman or Cambria.
Comic Sans MS won’t impress an agent or an editor. But if you’re self-publishing a printed children’s book, go for it.
Tip #3: Avoid tables.
Some eBook aggregators or programs won’t accept tables, or they do a sloppy conversion job. If you need a table, one option is to produce a graphic instead. It’s beyond the scope of a short article to explain the mechanics, but for guidance, you can search online for how to take a screenshot.
Tip #4: Remove non-breaking spaces.
These spaces, which require a Ctrl-Shift-Space key sequence in Word, mysteriously appear in some documents and will make them fail EPUBCheck validation.
Non-breaking spaces create sentences that look like this:
instead of this:
To replace them:
Search for [space]
Replace with [space]
Word is smart enough to replace all spaces, including non-breaking spaces, with regular ones.
Tip #5: Eliminate double returns after paragraphs.
Do you see something like the following in your manuscript?
The quick red fox.¶
Tsk, tsk. That’s what styles are for.
Search for ^p^p
Replace with ^p
If you want extra room after each paragraph, access the style you need to change and modify its spacing:
Modify -> Format -> Paragraph -> Spacing: After
Not sure how to use Word styles?
Microsoft provides how-tos for several versions of Word at the following link:
Tip #6: Delete linefeeds, and replace them with paragraph returns.
Linefeeds eliminate extra spacing between paragraphs. They’re produced with Shift-Enter, and are helpful when writing articles for blogs. This post contains a few, because they work well in WordPress. However, they don’t belong in manuscripts.
Word expects all text joined by linefeeds to be part of the same style. An added annoyance: They hinder edits to hyperlinks and bookmarks.
Search for ^l
Replace with ^p
[That’s ^ell, not ^one.]
Tip #7: Replace double spaces with single spaces.
Double spaces between words were the norm when everyone created manuscripts on typewriters. Nowadays they’re unnecessary, and they can cause spacing anomalies.
For instance, if a line break occurs in the middle of a double space, you’ll end up with a single space at the end of the first line and another single space at the beginning of the next. Given the number of double spaces that would occur in a typical manuscript, the probability of several such anomalies is close to 100%.
Search for [space][space]
Replace with [space]
Tip #8: Remove extraneous spaces at the end and beginning of paragraphs.
No matter how careful you are, these spaces appear as you write and revise. They’re easy to replace.
Search for [space]^p
Replace with ^p
Search for ^p[space]
Replace with ^p
Tip #9: Edit apostrophes that face the wrong way.
Consider this sentence:
“But I don’t trust ‘im,” he said.
Note the punctuation that replaces the missing h at the beginning of ‘im. It looks like a quotation mark.
Here’s how you would fix it. Type:
[h][i][m][cursor left x 2][‘][cursor left][backspace][cursor right x 3]
This is an excellent reason to avoid words that drop initial letters.
Instead of: ’E’s doing it again.
Try: He’s doin’ it again.
Instead of: He’s going with ’em.
Try: He’s goin’ with them.
Instead of: I’m not against ’t, honest.
Try: I’m not agin it, honest.
Plan your dialect before you write your story, and keep a file with the quirks for each person. Characters should have unique speech characteristics that enable readers to differentiate them, but the dialogue should be easy to read.
Tip #10: Replace tabs.
Search for ^t
Replace with [nothing]
Tabs don’t belong in a manuscript. Neither do multiple spaces. If you want to indent the beginning of each paragraph, set up a style for that.
Indented paragraphs function well for novels.
Block-formatted paragraphs work better for books such as cookbooks and instructional manuals, where special formatting like bulleted lists, block indents, and hanging indents often appear.
Tip #11: If you’re preparing your document for eBook conversion, find and replace these codes with [nothing]:
^b (section break)
^m (manual page break)
Tip #12: Never do this.
Do you remember the tip about double returns after paragraphs?
Here’s a practice that’s even worse: multiple presses of the Enter key to reach the top of a new page, to insert a blank page, or to set up for a section break.
In eBooks, free-flowing text, font changes by readers, and varying screen sizes will transform extra lines into a mess. You might get away with it in a paperback or hardcover edition, but a minor edit before you print could alter your paging and introduce other glitches.
Instead, on the Insert tab, select:
Pages -> Blank Page
Pages -> Page Break
Tip #13: Search and replace cautiously.
Consider the following, for example. Sometimes authors want to replace all ‘s (straight quotes) with ‘s (curly quotes). This is how they do it:
Search for ‘
Replace with ‘
However, when they do this, all words such as ’e’s, ’em, and ’t end up with apostrophes that face the wrong way.
Can you imagine the time-consuming mess you’ll have to clean up afterward?
Always, and I repeat, always double check your entire document after performing blanket search-and-replace operations. Yes, it takes time, but quality is worth the effort.
Tip #14: When all else fails …
Are you receiving obscure errors from EPUBCheck or your book aggregator’s conversion process?
If you can’t locate the problems via Word’s Find function, you might have to:
- Copy the text from your manuscript into a text file.
- Begin a new manuscript.
- Select the contents of the text file, copy, and then paste into the new manuscript. This removes all formatting.
- Start at the beginning and reformat the @#$%&! thing.
Imagine how long that will take. The painless approach would be to avoid the errors in the first place.
A program like Jutoh, which contains EPUBCheck and works well in tandem with Calibre, provides meaningful errors. Jutoh also allows direct edits, saves your project, and converts to multiple file formats.
Don’t give up if you experience formatting difficulties.
And remember: Today’s words are tomorrow’s legacy. Keep writing.
© Kathy Steinemann
Kathy Steinemann, Grandma Birdie to her grandkids, is a parrot-loving grandma involved in a passionate affair with words, especially when the words are frightening or futuristic or funny.
As a child, she scribbled prose and poetry, and won public-speaking and writing awards. As an adult, she worked as a small-town paper editor, and taught a couple of college courses. She has won or placed in multiple short fiction contests.
If you were to follow her around for a day, you might see her wince when a character on TV says “lay” instead of “lie” or when a social media post confuses “your” with “you’re.” And please don’t get her started on gratuitous apostrophes in pluralized words.
Her popular books in The Writer’s Lexicon series are touted by writers as “phenomenal,” a “secret weapon,” and “better than a thesaurus.”
Are Character Interviews Worth the Effort?
Guest post by T. R. Robinson
I first came across character interviews here in Alex’s Library of Erana blog. There have been a couple elsewhere but the majority have been here. Now for a bit of honesty: My initial thought? ‘Silly and pointless.’ As a consequence, I simply glanced (not even sped read) through a couple and thereafter ignored them. I now feel a little ashamed. It is not usual for me to make such determinations prior to fully investigating the validity and seeking to comprehend people’s motivations. Why I did not do so in this instance I am not sure. I suspect it may have been I was new to authoring and probably, as most when first setting out on a new career, felt under pressure to complete a work and to interact in social media. Time pressure in other words: there never seems to be enough for all we want to do. Of course, this is no excuse but I hope it helps readers understand.
Character interviews appear to remain a rarity. I certainly see few. Nevertheless, I now take more note of them. One question that occurs: Who are these interviews for? The author or the reader? I would say both. I will consider them in reverse order.
Of what interest are character interviews to readers?
- (Perhaps with the exception of some self-help or scientific books, the majority of readers are looking to be entertained.)
- (Usually provide further idea of the character’s true nature, aims and goals.)
- (Provide some backstory details which will enhance the eventual read. Assuming they do go on to read the book the character is in.)
- (Build interest in and expectations for a story.)
What benefits do character interviews provide for authors?
- Display writing skill. (Readers do not readily pick up books by unknown authors. These free interviews provide them with an idea of what they could expect from the author’s books.)
- Avoid ‘padding’. (Able to fill-out character personalities with additional information that would not fit or be appropriate to include in the primary manuscript.)
- Know characters. (Authors are advised, for best results, to fully know their charters by writing biographies. Interviews go part way, probably a long way, toward this aim.)
- Refreshed mind. (Continuous writing on the same theme can lead to fatigue and some degree of stagnation. Writing something different usually breaks the trend.)
- Marketing/Publicity. (Done right, interviews may set a story’s scene and create intrigue and interest in it.)
Of course, the above are by no means the full extent of what readers and authors may gain from these interviews. Everyone is different.
Worth the Effort?
Back to the original question.
Having now admonished and corrected myself, I may unequivocally state, as far as I am concerned, character interviews do have their place in the reading and authoring world. Now, with respect to Alex’s own books: Fantasy is not a genre I usually read, or if I am honest, really enjoy, at least that has generally tended to be my past experience. Nevertheless, I have read and reviewed Alex’s Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends and have to say I enjoyed it. That was in December 2017. I have not read any others since but admit some of the character interviews here have intrigued and inspired me to contemplate reading more in the genre.
So far I have not undertaken interviews for any of my own characters. This is primarily due to the fact I write in the memoir and biographical fiction genre where, most frequently, who the person is forms an integral part of the tale. However, in view of how much I have enjoyed Alex’s character interviews, I may consider undertaking a few for some of the fictional charters I have utilised to enhance the real events within the biographical fiction and short story collections. There, see, I have been inspired. From sceptic I am now a believer.
Thank you Alexandra for giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with your readers.
In addition to authoring T. R. Robinson provides free guidance, tips and ideas for both authors and readers.
T. R.’s Primary Website and Blog: https://trrobinsonpublications.com
T. R.’s More Personal Blog: https://trmemoirs.wordpress.com
I can’t believe it’s 18 months since I first started using Bundle Rabbit. How time flies!
As you know I love Bundle Rabbit – but what is it? What does it do? Why should you consider publishing there?
What is Bundle Rabbit and what does it do? Bundle Rabbit is a book bundling service – a ‘curator’ decides on a theme – Merfolk, Fairies, Zombie, Cats etc. and requests the books which are added to the site by authors or their publishers to add to his or ‘vision.’ An author can refuse their book if they don’t think it meets the bundle vision, or wishes to use it elsewhere. Once an author approves the book the curator adds it to the bundle. A reader can then purchase a bundle with several books or short stories for a far lower price than the books retail for individually.
The idea is that Reader Bob buys a Dragon Bundle with, say, a dozen books in, he may have read work from one or two of the authors but is unfamiliar with the rest. He works through the bundle and finds that the other authors are great – and goes out to check their other work or other bundles. Bingo! Everyone is happy. The reader has lots of new books and authors to read, and authors get a new fan.
The bundles run from a few weeks – say around Valentine’s Day or Halloween – to long term. It’s up to the curator, but bundles which haven’t sold for a while may get retired.
You retain the rights to your work, no one can sell it or add it to a bundle without your permission.
How much do authors get paid?
‘For outside sales channels (Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) a sale appears on your royalty statement two months after the sale occurs. For example, let’s say a bundle you’re in is sold on June 15th at Amazon. We will receive the payment for that sale from Amazon on August 29th, thus it appears on your August royalty statement. Your August royalties are then paid the first week of September.’ https://www.bundlerabbit.com/home/faq
There is also the ability to create Bundle Rabbit Series – this is something I am in the process of doing presently. If you decide to curate for Bundle Rabbit and have a series planned – such as the Nightly Bites vampire series, or, in my case the Here Be/Myth, Monsters and Mayhem series you can add all the books to the series and have a single link. Hopefully, this will encourage readers to check out other bundles.
The reports page is easy to understand, the reporting is regular and reliable. There is a tally of bundles sold this month, with historical reports available, and also a total. You can break it down by bundle as well. There is a tab for the reported royalties – so you know how much you get per book. It pays out once $10 is reached in any given period (since Paypal put their fees up). So on a quiet month it might roll over.
I love being a curator for Bundle Rabbit. It’s a lot of fun, and quite a lot of work. That said it’s really rewarding. For a start, it’s an awesome way to network – which is important for indies. As there is a relatively small pool of authors involved and most of the authors there have multiple books then often the same authors will appear in many bundles. This has its pros and cons – you know what you’re getting with an author and his or her book but being a smallish pool there is not the diversity there might be elsewhere. The community is growing – I have encouraged four or five authors I know to add their books.
The curator needs to source a suitable cover for the book (which can cost), and promote, but Chuck – the owner of Bundle Rabbit – provides some awesome banners, fan-art and montages for you to use and share. I have to say Chuck makes Bundle Rabbit a breeze. If there are problems or questions he responds quickly, politely and fixes them (if able). I wish the support on Amazon was as good.
Why should authors consider Bundle Rabbit?
It’s true the share that one gets through the bundle does not amount to large amounts – but a sale is a sale – and one that may well not have happened otherwise.
Pros: It’s great for networking; it’s another channel to sell books; it’s great for finding new books; if you aren’t planning to curate then once you add your books you just have to wait for a curator to find your book – then it’s go…
Cons: It’s a little fiddly at first; you have to do your own taxes; there are authors who don’t respond to the book requests; if an author wishes to leave a bundle (to go to KDP Select for example) the entire bundle has to be retired – which is a pain in the whatsit. That said, there is a message board and the curator can contact the authors and check.
I would highly recommend authors (and readers) checking out BundleRabbit – as far as I can see, after the initial sign up and book uploading (you need Velum or E-pub) then unless you’re a curator you have to do very little.
I have not yet checked out the other bundle services – but I plan to do so. If any of my followers have experience of these then feel free to post/reply.
I like Smashwords – but uploading the MS is a bit of a pain. The meatgrinder as it’s known is notoriously fickle. On the plus side, it will throw the MS back and tell you what to fix. It can take several attempts before it goes through. The help pages on Smashwords are good and will offer advice.
One of the benefits of SW is the Premium Catalog https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/channelManager/
You can submit your book, and have it distributed to a multitude of other sites – including Barnes and Noble, Kobo, I-books and many others. The most useful aspect I have found for Smashy is the coupons. You can produce a coupon to reduce a specific book, for a specific time. It’s great for gifts, review copies etc. Smashwords pay monthly (sort of). But the distribution stores pay at different times so it’s a little fiddly to keep track. That said it all goes through Smashwords and they pay via Paypal in USD. Or you can just stick with SW.
I have only added the pic for the first bit (as it’s quite long), but pretty self-explanatory.
You can also have a publisher account with SW. So, if you write under a pen name or publish on behalf of others then that works out nicely. It’s far more awkward on KDP – where you can publish under a pen name. The publisher account is helpful.
The dashboard for SW is reasonably easy to fathom and it’s easier to make changes to a book than on KDP and it’s better for readers as it offers Mobi, Epub and other formats (Amazon only offers the Amazon Mobi and it’s Kindle/Kindle app only).
Smashwords requires an ISBN but will provide one free if you don’t have one. This is required for access into the premium catalog, but not solely publishing on SW.
If you can manage the meatgrinder then Smashwords is a great way to get that wider reach.
It’s more accessible than KDP (see the other posts about this).