26 August, 2008

Why Do We Now Have 1,000 Subscribers...?

...because our subscribers are freaking AWESOME! Stay with me, folks. The Blog-Zine will only get better. Thank you for your continued support and generosity with your time. And, as always, if there's something you want to see, hear or know, shoot me an email and I'll see what I can find out for you.

(singing) "We are the world...we are the children....we are the...."

Okay, I'll stop now. Thanks, again!

23 August, 2008

Chipping Off The Old [Writer's] Block

A writing prompt to help with battling the block! Consider the following scenario:

The hallway is dark and quiet, except for the strange noise coming from behind one of the many closed doors along its length. It almost sounds like a crying baby or an injured animal. But that doesn't make sense, because you're the only person inside the house. At least, you were as of ten minutes ago...

Chronicles of a Lesser-Known Writer: Part Xa - "L-K" Inda Lauryn Guest Blogs

Hello Again, Everyone,

Inda Lauryn writers - "I am writing in response to [your query] "Are you a Lesser-Known Writer?" I am actually an unknown writer, so I don't know if your blog applies to me. If so, I am attaching an excerpt from my novel, In Time."


Well, Inda, part of being Lesser-Known is being unknown, so of course this blog series applies to you. Fellow Lesser-Knowns, have a look-see. Enjoy Inda Lauryn's piece and leave her some feedback, if you're so inclined.

In Time...an excerpt:

She liked the life she was forging. A steady job, a boyfriend and a female friend. Hell, her bosses were even kind. Her days were beginning to fill with more than her ever-present free time. Her sleep pattern was still off, so her after work ritual turned into a nap before dinner instead of a Haagan Daas. She never got to sleep before one anymore and never slept all the way through the entire night. Monique and Jason had grown accustomed to Amrita’s yawning just as she had. They never brought it up anymore.

Sometimes she could not believe how easily it had all fallen into place, like it was all too convenient. Everyone in her life was perfect for her. The only things to threaten her charmed existence were ghosts from the not-so-distant past. Amrita was so afraid they would eventually crash this life. She needed to control them.

That had to be the key. When she decided to make a new life for herself, things got so much better for Amrita. All because she took the initiative. No way could she allow Ingrid or Malik to take that from her. She would die before she let go…

Last time Amrita had a man in her life, it took her eight months to realize none of it had been real. Kevin did not call her everyday but certainly enough to show devotion. She had never called him. She could never find a reason. Her life was so devoid of excitement. But she had such a strong urge to call him now. She needed to speak to him. They had not talked since she spent the night at his place. Her crying kept him up most of the night. He eventually got to sleep. She skipped out on him. Amrita stopped thinking and started dialing.

“How’ve you been?”

“How’d you know it was me?”

“I know your number.”

Duh. “I’ve been okay. Same old, same old actually.”

“I’ve been waiting for you to call. I knew you would.”

“Really?”

“I knew you wouldn’t be so inconsiderate as to leave without saying goodbye.”

Shit. “Kevin, I really need to tell you how much I appreciate the other night. Most guys would have freaked out. I’m so sorry I ran out on you, but I couldn’t face you.”

“Can you now?”

“Huh?”

“I was about to get some takeout. I can get enough for two and swing by your place. We can talk.”

“You know what? I’d like that.”

“See you in a minute.”

Amrita took a quick shower and slipped into her favorite leopard-print lounger. Even with the heat on, she still tended to get cold. Her lounger was the only nighttime wear she had with long sleeves. She adored it. She was just about to finish cleaning the kitchen when Kevin arrived.

“Oooh, Chinese!”

“I hope you like hunan chicken.”

“Of course. You like peach tea?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.”

Conversation during dinner was pretty typical. Work, books, music. Their common ground instead of the big Dumbo in the room.

“I may be traveling to Cincinnati in a couple of weeks. A little business trip.”

“Ummm.” A nearly random thought occurred to Amrita. “Have you ever traveled out of the country?”

“Well, I’ve been to Canada a few times. I went to Italy on a class trip. Argentina on my honeymoon. Why?”

“I don’t know. The only time I lived away from the city I was born in was college. I went right there after it was over. I want to travel some day in the near future.”

“I still plan on going to India, but I’d like to take my parents. They haven’t been back there since I was born.”

“You know, I’ve thought about going to Africa, but the point of that would be to go home. Problem is I don’t know where home would be.”

“Interesting. Reminds me. I need to ask which city they’re from. Or cities.”

“At least they know. I can’t wait to save a nice little nest egg.”

“I’m glad you brought it up. I meant to ask what you’re doing for Thanksgiving.”

“I don’t know. I hadn’t even thought about it yet.”

“I always drive to Minneapolis to spend it with my family. I’d love you come with me.”

Amrita had never spent a holiday with a boyfriend. She rarely spent a holiday with anyone. She thought her heart stopped.

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“I, um, I need to think about it. I mean, I don’t know what my work schedule will be like or what days I have off or…”

“Rita! You don’t need to answer right now. Just think about it.”

“Okay.”

“Yes it would be an overnight trip, so I thought you might want to take a few days to make up your mind.”

“Do you want some ice cream?”

“What kind?”

“I’ve got some Dutch chocolate.”

“Sounds good.”

Amrita was not sure why she suddenly wanted ice cream. She was rather full from dinner, but she had not been getting her usual ration of ice cream lately, especially since she had taken to napping after work. She was starting to see some weight loss that concerned her.

“Who’s Ingrid?”

Amrita never knew what it meant for one’s blood to run cold, but right then she was overcome with an intense coldness that made her tremble all over. She managed not to drop the bowls, but they made a loud clatter as she placed them on the counter. She took a deep breath, consciously steadying her nerves before walking over to Kevin and gingerly taking the journal from his hands.

“No one. Some one I used to know.”

“Oh. Well, what happened to her?”

“She’s no longer here.”

“Did she d—…”

“Kevin!” Amrita snapped like a twig. “I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s just drop it. I’ll get the ice cream.”

Amrita turned away from him as quickly as she could she knew the anguish in his eyes perfectly reflected what she felt. She hated being this way with him, but she could not talk to Kevin about Ingrid. Not yet.

She absolutely could not turn to face him when he followed her into the kitchen. He took the bowls and placed them back into the cabinet. Then he put the ice cream back into the freezer.

“Sit down, Rita.”

Is he really ordering me to…

“Sit down, please.”

“Well, since you’re asking.”

“Please.”

They both sat down on the couch. Amrita still felt cold and wrapped herself with the throw. She tucked her feet under Kevin’s legs while avoiding eye contact but still hugged her knees to her chest. She tried not to anticipate his words but dreaded them all the same.

“Amrita, I know there are some things you haven’t told me. That’s fine. I hope you’ll learn to talk to me. We both have baggage, but we’re both adults. I want you to be able to open up to me…. I think something happened to you. That would explain the screaming and the nightmares and the obvious lack of sleep. You don’t have to tell me about it now. But you need to know, even if I didn’t have feelings for you, I’d never hurt you. That’s not me.”

She knew he meant it, but there was still something she needed to ask.

“Kevin, why me?”

“What do you mean?”

“You told me you were ready to be in a stable relationship again. Why did you choose me?”

Kevin thought a moment. Then he smiled. “Stupid reason, really.”

“I’d like to hear it.”

“That night you ran into me. I wasn’t in the best of moods. I’d seen Mira and for the first time I told her how I really felt about what she did. I lifted a burden off myself. I was out for a walk, thinking about how I’ve spent the last year. Downward spiral. I told you I had a few flings after my divorce, but I didn’t tell you haw badly I treated them. I wasn’t just angry with Mira. I hated all women. I knew I needed to come at peace with the situation. Then like a sign, I met you. I feel like meeting you was fate. We needed each other.”

“Can I ask you something else?”

“Go ahead.”

“What was your relationship with Mira like before… while you were married?”

“It was actually pretty good. We’ve known each other pretty much all of our lives. Our fathers are old friends. I did love her, but I know now I our relationship was more influenced by our parents than our own feelings for each other.”

“You know, I don’t think I even liked any of my exes. It’s like someone has a power over you and no matter how much you hate him, you can’t let him go. Start to hate myself pretty soon.”

“Sex.”

“What?”

“They were probably good in bed. Did something for you no one else did.”

“Only the last one, Ezekiel, did. That’s how he lived. I realized he would always try to touch me or kiss me to manipulate me. Now the thought of him putting his hands on me makes my skin crawl. I don’t know how it happened. I get the worthless jerk who doesn’t deserve anything I give, especially my body. I gave myself to that guy way too many times just so that I could feel like… so I wouldn’t feel invisible. So you have to forgive me if it takes me a little while to get it in my head that this,… you… we are the real thing.”

Kevin leaned over to Amrita. He unwrapped her from the throw and straightened her legs so that they laid across his and pulled her into his lap. Amrita made no pretense of a fight. No point in that. She savored every second of this kiss, even the few disconnects they used to catch their breath. Kevin spoke first.

“I’ve been waiting for that one for a long time.”

“This is sad. I don’t even remember the last time I made out with somebody like that.”

“Then I’ve done my job.”

“You’re done?”

Amrita loved Kevin’s smile. It reminded her of the brother in the Crest commercial getting shushed in the movie theater until the sister sees just how fine he is. It was beautiful.

“I still got some time.”

They were at it for a while. They had kissed before, but never so intensely. Kevin was always a perfect gentleman. He had never so much as copped a feel of her ass. He was definitely taking advantage of their newfound intimacy now. As much as Amrita was enjoying the moment, she knew it had to stop. She could feel Kevin getting aroused.

“I have to work in the morning.”

“So do I.”

“We should probably call it a night.”

“It’s not too late. We could still get some sleep.”

Amrita looked at the clock. Kevin was right. She was never asleep this early. What the hell? She was ready.

“Did you bring any protection?”

“Just in case.”

“Give me a minute to turn out the lights and things. I’ll meet you in the bedroom.”

Amrita turned out all the downstairs lights like she systematically did every night. So many things went through her head as she tried to keep one naughty thought away. She was all nerves. She wondered what she would do if Kevin indeed turned out to be in proportion. The thought made her blush, but she was willing to find out. Besides, there was a more pressing thought that threatened to ruin this for her. She had never had sex with a man she was truly in love with. She had convinced herself for the time about others like Ezekiel, but right afterward, she always wished she were somewhere else. She knew it would not be this way with Kevin. Something about him felt different all over. Her desire to be with outweighed all other doubts.

He was only in his pants when Amrita sauntered into the bedroom. Although he was slightly bent over as he sat on the bed, she could see the nearly washboard abs. For the first time since they met, Amrita worried Kevin might not like her protruding belly, her thick thighs or her still short, nappy hair. She turned out the light and went over to the other side of the bed. When Kevin touched her shoulder, he felt her trembling.

“You don’t have to if you’re not ready.”

“You don’t understand. I do want to. I am ready…”

“Come here.”

By the time it was over, Amrita knew he did not simply like her belly and thighs, he appreciated her very being. Every nail, every follicle, every skin cell. There was not a millimeter of her that felt unloved. And as tired as they both were, neither of them was late for work the next morning.

---------------

He knew her body would be soft. Every curve, every vein, every joint and muscle. Even her goosebumps felt like feathery clouds. That first night, Kevin took his time. He had not meant to at first, but he got such a thrill from pleasuring Amrita. His lightest touch sent her into uncontrollable convulsions that vibrated into his own inner core. His kisses all over her body sent her into an absolute frenzy of writhing. He even enjoyed the obvious embarrassment she tried to hide because she liked the way it felt. He wanted her to know how good it could be. More than that, he wanted her to know how good it could be with him. He alone would lift her to heights that would make them both dizzy. He would seduce her.

She had fallen asleep before he had. He wanted so much to tell her he loved her at that moment, but he felt the tears that came when she lost control of her will as sleep overcame her. He held her in the dark contemplating the point of no return. He had already known he was in love with her before then. He only held back because of her fragility. Not fragile like some of the unstable women he had used in the past but a fragility caused by a real and extraordinary pain he could not fathom. Even though he still had not known then what it was, he knew that if he took the next step with her, it had to be for keeps. He wanted it that way for her as much as he wanted it for himself. Amrita belonged to an exclusive population of women that Kevin had feelings for before he took her to bed. Not even Mira belonged in that group.

---------------
About the Author: Inda Lauryn is constantly changing the soundtrack of her life. Although she has been writing since her childhood, she only recently decided to pursue her first love as a professional endeavor. A lifelong music and movie lover, she frequently cites her favorite artists and films in her work, drawing inspiration as well as exploring their effect on society. She is currently working on a collection of multi-genre short stories, hoping to contribute to the ever-expanding representations of African-American women in literature.

19 August, 2008

Chronicles of a Lesser-Known Writer: Part IX - Tips for Creating Believable Characters

What is your method for creating believable characters? An article I found on Essortment.com suggests the following technique. What do you think of it? Is your method similar? If not, how is it different? If you care to share, leave a comment and let us know!

1. Gather a list of physical features from friends, family, and strangers. Include hair color, texture, thickness, and length in your list. Look at eye color and shape, mouth shape, nose shape and size, chin shape, and general face shape to include in your lists as well. (Remember- thoroughness now will benefit you later.)

2. Next, look to your family and close friends to find personality traits. Make a list of these, too. Types of traits you might find could be shyness, low self-esteem, hot temperedness, naiveness, and conceit. Friends and family work best for these because you will know the person well enough to know how these traits make them respond to many different situations. This increases your believability.

3. Listen to everyone you encounter during your day to detect speech patterns. You can gather this information from your parents to the woman in front of you at a check-out line. Make lists of odd or unusual catch phrases you hear someone use repeatedly. Pay attention to how a person's accent causes them to mispronounce words or use incorrect grammar in casual conversations. (e.g. someone who refers to everyone as "honey", or "son", or due to their accent, says something like "Whatcha cookin' in here?")

4. Next, you should look at the extra characteristics that will help distinguish people from one another in your story. These details also help the reader remember some characters better than others. Take note of things like missing appendages, limps, or freckles. Also watch for nervous habits like hand wringing, eye twitches, or nail biting, and write them down. The notes you write down now will become invaluable tools for you later as time has a way of dulling our memories for the finer details.

5. After gathering the information in lists, lay them out and look them over. Begin picking out various characteristics and traits you feel compliment each other. Don't forget- every person has strengths AND weaknesses so try to keep it balanced. Too many strengths in a character can make it hard for people to relate to him/her. Readers will tire quickly of characters that are "too good to be true". A few weaknesses will give them something to overcome and help keep the character real in the eyes of the readers. Decide how the character will look and then how they will act. Throw in a unique speech pattern or favorite catch phrase and possibly an extra distinguishing trait if it is needed.

6. The final step is to take the character profile you have just made and write it down on an index card. You can give them a name now or wait until you use them in a story. Do as many as you like and store them in a box or file. This makes them convenient for future reference. Then the next time you are struck with a great story idea, you can thumb through these cards and quickly find the perfect hero, villian, or whomever you need to make your story come to life.

Original Online Resource: Essortment.com

17 August, 2008

Lovin' the Midwest!

Greetings from the Midwest!

The weekend before last, I was in Chicago, IL, signing Running from Mercy at Da Book Joint on S. Jeffery Avenue. Verlean Singletary and her staff were most welcoming and those little wrap sandwiches and veggies & dip Verl set out were delish! The refreshments were probably more so for customers, but, hey, what can I say? Couldn't half talk for trying to stuff my face. LOL. Thanks, Verl, et. al!

Today I was in Kansas City, MO, signing Running from Mercy at Willa's Books & Motif, etc. on Troost Avenue. Miss Willa and her daughter were warm and gracious hosts, and Miss Willa's bookstore is packed with rare, hard-to-find and new books - a virtual feast for the book-loving senses. She also has a wide variety of lovely Afro-centric wares. I also got a chance to meet the founder of the KC Girlfriends Book Club, TaNisha Webb. Folks, I had a ball!

So I'm sending shout-outs to Verl & Da Book Joint and Miss Willa & Willa's Books & Motif, etc. If you're in the Chicago, IL area drop by and meet Verl and her staff. Kansas City, MO folks, get on over to Miss Willa's place and see what you can see. Click on the links in this post to visit their websites.

Ummkay? You know this ain't over...

14 August, 2008

Chronicles of a Lesser-Known Writer: Part VIII - Stopped By The Police...

Some people dread the flashing lights. See for yourself how Lena, JUMP's main character, deals with run-ins with the police...

The flashing lights take me back in time. Blue, red and white, all swirled together, looking pretty against the night sky, but still making my heart skip a beat. Suddenly, I feel the need to get home as fast as I can, to lock myself inside my apartment and close what is happening out of my mind. I turn my head and stare at Beige’s profile, see her sitting still as a portrait, refusing to meet my eyes. I need her to look at me, so I know everything will be okay, but she doesn’t.

There is a tap on my window and I am afraid to move a muscle. I might be shot if I go to press a button and lower my window, but the officer standing outside my door might break the window if he keeps banging on it with the metal flashlight he is holding. It is a toss up and I eventually opt to chance a bullet rather than risk Vicky’s wrath.

“Yes, officer?” I say as the window clears my mouth and disappears completely. He shines strong light in my eyes and I turn my face away from the abuse. Beige is next, but he is forced to study her profile.

“Are you aware you were going forty in a twenty mile per hour zone?”

“Um…no, I didn’t know that. I guess I wasn’t paying as much attention as I needed to be.”

He looks around the inside of the car. There are grocery bags on the backseat, a Target bag full of shit, shower and shave stuff on the floor behind my seat, and a box of paperback books I bought from a flea market earlier on the floor behind Beige’s seat. We look exactly like what we are, two people on their way home after shopping. One of them driving twenty miles over the speed limit.

“Let me see your license and registration,” the officer barks. Beige goes to retrieve my purse from the floor between her feet and he puts her in the spotlight. “Keep your hands where I can see them, young lady.”

“She was getting my purse,” I butt in. I don’t like that he snaps at my baby. Don’t like it at all. “It’s on the floor and the registration papers are in the glove compartment.” At least I hope they are. I want this to be over like yesterday.

I hand him my driver’s license and the registration paperwork for Vicky’s car, watch him walk back to his patrol car and let out a long stream of nervous breath. I am like millions of other people in the world. I don’t like cops. But my reasons go beyond having superficial issues with authority.

“This will be over and done with in a minute or two,” I say to Beige. “Damn, I hope Vicky didn’t buy this piece of shit from Bey-Bey the crackhead.” She giggles and I feel better about what is happening. I feel like an average, run of the mill Joe, being stopped by the police. The urge to throw the door open and take off running lessens.

The cop comes back and I think Beige and I are about to be set free. I give him a mildly expectant look and get a frown in return. “I’m going to need you to step out of the car.”

“Why? Is something wrong?”

“I’m not going to repeat myself again, lady. Get your ass out of the car. Now.”

I’m not getting out fast enough for him and he grabs my arm and hustles me toward the back of the car roughly. He spins me around and takes my head to the trunk. I feel cold metal against my cheek and wonder what the hell is going on. He has his hand pressed against the side of my head to hold me in place, so raising my head to look around is out of the question.

“What’s going on?”

“Where’d you get the car?”

“It’s my sister’s. Please, what’s going on?”

“I’m asking the questions here, all right?” His nightstick makes contact with the backs of my knees. “Spread your legs. Come on, you know the drill. Spread ‘em. How long you been out?”

“S-Six months,” I manage to say. The lining of my throat is raw and cold now. “Almost seven months. We weren’t doing anything wrong. Trust me, this is my sister’s car.”

“Is that your sister in the passenger seat?”

“My daughter.”

Another cruiser screeches to a stop near us, lights spinning all over the place, and another officer hops out and comes toward us. My keeper motions him closer and tells him to get Beige out of the car, to shake her down. I stop being afraid for myself and become afraid for my child.

“She’s a child,” I say, but no one is listening.

“Don’t look like no child to me,” the other officer says. I roll my eyes up in my head and see him marching Beige around to my side of the car, making her watch what is happening to me. They make her spread her legs and submit to a body search. My breath is humming in my throat as I watch alien hands glide along her legs, smooth over her ass and linger a second too long. A hum turns into a moan as those hands go near her breasts. She still won’t look me in the eye.

“She’s a child,” I repeat, ready to commit murder. Again.

Her keeper orders her to sit down on the curb and to keep her mouth shut. It is my turn to talk, to explain why I thought I should partake in liberties others take for granted. Shopping is as normal and non-threatening as it gets, but, apparently, I have no right to it.

I answer the questions hurled at me. “We were out shopping.” Then, “Yes, I’m sure this is my sister’s car. Call her, I’ll give you her number.” Then, “No, I’m not high or drunk. I don’t drink or do drugs. Never have.” And then, “No, there’s nothing in my bags I’m not supposed to have.” And then, “Yes, I have a parole officer and I keep all my appointments.” They radio in to dispatch and have the owner of the monotone voice dial the number I give them. They check with Vicky regarding the whereabouts of her vehicle and I am cleared. They should let me go, but they don’t.

Batman and Robin move from bad to worse. They are angry because I have no outstanding warrants and my breath doesn’t reek of alcohol. My box of books is dumped on the sidewalk and every page flipped through. My groceries are tossed here and there, right along with the books. A loaf of bread is stepped on, a dozen eggs dropped without a second thought. They rifle through a box of tampons, rip open a package of toilet paper and then dump both of our purses on the ground in the space between the cars. Beige’s lipgloss rolls away and disappears down a sewer drain.

They find nothing out of the ordinary and I am slapped on my ass for my trouble, given a ticket for speeding and allowed to come away from the trunk of the car and stand upright. Finally, Beige meets my eyes and what I see there makes me feel like shit.

“This is my fault,” I say after the officers have driven away and left us to clean up their mess. I throw food back into bags without worrying about economics and logistics. My hands shake. “This is all my fault. I should’ve let Vicky do the shopping and this shit never would’ve happened. What the fuck was I thinking?”

She helps me gather my books and takes the box from me, puts it on the backseat while I find the twelfth roll of Charmin and toss it inside the car. I will have to go back to the store and buy more salmon steaks. They are Aaron’s favorite and I promised to broil them for him tomorrow. My thoughts are scattered and out of sync. I think about Beige’s lipgloss and feel tears hit the back of my throat. It is such a small thing, but in this moment, it is everything.

I see the confusion on her face and my eyes slide closed for the space of five seconds. “Bey, I’m sorry,” I say. “I’ll buy you more lipgloss. Friday, as soon as I get paid, I’ll stop somewhere and buy you more. I’m…I don’t know what…This is my fault. I know that.”

I start the car, but we don’t move. I can’t make myself shift into drive and give the damn thing some gas. I can’t make my hands and feet cooperate with my brain. I am scared and shaking like a leaf. So thoroughly fucked up I can’t seem to get it together. Everything is a blur. I can’t see through the tears standing in my eyes. Can’t stand the fact that they won’t stay there. They have to betray me and spill down my cheeks.

“What the fuck was I thinking?” This is where I’m stuck like a broken record. I fall back against my seat and stare out the window, see a group of people standing on a corner, waiting for act two to begin. Rubberneckers looking for their nightly entertainment and, unfortunately, we have been it. I will always be someone’s entertainment source, I think. The epitome of an ex-con trying to live a normal life and blend in, and doing a lousy job of it.

I am not the woman I was eight years ago. A computer guru, making good money and being middle class. A concerned and attentive mother, dragging tired bones into school houses to meet teachers and talk grades and performance. Lecturing my motor-mouth child about talking too much in class. Cooking a balanced meal every night and giving baths. I am none of that. What I am now is a convict and I will never be able to escape the consequences.

“This is what it’s going to be like from now on,” I tell Beige. “This is my life.”

“Because you’ve been to prison,” she says and it is not a question.

“Exactly. Because I’ve been to prison. I can’t even vote in the next election.”

“Didn’t you know?”

I give her my eyes. “What?”

“I mean, I’m just saying, mom. If you knew this was how it might be, then why did you do what you did?”

I have no answer. I am speechless and we stare at each other for the longest time. If I could talk, I would attempt to answer her question. But I can’t and the cause of my sudden deaf, dumb and blind state is easy to diagnose.

She calls me mom.

11 August, 2008

Passing: Part V - The Wrap-Up

How will you celebrate?

We're approaching the homestretch, thank goodness! In terms of actually publishing a book, anyway. By now, your completely edited and proofread manuscript should be ready for typesetting a.k.a interior book design. Now, I outsourced the typesetting of Running from Mercy, but nowadays folks can and do typset their own manuscripts using various word processing programs. I tried it with RFM, but I couldn't get the page headings just so and I felt a migraine coming on, so I left it alone. Anywho, a lot of book cover designers also offer interior design services, so that's something to check into. You could also ask fellow writer-friends for referrals, do a net search on "book designers" or something like that and go from there. And, of course, compare pricing and take a gander at references and/or work samples.

Remember to provide your typesetter with the project's LOC#, ISBN#, Publication Date, Copyright information, any applicable disclaimers &/or permissions, and the name(s) of editors, designers, etc., if you wish to include them. This information should be included on the book's copyright page. Also, add any dedication and/or acknowledgment pages prior to typesetting.

The printing company you select to print your masterpiece will probably want your print-ready manuscript to be submitted to them in PDF format, fonts embedded and all that other crap - which is why I outsourced this part. LOL. It's like with my algebra homework in high school: if I could pay somebody to do it for me, I did (joking, kinda. Also, you could acquire the file submission information from the printer (i.e.: ftp address(es) and/or any other links needed for online file transfer) and provide your typsetter with it. They could then submit the print-ready manuscript file for you, after you've reviewed it and double-checked for errors and accuracy, of course. Same with the cover design file. Worst case scenario, you could upload the files yourself or copy them to a CD and mail them in.

So, now the printer has the files and you've obtained a projected print completion date. You most certainly do want a final proof for review before final printing, trust me on this. But do you want galleys/advance reading copies (ARCs) created for review requests? Check pricing, decide and order them now. On the flip-side, you could factor in review requests in your final copy count and use finished copies as review copies. However, keep in mind that you should ideally be requesting reviews 3-4 months in advance of publication. A lot of review sources will accept bound copies, though, so if you're ingenious, you could run off some copies of your manuscript, hole-punch those bad-boys and visit your local office supply store for alternate binding options. Binder rings, anyone? Truthfully, that's what I did with RFM: hole-punched copies, binder rings and laminated copies of the cover top and bottom. Laugh if you want to, but one of those suckers is what landed me a distribution deal, okay?

Moving along...

And while you're at it, 3-4 months in advance is when you should begin promoting your book. Now I'm going to shut up about promotion, because, well, you know... Again, referrals, word of mouth, investigation and confirmation. Fact check, price check, then double-check. Get started right around here, though. One of the mistakes I made with RFM was not researching promotion avenues enough in advance to come out swinging. Frankly, I was clueless as to what my options were, where to find them and when I should start. Hindsight is your best sight, so I'm telling you, don't pull a "Terra", because it is not cute. (See my May 3rd (2008) Chronicles of a Lesser-Known Writer: Part I post for more information about online promo options. You love me, don't you?)

Umkay, but, before you start loving me up, decide whether you want the printing company to have your finished books delivered to your front door or to your designated distributor/wholesaler. Direct delivery will save you some cash, but if you haven't quite found a distributor yet, are considering alternate means of disbursement or are working with a wholesaler who submits book orders to you and you then mail the numbers of copies requested to them, you'll likely have those puppies stacked up in your living room, garage, basement, etc. (I forgot what my furniture looked like for a minute. Then, my car was dragging in the back, because of all the cases of books I had to lug to the UPS Store, to ship off to the distributor. I should've had a V8 and then I should've had the books direct shipped. Two hundred some odd dollars wasted, anyone?)

Okay, I don't know about you, but I'm 'bout to have a glass of wine or something, because you have now "published" a book, for the most part, and I'm so happy for you. These little snippets in the "Passing" Series are by no means exhaustive or all-inclusive. There's all kinds of pesky little details here and there and every-darn-where for you to encounter along the way, but we've covered the basics.

I'm going to wrap up by referencing Dan Poynter's self publishing-manual and also John Kremer's self-publishing guide and suggesting that, if you're really serious about self-publishing your book, you can't go wrong by copping a copy of either or both to walk you through the journey. There's also myriad other similar publications out there, by the way.

Publishing is just the beginning and, probably, the easier part. So hurry up and gulp down that wine, because promoting your book awaits and you're about to put in some work!

"Mercy, Georgia Meets Kansas City, MO!"

Greetings!

If you're in the Kansas City, Missouri area and you're so inclined, come out and meet & greet me at Willa's Books & Motif, etc. I'll be signing "Running from Mercy" and harassing any members of the KC Girlfriends Book Club who allow me to do so. LOL. Location and time info below. Hope to see you there!

Willa's Books & Motif, etc.
5535 Troost Avenue
Kansas City, MO 64110

Saturday, August 16, 2008
NOON - 2:00 p.m.

10 August, 2008

Passing: Part IV - A Book By Destiny or Design?

Like Nike says, Just Do It...

Bite the bullet and pick a cover designer. You may be a skilled graphic designer, in which case you'll probably design your own book cover. But if you're not and you've been gathering information on the various design options available to you, then pick somebody, already. Pass along any ideas or concepts you might have, along with the barcode you purchased, and any other information the designer requests that might help him/her get a good feel for your project. Establish a working time frame by which you can generally expect to see some sample covers, take care of the other little pesky details (payment arrangements, etc.), and...wait.

(An Aside: If you've gathered any book blurbs or reviews from experts in the field(s)your book deals with or from other authors, pass this information along to your cover designer, to be included in the cover design. By the same token, though, you don't want a cover damn near filled with text, either. Everything in moderation, so include the blurbs or review(s) that pack the most punch.)

Meanwhile, get busy having your manuscript professionally edited and proofread. Ideally, you'll have already started looking into editing & proofing services and checking references, etc. So now you can come to terms with the editor and proofreader of your choice and turn your baby over to them (edit first, then proof). If you're just now looking into this area, no biggie. Ask some of your writer friends for references, search the net for editing services, and check the acknowledgments pages of books you've read. Many authors thank their editors there. Establish a working time frame by which you can expect to have your baby back in your hands, all polished up and spit-shined, and...wait.

(Another Aside: When your manuscript comes back to you from the editor, go through it with a fine tooth comb and make sure everything is to your specifications. Mark any oversights and return that puppy to him/her so they can fix it/them. Good, professional editing can be affordably costly. But even so, think about what was going through your head the last time you cracked open a book that had so many editing, grammar and typo issues that you couldn't get into the story for noticing them. Think about your bank account, too, though. Getting a good deal is equally as important as avoiding getting fleeced. Compare prices and quality of services, the same way you compare prices when you grocery shop. When you think your manuscript is "perfect" and ready to go to print, turn it over to a proofreader or two or three. You wrote it, so nine times out of ten when you read it, you'll see what is supposed to be there, not what is actually there. Count on missing some things that an objective eye will catch. I catch something different every time I read something I've written that I thought was "perfect", even on my blog!)

Moving along...

How will your book reach the masses? Will it be available for sale online exclusively or in brick & mortar bookstores, as well? Do you want to work with a book distributor or a book wholesaler? What's the difference?

Book distributors do just that - distribute books. They often have some sort of sales stategy(ies) and/or a sales workforce that actively sells titles to bookstores, chains and various online retailers. Book wholesalers, on the other hand, usually do not "sell" your book. That's your job, and as you do it, you direct your buyers (bookstores, etc.) to the wholesaler, through which they can place orders. However, wholesalers do sometimes offer various promotional packages for purchase and these packages provide additional sales/promo services. It all kind of ties together though, because wholesalers can and do order books through distributors, when they need to. So it isn't like, if you go with a distributor, wholesalers won't have access to your book, or vice versa.

Another difference is that distributors mostly require an exclusive contract, which means that if they're selling your book to book retailers (online, too), no one else should be. You can probably sell it yourself, via your website, but that's about it. Wholesalers usually do not require exclusivity, so you could, theoretically, place your book with a couple different wholesalers, online retailers, and sell it via your website, etc. Also, distributors will probably want to evaluate your project (ARC/galley/marketing plan submission) and decide if they want to add it to their product line, which means your project could be declined for whatever reason. Wholesalers usually aren't as stringent, as they're making your book available on a broader scale, but not really associating themselves with its success or failure. And you might also be required to pay a modest fee to become a wholesale book vendor.

A net search on "book distributors" and/or "book wholesalers" will yield some great leads to get you started on your quest for information. Don't be shy about asking questions and requesting more information. Make sure you have a clear understanding about fee scales/percentages, payment & contract terms, required or suggested book quantities, and any other criteria specified, before you sign on the dotted line.

I know, I know...more research...but, this ain't over...

03 August, 2008

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Have I Said, "Thank You!" Yet?

Just wanted to post a quick thank you note for the world to see. As of the first August 2008, The Official Blog-Zine of Author Terra Little is 550+ subscribers strong! I appreciate that and I hope the numbers keep climbing! Everyday more great people join us and to them I say, "Welcome!" Come in, pull up a seat and stay as long as you want.

In the meantime, it's not all about me here on the Blog-Zine, folks. My goal is to keep the content coming - fresh, up-to-the-minute, entertaining, informative & interactive. So help a sista out, huh?

Is there an industry topic you'd like more information on? Someone you'd like to know more about? Something you want to share with our subscribers?

Post a comment here or shoot me an email off-loop and let me know. The Rhona Barrett of The Blog-Zine Scene will get right on it. So let me hear from you!

This ain't over...