Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Darkest Hour

I am so thrilled to be the last stop on Paul Anthony Shortt's blog tour for Silent Oath, which is #2 in Paul's Locked Within Trilogy. Let's hear what Paul has to say about writing this exciting urban fantasy thriller:

Happy Halloween! Here we are, at the end of the Silent Oath Blog Tour. I’m delighted to be here with Karen, who hosted the final post for last year’s blog tour, and was instrumental in the series being published to begin with.

It’s a tricky thing, writing the middle-part of a trilogy. In many cases, the middle-book/movie is seen as the weaker installment, filler just there to set things up for the finalĂ©. It’s understandable. When we think of trilogies, they often fit into the 3-act structure. The beginning and end have solid, reliable purpose. But the 2nd act of a story is typically there to serve as character development and for the introduction of complications that will be resolved in the 3rd act. It can be difficult to turn that 2nd act into a story in its own right.

But one element of the 2nd act that can help define a trilogy’s mid-point, and make it stand out in the reader’s mind, is the Darkest Hour.

The Darkest Hour is the moment where all seems lost for the heroes. They’ve had their greatest weakness exposed and the villain is at the height of their power, in story terms. The reader knows, deep down, that the hero will rise and overcome, but for now, just for a moment, all seems lost.

What a time to end a book.

I love when the hero is set up to fall like this. Knowing that I get to have a whole movie or book where the hero struggles back from defeat and finally defeats the villain is a thrill like no other. All too often, I’ve seen villains defeated with little tension or effort on the part of the hero. It leaves me feeling completely let down. I want to see the struggle, the hardship. To feel every wound and emotion.

As many of you may already know, Silent Oath ends on a low point for Nathan. He suffers through things that make his experiences in Locked Within seem like a trip to Disneyland. Enemies are gathering against him, and even his allies’ faith may be shaken by what’s to come.

Of course, the Darkest Hour has one thing that cannot be overlooked.

Hope.

No matter how bad things get for the hero, the reader will want to believe that there’s still a chance to set things right. They may not have any idea how, but they need to know that the hero is ready to keep fighting. Silent Oath ends with pain and loss, but it also ends with hope. Because there are still people to fight for New York, whatever the cost.

I said it once, and I’ll say it again.

With the fate of the world in the balance, and the forces of the Council, Athamar, and the goddess Morrigan united against him, Nathan Shepherd will return for one final battle.

About Paul Anthony Shortt:
A child at heart who turned to writing and roleplaying games when there simply weren't enough action figures to play out the stories he wanted, Paul Anthony Shortt has been writing all his life. Growing up surrounded by music, film and theatre gave him a deep love of all forms of storytelling, each teaching him something new he could use. When not playing with the people in his head, he enjoys cooking and regular meet-ups with his gaming group.

Paul lives in Ireland with his wife Jen and their dogs, Pepper and Jasper. Their first child, Conor William Henry Shortt, was born on July 11th, 2011. He passed away three days later, but brought love and joy into their lives and those of their friends. The following year, Jen gave birth to twins, Amy and Erica, and is now expecting their fourth child.
Paul's first novel, Locked Within, was released on November 6th, 2012, by WiDo Publishing. Silent Oath is the second book in this urban fantasy trilogy.

About SILENT OATH:
Hope has returned to New York City. Nathan Shepherd leads a small band of dedicated fighters against the Council of Chains and the city's supernatural masters. But it's not enough. Because from the shadows of Nathan's former lives comes an old enemy, one who knows terrible secrets that Nathan has not yet remembered, secrets that could undo everything he has fought for.


Nathan's only chance to uncover the memories of his previous existence, and to conquer these new forces of evil, lies in Elena DeSantis. A woman he has fought beside in past lifetimes. A woman he has loved.
Together, Nathan and Elena are the only future the city has.

Links:
Twitter: @PAShortt

Friday, October 25, 2013

Watch Your Money: A Warning to the Self-published

It is happening. The sharks are coming thick and furious to infest the red ocean.

With the self-publishing boom, more people than ever before are writing and publishing books. And the red ocean is full of hopeful writers, new books, not so new books . . . and sharks, those looking to make a fast buck off anyone floundering at sea. Those who are lost or confused or innocent, or unsure where to go. This is when the sharks eat freely and get fat.

At first it's not too bad, even exhilarating, as you embark on the self-publishing adventure. There are the expected costs of editing, formatting, design, and printing. Savvy self-publishers are careful to watch what they spend for these production expenditures. Because of all the warnings about scam "publishers" who charge exorbitant prices for what you can do yourself for less, most are careful to watch for sharks at this point.

But what about once the book is out and you want sales? Or maybe you had sales some years ago when ebooks were fresh and new and people were downloading en masse on their new Kindles. But the market has slowed and money is tight. You've written more stuff and need increasing funds to pay expenses and still meet your bottom line.
This is when I say watch your money. The sharks come in disguise as "publishing companies", "literary agencies", "marketing and SEO specialists," "publicists"-- all those nice respectable labels that used to mean something.

Beware, however, of the wolves in sheep clothing. Or to stick to the metaphor, sharks dressed like helpful professionals. Big promises, fast talkers, the hard sell: "There's a million ebooks out now. If your book is to stand out in the crowd, you've got to do more than the other guy. Pay me and here's what I'll do to make it happen."

It's deceptive since some of it is true, but then comes the part about "pay me." Remember this one key fact about being a self-published author: You are first and foremost a business. If more cash is going out than coming in, the business will soon be broke. Do the sharks care? Not at all. They took your money and are busily zeroing in on their next victims.

Or you can learn how to make Greek yogurt. I finally mastered it! Instructions are on my website. Because when I'm frustrated and annoyed by all the greedy opportunists out there, I go to my kitchen and make something. Or maybe I clean out a closet while ignoring everybody.

Meanwhile, you've been warned: sharks are infesting the crowded waters of the self-publishing  ocean. And so, my writer friends, please watch your money.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interview with Spunk on a Stick!

Today I'm over at L. Diane Wolf's Spunk on a Stick talking about WiDo Publishing. How it got started, what it's like running a small press in today's publishing world, how changes in the market have affected WiDo.

This weekend our family had a reunion up in Ogden Canyon, a week from today our youngest returns from his two-year mission and three weeks after that my husband goes in for knee replacement surgery. That's what happens when you have a baby at age 43-- he turns 22 and you go in to have your knees replaced.

Anyway, more news to come. The Gowen family is planning some big changes in the very near future!

 Fun pic from our reunion

Monday, October 7, 2013

What Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writers about Success


Malcolm Gladwell, bestselling author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference and Outliers: The Story of Success, among other books, was recently interviewed in Costco Magazine.

Having just re-read The Tipping Point and Outliers for the third time, I was thrilled to see that Gladwell has a new book out. It's called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants. Wow, sounds great! Especially knowing how Gladwell takes a subject and analyzes it inside and out, writing about it in a way that makes me think of new things in new ways.

But what I really appreciated about the Costco article is how Gladwell seems to epitomize what to me is the ideal attitude for a writer's success and productivity.

What does Malcolm Gladwell know?

He knows his audience.

"I write for people who are curious and who don't mind having their beliefs challenged. If you think going to a library is an exciting event, you will probably enjoy my books."

He knows how to write what he loves.

"People sense that I'm doing things out of pure enjoyment. I'm not pandering to an audience or following a formula. I'm just writing about cool stuff that interests me, and people respond to that."

Despite his astounding success, he knows there is so much more to learn.

"The more I write these books, the less convinced I am of my own inherent wisdom. I've convinced myself that I'm pretty bad at making sense of the world and need a lot of help."

He knows that money and acclaim isn't what it's all about. He never set out to write a bestseller.

"I never had any great desire to be well-known or to sell a lot of books. I've only ever wanted to do my own thing. and all of this happened just as an accident."

He knows where he came from, who he is, and it is all just fine with him.

"Canada is a deeply unpretentious place. You can't grow up in Canada and have all kinds of airs."

Regardless of where any of us are in our writing journeys, I'd say we can all learn a lot about success from Malcolm Gladwell.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Managing an Author Goodreads Account

I have my ups and downs with Goodreads, but overall it's a helpful site for anyone who loves books. I've been on it for awhile as an author and learned a few tips to pass along:

1. When you sign up as a Goodreads member, don't use your best email

 Because you WILL get junk mail. Lots and lots of it. Many authors now use Goodreads to promote to their friend list, and it all goes straight to your email inbox. Unlike Facebook, where the promotions go on a news feed that you can ignore.

Best to use a "junk email" address for Goodreads membership. If you are fed up with the constant stream of promotions clogging your inbox, consider changing your sign-in email to a little-used one rather than cancelling your Goodreads account. Although now that Gmail has divided their inbox into "promotional" and "social" that may just solve the problem.

2. Watch out for friend requests from people who have tons of friends but very few books. I don't get these people. Isn't Goodreads about the books? Well, yes, I do get them. They're on to push their books (see #1 above) rather than to read and review books. I used to accept friend requests from anyone who sent one but lately I've ignored these types. I don't need more pushy people trying to sell me their books, or inviting me to events I'll never go to.

3. Add a nice photo to your author profile, link to your blog, completely fill out the biographical information. People like to learn about authors, especially if they read your book and enjoyed it. Make your author profile page as complete as possible. It's not so important to have hundreds of friends-- you'll see popular authors with none at all actually, but their fan list is large. Sign out of Goodreads to view your profile page objectively and see what you think!

4. Add quotable quotes. I came across a feature recently which I think is very cool, and really makes the profile page look professional and complete. If you scroll down toward the end of the page there is a place to add quotes. On mine (here) I added quotes that readers had frequently highlighted in the Kindle versions of my books. If you look to the right side of the page it will say "add a quote." Quotes can be added by anyone, not just the author.

5. Professional review etiquette means that when you write a review, be honest without being rude and hurtful. When you read a review on your own book, please refrain from adding a comment. Even if it's an amazing review and you want to say thank you, don't! And if it's a poor review and you want to defend your book or respond, don't! It is entirely unprofessional for authors to respond in any way to Goodreads reviews.

Okay, these are my Top Five Goodreads tips. I'd love to hear yours. There is so much more to be said! Can authors maximize Goodreads and still be professional about it?