Friday, December 30, 2016

Hooray! I'm a full-time writer, for now...

A Post By Jonathan

Holy crap! I'm a full-time writer and I'm really freaking out...

Okay, a little backstory: Some big changes are happening in the Schramm household. My wife has accepted an exciting new job at a great university in Southwest Virginia, which means the whole family is packing up and leaving Indiana for good. While my wife starts her new job, I am going to be taking on the mantle of stay-at-home dad and raising our two-year-old son. That should keep me pretty darn busy, but if I play my cards right I should have time to do quite a bit of writing along the way. I'm still going to be looking for work at said great university, but until then I'm going to tell people I'm a full-time writer (and maybe, just maybe, it'll actually happen!).

It helps that I have a completed first draft (of a book that I worked on for like ten years...) at home. And since I'm leaving my very steady job with a pretty decent salary and great benefits to follow my wife's career, I think I may suddenly have the time (and, more importantly, the motivation) to finish the edits and send it out into the world. My wife and I thought about doing the long distance thing for a millisecond, but we tried that early on in our careers and now that we have a kid there's no way that's happening. I would probably lose my sanity within the first week.

Anyway, it's an exciting yet frightening time for me. But I'm so glad I have my writing to fall back on in desperate times such as these. It's a skill I can hopefully use to make a tiny bit o' money, or at least fill the void of productivity that a gainfully employed person who finds themselves suddenly unemployed will probably encounter from time to time.

So wish me luck folks... Hopefully my next post will be all about how I've finally finished editing my manuscript and am ready to query it out!

Monday, December 26, 2016

#BoxingDayCheer

Happy Boxing Day, everyone! Have you got your gloves on for boxing today? No? That's not what you're supposed to do? That could explain some of the weird looks I was getting today...

Kidding, kidding. I've lived in the UK for 9 years and have got my definition of Boxing Day properly sorted. In our family it usually means a long walk with the dogs, turkey curry and drinks starting at dinner instead of at lunch. For some it's a shopping day, although not all of the shops are open because it's officially a bank holiday. For many, it's a continuation of Christmas Day with family or friends and an attempt to make a dent in the turkey leftovers. (Turkey is the traditional Christmas dish and is generally unavailable the rest of the year. In January, this seems like a good thing, but I start to miss it eventually.)

Wikipedia says Boxing Day dates back to the 17th century and began as the day when servants or "errand boys" (Were there also "errand girls"? Wikipedia is woefully incomplete in this regard.) could expect to receive a Christmas box filled with food, gifts and even cash to share with their families as thanks for services throughout the year. In Ireland, Boxing Day is also St Stephen's Day. Saint Stephen was the patron saint of horses and, before fox hunting was outlawed in the UK, Boxing Day fox hunts were held throughout the country. Boxing Day is still a popular day for fox hunting, as certain types of hunts fall within the parameters of the law. (I've seen a few hunts around where we live, but they're "drag hunts", which means the dogs and riders are chasing a scent, but there's no actual fox being hunted. It's both an impressive and imposing thing to see.)

Anyway, fox hunting or bargain hunting...meh. My favorite explanation of Boxing Day is this one from The Guardian: The origins of Boxing Day lie not in sport, but in small acts of kindness.

Christmas, for those who celebrate it, is often expressive and loud full of grand gestures and a quest for perfection (the perfect gift, gravy, turkey, outfit, etc, etc.). It's lovely...but exhausting. No one's up for waking up to do it again the day after, but what if we all went out of our way to do one small kind thing? Pick up a piece of trash from the path. Wave at a passer by. Let the person behind us in the check out line at the grocery store go first. Buy a suspended coffee for a stranger. Something as simple as tweeting someone a complement (or letting an author know you loved his/her book!) takes seconds, but its impact lasts a lot longer. 

In a way, it's the last thing you want to do after a full-on Christmas Day when giving is the order of the day, but maybe small acts of kindness are a way to keep the spirit of the season alive a little longer? It's pretty late in the day here in the UK (And cold. And rainy. And I'm already in my pajamas.), so I'm going to head on over to social media to spread some #BoxingDayCheer. Won't you come on over and join me?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Don't get your Tinsel in a Tangle


It's days before Christmas, and all through the house the excitement is palatable, but I'm a bit of a grouse. Christmas cheer is everywhere, songs of miracles, mangers, and mistletoe loop on iTunes, adding to the general charm. But it's the Christmas lights that make me smile, especially the ones Larry put up in the courtyard off the master room, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm comforted by the colorful light pouring onto my bed. Snowmen, santas, sleighs, and stockings all occupy their usual places. Need I explain? It's a calculated set, like The Truman Show, because "we accept the reality of the world with which we are presented. It's as simple as that." I am obsessed with recreating Christmas past, it's my religion, where I have God neatly packaged and defined. I might have a few control issues.


I've purchased a slew of thoughtful gifts (according to the most recent gallop polls), wrapped them up with coordinating paper, placed them strategically under the trimmed tree, my pile of amor. I am euphoric, satiated, fullfilled. This normally lasts three or four glorious minutes. Then my obsessive-compulsive disorder kicks in, a bloody battle ensues, and my pocket book will not be the victor.  Did I buy enough? Will so and so be disappointed? Are they all of equal value? Does chartreuse make him look pale? Maybe the kids don't need those whatchamajiggers on sale at Target? I could continue but I'll spare you the gory details. My idea of celebrating Christmas can be "pretty, fragrant, and totally poisonous." I saw that quote in a book about plants and was struck by its applicability to a materialistic yuletide. I give myself a metaphoric slap in the face, reminiscent of Cher in Moonstruck, "Snap out of it." 


This year I intend to celebrate the birth of Christ with softness, wonder and awe, carefully swaddling the memories of Christmas past, so as not to leave a part of myself behind. I'm remembering the year we experienced a true Christmas miracle. I share this memory with you, but leave the cameras behind, I'm still searching for the epiphany.


It was early December, 2007, when the great storm hit the Northwest, "if weather is the earth's emotion, she was obviously enraged," Nayyirah Waheed. My sister and I were enjoying our annual Christmas shopping spree with Mom in Portland, where we knock out purchases for six kids and six adults, in a mere forty-eight hours, tax free. We never considered canceling our cherished event because of a little rain. We just finished up our two day mall sprint, Mom was dropping us at the airport, when word of massive flooding caught us off guard. I still dream of water when I feel out of control. 

We called Dad, who we assumed was home in Chehalis, enjoying dinner by a warm fire. The news reports indicated Chehalis was the site of the worst flooding, but he did not tell us water was already pouring into their house, damaging everything they held most dear. He told us not to worry. He had everything under control. I remember her face, his words, and how disorienting this diaspora of truth. We all felt it, but remained silent, because words can be more powerful than the sea. That was the last call Dad took.


By the time Nancy and I landed in San Jose we had been out of communication with Dad for several hours, he was diabetic, alone, without electricity, and of course we feared the worst. Larry met us at the airport, he had been in contact with the sheriff's office in Chehalis, requesting a rescue for Dad. They had limited resources, they couldn't commit to sending someone out, to the little house on Donahue Road, surrounded by water. Mom ended up stranded at some roadside motel, the five closed in both directions due to flooding, exhausted she fell asleep listening to the disparaging news.

Dad waded through the murky, ice cold water, in the pitch dark, trying to save mom's most cherished heirlooms. Until he tripped, fell against a marble table, and broke his ribs. Blinded by pain, he lost track of his phone, and the severity of the situation. The only way out of his property was a narrow road with severe declines on both sides. This road was completely underwater, unable to drive out, Dad was stranded. As the water steadily rose in the house, he crawled onto his king size bed, wrapped himself in the comforter Aunt Pat made them for Christmas a decade ago, and waited out the storm.


It was a little after three in the morning, Dad woke to someone yelling, "Is anyone here?" A young man made his way through the dark house and found Dad curled up on a bed surrounded by water. I can't imagine how Dad managed to climb into a metal basket, dangling from a Medavac Chopper, with broken ribs, in freezing cold, waist high water? His Ark had arrived, he was deposited at a nearby hospital, with no phone, no wallet, and no shoes. They cut off his sweats in emergency (Insert, Dad's inappropriate joke about his irresistible masculinity). He was one of a kind. Released from the hospital, outfitted in a flimsy hospital gown, he was sent to the shelter, with no way to communicate his whereabouts. I pummeled God with progressively desperate prayers and apparently God heard me.


Lloyd was our Christmas miracle that year, somehow he learned that Dad was airlifted to the hospital, he found the only open road into town, located my dad at the shelter, and brought him home. He contacted Mom, told her how to get past the road blocks, using only back roads, then he made sure dad was comfortable and safe. I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday, it reordered my priorities, and brought into focus that which is most important, being with the ones we love. A true Advent. Nothing else matters. Why it took a flood for me to understand these things, I do not know, but history has a way of repeating itself, especially when we fail to love. I miss my Dad, he passed away a few years ago, a jolly old soul, and this memory has become a most precious gift. 

This year I'm not going to get my tinsel in a tangle. All my kids are coming home for Christmas and for this I am enormously grateful. I'm going to enjoy the spirit of the season, ignore the chaos, the fear of never being enough for those I love, and the pressure to be perfect in an imperfect world. Recreating poignant family traditions is the best part of Christmas, it's messy, blessed, and hopefully transformational. I realize I am continually in need of rescue, but God figured this out, plucked me out of a whirlpool of self-doubt, and gave me you. Merry Christmas to all...and to all a good night. 



Come visit me at Living in the Gap, all are welcome.  
And a very happy birthday to my daughter Kelley! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Eek! It's A Holiday Script Criteek!

Hey all, Abigail here.  It's my first "Eek! Criteek" and while one of my resolutions is to start writing fiction again in the New Year, for now all I've got is some silly sketch comedy scripts from the past couple of years.  Here's a holiday-themed sketch I wrote to perform live two years ago and recently dusted off again a couple months ago hoping to film it.  Unfortunately I got the critique that it was a little too expected and overdone the way I'd originally written it featuring another big red guy (I'm sure you'll be able to figure it out) and so I changed it to something more obscure and made it a little bit more twisted, but it still wasn't right, and I was told to start from scratch.  But then five million other things happened and here it is. Anyone have any suggestions on how to make this less cliche?

Open on DAD and pregnant MOM in the kitchen.  MOM is at the stove.  DAD is reading the newspaper and smoking his pipe at the kitchen table.  Kitchen looks ready for Xmas in the 1950s.

BILLY
(Offstage) Mom!  Dad!  I'm home!

MOM
Take off your snow boots at the door, Billy, I don't want you tracking snow all over, I just mopped!

BILLY
Sure thing, Mom!

Enter son BILLY, dressed in winter outside clothes.

DAD
How was sledding, champ?  

BILLY
It was great, Dad!  Me and Joey and Kevin must have gone down Grinder's Hill about a thousand times!  Then Mrs. McLeary called Joey back in to help decorate the Christmas tree so me and Kevin made a snowman army in his front yard and we had a snowball fight!

MOM
(laughing) Sounds great, sweetie!  Here, I made you some cocoa with a little bit of cinnamon, just how you like it!

MOM brings over mug of cocoa.

BILLY
Thanks, Mom!

MOM
You want to decorate our Christmas tree in a bit?  Then maybe we could go down to the mall and get your picture taken with Santa!

BILLY
(takes a long sip of cocoa, then sighs) I guess so.

MOM
Is something the matter, Billy?

BILLY
Well . . .


DAD
What's wrong, champ?

BILLY
Dad, Kevin says Santa Claus isn't real.

MOM and DAD look at each other, surprised

MOM
Do you have enough marshmallows in your cocoa, sweetie?  Let me go get some more for you.

MOM gets up and rummages around in the cabinets

DAD
Billy, you know Kevin likes to make up stories.  Remember that time he told everyone Abraham Lincoln was his grandpa?

BILLY
Actually Dad, it wasn't just Kevin.  Charlie and Timmy and Richie were talking about it at Cub Scouts last week.

MOM and DAD look at each other for a beat and nod

DAD
Well, Billy, you're growing up more and more each day now.  I suppose it's time you knew the truth about Christmas.  

BILLY
I knew it.  There is no Santa Claus.

DAD
I'm afraid not, champ.

BILLY
So Kevin was right, it was just you guys buying my presents and saying they were from Santa all along.

MOM and DAD look at each other and laugh

MOM
Not quite, sweetie.

DAD
Why, that would cost an unbelievable amount of money, champ. You don't think the average American family can afford to spend like that every single year, do you?


BILLY
I don't understand, where do all the presents come from then?

DAD
Well, Billy -

cue music, to the tune of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"

DAD
You thought Santa was bringing you presents for Christmas
And now that you're older you think that they're from us
But they weren't  made by elves
And we didn't buy them ourselves

You see Billy

Santa is really Slepnor
A demon from beyond the void
He brings us our yearly presents
And our sacrifice brings Slepnor joy

BILLY
Our sacrifice? (music continues in the background as they talk)

DAD
Yes, Billy, our insane master from the basement of the universe emerges from his year-long undead slumber with a satchel full of goodies and a nearly unquenchable thirst for misery borne of human flesh and spirit.  On special nights during the Christmas season, when you're all tuckered out on egg nog all cozy asleep in your bed, we sneak into your room and drain just a little bit of blood and tears from your body, then your mother bakes it into cookies to leave out for Slepnor to eat.  But that's not the only way to get the sacrifice of body that our Dark Lord requires.  Why, where do you think all those teeth go that you leave for the tooth fairy?

MOM
And don’t forget all the urine-soaked sheets from when Billy was having those psychosexual nightmares after Grandma died.  Slepnor relished the confused terror in your nocturnal emissions, honey!

(music)

MOM

Santa is really Slepnor
His dimension’s full of screams and flame
All of this mass consumption
Reality is just a game!

DAD

Each December Yuletide nears
We don't see Santa's sleigh
But Slepnor feeds on pain and fears
Who else would enter through the chimney way?

MOM
It's to cover up the reek of brimstone!

BILLY starts crying

DAD
What’s wrong, champ?

BILLY
This is horrible!  I don’t want presents that bad!  I don’t want a space demon drinking my blood and tears and pee!  

DAD
Shhhh!  Never speak such blasphemy of Slepnor!  

MOM starts frantically mopping BILLY’s tears and wringing the rag into the cocoa mug

MOM
A sacrifice unwillingly given is a sacrifice most pleasing to the seven unblinking eyes of Slepnor!

BILLY
No Mom!  No Slepnor!  No!!!

BILLY is fighting her off, takes the mug of tears and shatters it, parents gasp.  Music turns sinister.  MOM grabs her belly and screams in pain as blood and fluid gush out onto the floor.

DAD
Slepnor hath chosen another of our birthlings for servitude in his darkened hallway, just as he hath done two years past!

BILLY
I thought baby Susie died of polio!

MOM screams.  DAD bends down and dips his fingers into the blood and gore on the floor and begins drawing symbols on his own face


DAD
The asterisk spawn makes its approach!  

DAD reaches for BILLY and starts drawing on his face

DAD
The mark is the doorway!

BILLY
No Dad!  NOOOOoooooo!!!!

Fade out to the sound of screaming, demonic noises, tearing sounds, then that sound fades and a gentle Christmas instrumental musical comes on as does the message “Merry Christmas”


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Make the World a Better Place (Guest Post by Liz Stratton, Host of "Spare Me!")

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
amazon.com/author/kozeniewski
Let's give a warm welcome to today's guest, who has a guest of her own! - SK

Hey, kids! Hello-
 
My name is Maren Bradley Anderson, and I want to thank everyone at Across the Board for letting me guest post today. Sometimes I am asked to write about something specific in a guest blog, but these nice people gave me free reign to write about whatever I like.

Today, I’m allowing the main character in my novel CLOSING THE STORE, to write to you. Liz A. Stratton is the host of "Spare Me!," a daytime talk show, and is the Presidential Candidate for the Women’s Action Party. (She’s also fictional, but don’t tell her that.) As you might imagine, she’s a little upset about the election, but at least she’s upbeat about it. This is her blog post below.
 
Follow Liz’s adventures in the novel CLOSING THE STORE, in which she calls a sex strike (yeah, you read that right) to end a war and maybe win an election. 
 
Dear Reader,

My esteemed biographer, Maren Bradley Anderson, has asked me to write some blog posts in order to promote our book, CLOSING THE STORE.
 
In CLOSING THE STORE, we document my campaign’s attempt to win an election and end a war by holding a sex strike. That might seem a little extreme to some of you, but know that sex strikes have worked in the recent past. All you need is a group of very concerned women (and men, too).

But maybe a sex strike isn’t for you. Perhaps you are a reader and/or a writer, and you want to make the world a better place. In that case, try the following:
 
1.  Read some books. I know that sounds silly. I mean, if you are reading this blog, you are a reader or a writer, right? But reading makes people smarter, more compassionate, and better problem solvers. So, the more you read, the better person you become.

2.  Read more books.  I mean, read books you wouldn’t usually read. Be as diverse in your reading as you can. Read books by and/or about people who aren’t like you. This is key to understanding each other better.

3.  Give books to kids. For all the reasons above, but with so much more impact. Kids learn about the world beyond their backyard and immediate circle by reading. Compassionate books help make compassionate humans.

4.  Write diverse, compassionate books for kids. We need more picture, Middle Grade and YA books with people who are not from the dominant culture. Kids of color. Kids from immigrant families. Kids in wheelchairs. Kids who are deaf or blind. Kids who have lost a limb. Kids who have two mommies or daddies. Kids who live in other countries. Kids who speak more than one language. You get the picture.

5.  Write a diverse story.  Write a story with a sympathetic character who isn’t like you and doesn’t believe the things you do. Even if you never publish the story, the act of writing a character whose point of view isn’t just like yours exercises your empathy muscle. And empathy is what will make the world better.

6.  Interview someone who argues the opposite side of an issue you care about. The trick here is that the goal of the interview is to learn why that someone believes she is right. This means you have to listen to that person in as non-judgmental a way possible.

7.  Make a friend with someone outside your social circle. Maybe WAY outside. However, never say, “my (insert racial/ethnic title) friend, Joe, says…” That’s one of those micro-aggressions/faux pas that make progress and understanding difficult.

8.  Write a letter to your congressperson. Seriously, they only respond to paper letters and actual phone calls. Find him or her here.
 
If you can keep reading and writing with the goal of increasing understanding and empathy, we will make the changes we are hoping our government will make for us.
 
Do you have another idea of something constructive to do? Write it in the comments below.
 
Now, go change the world.
 
Liz Stratton

About Maren Anderson:


 
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher and alpaca rancher in Oregon.  She teaches English at Western Oregon University and novel writing to new authors. She fills her days caring for alpacas, playing with her kids, and reading books that make her laugh. She has written two plays for the Apple Box Children’s Theater, and her poetry has appeared in "The Timberline Review." Her novels FUZZY LOGIC and CLOSING THE STORE are available online and through your local bookstore—just ask the clerk to order them for you.
 
 Find Maren on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

About CLOSING THE STORE



Liz didn’t mean to start a sex strike...

but she’ll use it to end a war and win an election.

Liz Stratton is running for President of the United States to end the unpopular war in Mesopotamianstan.

Everything goes as planned until the ­first debate when Liz’s competitors patronize her. She loses her temper and declares that if every woman in America withheld sex, the war would be over in weeks.

So women all over the country actually “close the store.”

Now the fun starts.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Stop and Wait a While

Every day, it feels like the world is turning faster. Things that were huge news in the morning are
A post by Mary Fan
long forgotten by the afternoon, displaced by the next attention-grabbing thing. Maybe it’s because of technology speeding everything up. Maybe it’s because our youth-obsessed culture makes it seem like life runs out long before it actually does. Life is short, they say. Make the most of every moment, they say.

In the book world, this manifests through binge readers who devour three books a week, high-energy bloggers who post exciting new content every day, and mass-production authors who churn out tens of thousands of words every week. No doubt there are many who thrive in this kind of environment. But for many others, it can quickly get exhausting, and the pressure can make a person implode.

But here’s the thing: life is long. A person can graduate from college, spend 20 years in one career, start a new career in their 40s, and still have a 30-40-year-long career in that second field. That’s a LOT of time to work with. And wasting time has its uses.

I’ve spent the past five or so years trying to be one of those mass-production authors, finishing at least two full-length manuscripts a year while working full-time, sprinkling in short works on top of that, binge-reading in an attempt to keep up with the industry, and volunteering to beta-read dozens of manuscripts. It was a rush at first, a thrill ride. And no matter how many times I told myself that “this isn’t a race,” I could never quite bring myself to believe it. I wanted it all, and I wanted it ASAP. And all those stories about first-time authors who got huge publishing deals made it seem possible… I just had to work hard enough.

2016 has been an awful year on many fronts, and for me, it was the year of setbacks. My productivity machine broke—writing goals got missed for no other reason than I couldn’t bring myself to hit them. Broken promises and a pile of rejections took their toll. I got sucked into a social media whirlwind that started out fun but soon turned ugly and left me anxious and confused. It was the year that turned something I loved into something I feared… it got to the point where I couldn’t even read a book because all I’d see were all the randomness and industry shenanigans that led to its production… all the meaningless luck and invisible privileges that led one book to be Chosen while leaving another, equally good or better, to languish. It was the year that turned me into the kind of cynical pessimist that, this time last year, my idealistic, hopeful self would have wanted to smack.

And yet, it’s only one year. Even if it extends into two or three, it’s still a tiny fraction of a lifetime.

Today’s motivational mantra is to power through, to keep marching even when you’re exhausted. But maybe it’s time to stop and wait a while. Of course, publishing is all about waiting… waiting months to get feedback, to receive a yes or no, to see artwork. And the faster the world turns, the more agonizing the waiting seems.

But life is long… mind-blowingly so. There are people who have had careers for longer than I’ve been alive… careers they didn’t start until they were well over my current age. So maybe all that waiting isn’t a bad thing. It’s time to recuperate, time to mull, time for the scattered motes of new ideas to form into something workable.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Tumblr head over heels

I dropped the ball yesterday and forgot to post. No excuses since Stephen reminds us weekly because he's awesome like that. But, alas, my brain is currently subsisting on pots of coffee and Lifesaver mints as I trudge through revisions on my WIP and wallow in the dissolution of my favorite TV couple (Gallavich if you care). And I'm not even ashamed of it. No one appreciates amazing storytelling like a writer. I find a lot of inspiration in good TV. So much so, I think I've finally figured out how to use Tumblr.
I've had a Tumblr for a few years because it was THE platform for YA authors. Teens are on Tumblr! Okay, awesome. Except, I had no idea how to use it. I thought it was just an extension of my website, as in, I wrote a blog post and linked to it on Tumblr. And sure, I did that, but no one was reading my blog posts on Tumblr. So I stuck to Twitter and Facebook and forgot about Tumblr.

Fast forward to 2016 -- shitty year for the world but awesome for television. Apparently, even as a woman in my late 30s, I share the same viewing habits as teens. Makes sense as I'm a YA author. Anyway, when I watched one my favorite shows and was desperate for snarky comments or fanvids or gifs, I went on Tumblr.

When I was a teenager, I used to watch my favorite shows (sometimes on the phone with my best friend) and come to the school the next day ready to rehash every goddamn scene. I remember when My So-Called Life aired and I heard girls singing The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" in the sophomore hallway. I didn't watch TV in a bubble. I was watching what my friends were watching. And we fangirled (we didn't use that word then) and obsessed over the show. Again, it's 2016 -- we're streaming, binge-watching. We're not all on the same timeline. There's so much to watch now, we're not all watching the same things. We pick and choose. I have no one to talk TV with. My husband isn't going to get meta with me about Don Draper's dreams or Rebecca Bunch's take on feminism or Mickey Milkovich's backstory or Skam's ingenuity. But, you know who will? The folks on Tumblr.

I've written a few posts on my observations on the last episode of Shameless. And I've gotten more 'notes' on those posts than I ever have just rambling about my books. Which is the point of social media. Be social. Connect and if that's over awesome TV, so be it. Because I'm not well-known enough to warrant followers just on the platform of my books. And I enjoy this stuff.

I know Tumblr has some shady shit on there, but I'm there for the fanart, the fanfiction, and the videos. Good storytelling is powerful enough to unite us.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Quality Control for Indie Authors



I’ve posted before about integrating my corporate skills into my writing. There was the two-part series I did on Presentation Skills, the post about establishing an author brand, and the one about the Law of Diminishing Returns. Being a self-published author is the same as running my own small business, and I love that I can pull from my past experience.

Today I’m back integrating my two worlds in one very exciting topic—quality control. As an Indie author, all accountability roads essentially lead to me. While I may contract out certain aspects of my business to others, it’s up to me to make sure it’s done right and keeps running smooth.

Here are the most important things you need to keep in your quality control zone.


Content
As I’m Queen of the Obvious, I like to start with, well, the obvious. It’s important to make sure what you write is checked for errors. Spend money on an editor. You want to make sure your work is as error-free as possible.


Marketing Materials
You’ve published your book (or are about to) and are ready to market the heck out of it. It’s important to ensure your marketing materials are error free. Get an extra pair (or two, or three, or more) of eyes on it to make sure you don’t miss anything. I messed up back with the publication of my first novel, Kingston’s Project. I had my graphic designer make me these awesome book cards. 



I approved them and had a box printed up. When they arrived I proudly presented one to my husband who said, “Cool, but there’s an error.” The word planned was misspelled on the back of the card. I was mad at myself for not having him look over the concept before I had them printed and wasting money. (Luckily I was able to cut the cards in half—not what I wanted, but it kept me from wasting money.)

If you are creating a lot of your own marketing materials through sites such as Canva, make sure you have a quality check in place. Grammarly is great.


Author Website
This one is important as it’s likely the hub of your on-line presence as an author. Unfortunately, this one bit me in the butt just this past week. I usually visit my website, carriebeckort.com, several times a week. Last week, instead of seeing my landing page I was presented with ‘carriebeckort.com has expired’

WHAT?!?!?!?!

I had renewed my domain on time and processed the invoice. What in the ho-hay was going on?! Unfortunately, due to the Thanksgiving holiday, I wasn’t as on top of it as I usually am, so I’m guessing it was down for about 3 days. Luckily a quick live chat with my provider got it fixed and back up in minutes. Never assume your website is working the way it should. Check it out regularly.


Social Media Profiles
This one may not seem as obvious. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads—they are managed well and if the site is down, then it’s not just you that’s affected. But that’s not the stuff I’m worried about. I’m actually checking my profiles. I want to make sure my information is up-to-date and my links are working properly. I’ve clicked on website links for authors from their social media profiles only to be directed to an inactive page. More than 90% of the time I don’t take the effort to find the correct site on my own. If the author doesn’t care to keep it accurate, maybe I shouldn’t care to find it.


Embedded Links
To expand a bit more on links, your quality checks should expand to include any link you provide. Blog posts, websites, newsletters—if you embed a link, go to the preview and make sure it actually works. Again, I’ve come across links provided and they don’t go to the targeted site and it’s frustrating.


Content
I know I already talked about this one up in my Mr. Obvious section. I didn’t forget to quality check my post for repeat points. I just want to hit this one again, in a less obvious way.

If you are publishing ebooks, make sure you check your formating on every device possible. I download to my Kindle and to my iPhone. I don’t own a Nook, but I have some close friends that do. I send them an early download version and ask them to do a quick review to make sure it all looks good. Here are two issues I’ve run into on my ebook formatting more than once:
  • Incorrect ‘starting point’—Shattered Angel was giving me a lot of fits with this. It would open up in the middle of my table of contents or in the middle of the first chapter. Since Shattered Angel starts at chapter 24 and counts down, it was critical for me to get the reader to the correct starting point so they weren’t confused (at least not any more than they already were). After a lot of hours reformatting and frustration, I finally got it to work.
  • Odd text formatting—When I check my ebooks, I actually do a fast skip through all the pages on my device. It might sound like overkill, but I thanked my OCD stars after discovering entire chapters in italics.


I use Createspace for my print books, and overall I’ve been pleased with their quality. Of course, the first step in print quality control is to order a proof book. I highly recommend this. I do check the on-line preview, but I also order a print book. The colors of the cover may not be as exact in print as it is online. Maybe that glossy finish you wanted doesn’t look quite right in reality. Maybe the cover dimensions were off a bit and the title is off center down the spine. You get the idea. It’s a few bucks and a few extra days, but it’s worth it.

Another thing I recommend is to spot check the print books you order intended for private sale and book signings. I might not have thought to do this, but before I published Kingston’s Project I read a book by a fellow author who printed through Createspace. Midway through the book I found this page:



I knew this had to be a mistake as it had nothing to do with the book. As a result, I decided to start checking the books I ordered. Basically, I just fan through the pages looking for anything that catches my eye. I haven’t found any errant pages, but I did find these errors on several books:

Books cut incorrectly
Ink blotches







Luckily, Createspace worked with me to replace the books.

I know quality control can be a lot of work. However, it’s difficult for many Indie authors to get visibility to new readers. There is also still a stigma out there that traditionally published books have better quality than Indie published books. As a result, every impression counts. Don’t sacrifice speed for quality. And if quality control is not your thing, then I suggest you find yourself a new OCD best friend!


~ Carrie

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I DID NOT Win NaNoWriMo (and other writing failures)



A Post By Jonathan 

Do you enjoy reveling in other people's failures? Does it make you feel better knowing that you're not the only one who can't deliver on a promised project or deadline? Well then, this post's for you! Grab some popcorn, take a seat and read away.

I would like to preface this by saying that things have been crazy nuts in my house lately. My wife, who makes a ton more money than I do, has been dealing with all sorts of nuttiness at work, including a new boss, mutinous employees, and a disgruntled-job-applicant-turned-stalker who got turned down for a job she was hiring for. Just before the shiest schlug den fan, as they say in Germany, she turned down a pretty good job in another state, which she has since begged to have back, which has resulted in even more instability in our lives and a preemptive For Sale sign in our front yard. Suffice it to say, its has basically fallen to me to hold the family together, which means lots of time spent with the toddler and even more time with a drink in my hand (sometimes two!) talking my wife off the ledge. And I've also been applying to tons of new jobs in said other state and even a PhD program as a backup.

#firstworldproblems, I know. But being the sympathetic creative that I am -and someone who relies on routine above all else to get things done- my writing has totally tanked. I signed up for NaNoWriMo, but I think I ended up with a whole 250 words written on my Alpha Smart before I stalled out. Falling 49,750 words short, I most decidedly did not win NaNoWriMo. I also failed to meet another writing commitment in the month of November, a short story I was supposed to write for that contest I won a couple months ago. I ended up just recycling an old story I wrote for the same contest, about eight years ago, and I've been basically hiding out afraid to check the site because I'm pretty sure someone will call me out on it. In fairness, since I wrote the parameters for the contest, I kind of left the door open for such a scenario, seeing as my previous story met the requirements and I never said you couldn't recycle old ones... But I had always planned to write a new story and keep some momentum going.

I guess sometimes life gets in the way. And you know what? That's okay. Nothing bad happened to me or is going to happen to me. Sure, some people may think a little less of me, but whatever. You know how many people there are in the world? A lot. I have my health, I have my family and I'll be back to fight again another day. It just sucks that I didn't meet the goals I set out for myself. But you know what else? I hit other goals. Goals I didn't even know I was going to have when I set the others. I wrote three or four cover letters for jobs I didn't really want to apply to and I wrote a five page statement of purpose and research proposal for a PhD application I may not even have an opportunity to pursue. I did write. Just not the stuff I love to write.

Sometimes things come up and you have to switch priorities midstream. What you don't want to do is put that negative crap in your backpack and carry it around with you for the rest of  your life. Forgive yourself, move on and just try harder the next time. Because someday things will slowdown and you'll retire and you'll have more time to write or do whatever you want with your life and things will be great. Until then, Keep Calm and Carry On, as they say in the UK.

Whewww... I feel better. Thanks for reading, and I hope you feel better too!
 
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