Sometimes It Makes A Difference

So today I talked to Adam from AuthorHouse. They’re another self-publishing firm (why do I keep calling them ‘firms’? They’re just a regular company, right? It just sounds better to me for some reason…) that offers print-on-demand services. I’m not looking for print-on-demand because, from all the research I’ve done, it’s not high quality enough for illustrations. But my research is wrong, according to Adam.

He wanted me to understand that their parent company is Random House, so any lapse in quality would be very bad for both them and their parent company, so I had better believe him that print-on-demand is high quality enough! Adam seemed very much like he’d never heard of offset printing before today…

Needless to say, he did not instill much confidence in me. He seemed impatient on the phone (especially for a phone salesman…) and he informed me that they don’t allow authors to do their own formatting, as it might mean some extra work for them. He had never heard of MillCity Press, the other self-publishing firm (there’s that word again!) I’ve been in contact with, which doesn’t bode well for a convincing pitch. Needless to say, I wasn’t too impressed with what I’ve heard so far from AuthorHouse.

There ARE a couple positives. Their package fees are a fair bit less expensive than MillCity and their prices to add images to the manuscript are far less. (Theirs are $5 per image beyond the 10 free they include, whereas MillCity I believe was $50 beyond the 10). They include phone conversation with a marketing professional as part of their packages, though marketing services themselves are separate.

Price is super important as far as I’m concerned, as the smaller the price is the more likely I am to reach my crowdfunding goals. Marketing is super important too, as I don’t want to end up paying for a product no one will ever know exists.

Still, I feel like the negatives outweigh the positives with AuthorHouse. The worst part was comparing the way Michelle from MillCity spoke with me compared to how Adam from AuthorHouse did. He didn’t believe in me or my project. He wasn’t interested in learning more about my manuscript or why I wrote it or what audience I was trying to reach. He was a nice enough guy, but he didn’t seem to care. I’ve worked in sales for a few years now. I know what it sounds like when a salesman doesn’t believe in what they’re selling. Maybe Adam is just terrible on the phone? Sometimes salesmanship makes a difference. So far, it’s moving me to give up on AuthorHouse.

Anyways, I hope this stuff is interesting to somebody out there. I know the self-publishing landscape can be overwhelming and complicated and hopefully, by sharing what we experience, we can help each other be successful authors!

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Fontology

So. I’ve been working on formatting my book, using a slightly outdated but still excellent version of Adobe InDesign. Formatting is a little more difficult than I first imagined. The goal, at least in my mind, is to leave the reader with an interesting visual flavor without drawing attention to the formatting. It should enhance without adding, if that’s possible.

A huge part of that is the font selection, and this is the part that’s been driving me crazy. I want this to be perfect and yet the differences between these fonts is so minimal some people might not notice at all… But the subtlety is there and, in the end, the differences are huge.

According to this list, the five best typefaces are Garamond, Janson, Bembo, Caslon and Electra. And they’re all great! But which one suits my story best? I also enjoy the idea of using a dark horse font-something no one will see coming! Recently I’ve enjoyed the look of DaunPenh, a free font with a warm and gentle look. I’ve also liked Sorts Mill Goudy, with it’s playfulness and slightly more powerful lines.

Some fonts don’t look especially good in blocks of text. They draw attention to their too-thin lines, their lack of confidence or else their overwhelming heavy-handedness. Some are too modern for a fairy tale. Some seem too dated, lost in an old sci-fi landscape. Still others are too gimmicky and those are the most dangerous of all.

It’s a tricky thing, and one I MUST succeed at. In the end, I may go with one of the ‘five best’, but is that really in the spirit of a self-published, crowdfunded project like this?

I’ll be fine as long as it’s neither Papyrus (my personally most hated font of all time) or ComicSans… Right?

List Of Mysteries!

So. A list. Apparently those tend to be popular blog posts? I ought to try my hand at a list!

Here’s my five favorite mysterious mysteries! And they all really happened too.

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salish_Sea_human_foot_discoveries

This one is fairly recent and fairly close to where I live.

4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaspar_Hauser

This one is a classic.

3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banjawarn_station

The mystery in this is not as deep as the others, but it’s spawned a very interesting graphic novel series (currently in the pre-pre-pre-production stages…) by a friend, so I figured I should add it.

2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyatlov_Pass_incident

I may have numbered this list a little arbitrarily… Not sure this one deserves #2, but it’ll have to do.

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taman_Shud_Case

My personal favorite. It seems each detail uncovered just deepens the mystery.

These are a pretty decent 5, but there are TONS more. Do you have any favorites?

Struggling

Hey everybody. It seems like the days I spend at work (the profitable life of a part-time bank teller) are the hardest for me to find inspiration to write here. But I don’t want to run the risk of losing you, my new friends! Don’t leave! I’ve decided to grace you with some poetry instead!

This first one is, more specifically, lyrics. People I had grown up with were dying. Not people my age. People that had always existed, from birth to the present, as adults in my life. This is something I wrote about a woman who, when alive, had been an incredible example for me. There is music for this and maybe someday I’ll share it with you. It’s called We Remember.

Rain falls gently and we’re drowning
Here inside these quiet rooms we
Speak our words and try to capture
All the greatness that you gave us

We would never be afraid of
Anything with you beside us
Never thought that you could leave us
Holding onto empty spaces

You forgot to tell us how to
Move along without us falling
We are nothing left without you
You were always stronger than us

Now your body fills the ground up
And we try to keep you with us
Let the rain dance on our shoulders
We’re already drowning now

We remember
All that you were
We won’t let you
Turn to nothing

We try to hold you like a fragile
Figurine of broken glass but
We all know that you were braver
Than the photographs we keep

Broken down we bow our backs
Beneath the weight of silent praying
Begging for us not to further
Break these damaged memories

We hold you tighter now that you are
Gone away beyond our reach but
You won’t know the wishes that
We cry beneath our breath

We carry your bones to the tomb
We keep forever in our hearts for
All the ones who should have stayed
And remain always lost

 

This next one is called Pain Is A Song.

Pain is a song we can dance to
Twisting melodies within the dark
Tracing patterns that follow from blemish to hollow
Finding fervor in each wretched mark

And there’s music forever to dance to
When each day is a new, sick parade
When tears fall from skies opened wide as your eyes
And we’re more lost with each step we’ve strayed

The summer’s a catcher of secrets
Coming down with each old Autumn tree
And we waltz our way through all the crisp winter dew
Towards a Spring we thought we’d never see

You dance with such crisp concentration
In that dress made of anger and fear
And I stumble along to my own wretched song
And I marvel that you’d hold me dear

With clasped hands we’re breaking hearts gently
As the metronome stutters in time
We’re both falling apart, kept in tune to the art
Of a ceaseless and terrible crime

And the pain is a song worth repeating
We’d be voiceless without it’s command
And our feet wouldn’t move without stumbling
Lklasdjfl;adjflasdkfa;sdklasd

(It clearly needs a last line… Care to help?) You can read more of my poetry (and other random things) here.

The Willow King

Image

“Eyes opened to pale grasses soughing in an Autumn breeze. Before her stood an old and wrinkled man, the deep scarlet of his kingly robes now smudged with grass and dust, creased and furrowed in a way that reminded her of the tired lines of his face. His crown of gold and diamond lusterless, cocked, cobwebbed and forgotten.”

Alright. THIS IS EXCITING! I got my first sketch from the VERY TALENTED Stephen Oakley, the illustrator that’s working with me. The character he’s working on currently is the Willow King. That first paragraph is the introduction to the Willow King in my book.

Each character in Nowhere’s End is metaphorical of things I was experiencing or others close to me were going through. When I wrote that section of the story, I was thinking a lot about my dad. There had been some difficulties in the family and his children were growing up and leaving, even if we still lived at home. It was clear he had begun to feel the weight of age. I started to understand that, though he would always be ‘dad’ (and that could be likened to this Willow King’s crown-the symbol of his position), his role changed with the changing of his home. It was as if the world had moved beneath him and he no longer knew his place. (That could be likened to his throne-the place from which he fills his role). So that’s what I’m trying to explain with this little bit of story, this visit with the Willow King. The things that affect us most aren’t the ones we bring about. They’re the ones that happen to us.

Within the story, the Willow King’s throne, which is carved into a willow, has broken. The tree, from some unknown evil purpose, has cracked and the heavy upper branches have fallen down. The King feels he can no longer rule his people properly without his throne.

“He smiled on her, then, and took her hand. His skin was soft and cold and he shook a little when he spoke. “Crowns are only baubles, keepsakes worn by aging kings to hide their growing frailty.”

He chuckled, and the sound spun round like Autumn leaves to die upon the careless earth. “No. I am no king. I cannot rule over anyone. My throne is dead and I have mourned it’s passing long enough. I think that soon I shall travel to the gates of your far realm, my dear, to beg entrance from you. I hope I won’t be too much trouble for you, dear.”

Please let me know what you think of this wonderful artwork and the ideas behind the Willow King.

(Note: quotations from this book, Nowhere’s End, and all artwork are copyright 2013 Jordan Avery. Maybe I’m just paranoid?)

Why Writers Write

Are authors the same as visual artists? Some certainly have the skills to translate their words into pictures but, for the most part, that only serves to further the story they’re telling with their words. I suppose it makes better sense to ask that question differently. Is art the same to authors as it is to visual artists?

Now, of course, there’s the never ending argument that art is what you make it or want it to be and that, really, anything can be considered art. Even this or this or this. (Just so you know, that last piece, the urinal, ‘was voted the most influential artwork of the 20th century by 500 selected British art world professionals.’-Wikipedia)

The argument can also be made that there are just as many forms of the written word as there are styles or genres of visual art. From the classic to the contemporary to the post-modern there is a cavalcade of literary artistry all clamoring for our readership. And we, as authors, could all argue the validity of each genre, or even each piece within those genres.

So, the question isn’t ‘what is art?’. Rather, the question is ‘why do we make art?’

Authors seem to fall into several classes. There are the money makers, of which quality of work isn’t always most important. There are the game changers, visionary in style and format. There are the purists, focused on holding true to the original themes and wordplay. And there are the inventors, creators of art for art’s sake.

Yet, there is one thing that all writers have in common. We write to make our voices, experiences and ideas heard. Even if what we write is only for ourselves to read, we write the things we cannot internalize. Perhaps a few of those millionaire authors are writing now to fulfill contracts or continue the heavy cash flow, but it is guaranteed that they began as we did, writing to touch something outside of ourselves.

Perhaps you write to share emotion or belief or to create a place where the pain you’ve experienced cannot go. Perhaps you write to further your love of story or simply as a hobby to keep your mind full. Perhaps you write to canonize your history or to create a future that cannot exist beyond your words.

The why is incredibly important to each of us individually and to any who read our work. Yet, it is wholly unimportant in the biggest picture. All that is important is that we continue writing, keep preparing and sharing our art. It is only in this way that we can meet our common goal-to be heard.

Feel free to leave comments (PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS!) about why you write and which class of writer you find yourself to be.

Some Updates

So yesterday was foggy. I love waking up to that. It’s like the world I know is only ten feet deep and out beyond is something new and strange. It’s easy to imagine a million things out there, just beyond the curves, expectant of conflict or romance or whatever my mind can think up. Is there a place where it’s foggy everyday? That’s the dreamplace, the kingdom of authors like me, who rely on inward sight more than anything external.

Made it to Seattle without running into anything, made it across the water without sinking. I had spent the last couple weeks trying to compile a list of Seattle-based self publishing firms and binderies. I did my best to get a hold of them. Unfortunately, they either said they weren’t open Saturdays or they would like to meet with me, but were unavailable yesterday. So, no real progress there. That meant my goal was to take a look in local bookstores to see if I could find any of their product-locally produced books.

I know this is sounding pretty boring so far, because I keep not finding what I’m looking for. BUT, I was able to check out a Fantagraphics bookstore. They are a really fascinating publisher of kinda offbeat graphic novels (and some standard novels too) and art books. They seem to be non-genre specific. In other words, I doubt they would publish a superhero book. Or a straight fantasy or sci-fi book. And so I feel my stuff might fit in their library.

But there’s danger in thinking that way. A publisher has no real reason to believe anyone wants to read my book. I think that’s a common killer of the author that hasn’t established themselves. I truly believe that there are people out there who DO want to read my stuff, but what if I can’t find them? I know what kind of investment financially I’ll have to make to get this accomplished. And I understand that a publisher isn’t just going to provide that cash without reason to believe it’ll be successful.

So, until the day I can prove that people will enjoy reading my stories enough to pay for them, I will continue to focus on the possibilities that are most possible. And right now that’s self-publishing.

Yesterday served mostly as an opportunity to remind myself that there are some great literary artists out there that began more or less like me. I still don’t know how they got where they got, but they did. So maybe I can too…

Any words of encouragement or advice out there?

The Way I Write

From time to time I plan on sharing some of the small things I’ve written. I’m not sure of the technical term for stories of this length, but I’ve come to call them ‘vignettes’.

Note: This is NOT anything from the story I’m working on turning into a printed book, but it might give you an idea of the style and substance of that story.

Beneath The Dancing Waves

Treading water, tide dancing in his nose each fevered breath, tasting the whispers of wide-mouthed eels, eyes battered with a spray of laughing, lukewarm sea, he’s trawling for a truth that hides in places he can’t follow. Somewhere there’s a towel and warm hands to let the life back into him, but he’s not ready to turn away just yet.
Outside, his body aches from the gentle, rhythmic scrape of sand against his pale skin. Inside, the water washes through, leaving corals and starfish to hang like mysteries and memories from a childhood by the ocean. The world is all pastels in memory, and a rushing, churning eddy of regrets and sympathy. He knows he’s almost lost the fire that he’s held within. He can hear it hiss and curse with each chance swallow of the endless waters. It is why he’s here, alone, in the mouth of an unforgiving ocean-to find the fuel he lost so long ago or to let the fire fail in this cold and crying place.
Treading, every other minute, when again he hears the faint sputter of the dying inner fire, he catches an empty breath and allows the sea to take him in it’s arms. Beneath, though it bites and scratches at his eyes, he holds them wide and searches for the thing he lost when he was little. The whistle, pale and silver, long and loud to shake the seagulls from their sleeping, to wake his mother, father from their endless, aimless worrying, to call home the brother that won’t listen anymore. The whistle that had slipped from careless fingers as he lay dreaming all those years ago. The whistle, lost at sea.
He churns for hours, stubborn to the swelling of cold waters. Numb, then aching, then numb, then something less somehow. He feels the shivers of his slowing heart, the inner fire only tickling and sending bitter smoke to leave his mouth with each exhaling. it’s time to let it go, he thinks, then screams it to the keening wind.
There was never anything but the glint of passing fish, never more than a hope that slid away for safer waters. He lets his breath go shallow and slow.
He isn’t cold. The burning ate any feeling away and he still smolders. The water tickles at his nose and he is ready. He doesn’t even try to move. Beneath the dancing waves he is snuffed out. And in that last and hallowed breath, troubled and heavy, he sees the glimmer of a small and metal bauble, hung delicately on a thin chain of swaying steel, untouched by rust or age. And in that last and hallowed breath, he feels warm.

The end.

What do you think?

Illustrated By

I also wanted to take the time to introduce you to the very talented illustrator I’m working with. His name is Stephen Oakley and he works as a game concept artist. We met recently through this site, and he’s been nothing but generous and professional.

I honestly don’t know that much about the guy… Hopefully soon I can get him to do some sort of guest introduction post on here. In the meantime, he’re some samples of his work.

Crazy talented, right?

I’ll be posting art progress here as soon as it becomes available.

More Things!

Hey everybody. How are you?

So today I had the opportunity to talk with Michelle Brown of Mill City Press. She was thoroughly helpful and, so far, they’re the self-publishing firm of choice. They offer offset printing (print-on-demand services are no good for high quality artwork) and seem very eager to work with my specifications. I’m hoping for a 10 x 10 hardcover book with thick-ish matte paper. The goal is to make it feel classic to the touch. The illustrations, in keeping with the classic style, will be black and white. Remember that old book of fairy tales your grandma used to read from? That’s what we’re going for.

Also, very important is marketing. Offset printing has it’s obvious pros (higher quality, more options as far as paper and format, quite a bit cheaper per product) but also has it’s cons. For instance, I need to have at very least 500 copies printed at once. The problem with that begins with marketing. If this book isn’t marketed effectively and no one hears about it or wants to read it, I have 500 copies sitting in my room for the rest of my life…

So marketing is important. And, from everything I’ve read prior and heard in my conversation with Michelle today, Mill City Press has GREAT marketing options. So they’re looking pretty good right now.

However, I’m far from done. This Saturday I’ll be heading to Seattle to take a look at some local book printers/binders to see if there are any viable local options. I’ll have updates on that soon.

This is getting exciting. 🙂