Memories on Memorial Day

After the thoughts of respect and appreciation for our troops comes the memories we make together on this day.  This year is bitter sweet for us. Our beloved Tucker is in his last few weeks of life and yesterday was our last family BBQ with him.  We are celebrating his life though and will always remember our “dorky dog” who spent the day trying to steal our chicken from the grill.  We love you Tucker!

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Professional Associations or Marketing Ploys?

Being successful as a writer takes hard work, dedication, and support from a network of equally dedicated writers.  Professional Associations can, and should, be an important part of this process.  As I continued my research into the publishing world, I explored the benefits of joining an association.  What I thought would be a simple task, evolved into a complex attempt to weed through marketing mania.

I began my search by considering what professional associations and my quest to understand the publishing world had in common. As I considered the question, my thoughts centered on the struggles writer’s find when navigating the massive publishing arena.  I decided to use this philosophy as a baseline when evaluating the sites I found. While I know associations serve many purposes, I wanted to find ones that focused on helping writers with the business end of their craft.

There are an abundance of writing associations listed on the web.  However, many of them are focused on helping the writer learn their craft, for a fee of course.   While on the surface many seemed to fit my needs, further research made me question their creditability. When reviewing their membership benefits, the sites were geared towards utilizing the association’s services instead of promoting a community of writers.

I did find associations where the focus revolved around the writer and building a supportive writing community, but unfortunately, ones specific to my genre have stringent membership requirements (usually a publishing success threshold).  At first, I was discouraged, but soon understood that in order to have a truly beneficial community, membership needs to be restricted to those dedicated to the craft. Without membership requirements, the countless “make a quick buck” population would infiltrate and deaden the effectiveness.

Building a network within the writing community is an important part of the business model. Without connections, even the best writing will fail. However, belonging to an association is not the only way to succeed.  I belong to a local writer’s group and have found the experience far more rewarding than anything else I have encountered.  The feedback is genuine and not concerned with making a profit and members truly understand the struggles a writer endures.

Associations are still a great opportunity to explore, and I hope to someday meet the publishing threshold. However, writers looking to join associations should be careful about the organization’s ultimate goal. Is it to promote a community of writers or increase their own pocket book?

Remembering Mom on Mother’s Day

Mom

Mother’s Day changed forever eighteen years ago when I lost my Mom to cancer. She truly embodied the spirit of inspiration for me. A breast cancer survivor of ten years, she used her remission to embark on many of her dreams. When the cancer came back, we knew her chance of survival was slim, but gave thanks for the ten years we would have missed. I was only twenty five when I lost Mom, but learned to cherish every day and never wait to pursue my dreams.

Mom’s Garden

By Susan Cunningham

Midnight’s kiss blows its doom,

As heaven calls you to its room.

Vacant without your tender love,

The sun rises crimson red above.

Dim next to the dew covered grass,

Your flower bed beckons, recalling its past.

Your spirit remains, a shadow among the rocks,

A gentle nudge along a path you no longer walk.

What blessings you gave you will never know,

The part you play continues to grow.

Emptiness has a meaning, purpose a guide,

As marigolds and pansies bloom side by side.

Sites, Sounds, Smells & Tastes of Boston

 

 

 

My first road trip of the spring brought me to Boston today. The temperatures soured to near 80, and the city responded by coming to life. A short walk from South Station is one of the most energetic and eclectic centers in the city…Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.  Street performers and vendors line the outdoor market bringing modern life within a circle of historic sites.  The air is filled with not only music and applause, but the blending of aromas from the many local food stops.

Strolling through Quincy Market is a food lovers paradise.  Seafood, steak-n-cheese, ribs, Italian, Greek and Thai food is just the beginning. For those able to restrain themselves long enough to consider dessert, the selection of cookies, ice cream, brownies, and delectable desserts provides a terrible dilemma…how to possibly choose.

A few thousand calories later, the day ended with a rest on the common next to the harbor. The blossoms and fresh flowers added the perfect touch to the sunshine and grass.  This spring is starting off great!

Until next time…

 

Publishing…wading the seas of information and misinformation

Deciding which avenue to pursue for publishing seems even more daunting than writing my novel. As I set about my quest to decide the next step, I turned my focus to an important question: “What drives the book publishing world?”

Trying to search the internet for information on book publishing provides an endless barrage of ads promising a quick way for authors to publish books.  In my search for an unbiased opinion, I turned to National Public Radio (NPR) where I found the audio cast “Self-Publishing: No Longer Just a Vanity Project.”  I found some good information highlighted below.

The audio cast educates without being an attempt at sales.  As someone who is hearing more and more about self-publishing, I was attracted to the content. There is a long held perception that traditional publishing is more prestigious than self-publishing and only those unworthy of securing a book contract turn to self-publishing (a perception quickly changing I might add). With the introduction of the e-reader, authors turned down by book publishers are finding success…and higher royalties for their work with self-publishing options.

While on the surface, the payment of royalties is a major difference between self and traditional publishing, the deeper difference is in financial risk.  Money drives publishing…period.  In traditional publishing, the company pays for all up-front costs from designing the cover and editing to printing costs and marketing. With self-publishing, the author assumes the financial responsibility, and in turn the financial gain if the book is successful. The audio cast suggests that increasing financial risk is another reason new authors cannot secure book deals. Publishers are not willing to take a gamble with the unknown (and if they do, the author has very little control over the material).

For new authors, marketing is a deciding factor on success.  Even with a terrific novel, if the author doesn’t sell themselves, the venture will fail.  The responsibility for marketing is greater with self-publishing, but a traditional publisher will also insist on the author becoming involved in the process. According to the audio cast, the publisher will only acquire new authors capable of taking on the marketing burden. While in the past, publishers paid for authors to go on book tours as well as offering lavish book release parties, the trend is moving away from such strategies.

Changing their business model is another strategy publishers haven taken to reduce costs.  Simon and Schuster, a major traditional publisher, has decided to venture into the self-publishing realm to mitigate the impact of e-readers and self-publishing.  Authors can now self-publish through their subsidiary, Archway Publishing.  While the published works are not endorsed in any way by Simon and Schuster, the publisher does track sales, watching for trending new authors. Successful self-published authors are noticed and have an increased chance in receiving a traditional book deal.

The podcast gave some insight into what drives the publishing world.  In addition, the content referenced provided helpful links to other sources in self-publishing. As far as my question, I have a much better understanding of the publishing world, and the discoveries have reinforced my inclination to go the self-publishing route with my own novel. My search, however, is far from over. With over 148 million “hits” when you enter self-publishing into a search engine, the project will continue to be massive.

For more information, please view the NPR audio cast here:  http://www.npr.org/2012/12/19/167448748/self-publishing-no-longer-just-a-vanity-project

When Inspiration Becomes Reality…A Journey into Publishing

There is a quote by Confucius “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I spent most of my life never truly understanding these words.  I started in the Human Resources field over 25 years ago.  While I had jobs I enjoyed, I found them dull and uninspiring. I looked forward to weekends, dreaded Monday mornings…it was work.  Looking to find inspiration in other sources, I relied on one of my favorite pastimes, literature. Disappearing behind the pages of a novel provided adventure and a sense of peace and security. I envied the authors, but knew I could never write a book because writing was something “someone else” did.  Passion, however, has proven my assumption wrong.

In 2007, after dabbling in my own limited writing for many years, I joined a writing class. When I left the first session, I felt as if the world had suddenly opened up in front of me. Words screamed in my head and the need to put them on paper consumed me. I was hooked. I continued taking classes and joined a writer’s group.  Slowly, my lifelong perception that writing a book was for “someone else” began to change.  It was not long before I found writing short stories difficult because the characters and plot lines kept growing in my head.  One short story in particular, “The Kingdom of Gold,” consumed my thoughts, and in 2008 I had the crazy idea to turn my creation into a novel. I plugged away at my writing and soon my story was well over 50 pages.  I would wake up at 5:00 am just to sneak a few words onto the page, spend my lunch hovered over a journal developing characters, even lay in bed fine tuning the plot lines.

I can tell you the exact moment when I knew I was going to finish the book.  In 2011, I signed up for a writing retreat in Italy hosted by the local writing teacher I had grown to consider my mentor.  We were sitting in the medieval village of Carmine Superiore outside of a church built in the 900’s and editing a section of my novel. If you have ever seen the movie “Star Trek: Insurrection” there is a section of dialogue when one of the characters defines a perfect moment as “when time seemed to stop and you could almost live in that moment…”    I experienced the perfect moment while sitting outside the steps of this thousand year old building. I knew I wanted to be a writer.

After my trip to Italy, passion drove my creative mind. I absorbed every bit of knowledge I could about writing. I continued my novel, poured over writing-themed instructional books, attended classes and groups, anything I could to learn.  I explored other avenues of writing and published two articles in local magazines, but I found journalism felt like work. Fiction was my passion. In July of 2013, I finished the first draft of my novel, a high fantasy called “The Kingdom of Souls.” Since then, I have been editing and revising, and even started the second book and developed concepts for a third and fourth book. I have been plagued with a question though…So now what?

My focus is now on researching publishing options.  So far, all my research is pointing to self-publishing. Traditional publishing is a difficult nut to crack and even more so now with the success of self-publishing. An audiocast on NPR “Self-Publishing: No Longer Just a Vanity Project” discusses the financial risks a traditional publisher takes with a new author.  The audiocast also gives some great links to self-publishing sources. The hunt continues!

My inspiration is now reality, but a new journey has just begun.  I will be sure to pass along any bits of wisdom I learn on the publishing world.  Also, if anyone has suggestions I would love to hear them!  Keep writing!