Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guest Blogger: Kim Hanks, Author of Save the Best for Last

Kim Hanks is the author of Save The Best For Last, a fantasy adventure. Critics have compared this book to an example of hugely popular genres and reality in the novelists craft and have described it as a strong, good, and multilayered fantasy adventure written with a hand that is both sure and light.

Kim has a full time job and is a graduate of Cambridge International College with a degree in Human Resource Management. He lives in Dubai. You can visit his website at www.kimhanks.net.

A Writer's School Time
by Kim Hanks, author of Save the Best for Last

I grew up in a very small family, I don't know why my parents produced so few of us. I'm the only boy and the rest are girls and my elders. I started reading earlier than many pupils do during their primary schooling.

I was a book worm. I loved reading, even though I had no idea that in the future it would help me be a better author. I continue to read like that to this day. Whenever it came to reading aloud in literature and grammar classes, everybody knew that I truly enjoyed this. Not because others didn't know how read but I always did it with much more passion.

In all the schools I've studied in, I've been the most popular student because of my ways, performance, and my family back ground. Teachers treated me like one of their own children. One teacher, though, petitioned the school administration asking for my resignation as head perfect because I had exempted my classmates from his orders.

Did he succeed with his petition against his student? No. the school disciplinary committee saw found me innocent .

I was awestruck. How will the teacher look at me when his quest did not succeed? It looked magical to me. Even the school administration backed me for sparing my classmates in a pre-examination period,

I thought I would never speak to him again, as he left the school a few months later. But to my dismay, I didn't expect this. In course of the last month I received a parcel. At first I thought it was from my publisher or my lovely readers, who use snail mail. But the senders address was unfamiliar to me even though it was from a country I knew.

Inside was my book Save the Best for Last, accompanied by a letter. Who was it from?

Funny enough, Mr. Teacher had written to congratulate me on my book as soon as he got the news. I could not believe this, though it was true. Mr. Teacher was the only teacher who didn't get along well with me in all of my time in school and now he writes to me? He also asked me to sign the book copy in the parcel and then repost it using the SASE which was also inside. He was the first to do this.

Interview with Jamie Glazov, Author of United in Hate

Jamie Glazov holds a Ph.D. in history with specialties in U.S., Russian, and Canadian foreign policy. He is the managing editor of Frontpagemag.com.

You can visit Dr. Glazov at Frontpagemag.com.

About the Book:


United in Hate crystallizes the danger that a Barack Obama administration, if tilted too far left, presents to American security and global freedom.

As history shows, leftist beliefs have spawned mass carnage and misery. Put into practice, they have caused the deaths of millions. Until now, it has been extremely difficult for rational people who value personal freedom to understand the motivations of those who live in comfort and yet embrace monstrous dictators, ideologies, and policies that leave only death and destruction in their wake.

In United in Hate, Dr. Jamie Glazov presents startling new insights into the toxic beliefs and torturously contorted thought processes of the leftists who lust to destroy the very freedoms that allow them to exist. Glazov explains the Left’s love for and deification of totalitarian ideologies, from Marxism to radical Islam, with clarity and candor.

In this groundbreaking examination, Dr. Glazov at last reveals the vile and morbid forces that impel so-called “progressives” to embrace not just murderous ideologies such as Marxism and radical Islam, but the systematic elimination of all those standing in the way of their new utopia.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jamie. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I am the editor of Frontpagemag.com. I come from the Soviet Union and my parents were dissidents who stood up for freedom. I have been writing since I was 13 years old.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

My book is United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror. I wrote it because when I saw the Left celebrating 9/11 and taking the side of militant Islam in the terror war, I had to do an analysis of why the Left sides with monsters.

What kind of research was involved in writing United in Hate?

I researched the long history of the Left in terms of the tyrants in has worshipped. I studied the barbarity of militant Islam. And then I examined the Left’s veneration of this death cult.









How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

None. And it’s ok, because Linda Daly, the jacket designer, is brilliant and accomplished something that is brilliant.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Bumpy ride.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

About the span of a year.

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United in Hate by Jamie Glazov can be purchased by clicking here. Leave a comment for Kimberly and you could win a free virtual book tour for yourself or a $50 Amazon gift certificate!

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Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

Her name Lynne Rabinoff and she made it possible. She’s terrific, a true professional. I would recommend an agent, especially Lynne, to everyone.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Night writer

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

I’d buy a giant ad in the greatest newspapers and magazines.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Self-promotion is crucial. I know a lot of people because I am an editor and reach out to them.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Just work hard and make contacts.

Thank you for this interview, Jaime. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Visit Frontpagemag.com where I am the editor. Go to Amazon.com to buy United in Hate.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Interview with Katherine Center, Author of Everyone is Beautiful

Katherine Center’s second novel, Everyone Is Beautiful, is featured in the March issue of Redbook. Kirkus Reviews likens it to the 1950s motherhood classic Please Don't Eat the Daisies, and says, "Center’s breezy style invites the reader to commiserate, laughing all the way." Booklist calls it "a superbly written novel filled with unique and resonant characters." Katherine's first novel, The Bright Side of Disaster, was featured in People Magazine, USA Today, Vanity Fair, the Houston Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. BookPage named Katherine one of seven new writers to watch, and the paperback of Bright Side was a Breakout Title at Target. Katherine recently published an essay in Real Simple Family and has another forthcoming in Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers on the Mother-Daughter Bond this April. She has just turned in her third novel, Get Lucky, and is starting on a fourth. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and two young children. You can visit her website at www.katherinecenter.com.

About the Book:

Lanie Coates’ life is spinning out of control. She’s piled everything she owns into a U-Haul and driven with her husband, Peter, and their three little boys from their cozy Texas home to a multiflight walkup in the Northeast. She’s left behind family, friends, and a comfortable life–all so her husband can realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. But somewhere in the eye of her personal hurricane, it hits Lanie that she once had dreams too. If only she could remember what they were.

These days, Lanie always seems to rank herself dead last–and when another mom accidentally criticizes her appearance, it’s the final straw. Fifteen years, three babies, and more pounds than she’s willing to count since the day she said “I do,” Lanie longs desperately to feel like her old self again. It’s time to rise up, fish her moxie out of the diaper pail, and find the woman she was before motherhood capsized her entire existence.

Lanie sets change in motion–joining a gym, signing up for photography classes, and finding a new best friend. But she also creates waves that come to threaten her whole life. In the end, Lanie must figure out once and for all how to find herself without losing everything else in the process.

Katherine Center’s Everyone Is Beautiful is a hugely entertaining, poignant, and charming new novel about what happens after happily ever after: how a woman learns to fall in love with her husband–and her entire life–all over again.


Welcome to The Writer's Life, Katherine. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Forever. I’ve been writing ever since I could write! I wrote my first poem (about heartbreak) in Kindergarten. I can still recite it verbatim.

I wrote my first novel in sixth grade (about how all the members of Duran Duran fell in love with me). I’ve kept journals, written essays, lettered poetry onto metal signs.

I went on to get a Bachelor’s in English from Vassar College, where I won the Vassar College Fiction Prize, and then a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Houston’s writing program.

I’m also married to a great—and very funny—guy, and we have two little kids. We live in Texas.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?


I wanted to write a love story about married people. And I wanted to write a story about a woman with little kids who decides to get her groove back.

My tagline for the book is: “What happens after happily ever after.” Though another I love is: “Love. Marriage. Chocolate cake.”

It’s a romantic comedy, which is my favorite genre. I love stories that find humor in day-to-day life. But it’s also kind of bittersweet, because my stories always wind up touching on how sadness and joy get tangled up together. I love stories that make you laugh and break your heart a little at the same time.

What kind of research was involved in writing Everyone is Beautiful?

My whole life is research! I am always paying attention to the comedy and tragedy of daily life—life with kids, husbands, responsibilities. These stories are not about me, exactly, but they come out of careful attention to all those little details.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

Ballantine sent me three ideas for covers, and there wasn’t even a question. The minute I saw that cupcake with that pinup girl on top, I said, “That’s it!” I never say no to cupcakes.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

Both!

Getting published is not easy, and I’ve gotten discouraged and Quit Writing Forever many times. For most of my 20s, I didn’t think I’d ever really make it happen. But I kept writing anyway because I just couldn’t stop. And then one day, my sister dared me to write a book. And I took the dare. And before I knew it, I’d written a novel—the best writing I’d ever done. And then I ran into a woman at the park who was a novelist, and she offered to send the first three chapters to her agent, and before I knew it, there was a bidding war for the book! It was crazy—and very lucky. In the end, it was a Cinderella story. But I scrubbed a lot of floors for a long time before my fairy godmother showed up.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

Two and a half years. Because this was the second in a two-book deal. So the first one came out first!

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

To sell a book, you need an agent. But you don’t need an agent to write! For writers out there who don’t have an agent, I’d say keep working on your writing. Write your essays or your stories and work on your craft. And then, at the same time, start blogging. Blogging is a great way to meet people and hook up with a writing community.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes! I have another two-book deal with Ballantine. I’ve just turned in my third novel, called Get Lucky, about a woman who offers to have a baby for her sister. And I’m about to start on my fourth.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I’m a carpool-line writer. Or a crayon-on-a-paper-towel-while-making-kids’-lunches writer. I’m definitely not a morning writer, because in the morning we are racing around getting my two little ones ready for school. And at night, I often fall asleep in my clothes.

A few times a year, my husband takes the kids for me and I go to a hotel—and it’s astonishing how much I can get done when it’s just me and the story.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

A housekeeper! And a cook! And a grocery-store shopper!! So that all I had to do was write and blog and hang out with my kids and my husband. So that all the busywork of life was taken care of and I could concentrate on what really matters. I think blogging is a great way to promote your work. But it takes time. And I’m always working with a deficit of time. I’d love to outsource the errands.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Self-promotion is vital. People are busy. They’ve got kids and dogs and jobs. You have to believe in what you’re doing, and be brave, and get out there!

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

I think there are only two reasons to write: If it makes you happy, or if it makes you miserable but you can’t seem to stop. (Both have been true for me.)

Either way, the best thing you can do is read a lot, take workshops, and work on your craft. That’s what you can control: the words on the page. You have to make sure that you’re doing your best work—even better than your best—before you start trying to publish. Otherwise, it’s backwards.

Thank you for coming, Katherine! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

My website is http://www.katherinecenter.com
My blog is http://katherinecenter.wordpress.com
And you can find Everyone Is Beautiful at Amazon or right out on the front tables at Borders and Barnes & Noble!




Thursday, March 19, 2009

Interview with John Knoerle, Author of Mystery/Thriller Novel A Pure Double Cross

John Knoerle’s first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, was optioned by Fox for a TV series. His second novel, The Violin Player, won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction. His new novel, A Pure Double Cross, is Book One of the American Spy Trilogy. John lives with his wife in Chicago. You can learn more about John at www.bluesteelpress.com.


Welcome to The Writer's Life, John. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?


I’ve been writing novels for over twenty years. I wrote screenplays before that, and comedy routines before that when I did stand-up and radio comedy way back in the 70s.


Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?


A Pure Double Cross is book one of a trilogy that follows a young man, Hal Schroeder, who was an OSS spy during WWII and returned home bitter and cynical from the horrors of war.


In book one he is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the Cleveland mob. But Hal has other ideas.


What kind of research was involved in writing A Pure Double Cross?


The book is set in 1945 Cleveland. I was lucky to have relatives who lived there in that era. I also traveled to Cleveland, my home town, and did extensive research at the Cleveland State Library.


Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?


A very bumpy road. Isn’t it always?


Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?


I have an agent. I’m lucky in that he is an old friend. I don’t know that having an agent is absolutely necessary but it sure is handy in getting to mainstream publishers.


Do you plan subsequent books?


A Pure Double Cross is book one of a trilogy. Book two, “A Despicable Profession,” will be published in about a year.


Are you a morning writer or a night writer?


I’m too old to write at night!


How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?


My publisher is currently running radio spots in Cleveland, the setting of the novel. My background in radio production came in very handy!


Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Consider self-publishing. Print on Demand has made it relatively inexpensive.


Thank you for coming, John! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?


Yes I would! www.bluesteelpress.com A Pure Double Cross is available at bookstores and Amazon.



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Interview with Shaila Abdullah, Author of Saffron Dreams

Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning author and designer, based in Austin, Texas. Her creative work focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of Pakistani women and their often unconventional choices in life. Her debut book, Beyond the Cayenne Wall, is a collection of stories about Pakistani women struggling to find their individualities despite the barriers imposed by society.

Among other accolades, the book won the Norumbega Jury Prize for Outstanding Fiction and the DIY Festival Award. Abdullah received a grant from the Hobson Foundation for her new novel, Saffron Dreams which is about the trials and tribulations of a 9/11 Muslim widow.

Abdullah has written several short stories, articles, and personal essays for various publications, such as Dallas Child, Web Guru, About Families, Sulekha, Women's Own, She, Fashion Collection and a magazine of the Daily Dawn newspaper called Tuesday Review, etc. She is a member of the Texas Writers' League.

A Pakistani-American, Abdullah is also a seasoned print, web, and multimedia designer as well. See a complete bio at http://www.shailaabdullah.com/bio.html


Welcome to The Writer's Life, Shaila. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog. I am a Pakistani-American author based in Austin, Texas. My creative work focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of Pakistani women and their often unconventional choices in life. I have been writing on and off since 1993. I have published several short stories, articles, and essays for various publications, including Women’s Own, She, Fashion Collection Sulekha, and Dallas Child. My new novel Saffron Dreams explores the tragedy of 9/11 from the perspective of a Muslim widow. I received a grant from Hobson Foundation for that body of work. My 2005 debut book, Beyond the Cayenne Wall is a collection of stories about Pakistani women struggling to find their individualities despite the barriers imposed by society. The collection won the Norumbega Jury Prize for Outstanding Fiction and the DIY Festival Award, among other accolades.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

In Saffron Dream, the protagonist Arissa Illahi, a veil-wearing Muslim woman, loses her husband in the tragedy of 9/11. Pregnant and alone, she discovers the unfinished manuscript of her husband and decides to finish it as a tribute to him. Her unborn son and her husband’s legacy provide a renewed sense of hope to Arissa as she struggles to put the pieces of her life back together. In the novel, I have attempted to capture how ordinary Muslims were affected by the tragedy of 2001—the silent majority who lead very normal lives and are law-abiding citizens of this land. They are the ones we never hear about because their lives are too ordinary to be the subject of the nightly news.

What kind of research was involved in writing Saffron Dreams?

There were many different pieces of the novel that required extensive research. The time and place where the tragedy unfolded, how it manifested, what were the dynamics of the situation, etc. Often it felt like feeling in the dark for one more piece to finish the puzzle. It’s amazing to watch a story unfold; it sometimes surprises even the author. The character of the protagonist’s son who was born with a rare disability required methodical research too. It involved interviewing parents of such children and really getting to know their daily struggles.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

Since I designed the cover of my 2005 debut collection, I deeply appreciate the fact that Modern History Press took into consideration my desire to design the book cover for Saffron Dreams. There are many things a book cover is supposed to do: engage the buyer, convey something about the story and leave the buyer wanting more. I will let the buyers decide whether the cover does all three and most importantly, how well.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

It is definitely not an easy path. I self published my first book too, simply out of a desire to break out in an otherwise tough market and had Saffron Dreams published through Modern History Press. Of course, it is much better to have a backing of an established publisher. There are more avenues open for marketing going the traditional route.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

The normal publication cycle is 9 months. I would say it took a year from the time I signed up with Modern History Press.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I had an agent for a while but we parted on good terms because we had very different ideas for my future. Finding an agent is probably not tough, but you have to be certain that when you do find one, that you have a united vision for your future.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Actually there are two books that I am currently considering. One is a novel about street children of Pakistan, a book that the protagonist is shown working on in Saffron Dreams and another is a young adult novel about an Indian teen torn between her passion for dancing and keeping the family business alive.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

Most of Saffron Dreams was written during the night because my days are usually so packed. I believe that if you are passionate about something, universe finds a way for you to get to it. Yes, I do have a very busy life but my work is what drives and motivates me.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

Distribute free copies to all the libraries in US and to college professors who teach Asian or Islamic studies and touch upon the historical significance of 9/11 as well as its effects on the broader Muslim-American community.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Whether you are published through a big or small publisher, you have to take some ownership of promoting your work. Although I have a publicist, I took an active part in putting together the press kit and promotion plan. Online communication has evolved considerably in the past few years with the eruption of new avenues for social networking and the novel ways of engaging readers like Goodreads and Facebook. For that reason, my publicist suggested kicking off the book release in the form of an online book launch which was pretty successful.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Ask any published author and they will tell you how discouraging the publishing world is. The rejection rate is close to 94% by some standards. Despite that, there were over 170,000 books published in the US alone last year. My advice to any aspiring writer is this, enter this field, if you are not afraid of rejection and can take criticism well. Write with humble goals in mind and don’t make fame your first and foremost objective. Finally, work hard to finesse your work and make persistence your friend.

Thank you for coming, Shaila! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

You can find a wealth of information on my website at www.shailaabdullah.com including a reading guide, excerpt, reviews, and buying information. For those with comments and questions, I can be reached at shailaabdullah@gmail.com. If you mention The Writers Life, you will receive a free e-book called A Taste of Saffron, containing recipes of dishes mentioned in Saffron Dreams. Readers who sign up for updates on my website will get a free excerpt of my 2005 book, Beyond the Cayenne Wall.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

10 Things People Don’t Know About Shaila Abdullah

Shaila Abdullah is an award-winning author and designer, based in Austin, Texas. Her creative work focuses on the strengths and weaknesses of Pakistani women and their often unconventional choices in life. Her debut book, Beyond the Cayenne Wall, is a collection of stories about Pakistani women struggling to find their individualities despite the barriers imposed by society.

Among other accolades, the book won the Norumbega Jury Prize for Outstanding Fiction and the DIY Festival Award. Abdullah received a grant from the Hobson Foundation for her new novel, Saffron Dreams which is about the trials and tribulations of a 9/11 Muslim widow.

Abdullah has written several short stories, articles, and personal essays for various publications, such as Dallas Child, Web Guru, About Families, Sulekha, Women's Own, She, Fashion Collection and a magazine of the Daily Dawn newspaper called Tuesday Review, etc. She is a member of the Texas Writers' League.

A Pakistani-American, Abdullah is also a seasoned print, web, and multimedia designer as well. See a complete bio at http://www.shailaabdullah.com/bio.html

10 Things People Don’t Know About Shaila Abdullah

1. As a little girl, the Muslim author studied at a Catholic School in Karachi.

2. She had an arranged marriage.

3. The author self-published her first book Beyond the Cayenne Wall to resounding success.

4. Because of her father’s eclectic group of friends, she was exposed to various faiths, beliefs, and methodologies growing up. She once participated in a Buddhist chant of “Nam Yo Ho Renge Kyo”–– a mantra to bring out the Buddha inside––with a visiting Japanese couple inside their Karachi home.

5. She is deathly afraid of public speaking and as luck would have it, her first book reading was in front of hundreds of people at a fundraiser in New York where she was the guest of honor.

6. A voracious reader in her early years, she read the entire collection of her father’s New Age books by the time she was 12.

7. Staring at age 9, she wrote and directed plays during summer vacation for her older cousins and wrote and illustrated storybooks for her friends.

8. Her very first job was an interior designer’s assistant at the age of 12.

9. She is an award-winning designer but she flunked art in sixth grade.

10. She wore braces, glasses and a bad perm in eighth grade.






From the darkest hour of American history emerges a mesmerizing tale of tender love, a life interrupted, and faith recovered. Arissa Illahi, a Muslim artist and writer, discovers in a single moment that no matter how carefully you map your life, it is life itself that chooses your destiny.

After her husband's death in the collapse of the World Trade Center, the discovery of his manuscript marks Arissa's reconnection to life. Her unborn son and the unfinished novel fuse in her mind into one life-defining project that becomes, at once, the struggle for her emotional survival and the redemption of her race.

Saffron Dreams is a novel about our ever evolving identities and the events and places that shape them. It reminds us that in the midst of tragedy, our dreams can become a lasting legacy.

You can purchase her book at Amazon by clicking here!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Interview with historical fiction author J.A. Hunsinger on books and the writing life

J. A. Hunsinger lives in Colorado, USA, with his wife Phyllis. The first novel of his character-driven, historical fiction series, Axe of Iron: The Settlers, represents his first serious effort to craft the story of a lifelong interest in the Viking Age—especially as it pertains to Norse exploration west of Iceland—and extensive research and archaeological site visitations as an amateur historian. He has tied the discovery of many of the Norse artifacts found on this continent to places and events portrayed in his novels.

Much of his adult life has been associated with commercial aviation, both in and out of the cockpit. As an Engineering Technical Writer for Honeywell Commercial Flight Systems Group, Phoenix, AZ, he authored two comprehensive pilots’ manuals on aircraft computer guidance systems and several supplemental aircraft radar manuals. His manuals were published and distributed worldwide to airline operators by Honeywell Engineering, Phoenix, AZ. He also published an article, Flight Into Danger, in Flying Magazine, (August 2002).

Historical Novel Society, American Institute of Archaeology, Canadian Archaeology Association, and IBPA-Independent Book Publishers Association, are among the fraternal and trade organizations in which he holds membership.

You can visit his website at www.vinlandpublishing.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Jerry. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?


I am a retired commercial pilot who has written full time over the last seven years. I no longer fly myself, nor am I actively engaged in aviation. I write every day and I began writing seriously in 1989 as an engineering technical writer for Honeywell Air Transport Systems Engineering. I have published several aviation trade papers, pilot’s aircraft computer, and flight system operating manuals, and aviation oriented magazine articles.


Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?


Axe of Iron: The Settlers is my first novel. It is a character-driven, historical fiction book. The story is told by my characters and the reader sees the events through their eyes. I have had a lifelong interest in the medieval Norse people. That interest is focused on the five hundred year history of the Norse Greenland settlements. The mystery surrounding the abandonment of the two known settlements and the disappearance of every single person living therein has captured my imagination. Years of research has led me to believe that they did not disappear, rather they assimilated with the natives of North America. My series of books tell a plausible tale in support of that contention. No other author has ever treated the subject the way I have.


What kind of research was involved in writing Axe of Iron: The Settlers?


I have an extensive library of university papers, textbooks, DVD’s, and archaeological journals on the subject of the Vikings and everything known about their culture and accomplishments. I have been traveling to Viking sites in northern Europe since 1982, beginning with the discovery of the old Viking town buried under modern York, England. After twenty-seven years, I have seen many of the sites as well as artifacts displayed in museums throughout Scandinavia. Much of my research could not have been done without the Internet. The alternative to online research is travel and that is expensive and time consuming.


How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?


The book cover was painted from my pencil sketch of a scene from The Settlers, by a local artist and friend, Glenda Scheuerman, CO. She will paint all of the book cover images for the Axe of Iron series.


Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?


It has been a nightmare because of the time and money wasted while I learned the business. I wish I could say that there is lots of help out there for the newbie’s, but actually, the reverse is true. You are prey swimming in the shark’s pool—take heed. Do your homework, believe nobody, and get everything in writing, research, research, and research. Even then, you will have picked the worst time in the world’s economy to enter the business.


For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?


Eight months to release via my distributor, AtlasBooks, and eleven months to the official publication date for the book trade. The two dates are seldom the same.


Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?


I do not have an agent and I think that they are unnecessary and costly. That said, an author cannot deal directly with a traditional publisher. That is not an accidental accommodation. Infer whatever you wish from that statement. Unless you already have name recognition, or your book is controversial insofar as its subject and content, you can forget finding an agent.


Do you plan subsequent books?


There will be at least six books in my continuing Axe of Iron series. Each subsequent book will begin where the previous book ended. And there are many more, of differing subjects, that I want to write given the time.


Are you a morning writer or a night writer?


Both, but I have also written from first light to toddy time in the evening.


If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?


I would hire someone to do all the promotion, as I do not have time to do it correctly. The Internet is key. Traditional book signings, road shows, and print ads will produce minimal sales when you factor in the cost, and you must do that. The Internet is cheap by comparison, the exposure is mind-boggling, and the results will eventually show it to be the best way to market any product.


How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?


I have gotten my name out there in every way possible for me to do personally and the effort is vital to success. Google my byline, J. A. Hunsinger, or the name of my book, Axe of Iron: The Settlers and the first five or six windows that pop up will all be different sites who are advertising my book. I am proud of that, but one can always do more. Amazon is very important, sign up for everything that they have for authors. I also have a website (vital to success) http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/.

And a blog http://www.vinlandpublishing.blogspot.com/


Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?


Do your homework on the submission guidelines for any query. All will have their own guidelines; adhere to them absolutely. Do not ever send a manuscript unless it is requested. Hire professional editors to edit everything that another person will read, especially the final draft of your manuscript. An English teacher is not an editor and you cannot edit your own work, so hire someone. Your professionalism will determine whether you ever make the grade. A shabby cover letter on your submission packet will guarantee its demise. Agents and publishers are busy people and they have no time to waste on people who do not follow the submission guidelines.


Thank you for coming, Jerry! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?


E-mail: jahunsinger@vinlandpublishing.com

Website: http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/

Book Order Link (Distr): http://www.atlasbooks.com/marktplc/02175.htm

Book Order Link (Website): http://www.vinlandpublishing.com/index.php?page_id=278. From the website, there are options for both print and e-Books from several different vendors, including Amazon, B & N, etc.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How to Publish Your Book Using Print-on-Demand by R. Scot Johns

How To Publish Your Book Using Print-On-Demand

© R. Scot Johns 2009


There are many options and opportunities for self-publishing these days, with the continued development of Print-On-Demand technologies and internet marketing strategies, but here I will lay out as simply as possible how I went about it, and why I chose to do so.

Using Print-On-Demand, or POD for short, a single copy of a book can now be printed to order, and delivered to the distributor within 24 hours. What this means for the independent self-publisher is that large initial press runs - with their equally large initial costs - are no longer necessary, nor are stocking and shipping of the inventory by the author.

Because POD presses are computer-fed, they can continue to run non-stop 24/7 while spewing out an endless stream of data, somewhere amidst which can be any number of your own pages. And because they are not printed until a book is sold, the cost of production is simply subtracted from the selling price and the author/publisher is given what is left. The book is shipped directly from the printer to the distributor and thence to the buyer, with the author never even seeing the product in between.

There are a great many companies that offer publishing services to authors, but there is only one that you should really consider if you wish to be a true self-publisher, and that is Lightning Source. Lightning Source is a sister-company of Ingram Books, and because of this you not only get POD production services, but automatic distribution through a listing in the Ingram database, which gets you automatically placed on Amazon and B&N.com, along with many other e-commerce outlets. No other POD service can offer you this kind of immediate visibility, and I can tell you it is absolutely key to the success of your book.

The biggest difficulty facing self-published works is their lack of marketing. Getting listed on Amazon is critical, and although there are many ways to do this, an Ingram-sourced listing is the best because it offers you the greatest wealth of bells and whistles to get your book seen and ranked in product searches, and without good visibility you will have no sales. There are many marketing options available on Amazon, but for now I will only say that Amazon will be your foremost ally in your effort to create a successful marketing campaign. Believe me, they want to sell your book as much as you do! And, of course, if you’re also aiming at brick-and-mortar stores, Ingram is where they get their listings, although getting them to stock it on their shelves is another matter altogether.

The steps you’ll need to undertake to get your book in print are as follows:

1) Establish yourself as a Publisher
You do this by purchasing a block of ISBN numbers from Bowker in the U.S. or Nielson BookData in the U.K. You can buy a single ISBN for $150, but unless you never plan to write another book you'll want to get a block of ten, which costs only $275 and gives you your own publisher identifier - the set of digits that are all the same within the block of ten. You'll want to start this process as early as possible, at least a month or two before your publication date. Congratulations! You are now a publisher.

2) Get BISAC/BIC Classifications
These are the subject categories under which you want your book assigned. In the U.S. you'll want to go to bisg.org and in the U.K. to bic.org.uk for the official listings from which you can choose the ones you think best fit. In the U.S. you can also find categories at the Library of Congress catalog. These will be drawn upon in many places where your book is listed, such as Amazon, who uses them for search and ranking classifications.

3) Complete your Cover Art and Layout
Okay, your book is written, now you need some cover art and layout done. I did my own, but there are many options when it comes to both. Just make sure the cover looks professional and sharp, so that you can read the title clearly and it stands out on a web page. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but unless your cover really rocks the book will never reach the judges.

4) Get Advance Reviews and Comments
Another thing you'll want to do well in advance of publication is obtain some reviews. Send your manuscript out to anyone you know who might write a fair and legible evaluation of your work, particularly if they have any legitimate credentials related to your topic or to literature in general. This is critical to generating some initial buzz, as well as giving you material to post in your Amazon listing and on the back cover or initial pages of the book.

5) Get a Lightning Source account
To set up with Lightning Source you will need a business name, as they only deal with publishers, not individual authors. Even if, like me, you're just a one-man show, you're still a publisher to Lightning Source, so be professional. Enter your Publisher Prefix from your ISBN block, and list yourself as the “owner” of a Sole Proprietorship. You'll want "Publisher Direct Ordering" if you ever want to purchase copies for yourself at wholesale, and you definitely want "Wholesale Distribution." This is what will get you onto Amazon and other online e-tailers. You can also sign up for eBook services if you like. Lastly, you'll need to provide a bank account to which Lightning Source can deposit your earnings and from which it will withdraw your title setup and listing fees. There is no cost to set up a Lightning Source account, only for book submissions.

6) Submit your Title Data to Lightning Source
Before submitting the actual manuscript you need to establish a listing for your title, which is a fairly extensive process requiring the input of a lot of data, after which Lightning Source will provide you with a custom template for your cover art, which will include a barcode on the back with the ISBN you have assigned to it. You do this using the New Title Setup link from your account page. Here you’ll list the publication date, choose your retail price, enter the discount you’ll offer to retailers, and add a short description of your book. For more detailed information on how to determine your price and discount, visit my blog at http://authoradventures.blogspot.com, where I go into it in more depth.

7) Create PDF files and submit them to Lightning Source
Once your text and art are finalized you will need to create two files: one containing all the interior material and one the outer jacket art. These both need to be in PDF format, and for the cover must comply with fairly tight requirements of size and quality. Lightning Source has several tutorials and templates to guide you through the process, but it can be fairly daunting to the uninitiated. Once you have these files, go to the title page that you created in the last step and upload them to Lightning Source. After a week or so the files will be approved (or rejected with instructions on what to fix), and a proof sent out. When your proof arrives, check it thoroughly for any errors, with a ruler in hand to measure margins and header spacing. Now is the time to catch any discrepancies that might creep in. Once you're certain all is well, go to your account page and approve the proof. As soon as you do your book will be available for ordering, and Amazon will soon be selling it by the truckload, even if there’s only one copy on the truck!

R. Scot Johns is a life-long student of ancient and medieval literature, with an enduring fascination for Norse mythology and epic fantasy. He first came to Beowulf through his love of J. R. R. Tolkien, a leading scholar on the subject. As an Honors Medieval Literature major he has given lectures on such topics as the historical King Arthur and the construction of Stonehenge. He owns and operates Fantasy Castle Books, his own publishing imprint, and writes the blog Adventures of an Independent Author, where you can follow his progress as he writes The Jester’s Quest, his second novel. You can visit his website at www.fantasycastlebooks.com.

Interview with Epic Fantasy Author R. Scot Johns


R. Scot Johns is a life-long student of ancient and medieval literature, with an enduring fascination for Norse mythology and epic fantasy. He first came to Beowulf through his love of J. R. R. Tolkien, a leading scholar on the subject. As an Honors Medieval Literature major he has given lectures on such topics as the historical King Arthur and the construction of Stonehenge. He owns and operates Fantasy Castle Books, his own publishing imprint, and writes the blog Adventures of an Independent Author, where you can follow his progress as he writes The Jester’s Quest, his second novel. You can visit his website at www.fantasycastlebooks.com.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Scot. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

I’ve been writing for about twenty years now, give or take. Unlike many authors, I never really wrote much when I was a kid, although I’ve always been an avid reader. But in 1988 I had a dream that changed my life, and I’ve been writing ever since. It was one of those wholly lucid dreams where you wake up but you’re still immersed in the dream world, with every detail firmly in your mind. So vivid was it, that instead of rolling over and going back to sleep as I probably should have, I grabbed a pen and paper and started writing madly to get it down before it disappeared into that mystic void from which such dreams are spun. The next day I went down to the youth ranch and bought a beat-up manual typewriter and set up a table in my attic, where I started writing The Jester’s Quest, which will be my next book.
Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

After writing some five chapters or so of The Jester’s Quest, I decided that if I was going to make a serious effort at writing a novel I needed to learn the tools of the craft. And so at 28 I went to college for the first time and studied English Lit and creative writing for the next six years. During that time I was introduced to Beowulf more than once, and having already read it once due to my love of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work, who was himself greatly inspired by this oldest of English epic tales, I delved deeper into it, eventually learning Anglo-Saxon so that I could do my own translation from the original language. For some reason the story really spoke to me, whether for its poignant themes of loyalty and courage, or the conflicts of clan and kin, of love and honor, or its timeless warning that violence begets more violence, it was a story that I felt deserved a vastly broader audience than the endless procession of disinterested students who grumble and groan over it at midterm.
What kind of research was involved in writing The Saga of Beowulf?

Aside from undertaking a complete translation of the 3200-line Old English poem, I studied the history of academic criticism of the poem from its first partial transcription in 1705 to the present day. But more importantly was a thorough study of the contents of the poem: of the story that it told, and the discovery that part of it was true. The overlying structure of Beowulf is a mythic folk tale of Nordic origin, complete with marauding monsters and a fire-breathing dragon. But underneath this is a story of a people searching for their place in history, forging a civilization from the cold, hard rock of northern Europe. This led me from the 6th century Historia Francorum of Gregory of Tours, in which the death of the Geat king Hygelac is recounted, to the later 12th and 13th century Icelandic sagas, including Hrolf Kraki’s Saga, from which we learn the tragic tale of Yrsa, unwitting wife and daughter to her own brother Halga.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

100%. I created the cover art myself, using Corel Painter and Photoshop with a brand new pen tablet that I purchased just for the purpose. Although I’ve done art for many years using traditional medium like watercolor and pen & Ink, this is the first piece of entirely digital artwork that I’ve done. I did sketch the basic design in pencil first, including the title font design, but the rest was done entirely in the computer.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

I imagine it’s always a bumpy ride, unless you’ve already achieved celebrity some other way. The truth is I didn’t spend much time courting publishers and agents – I sent out some fifty queries to agents and just three to publishers, the last of which I’ve still not heard from to this day. But I decided instead of waiting endlessly for someone else to determine how my life would go that I would take matters into my own hands. I’d already done all the work myself up to this point: the writing and the editing, the cover art and illustrations, the layout and typography, and of course, the proposals with their requisite marketing analysis. And so, in the grand tradition of Twain and Franklin, I started my own publishing company.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

It was a little more than a year of waiting from the time I sent my first queries out until I started working on establishing my own publishing house. Once I bought my ISBN block and registered by DBA there was no turning back. From that point it was about three months before I saw my book in print.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

I think agents are a thing of the past, just as the major trade publishers are heading rapidly toward their downfall. That’s not to say there aren’t good agents out there, or that they can’t be really useful. But the playing field has changed, and will continue to do so for some time, with POD technology and eBooks on the brink of taking over a major portion of the industry. It’s my firm belief that ultimately it should be the readers who decide what should remain in print, and what is utter rubbish, not some overworked flunky intern who bases their decision entirely on the first two sentences of a manuscript that took its authors years to write. I completely understand the overwhelming state that agents and editors find themselves in on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean that we authors should entrust our careers and futures to the hands of someone who at best only has the time to give a cursory glance at the work we’ve crafted with the blood and sweat of own hands. The last response that I received from an agent who purported represented fantasy fiction said simply this: “364,000 words, are you kidding?” I wrote back: “Have you never heard of Tad Williams?” I’ve never sent another query since, nor likely ever will.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Absolutely. I have several planned, including a multi-volume historical epic that will span ten thousand years of human history. But, as I have mentioned, my next project will be The Jester’s Quest, a classic fantasy adventure fraught with magic and mayhem and a pantheon of very peculiar characters, revolving around a poor fool who unluckily falls in love with the king’s only daughter.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I write when I can, but I prefer the evenings, because it takes my brain a good long while to get itself into gear most days. But as I have a day job, much of my writing is done late at night and well into the wee hours of morning when I really should be sleeping. Sometimes on weekends I’ll get a pot of coffee going and write for twelve hours straight before realize I never had breakfast. Those are the best days, though not so much for my stomach.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

My own chain of bookstores in every major city throughout the world, each equipped with an Espresso Book Machine and coffee bar. Then a jet so I could fly from one to the next and chat with readers every day. The EBM is a wonderful invention that I’m very excited about, and if you haven’t heard of it, you can find more information on my blog. Basically, it’s a kiosk-type machine, much like a Redbox, with a touch-screen interface that’s linked to Ingram’s database, and with a swipe of your card it will print and bind your book to order in just five minutes flat. There are now about a dozen of them in use, primarily in libraries and universities around the world, but I’m hoping they will find a larger market, as my book can be printed from them.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?


Self-promotion is really the only kind of promotion most authors get, and I’ve done quite a lot of it over the past few months. I’ve done interviews and giveaways, submitted and received reviews, built a website and write a blog; I network on MySpace and Facebook, have accounts on LibraryThing and GoodReads, as well as many others; I’ve done extensive work in beefing up my Amazon listings with additional material, posted the book on Google Books, and listed it on a myriad of sites and forums such as MyBooksOut and Published.com; I’ve made a promo video and posted it on YouTube and Google and several other sites as well. I had bookmarks printed up and give them out to everyone I meet. I run a GoogleAd campaign off and on as I can afford to, as well as MySpace ads and a banner ad here or there. There are, in fact, so many avenues to explore that an author could spend the rest of their life promoting just one book. But at some point you need to get on with writing another one, so I decided to do this blog tour as something of a final media blitz before turning my attention to the next book. I’ll keep blogging regularly, and in order to keep in touch with readers, I plan to post my writing sessions for The Jester’s Quest on the blog each day. That way, not only will I keep promoting myself as an author, but my readers can be involved in the development of the next book. One thing I’ve discovered about advertising is that there’s a lot of room for creative marketing!

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Read. Read all the time. Read voraciously. But most of all, read critically. Learn to distinguish good writing from bad in others so that you can see it in your own. Be highly critical of everything you read, and most of all yourself. And when you write something good, reward yourself for it, then get back to work.

Thank you for coming, Scot! Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: You can find my blog, The Adventures of an Independent Author, at http://authoradventures.blogspot.com, and my publisher website at www.fantasycastlebooks.com. There’s a ton of stuff there to check out, including free downloads of sample chapters and video, as well as wallpaper and bookmarks you can print out, and a wealth of other fun stuff – including a Norse Rune decoder, which those of you who have read the book will understand the reason for! The Saga of Beowulf can be ordered directly from either of these sites, in both print edition – including autographed copies! – or four eBook formats for immediate download. It’s also available through virtually every online book retailer, including Amazon in print and Kindle formats. You should also be able to special order it through your local Barnes & Noble or your favorite independent bookstore.