Presently I have two very big influences in my life. One is trying to get my writing persona established and off of the ground, the other is a massive restore-o-vation of the very old farmhouse I live in. Neither are for the faint of heart. It takes a special kind of crazy to face insurmountable odds and go “Eh… what’s the worst that can happen?”
Life evolves. There’s no two ways around it. Things that were important one day, may not be so important the next. Likewise, something you never thought to be a consideration maybe become the burning desire that spurs you to action. Between renovation and writing I have found a few simple truths.
1. Each one is a lot of work.
2. If I don’t do it, no one will.
3. The heat is in the tools.
#3, obviously being the entire point of this exercise, is the important factor here. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly it could mean, in either context. The answer is fairly simple: Activity keeps you sharp (and warm).
When you’re ripping apart a 160 year old house in the dead of winter, you start to appreciate the concept of movement. To stand still is to be cold. There is no progress. There is no warmth. There is an overwhelming urge just to give up. Too hard. Too cold. Too dark. Your mind becomes your own worst enemy. Before long you have yourself talked into a nice coffee shop and a cup of coco. But the cave remains, haunting your moments of relaxation and warmth. Only when hammer hits wall do you meet true feelings of satisfaction.
That work in progress is the same way. Be it marketing or manuscripts, sitting and staring blankly at things on results in cold frustration. I like to mull things over, but if it goes too long ambition starts to flag. Ideas fall by the wayside. And it’s just plain easier not to. To write is to work. The catch to being a writer is: you have to write. Even the best imagination imagination in the world can’t call themselves a writer if they don’t put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard.)
It’s hard, but the best thing to do is keep hammering away. Even when you’re tired. Even when you’re bored. Even when you think you don’t have time to spare. (And yes, I am trying to convince myself of this as well!)
It’s the only way to knock those walls down and build something great.
The past calendar month has been pretty much fabulous. And insanely busy.
Mid September I had the privilege of having a signing at the Erie Book Store. I had no idea what to expect, but everything went great. It was great to get the support of my friends, family and complete strangers. I didn’t sell out but I came darn close!
Just this past weekend I was camped out at my booth at Eerie Horror Fest. The weekend went great and I got to meet and talk to people I never would have imagined. It was my first ‘con’ and I had no idea what to expect walking in. Would my set up look ok? Would I even sell a single thing? Would people just eat all of my candy and never make eye contact?…. (the answer to that one is yes.)
(Note to self: I’m not sure another time I’ve used the word ‘great’ in such a high concentration.)
November isn’t much more likely to be settling down, I’ll just be navigating a different set of hoops. My yearly stint of NaNoWriMo is looming and I can’t resist the call. My friends and family know to leave me alone and/or bring me food for the month of November. It works for me. This year I’ll have the added obstacle of trying to draft my upcoming novel while being bi-coastal. Because 50,000 words in 30 days isn’t enough of a challenge, clearly. I’m hoping I can pull it off, though I doubt the story will end there.
This is one I’ve been wanting to tell for a LONG time.
Finally some solid links for the upcoming events! I’ve been busy making connections, and Fall 2013 is starting to get booked.
September 14, 2013 from 1pm – 3pm I will be having a book signing at the Erie Book Store. The event listing can be found on Facebook.
October 18 – 20, 2013 at the Warner Theater in Erie, PA I also having a booth at the Eerie Horror Film Fest. Come keep this ghoul company during 3 days and 3 nights of reckless horror abandon. In addition to books, there will be some teasers for my upcoming works and the opportunity to see some of the work of Shane Montross, first hand!
My first book signing has been confirmed! September 14th, I will be having a signing at the Erie Book Store. I am both excited and anxious.
Up to now I’ve kept my identity… obscured… in my publications. There are a variety of reasons, but most of them come back to my day job and the potential clash of realities.
There is the question of who I want to be. Who am I? This part of me? It’s not the part that sits pushing technical documents around 8 hours a day. It’s not the part of me that’s expected to be responsible, reasonable and a good example at all times. It’s my artistic side. The side that gets to flex her mind, think outside the box and stir up mischief. The side that gets paid for pushing people into woodchippers. <spoilers>
How do I bring what’s inside, out?
“I am me.” That’s a phrase I often used in adolescences to give myself solace that being different might not be such a bad thing. But the truth is that on the surface, I’m not so different; just your ordinary, average office worker. Nothing to see here. But that’s not who I want to be, that’s who I’m expected to be.
So what’s a girl to do when the facets of her identity are at odds with each other? How do I show who I am and not the facade I’m expected to maintain on a daily basis?
If anyone has some suggestions, I’m all ears…
I’m not good at tooting my own horn. Sitting quietly and observing is much more my style. It’s what allows me to take in the world around me and paint it on to the page. But with self-publishing, the responsibility of self-promotion falls squarely on my shoulders.
Posting on websites is a fairly passive, low risk venue to get your name out there. Every day I find a new venue I should be using. A little time, and I can happily work through the websites.
But now I’m looking at a book signing. There is a book store here that loves to promote local authors. Once I get a schedule figured out, it will be full steam ahead. I’m going to have to smile, talk to strangers, probably prepare an elevator speech just to be on the safe side, and gather my promo materials. It’s both exciting and nerve wracking, especially for someone like me who likes to be over-prepared.
My mind is swirling with ‘what ifs’ and all of the things I’ve ‘heard’ you should do. I’m sure it will turn out fine, but figuring everything out is half the fun.
In retrospect, I’ve always been a writer. I say ‘retrospect’ because even now, sometimes I have hard time actually calling myself a writer. I surely didn’t believe it back then.
Rarely did I have an audience, or any desire to pass on my musings to anyone other than my closest friends. A long span of time was spent post-college working on semi-academic pursuits. Essays responding to the experience and situations of my chosen profession. True, but often jaded snippets of my professional life and getting my legs in the world of the drone worker.
I hope I can find them.
Time has passed and these sentiments have been in the dusty file cabinet in the back of my mind for a long time. Being young and idealistic is sometimes a horrible fate, but that’s when you have the most energy to swim upstream.
Still, I used those opportunities as a tool and/or excuse to keep myself writing. Did anyone care? Not really. But it gave me a good reason to sit there and pound away at my keyboard without drawing too many questions.
In the wee hours, my work was different. The occasional short story. A start to a novel here and there that never made it past page 5. And poetry. Lots and lots of poetry.
Journaling was also a good outlet for working through my thoughts, and sometimes I do revisit those entries. More snapshots of my life. In a mere few words I shoot back in time and remember the exact smell and feel of the situation. I rarely journaled about happy things though, so tripping down memory lane can be bittersweet if not bemusing.
But it all adds to the tapestry of thought and experience that is ‘me’. And sometimes finding a phrase, or a quote, that was inspirational 10 years ago can jog a feeling or a whole new idea that can be applied to things today.
Each page is a seed from which a larger idea can grow. They keep me thinking, pushing, tracing my evolution and future aspirations. Maybe I should really call them “Lessons to Myself.” Conclusions I made so many years ago still ring true today.
“Don’t forget yourself,” being one of my favorites. But every so often, I do. And every so often I’m there to remind myself.
Houses of the Broken is starting to hit the expanded distribution network. Now available at Barnes and Noble online!
I spent so much time at Barnes and Noble in my formative literary years, I had every section memorized. It’s where we went to talk, to learn, to browse, to sample all of the exotic music you couldn’t find just anywhere. It was the first bookstore/cafe in our area, and we drank it up. I still wish they made the Italian Cream Sodas I grew to love… every so often I feel nostalgic. This was before Borders, before Starbucks and before books came inside slabs of silicone.
Giddily, we’d walk down the aisles of our favorite sections, looking for new covers we hadn’t seen before, enticing us to touch them, heft them and see how the pages felt flipping through our fingers. At that age it was probably best that I had to be thrifty with my money. I had to choose… carefully… what next adventure I wanted to take home with me. I rarely left empty handed, if I had a choice.
I admit, I still like the feel of a trade paperback. Hardcovers are nice, but just too pristine. The paperback, ideally one that fits in your pocket, is a great companion. It goes everywhere with you, there to quell your boredom or sooth the anxiety while waiting for something unpleasant. The tattered edges growing dark from use and life experience. Favorite pages creased from being read again, and again, and committed to a memory always held close to the heart.
But now we have iPhone and Google for that…
With any luck my newly posted Kindle book will behave. I say luck because it took 2 of us working on multiple attempts to even get close to some consistent formatting. I don’t know where the ‘easy’ button was for this transition, but they sure hid it well.
Only when researching in the depths of the forums did the real truth come out… complications. Formatting issues. Shifting images and line spacing… Even now, while it looked good on the preview, I still can’t be truly… perfectly sure… that it will look right on the various devices and formats…
So I’ll cross my fingers and share the link… the content is there… if only it looked pretty…
See what I did there?
I’ve been sitting on pins and needles since the launch of Houses of the Broken last week. To put it mildly, I’ve learned a lot. It’s been interesting watching how Createspace and Amazon handle the publishing, and sales. And torturous as to how long it takes for sales to report from the various outlets.
Every day I check my ‘sales’ list, and my Amazon ranking. Some days I’m happy, some days I’m said, some days I’m just plain confused. I need to get a better media blitz together, but it’s difficult when no one returns your inquiries… I could argue back from a ‘no,’ flat out ignoring is a lot harder.
In many ways, it’s what I expected: It’s a lot of work. It’s a leap of faith. It’s not great for immediate gratification or questionable self esteem. And Kindle formatting… good grief. Don’t let the ‘it’s easy as pie!’ sales speech from CS or Amazon fool you. If you have a formatted file for a print book… be prepared to completely reformat it. This is still a work in progress and I even have people to help. I’m already wondering if the $69 fee to convert it in CS might have been worth it… but I’m the stubborn sort, and I like to know how things work for myself. So… Kindle version will be out… eventually… Besides, spreading out the action should be good… I think.
For now, I’m keeping an eye on the sales numbers vs. the number of copies that are showing up in people’s hands. If they don’t match, I’m not going to be a happy camper and that will lead to a whole other series of blog posts in the future. But for now… I must wait.
Take a chance on me!
Now available in print, and soon in Kindle format, Houses of the Broken.
Anna Shaw never intended to go home again. On the run from her demons since an early age, she never looked back to her sadistic father and the family she left behind to suffer at his hand. But with age comes the nostalgic longing for the familiar, and after years of distance from her estranged family, the only contact remaining to Anna — her sweet baby sister Lacey– uses their mother’s illness to lure her back into the fold one last time.
What starts as a bittersweet family reunion with her ailing mother and four of the younger siblings Anna so willingly abandoned as a teenager soon becomes a snare of animosity and deceit, proving once and for all that the perverse legacy of their father is more than just skin deep. And when the handsome stranger Anna met on the arduous journey back to her family shows up on Lacey’s doorstep with her vagabond sister, Silver, Anna discovers that her gruesome tendencies are not just hers alone.
With no one left to lead the family, Silver and Anna fiercely struggle for control of a twisted birthright. Anna must face a difficult reality that gives her only one choice to stop the fraternal darkness from spreading, setting off a chain of events that will leave her an unsure fate and no place left to call home.
Houses of the Broken is currently available at the following outlets:
June 24, 2013 | Categories: Blog, Houses of the Broken, News, Works | Tags: amazon, author, book, CreateSpace, NaNoWriMo, novel, photographs, publishing, self publishing, writer, writing | Leave a comment
Katherine Alton is a professional designer and an amateur herbalist who enjoys burying things in her garden. An avid fan of dystopian literature, she was drawn to the bittersweet and the macabre at an early age. Unable to shirk the unrelenting gray skies of the Great Lakes region, Katherine has been working on finding more constructive outlets for her creative impulses.
That don’t involve digging.
It has arrived. Snuck right up behind me, in fact, a day early. My hands trembled in excitement as I tugged at the packaging. In a moment, the reveal. Glossy cover, straight spine, not a bad heft… my PROOF is here.
I flipped through the pages, surveying what I could at a glance. Text right? Check. Images formatted? Check. Any obvious glitches? Nope. So far so good. Closer inspection… where did that ‘s’ go… gah, there’s another one missing…
Yes, there are typos. After all the eyes and editing, there are still typos not willing to reveal themselves until they’re in glaring black and white. But I’ll find them., as many as I can. I still have time.
There will be tweaks inside and out. Little things. Picky things. Things to add more polish and shine, but overall I am very very pleased. And soon it will be ready for public consumption.
But will the public be ready?
This is the theme of the week and this potentially wine laced tirade. Nothing has worked right the first time, but perseverance is paying off. I hope.
I bought ISBN numbers. Or at least I thought I did. A few hours later my celebration was cut short by a note from customer service… somehow I had managed to log in to their site during a test phase. So neither my account, nor the numbers I bought were valid.
Try, try again.
ISBN numbers re-claimed, profile re-established, onward to the final phase. Createspace and uploading! *the crowd goes wild* The proof comes up, I start to page through it. The few minor image issue flagged aren’t really important until…
Where did my header go? *crap*
I had wanted blank pages in the front of the template, which CS hadn’t provided. Apparently in my previous attempt to insert them, I manage to scrub out the header information in the entire file. Not good news. Thankfully there was a formatting fairy to the rescue, and I was able to get the doc fixed to re-upload. On to the cover.
Oh, we only take PDF not JPEG. *sigh* Ok… cue email to my friend doing cover art. //facepalm.
It’s taken 2 tries on everything this week, but things seem to be working… now I wait to hear from CS and see if my info and files are all up to snuff.
And now we wait, until the morning…
The coffee is coursing through my veins this morning. I guess that’s what happens when it’s a freshly opened can. I want to do everything and nothing, all at the same time. Or at least, everything I want to be doing is nothing I ‘should’ be doing right now, which happens to me more than I’d like to admit.
But I bit the bullet. Made the leap. Bought some ISBN’s. After all of my fussing and fretting I went with the 10-pack. Now I get to figure out how the whole process works as I finalize my interior file. This is turning into a busy week, iron after iron plunging deep into the fire. Photos to edit, files to upload, design meetings to be had, social media marketing to post…. and then there’s my day job, which try as I might, does not appreciate being ignored for shinier, more exciting (to me) things.
I’ve come to realize in recent years that the Universe loves to subject me to the ‘all or nothing’ approach. If I’m doing one thing, 10 more pop up. If I have nothing to do, I can’t stir anything up to save my live. I guess it averages out but it’s like having your cake and getting the batter jet pumped straight into your bloodstream.
Folgers don’t fail me now…
Getting close. So close I can taste if. If that would be a normal thing to do with a book, of course.
Wrapping up the odds and ends, formatting. Dotting T’s, crossing I’s… and maybe getting a little punchy in the process. I spent a good part of the past two days trying to decided what I want to do with my ISBN. I know I can’t use the free one and do what I want to do, but then I start looking at options like buying your own, buying blocks… etc.
I’m the frugal sort. I like to buy in bulk. Do I really need a block of 10 numbers? It’s a crapshoot.
My heart sank for a moment today when I read that I needed a separate number for the e-book as well. I think I may have audibly hallucinated some antique cash registers chiming in the distance. I’m not afraid to put a little money out for the product, but I want it to be a reasonable risk/reward. What it comes down to is I want to be prepared, but not over do it.
The short version is, for what I want to do, I don’t need a 2nd ISBN. Bullet dodged, but not easily. Most of the answers fell in the category of well-you-can-if-you-want-but-you-don’t-have-to-but-it-might-be-best…. or not. InterwebFAIL.
I still have a little time to decide but not for long.
What’s the worst that could happen?
I’ve been in a bullet biting mood.
I unceremoniously sat down this past week to start formatting Houses of the Broken for CreateSpace. I was in the mood, which is something that has not happened for a very long time. ABNA helped me in a few ways. I made it a few rounds, got some good feedback and most importantly… was faced with a deadline to get my stuff together.
It took an hour. No lie.
Well, for the first blush at least. Before I knew it, I had a nicely formatted novel looking document sitting in front of me in Word format. Immediately I learned a few things….
My manuscript program sucks for grammar and spell checking. So does Google Drive. Word is where it’s at. This was a bit disheartening at the time. I’ve been using Scrivener, which I really like for formatting and ease of story organization but good grief… the amount of errors that flashed up on the screen once I copied it in to Word was just plain disconcerting, given it was something I thought I had made a substantial amount of read-thrus on.
I’m not sure how to rationalize my work flow now. I like the way the manuscript program organizes, but if everything ultimately ends up in Word… why waste time going back and forth? It seems like extra busy work .
Very soon we’ll be wrapping up the graphics portion of the document and then it will be proof time! I can’t wait to get a copy in my hot little hands, though I’m sure the minute I open it up I’ll see 20 more glaring mistakes that mysteriously weren’t there the last 30 times I looked.
But it’s getting close… so close I can almost read it.
I disavow any knowledge of April. It’s dead to me. Water under the bridge. A pillar of salt in the rear view mirror, if I was to look…
ABNA was the least of my obstacles this past month. (There I go immediately talking about what I just swore I wasn’t going to talk about…) April really doesn’t deserve a recap, so it’s not going to get one. I will just bask in the sunny glory that is May for today, and savor it. The light is at the end of the tunnel and a little mental recoup is hopefully on its way.
It finally quit snowing… for a few days… I’ll take what I can get at this point. Any day I don’t have to scrape off my windshield is a good day at this point. All of this may have been telling me that I need to revisit my first complete NaNo (that rarely gets talked about and/or admitted to): Mother Nature, Inc. It’s been sitting in the shame pile for a couple years now but never quite quit nagging at me. Might be time to give it a fresh look and a serious scrubbing.
As always, too many ideas, not enough time. But now I can make espresso at home… who needs sleep?
I’ve taken the better part of the day to mull over my thoughts on this morning’s list.
I didn’t make the cut.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was a complex mixture of disappointed, unsurprised, and relieved. In my mind, I made it about as far as I expected/hoped to go. The feedback was fairly positive overall, even my final review. Sure, I’ll wonder why I didn’t make it and why others did. That’s human nature, but really… it doesn’t matter. It was a lesson that gave me nothing to lose.
There is no negative outcome for this, which is the great part. I made it far enough to get some decent feedback, and I didn’t have to pay a cent. Complete strangers told me what my close friends had been trying to get me to believe all along. And I won’t lie, it felt good.
Maybe I was a lucky one, even in losing. I saw some of the reviews that came in… there was some tough loved dished out here and there. I had my critiques, but they weren’t unfounded.
Well… except for the one that said I had a foul mouth. *mwah*
Within 10 minutes of getting the news, I was letting my dear photographer Shane know to put the new book cover on the top of his to-do list. Problem is, I’m too much of a designer and I have a vision for this production. Sure it would have been great to be published, but I have ideas… bigger than just pages and pages of text. I’m not sure I would have taken well to middle management telling me ‘Oh yeah, that’s sweet that you have cover art all worked out, but this is what you’re getting.’ Not for this one, the next one maybe, but not this one.
This one is mine.
Patience is not one of my virtues. Well, not many things are, but patience is right up the top of the ‘not’ list. I’d even say it’s my #1 non-virtue.
Tomorrow marks the next cut in Amazon’s ABNA 2013. This time it’s the semi-finals. I’m not going to lie, it’s a big cut and it’s a scary one. My odds at this point are 1 in 100. Though technically I think they’re 1 in 95. The unexpected twist (as opposed to the expected twist?) was that today I happened to find that… the Publishers Weekly reviews were posted. Ahead of schedule… BUT… and this is a Sir Mix-a-Lot big kind of but… the cut list doesn’t come out until tomorrow.
So here I am, with a fresh review that I can fixate on, and no clear direction as to my fate. The review was pleasantly pleasant. No outright raving, but no cursing me to a fate of never touching a pen again either. After a month of eager anticipation, I get to wait a little more.
This is how tomorrow likely plays out… I go to work, get my coffee, sit down to check my emails and take a deep breath, nonchalantly going to the ABNA page. I breathe a sigh of expectant semi-relief as I see they’re not there yet.
And then I proceed to refresh the page for 4 more hours… while trying to maintain the illusion of working. Eventually, the page will change, and I will freeze in my tracks, body flushing with anxious anticipation. More than likely, my boss or coworkers will pick this exact moment to ask me a question, or buzz me for a phone call. It will likely be a complicated question involving lots of nitpicky details. I will nod blankly, pretending to acknowledge them, as I click the link for the list, all the time in my head repeating *no whammies no whammies no whammies,* peering through the corner of my eye while I try my best to get them to go away in a speedy manner.
The list won’t be long. I’ll probably have to look a few times, just to be sure. If I’m not there, I’ll check again. If I am there, I’ll check twice, convincing myself that I actually remember how to spell my own name and book title. I will have to print the page out either way, just to be sure.
And then I’ll space out for about 30 minutes. I hope my boss is more virtuous than I am.
First of all, for all those brought here looking for leathers and feathers, this is not about you. Sorry, that’s a whole other post. I’m talking about good old, self controlled, nose to the grindstone discipline. The kind that motivates you to do what you do, to make yourself better, to hone your skills and to get into a good habit.
Habit’s are hard. It’s hard to kick bad ones and even harder to start good ones. That New Year’s resolution you made to eat better, exercise more, be nicer to you coworkers? How’s that going right about now? No matter how good your intentions, it’s often tough to carve out time to sit down, focus and commune with your inner Muse. Muse’s are fickle beasts, but you have to feed them often or else they’re hell to lure back off of the sofa from their piles of bacon and duck based reality TV. They need action, and so do you!
Less talk, more action.
Call it what you want, but I like that as an inspirational slogan. I find myself sometimes caught in what one friend refers to as: analysis paralysis. It happens when I’m picking out a new computer, it happens when I’m looking for the perfect pair of black boots, and it happens when I’m trying to put a story together in my head. A million variations of ‘If this, then that…’ drone on in my brain, driving me to the point of fatigue. Two hours later I look up, no resolution has been made, and I’m ready for bed.
It’s easy to over think things or to over discuss things. Sometimes this is a good trait, if you can thoroughly go through your options but… and this is a BUT…. you need to know when to stop and make a decision. Nothing creative will ever truly be ‘finished.’ There is always more that could be done, tweaked, moved, streamlined, polished… sometimes you just have to accept your idea and act on it.
The difference between a writer and a wanna-be writer? Writers write. It’s just that simple.
Maybe it’s notes on the back of a receipt, maybe it’s a text to yourself on the phone, maybe it’s a whole day of pouring your soul out into a blank journal, any way you cut it, it’s progress. Don’t assume you’ll just remember things later… as confident as we are in our memory skills, there’s always something ready and willing to pop up like a weed in the place of the masterful idea you once had while in yoga, but never bothered to jot down.
So get off your ass, sit your ass down and put the thoughts into corporeal form. Don’t make me have to crack that whip.
It’s Mz. Alton, if you’re nasty.
I’m a design professional by trade. All you need to know – aside from the fact that it is not fashion related – is that it’s not near as glamorous as people seem to think it should be.
There has always been more than my day job on my mind. For years, I tried to figure out how to channel the thoughts and ideas into a tangible form. Sometimes I cook, sometimes I create, sometimes I write. It’s never enough, my hive is always swirling with ideas, usually at the most inopportune times.
I’ve always been an avid reader, especially as a kid. As an adult I’ve been enjoying revisiting some of the ‘classics’ that I never got to in school, or were considered too scandalous for juvenile consumption. While my reading has always leaned more classic sci-fi and fantasy, I don’t feel the need to emulate my inspiration; I write what comes to me. A healthy nudge comes in handy once in a while, but forcing a story never works.
Dystopia draws me. Ray Bradbury has always been one of my absolute favorites. As a teenager “A Sound of Thunder” made a huge impact on me. As an adult “Fahrenheit 451” did the same. Another early favorite was “The Year When Stardust Fell” by Raymond F. Jones. It’s been a hard one to track down, but it’s worth a read. For years I scoured second hand book sellers just trying to find a legible copy… now it’s on Kindle. Go figure.
Pretty soon we won’t need paper books at all…. but what happens when the power goes out?