December 21, 2015

Happy Holidays! Have a Lovely Rest of the Year!

I am genuinely having trouble believing it, but another year has almost come to an end. As per usual, I'll be taking a couple of weeks off from posting, so I can focus on wrapping up my year and spending time with family. How about you—fun plans for the end of the year?

Before I leave you all, just a quick reminder that signups continue to be available for the Mending Heartstrings blog tour. I'd really appreciate your help in spreading the word about the signups and with the release itself!

And otherwise, all that's left to say is: thank you. Thank you to those who continue to read and to those who take the time to comment or share! I write for you, so I hope you find my posts either interesting or helpful or possibly even both. If you have comments or suggestions to help that happen next year, please let me know.

And now that I've said those words—"next year"—I guess we're at an end. So I hope you have an absolutely wonderful rest of your year! Grab a glass, and here's to 2016!!

Photo credit: ::: M @ X ::: via / CC BY-NC-ND

December 14, 2015

7 Tips for Authors Gearing Up for a Book's Release

The release of the second edition of Mending Heartstrings (coming February 9th!) is my third book launch, which is kind of a crazy thought. So I've decided to share some tips for gearing up for a release! Some of which, I should listen to myself (especially #2).
  1. Set up your Amazon author page & author central account.
    • Author central allows you to keep track of your books, your rankings, both as an author and for each individual book (see point 2!), and the details of your author page.
    • Setting up your author page means that when people click on your name, right under your book title, they can see a page dedicated to and controlled by you—you can include a photo and your bio, of course, but also your Twitter feed and even a blog feed if you'd like. This also consolidates all your Amazon books in one place for readers. And it adds your photo & bio to the "more about the author" section of your book page, which will help engage readers.

December 11, 2015

Flash! Friday: The Final Flashversary

Well, it's here. The three-year anniversary of Flash! Friday and also its final hurrah—a last goodbye. Prizes galore await entrants, from books to commemorative posters and more. And there's still time to enter!

Rebekah challenged us today with a prompt unlike any for which I've written, myself: 

100 word-story (exactly), starting with the sentence: "On Friday, everything changed."

She also offered this photo, for inspiration:

And since we're allowed two entries, I decided to take advantage and for the first time, write two stories. As always, I'm looking forward to your thoughts!

December 7, 2015

Happy Hannukah & A Gift for You!

Sunset last night kicked off the winter holidays with the first night of Hannukah! A generally upbeat holiday, Hannukah reminds us of the importance of faith in the face of hopelessness, and of our ability to find a way in the face of oppression. (Did you know that's where the dreidel comes from? They were used to fool officials when studying the Torah was outlawed.)

Nowadays, the holiday is known most for its eight days of light, and among some families, its eight days of gifts—not to mention oily, fried food like latkes, and chocolate gelt. (Or sometimes, real gelt, aka money.)

    And in the spirit of giving—because who doesn't love presents?—I have 
    a special gift for all of you:

    For the duration of Hannukah* (that's eight days!), you can download 
    a FREE e-copy of Mortal Musings!

    Don't forget to tell your friends & spread the holiday cheer!

    Get your free copy through:

    * For those of you who may not know, that's through Dec 14th.

    December 4, 2015

    Flash! Friday: Prompt #3-52

    Here we are at the final regular Flash! Friday prompt. Ever.

    The time passing, this coming to end, brings to mind that image of sand slipping through our fingers, flitting by into the part of the hourglass we cannot reach. Though the three-year anniversary celebration is yet to come, I cannot believe this weekly contest is at an end. Somehow, when it started, and when I served as a judge, and when the business side of writing and the realities of life kept me away, I still expected it to remain, always, in wait—a stalwart weekly prompt and reminder to return to my writing.

    The one thing I'm grateful for is that I discovered the contest fairly early on, giving me over two and a half years with it in my life. Check out my first ever Flash! Friday story here.

    This week, Rebekah brought back the dragon's bidding, requiring this element:
    in a 150-word (+/- 10) story based on this photo:

    November 30, 2015

    TGIO: Another NaNo (Almost) Ends

    So here we are in the final hours of another NaNoWriMo. Was your month a success?

    I haven't yet reached 50,000 words (though there's still a little time). That's a big number, even at the end of this month—and usually, it's nowhere near a finished adult novel.

    But I have made quite a bit of progress on novel #4, temporarily named L&S. This story is in a new world, unrelated to my previous stories, but it's been knocking around in my mind for years. Years, because the topics and characters are very complicated and truly intimidating to write. It will likely take many revisions to even start getting the deeper themes across, if I ever succeed at that.

    Suffice it to say, it will likely be a long time before this draft becomes anything readable, but that isn't the focus of NaNo—the first step is. Drafting. And I have a good chunk of a first draft done.

    So that's much of my November in a nutshell. How about you??

    Friendly reminder: The final #PitMad of the year is happening December 4th, aka this Friday. There are new rules, so be sure to check them out here!

    November 27, 2015

    Flash! Friday: Prompt #3-51

    As some of you may have seen, Rebekah announced last week that this year marks the end of Flash! Friday. This weekly flash contest was one of the very first things I did when I decided to refocus on my writing and join the rich virtual literary community. A little while later, I even became a judge! I've missed it every Friday when I didn't have the opportunity to write, and I'll miss it in the Fridays going forward, but I'm so grateful to Rebekah for cultivating the community she did, and for welcoming all of us to be a part of it.

    Nothing could replace it, and I'm not sure what if anything will fill the flash void in terms of my own writing, though thanks to people like Rebekah, there are many flash contests happening throughout the week.

    Of course, it's November, so I really should be working on my NaNo novel. But instead, here's a 150-word (+/-10) flash attempt based on this character: 
    and this photo:
    Stockholm cityscape. CC2.0 photo by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho

    And it's not too late for your story! Enter the contest here.

    November 23, 2015

    All About Perspective: Failure's Role in Success

    Last week, Suzanne van Rooyen wrote a post about why not winning NaNoWriMo doesn't really count as failing, which just so happens to tie in perfectly with the post I had planned for today. Great minds?

    Failure is such a dirty word for most of us. We're taught from childhood that success is binary: either you succeed (e.g., get an A) or you fail (e.g. get an F). But like many ideas to which we're exposed in basic form as children, the adult reality is much more complicated. And as we move beyond a child-like, simple view of the world, it is the people who start to see the bigger picture who have the greater chance of ultimately succeeding.

    Let's be clear: it is absolutely possible to fail. If your goal is to write every day for thirty days, and you only write for twenty of them, you failed in that goal. The question is, does the road stop there? Was that goal the be-all and end-all, or were you actually aiming to do something more? For instance: making time for your writing. If you did that 20 out of 30 days (an arbitrary number, since we're in the midst of NaNo!), then have you really failed?

    It's easy to be discouraged by the small failures when we're only considering the small picture, like on the left side of the image above. But as that graphic has simplified on the right side, keeping your eye on the real prize can help shift those failures into perspective. Consider someone training for a marathon. On any given day, maybe s/he runs a mile less than the day's training goal. The goal set for that day was not achieved, so therefore that is a "failure." But if the runner still completes the marathon a month later, do those occasional failures matter?

    Any time we stretch ourselves, any time we aim for something and set a real, big-picture goal, small failures become inevitable. The trick is zooming out and evaluating each step in light of the real goal, rather than getting discouraged by the interim road blocks. Failing today does not have to mean Failing (with a capital F in case you missed that). Nor do the small failures make you a failure. More likely, they mean you're trying something difficult. Making a couple wrong turns along the way is simply inevitable.

    And speaking of wrong turns, my first novel, Mending Heartstrings, took a meandering detour that could easily be considered disastrous. In the perspective of the industry as a whole, and of many professionals in that industry, currently that book is a failure. This is heartbreaking.

    But what it really means is that it needs to find a different path. And the first step on that new path has led to a breathtaking sight—the gorgeous new cover! Christa over at Paper & Sage did a fantastic job transforming a wonderful photo by my friend Jillian into a cover I absolutely love. I can't put into words (yes, I see the irony) how excited I am for the reveal!

    Want to be among the first to see the new cover? Use the form below to sign up for the reveal on January 11, 2016!

    And please consider sharing the signup link: (Click here to tweet!)

    Thank you for your continued support as I wind my way on this publishing journey!

    November 16, 2015

    Mending Heartstrings & Moving Forward

    Edit: The post below was pre-scheduled, before the events of November 13th. My mind and my heart remain with the Parisians and all those others throughout the world affected by the terrorism of hateful organizations that incite, support, and celebrate violence. I don't have it in me to write a longer post about the attacks. I pray as I write this addendum (Friday night) that no new tragedy occurs between now and when this post goes up (though hopefully for much longer than that). 

    Some of you have noticed that Mending Heartstrings is no longer available for sale (actually, it still is on B&N but should be down soon). Long story short, Swoon Romance and I have parted ways. For many reasons, including professional discretion, I will not go into details, but suffice it to say I am thrilled by this, despite the challenges it will bring.

    The even better news is that I will be releasing a new & improved second edition in early 2016! This week, I'm working with a wonderful designer to create a cover I'm much more excited about, with absolutely beautiful photos that I can't wait for you all to see.

    Releasing a second edition (with a new scene!) is a brand new fork on the publishing path that I never would have thought I'd be taking, especially not so soon. But I'm committed to not letting that story die because of one bad experience. I hope those of you who've already enjoyed it will come along for the adventure as I reintroduce it into the world! And those of you who haven't yet had a chance...get ready!

    Select reviews of the original edition are available here.

    November 9, 2015

    Guest Post: 12 Techniques for Emotionally Connecting with Your Readers

    A writer must have the ability to connect with readers at an emotional level. This requires a certain level of intuition. Establishing an emotional attachment between readers and characters goes slightly beyond the technical factors inherent to quality writing. You will need to think like your reader, or more importantly, like a human being. You are probably already aware of the necessity for a deep grasp on an innate sense of humanity when writing but you may not be sure how to best achieve this level of comprehension.

    Throughout my own writing endeavors I have either learned or discovered twelve tactics to aid in the successful association between fictional emotional iteration and real life emotional experience. That experience being the kind we all share as human beings. In fact, for the duration of this article keep in mind that, with the exception of the occasional psychopath, everybody feels emotions in basically the same way.

    1. Setting: 
      • Creating an appropriate setting for a scene is a basic requirement for projecting emotional intensity. The reader will be able to relate as he has likely experienced the mood invoking power of a similar setting in life. An extreme example of this would be a haunted house. The point being that through correct use of color, sound and locale; setting becomes a powerful tool for emotionally connecting with the reader.
    2. Sense:
      • The five senses are our window on the world. Use this fact when you describe how your characters interact with the world you have created for them. How does the wind feel on their face? How does the infant that won't stop crying affect the character? We have all made associations with the world around us based on our senses and most of those associations are universal. Use that fact to relate to your readers.
    3. Time:
      • Time can be a great way to express an emotional state of being. When we are rushed the mood is tense. You've seen the movies where there is only 30 seconds left to disarm the bomb. Conversely, when we have plenty of time we may feel relaxed or bored.
    4. Vocabulary:
      • Vocabulary choice can be a clever way to project a feeling upon the reader without them even realizing. Use powerful words such as "triumph" instead of more plain sounding words such as "win." Also try noting the proper places to use soft or hard sounding words like "rub" vs "scrape." If it will not offend your target audience, then toss an occasional swear word into your character's dialogue. Be careful though, just as in real life, a strategic swear word will indicate emphasis but too many will come across as abrasive.
    5. Transitions:
      • Use scene transition to convey emotions. The safety of an airplane followed by a tense descent and subsequent crash landing. The relief when the reader learns no one was seriously hurt followed by the extreme fear when they realize they crashed on an island full of cannibals. This type of literary roller coaster ride will keep the reader in constant anticipation of the next scene while supplanting their own emotions based on a sequence of events in their own life that may have followed the same pattern.
    6. Realism:
      • All fantasy needs a basis in reality. For real people to connect with your characters at an emotional level your characters will need real flaws. People that seem perfect in real life are annoying and so too will your perfect characters appear annoying in your story. Analyze the personality traits of your characters closely so you can choose flaws and struggles that correspond to a similar personality type in the real world. The reader will recognize this personality type and make a mental connection to themselves or someone they know.
    7. Consequences:
      • The obvious advice in regards to consequences would be to make the actual consequences themselves realistic. At a basic level this means the good guys win and the bad guys lose. Even though this is not always the case in life, we as people can see definite patterns such as hard work paying off and thieves suffering karma.

        The less obvious piece of advice related to consequences would be a recommendation for the use of expressive language to make your reader feel the consequential emotions that affect your character as a result of some action or event in the story. For example, instead of writing: ìCarrie is excitedî, write: ìCarrieís heart began to beat intensely as the adrenaline surge through her body reached her brain when she read that last lotto number aloud. Just reading that example sentence got me thrilled as to what would happen if I won the lottery. Artfully describing a familiar emotional consequence will force your readers to reflect on similar feelings they may have had with an experience of their own.
    8. Milestones: 
      • When you write the interactions amongst your protagonist and the supporting characters, make sure these correlations lay out emotional bonds whether these bonds be good or bad. You want your reader to recognize these bonds from their own life when they are reading about the history of a milestone for a particular character. Those bonds will play an important role in allowing the reader to understand why that milestone is so emotionally impactful on your character.
    9. Allusion:
      • Place little clues throughout the book that give some indication as to what the reader can expect. This will keep them holding on for the next chapter. Occasionally shock the reader with something unexpected.
    10. Choices:
      • We can all relate to an indecisive struggle with choices we've had in our own lives. Give your character a couple of those. Another powerful concept involves forcing the character to choose between bad or worse. Does he or she rob a bank or let a loved one die.
    11. Conflict:
      • Keep conflict constant. Even if it's between and character and himself. Utilize conflict heavily throughout your story. This does not have to be conflict between two characters. It can mean a struggle the character is having in his or her mind.
    12. Familiarity:
      • This tip could also be referred to as history and is really the basis for this entire article. A familiarity between reader and character at multiple facets of being is a definite prerequisite for making emotional connections. The reader must be made aware of a character's history before he or she can truly feel empathy for a character's struggle.

    There are many factors that go into writing a great story but perhaps none more important than the ability to emotionally connect with the reader. By incorporating these techniques you will be laying a foundation for building a complex emotional structure for your characters. And remember that establishing real world familiarity for this structure is the most vital element necessary for leaving a lasting impression on readers.

    James A. Rose is a writer for, a full service self-publishing company that specializes in transforming author dreams into reality. We have been providing exceptional and affordable service to writers for the past 15 years. No matter what type of book you want to create, Instant Publisher will be with you every step of the way to ensure the process is efficient and painless. We're not happy until you're happy.

    Friendly reminder: everything expressed in the post above is a reflection of the opinions of the author, James A. Rose, not necessarily those of Aria Glazki.
    Are you interested in guest posting on this site? I'm always happy to feature great content! Check out the guidelines here then contact me.

    November 2, 2015

    Welcome to NaNoWriMo!

    It is officially National Novel Writing Month! Have you started your story? How is your writing going?

    I've had a few very different discussions about writing in general and during NaNoWriMo specifically lately—with writers who question their ability to write at all, to those scared of the stories inside them, to those who (at least for now) have it all under control. And every single one of them started a new story November 1st.

    For a whole host of reasons, NaNoWriMo can be intimidating or terrifying. Sometimes, we're simply scared that our stories aren't worth the effort. Sometimes we must confront our guilt for the sacrifices we make in other areas to make our writing a priority, if only for  a month. If you're feeling that way, or you'd just like to listen to a great talk on the topic, please check out the video below. (Special shout out to Jennifer for showing me this video!)

    And if you don't want to watch the whole video, just remember this:
    "It's OK, it's great, it's important to make your creative self a priority."

    It's not too late to join the challenge that is NaNoWriMo! Learn more and join in on the craziness at

    October 30, 2015

    Flash! Friday: Prompt #3-47

    It's Friday! This week's Flash! Friday prompt was, appropriately, based on the book Frankenstein. Requirements were a 175-word story (+/- 10) with two of the following:

    • Conflict: man v self, man v society
    • Character (choose at least one): a cowardly scientist; a man-made, sentient creature; a hapless fiancee, an oblivious optimist.
    • Theme (choose one): forbidden science, danger of the pursuit of knowledge, fate v free will, secrecy
    • Setting (choose one): Romantic-era Europe, a laboratory, a ship voyaging in the Arctic, ANYWHERE STEAMPUNK!

    Thanks as always for your thoughts!

    One of a Kind

    Neeasha stopped before the mirror in the entryway, settling a purple-and-gold felt hat carefully on her hairdo. She tilted her head this way and that, ensuring today’s choice adequately hid her horns.

    Her tail slithered up her back, twining around the spikes between her shoulders. A heavy jacket covered the resulting bulges—and the blinking cuff on her forearm. After a last glance at her reflection, she picked up her bag, stuffed her scaled hands in her pockets, and headed out the door.

    “You are not alone!” a flier advertising counseling screamed at her as she walked past chatting groups and entwined couples. She paused at the entrance to Stein’s Science Center, staring for a second at their smiles.

    Three stories below, behind seven different locks, the cuff clicked open. She stripped to her underwear, letting her tail unfurl and stretching, maroon claws scratching the ceiling.

    Beeping monitors surrounded her, waiting. At least he let her sleep elsewhere now.

    “Why can’t I take one of the classes?” she asked the man behind the glass.

    “Maybe in the winter,” came the daily reply.

    (182 words, using a man-made sentient creature, and secrecy)

    October 26, 2015

    3 Questions You Might Be Asking About NaNoWriMo

    As I wrote last week in a guest post (you should definitely check out) about how National Novel Writing Month helped me become an author:
    "National Novel Writing Month is a personal challenge. It’s terrifying and difficult. And in my experience, very rarely is it as exhilarating as other people say. It means sacrificing sleep and sometimes personal relationships (which do recover!), and it’s definitely a battle—not to give up when you don’t meet a word count goal, to push through inevitable bouts of writer’s block, to make those necessary sacrifices. To reach 50,000 words. 
    ... [But] NaNoWriMo 2012 started me on the path to becoming what I am today: a published author. Most importantly, it proved that this crazy, unthinkable, incredibly intimidating thing—writing 50,000 words but also writing a novel—was something I could do. 
    Now when I hesitate, when I struggle, when I feel stuck and hopeless in the middle of a draft, I get to look back and rely on the fact that it’s something I’ve already done."
    Trying to write 50,000 words in 30 days is a little crazy, and it's more than a little intimidating. And yet all over the world, on November 1st, people will start doing just that. What about you? Are you considering trying this challenge for the first or tenth (or whichever) time?

    If you're not sure, here are three questions you may be asking—and better yet, answers to all three!
    1. Should I participate in NaNoWriMo?
      • Yes. Pretty much, if you're asking yourself if you should try this, the answer is yes. Regardless of if you write 2,000 words total or reach 50,000 in the first two weeks, NaNoWriMo is transformative, whether you treat it as a personal challenge or your goal is to become an author.

        This is the marathon of writing—some do it to prove they can, and some do it because writing is their passion, but whatever your reason, the experience (even if you don't "win") will impact your life, in a great way.
    2. But it starts this weekend. Isn't it too late for this year?
      • No! Unlike running a marathon, you don't have to prepare and train for NaNoWriMo. Some people do, spending the first ten months of each year planning their stories, but many people—including me!—just start typing and see where it takes them.

        If you give yourself the freedom to write, even with no idea of where you want the story to go, you might just discover an incredible world and wonderful characters who've been waiting for you to create them. If you decide to participate at the last minute with no idea where you're going, you're not alone. Join the many pantsers who write just that way, and see what you can create!
    3. I have a bazillion life commitments in November, and there's no way I can hit 50,000 words. Is it even worth it to try?
      • Finishing NaNoWriMo brings with it a sense of accomplishment, absolutely, and looking back at the sometimes grueling month with 50,000 brand new words is incredibly exhilarating. But at its core, NaNoWriMo is more about making the time and commitment to write than it is about your word count. Is it less of an accomplishment to run a 10K than a full marathon? I suppose if you're an Olympic runner, the answer might be yes, but for us mere mortals—definitely not. So does it not count if you write 20,000 or even 10,000 words in November rather than reaching 50,000? Absolutely not! And really, for many of those hesitant to try, the question isn't 20,000 or 50,000. It's 20,000 or none. And 20,000 is infinitely more than none.

        So while life absolutely gets in the way, and only you can decide if attempting NaNoWriMo will make you committed to your writing or so stressed jumping off a bridge sounds like a good idea*, don't let the fear of not "winning" prevent you from participating.

        Whether you write 10,000 words or 150,000 (yep, a NaNo writer in my region bangs out about that much each November, making the rest of us feel woefully inadequate), the reminder to prioritize your writing, to give yourself permission to carve out time for it amid all those other responsibilities, will still be worth it.
        • *If attempting to squeeze NaNoWriMo into your life will make you so stressed that you'd rather jump off a bridge or something similar, please take November to carve out some time to relax and do something to restore your sanity instead. Read a book, go have drinks with some friends, go for a hike, get a massage—make time for you!

    *Bonus* Now that you know why you should participate,
    check out my 9 Tips for NaNoWriMo!

    October 19, 2015

    Marketing is My Achilles' Heel or: Help, Please!

    I am horrible at marketing. I try, really I do, to fake the confidence and push past my introverted side to promote my work. Because I've learned, like many authors lately, that if I don't do it, no one will. Not my publisher (for my first book), and not my friends (unless I pester them incessantly, which I don't feel comfortable doing). Sometimes it seems that even paying for marketing pros doesn't get me anywhere. 

    I'm so used to staying quiet—at work, in school, anywhere—and letting my work speak for itself. Historically, that has sometimes meant even putting my job in jeopardy, when people would lie about me to my bosses. Idealistically, I kept on believing that the truth will out (and in some cases it did), and that my passion and dedication would see me through. 

    Until I became an author. I know I have to do more than put my book out there, and I'm trying, truly. But I haven't learned to be an effective marketer yet, it seems. So I'm asking for your help!

    To celebrate the 2-month anniversary of Mortal Musings, I'm running two special offers, and I'd really appreciate it if you could spread the word. And thank you in advance!!
    1. Mortal Musings is available for just $0.99 on Amazon for this week only (through Oct 25)
    2. Autographed print copies of Mortal Musings are for a limited time available with free shipping via my Selz store!
      Use coupon code: 4IGS5RU2 or this direct link:

    October 16, 2015

    Flash! Friday: Prompt #3-45

    Rare but not impossible to spot: a Flash! Friday story by your truly!

    This week's inspirational novel was Moby Dick, in a 100-word story (+/- 25) with two required story elements from among:
    • Conflict: man v self, man v nature (not gender specific)
    • Character (choose at least one): a wooden-legged sea captain, a pacifist forced to help with someone else’s revenge, an easygoing storyteller oblivious to danger, a chief’s son/prince working on a ship, a mighty whale.
    • Theme (choose one): revenge, fate v free will, the power of Nature, friendship, the cost of obsession
    • Setting (choose one): a whaling ship, a sea port, an island, the middle of the ocean
    Added inspiration is offered in the form of this photo (though its use is not required):
    Naufragos/Shipwrecked. CC2.0 photo by Luis Marina.

    My story is below, but you also have time to write your own! Check out all the guidelines here, and let me know what you think!

    At Any Cost

    They left me.

    Dozens of years of research brought my team here. The sound of the ocean, the sandy beaches and devastating cliff faces, the squawks of local avifauna… None of that matters.

    They followed me, yes, but they couldn’t see that.

    The Fibonacci sequence, Occam’s razor, Knot theory—it’s all about the numbers. They did it for credit, for research…for resumes, or a trip to the island.

    Blind, oh so blind.

    Vines bend to my fingers’ will, and I etch my numbers into the sand, surrounded by the stench of flesh.

    I’m always there—almost there. I’ll find it.

    They didn’t believe.

    (103 words)

    October 12, 2015

    Print On Demand: Why I Chose IngramSpark

    This post has been a long time coming, and it's quite long itself, but choosing a Print On Demand (POD) provider for your book, if that's a route you want to go, is a bit complicated. Many posts exist comparing the two largest (but by no means only) options for independent authors: CreateSpace and IngramSpark. Some have slightly outdated information (e.g. about wholesale discounts on IngramSpark), but the general overview is solid. 

    So rather than rehash information available elsewhere, I want to discuss some of the misinformation out there and the reasons why I personally chose IngramSpark.

    There are a few reasons commonly cited for why indie publishers "should" choose CreateSpace, including: 
    • Claim: CreateSpace is free to use. IngramSpark charges a $49 setup fee.
      • On the surface, this is true. But IngramSpark actually refunds your setup fee if you place an order for 50 print copies within the first 60 days. Believe me, with giveaways, contest entries, review copies, sales directly through you, etc., 50 copies isn't much at all. You'll likely be buying them anyway, so you may as well put that initial investment into your budget and stop worrying about the setup fee.
    • Claim: IngramSpark only allows a 40% or 55% discount. (Outdated)
      • Given that CreateSpace requires a 40% discount for Amazon, but a 60% discount for books sold elsewhere, I'm not sure why this is used to support publishing on CreateSpace. Regardless, the current reality is you can set your discount anywhere from 30%-55% on IngramSpark, including random numbers like 47%.
    • Claim: File revision on CreateSpace is free. File revision on IngramSpark costs $25 each time.
      • Again, on the surface this is true. Sort of. People are afraid of IngramSpark because this makes it sound as though there's a high cost for making a mistake of any kind. What actually happens is this:
        • When you upload your files to IngramSpark (an interior file and a cover design file, separately), each of those is both automatically vetted and then manually vetted, as in by a human being who checks for any problems. If there are no problems, your file is accepted. If there are problems, you are notified.

          If you are notified that there is a problem, you have to upload an entire new file (or files, if there are problems in both). There is no charge for this (at least in my experience). Of course, this is only about technical problems with the files, e.g. size being off on the cover file, not issues such as typos or corrections to the text. So while you do have to make sure your files are as spotless as you can get them the first time around, since you can't correct them willy-nilly, you don't have to worry about being charged because of a technical mistake. They simply won't accept your file unless it satisfies their high standards.

          For me, as a first-time independent publisher, this was actually rather reassuring—someone who knows what they're doing double-checking that I hadn't made some huge error.
    • Claim: CreateSpace gets books to market "more quickly." IngramSpark takes up to about 4 weeks (or up to 8 with your first book), and sometimes there are delays specifically with Amazon.
      • This information is actually provided by IngramSpark, so it must be true for some people's experiences.
      • My print book was available for sale through retailers, including Amazon, within 4 days. Lucky me! (Seriously.) But also, maybe there is just a buffer in case of unforeseen problems, or maybe the process is continuing to be streamlined and that information is also a bit out of date. 
        • I did have to upload my cover to Amazon separately through Author Central, but that takes about 2 minutes.
        • On Amazon, my print copy was simultaneously available in the US and UK! And it quickly became available globally, though the rest of the Amazon sites added it gradually.
    • Claim: Customer service is better on CreateSpace than IngramSpark.
      • Maybe. I haven't dealt with CreateSpace, but in order to receive my $49 refund to my credit card, I did have to deal with IngramSpark's customer service. While I quickly received an invoice promising the credit, in order for the credit to go to my card and not my IngramSpark account, I had to call. The person I spoke to honestly was clueless and a tad rude. He'd never heard of the promotion (despite it being on their website) and couldn't seem to understand that I was referring to a specific invoice until I repeated that about 6 times. But once we were on the same page, I quickly received my rebate.
      • I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating: IngramSpark manually vetted each of my files. As far as I know, CreateSpace doesn't do that. I can deal with some less-than-stellar customer service in exchange for an expert set of eyes on my files before I pay for print proofs (or the file revision fees).

    Other than the first two points, though, I couldn't have known that popular wisdom was wrong without having gone through the process with IngramSpark. So why did I choose them in the first place?
    1. Quality:
      • Ingram distributes for major publishing houses and, with IngramSpark, for indie publishers. (CreateSpace actually uses Ingram to distribute internationally.) Everyone seems to agree that their books are higher quality in terms of durability, paper quality, etc. Independent publishing is a serious investment, in terms of both time and money, and I didn't want that investment wasted on low-quality printed books.
      • Both providers offer two color choices for paper, but traditionally, white paper is only used for text books and nonfiction. I actually own a book from Entangled Publishing printed by CreateSpace that used white paper, and it looks plain strange. However, CreateSpace's "cream" paper is apparently actually yellow. So for a professional and habitual (aka "traditional") look, IngramSpark it was.
    2. Royalty structure
      • The actual numbers depend on the format and length of your book, but it's true that CreateSpace books earn a few cents per copy more on Amazon than IngramSpark books do (at the same 40% wholesale discount). However, CreateSpace books earn drastically less (almost 75% less) if distributed anywhere else, like Barnes & Noble, internationally, or through a bookstore.
        • This is a major reason some people recommend distributing to Amazon through CreateSpace, and everywhere else through IngramSpark. Personally, this didn't overshadow my many other reasons for choosing IngramSpark.
        • Yes, bookstores will order your book if someone personally goes in and asks them to! Or if you can get your local stores to stock it. And if that does happen, you'll earn a lot more per copy through IngramSpark.
    3. Trim size
      • Both POD providers offer a variety of trim sizes, but the smallest size offered by CreateSpace is 5"x8". I actually like my books small and easily portable, so I was initially considering printing in mass market paperback (like many romances are), which already would have limited me to IngramSpark. After many side-by-side comparisons of real books in my home, I  decided on 5"x7"—which still left me at IngramSpark.
        • I found this size comfortable to hold, while simultaneously fitting (height-wise) on the same shelf as mass market paperbacks. Shelf space is important to readers! And books that don't fit often get tucked somewhere out of the way—and out of sight.
        • Bizarrely, Amazon still lists my print book as 5"x8", though other sites list the right size. I have no idea why and have not found a way to fix it.
      • Related to trim size is format: IngramSpark offers hardback options. CreateSpace does not. While Mortal Musings is currently only available in paperback, it's nice to know that if I did want to release another edition in hardback, I easily could.
    4. Cover style
      • CreateSpace prints all covers with a laminate finish, which I find uncomfortable to the touch. Plus the laminate shows every fingerprint. It just wasn't what I wanted.
      • IngramSpark offers a matte finish as well—meaning you as the author get to choose. I love the soft feel of my matte cover; it's almost velvety.
      • UPDATE: CreateSpace now offers matte covers as well (this is listed under their "what's new" section on the home page). And they do have the added bonus that you can switch between a matte and laminate cover with no charge even when your book is already for sale. IngramSpark would, as far as I know, charge for changing the cover style. So in this category, CreateSpace may now have an edge if you just aren't sure which option you prefer.

    So that's a bit about my experience and decision-making process with Print On Demand publishing. Have you looked into POD providers? What do you think about IngramSpark vs. CreateSpace?

    And if you want to check out that super soft cover I mentioned, and the quality of the resulting book itself, you can always order a copy! ;)

    October 6, 2015

    Back Up Your Files!

    The post title pretty much says it all, but I'll expound:

    Back up your files much more often than you think you need to. Because something will go wrong, and unless you have a backup copy of your file that is ideally stored in an entirely unrelated place (different hard drive, cloud storage if that's your preference, etc.) you could very well be SOL. All those things you think will save you (auto-save, manually saving every few minutes or every few changes, etc.) might very well basically laugh at you as you cry. In other words, they won't work. So I repeat: backing up your files, ideally somewhere other than where the main file is, might be the only thing that saves you.

    If your time and work and heartache and tears matter to you, back up your file every single time you work with it.

    Why am I writing about this? Because it turns out MS Word has a "known issue" where sometimes, just because it feels like it, it transforms your document into asterisks. The whole thing. Pages and pages and pages of asterisks. You want to see what my most recent version of G&H looks like? Here's a sneak peek: 

    Thankfully, I haven't lost the entire manuscript, just the most recent revisions, but honestly that is heartbreaking because I was finally on a roll with really fixing the current problems in the story. And now, I have to start over, and I just know the "how did I fix this last time?" version won't be as good. 

    So don't be me. Back up your files. Go now.

    September 28, 2015

    Writers Learn Everywhere (and a Special Offer!)

    This past weekend, I got to visit with some old college friends, and while we do our best to make time to talk, somehow few conversations are as enlightening as the ones we have in person. On this trip, we've discussed human nature when it comes to rooting for the "home team," differences in perspective on dating and relationships, the fundamental psychology behind certain behaviors, and more.

    I realize I'm being vague, but the conversations themselves were quite complex, and private, and the bigger point is unrelated to the particulars: every interaction we have with people teaches us something, about a specific person of course, but also about the human condition (makes it sound like an illness, doesn't it?).

    As writers, it's our responsibility (or perhaps cheat code) to take those moments and integrate them into our work, both showcasing different perspectives and types of people and lending believability to our writing.

    Whenever I write, I try to create genuine, realistic characters, so I love seeing reviews like these (on Amazon) from readers: 
    "Glazki writes about romance in way that encapsulates all the realities of a relationship that is sometimes sexy and playful, sometimes frustrating, and sometimes fulfills holes in our lives that we didn't know were there."
    "Their romance was so earnest that I couldn't stop smiling the entire time I read it."
    It makes me feel like I just might be doing something right.

    And to thank all of you for reading and bearing with me on this journey, I've decided to have a special offer just for those who read my blog! Through October 11th, you can get a copy of Mortal Musings on Smashwords for just $0.99 using the coupon code: VF98U

    Friendly reminder that you can also request free autographed trading cards for you and the readers in your life through this form!

    September 21, 2015

    Letting Go of “Perfect” in the Cover Design Process

    Designing the cover might be my least favorite part of book publishing. It isn’t that I don’t love the cover for Mortal Musings (I do), but I firmly believe it’s almost impossible to create the “perfect” cover, so we all have no choice but to compromise.

    Part of the issue is just reality. The perfect stock images with models that actually do match our vision (and exact description) of the character might not exist. In fact, probably don’t exist—or so countless hours of scouring multiple stock photo sites have taught me. Of course, some small features like eye color could be manipulated, and it’s certainly possible to come close.

    But how many book covers have you seen where the cover model didn’t quite match the way you pictured the character while reading? S/he probably didn’t match the author’s vision either. It’s pretty much like casting the story for a movie — the actor who looks just right might not exist unless the author wrote with a specific actor in mind for the character. And for movies, they have casting calls where they can choose the actor and then give him/her a makeover.

    September 18, 2015

    Flash! Friday: Prompt #3-41

    So it's been a while since I participated in Flash! Friday, and it's my first time trying this new format. Rather than a photo prompt, the contest has switched over to using elements pulled from a book. Today's was Cry, the Beloved Country, requiring two of the following elements in a 150–200-word story.

    • Conflict: man v man (not gender specific)
    • Character (choose at least one): old priest fighting to hold on to tradition, father searching for his son, young man accused of murder, a civil rights activist, a pregnant girl
    • Theme (choose one): reconciliation, racism, injustice, repentance
    • Setting (choose one): a decaying village, a wealthy city in moral decline

    I included a few different ones, as you'll hopefully see in the story below. As always, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts!

    September 7, 2015

    #PitMad Pitch Practice—With Critiques from Touchstone Editing!

    It may be a holiday (in the US, at least), but time doesn't stop for querying writers! The Twitter pitch party #PitMad is happening once again this Thursday (September 10th), and since people have found it useful in the past, I'm happy to open up my blog for everyone to receive feedback on & perfect their pitches.

    Plus, I have a special surprise to help you prepare:

    The absolutely lovely ladies at Touchstone Editing have offered to critique pitches in the comments on this post! Learn a bit more about Jennifer and Anya here, and please read these guidelines before posting: 
    • #PitMad is a Twitter pitch party, so your pitch needs to be 140-characters max, including the hashtag. 
    • Jennifer and Anya will be dropping in and out until Tuesday night to help you with your pitches.
      • Recommended: Show your gratitude (and benefit from their wisdom) by following them on Twitter!
    • Constructive comments on each others' pitches are encouraged! The whole point is to help everyone have the best chance possible on Thursday to catch that agent or editor eye.
    • Destructive comments will be removed at my discretion.
      • "I don't like XYZ about your pitch, and here's how to make it better" = good. "You're an idiot" or "How stupid would you have to be to think this is a good pitch?" = bad. Please be polite, as everyone has been to date (because you're all awesome)!
      • If I have to remove one of your comments on someone else's pitch, I may also remove your pitch if you posted one. Please don't make me police your comments.
    • Questions? Feel free to ask, and otherwise good luck everyone!

    August 31, 2015

    Opinion vs. Attack — Where's the Line?

    I came across a post last week that really rubbed me the wrong way in a world where we claim to fight for positive (healthy) body image and against bullying. While I agree with half of this post's point, rather than sticking to the real issue (lack of variety in models used on book covers), the author targeted one model specifically:

    Image used in original post
    "I mean, how many book covers have you seen this guy on? No less than fifty for me, and he's not even good looking! ... People, please stop wasting your image credits on him! He's UGLY and overused! Save your money! 
    ...I really do think this guy is butt ass ugly. I will not read any book with his face on it. All those beautiful men on Shutterstock and you choose HIM? *gags*"

    Yes, people are entitled to their opinions. Yes, the author may in fact think that the model is ugly, fine. But what the author of this post is doing, rather than making a general point about the overuse of certain models and possibly the laziness of some authors/designers when searching for images to use, is attacking this one model's livelihood and personally insulting him.

    Same model
    Sure, as authors we hear negative opinions all the time, but we as a community tend to recognize that personally attacking the author—as opposed to criticizing a book/story—isn't acceptable. "This author has such an ugly profile photo, we should all stop buying his/her books!" would, I hope, be seen as absurd.

    As commenter Rainy Kaye said:
    "This article is really unprofessional. Discussing an industry issue is one thing; blatantly insulting someone's looks is another."

    In addition to being disconcerting and plain mean, I feel the choice the author made to target one specific model detracts from the valid point hiding in this post. We should absolutely make an effort to find unique cover models and images, whenever possible. And perhaps more importantly, we should strive to represent different looks among our characters so that we couldn't use the same model for so many covers.

    But simultaneously, we shouldn't go around attacking people who are just doing their jobs. It's not the model's fault he's so popular among writers and cover designers—that simply means he and the photographers have done a good job providing the types of shots people want to use! It's on us to strive for a unique cover, not on the model to stop posing. And either way, it's completely inappropriate to campaign against using one person's services based on a personal opinion of his looks.

    What say you? Is the linked post nothing more than one person's opinion? Or should the author have avoided targeting one model when making this point?

    One more. My opinion? Not what I'd call ugly!

    August 24, 2015

    Mortal Musings Release Week is Here!

    It's here!! Difficult as it is to believe, Mortal Musings officially releases tomorrow! (Or tonight, depending on your time zone!) There's a lot planned this week, and this post covers it all for easy reference (read carefully!). I hope you'll join me in celebrating!!

    Kicking off today: the Blog Tour

    Twitter Release-Day Giveaways!
    • AND anyone who tweets buy links or retweets any one of my tweets about Mortal Musings will be entered to win an autographed paperback!
    • Keep in mind: There's no limit of times you can enter, so tweet and retweet away!

    Facebook Release Party — Thursday, August 27th
    • Games! Prizes! And all-around fun!
    • Everyone is welcome to join, and the party takes place entirely on this Facebook page!
    • 4pm–7pm Pacific Time, which is:
      • 5pm–8pm Mountain Time
      • 6pm–9pm Central Time
      • 7pm–10pm Eastern Time
      • In another time zone? Use this world clock!

    Want yet another way to win? Enter the Goodreads giveaway! And don't forget to add Mortal Musings to your TBR!

    August 19, 2015

    “Unbelievable” Romance in Real Life

    I'm a couple days late with this post, which also isn't the post I originally intended to share this week (about Print on Demand providers). That post is coming still, but I have a good excuse for the delay! I was on the other side of the country, at the wedding of a close friend.

    Photo credit: Sugar Daze / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
    I'd like to share the real-life story of this couple, because of how it relates to the romance genre. (Yes, weddings are romantic, but as you'll see I mean more than that.)

    He liked this girl right away, so at a party hosted by mutual friends, He bravely made his way over to try his hand. She completely dismissed him, and since He believed her to be entirely out of his league, He accepted that and let it go. (As She later told me, She had actually been entirely oblivious to his attempt, as her mind was in a very different place with work stress that night.)

    A couple years later, through mutual friends, He subtly maneuvered it so that they would once again be at the same party. Despite other relationships, He hadn't forgotten her and wanted to try again. Once again: no luck.

    He then moved to the other side of the country.

    A few years later, the two of them attended a wedding weekend of mutual friends. Both single, both in the right frame of mind, they finally hit it off. He approached and tried his hardest to make an impression, and She was impressed. That wedding happened at some cabins in the woods, and they spent the whole night talking (with some not talking mixed in). I've heard this story from both sides now, and it's fascinating how hard He tried...while She actually gave him nothing but positive signals that He completely missed.

    Of course, none of this changed that they now lived thousands of miles away. At another wedding the following day, He got some advice from that groom, a former professor (who had met his wife on a plane ride!). The wise professor pointed out that, had he himself not taken the chance on this woman he'd been seated beside on their short connecting flight, he wouldn't have been getting married that day. With this encouragement, my friend took a chance on reaching out and starting a relationship with this girl that had been on his mind for years, despite all the distance and false starts.

    With many Skype calls and trips across the country, following long and frank and intense conversations about how they saw their lives, and despite some pushback from concerned love ones, within a few months they were engaged. And their wedding this past Sunday was beautiful.

    So often, romance as a genre is criticized for its lack of believability. "Relationships don't work that way," we're told, and we're setting "unrealistic expectations" for those seeking love in real life.

    But, as you can see, romance in real life is absolutely possible! Despite the challenges, this couple lived a real-life romance, though I'm sure when He was rejected twice it didn't feel that way. There's nothing unrealistic about a couple that hits it off one night doing what's necessary to make their relationship work, or of choosing not to wait some socially acceptable time to spend their lives together. And how wonderful that this relationship was encouraged by another couple, whose relationship would be considered "too unrealistic" by critics of the romance genre!

    Real people live extraordinary stories to find their happily ever afters — and that's precisely what I love about this genre that reminds us that exceptional romance is entirely possible in our own lives.

    August 10, 2015

    Mortal Musings Release Festivities Update!

    I have so many exciting things planned to celebrate the release of Mortal Musings, and I hope you'll all join me, so mark your calendars!

    Basic info:

    Print Preorder!
    • Do you want a paperback copy of Mortal Musings? Better yet, do you want one at the special preorder price of $9.99? Click the button below to order!
      • If you'd like an autographed copy, please email me with your order information.
      • Are you outside of the U.S.? Print copies are available through major online retailers and the Book Depository, or you can email me now to arrange a special order!

    August 6, 2015

    Silence Isn't Neutral

    I talk more about queerness than Jewishness because of the backlash I’ve received for my Judaism. ~ Katherine Locke
    I've written before about how reluctant — and if we're being honest, scared — I have been to share the fact that I am Jewish, to be "a Jewish writer" rather than just a writer. I don't call attention to that part of my identity, because attention is what gets you killed. It sounds dramatic, until you know that I was born in the USSR and my parents had to have contingency plans on how to keep us all alive in that moment when people would come barging into our tiny apartment to do just that: kill us. Until you hear that my grandparents didn't allow any of us to go to the opening of a synagogue because they were terrified it was a trap for Jews to be killed on the spot. Until you know that even today synagogues in "civilized" countries like France and the US require police protection because of the danger posed to Jewish people who congregate to pray.

    Antisemitism, persecution, and the echoes of the Holocaust are a constant presence in the lives of Jews. Silence isn't an option, not when Jewish university students don't feel safe on US campuses, and not when a book like For Such A Time is published and then lauded.

    There have been some amazing posts on the danger presented by this book, and it is dangerous. How many hands saw a book promoting violence toward and erasure of Jews and thought "This is a great story!" instead of "This is awful, antisemitic, and dangerous"? How many readers found the story romantic

    The thing is, this book wasn't written to start a conversation; it was written as an uplifting, romantic, inspirational story.  As Katherine Locke wrote in a much more eloquent post than I can aspire to at the moment (and which I hope you will all go read): 
    Kate Breslin stole a tragedy that wasn’t hers to promote her own personal agenda. And in doing so, she contributed to the erasure of both victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Her book is anti-Semitic, violent, and dangerous. It glorifies and redeems a Nazi, while removing all of the Jewish woman’s agency and forcing her to convert to Christianity in order for her arc to be considered redemption. It is, in fact, exactly what has been done to the Jewish people throughout history. For longer than Christianity has been a religion, Jews across the world have been forced to convert or to hide their Judaism to save their lives. That is violence. That is erasure. Kate Breslin’s book is violence and erasure.
    And this book nearly won the Romance Writers of America's highest honor — twice. The people who allowed it to be published weren't neutral. The people who judged it for the RITA weren't neutral. The people who saw it, didn't think it was a good idea, and then didn't say anything weren't neutral. These people thought promoting the erasure of Judaism and finding the despicable "hero" redeemable and romantic was an acceptable choice. That isn't neutral.

    Silence in the face of today's antisemitism is not much different from the silence of those who watched their Jewish neighbors be rounded up, dragged away, and killed.

    And yes, I am concerned that there will be backlash for this post, that this may affect my upcoming release and my career going forward. But that isn't what matters. 

    I am scared. But I will not be silent.