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Fearless Self-Publishing Self-Publishing Writing Life

Fearless Self-Publishing Part 1: Every Keystroke Matters

This article is part of a series by Writing Bloc written to help indie authors put their best work forward when self-publishing.

Disappointment with ebook appearance? We’ve been there.

When Writing Bloc released our first anthology, Escape!, on January first, I couldn’t wait to download the ebook to my Kindle and read the finished product. We had worked hard and twenty different people pored over the manuscript to produce the final draft, so it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. When we uploaded the finished product to Draft2Digital and Amazon, we were confident and proud of what we had accomplished. So many eyes, so many corrections. The final product had to be perfect. I was beyond excited.

So imagine my surprise when the first story looked all wonky on my Kindle. The cover, copyright, and table of contents pages were all fine, but the manuscript was the bread and butter, and it just looked odd. The paragraphs all started at different places in their indentations. The line spacing felt strange. The quirks and problems in this “final product” were off enough to distract from immersion in the story. What had gone wrong?

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The problems weren’t even consistent throughout the book. Some stories came out perfectly aligned. Others only askew in a few places. Then the last story was just as jagged-looking as the first. Seeing as how we all spent months making this book gorgeous in its editing, I was frustrated with this digital publishing experience. And honestly, I blamed the format. I’m not the biggest fan of ebooks. I will read them, but generally I much prefer holding a printed book in my hand. As our next step was to format the paperback version (which is available now!), my concerns hit a fever pitch when approaching formatting. If a print book comes out looking strange, then you really can’t blame the medium of delivery unless the ink itself is smeared across the page. I combed through the manuscript as I prepared the print version, and soon enough, I found that the problem with the ebook wasn’t the technology at all, it was the way we told the technology the book should appear.

Look out for invisible problems

Writing in the modern age is much more than the words and letters you put on the page. It’s actually a little more musical than that, if you’d like to think of it that way. Music isn’t just the sounds, it’s also the silences. Writing in the digital age is definitely not just the words, it’s all the keystrokes. A few extra keystrokes caused our ebook to look off in many places. The problem is now solved, and after I solved it, I immediately thought I should share what I learned with the independent author community as soon as I could. Mostly because I’ve seen similar problems in other self-published manuscripts, and like so many other readers, I blamed the ebook itself. No matter who is receiving the blame, the end result is that the reader experience is worse for each and every error in a final product.

Specifically to Escape!, the problem was all the different styles of writing. We had twenty different authors from varying backgrounds contributing to the manuscript, and as it turned out, we had many different styles of starting a new line and indenting a paragraph. First, let me tell you the “right way”. If you can get into the habit of starting each new line of your story by simply pressing ENTER-TAB, then you will save yourself a ton of hassle down the road when you go to format your manuscript.

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This might seem like a silly thing to worry about, but it will turn out to be a big deal when publishing your book. Ebooks are just mindless computers displaying information exactly as they have been told. To your e-reader, all you have written is a series of keystrokes. It doesn’t really care about words or grammar. It’s been told to display something based on the information it’s been given, and hitting the space bar several times is different than one tap of the tab key. Pressing enter when you just want the same paragraph to continue on the next line means something completely different than just writing your sentences back to back.

Your published ebook is meant to be dynamic

Despite my distaste for ebooks, I realize their benefits. They have the ability to alter text sizes for different visual abilities. They can change the font for reader preference. Links to websites, blogs, and other works with which the author wishes to associate can be plugged directly into the script. Pictures can change placement and size depending on screen size. And the final product can be read on something as small as a cell phone and as large as a television screen. With print, what you see is what you get.

So when you’re producing the final manuscript for your ebook, remember that you aren’t actually giving your publishing program of choice your final product, you’re giving it the starting point for how you generally want your ebook to appear when readers open it. You don’t have control over what words will and will not wrap around a paragraph because you don’t know how large every reader will make your text appear. You don’t have control over how far your paragraphs indent because you don’t know how large of a screen each user will have. While formatting, you will have access to simulators (most often displayed as a “Preview” button) that will give you a general idea of what your final product will look like, but these simulators don’t cover everything. The best thing you can do is make your manuscript as clean and well structured with as few keystrokes as possible. Make sure your links work. Make sure your pictures are the right quality. These are things you have control over. But also make sure your paragraphs are consistent in their formatting. And keep it simple. ENTER for a new paragraph. TAB for an indent. One space in between sentences. Nothing more.

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Another good, sneaky double-check is to publish your ebook and not tell anyone. Then, download it yourself, or better yet, get a few beta readers with different e-readers to download it, and then search for errors in formatting that would distract your reader. If you find nothing, then congratulations! Tell the world about your ebook! If there are errors, go back and fix them, repeat the process with your betas downloading an updated ebook (by removing the old version from their device and downloading it again). Once it looks great, then you can go on selling your ebook with confidence.

The video below is a great place to start with how to format and upload your book to Amazon, as it points out a few tricks for keeping track of your keystrokes and spacing:

No matter what, take your time. No one becomes a bestseller overnight, so the publication day isn’t something to rush. We here at Writing Bloc want to make the indie publishing experience as great and painless as possible. In that spirit, we will continue this series, giving you any tips and tricks we’ve learned from our own experience and mistakes. Is there anything you need help with or have questions about? Let us know in the comments.

Thank you for reading!

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Anthology News News

Meet the Authors Behind Writing Bloc’s Escape! An Anthology

Cover for Escape! An Anthology by The Writing Bloc

Writing Bloc’s Escape! An Anthology is available for preorder now for your favorite ebook format (the Kindle link is separate, just click here)! The ebook is only $2.99 during this preorder phase, which is a steal for all of the stories you get from the amazing authors below. On New Year’s Day, the price goes up to $5.99, so grab your ebook today! Be sure to check out all of the author bios below, visit their sites, preorder Escape! An Anthology, and get the book to download automatically to your e-reader on New Year’s Day! Keep your eye out for the upcoming announcement about the print version…details coming soon!

For now, cheers to all these wonderful authors for their contributions to this amazing collection of short stories!

Jason Pomerance, Author of “Mrs. Ravenstein”

Photo Credit: Steven Murashige

Jason Pomerance has written film and television projects for numerous studios and production companies, including Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, FremantleMedia, and Gold Circle Films. His first novel, Women Like Us, published by the Quill imprint of Inkshares, debuted in 2016, and his novella Falconer was published in four parts on Nikki Finke’s site for showbiz fiction, Hollywood Dementia. He’s currently working on a new novel. Visit Jason at www.jasonpomerance.com, or on Instagram (@whowantsdinner), and Twitter (@whowantsdinner — and yes, Jason is always hungry!).

Jason’s “Women Like Us” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/womenlikeusnovel/

Buy Women Like Us in our store!

Susan Hamilton, Author of “Chrysalis”

Photo Credit: Dean Cerrati Photography

Susan K. Hamilton is the author of Shadow King, Darkstar Rising, and the forthcoming The Devil Inside. She lives outside of Boston with her husband, Jeff, and their cat, Rio. An avid equestrian, when she’s not tapping away at a computer, chances are you’ll find her at the barn. She loves fun movies, pizza, and pretty much any furry creature on the planet, and is currently working on a new, follow-up project to Shadow King.

Susan Hamilton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealSKHamilton

Susan Hamilton on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hamiltonsusank/

Michael Haase, Author of “Cedric”

Photo Credit: Margaret Haase

Michael Haase is the author of the forthcoming book, The Man Who Stole the World, to be published by Inkshares. Michael is a happy husband, father, musician, and spontaneous comedian who does nerdy stuff like study computer programming in his spare time. He lives intentionally near Cleveland, believe it or not

Michael Haase on Twitter: https://twitter.com/authormikehaase

Michael Haase on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichaelHaase/

Michael’s blog: https://talltalestold.com/

 

 

Peter Ryan, Author of “The Time Behind Dying”

Photo Credit: Neil Cole

Peter Ryan is a sci-fi lover, motorbike rider, darts player, and T-shirt designer, as well as being an English professor at a university in South Korea. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and has traveled much of the world. While on the move, he has done a variety of jobs, including sales support at an insurance company, laborer on the building sites of London and Melbourne, chauffeur/minder for an English lord, and business English consultant in Shanghai.

Peter Ryan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SyncCityJack

Peter Ryan’s website: http://www.synccityjack.com/

Buy Sync City in our store!

 

Deborah Munro, Author of “Ambition”

Deborah Munro is a scientist and biomedical engineer from Oregon who recently expatriated to New Zealand. She is passionate about writing, especially hard science thrillers that engage readers on current issues.

Deborah Munro on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebMunro_Author

Deborah Munro on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeborahMunro.Author/

 

Durena Burns, Author of “I Wish It Happened”

Durena Burns currently lives in Southern California and has worked for special education in elementary. She mostly writes biographical stories about her family. Her first published book ‘Call Me Whitehead’ is about her late uncle’s experiences as a black man in the Vietnam War.

Durena’s “Call Me Whitehead” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CallMeWhitehead/

Ferd Crôtte, Author of “Captiveedom”

Ferd Crôtte is an Internal Medicine hospitalist physician and is the author of ‘Captiveedom’ in this anthology. His debut novel, Mission 51, is currently in production by Inkshares. Ferd and his wife Gail live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Ferd Crôtte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FerdCrotte

Ferd Crôtte on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FerdCrotteMission51/?ref=br_rs

Christopher Lee, Author of “The Gilded Tower”

Photo Credit: Stacey Eichenauer

Christopher Lee is the independent author of Nemeton and Bard Song. Outside of his gig as an author, he is an avid history buff, amateur mythologist, bardic poet, Holistic Life Coach, Reiki Master/Teacher, Mindfulness Practitioner, and keeper of the old ways.

Christopher lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife and two cats.

Christopher Lee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristLeeEich

Buy Nemeton: The Trial of Calas in our store!

Mike Donald, Author of “Something In Mind”

Mike worked for the BBC as a sound mixer, wrote for comedy sketch shows, and developed sit-com ideas. Brought up in Scotland and England, he worked as a script analyst for gap finance company Aramid Capital, and has written many award-winning screenplays.

Mike Donald on Twitter: https://twitter.com/smokingkeys

Mike Donald’s website: http://www.touchwoodpictures.com/

Buy Louisiana Blood in our store!

 

Christopher Hinkle, Author of “Cowboy For A Day”

Born in the backwoods of West Virginia, Chris Hinkle is a country boy down to his molecular structure. He now lives in New Zealand where he works for the Government and puts forth a reasonable effort at masking his inner-hick for the benefit of those around him.

Christopher Hinkle on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christopherhenckel

 

 

Evan Graham, Author of “Breach”

Photo Credit: Plain Jane Photography

Evan Graham is the author of upcoming science fiction thrillers Tantalus Depths and Proteus. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Education Studies from Kent State University, where he triple-minored in English, Writing, and Theatre. He currently lives in rural Middlefield, Ohio and is extensively involved in local community theatre, both on the stage and behind the scenes.

Evan Graham on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorEvanGraham/

Tahani Nelson, Author of “The Faoii Of Ashwood”

Tahani Nelson is a Writer, Teacher and Nerd in rural Montana. Her debut series, The Faoii Chronicles focuses on strong female warriors in epic fantasy.

Tahani Nelson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TahaniNelson

Tahani’s “The Last Faoii” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheLastFaoii/

Buy The Last Faoii in our store!

 

 

Michael James Welch, Author of “Convict 45”

Photo Credit: Annette Sargent

Michael James Welch is a proud Western New Yorker, an even prouder snowflake, and above all, husband and father to a wonderful family. His first novel, PrOOF, will be published by Inkshares in 2019-20. He feasts on your derision and bathes nightly in your disdain.

Michael James Welch on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mikexwelch

 

Cari Dubiel, Author of “Art Imitates”

Photo Credit: Ed Dubiel

Cari Dubiel juggles writing, librarian-ing, mom-ing, and bassooning in Northeast Ohio. Her novel, How to Remember, is in production with Inkshares. She is a past Library Liaison to Sisters in Crime and the co-host of the ABC Book Reviews Podcast.

Cari Dubiel on Twitter: https://twitter.com/caridubiel

Cari Dubiel on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/caridubielauthor/

Becca Spence Dobias, Author of “Aspirant”

Photo Credit: Linda Abbott Photography

Becca Spence Dobias grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Southern California where she writes hard and moms harder. Her debut novel, Rock of Ages, is in production with Inkshares.

Becca Spence Dobias on Twitter: https://twitter.com/totallynotbex

Becca Spence Dobias on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeccaSpenceDobias/

 

 

 

 

Grace Marshall, Author of “The Marking”

Grace Marshall is an author, mother, and TV enthusiast. She writes technical documentation as her primary profession but has also been known to post randomly on her site escapeoftheinnermonlogue.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Lee, Author of “A Grave Ordeal”

Photo Credit: Megan Annis

Daniel Lee is the author of the novel AFTER DEATH, which won First Place in the Nerdist Sci-Fi Contest and is forthcoming from Inkshares. He lives in Los Angeles, where he makes his living as an editor of movie trailers. See more of his work at Dan-Lee.net

Daniel Lee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dannyboylee

Patrick Edwards, Author of “Wendell, Wendell, & Wendell”

When he’s not busy mushing words into silly stories, Pat spends his time battling inter-dimensional shadow monsters and having tea parties with his two daughters. His debut novel, Space Tripping, is currently available wherever books are sold. Check him out on Twitter @ThePatEdwards

Buy Space Tripping in our store!

 

 

Kendra Namednil, Author of “Catching”

Photo Credit: Arthur Koch

Kendra Namednil was born in Northern California and began writing when she was 26, publishing her first full novel at 30. She has volunteered for many organizations, though her greatest joy was working with behavior-plan dogs with the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Kendra Namednil on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kendra1337

Buy Borehole Bazaar (A Vow Unbroken) in our store!

Jason Chestnut, Author of “Like Clockwork”

When not working on computers to pay the bills, Jason Chestnut is a writer, musician, avid reader, and gamer. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife Shannon, their two kids and lazy pug.

Follow Jason Chestnut on Twitter: @atomicboywonder

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to preorder “Escape!” NOW!

Price goes up to $5.99 on New Year’s Day, so preorder your copy NOW for 50% off!

Just click here for Amazon or here for all other ebook readers. Only $2.99 for the ebook!

Thank you for your support!!!

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Author Interview Uncategorized Writing Life

Interview with Rachael Sparks: Author of Resistant

Rachael Sparks is the author of the hard science fiction novel Resistant, which Publishers Weekly called “a scientifically accurate apocalypse.” Resistant takes place in a near future in which drug-resistant bacteria are winning the battle over humanity. Rachael was kind enough to chat with me about science, character development, and writing habits.

In the final battle with drug-resistant bacteria, one woman’s blood holds a secret weapon.

Rory and her father have survived the antibiotic crisis that has killed millions, including Rory’s mother—but ingenuity and perseverance aren’t their only advantages. When a stoic and scarred young military veteran enters their quiet life, Rory is drawn to him against her better judgment . . . until he exposes the secrets her mother and father kept from her, including the fact that her own blood may hold the cure the world needs, and she is the target of groups fighting to reach it first.

When the government comes after Rory, aiming to use her for a cure it can sell to the highest bidder, she’s forced to flee with her father and their new protector. But can she find the new path of human evolution before the government finds her?

Your novel draws from real-world science. Tell us a little bit about your background and what the research process was like for you.

I’m a microbiologist by training, a transplant expert, and now I work in hospital infection prevention with a medical device startup. So my education and career has centered around public health and that experience was half a lifetime of research for several books! For this novel, the research I needed to do was easy in that it was mostly mining my own brain and then confirming my filed-away facts were not yet discredited. Knowing that several friends who are legit scientists would be reading, I wanted badly for them to be convinced.

When did the idea for Resistant first strike you?

I’d wanted to write a sci-fi novel that explored this problem[antibiotic resistance], but a dream of a scene in the climax really inspired the characters. A handsome guy with swaths of discolored skin. . . readers will know his disfigurement plays into the plot but I honestly couldn’t say whether that was already in my mind or came after the dream!

 

Tell us about your protagonist? Are they inspired by someone you know in real life?

Rory is an amalgam of a lot of wonderful people I’ve known. She’s smart and a little unfiltered at times, with a bravery that can get her into trouble.  I wanted her to be flawed, to make mistakes and be mature enough to solve them on her own.

Do you have a favorite character out of all the ones you’ve created?

Yes, I like Navy. He’s not an open book, not easy to read, so he was a challenge to write. I wanted him to be reserved but not aloof, to have integrity despite having made massively bad judgement calls in his past. He’s fun to get to know as I write more about him.


How important is research to you when writing a book?

It’s critical, in my genre. In retrospect I would’ve loved for Resistant to be longer, with more science background explained — an excuse for even more research! So aside from enjoying the process, translating the useful bits into my writing in order to create an absorbing, believable premise is important to me. Science can be unwieldy for some, but the best sci-fi makes it palatable and fascinating to any reader.

Do your novels carry a primary message?

I hope so. My goal is to entertain while also imparting a bit of knowledge that arms the reader, even if only for an interesting fact to drop into cocktail hour.


If given the opportunity to start over, would you change anything in your books?

Ugh. Who wouldn’t? I’d just do more backstory for everything and everyone.


Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you keep a hold of the reigns?

When I’m writing, it feels like it! Even the end of Resistant surprised me, so I credit Rory for that. But more often I feel like I’m a director talking to an actor: “How do you think your character would react?”

Do you often project your own habits onto your characters?

Sure! Our habits are our expertise, too, right? Rory and her father brew beer, for example, and I sorely wanted an excuse to explain how they might have harvested and cultured their own yeast and scavenged ingredients. Alas, it had no plot value.



What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I love a good mystery fiction with a bit of adventure, action romance — couples in peril saving each other is catnip for vacation reading. Magical realism genre is delicious when the authors ground it in theoretical science. I’m still in awe of Deb Harkness’ use of genetics to plausibly structure a tree of life that could explain a vampire!

 

Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

Oh hell no. When I sit down to write, I’ve usually been thinking about scenes for a while, and I first refresh myself on where I left off. But often I’ll also pick a random spot in my MS to re-read, as it helps me keep a consistent mood. And I turn on my playlist for each work in progress, and pretend it’s the soundtrack to the future movie. I don’t judge my progress on words — if it’s something I want to keep reading, I feel successful.

Some writers create a bubble around themselves until they finish a project – how true is that for you?
Gosh, that sounds lovely. I have a 4 year old, a husband I love to spend time with, dogs, career, and other relationships to nurture. Maybe one day I could do that! The closest I get to a bubble is a closed office door on an early morning.


If you were given the opportunity to join a book club with your favorite authors, dead or alive, who would you want to become a part of the club?

Michael Crichton. Emily Dickinson. David Walton. Nora Roberts. Katherine Howe. Jacqui Castle. Deborah Harkness. Celeste Ng. Emily and Anne Bronte. And I’d invite Andrew Mayne, if he promised to entertain us with magic tricks.

Anne and the Emilys would likely clique off, but maybe we could ply them with sherry and put them at ease.

Awww shucks. I would love to be in a book club with you!

What do you do to market your own books yourself? Any advice on that front?

I doubt I have some magical insight here, but I try to promote myself on all the normal channels: website, social media, Goodreads and other places an author profile can be added. Talking about yourself is the pits, so I just try not to take myself very seriously. I think being fun, informative, genuine and engaged is the best marketing.

For advice, specifically to new authors, I say: to make the most of social media as an author, I think you have to abandon rules about friends on platforms. When launching a new book, everyone is your friend. I also suggest they ask themselves before spending dollars in marketing (a website, for example) – how can I measure its return, so I’ll know whether to continue investing there. Analytics and data are your friend!

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with or follow you (website, blog, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) and links?

I’m most active on Twitter and Instagram, but Facebook and Goodreads get a daily visit. My website is a great place and goes straight to my inbox!

 

 

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Author Interview illustrator interview Writing Life

Interview with Phil Rood, “That Illustrator Guy”

Phil Rood is someone you should know.

He is an illustrator out of Florida, and his work is marvelous. He is a master of body language, and each individual illustration of his tells a story. In my adventures as a writer, I’ve stumbled across uncountable talented people. Phil Rood’s talents left an impact on me almost immediately. He was recommended to me by fellow authors Rick Heinz and J.F. Dubeau, and so I started following Phil’s Facebook page. I recommend you do the same.

Not only are Phil’s illustrations carefully detailed and just downright fun, but the man is a study in dedication. He illustrates every single day and posts his work for all to enjoy. Often he will post videos of his illustration process using Facebook’s live feature, putting himself on the spot without hesitation.

He has a website (which I encourage you to access by clicking here) where you can peruse his portfolio, check out his latest creations, and purchase his books as well as individual hand-drawn works. Not only is he talented, but he is also an easy fellow to talk to. And he responds to any fan comments or questions with great efficiency. I had the pleasure of interviewing him. I hope you enjoy the result. A few of his works and a video of his process can be found below.

cowboy and lady standing by piano

When did you first discover your love of illustrating?

Probably around 12 years ago when I finally got around to going to college. I’ve always drawn, but when I went to school and studied graphic design, I started to really see the ability for me to practically apply drawing and illustrating.

Who are some of your greatest influences?

Bill Watterson and Gary Larson influenced me early, both in aesthetic ways and in the way their art carried so much humor. Stylistically, I’m influenced a lot by comic artists Jake Parker and Skottie Young and illustrator Ralph Steadman, who is able to cram so much energy into his drawings that they practically move on their own. That’s the kind of thing I keep looking for. From a career overview, I think comedian Marc Maron has been very influential to me as well. He’s spoken a lot about how he found success by not trying to please everyone, by staying true to his voice, and letting his audience find him. I think there’s a lot to be said about that and I’ve tried to walk that line.

Do you have a favorite illustration or story that you’ve completed?

Generally, my favorite illustrations tend to be whatever is most recent. I’m constantly trying to improve and if I’m doing it right, I’m happiest with the newest thing off my desk. There are some that have stuck with me over time as being favorites, like a drawing of three demons I drew for my “Monster Alphabet” series. They are modeled after my three sons. As for stories, I recently finished a really simple 14-page comic called “Sally” and I’m very proud of a lot of the work I did in that.

judgmental cat illustration

Give us an idea of your process from concept to complete.

I basically do a couple rough sketches of an idea to try to get an idea of composition and how it’s going to be executed. After I’m happy with that, I pencil the drawing on a sheet of Bristol, then I ink right over top of it. That’s it. The entire process is pretty laughably simple, but keeping things simple is pretty key for me. If I’m doing a longer form project, like a comic, it gets a bit more complicated, but that’s just because there’s more things than drawing going on.

Storytelling, pacing, layout, and visual storytelling with clarity all have to be taken into consideration. The entire comic/book gets planned out in sketch form, just like I would do for a single illustration. It’s pretty much the same process on a bigger scale. When the actual drawing is done, I scan it in, usually at a healthy 600dpi, and open the scan in Photoshop where I can clean it up and get a nice, clean high-resolution bitmap version of it.

Do you have a routine or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

I tend to be of the school of thought that thinks if you sit around and wait for inspiration to strike, you’ll be staring at a blank piece of paper for weeks on end. You have to draw something every day, even if it’s a 5-minute sketch. If that’s all the time I have, then I put all the effort I can into that 5-minute sketch, but I do it and it’s something I stress in the classes I teach.

Do your illustrations inspire your stories, or do your stories inspire your illustrations?

There’s no hard and fast rule for me either way, but I’d say the tendency is for a drawing to inspire a story, which in turn spawns more drawings, whether that be a written piece or a comic. The initial drawing may just be a character or vehicle I sketch or scribble, but it’s enough to get the ball rolling. Sometimes it takes and I get a full illustrated story. Sometimes it ends up in a pile of nothing… the ever growing pile of nothing…

cowboy gunslinger illustration

What tools do you use for illustrating?

I’ll start with paper since that’s an easier answer: My go-to is basically just industry-standard Strathmore 300 Series smooth Bristol. It’s heavy and stands up to the abuse I can sometimes put a sheet of paper through. My pens are sort of shifting constantly because I’m a giant pen nerd. At the moment, I’m using Copic Multiliner and Micron tech pens because I’m loving the simple line I get from them, but I also employ various brush pens, markers, and crow quills. I am constantly experimenting with new pens and seeing what kinds of lines and results I can get from them.

What software do you use?

Digitally I just use an old copy of Photoshop Elements for cleanup and color. I’m not much of a colorist, so when I do use it, it’s very simple and Elements meets my needs for it, as does the ProCreate app on my iPad. I have played around with that quite a bit in the last year and colored almost all of my “Ink & Sunshine” illustrations with that. As for straight-up digital line drawing, I don’t do much, but when I do, I use Sketchbook Pro. It’s an older program. Kari Simms and I are developing a video podcast right now that involves live sketching and that is likely going to be our go-to software for that.

Do you have a favorite character out of all the ones you’ve created?

Not really… I have some affinity for a lot of them that I’ve told stories with. Some have just been drawings I’ve made in passing, then put into a folder with the idea “I’ve got to tell a story with this guy”, but as you probably know, the idea file grows fast and we’re forced to pick and choose what we have time for. I like a lot of my characters very much, but it’s tough to pick a favorite. If I keep drawing them, there’s something I love about them, and it’s different in each one.

What kind of story are you working on right now?

I have a couple ideas kicking around in my head, but I’m not really working on a story at the moment. I got into the podcasting world about six months ago and have been working with the crew at Blazing Caribou Studios. I have a few shows coming up with them and have been doing an illustration per episode for their “Varmints!” podcast, which I am finding to be all kinds of fun. It’s nice to take a break and do some stand-alone illustrations for right now.

Do you ever get into slumps or have periods of creator’s block? If so, how do you get out?

Of course I do, the trick is to not let it stop me from getting to the desk. For me the key is to keep showing up, even if no quality is coming out of it. If you want to get over creator’s block, you’ve got to create. You’ve got to draw something. You’ve got to write something. I think for me, a lot of it lies in forgetting that I have creator’s block and being open to ideas, even simple ones. If I see a person who looks interesting to me, I remember them, I go home, and I draw an exaggerated version of them in my sketchbook…I make something out of something I see. I take it the next step away from reality. That’s creating and it helps get the flow moving again.

Any advice for other illustrators or storytellers?

Write or draw every day. Lack of time is not an excuse. If it’s truly important to you, you will find the time.

Related Links:

Phil Rood’s website: http://philrood.com/

Phil Rood’s Facebook page: Phil Rood, That Illustrator Guy

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Author Interview

Interview with Author Michael Gaudet

Michael Gaudet is not your typical author.

When Mr. Gaudet approached me to talk about his book, I was immediately intrigued. He is a unique author to me, as he is someone who has suffered kidney disease for most of his life, to the point of requiring organ donation. Mr. Gaudet writes frankly and openly about his experiences, and his message is clear and important. Organ donation is a vital need for so many people out there, but it is something that has a strange stigma attached. Mr. Gaudet has taken his time and energy to write about his experiences to help educate the public about his personal journey and health for the betterment of all. Please enjoy the following interview and pick up a copy of his book, “Dancing with Rejection”.

michael gaudet holding book while receiving dialysis

Tell us a little bit about your book, “Dancing with Rejection”.

I particularly admire the review that was written by best-selling author Eldonna Edwards:

“Intriguing story of an enterprising muralist with an appetite for the mystical. Part magical realism, part biography, part how-to guide for the aspiring artist — Dancing With Rejection offers a unique narrative, embellished with spiritual and metaphysical undertones that border on the ethereal. Michael’s saga takes the reader on adventures that include his formative childhood, bohemian lifestyle, a near-death experience with kidney failure and eventual success as a renowned mural artist. This inspirational tale is tenderly painted with brush strokes of resilience and hope that will alter your heart’s canvas long after you put the book down.”

–Eldonna Edwards,  Living Donor Advocate and Author of  Lost In Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor.

As I like to say, “If you believe what you are reading, I offer irrefutable proof of ‘life after death’ in my writing. Dancing with Rejection: A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality explores the phenomenon of “After Death Contact” in a visceral, sometimes shocking way, that springs out of seemingly ordinary scenarios. Not for the feint of heart, this book can be very jarring, but always written with a loving nature that pleads for understanding and compassion.

What made you decide to write a book about your experiences with your health?

I have always written about my thoughts and observations since I was a teenager. So, I had a thick raft of long-hand on loose-leaf. I wrote about my “Near-Death Experience” at age 19, and the powerful influence that my deceased father had on my life over the years. Might sound strange, but my personal encounters with his spirit are undeniable, if not inexplicable. My brother Steven donated a life-saving kidney to me in 1979, after I was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure. His “Gift of Life” sustained me in excellent health for over 34 years. In May of 2014 I returned to dialysis. I purchased a laptop and began to transcribe all of my hand-written notes into a digital format. I was very determined to make the best of my twelve hours per week tethered to a machine. After all, there is no guarantee that a dialysis patient will survive the rigors of the treatment. In fact, many patients succumb to the precarious life of dialysis. So, the sense of urgency was top of mind, as I toiled away on the project to polish up my manuscript and get my story out to the world. I would not be deterred! Within about eighteen months I had succeeded in publishing my first book. About a year later, I succeeded in publishing my second book, called “A Work in Progress: The Life my Brother Saved”.

What sort of feedback have you had from others in similar circumstances?

Generally speaking, my books have been very well-received by my friends and colleagues that have experienced extreme health challenges, especially my fellow Dialysis Warriors and kidney transplant recipients, and living kidney donors. I think the big appeal is that they see their own stories reflected in a literary setting. I take this whole business very seriously, so treat the fairly delicate themes of “Near Death Experience” and “After Death Contact” with a lot of graphic detail. However, I do not mince my words; but rather, I forge head-long into that rather harrowing subject matter with unflinching honesty.
michael gaudet reading at a podium

Has speaking out about your health changed you or made things easier for you in any way?

I won’t lie. It was not easy to put down in writing all of the sometimes painful memories of my long, slow decline to the point where I came so close to an early demise. I really believe that my readers have appreciated  my candor. Some people have told me that they see themselves in the more “difficult” passages, and also can share my celebratory tones in the chapters that extol the human triumphs of renewed health and vitality. Now, reflecting on these places, times and (extraordinary) people can be a saving grace in and of itself. I am truly blessed that I had the opportunity and determined spirit that enabled me to record all of this for posterity.

Tell us about why it is so hard to receive organ donation.

Probably the most daunting aspect of living organ donation is dispelling the myths around the health challenges involved. Really, once the rigorous testing is completed for the potential living donor, it’s pretty smooth sailing in most instances. The actual surgery is often done “laparoscopically”, which means there are only tiny incisions, assisted by ultrasonic viewing. The recovery time is dramatically reduced, compared to the former, long incision used to harvest a kidney from a living donor. Having said that, it is still major surgery, so the willingness for a person to donate must be tempered by this knowledge. The reality is, once a willing candidate to donate a life-saving kidney to person who is dialysis-dependent is identified, a perfect tissue match is not a prerequisite! There is a protocol called “Paired Match”, where a willing, qualified donor can be paired with the best possible match in a National Recipient Pool. This activates the best possible donor from the pool to be paired to the original recipient. In some instances, the “Paired Match” protocol has brought over a dozen paired matches together!

What is it like having to go through hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis is a life-saving therapy that both cleans the blood of accumulated toxins and also, helps rid the blood of the fluids that add up between treatments. Generally speaking, the duration of treatments are prescribed to alleviate the threat of kidney failure, providing a fairly healthy lifestyle. Having said that, there are times when the dialysis patient feels “off”. Examples of this are “brain-fog”, shortness of breath, general fatigue, elevated blood pressure and of course, swelling of the extremities. In extreme cases, certain toxins such as potassium, urea and sodium accumulate and cause their own world of trouble.
I am one of the rare birds that self-cannulate, or, in other words, insert my own needles in the venus and arterial parts of my “fistula”, which are the sites on my left arm that have been surgically prepped to allow the therapy. Usually the pain involved in initiating the therapy is fairly minimal, mostly due to the fact that I am the one in the driver’s seat. Sometimes, when things go awry, the needles can “blow”, which means they pierce the fistula to allow blood to escape into the surrounding tissue, resulting in a sudden “ballooning” and then, fairly extreme bruising. The only relief is to apply an ice-pack over the site, and then move away from the spot for the next treatment, if at all possible.
My doctor has told me the my fistula is a) my lifeline, and b) the Gold Standard for dialysis. So, any tests, like blood-work or blood-pressure, must NEVER be using my left arm. My Medic-Alert bracelet states that salient fact clearly, in the event that I cannot speak for myself.
michael gaudet in photo session

What do you think is the most important thing you want people to learn from reading your book?

I want my readers to appreciate that a healthy and very productive life can spring from out of the chaos and confusion of a near brush with death. I can only thank my loving brother Steven for insisting that he donate a life-saving kidney in my dire time of need all those years ago.  “Dancing with Rejection” not only describes my own near-fatal experience, but also chronicles the heroic “Gift of Life” from my brother, and goes on to assure my readers that Steven went on to live a full and rich life in the aftermath. It is my (fervent) hope that this story will inspire many others to take the step to become a living donor, and also to reassure the millions of us living with the insidious condition of kidney failure that their day will come, when they are restored to vibrant health and wellness.

What other books have you written/are working on?

I have published my second book called, “A Work in Progress: The Life My Brother Saved”, that tracks some of my significant mural projects, portrays the “love of my life” and introduces the indomitable “Pearl”… who is my daughter. This second book terminates at the moment when I discover, after over thirty-four years of life with my “Gift of Life”, that I must return to thrice-weekly dialysis. Now, I am marinating a third book, that will constitute the complete “trilogy” of my memoirs. The third book, as of yet untitled, will be written in “real time” as I enter the next phase of my life with second “Gift of Life”, that will gain me back my seven days a week, God and all the angels willing.
Please visit me at www.mrgaudet.com to read more.

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Writing Life

Why Finding Your Audience is One of the Most Important Things You Can Do As A Writer

As a writer, you need an audience.

Are you lacking confidence in your art? If so, chances are you are lacking the support of an audience.

I know that hard work and patience have been driven into the ground as far as advice goes, but what is your plan if you aren’t going to be patient? What happens if you refuse to work hard? Does this mean your dreams have an expiration date?

If you’re trying to get your art out into the world, then you must know it is a frustrating process. All the while, you must love your art. You must believe in your art. And, you must keep pushing forward.

Unfortunately, you must also believe in the competition. And everyone is competing for attention. I’d like to boil my point down to focus on the world of writing, as this is where I am the most familiar; however, this same lesson can be applied to any dream. Whether you are hoping to be a schoolteacher, a lawyer, a physician, a painter, or a writer, if you have something in mind that is a dream for you, something that would make work not work at all, then you are trying to be noticed in a sea of other dreamers. It takes hard work. And patience.

You cannot quit if you wish to succeed.

There are millions of people out there writing. Almost too many to count. Every time someone decides writing is not for them, three more people pick up a pen. The first step is not to back away, ever. Write every day, even if it’s only a few words. If that sounds like hard work for you, then you might want to reevaluate whether writing is your passion. Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” wrote every single day and received rejection after rejection for over eight years before finding success. That might sound like a long time, but it’s not nearly as long as if he had decided to quit.

Roots.jpg

Are you certain that your writing is worth the world’s attention, but your book was rejected by a publisher? That doesn’t mean you are wrong, it just means your book was rejected. There are almost countless reasons to be rejected. Publishing is a business, and if the subject matter of your work doesn’t match what the publisher thinks will sell, then it doesn’t matter if you’re J.K. Rowling; your work will be rejected. Seriously, you can ask her yourself. “Harry Potter” was rejected twelve times before finally landing a publisher.

Harry Potter.jpg

The worst case scenario.

But what every publisher on the planet rejected you? In this day and age, self-publishing is an option, but uncountable authors walk away because they are afraid that no one will notice their book if it is not attached to a publisher. On top of that, self-publishing means you are running a business by yourself, essentially. Well, if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes. Get on with it. Work hard. I’ve heard people concerned that nothing self-published ever becomes popular. Ever heard of The Tale of Peter Rabbit? Of course you have. And the reason you’ve heard of it is because Beatrix Potter put in the time and hard work to publish it herself. Why? Because no one else would publish it. Seriously. No one wanted that book.

peter-rabbit-cover.jpg

Not convinced? What do Dr. Seuss, William Golding, Isaac Asimov, James Joyce, Jack Kerouac, Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, and James Patterson all have in common? That’s right: multiple rejections. In some cases, the rejections were even quite brutal. Even the Diary Of Anne Frank received rejection…fifteen times.

Success is a matter of persistence.

The authors you know are popular because they persisted. Because they believed in their work. And they worked hard. And, of course, they were patient.

If you are unwilling to take rejection, then you are going to have a bad time in any field you take on. Writing is a journey of rejection. But climbing that mountain getting to the top is all the more sweet with a difficult climb ahead. Embrace the resistance to your work. It means you are original, and you simply have to find your audience. Along the way, expect rejection.

I can’t find the source of this quote, but it’s not mine, and I’m paraphrasing:

“An author unwilling to accept rejection is like a boxer unable to take a punch.”

You will have to duck, jab, block, and punch your way through the world of publishing. You will fight because you believe in your work. Listen to constructive criticism. Throw out useless insults. Fight off the negative thought. Always improve.

And you must find your audience. Your audience is out there, you just have to hand your work over to a ton of people who don’t appreciate it until you find those who do.

And that will take…you guessed it, hard work and patience.

Good luck. Now get to work.

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Writing Life

Blurring the Lines Between Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing

Traditional publishing vs. Self-publishing: What is the real difference?

I spoke recently on a panel on “The Art of Publishing” alongside a self-published author, an author with books both traditionally and self-published, the editor of a weekly newspaper, and the owner of a small press. More than anything, this conversation led me to consider the labels we use when discussing different means of publication. A vast amount of information is available on “ traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. ” You can consider the pros and cons of each, their histories, statistics, and anything else you could possibly want to know to help you decide which road to go down. I certainly imagined myself standing at a forked path with manuscript in hand while I was obsessively pouring over those sites.

What these blogs and Facebook posts don’t convey is that these are not the only two publishing routes that exist, and that increasingly, the other options are blurring the boundaries between what seemed like two distinct choices.

Traditional publishing used to just be “publishing.” There were a limited number of people in the world who had access to the physical resources needed to print and distribute a book. If you wanted to publish your writing, they acted as the gatekeepers. Of course, people have hand-written and distributed writing for a long time, but publishing houses, with Richard Hoe’s patent of the first rotary press in 1846, could circulate paperbacks, introduced to the United States only one year earlier, widely.

Technology– accessible word processors, printers, computers, the Internet—made it possible for a vast number of people to create, replicate, and distribute their work on a broad scale. The self-publishing/ traditional publishing dichotomy was born. Large publishers were no longer required in order to access these tools, and their role changed to that of a content filter and voucher. They came to be seen as quality control—a way to sort through the enormous sea of work that was now available around the world.

But there is more good work out there than the Big Five publishers can publish. Small publishers began challenging that monopoly and filling some of that gap. Even with the numerous small presses that now exist, there is still more great writing, and potentially great writing, than they can manage. Publication sometimes relies on politics—who you know, how much money and access you already have, etc., as a filter because publishers are humans and humans can only read, edit, design, market, and distribute so much. But anyone has access to these tools. People can publish their work themselves. And a lot of it is good! What challenges outdated ideas about the connection between publishing and quality even further is that increasingly folks are choosing to publish their work independently not as a compromise or act of settling, but intentionally. There are a number of reasons some prefer to publish books themselves, including viewing it as a middle finger to the politics and gatekeeping of traditional publishing.

So publishing is no longer necessarily about who can physically publish and distribute a book. And it’s no longer necessarily an indicator of quality. Where does that leave us?

With choices! Here we are again at that fork– You can pursue traditional publishing with a large house or small press or you can publish your book yourself. But there are choices now that blur the line between these two. My first novel, Rock of Ages, is in production with Inkshares, a crowdfunding platform for books. In this model, authors who secure 750 preorders within a set timeframe receive publishing services from the company including cover design, developmental and copyediting, marketing and distribution. Crowdfunding puts the key to that golden gate in the hands of authors. Instead of standing like a sentinel in front of the opening, platforms like Inkshares step aside and ask “Can you reach high enough to unlock the gate yourself?”

The new venture Writing Bloc is taking on, the cooperative publishing model taking that a step further. We’re working as a team to write, edit, design, market, and distribute our own work. Like self-publishing, we’re eschewing the need for someone to do it all for us. Instead, we’re utilizing the expertise and work ethic of our group as a unit to publish our own quality content. We are taking ownership of the gate and everything inside. But at what point does this kind of venture become more like traditional publishing than self-publishing? After all, we are developing contracts, establishing content guidelines, and hopefully will eventually be distributing royalties. As Robert Batten writes, “publishers are people.” Batten is emphasizing that in order to get in with the company, The Entity, you must first win over the people who make up that entity, but remembering that publishers are people also challenges their hegemonic power.  Publishing houses are not gods. They no longer have a monopoly on resources and they’ve never had a monopoly on quality. They are groups of people who remain the gatekeepers simply because they’ve appointed themselves such and we’ve continued to go along with it.  So does it matter when we cross that line when the line is increasingly arbitrary?

What it boils down to is that the labels are becoming irrelevant. I made a comment on the panel that had all of the participants nodding. One of the amazing advantages of having access to many means of publishing means that you don’t have to write to a target audience if you don’t want to. You can write the book that you want to write—the story that needs to be written—and then find your target audience. When you put your book out into the world you want editing, design, marketing, and the validation that comes from people enjoying your work. Increasingly, those are at our fingertips in a number of innovative configurations. You may not have an audience of tens of thousands. But amongst the billions of people in the world, you probably have an audience of at least hundreds. What is important is creating exceptional books and getting them into the hands of people who will find meaning and value in them, however, we do that.

 

 

 

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