Burn Out

So, I’ve been a bad blogger.  I can own that.  I have signed on with a few companies, at the same time, to run promotional blitzes for my book … this means, I’ve been blogging — it’s just not here. And what I am writing is for the future, and it’s stressful because these are little blogs are nothing like my own … these are syndicated blogs going out to worldwide publications.  I’ve been running 14 hour days, getting up at 5 and going to bed at 12.  I’m working almost around the clock at this point between my real job and writing.  I can’t shut my mind off — and yet, I’ve run out of good ideas.

In two words … burn out.

Right now, I’m exhausted.  Tired to the bone.  Frustrated with my own limitations.  And, I’m sick.  I have a sore throat and headache that won’t lighten up.

I’ll be a better blogger again soon … complete with tricks and tips for publicity.

The Last Dawn … Author Interview With Christina Lasater

Today I have the chance to let you meet author Christina Lasater.  I want to thank Christina for the chance to pick her brain on her first year of publishing … and for willingly agreeing to share her journey with us all.

Christina just published her first novel, THE LAST DAWN, a futuristic novel that takes the reader on the journey to the end of the Earth and into a brave new dawn.

Linked at the bottom is a very special code that will let you all download and read THE LAST DAWN for free through Smashwords for a limited time, until Monday 2.20.2012!

ENJOY!

xx,

Ashley MP.

Tell us what your first year of publishing has been like? What was the pit and what was the peak? 
I haven’t quite made it to a year since I decided to publish/have been published but so far it has been exciting. The pit has been just how time consuming it was. When I decided to publish, I chose Smashwords, CreateSpace and Amazon all of which required different formats for the manuscript; it was tedious work. The peak was seeing my novel go “live” on those websites and when people began to purchase their copies.

Before you became the writer you are today, with your first novel officially published, where did you see yourself landing? Did you think you’d be traditionally published or were always planning to go it alone into the Indie Universe? 
Years ago when I decided that I wanted to be published, I always imagined having traditionally published novel. I dreamed of being published with one of those major publishing houses. Up until a few months ago, I had little knowledge of Indie publishing. I knew that it was going to be a lot of hard work and I would be alone in my adventure but I saw it as a challenge that I wanted to try.

Did you query? If so, what was that experience like you as a first time novelist? What was the nicest thing an agent said … and what was the most disheartening? How did you deal with it? 
I didn’t query since I chose the Indie path.

Hindsight is always 20/20 … if you could go back and rewrite the journey towards publication, what would you do differently? What would you do the same? 
I don’t think there is anything that I would have done differently except for taking so long to reach my goal. Before I decided it was time to crack down on myself and to stop procrastinating and to set that goal, I had already been working on my novel for almost a year and a half. I was ready to get it finished. I had already planned out my novel but I needed to plan out exactly when I wanted it to be finished. I created a strict schedule, doing so much every day and every week. Being so focused on what I had to do every day helped me to finish on time.

If you could pass on one piece of knowledge to other writers just starting out what would that advice be? 
Do your research. Research your options, traditional or Indie publishing, to get a good understanding of what you are about to enter. One of those options just will not suit you even if it is something you had your heart set on doing and that’s okay. Don’t let that discourage you.

New writers always face fear … what was your greatest fear about publishing your first novel?
 
Exposing my writing to the world. Last year I began writing articles for Examiner.com & Yahoo! Contributor Network. I finally mustered up some courage to release a piece of fiction on Yahoo! and it was completely terrifying. Up until that point, I had never let anyone read any fiction I have ever written. When I received positive feedback from readers, it helped quell those fears and encouraged me to continue sharing my works of fiction with others. It helped me to convince myself to finish and publish The Last Dawn.
How did you come across the idea and decide that, yes, this will be my first book, this is how I will launch my career? 
About two years ago when the 2012 Doomsday talk started, it had me thinking about what could happen when the world does end. I was also taking a writing course around that time. I had an assignment to submit a proposal and the first three chapters of a book and chose The Last Dawn idea. My teacher replied that she liked the idea and that it was a promising topic. Months after the course was over, the idea was still stuck in my head and I was becoming obsessed with turning it into an actual novel. I had never before been so passionate about my writing like I was when I was creating The Last Dawn. I just knew that if I couldn’t stop thinking about this project, I had to finish to it.

What about the story THE LAST DAWN kept you focused as a writer, kept you telling the story to the finish line? 
I was personally interested in the topic; the unknown of space, lost love, etc. I’m a hopeless romantic and into the whole could there be life outside of Earth thing so when I could combine the two, it was perfect for me.

What is the message you hope your readers will walk away with after finishing the book and setting it aside? 
To let your imagination run wild, that is what fiction is all about. The concept of The Last Dawn might seem silly to others but if I would have held onto that belief that others wouldn’t like it, I never would have published it. Don’t be afraid to write anything, even if you think no one else will like it.

Are you currently working on a follow up or are you taking time to breathe? 
I have a few different projects in the works and I’m hoping to get one out by the end of this year. I’m not one to be able to take a little time out because that is when I get writer’s block. My idea of taking time to breathe is writing a few articles on Yahoo! Contributor Network in between my fiction projects.

Parting words? 
Thank you to everyone who supports Indie authors and for giving us a chance in such a difficult business. We all have to start somewhere and I am happy in my decision by taking this path.
Tell us about your novel, THE LAST DAWN …
The back cover of my novel is just the synopsis:
    “The Last Dawn begins in late 2055 during the last few days of Earth. As Earth’s demise is imminent, Madison Weatherly and her former flame, James, reunite. Only a few hours remain for life on the dying planet when the entire population is dispersed throughout the universe. As Madison tries to adjust to a new life on a new planet and far away from her love, the desire to be with him never wavers. When an unexpected opportunity comes to leave her planet to find him, Madison takes off on a risky adventure through the galaxies.”

Snippet from The Last Dawn:
Chapter One:
    “Pandemonium is breaking out across the globe. Riots are coming in from all major cities. Police are out in full force arresting demonstrators and attempting to calm the panic…”
    Speechless and in shock, Madison Weatherly turns off the news report. She does not want to believe what President Mona Paterson has just announced during her televised speech. Although Madison, along with the rest of the population, knew this day was coming, it still does not feel real. Five years have passed since Intergalactic Officials first visited Earth and they seemed to have flown by. The end of the world scenario has always felt like a future generation’s problem, not reality in 2055.
    Flying cars and time travel machines do not exist; life is the same now as it has been for almost a century. An occasional visit from aliens is the only futuristic element seen now-a-days. The aliens do not have giant heads and creepy green skin as vintage movies portray; they are human like everyone else. The officials visit during government elections and world leader conventions. Madison has never seen any of them is person; they land and take off under the radar, not wanting to cause any commotion.
    Nerves begin to eat away at her as she searches for her emergency pack of cigarettes. Hidden under the miscellaneous items in her kitchen junk drawer, she fishes them out. She quit smoking several years earlier after meeting her boyfriend, Rick North, who despises the habit. He’s none the wiser about her emergency habit. These days, the only time Madison retreats for a smoke is during rough and drawn out trials when her nerves get the best of her. Or, you know, when the world was about to end.

As a reminder, if you have not downloaded your free copy of The Last Dawn from Smashwords, the code is: RK73W. I have chosen to distribute my novel exclusively through Amazon for the next 90 days starting Monday, February 20th. At that point, my novel will temporarily be taken off the Smashwords website.

How Butterflies Saved My Book

When I sat down to write IN THE AFTER, I was battling two forces.  The first being writers block and the second being an undecided ending.

Writing a novel, it’s not easy work.  So much depends on how “in the game” you can get your head, and how much the characters are willing to share of themselves with you.  Without those two things, you’re fighting a losing battle.  And, I had neither going for me.  I was coming off the back end of abandoning a story I been fighting with and for since November … and IN THE AFTER was nothing more than a rough outline and few character sketches.

IN THE AFTER revolves around the story of two women, Emmy and Sidney, they very different women with one commonality … they are best friends.  They never picked their predestined friendship, it was born before before they knew better, it was willed upon them by their mothers who traveled in the same circles.  And still, they never outgrew it.  Each needed the other because, or spite, of their differences.

When Emmy disappeared on April, 7th 2010 … Sidney’s world changed forever.  Gone was the girl Sidney had always known and now she was forced to face not only all the ways she failed Emmy over the years, but the emotional backlash of a loss like that.

I knew, as I stared at the cursor, where I wanted to focus my energies.  The story is lightly based in reality, but blown up to fictional proportions for the sake of “a novel” … and I knew who they women were destined to become to the reader and how I could tell their story respectfully to the underlying current of domestic abuse.  But how did it end?

In a story like this, there is no “add water” ending.  It can’t be a happy one where they skip off into the distance to live forever and ever because something that easy wouldn’t do justice to the other aspects of this book.  But the thorn in my side was the how — how do I create a compelling end to a novel that will stand up against the rest of it, so that when someone does read, they are left with the bigger picture.

Suddenly I was faced, again, with the prick of writers block … and if you’ve ever felt that, then you know, you can’t fight it … it needs to work itself out.  And as I learned, it would …

My husband and I were out running errands one Saturday afternoon when I came upon the thing that would essentially blast my writers block to hell.  It was as benign a coffee cup.  No, I didn’t find the answer I was looking for at the bottom like some tea-leaf fortune … it was written.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending it became a butterfly” – proverb

And I had it — all the answers and all the resolution and the final chapter.  It was really that stupidly simple for me.  So, essentially, butterflies saved my book.  How that will be … I guess you’ll have to read to find out …

Now, I have this weird thing I do … before I go to bed at night I write.  A few minutes and sometimes a few hours.  I’m writing patchwork style and every day is something new and totally non chronological as I tie up the trail of breadcrumbs.  After I close the lid of my computer and climb into bed, I mentally ask my characters to tell me their story … and then, I dream about them.  And when I wake up in the morning, I do have a clearer vision of what they want from me and how I can live up to that.

But, the bigger point is … when you’re feeling like your piece isn’t sewing itself to your side … open your eyes.  LOOK for the resolution you need because it could be out there hiding, waiting to be found.  For me, it was a mug … for you, it may be something else.  Writers block can be disheartening and hard and scary — I know I wondered if I’d be a one time writer, never to publish again — but I believe that good stories can be hard to tell, because if they were easy … everyone would do it.

On a side note, because I’m so tickled by this — while looking deeper into the quote, I’ve discovered how much those words mean to people.  Literally, girls have them tattooed on their ribcages.  And I think that is so special, and I’m so excited to bring that quote to life in this novel.  I just can’t wait for it to be finished and out there!

 

 

 

Which Cover? I Simply Can’t Decide …

Well … Renu has done it again.  And, I’m hopelessly confused.  Each cover is beautiful in its own right.  So, help a writer out … which cover would you like to see IN THE AFTER published with?  If your vote goes towards the winning cover, your name will appear in the gratitude portion of the novel!

 

Book Cover Number One

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

Book Cover Number Two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

Book Cover Number Three

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

Book Cover Number Four

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please feel free to leave comments explaining your choice if you’re so inclined …

March 13, 2012

I remember the first time I sat down with my kindle and tried to read a self-published book.  I can’t remember the title or the name of the author because I never followed through and bought it, but I recall it being bad … as in, really bad.  It was a polarizing experience along with being a waste of time.  I started to believe, from one book, that all independent books were of equal quality.  And, I was wrong.  Very wrong.

The truth, some Indie choose to be Indie.  Some are forced into it by the closed-door policy of Legacy publishers.  Some are simply hobbyists by nature, writing in their free time and publishing on a whim when they can.

As my time with THE MILESTONE TAPES winds down, I’m in a place mentally where I can look back on the journey and see everything — all the good and bad for what it is and was and will always be.  I’m about to step off the cliff, I’m about to publish the book after 365 days of worry, stress, joy, sweat, tears.  This moment, right now, is everything I wanted and everything I worked for … to see it click together is, in a word, boggling.

I don’t know if I’ll always be an Independent.  I don’t know if I’ll sign up for this for my whole life or if someday I’ll decide to do things a different way.  But I do know, despite my original aspirations, I’m happy things worked out just as they did.  I can say with all honesty I have no regrets about how things turned out me and THE MILESTONE TAPES… there is a certain first-time charm that my mistakes, they were my own, and that the learning curve, though it has been steep and fraught with challenges, is the sum of my own accomplishments … and of all that, and it’s terrifying and beautiful.

I’ve said books aren’t babies … but I’m wrong.  They are every bit the child of the writer.  They are labors of love and patience, and you raise them … and then you send them out into the world.  I don’t know, knowing what I know now, if I could have done this any other way … with this book, I’m glad I held on to it, I think I needed to learn a lot before I could take myself seriously.  I don’t know if I could have given up control entirely … from the cover to the content and still felt tied in.  I don’t know if I was ready for that.

I find now that I can’t sleep.  I lay awake at night mentally preparing myself for pushing the “approve” button beside my title and letting it go on and do what it’s going to do.  I have fears … I scared I’m going to fail, scared that I wrong about this whole thing and that I made mistakes and my book sucks and I’m not ready for this at all.  What if no one likes it?  Horrified that this is the end of my time with THE MILESTONE TAPES … that’ll I never be able to go back and change this or add that or refine or rephrase.  I’m exhausted from the loop of self-doubt, and it’s holding me … which I absolutely hate.

But, at the same time, I’m oddly at peace.  Happy that I did it, that I told the story of the Chamberlands.  It was a dream … a total fluke inspired by a vacation.  I wasn’t destined to do this … but I did anyway.

So … I am going bravely into this new reality having fought my way through this publishing web.  THE MILESTONE TAPES will be published March 13th, 2012.

And So The Giveaway Ends

Tonight, at midnight, I will be drawing winners … check your e-mail starting tomorrow to find out if you won!  So excited to get the book into your hands … just finished proofing!  Congratulations in advice to the winners, I was overwhelmed by the entries, you all just too sweet!  Thank you for your participation.  More giveaways to come as I start my umpteen month long tour leading up to the official release!

… ALLLLSSSSOOO …

I want to say Happy Birthday to my mother-in-law who reads this blog all the time.  I’m so grateful to have you in my life and I couldn’t have ended up better mother-in-law … thank you, so much, for all your support … it means the world to me always.

… AAANNNNDDD …

Stay tuned, as THE MILESTONE TAPES and the journey to publication comes to an end … we’re off and running on the follow up, IN THE AFTER.  I cannot wait to start sharing the details of the novel with you and I hope you’ll love the story of Sidney and Emmy as much as I do.

XX,

Ash

Back To The Days Of Brick & Mortar?

For the past few years something has plagued Amazon … that something would be sales tax and the battle surrounding it.

If you’ve ever shopped with the online retail giant, you know, part of the glory and the low price structure of the site at large is the absence of sales tax.  This goes for nearly everything in stock.  The reason Amazon could pull off such a thing when other stores can’t is simple … the entire practice of no-taxes hinges on the little law that states without a physical presence in a state, the retailer is under no obligation to charge sales tax. Hooray!

This has perhaps been part of Amazon’s appeal … especially when it comes to big ticket items like the 50 inch LCD television right down to the $200 Kindle Fire.  Couple that with the Prime free shipping … customers on the site really do pay retail and not penny above.  May shoppers, myself included, will scope out items at physical stores only to return home and order them online … Chicago has a crippling 10% tax structure in place … as you can imagine, this has saved me many a dollar over the years.

But, in the past few days this tax-free model has changed and changed drastically.  Amazon has inked a deal with California (the biggest bitcher about the tax-free stance of Amazon) as well as a handful of other states.  By fall of 2012 expect to spend a bit more on your purchases via Amazon.com if you live in one of the taxable states. So what does this potentially mean for Amazon and the consumer?

It means that Amazon may very well be taking itself offline exclusively and branching out into the trade of brick and mortar store fronts.  With no more incentives to remain captive behind your computer screen, the online retail giant may just end up taking it to the streets.

No, you won’t be able to find that obscure sock for your golf club in store if this ends up coming to fruition … Amazon is said to be exploring the idea of selling their wildly popular Kindle family as well as exclusive books in brick and mortar store fronts, and the plan is to start with their home base, Seattle.  So … yeah … in a way Amazon is going back to their roots while simultaneously exploring uncharted territory.

Lets go back to the beginning, shall we?

Amazon originally was a book store  (back in the dark ages it seems now) … and all started in the garage of Jeff Bazo’s home where he attacked the internet by offering below-retail books online.  And then, it grew.  It quickly became the Amazon we know today, offering the consumer vitamins to vacations and nearly everything in between.  But Amazon has always been, and will always be, a book retailer first and foremost, it was their bread and butter and remains steadfast in their role (don’t believe me?  Visit the site, tell me what shows up on the welcome screen) … so it seems almost natural that if they were going to break a proven, successful business model … it would be for the love of books.

The peanut gallery seems divided on this venture of Amazon’s.  Some outspoken individuals are questioning the sanity of Bezos as his plans come to light … wondering aloud why, in the dawn of brick and mortars going under at a neck-breaking pace, Bezos would gamble with a venture that seems and feels slightly ancient.  Others are just excited … and by others, I mean the independent authors who stand to have some shelf space in a store that, by all intents, could be as big (if not bigger) than Barnes & Noble where shelf space if typically reserved for the trade published.

But, why … that seems to be the million-dollar question on everyone’s lips.  Why would Amazon tinker with their success when book stores are going the way of dinosaur?  For me, the answer can be found in the behind-the-scenes antics of it all.

Last week, Barnes & Noble broke the news that they were drawing a line in sand — any book that was exclusively sold through Amazon (aka Select) wouldn’t be welcome in their stores.  And on the heels of that, Books-A-Million made a strikingly similar announcement.  Now, it’s pretty common knowledge that B&N isn’t the most Indie-friendly ground and for what it’s worth, it was exceptionally rare for an Indie to secure space in their store anyway.  In my opinion, it was no great loss for us but a tremendous loss for them.  They essentially were telling the customers, we don’t care what you want to read … we only care about having the upper hand.  This announcement was cloaked under the “fair trade” moniker … we saw the same thing with DC Comics this past Holiday season.  But, B&N is doing little more than whittling away at their own nose, since they hardly practice what they preach signing an exclusive with REAL SIMPLE and announcing it proudly mere hours after chastising Amazon for doing practically the same thing.

Whatever.

My suspicions is this: While there is a revolution in play for us writers … there is an all out war for the bookstores, one that could use the muscle and aptitude of a business like Amazon.

Amazon has always been keen on fleshing out fresh talent and growing itself as a business to include imprint publishing and a self-publishing imprint.  They are forward thinkers, always evolving to meet the needs of consumers as the consumers needs grows and changes.  And while the day of the book store may be slipping away, the era of Amazon is on the cusp of breaking free.

Amazon is creating rules as easily as they are breaking them.  They don’t look at PUBLISHING as an old-boys club where the “do-no-wrong” mantra is chanted throughout the empty halls … they look at it honestly and see the flaws … and then, they work tirelessly to correct them.  Now, they’ll do the same with BOOK STORES.  I can see them spinning B&N like a top … recreating the consumers idea of a “book store” by putting their own twist on things.  And for that, I’m excited!

 

 

 

 

Human Interest Piece

It’s not often, if ever, I’m truly angry enough to write a human interest piece, but this blog has become a platform for me, so please, bear with me My blood is boiling and I simply can’t sit by and nothing.  I have to scream this from the top of my lungs, and beg of you all to do something from my knees.  I’m going share with you a story and my appeal is that you please, at whatever the cost, boycott Office Max.

I’m posting this now … nearly the middle of the night … because I can’t sleep with it on my mind.  I keep asking myself if that were my child how would I feel … and I implore you to ask yourselves the same question after the reading …

In the area where I live there is a program for special needs children.  These children aren’t really children anymore, they’re adults — young adults living with disabilities.  Thought they have the bodies and abilities of other grown adults, the majority have autism, and live within the confines of their own minds with very few verbal or social skills. In this program, they are given the opportunity to learn life skills hands on.  They get up in the mornings, pick out their clothes, go to school (which is a form of continuing education after they have graduated out of traditional high school), board a bus and off to their “jobs” they go.  Companies open their offices and in return, they are provided with free labor.  It’s a trade.  The young adults are learning about working in big business setting in support roles, the companies are getting services at gratis for allowing this.

One of these companies is Office Max.

This post is about one student.  He will go into their building and clean all the conference rooms.  This means, he will vacuum, wipe down surfaces, empty trash and restock what needs restocking … it’s not glamorous work to say the least, but it’s honest work — and that’s matters more. He, like all the other students with their various jobs, is paid nothing for his time and effort, but he does it willingly each week without a complaint.

The incident occurred a few days back.  The young man cleaned everything required of him and he was thirsty when he finished.  The aide said to him … lets go ask the receptionist if there is a drinking fountain.  There wasn’t.  But, there was a water cooler in the break room that he could get something to drink from.  The aide accompanied the young man into the room, where he helped himself to a small cup and poured himself some water.  It was then that he caught the eye of some of the paid employees.  They, thinking it would be funny — knowing he was disabled — decided they would charge him for the free water.  The young man didn’t have any money … but the employees refused to let him drink until he paid, so his aide stepped up and covered the cost unsure of what else to do.  Speaking up could have jeopardized the students job and the schools ability to place students there.

He may be disabled, but he is a thinking, feeling individual.  He was terribly embarrassed, singled out for the amusement of others who had nothing better to do that harass a young man trying to better himself by going to school and doing a job for the sake of experience.  He was thirsty and they preyed on him.

THIS is unacceptable.  THIS is discrimination.  THIS is disgusting.

It’s unfortunate but true … we live in a world where we divide ourselves by our differences more often that we come together because of similarities.  The out-and-out humiliation of this human being only stands to highlight that fact.  And what consequences are there for such actions?  None that I’m aware of.

Why did this happen?  Because these employees didn’t see him as peer or as a fellow worker, despite the job he does so that they can comfortably conference in a clean and orderly place in order to effectively do their job.  He was nothing more than a target … and an easy one at that.

So, you’re probably wondering … why am I blogging about this?  Because the aide, whom I happen to know very well, begged me not to address corporate directly … though I’m all but gnawing off my fingers to keep myself from slamming them for such antics and allow such vitriol to take place in their local headquarters.  I’ve decided, as a compromise, I’d publicly shame them instead.  Embarrassment for embarrassment, if you will.

I writing to you as someone who works a job where I consume office resources.  Paper, ink, pens, this, that and the other … I know you all do too.  So, I’m asking you … when you need to restock, do it anywhere but Office Max.  You have options, use them.  Don’t give this company a penny of your hard-earned money.  Reblog this posting with the nifty little “reblog” button.

This man, he doesn’t have the means to speak up for himself … so speak up for him by taking firm and serious action on his behalf.

Please … and thank you.