Feb 23, 2014

Guinea pigs

Today on Twitter, @NeWiilson asked about our guinea pigs, so these photos are for everyone, but especially for her. We have three.


This is Ruby.  She's an American and she chatters nonstop.  She complains when the other guinea pigs look at her.  She sings when she's happy.  She purrs all the time. 


This is Ilya. She's an Abyssinian roan with very pretty rosettes.  She's the quietest of the three and probably also the sweetest.  She doesn't care for attention, but she's deeply loyal to the boy who cares for her.  She rarely purrs, but she undoubtedly means it when she does.


This is Ginger.  She's a Teddy and she has a bit of an attitude.  She's bossy and definitely rules the guinea pig home.  She's also beautiful.  Her coat is lovely, her eyes are clear, and she sits on her little carpet like a queen, waiting to be admired.  She does have a soft spot for her young owner and loves a gentle touch over her eyes, the one that pulls away any stray, bristly hairs that might interfere with her vision. In those moments Ginger acts like the sweetest little thing. She even purrs.


Feb 20, 2014

Just trying to keep up

"The Five Pennies," photograph courtesy of
Paramount Pictures Corporation.

I recently had the guilty pleasure of eavesdropping on a discussion between self-published authors. They were talking about money and numbers, going over information we’ve been hearing a lot lately, including the report Hugh Howey recently released. The focus of the conversation, as usual, was about income. Before long, the tone turned negative about traditional authors who believe they’ll make more money with traditional publishing.  

I started to move away—because I’m not excited about discussions that denigrate the choices of others—and then the question shifted: “Why do authors sign with traditional publishers if it’s not for the money?”

I settled back in with my coffee. Here were some of their conclusions:


"The Diversions of High Society," by Albert Levering, 1905.

1) The goal of belonging to an elite group. 

Oh my.  Yes. Direct hit. I had that goal myself—right up until I started attending conferences and socializing with traditionally-published authors.  I found out that the ones who excluded me would always exclude me.  It wasn’t my publishing status that kept me out of that circle; it was their snobbery toward anyone who wasn’t already a member. Plenty of traditionally-published authors felt the same rub.  On the other hand? I already had acceptance from traditionally-published authors who were funny and smart and inclusive.

I missed much of what the coffee club said about elite groups. I think they quoted Groucho Marx: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”

Their next point brought me back into full eavesdropping mode:


"The Duel," by E.W. Kemble, 1887.

2)  Competition. People traditionally publish precisely because it’s difficult to get accepted. If it’s
difficult and you succeed, it must be better.  At the very least, you’re better than all the other people who try and do not succeed.

I’m not convinced this is limited to traditional publishing. Competitive people will be competitive no matter where or how they decide to publish.  I do whatever I can to avoid people with this personality type because they are always sizing me up or tearing me down. They are unable to share in my joys because my happiness makes them sad for themselves. They are unable to assuage my grief because they are reveling in the fact that they have not been so stricken. 

Also?  Writers who live for competition rarely seem to experience happiness, even for themselves. They gloat only momentarily when they achieve a goal and then they compare themselves with someone more successful.  It’s a draining and sad space to share.

So while I agreed with this coffee-mug-hugging group about people being drawn to traditional publishing for the competition, I think maybe they missed the folks who self-publish in order to prove something to those who don’t.  

The next reason proposed for traditional publishing:


"What happened is droll beyond imagining," created
by Elizabeth Shippen Green Elliott, 1906.

3) Validation.  

Our collective group was a little snarky on this topic, based on personal experiences with traditional publishing. Someone laughed at the idea of a snuggle fest within the shark pool.  The consensus seemed to be that anyone needing validation should look for it from someone other than an agent, publisher, or reviewer on Goodreads. 

My experience with agents and editors has been similar, but I think our group missed something that aligns closely with validation.  When a publisher agrees your writing is worth the financial risk, when a whole team of editors and designers work on the task of producing the final product, all those people create a shield between author and reader.  If things don’t go well, they all thought it was a good idea too.

Self-publishing is scary.  If people read your work and bash you, it’s all on you. If they don’t like the story, it’s you. If they don’t like the typesetting, it’s you. If they don’t like the cover, it’s you.  If they don’t appreciate your distribution or marketing or release dates or title, it’s all you.

I glanced up when the group disbanded and one of the members recognized me the same moment I recognized her.

I mumbled something about my proximity to their table and asked if she wasn’t traditionally-published. Pink rose to her cheeks for only a moment. “The world is changing,” she answered. “I’m just trying to keep up.”

*

This week I’m writing about the process that led me to the decision to self-publish my debut middle grade novel, Spillworthy. If you’d like a sneak peek at the cover, opportunities to win advance reading copies, or if you’d just like the inside scoop about upcoming book-release events, please request admission to the private Spillworthy Facebook group.

Feb 19, 2014

Writing your heart's desire

Too many writers begin the maze of publishing by bumping into walls. We think there’s one path and we just keep pushing ahead, backing up, and pushing ahead until we find the way. 

Yesterday I heard a writer say that she thought it was a matter of persistence.  If she kept submitting materials long enough, she’d eventually break through.

That might work for her and she might end up where she wants to be.  In my case, I pushed through and realized I was in a place I didn’t want to be.

There is another option.

It’s okay to back up, take a look at the whole maze, and choose a path to the end you desire. It’s not cheating or anything.

The key is to decide what you want. 

I remember listening to a talk radio show many years ago.  The caller was asking for financial advice
for a trip he was taking.  He planned to fly to his destination, travel by rental car the next leg of his trip, and then fly home. “This is the least expensive way to travel, right?”

The host of the show went on for twenty minutes, explaining why this was not a sound financial decision.  He berated the caller for making such a poor decision and asked, “Why would you even consider this?”

The caller answered, “Because this is the trip I want to take.”

The host responded in frustration.  “Then you’re asking the wrong question! Don’t ask me to justify your decision based on sound financial planning. I can’t do it.  Instead, you should be asking how to make your dream work for the least amount of money.  Unfortunately, your time’s up.”  

End of call.

Many of us writers are asking the wrong questions. 

Before we start through the publishing maze, we should be clear about what kind of trip we want to take.

If we start down the path of traditional publishing with goals that do not mesh with traditional publishing, we’re going to bump into a lot of walls.  We’re going to be yelled at a lot along the way.  We may be told we’re stupid or untalented or going the wrong way.  We’ll get standard advice for how to fit in with traditional publishing and, when we choose not to follow that advice, we’ll be scorned.

Why would you not listen to all that traditional publishing advice?

Maybe it’s because you want something different from your career. Maybe it’s because you want more freedom.  Maybe it’s because you have different goals than the publishers you’re asking to publish your work.  

It’s as simple as defining what you want.  

Don’t ask anyone else to justify your path for you, especially not for financial reasons. (The obvious advice there is to choose a career other than writing.)

Define what you want.

Back up and look at that maze.  Identify where you are now and where you want to be. Is your writing a good fit for that path?  Is your heart in it?  If so, set some reasonable goals and make it happen. 

Work on the craft of your writing to fit the path you’ve chosen.  Shut out voices from other paths.  Their advice does not apply to you.

The more centered you are, the more clearly you’ve defined your goals, the better are your chances of success.


I wish you your heart’s desire on your writing path—never anything less.

*

This week I’m writing about the process that led me to the decision to self-publish my debut middle grade novel, Spillworthy. If you’d like a sneak peek at the cover, opportunities to win advanced reading copies, or if you’d just like the inside scoop about upcoming book-release events, please request admission to the private Spillworthy Facebook group.

Feb 18, 2014

Publishing Choices and The Money Thing

Printing department at National Cash Register, photo by William Henry Jackson (1902)

I’m a little weird. 

I listen to all the traditional publishing advocates and the self-publishing advocates and everyone is talking about money.  Money. Money. Money.   And then also, there’s the secondary discussion:  Money.  Money.  Money.

I’m bored.

I know.  You see?  I’m weird.

I once had a representative of a long-distance phone company call me up and ask me if I’d like to save money.  

I said, “No.  Not really.”

He laughed.  “You’re okay with leaving money on the table?”

“I’m okay,” I said.

“But you’re just burning money with that phone company you’re using now.”

“Maybe so,” I answered.  “I’m warm.  I’m happy.  I’m okay.”

“But MONEY!”

So, yeah.  I hung up.  I wasn’t mad. I was just bored.

There are plenty of things to get excited about in publishing right now, but very few of them are about money or getting rich.  If that were my goal, there are infinitely better options than being a writer.

* * *


This week I’m writing about the process that led me to the decision to self-publish my debut middle grade novel, Spillworthy. If you’d like a sneak peek at the cover, opportunities to win advanced reading copies, or if you’d just like the inside scoop about upcoming book-release events, please request admission to the private Spillworthy Facebook group.

Feb 17, 2014

Spring 2014 Announcement


Johanna Harness’ debut middle grade novel, Spillworthy, about a homeless boy who unites a band of misfit kids to save an abducted girl, has been acquired after tumultuous wrangling with inner demons, by the person who most cares for it, the author.  The book will be released in May.





All this week, I'm writing about the process that led me to the decision to self-publish my debut middle grade novel, Spillworthy. If you'd like a sneak peek at the full cover, opportunities to win advanced reading copies, or if you'd just like the inside scoop about upcoming book-release events, please request admission to the private Spillworthy Facebook group.  

Feb 11, 2014

Wherein I love me some library music

Because LIBRARY MUSIC, that's why.

Library Girl:




And this one, campy & dark:


Do you have any favorites? Comments are open. 




Feb 7, 2014

Last motel


Rain splattered windshield
reveals tonight's final hope
for a bootless night.


Feb 6, 2014

California Trail Exhibit


Death. Desolation.
The exhibit box bids us:
Lift! "Smell What They Smelled."


Feb 5, 2014

Roadside tavern


They congregate in
roughshod, roadside bars, to drink
whiskey without words.



Feb 4, 2014

She's seen better days.


She's seen better days.
Bald, worn, thin. This sheep wagon
mirrors her shepherd.