Sam Bond is the first-time author of Operation Golden Llama (Cousins in Action)(Volume 1)(Bound, 2013). From the promotional copy:
Dumped at their eccentric Grandma’s, Cagney, Olivia, Aidan, Lissy and Tess are convinced they’re in for a boring summer. But when Grandma gets a series of mysterious phone calls and a highly unlikely pet sitter arrives, the cousins find themselves jetting off to Peru, where, much to their surprise, they find the adventures have only just begun.
Why did you decide to self- publish independently rather than with a trade press?
Traveling the self-publishing route was not an easy decision. However, my reasons for self-publishing were very specific.
When I decided to write a children’s adventure book featuring my two girls and their three cousins, it didn’t occur to me there would be any issues. However, when submitting to agents and publishing houses I encountered the same complaint. Too many main characters.
Enid Blyton. Her books are filled with adventure and mystery, with rarely a grown-up in sight. However, the one constant throughout her work is large groups of protagonists. The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, The Five Find-Outers and Six Cousins need no explanation as to the abundance of characters contained within.
Seeing I wrote my books as a gift to my children and their cousins, being told to remove two of the main characters was a deal breaker. After two or three agents reading fulls gave the same reason for rejection, I came to the hard decision that I needed to be true to my vision, and to do that, I would have to take a less traditional publishing route.
Believe me, I thought about making the changes requested. I knew writers who’d altered major portions of their book on the advice of an agent and gone on to be successfully published. However, in the end, I knew I would rather the book contain all five cousins and have a limited readership, than remove two of the cousins on the chance this would lead to the book reaching a wider audience.
What were the challenges?
My biggest fear was that I would forget something. When I started a photography business ten years ago, I researched a photographer I admired, and purchased her three-part course on how to start a business. I took a year to create a website, build a portfolio and design a logo. I also formed a company, opened bank accounts and filed tax documents.
These things all took away from what I loved to do most – take photos, but I felt they were needed for me to proceed in an orderly manner and knew they would enhance my success down the line.
It has been the same with self-publishing, except instead of buying a tried and tested course I relied on the knowledge of several indie authors in the Austin area that I’d sought out ahead of time. In fact, finding mentors to answer questions and guide me through this process was fundamental to my success.
One provided an amazing six month countdown to launch. Another explained how KDP works to boost sales. A third was kind enough to share the more hum drum actions required – setting up bank accounts, LLCs and EINs. With these three authors to guide me, I at last felt confident to proceed.
What recommendations do you have for other writers considering this route?
At this point, I suggest being truly realistic about your strengths. Although I knew I could do a lot of the work, I am not technically minded and needed abundant help formatting and uploading my manuscript. I was not expecting to need help and it was almost my undoing.
I also recommend giving yourself plenty of time. Just because you have the power to set a launch date, it should not be something you rush into. Once committed to a launch date it marks you as amateur if you have to back out because you underestimate the hours it takes to go from prototype to finished product – and believe me, it will take longer than you think. In fact, I would suggest having your book in hand before you even think of launching it into the world.
Finally, just because you’ve decided to travel the self-publishing route, does not mean you should do it alone. If anything it’s even more important to make contacts, join local societies, attend conferences and get to know your writing community.
In fact, I believe the encouragement and support I received from fellow writers, plus the accountability I had to my peers, was the piece of the puzzle that made all the difference.
|Sausage on the coach|
As a contemporary fiction writer, how did you find the voice of your first person protagonist? Did you do character exercises? Did you make an effort to listen to how young people talk? Did you simply free your inner kid or adolescent? And, if it seemed to come by magic, how would you suggest others tap into that power in their own writing?
Operation Golden Llama has five main protagonists and is written in omniscient pov; this gave me a lot of heads to be inside. However, it was a POV I was familiar with from books I read as a child, and although I toyed with limiting the POV to just one character and rotating through the protagonists one chapter at a time, I decided my characters were too feisty to have their thoughts limited.
The youngest of the main protagonists is six, the oldest twelve. Luckily, I started writing Operation Golden Llama when my children were in first and second grade, so I had a lot of material to work with. Also, my characters are based on children I know, which made the writing easier.
I wanted the children to be realistic, but they obviously had to be somewhat smarter and more prepossessing than your average child in order to make them interesting. If you listen to conversations between typical elementary aged children and wrote it down verbatim, it might be realistic, but it would not be fascinating.
Striking that balance was the challenge, all the time making sure Tess used words appropriate to a six-year-old, and Cagney possessed the sass and confidence of a pre-teen.
|Olivia, Tess and Sam|
Plus, I kept check of words each cousin would use regularly. For Cagney it was “good grief”. Lissy would often address an adult using the words “ma’am" or "sir" and Tess often ends her sentences asking for clarification.
As often as possible, I wanted readers to be able to identify which cousin was speaking from the dialogue alone without having to rely on identification tags.
It is also useful to have a word in your head that sums up your characters. To me, Olivia is fearless, Cagney exasperated. Lissy is smart, Aidan kind and Tess exuberant. Often, I would just write what I wanted the cousins to say with no tag lines, then return later and add tags appropriately. This often worked better than deciding at the time and helped with flow.
Often however, the characters seemed to claim their own lines, and if it was essential that one character said a line for the plot and it didn’t seem true, I would re-write the line in their voice. It was interesting how, when reading the book aloud, it was obvious to me if I had the tag lines wrong. Olivia would never be in awe of dramatic scenery, but Aidan would. In the same way, a character inquiring how someone was feeling would always be Lissy, never Cagney. That just left Tess and anything crazy fell in the “Tess” category.
|Five cousins at the Golden Llama launch; photo courtesy of Dave Wilson Photography|
Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last week:
“Self” Publishing: It Takes a Team (Elizabeth Weed) http://writerunboxed.com/2013/12/06/self-p
Approaching Messy First Drafts (Elizabeth Spann Craig) http://elizabethspanncraig.com/1559/appr
The Fierce Urgency of Now (Discoverability Part 3) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
Imaginary Audience: 6 Tips on Envisioning Your Readership (Robbie Blair)
We Have to Believe (Rachelle Gardner)
Keeping a Professional Distance From our Book (Elizabeth Spann Craig)
On Third-Party Queriers or "Agent-agents", and Sapsuckers (Jennifer Laughran)
Don't Fall For Vanity Radio (Victoria Strauss)
Readers Aren't Elephants (Kathryn Lilley)
Pay Proper Attention to Your Bio (Jane Friedman)
The hardest thing an agent does (Janet Kobobel Grant)
If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2012, and last week’s list.
If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time). Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.
|Learn more about this book!|
Revelry! Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac from Steam Punk Romance | Coffee Time Romance. Peek: "Not too many books I know contain a pedantic Sasquatch with ESP. But he and his people are in the traditions of every Native American nation and it was not hard at all for me to imagine them surviving into the tenuous future of my story." See also Nine Post-Apocalyptic Books Starring People of Color by Audrey from Rich in Color.
Birthdayographies from Donna Bowman Bratton. Peek: "Where did the biography birthday idea originate? I'm glad you asked. My friend, the talented author Anne Bustard, launched the idea in 2008 with her own blog, Anneographies. And she totally rocked at it. Though Anne still loves picture book biographies, she's more focused on fiction now. I'm honored that she has passed the birthday torch to me."
What to Do Before Revising a NaNoWriMo Novel by Angela Ackerman from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "One great thing about Nano is that we’ve written it so fast, the character’s journey is fresh in our mind from first page to last. Take this opportunity to make some notes to yourself and ask these three questions..." See also The Seven-Step Business Plan for Writers by Angela from Jane Friedman.
The Color of Imagination: Interview with a Cover Artist by Therese Walsh from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "The sales reps have a lot of sway, as do the booksellers (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc…). If a book is slated for a large retail order (such as Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters), the retailers can also have the final word."
Character Building: Using Quirks to Reveal Personality by Becca Puglisi from Jody Hedlund. Peek: "As with any other gesture or habit, quirks that are used too often become distracting. Choose fitting times for your character to show his personality so each instance has meaning and serves a purpose." See also Becca on the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Character Traits and How to Use Them from Susan Quinn.
Villains are People, Too by Bobbi Miller from Children's Literature Network. Peek: "I asked many of my favorite writers and illustrators to name their favorite villains, what they found memorable about these characters, and how this character influenced their writing?"
The Creator's Game: A Story of Baaga'adowe/Lacrosse by Art Coulson (Minnesota Historical Society Press): recommendation from Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "Coulson's storytelling delivers nuggets of info about the ways that Ojibwe people play lacrosse, and, the way that Cherokees play it."
Should You Revise and Resubmit? by Suzanne van Rooyen from QueryTrackerBlog. Peek: "Before committing to an overhaul, you need to ask yourself if the person requesting the R&R is someone you really want to work with, do you trust their opinion and will their suggestions improve your manuscript."
Barbara Park Remembered from Publishers Weekly. Peek: "Barbara Park, author of many books for children – including the bestselling Junie B. Jones series – died on Nov. 15 at age 66, after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Here, some of those with whom she enjoyed lengthy professional and personal relationships pay tribute." See more information.
Plotting Along: A Diagram of Key Plot Points by Janet S. Fox from Through the Wardrobe. Peek: "Today I’m posting the latest in my personal collection of plot diagrams, something I’ve put together based on the best plot diagrams I’ve found and used."
Dumpster Diving: An Observation on Socio-Economic Class in Children's Literature by Charlesbridge editor Yolanda Scott from CBC Diversity. Peek: "I’ll take with me into my editorial work is to look more carefully and deliberately for class markers and where they appear or don’t appear in text and art. Indeed, the latter is an intriguing issue to explore in any book: who is not in a given story, and why?"
Mentoring: Two-Way Learning by Juliet Marillier from Writer Unboxed. Peek: "Be prepared to make major changes, including cuts, to render your manuscript more readable / more publishable. Yes, even if it’s an aspect of the story that you are deeply fond of."
The Gingerbread Man's Top Five Writing Tips by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "Based on the folktale about this popular Christmas pastry that comes to life, the Gingerbread Man gives his writing tips." See also Frosty The Snowman's Top Five Writing Tips from Darcy and Take a Different Approach to Writing: Eat Dessert First by Amy Rose Capetta from Adventures in YA Writing.
- signed copy Penguin Cha-Cha by Kristi Valiant (Random House), bookmark, sticker, and magnet (PB)(U.S. only)
- one of two sets of Mitchell Goes Driving and Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand (Candlewick)(PB)(North America)
- the Watersmeet trilogy--Watersmeet, The Centaur's Daughter and The Keeper by Ellen Jensen Abbott (Skyscape, 2009-2013) and a Kindle Paperwhite (YA)(U.S. only)
The winner of a signed copy of Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst is Alicia in Alabama.
See also the 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway from Latin@as in Kid Lit: Exploring the World of Latino/a YA, MG, and Children's Literature. Peek: "From Christmas Day through Three Kings Day (Jan. 6), one lucky winner will win one of these (12) awesome books."
See also Giveaway of One or Two Things I Learned about Love by Dylan Sheldon (Candlewick), plus new YA releases from Adventures in YA Writing.
This Week at Cynsations
- Kristi Valiant on Marrying Art to Text in Picture Books
- Lindsey McDivitt on Positive Images of Aging in Picture Books
- Ellen Jensen Abbott on World Building & Verisimilitude
- Dori Hillstad Butler on Writing Chapter Books & The Haunted Library
|Gingerbread Who-ville at the Four Seasons Austin|
Deadline time! I'm pushing hard to finish my draft of the manuscript titled Feral Pride, which will be book 3 in the Feral series.
That said, I stole a little play time and consequently highly recommend "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "Frozen," both of which feature strong girl protagonists (Frozen has two of them!).
In other news...
Congratulations to Debbie Reese, recipient of the 2013 Virginia Mathews Scholarship! Peek: "The purpose of the Virginia Mathews Memorial Scholarship is to provide tuition to an American Indian individual who lives and works in an American Indian community, and who is enrolled, or has been accepted and will enroll, in a master's degree program at a university with a library and/or information sciences program accredited by the American Library Association for the 2013-2014 academic school year."
Find out the one thing I wouldn't change about the Feral series no matter what from YA Series Insiders.
Converting Prose to Graphic Novels with Cynthia Leitich Smith by Annemarie O'Brien from Quirk and Quill. Peek: "Think about offering new content or perspective with the goal of adding value for your readers. Perhaps tell the 'same' story from a secondary character’s point of view, for example."
YA Lit Boy Characters that Inspire Crushes from A Simple Love of Reading. Note: fun to see Kieren from the Tantalize series on this list.
A Celebration of Native American and Aboriginal Girls from A Mighty Girl. Note: pleased to see Jingle Dancer featured among recomendations.
- And the New Wonder Woman Is...
- Mothers & Daughters: Bodies & Voices
- YA Readers Prefer Printed to E-Books from The Guardian
- Han Solo's Original DL-44 Blaster Up for Sale
- No Limits: The Emerging New Adult Market
- Nine Reasons to Say "Goodbye" to Your Critique Group
- Author Turns His Closet into Best Home Office Ever
- Injunuity: Two Spirit
- Literary self-loathing: How Jonathan Franzen, Elizabeth Gilbert and more keep it at bay
Last night, the cover for INFINITE in German appeared on the internet! So because I love seeing covers all lined up, and I assume you do too, here they are!
What does it all mean? The series title is THE SEA OF SOULS, and the book titles are ONLY ONE LIFE, ONLY ONE LOVE, and ONLY ONE NIGHT.
My name is Michael Capobianco. Some of you may know who I am. I was President of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for thee terms, 1996, 1997, and 2007. I’ve also served SFWA in a number of other capacities, including VP, Treasurer, and, currently, as one of SFWA’s representatives to the Authors Coalition of America.
In addition, I’ve worked with other SFWAns to oppose the Google Books Settlement, write SFWA’s Orphan Works white papers, and worked on various other copyright and contract related matters. I was married to Ann Crispin, and, while there’s no way I could replace her, with Victoria’s kind encouragement, I’ve decided to officially join Writer Beware.
I’ve already written a few blog posts for WB, mostly about legal copyright matters, but I’ve also helped with the April 1st posts from time to time. The Google Broccoli Kitten Settlement was my idea, for example.
My interests are somewhat more policy-oriented than WB tends to be, but WB has a very broad agenda, and I don’t believe I’ll be changing it much, if at all. My perspective is that of a non-lawyer author who is surrounded by technological and legal changes that call into question many of the ideas about copyright and authors’ rights that seemed to be fixed and immutable just a decade or two ago.
This is a time of tremendous upheaval, but it is only the beginning of a transition to a place we can only dimly perceive. Some of the changes over the last years are very good for authors, but others are eroding the underlying principles of copyright, and, in my opinion, that does not bode well for the future. I remember attending the “Electronic Book ’99: The Next Chapter,” sponsored the National Institute of Standards and Technology in September 1999. (Interestingly, Harlan Ellison was the keynote speaker, and I don’t remember much of his speech except that it didn’t have much to do with the topic of the conference.) Back then, a majority of the players were most interested in selling their new DRM schemes to publishers, because publishers were extremely fearful of the prospect of books that anyone could copy and “share.” Many publishers still feel that way, but I don’t think anyone at that conference could have predicted what the Internet has become, how the ebook marketplace functions, and the enormous changes created by a single corporation, Amazon. I don’t believe we can accurately predict what these things will look like in another fourteen years. But I think that, as in any chaotic system, a push in the right direction at the right time can affect the outcome in profound ways.
Topics I want to cover in future blog posts include the recent verdict in the Google Books case, why orphan works legislation needs to be tailored to the needs of authors, what to do in case your (small or medium-sized) publisher violates your contract, and some stuff about writers’ organization such as SFWA.
I’d like to beef up Writer Beware’s sections that are directed at what is currently being called “hybrid authors” – authors who had some success in the world of traditional publishing, but whose books are now mostly out of print and who have not been able to figure out how to self-publish, or have self-published but gotten nowhere. Since I am an explorer in that realm myself, I hope to bring some specificity to the discussion.
And finally, I hope to act to some degree as one of WB’s faces, appearing at conventions and conferences to help spread the word about literary scammers of all stripes.
I do understand that there are scammers and trolls out there who actively oppose Writer Beware, and I suspect I’m due for my share of the libel and innuendo. While I in no way want to engage in useless public diatribes with these people, I do intend to do something about them.
So, Victoria and Rich, thanks for letting me come aboard, and I hope I can help fulfill the mission of Writer Beware. I look forward to hitting the ground running.
All presidents find ways to implement their policies, so expand their power, heedless of if their opponents will then use that power against them. A good example of that is with signing statements in which the President signs a law but also says what he thinks it means and which parts he will instruct the Justice Department to enforce. George W. Bush issued more signing statements than all previous presidents combined, and by instructing the executive to not enforce some laws he effectively vetoed them, but then Obama declared that the executive branch would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.
One of the most curious parts of the debates about slavery Lincoln participated in was that pro-slavery debaters accused anti-slavery debaters of wishing to have sex with black people. First is the assumption, on both sides, that there is something wrong with a white and a black person having sex, but psychologically what is more revealing is that the pro-slavery people said that slavery would prevent the mixing of races, when in reality slave owners raping slaves was a regular occurrence. There was so much rape that some slave women had enough whites in their family tree to pass as white themselves, and they were marketed as the most valuable concubines.
It’s not as if people were unaware of the situation, since Lincoln pointed out in one of his speeches that there were more offspring of white and blacks in Virginia alone than in all of the ‘free states’ combined. The Southerners also told themselves that having slaves allowed them to live the lives of gentlemen, but Grant’s memoirs said most of the bad behavior at West Point was due to Southerners accustomed to having slaves at their beck and call, and so were often spoiled, and when Brooks attacked Sumner with his cane on the Senate floor, he returned to the South and was given gold canes as gifts.
So what was going on inside the heads of slave owners who made these arguments? Deceit? Denial? Hypocrisy? The mental contortions of some people never cease to amaze me, and I as I get older, I trust what other people say less and less.
During the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln said the Dred Scott decision would make it impossible for free states to keep slavery out, and soon all of America would be slave states. Douglas said that while Dred Scott made keeping slaves a constitutional right, individual states could regulate it so strictly that slave owners went elsewhere. That reminds me of two things: environmental polluters going wherever they are allowed instead of cleaning up their act, and how some rural Red States are regulating a woman’s Roe v. Wade rights until they are so impractical as to be impossible.
The more things change…
I write to find out what I’m thinking. I write to find out who I am. I write to understand things. Julia Alvarez
I’ve always thought best when I wrote. Toni Morrison
Wow. So, there was this week where we came off the Con, and I only exercised for 6 points. That was kind of pathetic. I was colding, so there you go.
And then there was the week of Thanksgiving, where I maxed out at an incredible 41 points, walking around airports and Disney and the like. And yes, I was pretty honest about it, neither exaggerated or low key.
This week we're more or less back at a normal pace.
How's about the weight then? At the end of Week 5, there was no meeting, because of the holiday. That brings us to this Tuesday, the end of Week 6.
Beginning Wii Weight: 223.8 (My heaviest ever after this summer.)
Wii Weight on 11-20-13: 215.4
Total: 8.4 pounds LOST
Weight Watchers on Initial Weigh In: 224
Weight Watchers on 11-19-13: 217.4
Total: 6.6 pounds LOST
The Weight Watcher's scale picks up a tiny loss, but the home scale a tiny gain.
What happened: Disney was a food orgy, but I counted all the food and exercise. I did attempt some moderation and parsimony, but I also failed (Cuban food, ice cream, etc). The coolest thing, though, is that when I stepped on the scale at the first available opportunity, Monday, I HAD NOT GAINED ANY WEIGHT ON THE DISNEY VACATION. So that's the advantage of maintaining 215 pounds, as to, say 165. That's not great news, but it doesn't suck either.
Now that I am back in the land of real people eating real food on a real budget, I am much more optimistic about next week.
It's important to note two things here:
As far as Weight Watchers is concerned, my only movement is down.
Today on the Wii, I weight 213.2 pounds, which bodes well for my weigh in next week, as I have no plans to return to Cuban Food Paradise (Bongo's), Be Our Guest, or even T-Rex (an extinction every dinner!) for quite some time.
Gods, I love theme dining. Dinner under a glacier or in the Beast's torn to shreds study. Yeah. Home just doesn't have atmosphere.
Okay. So, next week, an earlier report.
Mirrored from Writer Tamago.
Day job is full of day jobbery. We are wrapping up the semester and I am registering new students, plus starting to plan out next semester's curriculum, and there really hasn't been day or night time. Alas, I have become the "here are my excuses" journal writer.
HOWEVER, the Disney vacation was grand. And the insanity of orientation, registration, and holding a writing workshop and being treasurer at the same time, well, let's say that was handled better than it might have been in the past. Not perfectly. I've had some stress drama and attacks, but David is pleased with my plans and approaches for getting better. A work in progress. The motto over break: Did you treat yourself with the respect you deserve? We think one more appointment and things will be well in hand.
Disney over Thanksgiving? Would I do it again? My motive for going was Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, which they stop early in December. Guess what? They stop it over Thanksgiving too, so we will have to wait until retirement to see it. It was very much like our Christmas trip a few years back, perhaps a little less crowded. We won't do this again. Our next trip to Disney parks will be summer, or, if we're lucky, an overlapping spring break.
Particular highlights this time:
Mirrored from Writer Tamago.