Monthly Archives: June 2011

Peter Bowerman’s THE WELL-FED SELF-PUBLISHER

At the moment, my bookshelf is stocked with how-to books on self-publishing. No surprise there, as I’m planning to self-publish myself this fall. Peter Bowerman’s THE WELL-FED PUBLISHER is worth reading with one caveat. Do NOT let yourself get carried away by the hype in the Introduction, which has subheadings with titles like $118 in Two Months – for Starters. If you didn’t know this by now, then let me tell you now: Most people do NOT make money writing. They have to support themselves by having day jobs, wealthy partners or being independently wealthy. I read Peter Bowerman’s THE WELL-FED WRITER some years ago, and got a little carried away by his optimistic hype.

 

Having said that, this is a useful book. I recommend skipping the Introduction, which is just a sales pitch and depending on where you are also skipping chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 1 is for those of you who need to be convinced that self-publishing is worth doing. And Chapter 2 is a chapter for all the wall flowers among us who hate promoting our work. If you are like me, and don’t mind doing a little self-promotion (in a polite, subtle way), then I advise you to start with Chapter 3, which talks about how to build a book. I found that chapter invaluable because I am just about to design the interior of my book and create a cover.

 

There are many more chapters that cover author platform, finding reviewers, building websites, creating distribution channels, Amazon and publish on demand. I have found so many useful nuggets in this book that it is bristling with those green sticky strips. Four stars.

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A New, Revamped “Spun Stories” is now up and running!

As most of you know, I’ve been going through this whole process of revamping my website. I needed to do this for several reasons. One was that my blog was on WordPress.com, while my website was hosted by Yahoo! The other was that as I’m gearing up for my marketing campaign this fall, I need Google Analytics to help me. WordPress.com doesn’t do plugins, so I was forced to move everything over to WordPress.org.

 

Now that I’ve got to the end of this whole process, here are some tips that I’m passing along.

 

  1. If you already have a blog on WordPress.com, pay the $119 for a so-called “Happiness Engineer” (I’m not joking) from WordPress to transfer your blog to WordPress.org. Mine did the transfer in THREE hours. I was thrilled.
  2. If your domain name is with another service like Yahoo, don’t worry. I was able to sign up with Dreamhost to host the WordPress.org website, and keep my email and domain name with Yahoo. I just had to go into my files at Yahoo to make a few simple changes. If I can manage to do that, I’m sure you can!
  3. Do NOT whatever anyone says buy an expensive WordPress them like Thesis theme, UNLESS you are comfortable with html code. If you’re like me, and you kind of squint at it, and feel terrified of actually doing anything because you might destroy your website & blog forever, then stick with a FREE WordPress theme. My favorite is PILCROW, because it allows you to organize the layout and also because it has lots of room for lots of lovely plugins.
  4. Here are a list of widgets that you might want to consider getting for your new WordPress.org website (and blog), once the HE has moved everything over for you:
    1. Akismet. Absolutely essential for preventing spam
    2. Broken link checker. I love this one. Tells you about all the links that don’t work, and provides easy ways to fix.
    3. Disquis Comment System. Allows you to manage your comments, including requiring your readers to register. Also tracks stats.
    4. Facebook “ike” button. Well I had to have one of these didn’t I? Looks so cute, and of course, is a must-have these days.
    5. Feedburner email subscription. Makes it easy for people to sign up to your blog.
    6. Google Friends Connect Widget. Another great way of meeting people online.
    7. Gravatar widget. You really do need a nice photo of yourself on your website or blog.
    8. Grunion Contact form. Another way of connecting with your readers.
    9. Simple social bookmarks. Puts the Facebook, Twitter & email clickable icons at the end of every post.
    10. Simple WordPress Backup. You MUST back up!
    11. WordPress Custom CSS (cascading style sheet). Allows for CSS editing with strict filtering for malicious code.
    12. WordPress Goodreads Bookshelf. The collage of your favorite books looks lovely.
    13. WP parallel loading system. Speeds up website loading.  A must-have if you have lots of images, because the last thing you want to do is irritate a potential reader with a slow-moving website.
    14. WPtouch formats your site for visitor on iPhone, iPod touch, Android, Blackberry & other smartphones.
  5. I was amazed at how easy it is to use these FREE plugins. You just install, them and activate them. If you don’t like what you see, you deactivate them and delete. If you do, you either go to Settings to find them under the settings sidebar, open them up and configure them to make them active. Or you go to Appearance>Widgets and move them around that way.

 

I hope you like my new site. Feel free to drop comments in the comments box below, and have a great week!

 

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My Newsletter launches today!

I am really excited to announce the launch of my newsletter, a monthly ezine, titled HOW TO SPIN BOOKS INTO GOLD NEWSLETTER FOR THE BUSY SELF-PUBLISHER, which is coming out today!.  Now why would I do a newsletter, when I already do a blog? Because a newsletter allows me to talk in more depth about the things I discuss in my blog.

 

 

 

There are six sections to my newsletter.

  1. Most popular blog of the month, where I pick the most popular blog and add some updates exclusively for readers of my newsletter.
  2. How to NOT go insane: The Busy Self-Publisher, where I give tips on how to keep your head above water while trying to self-publish your book.
  3. Spinning Words into Gold, where I pass along craft tips that I’ve learned.
  4. Let’s Spin, where I give you a writing prompt and challenge you to write something creative to post on this blog.
  5. News from Cynthia, where I give you updates on my writing career.
  6. Leaves from my Evernote Notebook, where I pass along hot tips from the publishing industry, that I thought were so important I clipped them to my Evernote notebook

 

You will see that there are links to each of these sections at the top of each post, so you can skip to the parts you want to read. I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter, and if you have any comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. To sign up, click here:

Newsletter Subscription

Image: Alden.org

NOTE: Blogs & Websites to watch feature returns next week.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

 

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Travel Tips for the Sophisticated Woman

Laura Vestanen’s book TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE SOPHISTICATED WOMAN was published in 2001 by Xlibris corporation. It is a heavy softcover, with many statues from Greece and Rome depicting women.

 

So you will understand that this is an unusual book. Quirky and charming it has chapters on chocolate (where to find the absolute best chocolate, and the word chocolate in several languages), lists of favorite museums, sections on dining alone, manners, and tipping.

 

To my mind, the most valuable part of the book is the beginning, especially section one on planning, and section two on packing. But there is one caveat. The great drawback of this book is that the website Ms. Vestanen repeatedly refers us to, her own www.TravelingWomen.com no longer exists. This is a great pity, because I understand that it is packed with resources for the woman traveler.  If nothing else, this shows the pitfalls of using your book to point your reader to your website. If your website is non-existent, your reader will be frustrated. Far better to write out everything in your book, so that your reader has something valuable to enjoy for years to come.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Newsletter will be launching soon

Everyone,

I am really excited to announce the launch of my newsletter, a monthly ezine, which should be coming out later this week.  Now why would I do a newsletter, when I already do a blog? Because a newsletter allows me to talk in more depth about the things I discuss in my blog.

I want to get this quick announcement out now because a “Happiness Engineer” from WordPress.com is going to be moving all my stuff over to WordPress.org, so I may not be able to blog for a few days. Expect to see my newsletter soon. I’ll post another announcement when my blog is up and running with instructions on how to sign up.

Have a great week!

Best, Cynthia

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Blogs & Websites to watch: A NEWBIE’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING, ALAN RINZLER, THE CREATIVE PENN

Today I’m going to talk about three websites that I feel are must-haves for every writer, which is why I’m putting them in that section of my blogroll

The first one is called A NEWBIE’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING, with the tagline, “Is it possible to make a living as a genre fiction writer? Yes it is.”

Why is this site on my list of must-haves? Because it is hosted by J. A. Konrath.

For those of you who don’t know, Konrath is one of the top-selling authors in Amazon’s Kindle store, and has made a name for himself advocating marketing an indispensable part of the 21st-century citizen-author’s toolkit. And telling us citizen authors all the clever marketing tricks that he knows. If you are an author with a novel that you can’t find an agent to interest, I highly recommend that you sign up for this blog. You will learn a lot.

My second must-have is ALAN RINZLER. He is a veteran book publishing insider who offers private editorial services to writers and agents. His author list includes Toni Morrison, Hunter Thompson, Robert Ludlum. So what does this have to do with a struggling newbie author who can’t afford to pay an expensive editor? Alan Rinzler blogs about the publishing world. And writing craft. And other things to do with writing, editing and publishing. For example, he blogged recently about “The 10 things book publicists want authors to know”, “99-cent eBooks upend the charts, pressuring publishers,” and “Developing a character’s inner narrative.” The one drawback is that you can’t follow this blog, because he doesn’t appear to have an RSS feed. So I suggest you bookmark it and put it in your toolbar where you can see it. Try visiting once a week. I feel sure you will learn a lot.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about the CREATIVE PENN, hosted by Joanna Penn. It has won the 2011 Award “Top Ten Blogs for Writers” and it’s easy to see why. Joanna has struggled herself with the inevitable rejections we writers face. She’s had problems selling her own books. But being a generous soul, she’s put the lessons she’s learned on her website in the form of free downloads and podcasts. This is a wonderful resource for all of us who are new to this game.

I hope you enjoy the websites I’ve showcased today. As always, feel free to drop your comments in the comments box.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN by Sarah Dunant

Sarah Dunant’s IN THE COMPANY OF THE COURTESAN tells the story of Fiammetta, an accomplished Roman courtesan, and her dwarf Bucino. It is 1527, the year that the Emperor Charles V sacked Rome, and so Fiammetta is obliged to move to Venice with Bucino to save her business.

How does a courtesan find clients in 1527? In church of course. The talented ones know how to hold a man’s attention, even as she does nothing.

She sits in her seat in the pew, dressed in her best, having taken considerable trouble with the styling of her hair on the back of her head, so that it is interesting to look at. She has chosen her church well, eschewing any hell-fire sermons, and selecting instead a church that is the home of a scholar who has never heard of an hourglass.

As the older members of the congregation nod off, the marriageable young women let their veils drop away from their faces, so that they can catch the eye of their young men. Against this fluttering screen, the courtesans size up the congregation, looking for wealthy patrons. They sit erect, heads held high, while everyone arounds them slumps with boredom. Gently moving their heads, they bestow glances on wealthy gentleman. They choose someone with a half-smile, and the slow caress of a tongue against the lips. Outside church, the patron is netted with glances and head-tilts as they appear to admire the magnificent architecture that makes up Venice.

What a wonderful imagination Sarah Dunant has, and how vividly she makes this come to life. I wish I could say that the whole of her novel was like this. But it was not.

The main problem I had was with the way the story was told. I would have preferred the action to have been shown through scenes rather than told to me with pages and pages of narrative. I also think that the beginning was problematic. I think the novel would have been stronger had it started with Fiammetta arriving in Venice after being traumatized by the Sack of Rome, rather than showing that backstory at the beginning of the novel. In any event, I loved the church scene, read on for a few more pages, and finally put the book down, because I just couldn’t bring myself to wade through any more narrative. A great pity.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Spun Stories gets noticed!

Ten days ago, Nan Hawthorne of Historical Blogs Fiction &  Fact emailed me to say that she thought Spun Stories was “one of the most entertaining and interesting blogs out there”, and she’d picked me to be the featured blog on HB F&F for June.  In return, I have to pick a blog for July.

As you can imagine, I’m thrilled. Especially as Nan is such an active member of the Historical Novel Society and Independent Authors Guild. Thank you Nan for your kind words about my blog! And stay tuned to hear about the blog I picked.

Last week, I got an email from Laura Stanfill, who blogs at WordPress.com, telling me that she had just awarded me the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award. In return, I have to do four things:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you. Thanks Laura for the nomination! I am thrilled. Those strawberries look luscious. Laura provides writing challenges for writers, and interviews for readers, and you can find out all about her gorgeous-looking blog by clicking here.

2. Share seven random facts about yourself.

    1. I like making plans.
    2. I’m a big fan of science, and love anything with either evidence or a good argument behind it.
    3. I’m English, but have lived in the US for nearly 30 years.
    4. I like teal. Don’t know why. Perhaps because it reminds me of the sea.
    5. As a child, I always had my nose in an historical novel. This used to exasperate my sister.
    6. I am happiest when I’m being creative. This is true whether I’m writing novels or attempting to play my violin.
    7. I love visiting England to see the beautiful English countryside, and those wonderful gardens that English people always seem to have.

3. Pass the award along to 15 deserving blog buddies.

Here are some deserving bloggers, in no particular order:

Katy of A FEW MORE PAGES

Loretta and Susan of TWO NERDY HISTORY GIRLS

Trish of TROUVAIS

Jenny Milchman of SUSPENSE YOUR DISBELIEF

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon of SCANDALOUS WOMEN

Jennifer of RUNDPINNE

MAYA RODALE

Mirella Patzer of HISTORY AND WOMEN

Alex, Ana, Kailana, Marg & Teddy of HISTORICAL TAPESTRY

Allie, Arleigh & Heather of HISTORICAL FICTION ROUND TABLE

4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them. Of course! Thanks, Laura for your support.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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Blogs and Websites to watch: ALL THINGS HISTORICAL FICTION, MAYA RODALE, HISTORICAL FICTION EXCERPTS

Taylor lives in Oklahoma. She loves pets and would love to do something that channels her passion for all things historical. But she has to pay the bills, and so she’s planning on a career in nursing. Meanwhile she blogs about historical novels on ALL THINGS  HISTORICAL FICTION, and has become so well-known that authors such as Christy English do guest posts, and other authors, such as Anne Easter Smith, grant interviews.

Such is the power of the internet. If I were in Oklahoma and were struck down by an injury, I would really hope that Taylor would be around to nurse me back to health. Why do I say that? Because her site shows meticulous organization. It is easy to see which books she has read, and which she is planning to read. It is easy to find other posts because of her author cloud. I love finding sites such as Taylor’s, that are fun to browse, yet put up by people who just love reading novels.

Maya describes herself as a proud member of “that damned mob of scribbling women”. Can’t remember who said that. But he, because of course it was a he, was a misogynist. Come to think of it, I’m proud to be a member of that mob too. In any event, Maya is a scion of the famous Rodale family. Any of you who have bought plants know about the Rodale catalog. So Maya spends her early mornings scribbling. Then she works for her family’s company. Maya blogs about the writing life and has at least one novel to her name, titled A TALE OF TWO LOVERS. You can find her blog by typing MAYA RODALE into Google.

Lindsey Townsend lives in Yorkshire, England. She is the co-author of FIFTEEN blogs. I stumbled on her in HISTORICAL FICTION EXCERPTS, which, as its name suggests, posts excerpts of recently published novels. This site welcomes all historical fiction and HF genres. To get an excerpt of your novel posted on this blog, you have to contact Lindsey, which is why I mention her, although there are at least three other people who contribute to this blog.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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MARK OF THE HORSE LORD by Rosemary Sutcliff

Rosemary Sutcliff’s THE MARK OF THE HORSE LORD is a tale set in northern England and Scotland during the Roman Occupation. Phaedrus, a slave-turned gladiator, wins his freedom only to throw it all away when he drunkenly burns down some buildings. Spirited away by an admiring merchant, he enters a very different world, that of the Scottish Clans and their ancient ways of doing things. One clan has a problem. It is time for their Queen to step down, but unfortunately she has done away with the heir. But Phaedrus bears an uncanny resemblance to this unfortunate young man, and so he becomes Horse Lord in his stead.

 

I did not think that reading about a rather macho culture would be interesting. But it was.        Phaedrus, despite his faults, is a likable character, and the way in which he straddles both the Celtic and Roman worlds makes him fascinating. The other thing that kept me reading was the plot, which made you wonder what was going to happen next. And Rosemary Sutcliff’s wonderful descriptions brought a vanished culture vividly to life. FOUR STARS.

–Cynthia Haggard writes historical novels.  She has two completed manuscripts that will be published in the coming year. THWARTED QUEEN  is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal, and a King brought down by fear.FAMILY SPLINTERS is  a novel about identity, forbidden love and family secrets. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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