Staying True to Your Art: Life Lessons

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I originally had another post planned for today, but this topic kept me awake last night. I apologize if this comes off as angry. It is. My anger is directed exclusively toward the place it belongs: right in the mirror. We all make mistakes, but this one is a whopper. My hope in sharing this life lesson is to help others avoid the same pitfall.  I think it’s something every writer, artist and performer should keep in mind.

Stay true to the art you were given.

In the early 2000’s I began writing an intense epic fantasy about brother against brother and the sacrifice required from men and women of honor. It was a project that consumed me for several years. The epic consists of 9 “parts” at 110k words each in draft form. This story is one that I have to tell no matter how long it takes.

I decided to hire an editor to review the first book in the series. She had some great insight that helped me to improve my writing skills. Unfortunately, she gave me some bad guidance that sent me down a rabbit hole I’m still trying to climb out of six years later.  The well meaning editor convinced me that my book was a YA novel. It was, after all, during the Harry Potter craze and wasn’t everyone writing YA? I did a very stupid thing. Rather than trusting my instincts and staying true to the story I was given, I changed my character’s age and took out the dark fantasy elements. I forced MY story into someone else’s box. I tried pitching the book for three years, but no takers. People can tell when something is forced for the sake of a trend.

This week I’ve taken up the story again. Digging through old boxes of the story’s hard copies and searching e-copy versions, I see the multiple times I’ve tried to start over. Each failed attempt was yet another effort to shove the story into someone else’s box. Of course I failed. So, why is this time different? I’ve learned a few things over the past few years:

  • First – I know what I write and it isn’t YA.
  • Second – I have a unique voice. It isn’t for everyone, but I love it.
  • Third – this is an unstable business with many pitfalls. It’s better to make yourself happy by being true to your art than trying to please the trends of an industry constantly in a state of flux.

In June, I received notification the small press that published my dark fantasy, Phantom Harvest, was gobbled up by an outfit in New York City. This is either a good thing or a bad thing. Time will tell. I had intended to start work on Book Two, but the sale has brought about a little uncertainty for the series. Not to worry. I will complete the remaining two books in the Mutant Casebook Series no matter what. Just not right now. The sale and my experiment with indie publishing has given me the freedom to start my epic fantasy again. This time on my terms.

Final thoughts – it took six years, but my situation has started to right itself. I got lucky. Others might not have the same experience. So before you change your art for the sake of a trend, think about the consequences as well as the benefits. What’s it really buying you? If the answer is air and promises, I’d think twice.

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Adventures in Indie Publishing – The Sequel

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Pulling the Trigger

My adventure in Indie Publishing has begun in earnest. I’ve made the decision of the “What” (my short story Lost Man’s Parish) and the “How” (Smashwords). Now it’s time to pull the trigger. I’ve started investing time and money toward this Indie effort. Too late to turn back. Actually, I’m feeling really good about my decision. Which is great, because there are a whole lot more decisions that I have to make. Just me. By myself with no one to back me up. No Risk. No Reward. I jump in.

eBook Formatting: To DIY or Not To DIY?  This was a no brainer decision for me. I want in the Smashwords Premium Catalog.  Your book has to meet clearly defined criteria to be accepted. Again, I took a realistic look at what I can and cannot do. eBook Formatting is a low cost alternative for the DIY. Here are a few things to consider before you make a decision:

  • I Can’t Find the Any Key! Not good with computers? Or maybe you’ve mastered email, but don’t quite have a good handle on Microsoft Word? Rather than struggling with formatting, I’d suggest hiring it done. The service I used started at $35.00. Most of the others I checked out fell in about the same range.  Let the experts do it. You have other things to worry about.
  • I Can Make Word Dance! Okay, so you’re an MS Word Master.  You love to fiddle with the software, getting it to behave as you think it should. Maybe DIY is right for you. I suggest downloading the free style guide from Smashwords.com. Follow the steps carefully and you should avoid problems. Smashwords has detailed instructions on how to fix things if you fumble a bit.
  • I’m a Super Busy Person With No Time. OR I Just Don’t Want To (This is Me). Hire it done. I’m not kidding. You have so much more to focus on at this stage.

Cover Design: I know my skill sets. Visual arts don’t fall in my wheel house, so I started looking for a good cover design service.

  • Remember the Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared – Whether you’re publishing a short story or novel length manuscript, be prepared with all the marketing information you would normally have before submitting to a publisher. Have that back cover blurb ready, so you can provide it to the cover artist.
  • Know before you go – Also think about things you think would be nice to have on your own cover. Note: there is a whole science to this book design thing. I leave it to the experts, those talented artists who see in pictures.  The very easiest way to communicate what you want to the artist, is to find existing covers that you like and have in mind for the story.  Many of them ask you to do this, so they can get a sense of your preferred style.
  • Let Go and Trust – We all have pictures in our head of the “perfect” book cover. Can you communicate that to the cover designer? Maybe. In the end, you have to trust your cover artist. My experience as been very positive. These amazing artist take the 250 word blurb I give them and create this whole world in one picture. It blows me away every time.

The Big Reveal!

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Sentenced to life imprisonment for murder at age fifteen, Bill Dolan has become one of the most feared convicts in the Lost Man’s Parish Territorial Prison. Devoid of  hope, it is a place of survival of the meanest and most amoral. For thirteen hard years, he has survived and thrived among other violent offenders. In a last act of vindictive spite, Bill’s grandmother uses her influence to condemn his little brother to life in the Parish. Andy is a peculiar boy with unsettling powers. Tales of Andy’s miracles quickly spreads among the greedy convicts.

The specter of the Parish, a presence of pure evil, hungrily sniffs out the new resident. When the purity of Andy’s child-like innocence threatens to bring about change, the specter is desperate to destroy him. Bill must find a way to get Andy out of the escape proof prison, before they both succumb to the evil living within its walls.

Now Available directly from Smashwords for multiple E-Readers. Note: This is the easiest place to purchase my books. You can select from a variety of eBook formats for all devices (Kindle, iBook, Nook, PDF, etc.)

Also available from the Apple iBook Store and txtr.com. It can take a few weeks for a site to begin distribution. Check my website for new retailers as my book comes online for sale at their sites. You may notice Amazon isn’t on this list. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) requires a separate upload with additional publication  costs (Special eBook Formatting and a unique ISBN at an additional charge.) I intend to publish to both distributors for my novel length project in the future.

If you have the opportunity to download either the free excerpt or the full story, I would appreciate you leaving any comments you have on the retailer site or here on the blog. Enjoy!

Books and Banter Featured Author – Theresa Crater

A secret spiritual group

A recurring dream

A 400-year-old ritual that must be

completed before it is too late

The Star Family S

Jane Frey inherits a Gothic mansion filled with unexpected treasures. A prophecy claims it hides an important artifact – the key to an energy grid laid down by the Founding Fathers themselves. Whoever controls this grid controls the very centers of world power. Except Jane has no idea what they’re looking for.

The Star Family . . . explores the esoteric aspects of a progressive Protestant sect called the Moravian Brethren and weaves their history into a fascinating piece of speculative fiction. What if the Moravians had continued to observe some of their controversial practices in secret? What if their rites and music have played a role in withstanding the malignant forces that threaten to overwhelm modern society? What if one woman who discovers her true ancestry could oppose dominion of darkness through music and erotic spirituality? What if a town in North Carolina holds the key to bringing harmony to the world? Readers who enjoyed The Historian and The DaVinci Code will enjoy The Star Family.”   

Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood, Moravian College, Director of the Center for Moravian Studies

 

Purchase Information

Amazon

B&N

Kobo

Smashwords

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Author Bio

Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her paranormal mysteries. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion holds a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “The Judgment of Osiris” and “Bringing the Waters.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Visit her at http://theresacrater.com.

Phantom Harvest turns One!

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Phantom Harvest has its first birthday on January 31, 2014. What an eventful year it’s been! Blog tours, book signings and interviews…whew! My favorite part? The response from my wonderful and supportive readers. It’s both humbling and gratifying knowing fans of the book enjoyed the story enough to want another one. I’m working on Book Two in The Mutant Casebook Series now.

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Another piece of exciting news! Phantom Harvest is a 2014 EPIC Ebook Award Finalist for Best Fantasy. The winners will be announced at EPICON in San Antonio in March 2014.  I’m very pleased and proud of the book’s success. In honor of my “book baby”, I’ll be posting fun facts about the world of the Mutant Casebook Series on my blog this month.

Here is the back cover blurb:

Gideon, a half-breed mutant with a surly temper and rotten luck, struggles to scrape a living as a tracker in the desolate territory near the gateway to the human world. Business seems to be picking up when Gideon is approached by a powerful dark elf with deep pockets and a serious problem. Human miners at the dark elf’s plant are being taken by an elusive predator. Gideon is pressured to find the killer before word of the disappearances reaches the human world, endangering the tense relationship between their two races. But, nothing is simple this close to the conduit between worlds. Archangel, a ruthless mercenary operating in the secret sectors of mutant society, has set his own deadly game in motion.

Surrounded by savage wilderness and cut off from contact with civilization, Gideon must find a way to protect his friends and survive to collect his bounty.

Purchase Information

Whiskey Creek Press

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

Sony