Guest Blog Post: “Let’s get to Business: A Checklist for How to Become an Indie Author” by Shabnam Curtis

Picture by Andrew Neel @andrewneel
Picture by Andrew Neel @andrewneel

Combining creativity with business can be challenging. Author/blogger Shabnam Curtis is one heck of an organized writer! Here she generously shares her detailed and well-researched gameplan for self-publishing success of her book, “My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl”…

The Growing Mind

independent pic

Picture by Andrew Neel @andrewneel

(1121 words – 8 minute read) Independence has been the magic word through out my life. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be independent. I’ve tried hard and succeeded in so many aspects of my life; immigration, finance, job back in Iran. But, I have been a paycheck lady ever since I came to the U.S. Every now and then I thought about becoming a freelancer again but didn’t seriously pursue it. I was not and am not ready for the financial risk. But a few years ago, I noticed an inside revolution and strong desire, demanding to create something new other than a freelance project analyst. The uprising in my heart took me home; I began writing my memoir.

Writing my memoir taught me develop more critical thinking skills, approaching the society from not one but many different viewpoints. In short…

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Guest Blog Post: How I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama

How does an author get their book published by a big company, as opposed to doing it on their own? Hard work and good fortune figured into how a big-time publisher of how-to books reached out to Lance Akiyama. Together, they’ve put out four books (including a revised version of one) by him about how to make cool stuff from rubber bands, duct tape, and more.

Do you have first-hand experience? I’m gathering a following of fiction lovers who might enjoy my soon-to-be-published books, “Flamenco and the Sitting Cat,” and “Tango and the Sitting Cat.” Other authors have posted on Happiness Between Tails about their book experiences here and here and here and here and here and here.

Read on for Akiyama’s post about how he got published. He notes that non-fiction vs. fiction call for different methods…

Lance Akiyama, author of "Duct Tape Engineer" and more.
Lance Akiyama, author of “Duct Tape Engineer” and more.

My process for getting published was pretty unusual. I had created a series of free project tutorials on Instructables.com, which ranks pretty well if you search Google for ‘engineering projects for kids.’ At some point, my publisher’s editor had a book idea for a series of gadgets that were powered by rubber bands and made from household items. She went searching for someone who could realize that vision, found my work, and offered me the book deal! I don’t think many people have offers to become an author just drop into their inbox, but that’s how it happened.

DIY project books are a bit different than publishing a novel. There’s no outline phase. Instead, there’s a tinkering phase; I had to experiment with about 30-40 project ideas before settling on 20-ish and then spending more time fine-tuning those ideas so they could be easily recreated at home by the reader. The editing phase is more focused on the clarity of the step-by-step instructions rather than the plot or character development. And finally, I had to take hundreds of pictures in my tiny home studio. Well, ‘studio’ is a generous term. Really it was a folding table with a cloth backdrop that was set up in my bedroom. But eventually all the pieces came together, and the publisher’s design team polished up all the content into a great-looking layout!

The next few books followed a similar pattern: my editor had an idea, asked me if I wanted to author the book, and then tinkered & wrote & produced all the materials. But after 4 books plus one revised edition, I think I’m ready to take a break from writing!

Cover of "Duct Tape Engineer" by Lance Akiyama.

About Lance Akiyama: he’s an avid tinkerer, and voted Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse. He currently holds a full-time position as a science curriculum developer for Galileo Learning, an innovative summer camp company. His mission is to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and artists with hands-on projects that make kids think, “I can’t believe I made that!” Contact @ MadeForSTEAM.com/contact

Guest Blog Post: 7 Tips for Authors by Rhiannon

Want to write and publish a book? Blogger Rhiannon Brunner (who has also contributed to HBT here) has written and self-published many of them! A resident of Vienna, Austria, she writes about whatever interests her. Her books are in German. Soon she’ll translate them into English. Here she encourages us all…

Author/blogger Rhiannon Brunner with her cat, Carry (big sister of kitten Maze).
Author/blogger Rhiannon Brunner with her cat, Carry (big sister of kitten Maze).

If you’re thinking about writing a book, these are my experiences that I’d like to share to encourage you. Some see themselves as warriors, others as traders or craftsmen. Through my blog and books, I have come to see myself as a “bard,” as a storyteller. Let me inspire you and accompany you on your writing journeys.

Since childhood, I’ve loved reading stories. To this day I adore how a good book shows me new worlds. My first steps in writing started when I was a little. A few years ago, I realized how important writing is to me. My trigger was wanting to find a good present for my mom.

Since then, I haven’t been able to keep my fingers off the keyboard. Becoming an author is a work in progress. Accepting input is necessary for growth. Every book is like your “baby” that you send into the world. It doesn’t matter how good it is — you still love it and wish it all the best on its way.

TIP 1: Go for it! No master has fallen from heaven yet, everyone started small. Set the first step for your book.

TIP 2: Hold on! Writing a book requires that one invest time and commit to finishing. It doesn’t matter how good your “baby” gets. Just get to the end.

TIP 3: Open yourself to input! There is always someone better than you. Ask for advice if necessary, but never let anyone pull you down. If the criticism is constructive, it will help you.

*** These first three tips are essential — all else is variable. ***

With my books, I started from scratch. I researched bloggers and “professionals.” I searched for tips on the homepages of publishers and organized writing guides for myself. Some helped, others did not.

TIP 4: I dare you! I don’t like to leave projects open or to cancel them. If you want to write a book, sit down and finish it.

TIP 5: Perfection does not exist.

TIP 6: Hang in there! Again and again, I looked for writing experts. I didn’t have any luck, so I began to experiment. I gave my manuscript to others to read and wondered how accurate their opinions were. Some advice I put into practice, some I didn’t. Not every input is meaningful and helpful. Make sure that it helps you to improve and that it doesn’t dissuade you. Go with your gut feelings, even small ones. You don’t need flattery, merely sincere advice.

TIP 7: Open yourself to input. Constructive criticism can sting, but it helps with further development.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Make the best of everything.

Good luck!

Guest Blog Post: On Boy Books and Girl Books by Pernille Ripp

Books allow me to transcend my own experience of the world. In reading, I can assume the skin of people, places, times, and events that I’ll never otherwise inhabit. They make me feel more part of the world and more human.

How has reading shaped you? Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp why she believes children should be exposed to all kinds of books…

Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp.
Blogger/teacher/parent Pernille Ripp.

Pernille Ripp

White, Black, Yellow, Lime,  Free Image

I get asked for a lot of book recommendations, I think it comes with the territory when you share the love of books.  And while I love pairing books with potential readers, I have also noticed a pattern that causes me to pause, that should cause all of us to pause.

I get asked for a lot of books featuring male lead characters for male readers.

When I ask why the need for a male lead, I am often told that “they” just don’t think a boy will read a “girl book.”  That a boy will not like a book about feelings.  That a boy only wants books that have action.  That have other boys in it.  That feature characters that look just like them or at the very least think like them.

As if every single boy thinks alike.

When written like this it is easy to see the…

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Guest Blog Post: Tips for Sleuthing the Past by Margaret Lossi

Who'll your search turn up? Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com
Who will your search turn up? Photo thanks to Ryan McGuire of Gratisography.com

Writers and readers alike, for times we’d like to look into our histories, author Margaret Lossi offers tips for how to get started. My two novels are works-in-progresses! Lossi says that when it comes to looking up one’s family background, be prepared for surprises…

M.A. Lossl

The Family Tree

Warning: family history can lead to emotional discoveries.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you begin at the end! That is, you begin with you.

Check your birth certificate, verify your parents. It may seem like a given, but just sometimes people find they are adopted, or their mum is really their grandma. It pays to check.

Check your parents birth certificates, to verify your grandparents. Then work your way back through the generations, verifying birth certificates.

These first steps build the strong foundation of your family tree, so worth doing well.

It is not a case of how far back you can go, but the quality of your data

You may wish to answer a family question. I knew my parents were second cousins, so wanted to find out about this link. Set yourself a goal to work towards. Whatever your motivation, make sure you verify each…

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Let’s Make Every Week Banned Books Week! by da-AL

Persepolis is discussed by a UK teen on youtube video about Banned Book Week.

Does the threat of a book being banned ensure that it’s among the finest books written? Check out the fantastic examples cited by the smart folks in this 29-second video (and pat yourself on the back if you smile when “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is discussed — *see end of this post for why)…

Banned Book Week needs to be every week of the year! Started in the U.S., the now international event has been honored every last week of September since 1982.

* Whereas the girl in the video remembers the story as happening in South America during the 1920s, here’s how Wikipedia tells it: “The story takes place during three years (1933–35) of the Great Depression in the fictional “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama, the seat of Maycomb County.”

Once my novels-in-progress are published, I hope they’re not banned! How many potentially banned books have you read?

Guest Blog Post: 18 Years of Blogging by Dan

How long have you been writing or reading blogs? I’ve read them for years and blogged myself about two and a half years.

Dan’s blogged for 18 years! Regardless of his ever self-effacing self-description that he should be better at it by now, I’m much impressed! In his words, here’s what he’s learned about blogging, including some of his art…

outline drawing of Dan's feet
EWB* (Experience With Blogging)

I blogged as a way to practice my writing hobby. Attraction of Viewers, Likes, and Comments would only add incentive for sorting out and organizing my thoughts. Wrong! My blog grew to an enormous size. I became insatiable, like a chef on a quest to include more ingredients in the pot. I tripped up on this “big feet” mentality.

Meanwhile, other matters became most pressing. I was a Caregiver. After things settled down, I reached good stopping points (CMfM – skeleton; ITN – structure) and buttoned up (put it in an archival mode) my blog after publishing 2057 posts. (It downloads too slowly, and casual users can’t reasonably peruse its content.)

If your goal is to attract spiders (advanced views to blog posts), here are two tips for increased “access to location”:
Improve the odds that an Internet Seeker with a focused search will find you [do this by adding General or Specific Category labels and Tags.] and
Improve your referrals [get out there and find compatible sites and link to each other].

Just remember this: It is easier to get excited by one well-directed “find” than to sustain the fickle interest levels of the entire internet!