Authors! Novelists can be anyone we want to be! by da-AL

Novelists can imagine ourselves into whatever characters we choose! Ones who’ve already published, like Valeska Réon, from Germany (given that I’m the soon-to-be self-published author of the upcoming “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat”) inspire to me to no end! I found this photo of her while I was searching for something else (isn’t this always the case?) — and love it so much that I’m sharing it in the hopes that it’ll inspire you too!…

Image by Valeska Réon from Pixabay

I don’t understand German, but I love how boldly she assumes identities on her video channel.

Valeska Réon and her many personas include her dogs.
Valeska Réon and her many personas.

In addition to a host of careers she’s had and currently pursues, she loves dogs — she often features them on her Instagram! See what Valeska’s up to later here.

Valeska Réon with her black and white dog.
Valeska Réon and her dog indulge in a black and white moment.

How do you re-imagine yourself?…

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 Lance’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.

How I Got Published (Big Time) by Lance Akiyama

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!”

Have you published a book?

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).

7 Tips for Authors by Rhiannon Brunner

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!

Hope for Novelists and Other Writers by da-AL

Do you have an elevator speech? Book writers are told that they need an ‘elevator speech’ — a one-minute pitch for when they inadvertently meet their star-maker. It’s also useful for talking about one’s book with everyone else.

Theoretically, that is. My elevator speech rarely gets past the first floor.

Bunny rabbit outfitted person reads paper.
Ryan McGuire of Gratisography is a smart bunny.

But I love my books, which is why I keep at them. My two novels are in the final edit phase as I build an audience of followers (that means you, dear reader) who I hope will be interested in them when they’re self-published. They’re narrated by a 40-year-old woman, in the form of letters to a deceased grandmother.

“An epistolary novel: written in the form of a series of letters.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The Hope Part of this Post: This video reminds me of me pitching my book — and Maria Keogh Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” did great!

Here’s part 2 of her pitching (this time to another very successful author), which is also shown comically yet realistically…

Semple’s book is so successful that Cate Blanchette is starring in a movie version of it!

What’s been people’s reaction when you tell them about your books?

Antique and Vintage Photos by Val Erde

Val Erde’s sensitive and artful photo coloring truly brings history to life. Based in the U.K., she kindly contributes this for you to see…

Dog in garden before and after. Photo coloring by Val Erde

Antique and Vintage Photos by Val Erde

In the blog I used to have, I show the colouring work I do on my collection of antique and vintage photos. I’ve been an artist all my life and have been doing these photos since I had my first pc and graphics program. I usually colour photos of people, though I have a few that include dogs and cats, but this is the first in a long while that I’ve done just of a dog. I hadn’t intended to colour it, but well… look at it. Wasn’t it barking calling out for colour? Or, more likely, food.

“Please give me a treat. Anything will do, really. Maybe something you’re eating? I like your food. I like everyone’s food.”

I haven’t a dog so have to rely on photos for colour references and as I don’t know what breed it is, I’m not sure I got this one right. I suspect it’s a bit of lots of different things. Well, doggy things, anyway.

So… any ideas what sort of dog it is? And – the dog aside, can you by any chance identify the flowers to the right? The ones on the left are roses, that I know, but the rest – what the heck are they? To me the blossoms look like Cosmos, but the leaves are wrong. Anyway, to be safe, I coloured the innards yellow and the outtards (yes, I know) varying shades of pink. But they could be anything really.

There’s more to do on this photo but I decided to call it a day. Well, actually, I’ve called it a dog.

My thanks to Da-AL for inviting me to guest blog!

What kind of dog is this?

Guest Blog Post: “Whisper: I Slept With My Bully” by Kally

Photo of a woman on a bed, her back to us

This tragic story, retold by blogger Kally, is all the sadder because the young woman to whom it happened blames herself for what isn’t her fault. To heal, she bravely recounts it to us so that the same thing doesn’t happen to others…

MiddleMe

love your column Whisper and I hope by sharing my story, perhaps some young girl out there will learn from my mistakes and maybe save herself from evil.

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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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Guest Blog Post: The Little Guy Who Stole Our Hearts by Debbie Centeno

Live long enough, and we’re bound to encounter challenges. With the help of a friend, Debbie Centeno (who runs this blog and this blog) uses her grief to help others…

Chewy

I never knew how much a person could grow to love their pet. I wasn’t raised with pets, other than fish in a tank. And, there’s no way you can take them out of the tank to play, pet or cuddle. I just loved my aquarium but in a materialistic way. As an adult, I didn’t think about getting a pet since I was quite busy with three children. But, after my oldest son passed away, and my two other children were no longer small kids, my daughter convinced me to get a dog. So we opted for a rescue.

Chewy as a puppy

I made a few calls to see what dogs were available to adopt. We found a place that had a mama dog who had recently given birth to seven puppies – six female and one male. The male was the runt and was rejected by his mama, but I wanted a female. That was until we met the little guy, of course. All puppies were side by side sleeping on their tummies, except the little runt who was sleeping on his back almost on top of his sisters. He was much smaller than the others. When I saw him – well, I don’t know what I felt, but I just had to have him, so the volunteer picked him up and placed him in my arms, and that was it. I was in love. I handed him to my husband, and he felt the same way. So off we were with a 5-week old 2-pound Chihuahua/Dachshund mix. We named him Chewy, and it suits him well.

Chewy buckled up in a car

Chewy is now 6-years old and 20 lbs. I can’t imagine life without him and don’t regret having followed my daughter’s advice. He is the most loving, spoiled brat ever who stole our hearts. I know he’s not human, but for me, he’s my baby.

Debbie Centaro

Debbie Centeno is a wife, a grieving mom, an accountant, and a travel blogger. Learn more about her here and here.

Guest Blog Post: Six Warm Piglets by Cecilia Mary Gunther

photo of piglets feeding

Warning: reality check, then Cuteness Overload! It’s not for nothing that the human star of the glorious pig movie, “Babe,” went vegetarian…

thekitchensgarden

If you were hanging out in the Kitchen’s Garden Lounge of Comments yesterday you would have read that a piglet was lost in that first cold night.  I found him dead on Poppy’s side of their quarters.  Being the Lady Pig Farmer is not always easy. All our focus these first few days is keeping the babies safe and well fed. This task feels mutually exclusive at times.

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Guest Blog Post: “My Personal Path to Self-Publishing” by Lisa Kentgen, Ph.D.

When it comes to publishing, deciding which route to take can be a challenge.

For the traditional route, once an author writes a book, they sign on with an agent or publishing house. The author shares a hefty percentage of the sales, in exchange for the agent doing everything involved in getting attention and sales.

A self-publisher keeps all the money — but does everything, including possible hiring of an editor and book designer, buying advertising, etc.

New York City psychologist, Lisa Kentgen, Ph.D., debuted, “An Intentional Life: Five Foundations of Authenticity and Purpose,” June 2018. Here how she went about it…

Cover of, "An Intentional Life" by Lisa Kentgen

Turning down a book contract was a painful decision. My book emphasizes listening to your internal voice. My voice told me I wouldn’t be happy signing a contract that didn’t feel mutual. The morning after making this decision the idea for my next book came to me. I then knew self-publishing was the right path.

Two things were clear. 1) I would create a publishing imprint to house this and future books. 2) I would be intimately part of the process.

Creating a publishing imprint meant establishing an LLC. Its mission is broad enough to cover other professional activities, like public speaking, so that my writing will be an essential part of my professional life.

Photo of author Lisa Kentgen by Todd Estrin Photography
Photo of author Lisa Kentgen by Todd Estrin Photography

There are reputable companies, like Girl Friday Productions, that help authors from concept to final production. I believe they quoted me $16,000. I chose not to go with this sort of company because I had a manuscript that already was far along and, also, it means not taking the lead in creating my team. Establishing my team meant spending hours finding a top quality editor, cover designer, and interior designer.

I was fortunate enough to find a developmental editor who is the vice president of a publishing company. She had me reduce my manuscript by 30%. She told me that while I don’t like telling people what to do (I am a psychologist) – as a writer I needed to be more directive. After a major edit, I hired another editor to polish the final manuscript.

For book design, I chose Reedsy, an online company that has wonderful professionals for hire. Inexpensive cover designs cost around $500. For an experienced, artistic designer it is closer to $1000. My cover designer was so good that I persuaded him to do my interior design which cost about $2000.

I learned the hard way that what makes for a beautiful physical book creates complications for the ebook. (Suggestion: Make a copy of the interior before getting fancy!) Creating the ebook to look like the physical copy proved difficult. I had no way to assess the actual skill level of designers. The first person misrepresented their experience, and I paid $450 for something I couldn’t use. The next person charged $500 and what I wanted took more time than estimated–so we negotiated a higher price.

My experience creating the audiobook with Brickshop Audio in Brooklyn was a pleasure. The audiobook, with production help, costs $250 per finished hour. My 55,000-word book (on ACX) cost $1650.

I recommend my path to authors who enjoy creating a business and who have the time and desire to address countless creative details. It means a lot more work upfront, but having finished products closer to your vision. I am excited to take what I have learned to new ventures!

Quote by Lisa Kentgen: Living with intention you understand that your interests are intimately bound to the well-being of others.

Dear readers, share your experiences below with self-publishing vs. traditional publishing…