C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Authors and Publishers: Six things to do immediately to get more readers and keep them

We are in a battle for attention. Here are three things to consider today to get readers’ attention and keep it:

1. List posts, like this one, are popular because they are easier for readers to scan. (They’re also pretty quick to write.)

2. There’s a good chance your blog posts are too long. Mine often have been. I changed that once I realized how few people give blogs a deep reading. You probably aren’t reading this. You’re scanning this for what you can use.

3. I put the font for this blog in bold after a few readers complained the font was thin. Some readers, either because of their devices or their eyesight, still had problems reading the font. I bumped it up again.

4. When you write a blog post, you often have the option of adding links outside your blog. Click the underlined word and blog readers get whisked away for more on “kerning” and its history. I used to do that within blog posts but not now. Those links are excuses for readers to put their attention elsewhere. If they need something explained, explain it for them. I still provide related articles at the bottom of most posts for added value. New readers often find me through those links.

5. Go to your author profile on whatever sales platforms you use. Shorten it. I wrote a hilarious profile for Amazon. It was funny and informative, but it wasn’t doing its job because it was too long. People want to know enough to have confidence you could write an informative or entertaining book. Leave some mystery and make it an invitation instead of forcing the full bodacious on them all at once. If they want to know more about me, they can visit my author site or (gasp!) purchase my books. We want browsers to read our books, but they’re merely scanning our author profiles, if that.

6. Add video. Your blog is a charging at us too hard on the first date and it’s intimidating.

You’ll notice a new feature at the top of this blog on the main page. A spokesperson tells you about some of my websites and the free ebook promotional offer. I added the text to the video for added punch. Since adding the video a couple of nights ago, traffic to my author site has risen 66 percent.

New visitors will stay if you use video to welcome them and get them acclimated to what you’re about. Regular visitors will discover something about you they didn’t know. We’re visual creatures and people are used to taking in information that way. Too much text all at once puts them off. Text is for books. (I use a spokesperson for the  Cool People Podcast page, too. “What? You have two podcasts, Chazz?” See, somebody found out something new already. Notice, I’m tickling their ears with yet another medium: podcast.) For my author site, I’ll soon add a personal message from me instead of using a spokesperson.

To win eyeballs, hearts and minds, heavy text isn’t the answer. That’s for book readin’!

More white space and YouTube helps readers discover how awesome you are.

Robert Chazz Chute

Robert Chazz Chute

~ Add an author profile, pic or note (like this one) at the end of your blog posts, too, if you want. Glad you found me!

I’m a former journalist and columnist who has worked in all aspects of book and magazine publishing. Have you checked out all the cool videos and excerpts from my book about an autistic boy facing the end of the world? Go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com to learn more about my serial. Looking to lose weight and be healthier? Check out another of my blogs, DescisionToChange.com.

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, book marketing, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

25 odd things you didn’t know about me

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1. Years ago I worked as a healer and got a woman who was nearly a quadriplegic out of a wheelchair. She recovered to the point of independence and is still walking and driving and traveling to this day. She became a healer in turn.

2. I’ve chipped two teeth, broken a toe and fractured a wrist while fighting. (The wrist belonged to someone else. It was a sparring accident.) I got much more hurt and into much more trouble preparing for violence than having to deal with it for real. I should have taken verbal judo, instead.

3. Before I was an atheist, I was a member of a fundamentalist Christian church. I lost my faith—or tossed it over my shoulder on the way out—after a couple of close friends died.

4. At one point I trained six hours a day in Hapkido. I thought I did it because I was a bad ass. Actually, I did it because I am not a bad ass. I was searching for a way to protect myself from a childhood filled with violence.

5. I didn’t have a sense of humor, or express it much, anyway, until I was 22. I learned I could make people laugh at the Banff School of Fine Arts. I had tried to be funny previously, but my family and high school and college experience repeatedly shut me down. “Who do you think you are?” they said. Once I got out of bad situations I realized the answer to that question is, “You’re uptight, I’m me. And that’s enough.”

6. I had a job from which I should have been fired. I made the boss laugh so hard every time we weren’t arguing that I kept the job until I finally left of my accord. Sadly. Shoulda gotten out of there much sooner.

7. I lost a job I did very well. The Powers that Be didn’t like questionable policies being  questioned. They assumed I did my job poorly because I was a pain in the ass. They didn’t recognize what integrity looked like. I’m better off. They’re the same.

8.  I’m still convinced someone’s watching me but I don’t believe in God. I cannot resolve this contradiction. Could be narcissism, though. This very list would seem to tip the scale that way.

9. I read ten books at one time. Minimum. Aside from enjoying my huge book collection, I browse a library is like a crack head loots a pharmacy in a riot.

10. I’m writing four books at one time, which explains why they are so slow to come to market. When they do arrive later this year, they’ll arrive in a mighty clump. Or, if you’re not into my fiction, a big dump.

11. I’ve been a best man only once, at a gay wedding. That should be an innocuous fact. Instead, since the world is the fearful place it is, it’s a fact of which I am very proud. One day soon, it will be a fact that should construe nothing more than an idle curiosity.

12. I used to be angry all the time. Now I sublimate my rage with humor. Actually, I joke around a lot. Now that I think of it, that’s still all rage.

13. I remember every slight, real or imagined, with perfect eidetic clarity. I’m still angry at dead people who insulted me when I was seven.

14. I am an extremely gifted massage therapist. My palpation skills, knowledge and execution are beyond compare. It’s not the sort of thing that gets much respect, though.

15. If I hadn’t met my wife and soul mate, there’s an excellent chance I’d be living in a refrigerator box. Or extremely depressed in a very responsible job with a couple of angry  ex-wives. Instead I’m always safe at home, hiding in my fortress of solitude.

16. One of the best, oldest friends I ever had walked away from me one day. I called and called and he never called back. At first I assumed he was injured or dead. Then I found out I was dead to him. I have suspicions, but the truth is, I really don’t know why that happened. I wish him well, wherever he is.

17.  Before kids, fear defined me. My children redefined my life (as happens to everyone, right?) Now it’s all about the love. I thought I’d work much more after the birth of my eldest. Then I held her for the first time, locked eyes and I knew I couldn’t allow anyone else to guard her. I became a house husband and stay-at-home dad permanently.

18.  I’m scared about a future with no financial security. I’m taking more risks, not fewer, to change that. Take the shot.

19. I wish my few friends lived right next door. There’s not much chance of that considering I’ve moved about twenty times in my life and have lived for extended times in three provinces, far east, far west and central.

20. I give a lot because I’m a people pleaser. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever get much back. They say karma’s a bitch. I say karma’s an extremely slow bitch. Where’s my lottery win, bitch?!

21. My childhood really began when I escaped a small town childhood. They resented me for saying life would begin when I left. I was right, though. Cities are my natural environment. (Also, I was right about the algebra: Never used it, never will.) Escape is my answer again.

22. Fiction allows me to murder people in a socially acceptable way. I think about it. A lot.

23. I’m a caring and very sensitive person. I’m also selfish. I cannot resolve this contradiction for you if you are confused.

24. In my internal monologue, there’s a lot more swearing.

25. My ego’s bigger than yours. Also, my id is BIG LIKE HULK. But aside from reading that here, even if you met me in person, you would never ever know it.

I have held a human heart in my hands.

However, even if you saw open somebody’s head and peer in, no one really knows the inside of anyone else’s skull. 


Filed under: Unintentionally hilarious, What about Chazz?, , , , , ,

Author Profile: India Drummond’s Ordinary Angels

India Drummond knew from age nine that writing would be her passion. Since thenordinary_angels she’s discovered many more, but none quite so fulfilling as creating a world, a character, or a moment and watching them evolve into something complex and compelling. She has lived in three countries and four American states, is a dual British and American citizen, and currently lives at the base of the Scottish Highlands in a village so small its main attraction is a red phone box. In other words: paradise.

india_drummondOrdinary Angels (Lyrical Press) is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance novel in which Zoë Pendergraft falls in love with an angel, frees a soul from necromancers, releases a ghost trapped in the Void and saves his living grandson from demons. Most of Zoë’s friends are dead, but she doesn’t mind because they died long before she met them. Then one Tuesday night an angel takes her salsa dancing and turns her world upside down. Grim reality closes in when she discovers a body in her company’s boiler room and Higher Angels accuse her best ghost friend of murder.

CW: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

ID: I’ve always written stories. I started my first book at 21 but didn’t seriously consider trying to make it a profession until the past couple of years. The coming of eReaders, in particular, has changed publishing so much. It’s a fantastic time to be an author.

CW: How did you get the idea for your book?

ID: My husband said to me one day, “I’m a perfect angel.” Of course, I laughed, because he only says things like that when he’s doing something troublesome. I proceeded to tell him what sort of hideous, fallen angel he would make. It got me thinking about what angels would be like if they were real and the storyline spun from that.

CW: What research was involved in your book’s development?

ID: The novel is set in San Francisco, a city I love to visit. I wanted the place to feel real in the book, so I had a couple of San Francisco natives on hand and shot them emails incessantly during the polish process, making sure I got details right about trains, the library, streets, parking, etc. Even suggestions on where my protagonist lived and the setting for my ghost town came from helpful locals.

CW: What is your writing process? Do you have any formal training in writing?

ID: I studied creative writing at university, but honestly, 95% of what I learned there wasn’t much help in the real world of publishing. I was taught how to write literary fiction, but not told that literary fiction is a teeny-tiny fraction of the market. (I wasn’t very good at it anyway… it isn’t what I like to read, so it showed in my writing.) My professors looked down on genre fiction, and I came out of it with a very clouded idea of publishing reality. What I did learn was how to take criticism: what to listen to, what to discard and how to use that feedback best to improve my stories. That was worth gold.

CW: How long did it take you to write the book and find an agent and publisher?

ID: The book I had accepted by a publisher, Ordinary Angels, was actually my second attempt. The first one took me years to write and was rejected countless times. Ordinary Angels, however, only took me six weeks to write (and a few months after that to polish and rework the rough bits). I looked for an agent for a few months, but after a while realized that getting a publisher amongst the small, indie publishers might not only be easier, but might be better for me as a new novelist. Once I decided that, I sent it to three publishers at once. One of them accepted it.

CW: What was the hardest part of the publishing process? What did you most enjoy?

ID: I think the waiting and not knowing during submissions is horribly hard. I felt I was going a bit mental, hitting send/receive over and over, hoping they would reply, but being afraid the reply would be negative. Even after acceptance, there is a lot of sitting around and waiting during the editing and even post-editing process. What I enjoyed most is crafting the story—I love the beginning when anything is possible and the characters surprise me at every turn.

CW: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

ID: Don’t give up and realize there is more than one good way to do publishing these days. Don’t just set your sights on the big six publishers in New York City. There are many small, indie publishers out there that might love your book and give you a much more personal, helpful experience. Remember, the biggest publishers are like Hollywood. They’re really only interested in blockbusters, so it’s a huge mountain to climb for an unpublished author to get noticed in that shark tank. So don’t dismiss those small publishers. Also, I am a big believer in indie publishing. I’ve read some fabulous indie books and am going to release my next book, Blood Faerie, as an indie book. Just remember that you have to do it like a pro if you’re going the indie route. Do your homework, and for the love of all that is holy, hire an editor. I do freelance editing and even I hire an editor because no one can see their own mistakes. Do it. Really.

CW: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

ID: These days, authors have to take responsibility for marketing themselves but I don’t mind that. I love social networking so I’d be on Facebook and Twitter even if I weren’t an author. I think e-publishing and indie publishing have forced all of us to change, but in my mind, it all benefits authors. We have more choice and choice means power.

CW: What’s your next book project and what can you tell us about it?

ID: Blood Faerie is set here where I live, in Perth Scotland. It’s a modern-day urban fantasy about an exiled faerie. It’s due to be released in July 2011.

Here’s a short blurb: Eilidh was cast out of the kingdom lands in the forests and forced to live on Perth’s city streets. She survived alone for years, but when a human is killed below the abandoned church where she lived, she recognized it as the work of one of her own kind. To stop the murders, she must tap into the forbidden magic that cost her everything.

Click here for more on India Drummond.

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, Books, , , , ,

Author Profile: JE Knowles on her book Arusha

Arusha by JE Knowles

Author J. E. Knowles grew up in East Tennessee, began her writing career in Canada and now lives in London, England. Her first novel, Arusha, is the story of a gay marriage—between one man and one woman.

From the book cover: Edith Rignaldi clearly understands that she and husband Joe remain together for the sake of their children. It is why they married in the first place. But she never foresaw the lifeless emotional landscape they both now occupy after eighteen years together.

Teachers in a small, God-fearing Tennessee town, they cannot insulate themselves entirely from the cultural encroachment of the late ’80s: the inexorable march of the feminist and gay rights movements, the spread of the AIDS epidemic. When the faithful, steadfast Joe is finally overwhelmed by his desire for men, the lives of all four Rignaldis explode.

CW: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

JEK: Probably as soon as I knew what an author was. I remember being nine years old and finding out that there was already an author in the Guinness Book of World Records younger than nine. I was very disappointed!

CW: Tell us about your book. How did you get the idea for your book?

JEK: Arusha is the story of a family—a woman, her husband and their children—and of the parents’ love. First, their love for each other, which brought the family together, and later their love for themselves and others and how that pulls the family apart. I’ve had the characters in mind since I was about fourteen but I didn’t know what their story was. I’d been living with the characters so long that the story just seemed to grow out of them.

CW: What research was involved in your book’s development?

JEK: The climax takes place in Arusha, Tanzania and I visited Tanzania before I knew that I would eventually write this book. It was the trip of a lifetime. East Africa, with its wild animals and incredible landscapes, has such a place in Westerners’ imagination. At the same time, journeying to someplace so far away brought home for me how different are the life experiences of people in various parts of the world. None of this really felt like “research”—the book developed out of where I’d been and what I’d thought about.

CW: What is your writing process? Do you have any formal training in writing?

JEK: I was already publishing articles and a few poems and stories when I went to the Humber School for Writers. That was my only formal training in writing, but what I really learned there was how to self-edit, how to make my work professional enough to be published. I met some wonderful fellow writers with whom I still exchange work. My writing process is the same as it was in elementary school: I get paper and a pencil and scribble down whatever comes to mind.

CW: How long did it take you to write the book and find an agent and publisher?

JEK: It took me about two years to write the manuscript, then another two years to find a publisher—about four years in total.

CW: What’s the most surprising thing you discovered in writing this book?

JEK: That the story wasn’t going to be principally about the daughter, Dana, but about the mother, Edith. I’ve never been a mother or married a man, so writing Edith’s (and even more, her husband’s) story took all of my imagination.

CW: Do you have any stories of rejection or inspiration to share with writers climbing up the mountain?

I have a story of rejection and inspiration, and it is the same: I received more than 100 “No”s to this novel before I got to one “Yes.” Many rejections were from agents or editors, just form letters saying don’t send the manuscript at all. Some requested part of the novel to read, but ultimately said no. A few read the whole novel, then decided it wasn’t for them. But I only needed one yes!

CW: What was the hardest part of the publishing process? What did you most enjoy?

JEK: It took about as long to place Arusha with a publisher as it did to write the novel and that was very discouraging. I found it hard to see so many books that, to me, were published with less time and care, while I was still struggling to sell a book in which I truly believed.

What I most enjoyed was holding the published book in my hands, seeing people buy it and ask for my signature. The book launch was the party of my life at that time—nine years in Toronto came together there.

CW: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

JEK: Write. This isn’t original advice, but it’s more important than ever now, when anyone can e-publish to a certain extent. Publishing is a separate business from writing, and if you start by focusing on getting published, you’ll never give the writing the time and energy it truly needs. Write an excellent, excellent story. Then you’ll have the faith in your writing that you’ll need to persevere through all the rejections and the business side of things.

CW: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

JEK: Not really “forced.” More and more people are reading e-books, so I’m glad that my book was simultaneously published in that format, for readers who choose to purchase it that way. Certainly, the Internet has made it easier to find out exactly what publishers want in terms of a query or submission (just visit the publisher’s Web site), and if they’ll accept a letter or submission by e-mail, that saves time and money as well. I don’t think there are any shortcuts, however. The fact that I can instantly post or “blog” about what I’m writing doesn’t mean readers want to read something thrown together slapdash. I try to write minimal marketing copy, because the more time I spend on that, the less time I have to perfect the writing itself.

CW: What’s your next book project and what can you tell us about it?

JEK: I’ve just finished my second novel, with the working title of The Trees in the Field. It’s about a United States Senator from Tennessee, a Republican woman, whose ambition is to be president…until she runs into inconvenient obstacles from her past and future and begins to question what patriotism really means.

CW: How important do you feel contests and awards are in getting published or getting attention for your book? Do contests curate?

JEK: I like this question, although it’s not an easy one. I looked up curate to get its precise meaning, and it seems to have been back-formed from curator, with its origins meaning to take care of. So, do contests guide readers and tell us what we should be reading? I actually don’t think they do. There are so many awards out there now—anyone can put their favorite books in X or Y category on a Web site, or start a poll and suddenly you’re the Grey City Journal Irish-American of the month (a real, albeit tongue-in-cheek, example).

I’m happy to have been a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award because of the Lambdas’ history and the many writers I admire who have won them. But I admired the writers’ work before they won. At their best, awards confirm quality we already know about.

To read more from J. E. Knowles or join her mailing list for information on new work, please visit jeknowles.com.

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Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, publishing, writing tips, , , , , ,

Author profile: Alicia Hendley’s Subtle Thing

Alicia Hendley’s book A Subtle Thing tells the story of Beth, a young woman who attempts to navigate through life while experiencing recurrent clinical depression. Throughout the novel, Beth copes with life’s difficulties. Beth’s trials may resonate with many readers, especially those related to education, career, parenthood, and relationships.


Alicia Hendley, author of A Subtle Thing


Alicia was born in Kitchener, Ontario in 1970. She completed a B.A. at Wilfrid Laurier University in psychology. Then she progressed to her Master’s degree and PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Windsor. Alicia’s a psychologist in the Counselling Centre at the University of Waterloo. She’s on maternity leave with her fourth child. She lives in Guelph with her husband (a journalist.)

CW: Alicia,when did you first know you wanted to be an author?

AH: That’s a good question, but a hard one for me to answer. I can’t remember a time in which writing and reading stories were not integral parts of my life. When I was growing up, my mother was a librarian and my father was a philosophy professor so books were fundamental to family life. When I was about ten, my parents gave me an old manual typewriter. From then on I spent much of my free time pounding out stories and poems. My writing continued and became a welcome stress reliever for me. I count on writing to ground me, no matter how busy or pressured the rest of my world. Now as a psychologist and mother of four, writing is something separate that just belongs to me. It’s vital for maintaining my sense of self.

CW: Tell us about A Subtle Thing. How did you get the idea for your book?

AH: Indirectly, the idea of writing a book about depression likely came from my job. I’m a clinical psychologist, so thinking about mental health is normal for me. I’ve always been interested in the more complex side of human experience. What probably drew me to psychology in the first place was my interest in more existential stuff: the importance of meaning, resilience, and authenticity in people’s lives.

CW: What’s your writing process?

AH: While I don’t have a formal writing process, per se, the way I start writing something new (whether a poem or a story) is often the same. Basically, I jot ideas down whenever they strike. Ideas seem come at me rather than me sitting down and consciously thinking about what I want to write. I wrote much of A Subtle Thing while on maternity leave with my third child so I had limited time to devote to it. Parts of the book were written on the back of receipts and paper bags, whatever I had handy at the time. I then used the small breaks I did have in the day to develop those ideas.

I perfected writing in spurts when trying to finish my dissertation in grad school. I was a single mother of two then, with very limited time to research or write. I was forced to learn how to immediately take advantage of free time when it became available, be it a half-hour nap period or early in the morning. Writer’s block is not a term known to single mothers, at least not to me)!

CW: How long did it take you to write the book and find an agent and publisher?

AH: I’d say that the book took about a year to write. The short stories upon which The book is based on short stories I wrote during lunch breaks in my office. I completed the rest of the book on my maternity leave.

CW: And your path to publication was…?

AH: After I completed the first version of A Subtle Thing, I sent it to a few small presses. I received positive feedback from one, but they rejected it. I then learned from my brother Nate (who is also an author) about a fairly new, independent publishing house (Five Rivers Chapmanry.) He encouraged me to send my manuscript to them. The feedback I received from Five Rivers was encouraging. They suggested I lengthen the book and resubmit it.

CW: What’s the most surprising thing you discovered writing this book?

AH: A Subtle Thing struck me as an odd little book, something I thought might be considered too dark, too out of the mainstream for most readers to embrace. Since it’s been published, however, I’ve learned that a lot of people do connect with it. For example, I know of a men’s book club that recently read my novel and gave it positive feedback. I like being surprised!

CW: What were the obstacles you faced getting the book out? 

AH: I guess the biggest challenge now that it’s published is getting exposure for the book, getting the word out. As a previously unpublished, unknown author, this can be really tough. I had assumed all books were on a level playing field with regard to getting book reviews. That’s not necessarily true, which can be frustrating. To me, negative feedback is much better than indifference or silence.

CW: Publishing can be a hard road. Did you doubt yourself along the way? 

AH: I’d say that the hardest part of the publishing process is maintaining your motivation level and belief in yourself in the face of rejection. As a psychologist, I’m used to pretty instant feedback in my work—I learn very quickly if what I’m doing with a client is helping or hindering them. What I most enjoy is hearing feedback from readers. After a lifetime of writing mainly just for me, this is exhilarating.

Sending out manuscripts to publishers is a different beast altogether. For about three years I sent out one manuscript (a memoir) to publishers. I received a number of standard rejection letters, but was able to get over the first “hump” a few times, with the manuscript being sent out to readers. I would then learn several months later that the manuscript had again been rejected. In hindsight, the memoir did need revision. I found the process equal parts discouraging, humbling, and frustrating.

CW: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

AH: My advice would be twofold: be tenacious but also be open to constructive criticism. When a professional writer or publisher has taken the time to actually give me feedback about my writing (rather than a standard rejection letter), I listen. At the same time, what one publisher might not like another could, so writers need to lick their wounds, rework what needs reworking, and then try, try again.

CW: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

AH: I am still very naïve when it comes to the book industry so I haven’t changed anything I’ve done. That said, following the advice of my wise publisher, Lorina Stephens, I have done things that, as a fairly shy person, I would not have believed possible, such as blogging and tweeting.

CW: What can you tell us about your next book?

AH: I recently completed a book about childhood female bullying and the impact such aggression has years later. Tentatively called The Bystander, it’s not the story of a victim or a victimizer, but rather that of an observer who, through silence and distancing, may imply tacit approval. I attempt to raise various ethical questions for the reader, including questions related to goodness, accountability, responsibility, and tolerance of differences.

I’ve also just started writing a new story, which may become a book. The main character is an 11-year-old boy who was inadvertently the cause of his twin’s death. We’ll see where that goes.

CW: Thanks telling us about your work, Alicia!

A_Subtle_ThingA Subtle Thing is Alicia’s debut novel, published by Five Rivers Chapmanry Visit their website at http:www.5rivers.org. A Subtle Thing is available at Amazon and www.chapters.indigo.ca.

Find her on Twitter (@AliciaHendley) and visit Alicia’s blog at http://aliciahendley.blogspot.com. 

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, publishing, writing tips, , , , , , ,

Author Q&A: Lorina Stephens and her book From Mountains of Ice

ABOUT LORINA STEPHENS In 1980 Lorina Stephens picked up the pen professionally and never looked back. She has worked as editor, freelance journalist for national and regional printFrom mountains of ice media, is author of six books both fiction and non-fiction. She has been a festival organizer, publicist, lectures on many topics from historical textiles and domestic technologies, to publishing and writing, teaches and continues to work as a writer, artist, and publisher.

Lorina has had several short fiction pieces published in Canada’s acclaimed On Spec magazine and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthology Sword & Sorceress X. Her books include: From Mountains of Ice, And the Angels Sang, Shadow Song, Recipes of a Dumb Housewife among others. She lives with her husband of three plus decades, and two cats, in a historic stone house in Neustadt, Ontario.

 LS: That didn’t happen until 1980 after I had to take a short leave of absence. While I’d always crafted stories, I’d never actually committed anything to paper, and when I suddenly had all this time on my hands I found myself recording those stories.


Chazz: Tell us about your book. How did you get the idea for your book?

LS: The genesis for From Mountains of Ice came about because I wanted to write a story about an unlikely hero, someone who wasn’t all beauty, youth and brawn. In fact, I wanted a middle-aged man who reluctantly takes up the mantle of responsibility. That, combined with a fascination for the myriad funeral and death rituals around the world, made for the foundation of the novel. In particular, I found the Romano-Celtic legend of the cucullati of interest, and that legend plays a fundamental role in the culture of the novel, and the development of the plot.

Chazz: What research was involved in your book’s development?

LS: While there wasn’t research specifically undertaken for this particular novel, I did rely on research I’d previously done simply as part of my own interests; that is, study of Renaissance Italy; the history of the longbow as well as bow and arrow construction; death and funeral rituals, in particular the legend I mentioned previously, as well as the Indian festival that takes place annually on the River Ganges; study of historical dress; the Byzantine Empire; study of the historical basis for tattoos and their cultural impact; study of psychopathic behavior. The list really is quite expansive, and some of the resource material I used is listed in the afterword.

Chazz: Tell us about your writing process.

LS: I pretty much always begin with a concept surrounding a vehicle, usually an individual placed in an extraordinary situation. What seems to have developed over the years is that I write my first three chapters first, sometimes the ending, to get a feeling of where I want to go with the novel, to familiarize myself with the characters and milieu, and once I have that in place I write myself a fairly detailed chapter outline. I don’t always adhere to that outline, but it acts as a map.

I do try to be disciplined about my writing, working every day except for weekends, but with this current novel I’m finding that a bit difficult, partly because I’ve also taken on the role of publisher, but partly because I’m challenging myself with this novel.

Chazz: How did you arrive at the decision to self-publish and what did you have to learn and do to accomplish that task?

LS: From Mountains of Ice took about 18 months to write, although I’d had the concept slumbering for about a decade.

I decided to self-publish partly because of the changing culture of publishing, and partly because of what I write. As to the first part, so many large houses have not only shut their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, but have cut their  authors (many of whom are actually bestsellers), and that has resulted in agents closing their doors because they’re scrambling to find homes for orphaned authors. What chance would an unknown author like me stand in the face of that?

And then there’s the reality of what I write. I don’t write easily pigeon-holed stories. Moreover, I don’t write feel-good stories. My work tends to cross genres, being neither speculative, science fiction, fantasy, historical or mainstream. That makes me a difficult sell.

Given the ease with which a person can now self-publish (and I’m speaking of true self-publishing, not vanity press), and reach a market, I decided to jump into the deep end. The learning curve was interesting, but not overwhelming, given I already had some background in publishing. The most challenging thing was learning software (InDesign and Photoshop). The channels and rituals of the long tail of publishing was pretty simple. And I’m good at polite persistence.

All of that led me to expand my publishing venture and give voice to other Canadian authors so that we now have four authors (including me) publishing, and will present another four in the next two years.

Chazz: What was the biggest challenge you experienced through this book?

LS: Perhaps my biggest challenge has been overcoming lazy readers, and I know that sounds disgustingly arrogant. There was one reviewer who was convinced I’d written a knock-off of Gladiator because I had the soundtrack listed as inspirational music. Didn’t matter that I explained to him the majority of the music I listened to while writing From Mountains of Ice was in fact by the group Dead Can Dance, and even listed which tracks underpinned which scenes. I think this is how Paul Stookey must have felt when academics insisted Puff the Magic Dragon was actually a song about drugs.

I also had two reviewers trash the novel because they insisted there was a glaring error when in fact what they read was correct, heraldic terminology. I know if I read something I don’t understand, I first go and look it up before assuming what I’ve read is incorrect.

Chazz: What was the hardest part of the publishing process?

LS: For me the hardest part of publishing is convincing people my work is worth reading, worth the investment of their time. In short, it’s difficult overcoming the stigma of self-publishing, with good reason I might add. But I love what I do. I love every moment, the high and lows, the triumphs and tragedies.

Chazz: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

LS: This is perhaps not wise advice, given society’s propensity to create clones: be true to yourself. Write with your own voice, from your own heart, adhering to standards of excellence.

Chazz: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

LS: Absolutely. One of the reasons I self-published, and also one of the reasons I rely heavily upon internet social networking.

Chazz: What’s your next book project and what can you tell us about it?

LS: My next book is called The Rose Guardian, and deals with a woman coming to terms with the death of her mother, and her own search for lost innocence. It is in fact three stories which occur simultaneously. I must say this is the most difficult piece I’ve written. It has been hard to find just the right tone for each of the three main characters, and to link them together in a cohesive fashion without sounding too dark or cynical. I think I’ve finally conquered that problem, and am now making headway.

Thanks, Lorina! If you want to know more about Lorina and fancy buying her books, here are several ways to find out more:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lorina-Stephens/136091476870

For Five Rivers: email: info@5rivers.org

Twitter: 5rivers

Website: http://www.5rivers.org

Blog: http://5riversnews.blogspot.com/

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, Books, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , ,


Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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