Monday, January 29, 2018

Bitten by Carole P. Roman (featured on

So you want to self-publish? Take these first steps into the universe of writing as a business.

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It can be sitting and fermenting for years, or it can start with the spark of an idea. Maybe it was a sunrise, or your child’s giggle, or when you closed the fancy $20 kid’s book with a sigh and said, “I could write better than that.”

Whatever the catalyst, you’ve decided to write a book. Hey, it’s easy! Everybody’s doing it! Three million books are published yearly, and why can’t yours be one of them? You think about it, and your insides bubble with excitement.

After all, you have a great story — people will love it! It will break hearts or ignite the imagination. The unpronounceable names you pick with lots of Xes in the middle will become cultural bywords, like “Katniss” or “Orcs.”

Your dystopian society where elves read each other’s minds while they fly on broomsticks and fight vampires has never been done. You are going to rock this world.
Could your creation be the next new thing that has everybody talking? This is going to be a walk in the park, you think.

Think again, partner. It’s a bit more complicated than you realize. You are going to have to enter the world of self-publishing—a new dimension, a place where rules will be tested—and you will find yourself defining every boundary you ever set.

Before you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, take a minute and be honest with yourself: Why do you want to do this? Why dive into this strange place? This alternate universe?

For some, it’s a desperate need to make money while sitting at home in their pajamas. They are sick of the grind and want to sleep all day and drink high-test at night while they pound away on their epic adventure. After all, it’s sexy to say you are a writer.

Others have a story that’s been waiting to come out, ever since they read TwilightLordoftheRingsGamesofThronesDebbieDoesDestiny. You get the picture?
Characters and plots have been dancing in your skull for years. Are they original? Are you just continuing the saga of a book you read and never wanted to end?

Why do you want to write your book? Who is your audience?
My first book was a pirate story for children. Listen, everybody loves pirates! I calculated the male population of the United States. I hadn’t yet even considered the untapped markets of Amazon UK! If every boy in America bought my book, I’d be on easy street.

Wait! I’ll double my audience by including a strong female character. Good Morning America, here I come! Grandmother writes the great American novel for six-year-olds. Move over pigeons, piggies, and mice that want cookies; there’s a new kid in town!

They often say: If you write it, they will come. Well, that’s the first fairy tale of the self-publishing world. It doesn’t work like that. It’s complicated, and it’s hard work. Nothing comes easy. It is frustrating and can be expensive and disappointing.

If you are going to do this, put the same amount of thought you put into making any big decision in your life. Be realistic. In other words, don’t quit your day job. You have miles to go to see if this will work.

Start by looking at your genre. Really research it. Buy a bunch of books. Read what’s hot and what people love. Explore what sells. Look at the books with the lowest rankings on Amazon. That’s right, you heard me—this is a place where the lower the rank, the more the book is selling. Check out the genre you’re interested in; look at the top 100 books in that categories. Examine the covers; check out the authors with multiple books throughout that list and think about where your book might fit. I didn’t look at any of those things when I worked on my first book, but let me assure you, I looked at them very closely by my second and third. Looking at those bestsellers gave me an idea about what was selling, which covers attracted people, and which stories were popular.

You may adore your story. It’s personal. It’s a part of you. I understand. If your reason to write a book is to leave a lasting reminder that you were here or to record your thoughts for posterity, that’s fine. Write, edit, publish, market. Done.
If you are seeking fame and fortune, then be smart. Do your homework and research to see what is trending, what is selling.

Writing books is a business, and the biggest mistake an author can make is to forget that.
Be prepared to invest in yourself and your project. There is a cost involved—things you must do, from editing to cover art, if you want to compete with the big guys. If you decide you want to be an Uber driver and build an account base, do you think you’d be successful driving an old Chevy when everyone has brand-new vehicles?

Get ready to do things you didn’t expect to do—or even want to do. Don’t fool yourself that you can do it all by yourself. Join a good author’s thread on Goodreads and open your eyes and your mouth. Ask questions.

Walking is easier in the snow when you step in the footsteps of the fellow before you. Goodreads is filled with authors experimenting with writing and marketing their books. Don’t be shy. For the most part, they are warm and helpful. If they aren’t, find another thread. There are thousands of them. They are out there.

The first step in your journey is to explore the universe of self-publishing. Get familiar with other author’s problems; they may help you head off one of your own.

Be honest about why you want to publish, and then take a hard look at your work in progress and think: Will this sell? Is there an audience?

Start your adventure, and remember to have fun along the way.

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Monday, January 15, 2018

The History Major is now available on 24symbols, iBooks by Apple, Nook by Barnes & Noble, Kobo, OverDrive, Playster and tolino!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018



The Secret Keeper

I had a secret. It was told to me in the strictest confidence, and I honored the promise to keep it confidential for many years.
It was shocking when I heard it, over fifty years ago, born in a different time when a person could fall from grace and shame her parents. It sprang from a period where the act of one could reflect the perception of decency for an entire family. Without even the easy access to social media, Facebook, Twitter, even a telephone, a single step outside the accepted norm of society could be identified and then telegraphed with gossip throughout an entire community.
I don’t remember why my mother shared this secret, although I remember exactly where we were- in a supermarket, picking up a last minute item for dinner.
My mother was an honorable person and I think, carried the burden of this secret heavily. I had just turned thirteen, and it might have been one of our first grown-up exchanges, even used as a cautionary example of teenage rebellion. Perhaps, I asked about something I saw that passed between my mother and her older sister, or I witnessed a dark look from my grandmother and she sought to justify what I questioned.
There was a family secret had ruined my mom’s life. When it happened, my mother suffered a breakdown at sixteen and did not finish high school. Her entire family suffered a catastrophic meltdown that caused a schism. My grandfather disowned my aunt. My mom went into a funk that lasted months where she stayed in her room and cried. She didn’t tell me that part- I was to piece things together as I grew older.
My mom shared with me that my aunt had a baby out of wedlock when she was a teen. It was during the war, and the boy was a soldier. My furious grandfather refused to talk to her, said she was dead to him, they sent her to another one of my aunts whose husbands served as a chaplain on an army base in the middle of the country. Kansas City, Missouri- the other side of the world. They arranged for her to stay there, have the baby in secret, and give it up for adoption.
It was never discussed in the family, ever. I was close with all my cousins, as close as siblings, but I never told them. I didn’t mention it to my aunt, who was just about my favorite person in the world. But I never forgot this baby, my cousin. You see, I worried about her.
Through the years, she stayed in my heart. I thought about her birthday, and if she liked her parents. I wondered where she lived. I imagined her as a cowboy or a farmer’s daughter. After all, she was born in cattle country, I thought.
Every time I traveled, I speculated if we’d ever meet and never know we were related. Would we instinctively recognize each other, share some shared trait? Recognize our parents in our noses, or eyes?
Maybe our kids would find each other in some great cosmic coincidence.
When my mom died after a long illness, I told my aunt I knew about the baby.I said, everyone was gone, but her….and me…and maybe the baby. My beloved aunt was in the final stages of renal failure. What did she want me to do withthe secret?
She was quiet, the silence between us was thick. She said she never wanted her children to know. She was afraid they would lose respect for her. I wanted to argue. I wanted to explain that I loved her so much, but I was losing respect for her for not wanting to share the story.
“Do you think about her?” I asked.
“Every day,” she replied. I heard the pain in my aunt’s voice. I wanted to tell her a child, any child, is a gift, not a shameful thing, but I think both our throats were tight with tears.
When my aunt died, I felt weighted by the secret. My unknown cousin owned real estate in my heart that I could not explain. I felt as if I was responsible for her as if I were her guardian, even though she was older than me. She was important to me. Well, she was. I became the caretaker of her memory.
One of aunt’s daughters died suddenly. She was my closest cousin. We were devastated, her younger sister most of all. I felt her pain and knew she was feeling alone, missing her sister.
I also passed an important milestone. I had turned sixty. What if I passed away and nobody told the remaining siblings of the secret? Was the promise to my aunt more important than the responsibility to my cousins…all of them? What if she found them? Would they deny her because of their lack of knowledge of her existence? What if they lost her again? It preyed on my mind.
My emotional side obsessed about it, my logical side estimated her to be almost seventy. What were the chances, anyway? She might not even be alive anymore.
My son called me over to his desk one morning, his voice puzzled. We had taken DNA tests in the fall to identify our ethnicity. I wanted them to be able to chart our familial progress through Europe for my grandchildren.
“Do you know this woman?” he asked.
I looked at her name without reading the caption. I shook my head.
“She says she’s your cousin. First cousin.”
“No, I know all my…she can’t be related to me…” I paused. Chills ran up my spine. “Wait, how old is she and where was she born.”
“She’s seventy and she was born in Kansas City, Missouri…”
I didn’t let him finish. I pushed him out of the way and wrote my cousin the first of many exchanges that would follow. I looked at the scientific evidence of our shared DNA, the ethnicity that defined us, the blood that bound us for all our lives.
“I know you. I know all about you.” I typed furiously. I told her her name. What my aunt had called her.
She wrote back, “Nobody but me knows that name. Are you really my cousin?”
“Yes. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”

Friday, January 5, 2018

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