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Whaddaya Want

I'm inspired by the strength of New Yorkers recovering from Sandy. Poet Elise Skidmore considers herself fortunate: she only lost her roof -- and she was able to get gas today! In her recently published book When Leaves Fall she wrote a poem honoring her native New York City. Share this to encourage the New Yorkers you know.

Whaddaya Want?

This is New York,
the Big Apple--
We got it all.
You could eat in a different place
every day for ten years
and never have the same thing twice--
and that's not even counting the street vendors.
Gotta love those dirty water hot dogs,
smothered in mustard and kraut,
and the smell of roasted chestnuts
when the shows let out.
You want fancy,
we got fancy,
but nothing beats
pastrami piled high on rye at the Carnegie Deli
or Lindy's New York Cheesecake.
So Whaddaya want?
We got it all.
But don't forget your wallet--
This is New York, after all.

Note: Elise's first book Poems from the Edge of Spring is a poetry finalist in the Epic Book Awards for 2013.

You can learn more about Elise's writing and purchase her books here. Profits from the sales of her books will help repair her roof!

When Leaves Fall Cover

Introducing Deleyna Marr

Why did you decide to indie-publish? Why now?

About 3 years ago, I went to yet another writer's convention. I met with yet another agent. She loved my writing but said there was no way she could help me publish it...and she was sad about that. I took some time and really got to know the agent, and heard her sorrow over the industry, how sad she was to turn down great books and how disappointed she was when she saw writers taking her turning them down personally, as if the rejection of their writing meant that it wasn't any good. She taught me a lot that weekend. When I came home, I realized that I didn't want to fight that battle any longer. I know me. I know my passions and my drives, the story-lines that feed my creativity...and they will never be mainstream. I simply don't fit in the traditional industry.

Once I reached that point, the "when" became "now." I took my time researching the industry and learned the ropes. As soon as I felt comfortable with the process, I published Sisterhood.

What motivates you? What themes run through your writing?

Sisterhood has a number of themes that show up in my other books as well. One is the concept of freedom, of free choice, free will, and how that plays out in our world. I believe that freedom is at the very core of our existence as humans, and slavery takes many forms. As a young person, I met a woman who was a slave living right next-door to me in my upper-middle-class neighborhood. The paranormal aspect of the book comes from my own worldview belief that our lives in this temporal plain of existence are only a part of reality, that there is more to life. I'm a big fan of Ransomed Heart Ministries and a firm believer that we live in a world caught up in the midst of a mighty spiritual war. This view impacts every area of my life, so it comes out in my writing as well.

Tell us more about the story.

In college, three young women meet and find that they share a very special psychic bond. As adults, they've each chosen their own paths: one is a housewife, one is a witch, and one is a industrial spy. When Dana (the housewife) has a dream that Marie (the spy) has been shot, she seeks out her friend. From there, Dana's world unravels, her husband is murdered, and she becomes caught up in Marie's life, becoming a spy herself. They are joined by a rogue spy, Kevin, who has vowed to protect them. In the book, the three women have to sort out the story of their origins and learn to work together again. A side note: the entire story did not fit in one book, so there is more to come. I have barely touched on Lara (the witch) and her life.

What do you think of the experience of indie publishing so far? What were the hard/easy parts?

I love indie publishing. I loved having control over every aspect of the process. Working with my cover artist was a dream.

I don't enjoy editing, and I really really really don't like marketing. Did I mention that I don't like marketing? I've learned from traditionally published authors that I'd have to do that even if I had been picked up by a major publisher, so I'm learning to live with it. Buy my book. Write a review. Please? See? I've got it down now.

Would you do this again?

Definitely. As soon as I get book 2 done, it will come out through Heart Ally. I also have another book that has been sitting on the shelf. "Dominion of Darkness" is a fantasy novel. I hope to have that dusted off and ready to go to print in a few months.

Introducing P. Ryan Hembree

I'm delighted to introduce you all to P. Ryan Hembree. P. Ryan approached me with her novel at a time when I was in over-whelm. I agreed to look at her story, but didn't promise anything. I quickly fell behind on my other work as her story drew me in and held me captive until the last page. Then she handed me two more novellas. I love Ryan's writing. She makes me laugh and writes characters that I care about. I have enjoyed sharing the adventure of Eco-Sisters: The Car and the ones soon to come!

HA: Why did you decide to indie publish? Why now?

RH: I like the control I have over the writing. It’s an author-reader orientation. The soul of the writing is in my words and not sterilized by an insensitive editor to conform to a publisher’s quota system.

HA: Why not do it yourself?

RH: My focus is on writing. I’m not that technical, and the consequences of making errors formatting a book are serious. After all my hard work writing the novel, it’s important to me that the novel is as professional as possible. A good indie publisher can create that professional appearance that I can’t. Also, a good indie publisher has his or her finger on the pulse of marketing, which again, leaves me free to concentrate on writing.

HA: Tell us about your platform for writing.

RH: I write Christian Women’s Suspense novels. I present entertaining faith-based writings that focus on Christian values. A reader is not offended by the words on a page or by the behavior of the characters.

HA: What is your story about?

RH: Two older sisters, who have reached a plateau in life and are unable to move forward in their Christian walk, find themselves the target of an assassin. Hiding out in a Christian eco-village realigns their spiritual compasses, but still leaves them at the mercy of the assassin. As the women work through the adventure, they rediscover their faith.

HA: I adore your sisters. What do you think of indie publishing?

RH: Hard/Easy. Having a professional publisher is a must. I was unbelievably blessed. My publisher educated me every step through the process. She was knowledgeable and creative in the formatting of the novel and knew the market well. The hardest part—all of it. Myriads of decisions to make. The easy part—all of it. Having a professional publisher released a lot of stress. In the best of circumstances, publishing a first novel is challenging. I faced a lot of unknowns. Having an experienced publisher diminishes the fear factor.

HA: What’s next?

RH: For a first-time novelist, it’s critical to keep writing. I have two novellas ready to go and a second book almost done in the Eco-Sisters series. When self-publishing, it’s important to build an initial inventory. Give the readers a reason to return to you.

Introducing Alicia McCalla

Here is my long-overdue interview with Alicia McCalla. Alicia has been a delight to work with and I was proud to publish her book, Breaking Free, in February 2012. She's hard at work on the sequel as well as another novel that she'll be self-publishing. I frequently use Alicia as an example of how to market. She's out there making contacts and speaking her heart. Her passion drives her fiction and it shows. This woman simply can not write fast enough to satisfy the hunger of her fans!

HA: Why did you decide to indie publish? Why now?

AM: A little over a year ago, I attended a discussion at my local writer’s group that discussed the problems and concerns with traditional publishing. I listened to authors published by traditional publishers share some truly heart wrenching stories. That discussion along with learning how digital publishing has been changing the face of the industry led me to seriously consider indie-publishing. Last February, my dream became a reality when my debut novel, Breaking Free, became available in print and for immediate download. Exciting!

HA: You have a platform that motivates you, and led me to want to publish your book. Tell us about that.

AM: My platform in Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal in color. It’s my goal to encourage FFP authors to desegregate their fictionalized worlds and add protagonists of color as well as content that relates to people of color. It’s a sensitive platform but very important in the 21st century. If readers are interested in why I write my blog, they can visit my first blog post “Black People Don’t Read Science Fiction.”

HA: Your book is incredibly relevant to current events. You speak directly to the young people of today. My husband and I have had a debate over whether Trayvon's death was racially motivated. I claim that it was not, but that the handling of the case by police was a horrific injustice that has hurt racial healing. I think of the many misunderstandings in your book. I'm curious about your opinions.

AM: The Trayvon Martin case was very sensitive to me. I’m not only an African-American but a mother of a teen Black male. Trayvon’s case rattled me. Stereotyping, racism, and weapons are dangerous. In our 21st century minds, we think of lynching and segregation as a thing of the 19th or 20th century but the vestiges of that dying mindset still remain. I was so pleased when I put the call out to speculative fiction authors to participate in Trayvon 2.0: A Creative Science Fiction response towards racial healing, I received many short stories on my blog from writers of all races, backgrounds, and sentiments. I’d hoped that Trayvon 2.0 could be a creative outlet for people to heal. It’s been an amazing project.

HA: What do you do for a living?

AM: Um. I’m pretty boring LOL! I’m a school librarian. I spend my days encouraging students to read, research, and use technology. I do enjoy working as a librarian. It’s really quite fun. There’s always something really interesting going on in libraries. Wink!

HA: Do you think that affected your portrayal of the librarian in Breaking Free?

AM: Yes and No. I really just wanted to make a cool character who was evil with a capital “E.” I’m hoping that readers sit on the edge of their seats when they read the fight scene. It’s both physical and mental. It was a tough scene to write but I feel that I captured the full battle. Violence and triumph all in one.

HA: Can you tell us more about the story?

AM: Sure. XJ is a 17-year old genetically-enhanced girl who must save her mother from a mind swiping procedure. Breaking Free is the first book in the Genetic Revolution series. This series is intense and controversial. There are issues of race, class, gender as well as sexual identity crisis. Did I mention that there’s an interracial romance? This series chalked full of current issues. Teens will have lots to talk about after reading it.

HA: Would you indie publish again?

AM: Yes. I am publishing more books. Readers can visit: www.aliciamccalla.com to find out more about my upcoming books. Double Identity, the next book in XJ’s series will be available in February 2013. I’m so excited.

Why I think Amazon Select is bad for writers.

I've been busy the last few months with medical issues (not my own), so this post is delayed. Delayed, but important.

JungleAmazon has a program out for publishers called Amazon Select. They're offering participants this month $600,000 in bonus money (divided up by how many downloads a book receives) if they will agree to publish only through Amazon for 90 days. I've read some statistics and on the surface, this looks like a good deal. Authors who are participating in the program are making higher royalties.

I've read some widely circulated articles on why every author should be participating in this program.

Why don't I recommend jumping into this seemingly peaceful jungle pool? Has no one ever heard of piranha?

I grew up in Silicon Valley. I've watched big companies fight over profits, and I've seen a lot of little companies and individuals get eaten.

I have no doubt that the short term gain for authors from participating in this program will be significant.

But -- why is Amazon doing this? Why would they want authors to publish only on the Kindle and not on...oh, say iPad, Nook, Sony or any of the other generic e-readers out there? Because the content from the Select program is free to readers who participate in the Amazon Prime program.

I seriously considered signing up for Amazon Prime. Free shipping. Streaming videos that might let me discontinue Netflix. The bottom line looked really good for my budget. And then they came out with Amazon Select.

I guess Netflix gets to keep getting my money.

Because this is Amazon.

Have you ever had to work with Amazon's customer service? I have. The result was a shocking, "we don't really care about an individual sale" attitude. I'd given someone a gift certificate to Amazon. The end result was: Amazon had the money and my friend never got their gift. Whenever possible, I buy from someone else.

Amazon Prime and Amazon Select are excellent tools for Amazon to devour their competition.

A $2.99 ebook I sell on Amazon's regular program nets the author about $1.83 after the 30% discount and delivery fees. The same ebook sold on Barnes and Noble nets the author $1.94 because while they charge a 35% discount, they do not charge a delivery fee. Apple pays $1.92 through my reseller. When I sell to a generic e-reader through my reseller, the author gets $2.24.

The differences are small, but they add up. If you are buying your ebooks through Amazon, the authors are getting a smaller chunk of the profits, even though Amazon advertises having a lower discount rate. Why? Extra fees.

Amazon has a huge chunk of the market on the Kindle. Imagine what will happen once they've pushed the big competition under a rock. Is there any question they'll lower royalties and increase their discount rate? We're talking about Amazon.

Self-published authors are being forced to make a choice. Publish to Amazon Select and earn higher profits on a bunch of sales. Or, earn lower profits but allow customers more freedom to buy books through any retailer they choose. I'm recommending that authors give their readers a choice to buy their books in any format they wish, from any company they wish. Yes, this may initially mean slightly lower profits on some books. (I'm not recommending avoiding Amazon altogether, just avoiding the Select program.) In the long run, however, I think we'll be giving Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc. a chance to respond to this attack.

And I suspect the results will be interesting.

Interesting. As in the old curse: May you live in interesting times.

As writers and publishers, especially independent writers and publishers, we do live in interesting times.

Introducing Elise Skidmore

Elise SkidmoreI've known Elise for more years than I want to confess to. I've watched her incredible talent grow and mature over the years. It has been frustrating to see this talent mostly hidden away, so bringing this book into publication makes me blissfully happy. I'm so excited to share her talent with the rest of the world!

HA: Why did you decide to indie publish? Why now?

ES: I've been writing poetry for most of my life and even had a few poems published, but the truth is I hate the marketing side of the writing business so I haven't pursued publication much. Over the past 15 years or so, I've been sharing my work with other writers and poets, mostly in private venues, and several of those colleagues have been pushing me to put together a chapter book of my poems. Other than random poems here and there, self-publishing is really the only venue for poets to put their work out there, and self-publishing in print doesn't come cheap. It happened that a long-time friend, Lisa Norman, was starting Heart Ally Books and suggested we try to publish “Poems from the Edge of Spring” in Kindle format first, and depending on its success, we could print in hard copy later. With the recent increase in the popularity of digital books, publishing in digital formats seemed a good way to share the poetry without breaking the bank, so I decided to take a chance.

HA: Why not do it yourself?

ES: Partly because I'm lazy. (I mentioned I hate the marketing end of the business, didn't I? And don't we all try to avoid the things we hate?) But mostly because I'm what I like to call a “computer-duh”. I know how to use a computer, of course, and over the years I've become a bit less of a “duh”, but only about the things I actually use the computer for, like writing or surfing the net, and even then I probably take the long way around to accomplish things that others, more knowledgeable than me, can do more efficiently. Sort of like being able to drive a car, but other than checking that there's gas in the tank, having no clue why it might not go when I step on the gas. The idea of trying to format a book for publication was way over my head, so I decided to trust the technical aspects to someone who knows what they're doing.

HA: I know you write beautiful prose. What is it about poetry that draws and motivates you?

ES: Well, as I mentioned, I've been writing poetry for most of my life, much longer than I've been writing prose. I think it's the idea that you can express so much in a few carefully chosen words. You don't have the pressure to tell a story, though you can and often do, and yet if you do it well your reader will be able to relate it to their own experiences.

HA: Blueprint your work for me. What comes first, the rhythm or the verse?

ES: Most of my poems are free verse so I rarely think about rhythm in the sense of iambic pentameter and such unless I'm working on a poetry form that requires it. But I think all poetry has an internal rhythm to it, which is something that comes naturally to me and changes with each poem. Poems always begin in one of two ways for me: with a word or phrase that catches my attention, like “Mosaic of Joy” for example, or seeing something that sticks in my mind like a snapshot, the way the bird in “Avian Suicide” did. Once that spark has been ignited, it may smolder for a while until the poem is ready to be written (I usually jot down key words/phrases so not to forget them in the meantime.). Other times, the poem comes out in a single burst.

HA: Do you have a favorite poem in the collection? Can you tell us more about the story behind that poem?

ES: That's a tough question. It's like asking a mother to pick a favorite child—but they always want you to, don't they? If forced to pick a favorite, I think I'd have to narrow it down to two that are closely related: “Counting” and “10:05pm”. The first was written three weeks after my father died, the other was written two years after. I was blessed with the best parents anyone could ask for and have written many poems over the years about both of them, but my father and I always had a special bond. My sister and I were by his side, holding his hands, when he passed. Letting him go was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. He was simply the best and will always be my hero.

HA: Oh, great. Make me pick. Well, since we share the experience of watching a parent take their last breath, I think I'll pick "Counting" because that one has always touched my heart.

Counting


I can’t stop counting
the measure doesn’t matter
three weeks or
twenty-one days
it’s all the same
and time keeps ticking
backward

memories come uninvited
and stay for tea
while I recall in minute detail
the moments leading
to our last goodbye

tear-soaked whispers
of love and assurance
letting go when
all I really want
is to beg you to stay

inhaled breath
counting
long
seconds
until
your
final
exhalation

alone
I laid my head on your chest
knowing there were no heartbeats left
to count

I have done this before
days turn into weeks
weeks into months
months into years
always counting
backward
until one day
tears subside
and I begin to tally
the many joys
of having you in my life.

HA: Poetry, by nature, is vulnerability. Why expose yourself?

ES: It took a long time before I was willing to share my poetry with other than a trusted few, because poetry always feels more personal, even when it's about nature or politics rather than love or family. With age comes wisdom (or so they say), and I think that we all have these thoughts and feelings, whether we let others see them or not. We may experience them differently, but we do all experience them. By putting the work out there, I'd like to think I'm giving a voice to all the others who don't know how to express those thoughts and feelings, but can relate when they see them.

HA: What do you think of the experience so far? What were the hard/easy parts?

Would you do this again?

ES: The experience has been a very positive one and I would definitely do it again, as long as I had someone I trust to deal with the technical aspects of production. Lisa had a heck of a time trying to maintain the poetic form in a venue that changes as the reader changes font sizes, but she managed it somehow, so that was the easiest part for me. The hardest part was deciding which poems and photos to include in the book and how to make it cohesive. Once I stumbled on the idea of using March and April as the “edges of spring,” it all came together.

HA: What's one rumor you'd love to see spread about you and/or your work?

ES: Let's see... How about: Elise is a stunningly beautiful woman, both inside and out, with a great sense of humor. Her poetry is not only accessible to the masses, but is turning poetry haters into poetry lovers.

HA: Well, that wouldn't be a rumor - that's the truth!

Introducing David DreamBringer

David and his wife, MichelleToday I'd like to introduce David DreamBringer. He was the first author to let me put his book into print. He writes romantic poetry that is accessible and a delight to read. I've marketed his book as a great resource for people looking to write love-letters to their spouse. The book tells the story of romance: from first meeting, through courtship, marriage, passion, heartache, and into a mature love that lasts a lifetime.

HA: David, thanks for agreeing to let me interview you on this blog. Why did you decide to indie publish?

DD: Publishing a book has been on my bucket list for a long time.  I have been writing poetry for a number of years and thought I had accumulated enough.  I talked to my publisher who helped me to better focus my book, and spent a couple of months writing the material needed to complete the book.

HA: Why now?

DD: Why not?  I had most of the material ready, was writing new material daily and didn't want this to be some hanging dream out there and regret that I never did it.

HA: Why not do it yourself? I know you have the technical skills.

DD: A publisher is a person who knows the industry and helps you to focus and helps to put everything together to produce the best possible product.  I don't see why anyone would not use an indie publisher.  If you think about it, a good publisher helps you create the best product and helps you to be successful.

HA: What is it about poetry that draws and motivates you?

DD: Love, romance, the way the words flow together in various patterns to create mood, feeling and convey a message.  I also have a natural gift for it.  Sometimes I just feel compelled to write, other times I look for inspiration.  Either way, I am going to write.  Just can't help it.

Dreams of Us - Cover - CandleHA: I've heard many writers talk about that compulsion to write. I understand that. Unlike many writers, you claim not to suffer from writer's block. Care to give us some secrets?

DD: You can find inspiration anywhere.  I often use a seed word given by a friend to create something, often something I never thought about writing.  Some of it is subconscious, some of it is just how the words play off of each other.  I generally try to stay with a theme, right now that is romantic poetry, and see where it leads.

HA: Do you have a favorite poem in the collection?

DD: "The Wager" is my current favorite.

HA: I remember the first time I read that poem. I was working on your typesetting and had to stop and read it a couple of times to just enjoy it. I'm going to insert it here for folks who haven't bought the book yet.

The Wager

The two men would wager
Two dollars at most
Over the heart of girl

The old Sergeant Major
And Jimmy the Coast
Looked dashing but each was a cur

The evening brought them
To a very fine inn
A party was going
With plenty within

Lovely ladies
All dressed to the tens
But one was more beautiful
And so it begins

The two men bet
A dollar oh four
Then each man took
His place on the floor

Sergeant Major was quick
To offer her dance
And a drink if she’d like with a wink

But Jimmy was slick
And took his chance
When the Sergeant went off for her drink

And they danced for a while
While making small talk
Flirting a bit as well

Her charm and her smile
When they went for that walk
Captured Jimmy and he fell

Then off she went
To powder her nose
And the Sergeant Major met her
Bearing a rose

She smiled most kindly
At the Sergeant so dear
And he smiled back
He felt in the clear

And when she got back
They talked for a while
Drinking and dancing
She did with such style

Her smile so elegant
Her eyes so bright
That the poor Sergeant felt
This lady was right

And head over heels
In love he fell
Feeling that all
Was going quite well

And as the evening ended
Both men proposed
And the fine lady looked
And got quite composed

And the other girls circled
Around to see
Two men now
On bended knee

And one of them handed
The lady some cash
Only four quarters
No need to be brash

And off they went
The men were astir
They had been had
By her

HA: Can you tell us more about the story behind that poem?

DD: The word "wager" was given to me by my friend Matt, and this story just kind of spilled out from the word. While I love poems that are romantic with fun and new rhyming patters, I love poems that tell actual stories more, and this one just came out so ironic, I loved it. :P

HA: What do you think of the experience of indie publishing so far? The book is done, and now the long marketing road is ahead.

DD: I love the experience or writing and putting down my words so I don't loose them.  Even more than that, I love seeing how these same words have an impact on the lives of people I know, and those I have barely even met.  (I know of one group who meet at a bar with the Kindle version of my book and read my poems to each other.)  I have a friend in Greece who reads my poetry to help find herself and explain herself to others.  Seeing how I have a positive impact on people around the world through my art is amazing.

HA: What were the hard/easy parts?

DD: The easiest part was the actual writing.  Give me a few minutes and a word and a phrase, and I will give you a poem.  The hardest part was finding all the errors in my writing.  I am somewhat dyslexic and miss a lot of it.  I don't know how many edits we went through, but it was definitely the hardest part for me.

HA: Would you do this again?

DD: Am already working on the next book.

HA: Thanks, David, for sharing with us this insight into your poetry. For those interested in buying David's book, the current links are on the Dreams of Us page of this website.

Patronizing the Arts

As a young writer, I wanted a patron: someone who would pay my way in exchange for the creativity I would then offer up to bless the world.

Reality can be a pain.

I was horrified to learn there are so few patrons these days.

Great, classical authors had patrons. Painters had patrons. But there was no patron for me.

Reality is changing. In our modern world, anyone can be a patron of the arts. Many of us already are, without realizing it.

If you buy books, traditionally published books, you're paying the publishing industry. You're actually supporting a whole slew of jobs, but only a tiny fraction of the cost of the book actually makes it back to an author. That number is probably around 10%. (May be less, may be slightly more, but that's a good comparison number.)

If you buy a book from an independent author, that author will likely receive around 60% to 70% of what you pay. (The printer and distributor like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc. will take their cut.) That's a huge difference.

In the modern indie publishing environment, that's the difference between a writer working as a plumber in order to live and being able to write full-time. More and more indie authors are able to support themselves off of the profit from their books. That means they can write more books, improve their craft, and provide you with a higher quality of entertainment.

As a bonus, these indie authors are able to explore a wider range of topics than traditionally published authors.

So, become a patron. Whenever possible, buy your books from indie authors.

How can you find them?

If you're using an e-reader, look in your marketplace for books priced $5 or less. There's no guarantee that these are indies, but most of them will be. Yes, that means you can read these books for less money than you can buy from a traditional publisher.

Any of the books I publish qualify as indie books. These authors receive 90% of the profits from each sale. I'm working on getting a good variety of books: poetry, fiction, memoirs.

Search for "Independent Authors" in your search-engine of choice. You may have to buy these books on-line. If you can buy them in a bookstore, consider asking your local independent bookstore to consider carrying your favorites. (Not all independent authors have set up the distributor relationship that allows this. Heart Ally Books authors have.) If you buy from your local bookstore, you'll be supporting them as well.

Become a patron. Enjoy the benefits: new voices, creative approaches, entertainment that you enjoy. If you buy a hard-copy, don't forget to request an autographed bookplate from the author. You will have shelf of books that you can look at and know you've helped support those writers.