Sunday, July 29, 2012

Book Cover Revealed!

You may have read an earlier post where I mentioned the fact that I had a professional cover designed for my first book.  My guess is you are wondering what the final result looks like.  And I’ve been holding out on you.

This process is all new to me and the question of when it’s the right time to do this or do that is, well, new to me.  Various scenarios run through my head: I could share too soon and the wait for the actual book will seem to take forever.  Or I could procrastinate and my time will be limited between the book promo and the book’s release date.  I’m having a hard time figuring out which might be worse.
Maybe neither of them is completely terrible and I’m just over-thinking it too much.

Oh the woes of self-publishing.  The tips, tricks, lessons and dilemmas we must face as we move towards the next adventure on this journey.  It can be overwhelming.
But it is also very exciting.

My book will soon be ready and available as an eBook but of course, this is based on the schedule and timeline of others so I can only guess when it might actually occur.  I’m hoping for mid-August.  Shortly afterwards, my plan is to make the book available in printed form for those like me who would rather hold a book in their hands.  This too will depend on the time involved with that process but I’m hoping it will occur within 30 to 60 days after the eBook is made available.  I may be expecting too much too soon or everything may fall perfectly in place like dominoes.  Here’s hoping for the latter.  While I cannot yet be specific on the actual release dates, I will certainly keep you updated as we move closer to both dates.
Before I move on to the cover, I should probably let you in on what name I am writing under.  It’s still my name, just not the exact name I have been blogging under.  Instead, I will be using the nickname P.J.  It’s a choice I made awhile back and I’ve decided to stick with it. 

So I guess that’s it.  The gears are in motion and while it has seemed to take awhile, everything will soon fall into place and my book will finally be out there for all to see.  This whole concept brings with it an assortment of emotions, as I’m sure you can imagine.
Many of you are aware my book is a mystery.  I will introduce you to the characters soon but for now, here is a blurb to give you an idea behind the story involving my protagonist:

Two mothers; two secrets revealed. 


Jorja Matthews thought she had the perfect life; until the loss of her job combined with the loss of a family member in a tragic accident leads to an unexpected turn of events.  She is further shaken to the core after the decision to move back into her family home reveals the discovery of a disturbing family secret.  As Jorja agrees to investigate the truth behind the disappearance of a friend’s mother, she also investigates the mystery surrounding her own family, which becomes complicated when the only family member with all the answers is now deceased. 


When the best kept secrets are finally revealed, will the ties that bind, unravel?

And here is a preview of the cover…
No Mother of Mine, by P.J. Howell

So now I am curious about your thoughts and your comments.  Does the blurb strike you?  Does the cover draw you in?  I know many might have questions about the name of the book.  But does it intrigue you?  If so, stay tuned.  Either by signing up to receive my posts by email or connecting with me on Facebook and please, if you have a friend or two who you believe might be interested, be sure to pass this on to them as well.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thoughts on Self-Publishing

If you’ve been keeping up with my Blog, you know I am in the process of having my book converted to an eBook.  While I wait during the eBook conversion, I am also researching what it will take to have my book printed the traditional way…you know, on actual paper.  It is a process but for those who still like to read actual books (like me), I do want to be able to offer a paperback book in addition to an eBook. 

I really wasn’t sure when I would be able to make my book available as a paperback.  I thought I would wait, see what happens with the eBook and then go from there.  But the more I think about waiting, the less I like the idea.  Why should I wait?  How thrilling would it be to have paperbacks available before the end of the year?  Before Christmas? 
I will admit it’s a nice thought.  The fact is it can be more than just a thought.  It can be a reality.  The real trick is finding a way to do it right the first time.  While perfection is difficult to achieve, no matter how we try, it is possible to find a way to do it well.

So how do you do something well you have never done before? 
Here lies the test.

One way to do something well is to avoid mistakes others have made. 
Lately I have been reading a lot about self-publishing via print-on-demand (POD).  There’s good and bad with every decision and POD publishing is no different.  More money can be made with eBooks, with very little money in and much more coming back to you in royalties.  There is an obvious expense associated with printing books the traditional way and it also means more hands in the cookie jar, thereby reducing your royalty rate.  The other consideration is how to understand what it takes to do everything in your power to make your self-published book not appear to look like a self-published book.

I’m sure this is every new author’s dream:  spend the bare minimum publishing an eBook, have huge sales, become a top seller and then watch sales soar even higher after signing on with one of the big publishing houses just drooling to publish the book.
Sounds like a great dream, doesn’t it?

It does, but it is a dream built on high expectations and is also dependent on someone else before it becomes a reality.  That in itself is not what my writing journey is about.  Writing is my dream and it is a dream I myself have made a reality.   Becoming a published author is also my dream but it too is something I can make a reality, whether in eBook form, traditional printing or both.
While my brain may become overloaded with information as I research the pros, cons, do’s and don’ts about traditional self-publishing, I will take it on as I do everything else and I will do my best to do it right the first time.  Otherwise, the mistakes I make in the process will be a lesson learned not only to myself but will be something I can share with others.  There is something to be said about ‘sharing is caring’ especially when it comes to the vast learning curve involved with writing and publishing a book.

Here’s hoping the mistakes I make are few even as the lessons learned are many. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Letting Go of Control

I am a control freak. 

Yep, the secret is out.  Rather than sit back and let someone else take care of things, I find it’s just easier to do it myself.  I’ll accept the glory if all goes well and I’ll admit defeat if I fail.

This is true in all aspects of my life.  Not sure exactly how I gained this particular trait, or fault, if you deem it to be so.  There are some who love people like me because they know I’ll just step in and take over.  But others who also want control…not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll agree it is best not to single-handedly take everything on and to remember delegating is a useful technique.  However, too often I’ve seen what happens when others fail to follow through with what they say they will do.  Having limited faith in others makes me a little gun-shy in the delegation department.

But I am trying to learn, to change, to grow, and to have faith in others. 

Before and while I wrote my first book, I did a lot of research.  From my perspective, advice about writing can only go so far.  You can learn so much about plot, structure, content, dialogue, point of view, pacing, grammar and everything in between but eventually you have to stop trying to write like others, find your own style and just get on with it. 

You write how you write.  Your tone is your tone.  People will either like your style or they won’t. 

Moving forward to write my book was the first time in quite awhile when I had to force myself to take control, to believe in myself and stop waiting because no one else was ever going to take over this task for me.  Looking back, writing my first book was one of the most exciting secrets I’ve ever kept and it was one of the scariest moments for me when the secret was finally revealed.

In preparation for the completion of my book, I also researched the subject surrounding publishing, both in print and as an eBook.  Many offered the same advice when it came to the book cover…get it done professionally.  It is the first impression your book will make to potential readers and it will either draw them in or turn them away.  With regard to traditional printing, the book is handed over to a publisher to complete the task.  The hard part for the author is waiting to see the final result when you get to hold it in your hands. 

Publishing an eBook, however, is a different matter.  With an eBook it is probably even more important to have a professional cover, as an eBook cover has to compete with so many others and at such a reduced size.  There’s also the task of converting your written book to an eBook.  You can pay someone else to do it or you can actually do it yourself.  Companies like Barnes & Noble and Amazon make it possible and I’ve read enough to believe I could probably do it myself if I really wanted to.

But there’s that control issue again.

While I had finally made the decision to take the advice about having a professional cover, I had still been playing around with the idea of converting my book to an e-Book myself.  But then I had to ask myself: it would save money but would it save time?  Good question.  I don’t have a lot of time to tinker around with an important element of publishing, especially if there’s a possibility it could ruin my chance as a new author should I do something wrong.

I finally had to concede to the fact that I really don’t have to do it all myself.  I can keep some control but when necessary, I can also delegate.  I wrote the book.  My job is done.  I passed on the task of the cover to someone else and now that I have the final product, I am very happy with the decision I made (you will soon get to see the cover…pre-release book promo is coming soon!).  I also decided to let someone else take control of completing the conversion of my book to an eBook.  Now, I am waiting as someone else works on the task for me.

Waiting.  That’s the hardest part for someone who likes to have control; who wants to know the status of the process at all times. 

But while I wait, I will write.  I’m still working on my second book with expectations to have it published before the end of the year.  The second book will bring up the same questions the first book did.  While I will most likely choose to obtain a professional cover again, the question about who will complete the task of conversion to an eBook might not be so obvious.

Will I try it myself next time?  Possibly. 

Because that’s just the way I am.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Blogging for (Dummies) Novice Folk

Do you blog?  Is your blog still a work in progress or do you feel confident it could win a Top 10 Blog Award?

It has been just over six months since I started this Blog and presented my first post, When Dreams Wake You Up.  Six months have given me an edge over what I knew then but I still have a ways to go.  As a fairly new blogger, I would prefer to label myself a novice rather than a dummy, although I do enjoy the Dummies and Idiot’s books offered to readers for any subject under the sun. 
Oddly enough, I haven’t thought to buy a Dummies book on blogging.  I believe this is due to how much advice I have been able to gain from other bloggers; advice that is always available at my fingertips whenever the need strikes me. 

And the need strikes me quite often. 
Recently, I posted about various projects I’m working on in The Construction Zone, including my book cover and conversion of my book so that I can sell it as an eBook.  But I also mentioned making changes to my Blog.  At this point, the changes may not be immediately noticed and it is still a work in progress.  One cosmetic change I made was to add a tagline and I also reduced the amount of labels, actually cutting the number to half of what I had. 

But there is so much more to blogging then how the home page looks. 
I’ve been reading, researching, taking in advice, some of which I’ll use and some I’ll ignore.  I’m still sifting through all the material I have obtained so that I can figure out how I’m going to put it to good use.  In the meantime, I thought I would share a few posts I’ve read with regard to blogging and the advice offered by others.

First, how to manage your blogging style…do you know your blogging style?  After reading this post on 8 Blogging Styles You Can Use Today by The Book Designer, I am most certainly a Newbie blogger.  My favorite part about this label is that I can “fail without penalty” as I pass on my experiences to readers. 
How about the focus of the content for your blog?  Jeff Goins offers a Helpful Writing Exercise to Focus Your Blog Content.  My focus is hopefully clear enough and I think my new tagline explains it well enough…I work to live but I dream to write and I am making my dream a reality.   My subject is writing and how I am managing the time to write as a busy mom with a full-time job and I want to share with readers my experiences as a write and move towards publication.

Speaking of finding the time to write…that’s a hot topic for me as I juggle work, writing, kids, blogging and so much more.  Many of the bloggers who offer tips about blogging also tend to offer tips about time management.  However, here’s a post with a different spin, How to Write a Blog Post in 30 Minutes or Less.  More than finding the time to put together posts, this blogger gives you tips on spending less time with each post.  While 30 minutes might not always be possible, I have to agree with most of the points in the post because without preparation and discipline, it’s easy enough to spend two hours on one post.   
If the focus of your content gets blurry or you tend to feel unprepared and out of material, you could be facing content-writing burn-out.  Some can write daily, others just a few times a week and some only once a week.  I prefer a few times a week; more than that would just be too much.  However, if you blog and you feel burnt-out, try these tips from Daily Blog Tips in the post Five Ways to Avoid Content-Writing Burn-Out.

And finally, there is advice on how to avoid blog traffic killers and how to keep the attention of your readers.  Jane Friedman has offered great advice ever since I first found her blog and she offers simple advice on the Top 10 Blog Traffic Killers.  Judy Lee Dunn, full of advice about blogging, shared her tips on the 21 Things I Did to Get My Blog to Top 10 Status.  This post offers very good advice with easy ideas on how to improve your blog and reach more readers.
While this is only a small portion, a tiny fraction really, of the advice out there, these blogs are some that I frequently visit due to each bloggers’ sound advice and experience.  I’m doing my best to make use of the advice they have offered and while it is certainly not a quick fix, I look forward to what I can do to improve my Blog as I follow the advice of others who are willing to share what works, or doesn’t work, for them.

Now, on to the next six months of blogging…

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Be Independent.

As everyone in the U.S. is celebrating the anniversary of our country’s independence, I’m also thinking about my own independence.  While circumstances beyond my control did lead me away from my self-employed business to work for someone else full time, it does not mean I had no choice in the matter.  I chose to do what was right for my family at the time.  I made an independent choice. 

No one is forced to do anything. 
We all have an independent choice.

That’s what makes this country a great place to live.  Sometimes we may not feel we have a choice in matters but when you really think about, we can pretty much do what we want.  The decisions we make may be good or bad, selfish or unselfish.  The real factor is whether we can deal with the consequences once we make our decision.
Independence can be defined in many ways.  I’m sure anyone and everyone would wish to be financially independent.  To have the freedom to avoid financial stress, always be able to take care of family and travel whenever possible.  Many teens can’t wait for the day when they can live on their own, independent and away from their parents’ household rules.  Others may love the idea of being in business for themselves, to be their own boss and set their own hours.  I can say from firsthand experience it is the best way to work but when times get tough, you do miss those regular paychecks and benefits.  Others may dream of retirement, viewing that time in their lives as a way to feel independent…no longer actively worrying about the daily work grind, raising children or caring for a large home.  As retirees, many look forward to living in a smaller home, spending time with their grandchildren, hobbies and travel while receiving a monthly stipend from their well-earned years in the workforce. 

But there are other ways we can be independent. 
How about our ability to be confident in ourselves and what we can accomplish?  Or our ability to live out our dreams, unaffected by the interference of others, whether real or perceived?

Many might aspire to achieve something they feel is out of reach but to accomplish any goal you might label as a dream, it takes making an independent, confident and faithful choice to break away from the mold you thought you were.  It takes moving away from the pack towards the mysterious, the unfamiliar, and the possibilities.  It takes putting on blinders so that your focus is not swayed and it takes ignoring the nay-seers around you. 
I believe those who speak the loudest against the goals you are trying to reach are only envious they cannot do the same themselves. 

They have not reached the same level of independence. 
They fear moving away from the pack.

I finally decided to live out my dream of writing, even while fearing what others might say.  But I am independent, I am confident and I have faith in my choice to move forward with my goals of becoming a published author.  I made a decision that will make me happy and which does not harm others…if all decisions could be made this way, we’d all be very fortunate.
I’ll admit that choices made when you are backed into a corner may not feel like an independent choice.  However, if you are making a choice for the right reason, an unselfish reason, it is best to take ownership of the fact that an independent choice was based on influencing factors at the time.

However, when it comes to decisions relating to your future goals and your dreams, don’t let the fear of true independence steer you away from what you can achieve.
Do not fear moving away from the pack.

Be confident and believe in yourself.
Feel inspired by the possibilities.

Be independent.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Time Management Mayhem

Yes, I’m still here…sparingly as it may be.  I have been rather elusive, I realize, but as I stated in my last post, I have a lot going on.  In addition to the day job, the side job, the book, the family, the garden and the house, I am also spending more time with my second book, which has not seen enough of me lately. 

I’ve also been working more with my time management skills again.  I have to say, I was getting much better there for awhile but then this past month or so has caused me to slip off track.  I now realize June was just a busy month altogether with pretty much every weekend full of one event or another. 
My time management skills have once again been challenged. 

Based on this challenge, I am going to change things up to stay on track.  Back in March I wrote a post about taking control and managing my time.  I had come up with a plan, set my goals and mapped out a schedule.  While that schedule was working, I see now I need to learn to make adjustments for months like June, when activities, events and family time consistently pull me away from my computer.  When I am pulled away from my writing, I need to have a contingency plan to stay on track.
I have my plan, which hasn’t changed, but maybe my goals are too broad.  I can’t just say, “I want to write a book” or “I want to complete my book by August.”  No, goals need to be more specific.  While a daily task list is nice, it is not always attainable when other priorities come up.  I can say I need to write no less than three or up to five pages a day but too often I may fail and daily failure is not what time management is about. I would rather say I need to write 30 pages a week.  This gives me the option of writing on average four pages a day, or if other matters take up my time, writing more on one day to make up for a day I cannot write. 

Having specific goals in mind, I also need to work again on scheduling.  As I continue to work on the side as a private investigator, I must also label my writing as a side job with a certain number of required hours.  While I generate the necessary number of pages each week, I must also spend time with research, note taking and also preparing posts for my Blog.  Completing all these tasks will mean I must put in a certain number of hours.  Staying away from the possible failure of trying to abide by daily tasks, my hours will be a weekly requirement with the hope that by Sunday I can easily make up any hours not acquired earlier in the week.
One trick I am trying to learn is the idea of putting together an editorial calendar for my Blog.  I don’t know if I can manage this particular time management skill…this means planning a month or two in advance, knowing ahead of time what you plan to write and researching topic ideas before even figuring that out.  Sometimes, just coming up with ideas by the seat of your pants is not a terrible thing.  However, it is a time management skill that has been put to the test by others and seems to work very well. 

I guess I will just need to figure out if that strategy will work well for me.
I know I’ve said this before but it’s true: only time will tell.  I’m learning as I go but if changing things up a bit helps me stay creative and also on task towards my goals, only good things can come my way. 

So how do you manage your time in order to stay on task with the goals you wish to meet?  Do you have any tips or tricks you feel might work for others in all areas of their lives?