Monthly Archives: December 2012

It Started With a Mouse

Today was quite interesting.  I woke up and didn’t have to go to work, which was nice, but I did have to get up and get myself put together, at least to look somewhat decent to spend the morning with the ex and our daughter. We had said that we would spend at least one day, just us, for our daughter’s sake. Today was that day, and we spent it watching Disney Princess’ on Ice.

It was a pleasant outing, and I rather enjoyed watching my girl jump and down, verbally participate, and watch some of the scenes in awe.  She loved it, and I loved watching her.  Between each new princess adventure Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy would come out and do a little shpill.  As I was watching, and as my imagination wondered as it has a propensity to do, the words, “It all started with a mouse,” lulled through my brain. This gave way to me daydreaming through a third of the show, about how huge things started as a simple idea.

I believe all writers and artists know what I am talking about when I say, we get just a fraction of an idea or thought implanted into our brains, and if we run with it, we come out with a book, drawing, or sculpture.  Did Walt Disney know he was sitting on a billion dollar industry when the idea of a mouse popped into his head? Did I know what I was getting myself into when I created the character of Gracie Mentz?

I had no idea that just one voice in my head would launch my writing career. I had no idea that one character would give birth to an entire story.  And I had no idea that one story would become two, and from two I would write a manual to help other authors.  It all started one night when a voice gave way to a character, and a character gave way to story.  I can still see Gracie Mentz clear as day, and the life she went on to live beyond the pages of the book.

Did I know that something I wrote would cause some stranger to send me an email to tell me how my book helped her forgive her deceased father? I couldn’t have know that I would find so many fun, quirky, and crazy authors who not only listen to the voices in their head, but talk back to them as I do.

MickeyMouseMy road to becoming a published author started at very humble beginnings.  For Walt Disney it started with a mouse.  For Donald Trump it started with a single hotel.  For me it started in ninth grade when an eccentric creative writing  teacher found a very quiet girl and said, “if nothing else, it’s an easy ‘A,’ but something tells me you have stories to tell.”

Where are your beginnings?

Giving of Yourself

I recently completed a book by Randy Attwood titled, Crazy About You. He heeded the call to submit a book for The Writing Apocalypse website.  At first I thought I wouldn’t like the book, because books set any further back than 1980 aren’t really my thing.  But this book dealt with a teenage boy growing up on the grounds of a mental institution, and being that I love the study of psychiatry, I read the book and didn’t pass it on to my colleagues to follow through one.  I’m so glad I didn’t. This book was so fascinating that I forgot it was set in the 1960’s, during a time when psychiatry was still pretty barbaric and misunderstood.

Needless to say, I loved the book and left a review on Amazon. I don’t always leave reviews unless really compelled in the absolute positive or negative aspect. Of course, I rated this quite positive.  The author sent me a message and thanked me for my review, which was never something I said I would give. Remember, this book was only a submission for review into the Writing Apocalypse Survivor page on the website. But I was compelled to leave my honest opinion.

Randy thanked me for the review and mentioned that $1 of each book went to a local mental health foundation in his area. I thought that was great and expressed my thoughts on that, since, as a nurse, I know the mental health field is well underfunded, still widely misunderstood, and something we don’t like to discuss in general conversation. But it is here, and whether it is acknowledged or not, it will remain. So, I told Randy my thoughts and applauded him for his part in helping out.

Now since this is public and can be read on my Facebook page, I must say that he said something profound in return, something that made me smile because I knew exactly what he meant. He said, “Thank you, Tania. Your review hit me just at a time in my writing life when I needed it. Never doubt that reviews are important, not just for potential sales, but for the writer…not his/her ego…but it gives reason to keep on writing because you realize you are connecting. And that’s what it is all about.”

I responded that as writers, we often give so much of ourselves, not only mentally but also our energy, and that hearing positive feedback from readers is what re-energizes us.  For me, I have heard so many positives from families who have family or friends suffering from Lou Gehrig’s, and they don’t always leave reviews but contact me by email, telling me how the book gave them faith or hope or the power to forgive.  One woman even sent me the memoirs left behind by her brother who passed away from the disease. She said my book really shed light on the disease, even though the book dealt with something different.  Hearing that is more powerful than a good review, because it means I have touched someone beyond just a good story. I didn’t touch a reader, but a person.

Randy returned with, ” I have a strong belief that what we are doing in fiction is creating reality with words. And when we do it well it creates a reality in the reader’s mind.”

Truer words have never been spoken, Randy.  As an author it takes so much of my time and energy to put my thoughts on paper. It drains so much of me, in the same way my patients drain my energy when I am nursing. It is not a bad thing in any way, it is what we do.  But when a patient tells me I made a difference, my energy and spirit is sent to full levels.  In this same way, when my book has touched someone beyond just the story, then my energy to turn the computer back on is replenished.

I have said many times that writing for the public is a mutual relationship. We write to give readers a piece of ourselves, and when they read they absorb a piece of us.  Make sure when giving of yourself, you give it your all, because someone out there will walk away with a tiny piece of you.

Crazy About You Cover front onlyRandy Attwood’s book Crazy About You can be found on Kindle, and remember, $1.00 of this book will be donated to the mental health center in Lawrnece KS, who run the suicide hotline.

My book, Be Still, can be found on Kindle and Nook and print copy books.

 

Who are Blue Harvest Creative?

So much has happened since this time last year in my wonderful new found life as a published author.  I have made some great friends, readers and authors alike.  I have found that I do have a voice, even though I still try to fly below the radar. And I’ve discovered publishing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Definitely not the get rich and famous overnight shade of glasses I thought it to be.  It takes work, and it sometimes takes a village across the globe to raise a book.

Blue Harvest Creative

Blue Harvest Creative

So I would like to give my appreciation to a few of the great people, groups, and things I have found along the way to this place and time in my life.  I had previously introduced you to Michelle Proulx, and today, I would like to celebrate Blue Harvest Creative.  This is a husband and wife run business, and it seems they are an amazing team.  Vern is the graphic design artists who has created multiple book covers and websites for authors such as Katie Jennings and AD Trosper (whose book The Writing Apocalypse Team is currently reading).  These covers are amazing.

I met Vern through LinkedIn, when I posted a trade reads comment.  It was a “you read mine and i’ll read yours,” and we leave honest feedback.  Vern quickly responded, though he is not an author, and asked that I read one of his client’s books and he would read mine. I thought that was pretty awesome that he would do that for a client.  It only goes to show how sometimes you get a little more special attention from the so-called little businesses. I loved that about Vern, and became immediate email friends, always pointing out something new or interesting to each other.

Vern’s wife does editing, and I’ve read Katie Jennings book, “When Empires Fall,” which was edited by Blue Harvest Creative, and I must say the editing was great. I may have caught one or two grammatical errors, but nothing major that I haven’t caught in a traditionally published book.  Most recently, I have asked them to send me recommendations for The Writing Apocalypse website,  because that is how much I trust their work.

All-in-all, I have really enjoyed the new relationship with this company, but more so the people. They are very friendly and kind, and those are the kinds of people I would like to surround myself in, not only in the real world,but also the literary world. So I celebrate Blue Harvest Creative as a business and also as people I have met along this wonderful journey in becoming a bestselling author. Please visit their page to see their work, and remember: if you are an independent author, try and look to other independent businesses for your publishing needs.

This post is not a commercial, it is a simple thank you to the amazing people I have met over the past year.  I think we need to recognize some of the people or businesses that have been invaluable along the way. Please take time to recognize somebody this season.

Blue Harvest Creative at www.blueharvestcreative.com

also on WordPress

Katie Jennings: When Empires Fall

AD Trosper

My Christmas Alone

It’s Christmas eve, the night my family celebrates with each other.  But not me.  I went to work for all those patients who needed emergency surgery, though most weren’t what I would classify as emergent. Who cares, it pays the bills.  And while my family, who were 80 miles away, fought over ham, I made my way to Denny’s for overcooked mozzarella sticks and dry chicken tenders with honey mustard.  While my family fought over what time to open presents, I fought with two dogs over who got the last french fry.

And while my family grumbled even though they were together and not alone, I was greeted by a John Deere tractor strung with Christmas lights and pulling a trailer full of strangers driving down my street yelling, “Merry Christmas,” and handing out candy canes. They even gave me a candy cane for my dog that chased them down the street.  It was nice, but I was still without my family to share in the wonderful gesture.

And while my family was safe with each other two counties away, I nearly bludgeoned my boyfriend’s daughter with a bat as she showed up pleasantly unexpected.  And while my family sat together so far away, I was blessed to be able to have a cellphone to tease my oldest son and brother about the night’s events.

And while my family sits safely around a warm fire, I sit in bed with a dog who suffers from a miserable case of separation anxiety, another dog with depression, a cat who is out to get me, and a cat who has single handidly (or pawdly) decreased the sparrow population in the desert by half as a warning to me.

And while my family may not realize what they have with each other, despite all their different personalities and opinions, I hope they enjoy the Christmas they get to spend with my joyful daughter while I spent the day with patients who weren’t always pleasant.  And despite all of this, I hope they realize that even after years of squabbling, bickering, complaining, and anxiety, that they get together every year, every holiday, because when it comes right down to it, our little family is all we have.

Merry Christmas to my family in Los Angeles, CA.

iUniverse Royalty Payout Breakdown

Last night I received a royalty check from iUniverse.  It was an actual, physical check, which is not what I signed up for, because I don’t want to be charged a fee, and I don’t want to wait until I make $25 or more before receiving payment. I like instant gratification, and the free kind is best.  I am subscribed for direct deposit so I pay no fees and get my payment no matter how small it may be.

I said, I would report anything I learned about iUniverse and try to be as unbiased as possible.  As such, I will only state the facts about this account for Be Still, since I have thus far received two royalty payments.  Keep in mind, the first installment I had just put the book out and only had a little over a month in that sales quarter.

Here are the results:

2nd quarter:

Books Sold: 12

Net sales: $62.68

Payable to me: $17.34

What I actually received: $12.29

3rd quarter

Books sold: 27

Net Sales: 112.59

Payable to me: $36.65

What I actually received: $26.49

I called iUniverse today to ask whyy my net payable is less than what I am receiving. I was told that I had not filled out my tax info, so a standard 28% was being withheld.  Okay, maybe that was my fault. I immediately went on the website and fixed that.

moneyI only post to this for those authors who are thinking of using iUniverse to publish. I have stated that I liked them due to the fact that I didn’t have to do any of the work myself, and as a very busy single mother and employed as a full-time nurse, this was an area I didn’t have time to spend in. I have heard complaints about royalties not being paid, etc. In my opinion, my numbers look correct. I know I have about 20 more Kindle sales at the end of the 3rd quarter, but I also know they may not have been reported yet, so i’ll have to keep an eye out there.

All-in-all, the royalty pay out is crappy at best, but I haven’t encountered a problem in the numbers being wrong. I may have to look into small publishing houses for my next book, but we’ll see. I’m not thrilled with the idea of being paid nearly 40%, when I already paid out a small fortune to publish. I know they have to make their profit somewhere, because they are a business after all. I am grateful to all I have learned from this experience, but I work my behind off for this book, and would like to see a better return on my investment. Not sure I will use them again, but only because I’d like to see a better spending to profit margin.

Kirkus Review is Absolute Fail

While publishing my book Be Still, I was advised to purchase a trifecta package of reviews which was Kirkus, Blue Ink, and the last one I just don’t recall, but their big players.  Or so I am told. So I paid $1500 for all three reviews, and after six months I finally received my final review, which was from Kirkus, which in my opinion was an absolute fail, but I’ll get back to that.

First, my opinion on these high profile review houses: They aren’t worth the cost. seriously, I received better reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble from readers. Now, I’m not saying because they all left 5 star reviews, because some left less than that. God bless the world that everyone is able to have an opinion, and diverse ones at that.  I’m saying that the reviews left by John Q. Public were far more poignant–whether good or bad–than any three of the review houses I dished out for.

Second, being somewhat wet behind the ear as far as reviews went, i was under the impression that getting a good review from Kirkus, Blue Ink, or the other was going to send my career skyrocketing.  Not so.  In fact, Blue Ink and the other gave me wonderful reviews and I was very happy.  But they really do nothing to boost sales.  What I have discovered is that John Q. Public looks at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.  As do I.

Third, if I am going to dole out a small fortune, the least Kirkus can do is cite the correct book.  Their review states: Tania Ramos (not Tania L Ramos) author of When I Thought I was Tough 2011, writes about…. blah blah blah. And the review unfolds.  My vice: if I am paying you a month of my son’s tuition for school the least you can do is cite the correct book you are reviewing. For example, instead of speaking of When I Thought I Was Tough, 2011 you can cite the book you actually reviewed, Be Still, 2011. Am I wrong?

And my final rant about paid reviews: They spend an entire page giving a synopsis of the book (which is on the back of the book or inside jackets, by the way), and write a one sentenced opinion at the very end.  And sometimes the opinion is that of a fifth grader, “Two thumbs up.” Hmmmm. I paid for two thumbs up? Holy moly, that’s like $350 a word between three review houses.

Okay fellow readers and authors, this is what I ask of you: if you read a book, please leave a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads or anywhere else.  You all do a much better job at reviews than the paid for reviews. So what did Kirkus say? Well, after citing the incorrect book, they did a synopsis, and closed with “a heartfelt novel weighed down by melodrama.”

kirkus reviewLike I said, I don’t mind the review not being the best, but that was a lot of money for a one sentence bottom-line review.  I will never pay for another big name review again. Opinions on this? Is there really a reason to pay for these big reviews?

Giving Away the Cow, Abduction

A friend at work used this term yesterday, “giving away the cow.” She was talking about something else completely non-publishing/writing related, and in our delirious, under staffed, over worked, much too late lunch break, as nurses we started giggling like crazy. Thank goodness our patients are semi-sedated or they may have called a staff therapist on us.  So all day long we tossed around the phrase, “giving away the cow.” It was our loopy form of therapy, and little titter that got us through an otherwise frustrating thirteen hour day of nursing care.

Since I’m writing a new young adult, SciFi novel and cows play a huge part in it, the phrase, “giving away the cow,” has different meaning for me. So every time someone said “cow,” I would yell back, “abduction,” or “code moo.” I had to explain it, and later in the day someone would yell out, “Code Moo.” And again, I am thankful our patients are semi-sedated, or patients may start to doubt our finely honed nursing state-of-mind, mistaking it for nursing psychosis.

Later in the day, when I was underwhelmed by my dwindling stamina, I received two patients who were under long-term care, which in my end of nursing means they will stay in recovery greater than one hour.  This puts me out of commission to receive another patient, what’s worse is that these patients are usually not happy campers, because they are forced to lay on a very uncomfortable gurney, in a semi-lit room, with nothing but me to look at for more than an hour. It just so happened these were special procedure patients who would be with me longer than three hours each . . . boring and uncomfortable to say the least.

With the patients beginning to bicker, and I don’t blame them, I slumped down into my rolly chair and glanced at the clock. Being three nurses short makes for a long, exhausting day.  Having bickering patients doesn’t help the cause. So I told one of the other nurses I needed to run to my car, and of course she asked why. I told her I was prepared to give away the cow if it kept my patients occupied. She half-cocked her head, and I told her to just go with it.

Five minutes later I returned with three softcopy versions of my book Be Still. The nurse again cocked her head at me.  I handed one book to each of my patients, then gave one to the other nurse and told her to put it away for a rainy day (inside joke, since we finally had rain in Southern California yesterday). I didn’t tell my patients it was my book, just that we had some reading material.

For the next hour those patients were quiet as could be.  The other nurse asked if I was giving them the books or taking them back. I thought briefly, “they look to be enjoying it. If I take the books back I can tell them to go and buy it online. Maybe get some sales here.” That’s the profit margin part of me thinking.  That would be the proverbial devil on the shoulder whispering into my ear, but my little devil wears wire rimmed glasses, a short sleeve white button up shirt, with clip on bow tie and holds an old calculator that rolls the tape as he pushes the number. Nerdy little profit seeking devil to say the least.

Real street sign on the Alien Hwy,NV near  Area 51.

Real street sign on the Alien Hwy,NV near Area 51.

The angel on my shoulder whispers, “eh, just give away the cow.” Of course, when I look at the little angel he is a small cow with a halo, being pulled into the air by a thing green light. That part I blame on the twelfth hour delirium setting in.  All-in-all, I let the patients keep the books, and still don’t tell them who I am in relation to the book. After I move them to their perspective destinations, I say my goodbyes and tell them to enjoy their read.  As I am getting ready to leave work, one patient calls me over (he’s in a different area for discharge now) and says, “why didn’t you tell me you were the author. I love this book. I hate reading, but this is great stuff. Why are you a nurse? You should be a best seller. I’m going to tell all my friends about your book.” I gave a smile and told him I just wanted him to enjoy his time in recovery, and he said, “I just met a great author. This is the best surgery I ever had.” Then he asked me to sign the book.

I received a text this morning from a night nurse I know who took care of my other patient. She saw the book and told her patient that a recovery nurse wrote that book. They eventually worked out that I was the nurse based off the picture and name. She said he stayed up all night reading, then in the morning when she went to say goodbye, they ended up holding an impromptu book club where they talked about the characters and plot. “He’s requesting you talk to his granddaughter who wants to be a writer,” she texted me.

My reply: I don’t work today

Her reply: Good, then you can come in and meet her.

My reply: Yeah, okay. I don’t  even know when she’ll be there

Her reply: he called her this morning. she’ll be in by 10am and wait all day if necessary. So goes the life of a famous author. LOL

Okay, fellow bloggers. I have to go now, because I chose to give away the cow and mostly, because I have to face the paparazzi 🙂 I’m glad I listened to my abducted cow angel.