Why Writing at Home Won’t Work.
Had to share this blog post from friend and fellow Mischievous Muse Press author Julie Mayerson Brown. I have a little office in my backyard, and my “dogs” include goats, a chicken, and a horse, as well as a real dog the size of a polar bear…but yeah, I can relate!
I have had my hands tied for several weeks now, or so it has seemed. My computer, which I thought just needed a bit of CPR, went into a coma on December 21. Right before the holidays, so it took me until the 6th of January to contact Dell and ask them to send someone out to repair it under the warranty. As someone who works in the publishing business online from a home office, I was cut off. I was desperately using my Droid cell phone and later a Kindle Fire to keep connected on Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and other social media sites, but I had no keyboard, a tiny little screen, no Word program, and no way of remembering all my passwords to access sites such as WordPress. I was alone but not alone; connected halfway to friends but cut off from work. I said often during that time period that if I weren’t my own boss I would be fired for taking a self-imposed 48 day hiatus from my job. My business partner held down the office fort while I wandered about aimlessly through my days, contacting my new friend Dylan in Oklahoma at Dell often to inquire about “the next step” to fix, and ultimately replace, my computer. It took a month that included a service call, me installing my own second hard drive by myself, and much griping, squeaky-wheel implementing, and patience before I found the FedEx guy on my doorstep yesterday delivering my replacement equipment, a new Dell M6800 Workstation/laptop convertible computer.
I missed many marketing opportunities during my “time off”, but strived to survive being offline. An author wanted to interview me for her blog so I had to go to my friend Donna’s house to borrow her computer about a month into my exile. I was astounded by how much I needed a computer to provide the blogger, Kasper Beaumont, with information about myself: I needed all of my links, a synopsis of my book The Fairies of Feyllan, an author bio, an author photo, a book cover photo. I couldn’t do the interview without the internet! It made me realize how none of my personal information is actually mine, or is anything I can just ramble off the top of my head: My publisher created and “owns” my synopsis of my book, my bio is written in stone because it is posted in other places as well, my bio photos are all online, and just to email the information to Kasper I needed the internet and a Word program and other photo programs to do it. It was eye opening. Authors in this day and age must be connected online with their arsenal of marketing materials on hand to make a dent in the daunting task of creating “social proof” (I will talk more about that subject another time).
During my hiatus from my online life, I had an interesting thing happen. The sequel to The Fairies of Feyllan began writing itself in my head. Characters began “talking” to me, telling me their stories from where I left off with them. I was surprised at some of the turns of events; dark fairies are flying on the horizon! But I had no place but my phone to take electronic notes. I made a few handwritten ones too, a practice that seemed quaint and archaic all at once. The fairies will not be ignored! They apparently do not care that my Word program had vanished with the last gasping breath of my M6600.
Though trying, and not very relaxing, this experience has really given me some insight into how important social media and marketing is to the modern day author. Our forebears didn’t have to do this sort of self-promotion to get their books read, but we do, and without the internet, we would fail to get any recognition whatsoever. The internet is the instrument for the voice of the author to be heard.
In the meantime, in a shameless promotional plug, here is the interview with Kasper. I was most pleased to get a photo of my beloved dog Drinian in there, and Kasper was lovely to work with and talk to. Us fantasy writers must stick together!
Here is my book link on Amazon too. Why? Because I CAN. Because I have a computer again and can continue the happy art of cutting and pasting links wherever I want!
Here is a book review of my fantasy novel The Fairies of Feyllan (see link at bottom of page). I know first hand how hard it is to find time to not only read a book (even one that you like!) and then take the time to review it. As an editor, I read books every day, but not in that relaxed, I’m-really-enjoying-a-good-read way, but in an, I’m-looking-for-grammatical-trouble-and-examining-commas-and-spaces kind of way. So for me to reciprocate and read the reviewer Kasper Beaumont’s Hunters of Reloria series would take months for me to get to (I have four reading/editing side projects, on top of my editing duties at work, to complete right now). I think that authors who DO have time to read are amazing to read other people’s books and give reviews. I admire that.
Reviews can make or break a book. I was once signed up in a Facebook group that swapped reviews. I thought it would be an easy way to get some reviews for my own books. Of course, that fantasy was short lived after the first swap I attempted to make: I couldn’t even get to the book for ten days after I had made the swap, a full five days after the other author had already posted MY book’s review. I finally did read and swap reviews, but it took me three weeks, and a lot of stress while trying to find the time to do it.
Right now, I have a newbie author friend who wants “no less than a Nebula” for the book he asked me to peruse. He gave it to me three weeks ago, and he checks in every weekend to see if I’ve read it. I apparently haven’t explained clearly enough that it’s on the backburner behind a paid editing project (that I work on only on weekends) and the last-minute editing job last week on my son’s college paper on the effect of Christianity on mid-Byzantine architecture in Thessalonike (no lie). As an editor, there is always an editing project awaiting my attention. As a publisher, there is a mounting slush pile that pouts in the corner of my mind. As a mom, the college kid occasionally needs help on his complex papers. My writer friends like to ask me for an opinion. I guess reading IS my life, although the last “real book” I read I was very disappointed in, and I haven’t read a fiction bestseller since, but have busied my mind with company projects and wannabe author stories.
It’s a blessed thing to spend my life around books, as an author, publisher, editor. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, especially since one of the places I sit to edit is a hammock chair overlooking the canyon behind our house. The definition of the perfect office. But I still wish I could just randomly read something that everyone is talking about.
Oh yeah….you may be wondering what the book is that I read that I was disappointed in. It was the bestseller The Help. I would tell you exactly why I didn’t like such a popular book, but that would be like writing a review, and I really don’t have time for that.
This is my “outdoor office” view. See below for the book review of The Fairies of Feyllan
Cat Spydell is the author of fantasy novel The Fairies of Feyllan and Young Adult novel The Time Traveler’s Apprentice at Hollywood High. She owns World Nouveau Publishing and is chief editor at the company.
Book Review for The Fairies of Feyllan:
Don’t miss a chance to get your FREE copy of The Fairies of Feyllan starting on Halloween!
I have just written those words and published the above link about 100 times in the last hour. I am promoting an eBook for our affiliate publishing company DPR Press. Luckily I edited the content of the book so I am familiar with it, but truth be told, it is hard to push something to the public, even something as benign as a free book! Last year my publishing company had a booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. It was a Very Big Deal. We had a huge tent, set up author signings, decorated our sales table, incorporated related merchandise, and hawked books for two days to our people: Readers. And I was able to easily recommend books to strangers, books that the company was selling and standing behind, but as the days wore on I realized, never once had I tried to sell someone my OWN book. How much easier it is to promote others than ourselves! I was surprised by my shyness regarding promoting myself. I think that it is the most difficult part of being an independent and small press author in this day and age. As some may recall, I went camping at a 3-day music festival to try and promote my fairy book (shameless plug) The Fairies of Feyllan. I walked around wearing wings handing out sample chapter booklets to people dressed as trees and the fae to try and get book sales. It is a never ending and thankless job, to try and sell your own book. We make sure our authors know that while the company does quite a lot for our authors, such as press releases and setting up book signings, etc., that it is up to the author to sell the book on a DAILY basis. There is no moment for laziness until a book “tips”. In other words, marketing is an ongoing, often draining job. You KNOW your friends and family on Facebook are tired of hearing about it, that the bottom of your email signature is cluttered with links to your books, and you feel, frankly, like a pest because of it. In a perfect world, you could just post about your book one time and your 1500 Facebook friends would not only buy your book, but review it, as well as suggesting it to their book club and Aunt Tillie. But every indie and small press author knows, that is not how it works in the real world. Friends have good intentions, but don’t always back up those intentions with action. So for that reason, we post on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and on every other site we can come up with, risk annoying our friends and acquaintances, and become Marketing Monsters…all in the name of selling what we know is an awesome book that everyone, if they would just read the damn thing, would love.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 25, 2013
Five(ish) Questions With the Author: Cat Spydell
Cat Spydell is the owner and publisher–which means she’s also editor, proofreader, chief hand-holder and marketer–of a small press called World Nouveau. Cat’s a writer and a mom. She takes in stray and abandoned creatures of all sorts–pigs, goats, (and maybe fairies?)–at Pixie Dust Ranch, where she also lives and works. Cat’s a local activist who’s taking her activism to the next level in her current bid for a seat on the City Council
Cat is one busy woman.
But we got her to slow down for a few moments to talk about her newest book, The Fairies of Feyllan, which she’ll be discussing and signing at the Book Frog on Saturday, August 31st, at 1 p.m.
BF: Why fairies? What was your inspiration to write The Fairies of Feyllan?
CS:I love writing about mysteries I wonder about, like aliens, mermaids, time travel, and Bigfoot. I wrote a movie script about Bigfoot and a book called The Time Traveler’s Apprentice at Hollywood High that started with the premise: What if aliens are just time traveling humans from the future? The idea of writing about fairies started the same way; I wondered about them and as I thought about what they might be like if they were real the answers came to me in the form of a fantasy novel. Many questions about fairies are answered in The Fairies of Feyllan; I address the concept of “brownies”, of the Cottingley fairies, of pixie dust…all those mystical elements are brought up in the book because it was fun to write about those things and think about them.
BF: If you could have a drink with one character from all of literature who would it be? And what character would you cross the street to avoid?
CS: This is a great question! I am the biggest Tolkien fan, so I would have to say that ultimately Gandalf the wizard is the one I would wish to have a drink with, because wizards are endlessly fascinating and you can probably learn a thing or two from talking with them. The one character I would cross the street to avoid would be Dolores Umbridge from the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter. She is one of the most horrible characters with no redeeming qualities. I was so repulsed by her character and her actions when I read The Order of the Phoenix initially.
BF: Does music fuel your writing? If so, what were you listening to (or hearing in your head) as you wrote The Fairies of Feyllan?
CS: Music absolutely fuels my writing, and my soul. I go to hear live music at least once a week and often more. I found myself listening to “The Battle of Evermore” by Led Zeppelin repeatedly while writing the book, which seemed to correlate with parts of my story line. Such as:
Oh war is the common cry, pick up your swords and fly./The sky is filled with good and bad that mortals never know./Oh well, the night is long the beads of time pass slow,/tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow.
A lot of different kinds of music inspired me while writing The Fairies of Feyllansuch as Celtic music.
BF: What book do you wish you had written? What book do you wish you liked more than you did? What book could you simply not finish?
CS: I wish I had written The Lord of the Rings because of the complexity of the world that Tolkien created. The fact that he had a complex language and maps and geography and entire histories created for his book (I consider it one book even though it is sold as a trilogy) is a phenomenal feat. I leaned heavily on the inspiration that Tolkien provides when I wrote The Fairies of Feyllan, so I do have a lot of backstory in the book about the fairies’ genealogy, history, and general origins, but nothing near the amount of vast wealth of addendum material Tolkien provides. Regarding which book I wish I liked better, it would have to be Tom Robbins’ Another Roadside Attraction. Such genius writing! I wish I could write like that. There is a description of a character that says (he) “…has a grin like a beer barrel polka. A ding-dong daddy grin. A Brooklyn Dodger grin. A grin you could wear to a Polish wedding. His smile walks in in woolly socks and suspenders and asks to borrow the funny papers. You could trap rabbits with it…”
And that’s just a partial description of just the character’s smile. Wow, that is some brave writing. But as much as I enjoy the writing and find it to be genius, I can’t follow the plot of that book easily. Regarding which book I simply couldn’t finish, there is one that stands out: Twilight. As an editor I found myself working too hard to read it so I gave up.
BF: Which of your characters do you relate to the most, and–of course–why?
CS: It is hard to say, because all of my characters are a part of me, but the main character Varia is the one I relate to the most. The way that she lets her curiosity and conviction get her into intense situations that she must master describes my life pretty well. She often finds herself in scenarios she didn’t plan, such as allowing a baby dragon to imprint on her which causes her all kinds of trouble, but she just takes life by the horns and manages to turn unfortunate situations to her advantage. She is one of those “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” types and I feel like that is a creed I live by as well. Staying positive and making the best of things is a trait we share.
REBLOG! Here is a recent article about my book The Fairies of Feyllan in the Palos Verdes News
“Fairies” to Appear at the Book Frog
by Annie Lubinksy
Arts and Entertainment, PV News
(Originally run Thursday, August 29, 2013 pvnews.com)
When a princess from one fairy tribe falls in love with a prince from an enemy tribe, their forbidden relationship creates disharmony between the two cultures. But a bigger force is at work in “The Fairies of Feyllan,” written by Rolling Hills Estates resident Cat Spydell, and the tribes need to come together to defend their homes.
Part fairy story, part adventure tale, the book is set in 1920s England.
“That’s when the Cottingley fairies were discovered and there was a huge fairy craze,” Spydell said. “I used that in the story line as the reason why the earth seeker tribe left their home — because humans were invading, looking for them.”
Appropriate for readers ages 9 to 90, “The Fairies of Feyllan” contains subtle romance, classic adventure and plenty of action in its battle scenes. Spydell will talk about the book when she visits The Book Frog on Saturday, and will tell readers about the flora and fauna that inspired the fairies’ world.
Spydell said she has “open space in my psyche,” instilled when she was a girl.
“I grew up in Palos Verdes and lived in the canyons as a child,” Spydell said. “I had a pony and rode all the time, and I saw every nook and cranny of the entire Hill. In my world, there were no houses, just trails, rocks and trees.”
As someone who rescues exotic animals, Spydell tends a menagerie at home.
“I end up with goats, a pig, a pony, pigeons … these are the animals that inspire me,” she said. “When my dog was a puppy, I felt that every time I fed him, he grew. And that became the model for the dragon in the story.”
Fairies have been a part of her life at home and at work for years. Spydell’s daughter maintained an avid interest in fairies, and as a production manager at an ice rink, Spydell made countless fairy costumes and wings for young skaters. “It has been an interesting transition from writing ice shows with fairies to writing a novel about them,” she said.
Spydell’s fairies aren’t the sparkling, tinkling sort, but stout-hearted ones who face serious threats to their home. The story carries an environmental theme that unfolds as the fairies fight for their survival.
“I have a good sense of nature and have been appalled at the human use of it,” Spydell said. She has dedicated “The Fairies of Feyllan” to the trees.
Spydell will visit The Book Frog at 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31. The store is located at 550 Deep Valley Drive, Suite 273, in Rolling Hills Estates. For more information, call (310) 265-2665. For more information on “The Fairies of Feyllan,” visit worldnouveaubooks.com.
From my publisher…
It is rare that an unpublished book gets media attention in today’s mainstream and online press, but that is precisely what has happened with a young adult fantasy novel entitled Woven. The book is in the news right now because of an issue we here at World Nouveau take very seriously. Discrimination. Woven was cancelled by a Utah-based book publisher just before its release date because one of the novel’s co-authors is openly gay.
Joint authors Michael Jensen and David Powers King collaborated on Woven, and it was due to be published by Cedar Fort Publishing and Media in October.
The controversy started when Jensen realized his own author bio had been edited. The change he noticed was the removal of the line ‘He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs’. The reason given for the removal was the publishing company’s affiliation with the…
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We recently went to live with the fae. Fae as in fairies. “We” being myself and my daughter and niece (teenagers!), and a polar-bear sized dog. We arrived at the fairy doorstep on Friday (after a two-day drive, because you usually have to travel far to find fairies). We stayed with the fae from Friday through Monday morning. The fairies in question came in all shapes and sizes. There were baby fairies, old fairies, thin fairies, fat fairies, male and female fairies, cool fairies, nerd fairies…you name it, they exist! Sometimes fairies have friends. Like strange two-legged wolves, Ent-like trees, and things you can’t quite identify, or may not want to, like men wearing Speedos on stilts and light-up umbrella jellyfish. Where did all of these fairies convene? At the annual convention called FaerieWorlds. And WHY did I go to FaerieWorlds? To market my book The Fairies of Feyllan, of course! I found out where my people were, and I went to them.
At first I planned to give away free copies of The Fairies of Feyllan, but the expense at about $10 per book was too prohibitive. So my publisher’s art department designed the cutest ever little 4 x 6 sample chapter booklets with fairy pictures sprinkled like pixie dust throughout. When I got the shipment from the printer, I opened it and fell in the love with the diminutive booklets. I bought as many as my $300 budget would allow. They were miniature perfection. I brought a few paperback versions of The Fairies of Feyllan as well, and a couple of hundred Fairies of Feyllan bookmarks. I was armed and ready to face the fae.
Our drive to Eugene had been long and tenuous, and it was 105 degrees out when we arrived, but we made it safely. We pulled into the parking lot (read: open mowed field) after dropping the dog off at his “doggie hotel” and went to the Inner Circle campground. We unpacked our sad tent (a long story, but suffice it to say, the nylon dome was missing and the zipper broke, so we clipped ourselves in each night and had to cover the top with batiked bedspreads…the word “ratchety” was our definition for our unique look). We cleaned up and decorated ourselves as best we could in the hot ratchety tent, and then we entered the realm of the fae under the huge sign that read in fancy letters: “FaerieWorlds”.
I have been to many interesting “events” in my lifetime. As a long-time follower of the Grateful Dead, I’ve seen the funky parking lot vending scene before shows, during shows, after shows, (rinse and repeat). I am a Ren faire junkie. (Why I swordfight, horseback ride, and know how to use a bow and arrow, and believe that using a gun as a weapon is cheating). I have been to women’s festivals, Comi-Cons, freaky little carnivals, and Vegas shows with fancy French names. I’ve seen a lot. FaerieWorlds was like seeing all the fascinating things I had seen in my entire lifetime, depositing it on one wooded piece of land, adding thousands of people dressed as fairies, and in the background, amazing live Celtic music played. Yeah, it’s like that.
On Day One we walked around, awed, handing out booklets and admiring the wares of the vendors who sold wings, wands, fairy dresses, masks, jewelry, and trinkets. Later we handed a sample chapter booklet to one of the fae manning the ticket booth. “Oooh!” she said, her wings quivering in delight as she passed it around to show her cohorts. Everyone selling tickets seemed entranced. “Can WE hand them out?”
Um, okay! We gave over our stash for the day of booklets and our bookmarks, and when we checked back a couple hours later, the stack was gone. “People loved them!” we were told. We had been free to roam FaerieWorlds and take in the sights because of the Ticket Booth Fairy’s kind offer to hand out my goods, but I felt like I had missed an opportunity to see the recipients’ expressions when they saw the booklets, so the next day we sauntered through the magickal realm passing them out. And the fairy people were charmed. I was hopeful that The Fairies of Feyllan would be a hit with this crowd.
Day Two: We woke up cold and miserable and decided to rejoin the real world to visit the polar bear dog and go to town. We drove directly to Big 5 to buy a blow up mattress after I made a Scarlett O’Hara speech about how “I will never go camping again!” (It was that inflatable mattress that saved me for the rest of FaerieWorlds). When my attempts to shove my Tempur-Pedic mattress in the small overly-packed car before leaving Los Angeles had failed, I was forced to learn the hard way I will NEVER sleep on a tent floor again. I spent the next 48 hours trying to keep the teenage girls off my bed so they wouldn’t know how much more comfortable I was, since they were still sleeping directly on the ground, no padding.
By the time we returned to FaerieWorlds on Day Two from our Important Shopping Trip, the “freak flags” were flying high. We dressed crazy and wore sequins and wings, henna tattoos and fairy makeup and glittered ourselves, our sleeping bags, our clothes, our food, and our tent. We gave away a few books as well as the booklets and bookmarks. Later that night I had a moment to shine. There was a band I couldn’t wait to see, Omnia, with a waifish singer/drummer/harpist, Jennifer Evans van der Harten, who I felt must read my book. I just had to get it to her. I stood by the stage during the band’s sound check and then my opportunity came: A photographer/security guy walked by looking flustered because he had nothing to do. I called him over. “Can you give this book to Jenny?” I asked. He nodded and took it and tried to hand it to her right in the middle of her sound check, but she asked him to put it with her belongings offstage, which he did. She came to America from Europe, which meant she had a long plane ride home. Now she had something to read. Check!
The band Omnia that night was beyond awesome, and afterward we had a fun time experiencing the “jellyfish”…an umbrella set up with fiber optic strands that someone twirls above you while you lie on the ground looking up into the middle of it. Cheap thrills for sure, but way better than some of those aforementioned carnival attractions. We also checked out the “cuddle puddle” in the pyramid tent, where colored lights filled the dome and people lay side-by-side beneath it. Our experience was at its height and we were one with the fae. But we still had yet another cold night in a dirty little tent to face. Bravely we went to bed late, listening to sounds of the happy, cavorting fae all around us as we drifted off to sleep.
Day Three came on strong and the distance between our tent and a cup of coffee was hitting hard. It was also Day Three of no showers, Porta-Potties, and yes, fairies. But not real fairies, human fairies. Human fairies who caper loudly in the night and run amok and…did I mention the Porta-Potties and no showers? Luckily there was a nearby lake and no amount of shyness with any of the fae about skinny dipping. But still. Somewhere in between the Grateful Dead days and FaerieWorlds I had become a swanky-resort-sit-by-the-pool-where’s-the-waiter? kind of girl. Not really sure WHEN that happened, but I admit, it did. (Before you assume I’m a wimp, you should know I once lived for two years without running water and electricity, and I lived seven years in the country and had to start my own fires in the morning. I am proud of how I reacclimated just fine into civilization after mastering that rough and tumble lifestyle).
By Day Three we had mellowed our look by degrees and dressed in casual-Sunday-hippie-fairy mode; loose skirts, a little makeup, some flowers in our hair, no wings. We met a few people, handed out the rest of the booklets and free books, and began packing up for our exit the next day. We took the dog on a hike and enjoyed the Oregon trees and clean air. We shopped a little and listened to music, and then, it happened. My daughter bumped into someone she had met at the Omnia concert the night before and they chatted. It came up that we were there to hand out free sample chapter booklets. “What’s the name of the book?” the girl asked. “The Fairies of Feyllan,” my daughter replied. “Oh!” said the girl. “I’ve heard people talking about that book.”
And that was it. All she wrote. All we got. The ONLY indication after driving nearly 900 miles, staying in the ratchety tent, using Porta-Potties, no showers, the hard cold ground, and yes, enjoying the music and beautiful fairy folk who undoubtedly had their own stories to tell of the kinship and connection that everyone felt…that one off-handed remark was our reward: “I’ve heard people talking about that book.” Will it translate to sales when the fairy folk return to the human realm, unpack their bags, and find in their suitcases a tiny little sample chapter sprinkled with pictures of fairies like pixie dust? Time will tell. And as we all know, time works differently in the fairy realm. We will have to wait and see. For now, it is the lesson of gratitude for the adventure of a lifetime that will be the bigger reward.