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Made in Oregon

The Independent Author

Posted on 2012.02.24 at 15:02
Feelin': thoughtfulthoughtful
Hearin': Go - Blink 182
Tags: ,
I recently read the following book by a favorite musician of mine: Drinking WIth Strangers by Butch Walker. I'm not someone with an interest or even an iota of talent in music -- at all. I think I'm tone deaf, I sing off key, etc. My maternal grandmother was a professional singer in the 1930 and 40's, did big bands, vaudeville, had demo records, the whole bit. (She was pushed into performing, though, so the second she married my grandfather she left that business and never ever looked back.) But that gene, that talent, neatly skipped over both my mom and myself.

But I really enjoyed Butch Walker's music, including songs he wrote or produced for others, and he seemed like an interesting and intellectual individual based on his Twitter feed and blog. So I checked the book out from the library and devoured it in a few days. The stories were great, and I could strongly relate to Walker's attitude with the music industry. For I feel that the publishing industry is the same way.

For years, I've felt that self-publishing -- which people also call "vanity publishing" -- has had a shitty rap.

True confession: PIT is self-published (SP). It always has been. I tell people that I write "print on demand" or use a "small independent publisher." These facts are technically true. But because SP has such a bad mainstream rap, I hesitate to use the term and call it like it is. I can almost see the thought process of people.

Before Knowing I'm SP: OMG, you're published! That's so awesome!

After Knowing I'm SP: Oh…you are a talentless hack who can only publish by paying a lot of money.

I'm generalizing, but I know that I had these same thoughts when I'd meet Real Authors…and then my opinion of them and their work would change 100% once I found out that they got their stories out in this way. It made them seem kind of…sad and talentless.

Why did I do it, then? After college, I did the whole "query letter" thing, only to get form letter after form letter. This went on for a year. Networking has never ever been my strong point; in fact, I pretty much suck at it. One day, while at a Barnes & Noble, I saw a flyer about the publisher (iUniverse) and checked it out. I had a little bit of money I could use to invest in publishing. I discussed it with friends and family. I decided to do it because I felt the one thing holding me back wasn't that I was a talentless hack. (I've written stories for fun since I was 9, and pretty much been told since then by scores of people -- including other writers -- that I have what it takes. Either everyone has lied to me or I do have genuine talent.) No, I felt that I would put my money where my mouth is; I thought it was good, I thought it would speak to others and entertain them, so I would invest my own money as a demonstration of my confidence.

To me, SP was no different than an artist funding his own gallery show. No different than a filmmaker charging up credit cards to make her independent movie. No different than a musician paying for studio time to cut his own CD. Those are all incredibly respected ways to spread and share talent and art; why is SP looked down upon?

How is publishing your own book so different from that?

The pros of SP are 100% creative control over your product. For me, a writer who is very hands-on, this was the ideal. I could choose what went in the book and was out. I helped determine the back text, the appearance. I paid -- out of my own pocket -- for the cover art, which I had commissioned by professional artists (who were also old friends…yay for networking!). Few people know that I didn't have to do that with my cover art; the publisher covers that part from artists in their company without my needing to spend a dime. But I didn't want my "vision" and my baby to be anything less than what I wanted. Not if I was investing my own money.

Deadlines, too, are very flexible. (Considering my writer's block as of late, this is a blessing!) I could take as much or as little time to write the stuff. The turnaround from submission to printed product was also rapid; 8 weeks at the outside, as opposed to, oh, a year or two for other books.

The cons of SP? The attitude people have about it. (Although that is shifting…more on that in a bit.) The fact you pay to get your work out there and you often make very little money back on it. The issue of having to do all the promotion yourself. And if you are a shy person who hates networking (like me) then it can be stressful. Sure, the publisher can pull out all the stops…if you pay them. And I frankly cannot afford it.

Although it may surprise some people, even after I SP in 2002 with PIT1, I still tried to pitch the series to conventional publishers (CP). This became even more frequent after early 2004, when I had gained the interest of a film producer who liked the idea and premise and wanted to pitch it as a TV movie/series. After doing my research and making sure the guy was legit, I queried a lot of writing agents about getting representation. I mean, here I was, an unrepresented writer who had Hollywood interest without even trying…and yet I still got form letters or "no thanks" from the ivory tower. It was frustrating. I was in an odd little niche, too, writing young adult (YA). Now, the market is REALLY popular and populated. It makes up a large part of children's publishing. In 2004, not so much.

My friends, my family, and even my fans have never treated me like less of a person or writer for being SP. It's been more in my head my embarrassed and shameful attitude about it.

Like the music industry that Butch Walker wrote about, the publishing industry is now undergoing some serious shifts due to digital media. E-books -- which seemed so strange and weird to me when I first heard about them -- are now catching on in a huge way. (At least half of my friends received Kindles last Christmas.) SP can now be done by anyone who has some savvy Internet experience; many stories are in fact sold just electronically, without a paper printed option. Clearly, this is impacting bookstores and book sellers. (In my hometown of Beaverton, we have only two real bookstore "chains" left that have physical stores, and one of them is a local chain.) I'm sure that it will trickle down or up to the publishing industry as a whole and completely rewrite the rules…just like digital music did for the record industry.

This change has also made me feel better about my own published work. I feel less shameful, more proud and like I got in on the ground floor of something big. One thing that I find comforting is that the publisher I use is still around and seems to be doing quite well for themselves. So obviously I'm not the only person doing this. Most importantly, people enjoy the stories and characters; I've heard from people around the world! That fulfills me more than anything!

I hope that maybe in ten more years, writing and publishing like this can just have more respect in the writing industry. Right now, many writing groups (like the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, which I'm part of) bar SP writers from joining as published authors. I think this is wrong. Why do those distinctions have to be made? Why can't we look at the content and storytelling prowess of writers instead of which shiny New York publisher or agent got them out there?

In the end, I can sleep well at night knowing that the stories I write are put out there as my vision. "I did it my way," as Frank Sinatra once sang. But would I love to have an agent and have my books be conventionally published and thus reach a wider readership? Duh.



Long overdue update!

Posted on 2011.12.20 at 19:34
Feelin': okayokay
Hearin': So very much coffee shop chatter!
Tags: ,
Apologies for quite the gap in posts. Life has been fairly busy over the last several months. A great deal of that blame can be laid down on my taking classes to earn a Library Media Specialist endorsement to my teaching credential. (Essentially being able to be a librarian in a school.) Although it's intended as a part-time program (so that teachers can do it while they are working full time), the last phase of it that I did for 10 weeks was essentially student teaching. From early October to…well, last week, I had little social life and less of a writing life. Life was all about lesson plans and work samples and portfolios and learning new skills.

Happily, I am now done with the program and next month can add a new endorsement to my teaching credential in hopes of getting a job. With the wrapping of a year of school and homework, I should now have more time to write.

PIT6 is moving again, albeit slowly. I'm trying to build the habit of writing 1 hour/day, which is challenging when it slipped by the wayside. Fortunately, for the story, things are no longer as stagnant as they once were. Even so, I keep sensing that PIT6 may be a shorter-than-usual story. Who knows, though? New goal is to have Draft 1 done by the summer. That gives me 6 months.

In related news: web designer Davian Aw decided to give my website a makeover and the results are awesome! All aspects of my website, including the PIT area, has been made over. (The content remains the same.) Check it out here. I hope to add some new content eventually. In the meantime, KristenSheley.com now looks more 21st century.

I hope for a PIT6 release in 2013 at this point. But we'll see what the future brings!




Posted on 2011.08.25 at 17:35
Feelin': busybusy
Hearin': She's Got a Boyfriend Now - Bowling For Soup
Tags: , ,
In spite of the erattic moodiness of my Muse, I am still writing.

But there's just NO WAY PIT6 will be ready to come out by Fall 2012. Unless there's a miraculous occurance. This is for a few reasons.

1) The story is still in a first draft. Still not-quite-sixty pages in. Still not at the climax yet. Etc. I'm going to guess it will be another six month (MINIMUM) to finish Draft 1. Then you add in the time it takes to get the first round of Beta feedback. And then the revisions…. It really is a year-long process.

2) My monies, or lack thereof. At this point, I still pay out of pocket for PIT's publication, including the cost of hiring a freelancing cover artist. It is NOT cheap; I've known for years I'll never go "in the black" with the costs I've fronted (unless the books are picked up by a mainstream publisher or something). I've been okay with this being a rather expensive "hobby." But considering I'm still unemployed after a year -- as a high school teacher in Oregon, I'm one of many -- there's just no way I'd have the funds to front the publication.

But the good news? I'm writing more consistently right now. This week. If I have this year "off" again from working, then I intend to really push myself to get more writing done. But having a new paperback out by Fall 2012? Eh. You may have to wait until 2013.



Inspiration shouldn't provoke persperation....

Posted on 2011.07.13 at 20:25
Feelin': busybusy
Hearin': Moonstruck coffee shop music
Tags: , ,
Yes, I live!

I just wrapped up three intense week of classes in the vein of pursuing my library media specialist endorsement. Literally, I was in classes from 8:15 - 4 P.M. M - F. I had just enough down time to do homework, eat meals, and maybe spend a little time with my family or boyfriend before going to bed to do it all over again. It was pretty gruelling -- six grad credit hours -- but I survived with my grades intact. (I think.)

Progress on PIT6, natch, fell to a trickle. I'm still on the same #$%^& scene I've been writing for the last 2 months. Not a huge exaggeration there. But today I got some stuff done, and in fact I'm at a coffee shop now to get more stuff done. This week's been fairly cluttered with Errands That I Have To Do And Could Not For Three Weeks. (Doc appointments, vet appointments, oil change appointments.) But next week is wiiiide open with free time!

I also rediscovered my brain! Strange but true. A prolonged period of unemployment that I've had -- having last worked in late May 2010 -- has made me feel that my brain is sort of running at half the power as normal. Schooling always helps rev things up, and when that happens my creativity and muse also get revved up. This resulted in not one but three outlines for three very different stories. One is a second-to-last fanfic segment that, eventually, I will sit down and write. (It's all outlined; I just need some time. Probably when PIT6 is being Betaed, which is still months away.) One is a PIT story that will likely be PIT9, the seed of which was planted by my boyfriend during a discussion on a car ride where we were waxing over time travel and the PITtyverse. And the third was a 100% stand alone original story idea. (Not PIT related. Or time travel. GASP!)

So that was nice. Very very nice. I also organized my PIT series arc in terms of the stories. I think I'll ultimately have 16 books. Either 16 or 20. I know my stopping point, have known it for a while.

I also suspect more inspiration to come. My boyfriend and I have fallen in a habit of watching TV series on DVD that the other -- usually me -- has never seen. The first season of Glee. The only seasons of Firefly and Undeclared. The three seasons of Arrested Development. Etc. Next up in the pipeline is The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., a quirky western that aired on Fox in 1992. It was one of my favorite shows back in the day. I suspect the quirky western stuff will toggle my inspiration for PIT6, which takes place in about the same time period.

Inspiration leads to writing. And when I do sit down, I write. So that's good. I'm feeling less disconnected with this part of my life for the first time in months.



Kristen Vs. Writer's Block

Posted on 2011.06.09 at 12:07
Feelin': anxiousanxious
Hearin': Everything - Fefe Dobson
Tags: , ,
Since the age of 13, I've written more or less every day, swept away by my imagination and possessing the ability to tune out the world at large in seconds.

Now, almost 20 years later, I find myself seized and at the mercy of something I've never encountered before: writer's block.

I always thought that writer's block was something that meant you couldn't write. Like, words wouldn't come out. It's not...quite like that for me, at least now. When I sit down and put the laptop before me and try to shut out distractions, I can write. (I wrote a page the other day.) I have a blueprint for my current project (PIT6) and I'm following it.

What is lacking, however, is that fabulous sense I once experienced where reality and fantasy swapped places. Where what was around me was less real than what was in my head. Additionally, I feel flat, uninspired, completely without any ideas. It's also hard to write; I mean, I do practically have to handcuff myself to a chair to do it.

The perpetrator for the deadly Writer's Block...I can't quite put my finger on it. Without delving too deep into my personal life, the last year has been crazy. In the past 12 months I lost my job (and have so far been unable to obtain a new one), moved back to my Oregon hometown and in with my parents, and fell in reciprocated love for the first time, which led to a relationship that is still flourishing. Taken separately, these are fairly earthshaking. Combined, it's a wonder I didn't have a nervous breakdown. (All right, the love part was a good thing!)

My relationship with writing, since I can remember, has always been one of Escape. When I'd be in school or at work, I'd write to get out of the boredom those places induced in me. When I was upset, I would turn to pen and paper to sooth. When I was lonely -- a fact I have been for most of my life -- I would spend time with my transparent non-existent characters over flesh and blood people.

Now, I'm grappling with a situation of not wanting to escape my life. When one has oodles of free time, as I do since I've been unable to land a teaching job and am on unemployment until at least January 2012, it's hard to really "escape." I mean, you're not forced to be somewhere you're not. When I'm happy -- as I have been tremendously being back with my family, old friends, and my boyfriend -- then I also feel less inclined to blur the lines of reality. I'm no longer lonely and flesh people have replaced the friends I once had only in my head.

I feel like I'm having to reestablish a relationship with writing.

I also don't know what I can do to shake this block. Part of me feels that once I'm working again, the ideas will begin to flow once more. I'm very much a person of routine, and when one's routine varies each day, it's hard to get into any kind of consistent pattern with anything. Also, the pressure on my writing (from outsiders, who are like, "Hey, now you can write full time and spend time selling your books!") to be some kind of breadwinner should also cease which, oddly, helps me write.

That all being said, PIT6 will likely not be out until 2013. I hope I can meet that deadline. I just don't know at this point. I'm eager to be rid of this writer's block; believe me when I say that writing has and does help me cope with life, and not being able to do it has made me feel emotionally constipated and anxious. The precious times I can break through and reach that writer's groove work better for me than any tea or medication.

I'll keep you posted on this journey of sorts when I can.


names places events changed

Yes, I'm a slacker...

Posted on 2011.04.14 at 12:42
Feelin': busybusy
Hearin': All the Small Things - Blink 182
Tags: , , ,
In spite of a lack of posting on this blog (and updates on the website...a plan to rectify those soon, incidentally), life has moved on and the moving pen has continued to writ words. Below, some updates:

- PIT6, Ver 1.2 is consistently evolving. I've managed to "revise/tweak" the first three chapters so far and bounced between using the dates of 1879 and 1881 as my time travel dates. (I wound up going back to my original choice of 1881. Yeah, I'm totally decisive!) Relocating the past setting to Bodie, California, has also made things interesting. I've always been interested in that town since I first heard of it, and I visited it in July 2005. (I also learned that wow, altitude sickness is no fun. I was so excited when I got there that I ran across the town to get tickets for a tour. The town is over 8,000 feet in elevation, so I then almost fainted because my body hadn't yet adjusted to the thinner atmosphere.) Even back then, I had an idea at the back of my mind to use it in a future PIT story, so I collected and stockpiled information about it. I'm excited to use it in this story during part of it's heyday, but it's also made me compulsive with my research.

- I am almost done with the classes that have tremendously sidetracked me since early January. I'll get a break of a couple months before some summer ones begin (for only 3 weeks), and I'm eager to make up for lost time in writing the story.

- Tomorrow (Friday 4/15) I'm doing an author talk for a middle school in the Portland-area. I'm actually terrified -- talking about myself, about PIT, about the writing process may be "easy" but I suffer from stage fright. In many ways, talking about this subject matter (which is pretty much about me) is far more difficult than teaching lessons to classes of 40 high schoolers. Really, it is. This is why I haven't done very many things like this and why I rarely seek it out. If people approach me, I always say yes (unless there's some kind of scheduling conflict or whatever), but I'm incredibly, insanely lazy when it comes to promoting myself. This is why I need an agent!

- I do plan to update the website soon (in a few weeks) once things settle down. I also have some other ideas that deal with digital media that may come up soon. Stay tuned....

Think that's about it for now! Hopefully I'll update more frequently than once a month next time!




Posted on 2011.03.15 at 13:24
Feelin': excitedexcited
Hearin': Last Show - Reel Big Fish
Tags: , , ,
It's been hard going in the writing world for me lately. I suppose what's been plaguing me mostly is what is commonly called "writer's block." For me, writer's block isn't an absence of ideas -- especially since I outline stories before I start writing them. No, for me writer's block is essentially an absence of passion, of feeling that oh-so-important sensation in my soul that compels me to write and fills me with the endorphins I get from a writing high.

Unfortunately, because most people (including me!) associate writer's block = no ideas, I tend to not notice when it strikes me. I've figured the last few months my ennui was simply due to the changes in my life. (For example, last fall I began my first relationship, and a part of me always feared that a successful romantic relationship would kill off any writing yen I had. Like being happy and fulfilled with that area of my life would terminate inspiration. In spite of the block occurring, I never really blamed it on that, though. My boyfriend is absolutely supportive of my craft and constantly encouraging me to write on my projects.)

The epiphany, when it came, happened in the last week, more of a trickle of sorts with fairly simplistic routes.

Simply put: I wasn't feeling the story.

When I conceived PIT6's plot back years ago, I had a particular setting in mind for it. (The California gold rush.) I built the whole story around this aspect. Then I realized that historically speaking, it wouldn't work. I required the use of the 1870s - 1880s for my time period; the gold rush in California was around 1850 and over by 1860.

So, I changed things a bit. I focused on cowboys and ranching of that time. Except...I never felt really interested in that, and I just felt bored by it.

Only on Saturday, when I was watching the History Channel talk about state formations in the west did it occur to me -- who said it had to happen in Sacramento during the Gold Rush? There were other states...other areas of CA. This, I realized, was the issue, and now that I realized I had a solution, my inspiration flooded back.

The last couple days I've done a flurry of research and, ironically, will be able to use my original idea and the state of California, along with a specific location in the state that has fascinated me and I've been able to visit. And I can use the late 1870's. Ideas are flooding me, making me excited, making me feel stupid for not seeing connections earlier.

What I need to do now is strengthen my outline and then go over the 40 pages I've already written -- yes, only 40 since September! -- and adjust things accordingly to go with the new setting and time and place and plot. I'm excited. Rejuved. I think this is just what I needed!

Stay tuned!



March Madness

Posted on 2011.03.01 at 15:07
Feelin': busybusy
Hearin': Panera Bread music
Tags: , ,
Wow, I have been a neglectful writer! I apologize.

January and February hit me with a wallup. Part of this was due to the fact I began my part-time Library Media Specialist Endorsement classes, to add some hireability in different ways to my teaching credential in Oregon. Although it is just two classes which are essentially online, the pace of keeping up with the coursework around things like a social life and volunteering took some getting used to. I've recently fallen into a habit of writing around Monday in the afternoon and, if I am good and efficient, again later in the week when my homework is out of the way. The classes wrap up in April, so I imagine after that I'll have more writing time before picking up a couple summer courses in the program.

PIT6 has developed slowly. It's being a bit of a difficult birth. Part of that is due to inconsistent writing time. (See above.) When you pretty much forget some of the little details that you wrote a month ago, or are constructing a scene in fits and starts, it just...doesn't flow well. This is a first draft, though, and my first drafts are always "all over the map," as I call it. I'm not sure about the likelihood of having a first draft done by August, though. Really, that may not happen this time around.

Beyond that, no real writing developments to share. I'm going to be participating in a writing function in the area in another month, but when that gets closer, details will be shared.


Made in Oregon

New Year update....

Posted on 2011.01.11 at 22:16
Feelin': restlessrestless
Hearin': My Small Breasts & I - BBC
Tags: , , ,
With the beginning of a New Year, I thought for one of my resolutions, I'd try to write a little every day. Such a thing used to come naturally to me. And it does, still...in the form of blogging or e-mails. When it comes to writing fiction every day, well...in the era of social networking and free Wi-Fi, it's harder than it used to be for me. Adding to it all is that my "office" at home is in a corner of my parents' living room, where I'm living currently. It offers 0 in the way of privacy and a lack of distraction.

So, anyway, yes. I did see a spike in progress...but then, this week, I began my couple classes on the road to earning a Library & Media Endorsement (which will allow me to expand my teaching skills beyond just secondary language arts with the ability to also be a school librarian, once I've completed the necessary classes and taken a test), so now I have homework and readings to tackle. (The classes are almost entirely online.)

In spite of distractions and suchlike, progress is being made. Just...slowly. Still possible to have the first draft done by the end of the summer (my goal) but only if I get things seriously moving along.

I also do need to promote PIT5 more. Yes.


names places events changed

The next one....

Posted on 2010.12.22 at 20:38
Feelin': creativecreative
Hearin': Some TV show in the other room....
Tags: , , ,
With the holiday insanity upon us, I've been a bad writer in promoting my new book. Seriously. I vow that this will be rectified after the New Year. Yes.

In the meantime, PIT6 is monopolizing more of my attention. People have been curious as to the title, and time period premise. I've known both for quite a while, but it's not my habit to mention other writing projects that far ahead of time. Also, it seems like everyone has their own opinion and no matter what, people will find fault with things like titles or ideas.


PIT6 = Partners in Time #6: It's All Relative. I came up with the title before PIT5 was even done, strangely enough. And I was smart enough to write it down so I wouldn't forget about it!

Time Period = California in 1881. Originally I was trying to hit up the 1860s to deal with the Gold Rush, but...it wasn't quite working for other plot requirements I had. (The CA gold rush peaked in the 1850s.)

And the epigraphs, as they are currently:

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. - Shirley Abbott

Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart. - Washington Irving

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance. - George Bernard Shaw

(I always like to have a few at the beginning, that deal with various plot threads or shades in the book.)

WIth that said, happy holidays!


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