The new book is up (and paperback versions are coming soon)… but it wasn’t easy

If you’ve ever thought, “Hmmmm, I betcha self-publishing has a lot in common with that old movie A Christmas Story,” you’d be right.

Well, for me, it does.

You see, when it comes to self-publishing, I’m a one-woman show. I write, edit, format, do my own covers and run my own website. And while I love every aspect of it, when things go wrong (and they so often do), I have no one to blame but myself.

Such was the case with this new book, which was an experience I’m affectionately calling Scut Farkus. If you’ve ever seen A Christmas Story, you probably remember Scut Farkus. He’s that bully kid who taunts Ralphie until Ralphie goes crazy, and in a fit of rage, attacks him, swatting wildy and pretty much saying every word in the book.

scut Farkus

Exactly how the print-formatting software taunted me the whole time

Me = Ralphie; Self-publishing = Scut Farkus

Don’t get me wrong, my new book wasn’t Scut Farkus. It was nowhere near Scut Farkus. I absolutely 100-percent loved writing the book. It was a lot of fun. The problems happened when I decided I’d try my hand at turning it into a paperback, which I knew would mean new software, new techniques, huge learning curves…

If you could’ve been a fly on my wall… this is pretty much how it went down. (Warning, this scene is probably why the movie is rated PG.)

BUT, I did it. I’ll have a paperback up soon on Createspace for my latest book From the Bottom of the CauldronAnd the ebook version is up for all formats and vendors. (I should add, it’s currently on sale for $.99 until the 11th.) Paperbacks for my other books are coming too, as soon as I get up the nerve to face that Farkus kid again.

 

My new book and why I’m rethinking the cover…

Smallcover_From the Bottom of the cauldronI haven’t even pushed the “publish” button on Amazon for this book yet, and I’m already rethinking the cover. Here’s why.

The book is called From the Bottom of the Cauldron, and it’s basically a series of 10 interrelated kind of crazy stories about a witch-training school and the kids and teachers in it. For example, there’s a story about a kid who has to take a mop to Flying Broom Class because his mom refuses to pay extra for a broom when stores are only jacking up prices around Halloween.

“Probably no one will notice,” she says…

Those are the kinds of stories you can expect in the book. Kooky, quirky — and just fun. BUT… I’m pretty sure my cover says “spooky,” and these aren’t scary stories at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good scary story, and someday I’m going to write a book of them (once I conquer my fear of the dark), but this isn’t it.

I don’t want to disappoint kids who are expecting to be scared out of their wits. I also don’t want to turn away kids and parents who are looking for a fun book and think this is a scary one. But I really like my cover. Aaaaugh! Im so confused…

Anyway, if you’d like to read a story from the new book, I’ll be posting a different one every week during the month of October under my new *free story* tab. Or, you know, you can just buy the whole thing.

It’s crazy how much I learned researching the second Time Machine Girls book

What I love the best about writing The Time Machine Girls series is the history. Because history is such a huge subject, teachers can’t really go into detail about an event or a person when they teach it in class. So growing up, I only learned a couple things about Thomas Edison. I knew he was that old guy in a black-and-white photo who was famous for inventing the light bulb and the phonograph.

"Thomas Edison2" by Louis Bachrach, Bachrach Studios, restored by Michel Vuijlsteke - This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division

Done. End of story, move onto the next black-and-white photo and the next piece of history. But each person and each event has a story, and in Edison’s case, it was a much more interesting story than anything I ever learned sitting in my child-sized desk chair with my number-two pencil. There was a lot of “big business” that went behind that small invention known as the light bulb — there was also a bit of controversy too.

You see, the light bulb itself had already been invented. And many people do not consider Edison the inventor of the light bulb. However, the light bulb that was out wasn’t practical for home use. It was dangerous, way too bright for inside, burnt out quickly — and remember, we didn’t even have electricity flowing to our homes yet. This was all new stuff, and all part of the development. Because Edison was a famous American inventor who had successes in the field of electricity by improving the telegraph and inventing such things as the phonograph and the electric pen and press, investors loaned him a huge amount of money to create a practical light bulb. This wasn’t just out of the goodness of their hearts. They wanted to make money off the design and off the new industry of charging people for electricity flowing to their homes. To give you an idea of how big this was, one of the investors Edison was backed by was JP Morgan.

So Edison used the money to build Menlo Park, the first research and development laboratory. He hired assistants, mathematicians, physicists, a glass blower, a machinist… In other words, he wasn’t some old guy sitting around in his basement tinkering with a glass bulb and a filament until — Ta Da! — a light bulb went off in his head, and he designed the light bulb. Nope, he had help. He was consulting and testing, using systematic approaches and scientific methods and journals. He also wasn’t old. Edison was 32 when he perfected his light bulb design.

I was amazed by this guy, and I hope you will be too. I tried to be as accurate as I could. For book two Follow Failure, I used a book written by one of Edison’s assistants, Francis Jehl, called Menlo Park Reminiscences, which was an early account of the days he worked with Edison.

I was also amazed by how witty and charming Edison was — and by his perseverance! He had hundreds of failed attempts at the light bulb design, but he never gave up. That’s why I titled The Time Machine Girls book Follow Failure because I believe too many of us are perfectionists who give up in life after failures happen. Failure isn’t a bad thing. It should be expected and accepted as a very valuable learning tool in life. A much better one than success, as Bill Gates once said: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

Anyway, I could go on and on and on about all the amazing things I learned while researching this book. It was one of my favorites. I hope you like it too.

Photo Credit: “Thomas Edison2” by Louis Bachrach, Bachrach Studios, restored by Michel Vuijlsteke – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division

What my 6-year-old’s art taught me about life

My youngest daughter is busy writing and illustrating a book about her life, which at age six, is just as cute as it sounds. But the image she chose for the cover is what caught my attention the most.

Of all the pictures she could have chosen, she drew our front yard, imperfections and all. She drew the weeds that have overtaken our lawn. She made our walkway the focus of her cover picture, particularly the part of the sidewalk that, because of a repair a long time ago, looks completely different than the rest of the walk.

I’m not saying I think my daughter was being deep and philosophical when she chose this image to represent her life’s story, but it was perfect, nonetheless… because it was imperfect.

Most of us feel like that piece of sidewalk in life, like we’re somehow different, weird, like we don’t belong. I mean, anyone who looks at the walkway leading up to our house will be able to pick that piece out, no problem. It’s strange. The color is different; the shape is different, but it’s no less important than the rest of that sidewalk. Without that piece, the walkway wouldn’t work. We’re all supposed to be like that piece in life. We’re all different, for a reason, and equally important to the big picture.

I guess what I’m trying to say is – be weird. And make your weird the cover of your life’s story instead of hiding it somewhere in the back of the book. Be proud to be different. Weird is what makes us beautiful.

Cover_story_smallyardAnyway, here’s the cover of my daughter’s book that reminded me just how important being weird is (and just how desperately we need to mow our weeds. Come on, kid, did you have to be that accurate?).

 

 

Failure

I’m busy working on the next book in the Time Machine Girls series called Failures, and I’m finding that it’s hitting pretty close to home for me. In the book, the girls travel through time to visit Thomas Edison, on the day when he finally succeeded in making a light bulb that lasted for 40 hours. Prior to that, he had nothing but failure after failure after failure after failure…

When one of his colleagues expressed sympathy to Edison for not seeing results in his many failed experiments, he’s quoted as saying, “Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work.”

It’s so easy to get down about failures in life — and when I think about how many failures I’ve had just putting this website up or writing my books… well, yeah, I get it. I think girls (and even women like me) are especially hard on ourselves as far as perfectionism and failures go. But lately, and probably because of this book, I’ve been trying to think of failures in a different light. I’ve been trying to just brush them off as knowledge, as in “Oh good. I know that doesn’t work. Let’s try something else.”

As it turns out, I don’t need to take them personally, suck them into my being, or use them as an ugly stick that I beat myself over the head with time and time again… Go figure. When you think of them as a learning tool, they’re actually not that bad.

So I guess, if even one person gets that message from this book, then it’s completely worth it. Don’t spend your life regretting failure. Failure is supposed to happen — how can you know what will work if you don’t also know what won’t?

 

My new book Time Machine Girls is out!!

My book has been out for a couple weeks now, and I’m really surprised by how many people have actually bought/borrowed it. I didn’t do any advertising yet, so I’m shocked (and humbled) that even one person found it!

Anyway, I wrote this story because I have three girls (and I also have two sisters), so I wanted to write about a realistic relationship that sisters have. We bicker a lot, but we always have each other’s backs. I also wanted a book that introduced girls to the genre of “science fiction.” I know, Time Machine Girls is more historical fiction than science fiction, but I hope it will get girls to be open to reading more books in both genres — they’re two of my favorites.

In the series, the main characters, Hazel and Bess, go through some of the typical struggles that I know girls in particular tend to have — like perfectionism, forgiveness, jealousy — while they uncover family secrets, travel through time to meet different historical figures, and grow because of it all (or in spite of it all).

Anyway, if you’d like to know more about the first book in the series, go here. You can read the description on Amazon, look inside the book, and purchase a copy if you’d like to.

I hope you like it!

Busy adding stuff to my book

I’m just going to admit it — I’m messing up all over the place. As a new author, I had no idea all the things I needed to do. My book Time Machine Girls was up and running, and I didn’t even have any front or back matter in there. What’s the matter with me?!

If you don’t know what front and back matter is — it’s the stuff before and after a story like “here’s a link to my author bio on Amazon” or “here are more stories from me” or “here’s a fancy picture.” I didn’t even have an author bio on Amazon — that’s how utterly clueless I was. I just ended the book with “The End.” Thinking back on it, I may not have even included the words “the end.”

At any rate, I’ve been busy updating the book to include back and front matter. I did a lot of research on George Washington for the first book in the series where the girls travel back in time to when George was just six years old and (allegedly) chopping down the cherry tree. So I included that research in the back of the book, along with links to a few of the historical websites I used for reference and an author bio.

I’m learning what matters…

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