Here you can follow the blow-by-blow account of my attempt to transform myself into a (regularly) published author.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- Chapters 5, 6

cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp cover design by Farah Evers
I've spent time writing over the weekend and today and have two more chapters done of Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp.

Even though it's a bit unorthodox to have the cover design done so early, I love having it to show with every update about the writing. It actually inspires me to write, having Paddy looking at me so plaintively! I'm hoping it makes you curious too.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 6:

    The cafĂ© had been modernized fairly recently. Probably its location on the edge of a larger town helped build the customer base and bring in enough income to cover occasional renovations. There was an entryway with heavy glass doors, and a bulletin board choked with business cards on the wall. Two posters with cars for sale, and another asking for help to locate a lost dog were also taped to the wall. I wondered if someone had taped up pictures of Angelica eight years ago.
For some strange reason I struggled a lot with chapter 5. It's short and straightforward, but it took me a whole afternoon to write. Chapter 6 just sort of rolled along. Writing is like that!

You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, or Amazon

Hey- at least click the Google+ button if you like this!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Publicity is Always Good!

author Joan H. Young
Joan H. Young with a print mock-up of News from Dead Mule Swamp (photo by Rob Alway)

This week, I was interviewed by Rob Alway, editor of the newly created (some might say resurrected from a long defunct print paper) Mason County Press. Rob hopes to bring an online news magazine of mostly human interest stories to life for Mason County, Michigan.

Rob thought that my publication of News from Dead Mule Swamp was newsworthy, and I'm not about to argue with that!

He did a good interview, which you can read at Joan Young Begins a New Adventure- Writes First Mystery Novel

Next week I begin writing a regular column for Mason County Press, too!

You can buy News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, Amazon

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp

I wasn't sure that I could get the cover for Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp created as cleanly as the one for News from Dead Mule Swamp, all by myself. I decided to give Farah Evers' design services a try, as she has designed some great covers for other members of Accentuate Writers.

I told her what I had in mind, and she immediately "got it." We did about four rounds of editing until we were both happy with the design. Here it is!

I highly recommend Farah if you need a book cover that is professional and reasonable. Whether you have a concept in mind, or even need someone to help you start from scratch on a graphic representation of your book, she can do the job!

Visit Farah Evers' web site. This link takes you to her graphics services page.

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Regular Writing Opportunity

Today, I met with Rob Alway, who has (very) recently launched a local on-line news magazine called Mason County Press.

He's looking for quite a few regular columnists who can fill any number of niches, and I'll be writing about quiet outdoor recreation in West Michigan. No surprise there, right?

We're still working on the exact name of the column, but it will probably run on Thursdays.

Rob hopes to attract readers who are looking for human interest stories in and around Mason County, Michigan. He's not trying to compete with the Ludington Daily News as a purveyor of hard news. There used to be a print newspaper called the Mason County Press. It covered more of the small towns in the county than the News could, or still can. Rob hopes to bring back some of that small-town flavor.

He also plans to make good use of the kinds of advantages there can be by designing for the web right from the beginning. Rob says "We are a county of communities, each separately unique and each linked by together by an incredible spirit of kindness and pride." Check it out!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Submission to Glimmer Train

Glimmer Train logo Well, I worked up some courage and submitted a short story to Glimmer Train.

"One of the most respected short-story journals in print, Glimmer Train Stories is represented in recent editions of the Pushcart Prize, New Stories from the Midwest, O.Henry, New Stories from the South, Best of the West, and Best American Short Stories anthologies."

There are contests every month. For a $15 entry fee you are buying a shot at a $1500 first prize. Some months you can also do standard submissions, which are free, but you would only get $700 if your story is accepted. Even my ego isn't large enough to think I'd win first place, so I saved the $15 and did a standard submission.

I entered the story that didn't place in the contest I sent it to last fall. This is not a blind submission, so I can say that the title is "The Room with No Name."

I can also say that the story is much better than it was in October. It's amazing what a few months away from a piece can do for it. I had thought it was great! Today, I realized that it had way too many adverbs, several trite expressions, and too many long sentences. It could probably be improved even more. But I feel as if I've done as much as I can with it for now, and I've sent it out once again, to try to make its way in the world.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some Painful Editing

After getting feedback from my writing support group, I realized that I needed to make a major change in the beginning of Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp.

I had thought that Ana could become involved in the lives of the Corliss Leonard family through becoming a tutor with the adult literacy program. But then I learned that someone with this program would never be sent to a student's house. So I had to backtrack and change all of that. It's going to be fine.

The church can still sponsor the literacy program, and Corliss can still have signed up. I changed it so that Ana has volunteered to find out what else the family might need. This actually gives her more latitude to visit their house, and Corliss would still want to talk to her about the whole situation.

The painful part comes in because I have now spent a lot of time just reworking four chapters that were already pretty well done. O well, they needed some other work too. There was too much exposition, and not enough interaction between characters. It's tricky to introduce a serial character in subsequent books without boring familiar readers to death, and yet getting in enough detail to fill in new readers.

The comments from the West Side Gang have been very helpful!

You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, Amazon, or iWriteReadRate.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Writers Weekly Short Story Entry

We received our length and topic paragraph at noon Central Time today. Length is not to exceed 850 words. Entries are due by noon Sunday. The theme is publicly posted, so I can share it.

"Blue ice stretched to the horizon, fading into the blinding rays of another waning winter sun. She shivered violently as the shifting mass groaned under her feet. She instinctively glanced down, looking for cracks under the transparent sheen. Suddenly, she tensed and dropped to her knees. Desperately clawing at the ice, she screamed... "

The deal is... we don't have to use this exactly. We don't even have to use it very specifically. But, the essence of the scene must be in the story so that the judges can be certain the story was written for this contest.

Writers Weekly likes unpredictable tales with surprise endings. They have a whole page full of trite plots that they see over and over again. Writers are urged to skip these, as stories using them will go nowhere.

I spent about an hour contemplating a plot. One thought jumped out at me, but I had to figure a way to turn it into a story. Once I had the scenario, the first draft was easy.

I liked it. Then I read it over a few more times and decided that I didn't like it. Then I decided it was trite, after all. I mean... all stories can be reduced to one of a handful of plots. Fussed about that for a few hours. Finally changed one line, and now I'm feeling better again.

Time to sleep on it. Hopefully, I'll still be satisfied in the morning and will submit it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Accepted to Lightning Source

I've decided to go with Lightning Source to print paperback copies of News from Dead Mule Swamp. This is a print-on-demand service.

They give the publisher (which is me, under the name Books Leaving Footprints), full control over the text, cover, etc. They are strictly a printing service. That means it's also my responsibility to get it right.

After filling out a couple of application forms this week, I was informed today that I have been accepted.

It will still be a while before the books will be available. I'm waiting for the Library of Congress number, and then I have to format the pdf file, and create the full cover. The front is done, of course, but the back and spine will need at least basic design.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Failure to Seize an Opportunity

I just spent a weekend with a decent-size group of friends, from a wide variety of locations (most in Michigan). Way too late, I realized that I should have printed up some cards with basic info about my recent publications to take and hand out.

I am weak at marketing, and don't like to be pushy, but this was a complete failure.

If I had handed out some cards, it would have given people an opportunity to see what I am doing, and the chance to order book(s) if they want. I could have done all that without being obnoxious at all.

Lesson learned- I'm going to design some cards, and try to develop the backbone to hand them out.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Toby & Harry at Twin Trinity for Only 79 cents

My short story, "Toby and Harry," can now be purchased for only 79¢ at Twin Trinity Books.

This story is out of the norm for me, but it's the first one that was accepted by Twin Trinity to become available for purchase. This price is the best you will find, because Twin Trinity can sell for a lower price than is allowed on Smashwords or Amazon.

Why not give it a try? (but please don't avoid forthcoming stories if it's not your cup of tea)

Here's the blurb:
There are things that go bump in the night, and then there are kids who wake up with bumps from the night. Toby, a devious and disturbed little boy, only seems to love his teddy bear, Harry, even though Harry is worse for wear because of it.

Toby is the type of child who is hard for even his mother to love, but does he really deserve what happens to him? Guess you'll have to read to find out!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Value of A Good Writer Support Group

Tonight was our twice-monthly meeting of the "West Side Gang," the local writer support group. I can't say enough good things about this experience.

I'm not a joiner. Generally, I hate organized group activities and don't feel as if I fit in well. Yet, despite a huge diversity in backgrounds, worldviews, and genres, this group really "works."

There are generally about ten of us, and usually most everyone brings something to read. We take turns at this, and then offer suggestions... what we like, what we think could be improved, technical writing tips, etc. Sometimes, the facilitator begins with some tips from an expert on mechanics or style.

Tonight, four people brought poems, two people had essays, and I took the first two chapters of Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp. I'd already trashed most of chapter 1 once, but even so, there were lots of suggestions to make it better. The spirit of "criticism" is always so important, and this group does that well. There is lots of encouragement.

Even I can accept critique if my work is characterized as having value (even if it's entertainment value). And believe me, the suggestions are good ones. I'm well through the period of an author's evolution when she/he thinks that what they wrote captures perfectly their every thought. Knowing how others "hear" what I am thinking is important, and helps me make my ideas more clear.

The group is diverse in experiences, so they often have comments about how to correctly describe things I may not be familiar enough with.

And best of all, they seem to just plain like my story, always seeming eager for the next chapter. They've done this long enough now that they can't possibly be faking the enthusiasm.

If you are a writer with dreams of real publication, I urge you to search out a group that will help you polish your work and provide encouragement.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp - Chapters 3,4

I've made time to write two afternoons this week and have two more chapters of Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp done.

At this point, I'm still getting the characters and situation set up, so the writing is easy.

(By the way, I didn't take the picture; it's from an Irish Setter Rescue. Actually, if anyone lives in Michigan and has a young Irish Setter, I'd be interested in setting up a photo shoot in the spring for a cover image. Leave a comment.)

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 4:

    “We called the Sheriff, it was Stan Portman back then, and he said we couldn’t even file a missing person’s report until she’d been gone twenty-four hours. The next day, she still hadn’t come home. I picked up DuWayne and the kids and we all went to the Sheriff’s Office, but they kept putting us off.
    “We tried to tell him that she wouldn’t leave the girls, but folks from this part of the county don’t get much respect anyway, and Portman wasn’t known for feeling gracious toward people like DuWayne, if you get my drift.
    “I do,” I said. My stomach was tight. Even though Forest County wasn’t very diverse, I hated to hear that outright prejudice still existed.

You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, Amazon, or iWriteReadRate.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Entered the Escape Into Life Literary Contest

Escape Into Life is excited to announce its First Annual Fiction Contest, judged by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler. The contest features $500 in cash prizes and a cornucopia of goodies for its finalists. In short, this is one you’ll want to enter.

In addition to cash, five finalists will receive works by Escape Into Life artists and have their stories nominated for at least one nationally recognized award in 2012 (Best American, O’Henry, Pushcart, StorySouth, or Sundress). All finalists will have their stories published in upcoming issues of Escape Into Life. If that’s not enough, we’re throwing in some super-cool EIL t-shirts and our eternal gratitude. That’s a pretty good deal.

The story that I entered in the Star City Blog Contest doesn't fit well into any of the potential collections I'm working on. That contest didn't award any of the prizes, saying there were too few entries. So... I sent it off on a new journey!

There is a $5 entry fee, and the deadline is tomorrow! (Jan 7, 2012)

If you have a good story all ready to go, you can see more about entering at Escape into Life

I found out about this contest at the Accentuate Writer's Forum. Come join!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Entering Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest

I've decided to enter the 24-hour short story contest sponsored by Writers Weekly.

It could be fun and the prizes are good. The entry fee is only $5.00.

Basically, they publish a theme and a length on a specific date. This year, that is Jan 21, 2012. Then you have 24 hours to write a story and get it back to them on time.

I think they get quite a few entries, so the competition can be stiff. Nevertheless, I've read the top three winners from last year (Writers Weekly Summer 2011 Contest Winners), and I think I can compete.

I especially like the first one. I would have written a different ending for the third one! (There's my ego again.)

At any rate, I'm entered. You can too, at Writers Weekly Winter 2012 Contest

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reviews by Nellie likes News from Dead Mule Swamp

Nellie, of Reviews by Nellie has read and commented on News from Dead Mule Swamp.

She says (in part), "Young has been successful in fulfilling several of the things I look for in a book. The story was entertaining, interesting and made me want to keep reading until I completed the story. When I was finished, I wanted to read more about Anastasia Raven and her swamp."

And that is music to an author's ears... to hear that someone wants to read MORE. I'm working on book two of the series, Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp. Click the link above to see the entire review.

You can purchase News from Dead Mule Swamp for only 99¢ at Smashwords, Amazon, or iWriteReadRate.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ludington Daily News Column- December 2011

This past month, for my Get off the Couch column in the Ludington Daily News, I wrote about "Outdoor Women Who Inspire Me."

I quickly discovered that my list is way longer than the 500-600 words I get to share with readers each time. Here's a sample:

Outdoor Women Who Inspire Me

Of course I had a Dale Evans cowgirl outfit, a red skirt and vest with long white fringe, complete with six-shooters and a holster belt. What self-respecting tomboy in the early 1950s didn’t? When I became the owner of an air rifle in my tenth year (I guess Dad trusted his extensive instructions to guard me against shooting my eye out), Annie Oakley became my new hero.

At about that same age I learned of Sacajawea and Mary Jemison. Many fine hours were spent stalking the banks of our unnamed creek in my hand-laced moccasins from a kit, pretending I was leading explorers up the Missouri.
These columns are not available on-line, unless you subscribe to the Ludington Daily News. One collection of columns is currently available as an e-book, called Get Off the Couch with Joan, at Smashwords. I recently reduced the price to $1.89. It's really difficult to price e-books- they range is all over the map.

I'm formatting a second volume of humorous essays entitled Fall Off the Couch Laughing. It will be available soon.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp- 2 Chapters Done

Thanks to so many of you who have told me you are already awaiting the second book in the Anastasia Raven mystery series. It's begun! The name is Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp, and I've finished two chapters.

The plot is going to be more complex than that of News from Dead Mule Swamp, so there will be more to read. The most serious flaw of the first book is that it's just to short to be a full novel. I don't think I'll have that problem with "Paddy."

Here's the opening:

    “Knick-knack, Paddy- WHACK, give your dog a bone,” I sang, thumping the rubber bone on the rug. The large Irish setter named Patrick, Paddy for short, lunged for his toy, but I pulled it out of his range, and sang the line again, this time thumping the bone on the other side of the overgrown puppy. Paddy wasn’t my dog. He belongs to my cousin Vic, who was on a month-long trip to Egypt, doing research for the University of Chicago. Since I was the one family member with lots of space, and a house that could stand the dirt, I agreed to keep Paddy for all of July, and part of August.
    My name is Anastasia Joy Raven, and I live at the end of East South River Road, at the edge of Dead Mule Swamp. I’ve been here in Forest County since early spring. Most of my time has been spent trying to revitalize an old house that I bought with money from the divorce settlement. My ex, Roger, and his new friend, Brian, now occupy my former home in the Chicago suburbs, so I moved north and moved on. At least, I’m trying to move on. Some parts of that are going well, renovating the house, for instance.
    The house is a basic L-shaped farmstead with a two-story section at right angles to a single-story. I finished the living room project in June, and the result is a large cheerful space. I painted the walls in two shades of blue with white board-and-bead wainscoting and trim. Then I sanded and varnished the wide pine flooring. The result was clean and inviting. So far, the furnishings consist of a few secondhand pieces from the thrift store, set on a cheap area rug, but I have dreams of a country-comfortable look. When July began, I was still hunting for the right fabric to make curtains, but without near neighbors, having the windows covered didn’t matter very much.
    I stood up and tried to convince Paddy that his play time was over. He was just over a year old, full of energy, and large. He shed hair like a yak and shook mud balls from the swamp all over the house, including on my new wainscoting. But I couldn’t resist his cheerful disposition. Paddy-WHACK seemed to be his favorite game, but he’d only been here a few days. I suspected that he’d find pastimes a lot more mischievous before our six weeks together were over.
    That morning I faced the first problem that Paddy brought to my life. I didn’t really know what to do with him when I needed to go out, and I had a commitment today. I had to drive out to Hammer Bridge Town and spend an hour with a man named Corliss Leonard.
You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢ at Smashwords, Amazon, or iWriteReadRate.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Toby & Harry is Ready for Purchase!

My short story, Toby & Harry, is now available for purchase at Smashwords. This story is being managed by Twin Trinity Books where it was accepted for publication, and will soon also show on Amazon and the Twin Trinity site. Through this relationship, Twin Trinity provided editing services, the cover design, the mechanics of posting it, and will continue with publicity.

This story is unlike others I have written; it's definitely on the creepy side.

There are things that go bump in the night, and then there are kids who wake up with bumps from the night. Toby, a devious and disturbed little boy, only seems to love his teddy bear, Harry, even though Harry is worse for wear because of it.

Toby is the type of child who is hard for even his mother to love, but does he really deserve what happens to him? Guess you'll have to read to find out!

Download it now for only 99¢ at Toby & Harry on Smashwords