Vanity Schmanity: Self-Publishing Shame


“Writing is an act of ego. You might as well admit it.” William Knowlton Zinsser


An act of ego. Yes. Let’s get that right out there at the starting line. Writing, or for that matter, any art that is practiced must always begin in the depths of that small furnace of creativity that fuels the action of creating. It’s the same furnace where ego either burns you down to a liquid pile of defeat or forges you into a powerful blade that can vanquish doubt. Knowing this and choosing to wield your pen anyway, you will now face the next challenge; Self-Publishing versus Traditional Publishing. Or as some literary elitists prefer to see it; *Vanity Publishing* versus *Real Publishing*.

If you didn’t already think of yourself as a clever writer, you would only be writing in a private diary, locked with a key and tucked in a safe place where your sister won’t find it. The minute you hand your words to one other human being for their feedback you have taken the first step towards a life of more writing. That initial hit of praise can soar through your system like an opiate, making you crave another hit and soon.

So the big question I am wrestling is this: what is the definition of Vanity Publishing and is it still relevant in a world of eBook vs. paper book sales? I have a favorite author who also blogs and works the heck out of her writer platform. I get to peek into her day to day world like a viewer watching The Truman Show. Typically, I read her posts and find I’m nodding in agreement or laughing- as her posts are hilarious. The other day she wrote a piece on vanity publishing that pointed to a Florida bookstore that only sells self-published books by local artists. She referred to the store as a Vanity Bookstore. I’ve got to say, it rocked me back when I read those damning words.

Is that a fair statement? Vanity Bookstore? Or *Vanity Publishing* for that matter? Oh, don’t get me wrong. I know there is dreadful, self-aggrandizing drivel out there. Some of it, so bad that given a format it is deserving of, would rest at the bottom of Polly’s cage with cracked sunflower seeds obscuring the guano smeared letters. But, there is also a rising tide in the world of self-publishing and on its crest rides word gems and stellar stories. Those are told by amazing writers who want to put their work out there but shy away from the slave auction setting that has become Traditional Publishing.

Let’s get real. The big publishing houses will only select a tiny handful of authors to join their stable and of those, you can count on one hand which ones get the lion’s share of promo-money to get their books to reader’s around the globe. It’s a lotto win, not a guarantee of success when you are picked up by a publishing house. And even if you do win that lotto, you have a matter of weeks- less than six according to a New York literary agent-friend, and if your book doesn’t break the sound barrier within the pre-determined time frame then it will be put out to pasture like a lame horse. When that happens, your only chance of making money from your title is when stragglers trip over it at a bookstore, if they keep it on their shelves, or an eBook purchase when it’s offered at 99 cents. Or, you could wait until your contract with the publisher is over and then take back your work and go the self-publishing route, earning more than 80% of the cover price yourself.

What keeps rising in my mind in the great Indie versus Vanity Publishing discussion is that writing seems to be the only art form where people feel perfectly comfortable slapping a negative, mocking label onto your work because of the way it is served up to the public. Who are these *mean girl* people who revel in throwing down the V word like an insult meant to diminish the writer and their work?

Imagine this. You’re hanging out in Nashville on a Tuesday night. Looking for some food, cold beer and music you wander into the Bluebird Café over on Hillsboro Pike. A woman steps to the stage; slings her six string over her shoulder and cozy’s up to the mic. Over the next three and a half minutes you are transported to another plane of existence by her lyrics, her voice and the skill of her hands on the strings. Would it have ever occurred to you to say; even think, she’s a *Vanity Performer*. She isn’t signed to a record label. Hell, she even wrote her own song! Who is this chick and why is she taking up space on a stage meant for “professional” artists?

Hey! You with the shredded toe shoes! Yeah, I’m talking to you, skinny. Get off that stage and take your chine’s and demi-pointes with you, you poser. You aren’t signed with a ballet company so you’re a *Vanity Dancer*!

And you, with the paint brush and the forty-seven hour madness in your eyes! Take that canvas and go back to your garage where you belong! You don’t have an agent or a gallery representing your work so what are you doing at this fine art show anyway, you…you… *Vanity Painter*!

You catch my drift. Writing is the only art form that appears to be vulnerable to shaming through labels. Perhaps because the majority of the shamers have a degree in English that is currently in use lining Polly’s cage while they are paying their bills by hostessing at Applebee’s.

I’m asking the world in general to allow the Darwin theory to weed out the wheat from the chaff; survival of the fittest. Any individual with the ego, the courage, the talent and the tenacity to go through the process of self -publishing should have their day (or years or five minutes if it’s awful) in the published author’s glorious rays of sun. Once they upload their title into the Thunderdome that is Amazon Books, reviewers, trolls and meanies will either swoop in for the kill and pick their bones clean until they remove their title through sheer humiliation; or they will be raised up on shoulders with high praise; into the rarefied air of the best seller names where they can do lunch with Amanda Hocking in her Learjet as they wing their way to her private island in the Azores.

The waters of self-publishing are just as infested with sharks as traditional publishing seems to be. You could lose a limb either way if you don’t seek assistance in reading contracts and steer clear of companies that require exorbitant amounts of money from you along with your manuscript. There are also Fairy Godmother/father editors, graphic designers, formatting options, even promotional companies that can get your title out there for a reasonable fee. Many are not only legitimate businesses, but they can end up being life-long partners for you in your writing career.

Frankly, I can’t afford to be traditionally published at this point in my life, and so my titles will be self- published eBooks, and print-on-demand for those who prefer to read my words on paper. Call it whatever you want. The natural order of things will either crown me or kill me. Maybe I’ll be bleeding on the Thunderdome floor or maybe Amanda Hocking and I will be clinking champagne glasses at 30,000 feet. The point is, if my writing is fit to survive, it will. And if it’s not, well, you’ll never know unless I tell you that once upon a time I wrote a book.

I’m A Little Busy


What do you do when you’re about to begin a huge kitchen renovation project?

You also start writing a new book. Of course you do.

For the past several years I have been watching from the bleachers as writers got down there on the floor and dug in for the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge: 50,000 words in 30 days. Start day- November 1. End day- November 30. That’s not really a novel at 50G’s. More like a novella. But there’s no rule that you can’t write over 50,000. So I am. Writing over the amount that is.

It’s day thirteen of NaNoWriMo 2014, and I am currently 24,005 words into a brand new, adult paranormal romance novel. It’s happening, Writing in the early morning hours and late afternoons. Touching the Bones, is coming into focus and I am really having fun writing these characters.

It’s happening, in spite of my Olympic levels of distraction; ordering materials, fixtures, furniture and all it takes to transform a 1933 kitchen into something less; Katherine Hepburn stars in Little Women and more, well, me. Right now.

There have been three families before us living in this old house, and we’ve been here twenty two years. We’ve lived with the original pale yellow and black accent tile that looks like a diner Billie Holiday might have frequented for three in the morning breakfast’s with the band members.

A few years ago, an elderly woman and her friend were walking past the house while I was outside. She stopped to tell me that she had lived in our house when she was a child. I invited her in and found myself watching her face as she moved, room to room, lost in memories held in these walls for eighty years. She noted the tile in the kitchen being the same and most of the other features typical in an old Midwestern house; laundry shoots from the second floor, milk door that opens to outside to the drive way, small alcove in the front hall for the telephone-back when folks had only one.

As she stood in the doorway of the master bedroom, her hand flew to her heart and she whispered, “This was my parent’s room.”  My full laundry basket on the floor suddenly seemed to defile the now, sacred space. As she left, she touched the Brass door knocker on the front door. I had painted the old door gold on both sides; for golden opportunities every where you look.She asked if I knew about the knocker. I didn’t. She said that back in the day, door knockers let people know if there was a specific crafts person or professional person living there-like a business shingle. This knocker meant a doctor lived here; her father. I had no idea and I’ve seen that thing every day for two decades.

doctor door knocker

It makes me feel a little bad as we take crowbars and hammers to the pale yellow and black tile that’s stood guard all this time in that old kitchen. But not bad enough to stop whacking it into dust and getting excited about the brand new space that I will [finally} have where I can create my food wonders.

So, as I am writing, writing, writing… I  am also jumping at the loud sound of the doctor door knocker. UPS, delivering my new bronze pendant light.

My cat is hiding a lot. My dog is getting her cardio work in running to the door to greet/interrogate delivery and construction people; and I am falling into a schedule of trying to write before it all begins and after it ends…so… I’m a little busy. It’s a really good busy though.

And like all things that need to be born into the world or transformed, there is disruption. There is chaos. There is pain (hammer…thumb). There is exhaustion. There are tears. And then…there is something worth every minute and every stupid crappy thing it took to get there.

I’m smiling through the plaster dust and typing like a mad woman with band aides on my fingers.

Happy Fall.

Happy everything new.

On wings of words I fly into your heart…

on wings of words I fly into your heart

P.S.: If you want to see a snip of the new novel, go to the home page and on the top you’ll see the appetizer menu- a taste of Touching the Bones. You can read chapter one there.

or click here………


Poetry Day: Waiting for Judgement- Submission


There is this terrifying place:
between the creation of a thing
it’s inevitable arrival
in the real world.

Falling from the sky
stomach in mouth
trying to track your twisting mind towards a water landing,
hoping no sharks wait to greet your soft offering.
Nothing to be done now;
it is out
and delivered
on a silver platter
offered to
knee bent
head bowed

stomach in mouth
hurtling down
the timeless distance

Toast, Fried, ZiZZZZZZ.


I’ve typed the words, THE END, onto the last page of The Grove. Well, the end of Book One of The Awakened Trilogy, that is. See? There it is. Just above this blog post. It’s REAL. That, is nearly five years of thinking about it, researching it, toying with the concept and then six months of writing, almost every day. It’s a good feeling to type, the end. I’ve hard edited several times and handed it off to beta readers who I’ve asked to read and rip before I start the extra, super fun process of peddling my soul to the highest bidder.

My brain is now fried, toasted and making that zizzing noise it makes when you are done with one thing and trying to clear the debris of creation to get ready for the next big thing.

For creative sorts, like myself, here is where fantasy slams head-on into reality. This isn’t the Renaissance and families like the Medici’s don’t go around adopting wayward artists anymore; letting them create in a studio they’ve provided just because they love art in all its forms. Now, that would be the ticket, would it not? To have someone love what you do so much, that they sponsor you and take on the pimp role of selling your symbolic flesh and blood to interested parties while you get to stay in your studio and crank stuff out. Imagine that!

There are rooms in houses, basements, garages and attics filled with glorious art, photography, writing, sculpture, pottery and other feats of wonder that no one will ever see because the people who create these things are not marketing/sales/agents/promoters/pushers or pimps. They are creative souls.

We fantasize about waking in a place where all the tools we need are within reach and the day and night stretch out before us, eager to be filled with whatever we haul up from the nothing, to play with and shape and make into our art. Our dream is that one day, there will be a knock on our door. We’ll answer it with paint in our hair or a crazed seventeen hour writing buzz blazing in our eyes and there will be an angel knocking, wanting to bring our things out for the world to see. They’ll tell us they could feel the wave of creation pouring from this place and they just had to come and see what was here.

We do not want to write query letters and spend the last of our money printing and mailing and waiting for some kid, two years out of college, to reject our work because they, personally, don’t like Sci Fi-anything. We don’t want to have to sit down, after writing 105,317 words (The Grove word-count), and force ourselves to write some clever tag line or Book Blurb that becomes the only thing that grabs or bores a potential “customer” into buying or not buying our books.

Self promotion is a lot like doing your own dental work. Sure, I could get a mirror and some drills and shit, but I will probably just make a big, bloody mess because I can’t see what’s inside my own head like an outside observer can.

Hire someone, you say! Just for shits and grins, take a little saunter through the websites that list literary agents and see if you can find someone that WILL read a Sci-Fi Fantasy Adventure manuscript. One that has adult language, some sex, some violence and humor and its all wrapped around humans who are changed in order to save the planet from other humans who are wrecking it. Go ahead. I double dog dare you.

For every legitimate literary agent, editor and publishing company out there, there are two who have hung a shingle and know as much about book pimping as I do, and probably have the same amount of influence approaching the big dogs with my manuscript.

“You could have just written a Young Adult Romance novel because those sell like hot cakes and it doesn’t require the research or rewrites you did on your last one”, you might say.

Well, I did not. I did not because that is not what was pushing its way out of my head. This book, The Grove, is what was asking to be born, this time. I wrote it because I could not not write it. I have four other projects right behind this one, plus two more books to write in The Awakened Trilogy. Put on the coffee…

So here I am, big ole manuscript in hand, checking the M’s in the phone book for “Medici”, to see if they have any American cousins who might want to adopt me, so I can be their in-house source of wonder.

In the end, I’ll write the fricking blurb and the damn query letters. I’ll do all the things I will have to do to launch this project out into the world. If for no other reason than the fact that it would be epically pathetic to actually be living in Paris Hilton’s pool house.