Tag Archives: Mike Simpson

Chadwick

2014_09_24_19_31_28

Chadwick

By Jay Duret

Every so often these pages feature advice and words of encouragement for writers. This is my contribution.

I will change the identifiers so as not to cause embarrassment, but this story is true.

Last year I received a note from a journal about a story I had submitted. The note said:

Jay

Thank you for giving us the chance to read your work.

Unfortunately, we do not feel this piece is a good fit for the Squamish Review. This does not necessarily reflect the quality of your work, but, more so, the large number of submissions we have received.

Thanks again. Good luck with this elsewhere.

Milton Q. Chadwick,
Fiction Editor

I gave the note the same attention I give to all communications from editors who  have considered my writing: I read Milton Chadwick’s email with the greatest care. I weighed every word, every syllable. I read between the lines, over and under the lines. All to see what he was really communicating about my story. Fine, he wasn’t going to use it, but what else? Was Mr. Chadwick saying no go this time but we loved the work, please submit again soon? Was he saying Jay, you are funny as hell but sadly our journal is condemned to publishing prose as dry as burnt toast and so it just isn’t going to happen here, with my blessings submit it elsewhere ASAP and I’ll give you a letter of reference?

Apparently not.

I read the note three or four times to see if I could mine any bit of encouragement. At first I took some heart from the sentence that said the decision did not reflect the quality of my work. But when I gave it a closer read I had to confront the word “necessarily”. The letter said the rejection did not necessarily reflect the work’s quality, which I suppose was Chadwick’s way of saying that some things that he rejects are by good writers, but his note to me, fairly read, contained no suggestion that I was in fact one of them. Indeed, the more I parsed the wording, the more it seemed like I had a received a flat out form rejection letter, the one sent to rejectees who were of no interest to stone-hearted, small-minded, Chadwick. Ugh.

I hate a rejection letter that ugly, but I didn’t let it get me down. I have had worse rejections. And even if the piece I submitted was vibrant and strong, I understood that it is hard to get a spot in a journal of quality. There are themes and page constraints and inherent biases all to contend with. I wasn’t going to get angry over the rejection.

What a lie! Of course I was going to get angry! What else would I do? Obviously I had been the victim of Chadwick! A nasty, nasty editor, probably sleeping with the writer whose work he choose over mine!! Damn him! Damn them both!! I would never stoop so low. Those wretched wretches. Damn them.

My anger did not last long though. After all, there were so many other things to get angry at, so many more editors to curse. But when another email arrived from Milton Chadwick, my anger returned twice as fiercely. I didn’t even need to read Chadwick’s post to realize that that the bum had decided to reject my story twice! He was such moron that he did not know that he had already rejected it. Oh, what a dingus!

I began to compose my response. You can’t write to protest when an editor rejects your work. All the knowledgeable people say that. But if you have the same piece rejected twice by the same editor you surely are allowed to bring that fact to the attention of the cretin. And I was just the guy to do it. I was going to enjoy this. I was going to make sure that he knew how it feels to pour heart and soul into a work of creative genius only to have your offering stomped on by a heartless bastard like Chadwick. Oh you miserable soulless beast! You, you…Chadwick!

I started to write and it was great. I was on fire! Oh I would not want to be Chadwick when he opened my email, when he read my smoldering prose. I was just ready to press send when it occurred to me that I wasn’t sure how to spell Squamish – really? they named their journal the Squamish Review? – so I opened Chadwick’s latest email to find the spelling and this is what I read:

Dear Jay

Don’t know what happened, but as you know, we accidentally sent you a rejection note intended for someone else. The truth is we loved the story and would like to publish it in the October issue of Squamish Review, if it is still available.

Sorry about the mistake.

Thanks,

Milton Q. Chadwick
Fiction Editor

I know there is a moral here. Probably it is not to give up hope. But frankly the one that I have extracted is that before writing an angry email to Chadwick, read his email first, cause he is a prince among men…

***
Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer and illustrator. His novel, Nine Digits, published by Second Wind Publishing, will be available later this year. See www.ninedigits.com. Jay welcomes feedback at jayduret@yahoo.com. 

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Filed under books, fiction, Humor, Mike Simpson, writing

Some People Are Just Lucky

Like I said, some people are just lucky. There is no other way to explain it and I’m one of them. You’ve all heard the cliché, “It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts.” Another one is, ”It’s better to be lucky than smart.” Well, I am very lucky in that I know (via the Internet) Mike Simpson and the fine folks at Second Wind Publishing who are the “who you know that counts” part of the clichés.

churchstepsIn the 3 years since submitted my first novel to Second Wind Publishing, I have signed contracts with them for five books. The latest to be released in a month or so, is Body On the Church Steps. Now really, one just does not expect to find a naked body in front of the church. One might find a nude body in front of a bar, or club maybe, but certainly not in front of the church and certainly not dead. And why was it put there and who put it there? Well that is what the story is all about, and it’s going to  more than the police to solve this mystery.

Final MSS Cover frontThe book before that was Murder Sets Sail, released just last month. There is no mystery here. The reader knows right from the first chapter who the killers are and whom they are planning to kill. The question is can the intended target escape? Of course they can. That’s what an adventure/action novel is all about, isn’t it? This is a fun read. A friend of mine told me he got up to give their infant son his midnight bottle and instead of checking his cell phone he started to read the book. His son finished his bottle and went back to sleep and my friend couldn’t stop reading. Next thing he knew it was time for the 4 AM feeding.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]The Telephone Killer was published December of 2012. In this one the serial killer calls a television station ahead of time with clues as to who he will kill next. Although those clues are correct, they are often misleading.

So there you have 3 novels that have seen “the light of day” so to speak.

prison-bars-2The 4th novel, A Short Futile Life has a tentative release date of December 1 of this year. It is unlike anything I have done before in that it is a near-future political drama. A war hero works to help a man be elected President only to discover that the candidate planned all along to make the Presidency of the United States into a dictatorship. When our hero tries to expose the dictator, he is of course, arrested, brought to trial (a rigged trial), found guilty and executed. No picture of the cover for this one, but maybe something like this.

Finally the 5th novel, Endangered Species, with a tentative release date of March 2015, is a terrorist/adventure novel in which a group of terrorist devises a way to kill all the residence of a major US City. I have no idea what the cover of this book might be, but the team at 2nd Wind will come up with something fabulous.

Did I say I was lucky? Now wait a minute. Lucky has the idea of no reason for one’s good fortune; you know, like “dumb luck.” I think “blessed” is a better word. It implies that there is some force working on your behalf. Maybe that is what George Lucas meant when he had the characters in the Star Wars movies say, “May the Force be with you.” Well, there is certainly a Force with me and it is Mike Simpson and all the team at Second Wind Publishing.

Thank you, Gang, and May the Force be with you!

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Paul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. – Soon to be available as an audiobook.

Murder Sets Sail  now available from Second Wind Publishing and on AmazonKindle and Nook versions just $4.99,

Body On the Church Steps coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.

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Arc of Truth

Jay DuretBy Jay Duret

 

I am a liar.

I write fiction, that’s the job description.

I am fine with the undeniable fact that I will go to my grave as a liar, but I have noticed that some of my colleagues squirm under the label. They don’t want to lie for a living; they get queasy when describing what they write as “fiction”, the very word a declaration of mendaciousness. They believe, as I do, that lying can be a way to truth, sometimes the only way. But they want that idea to be more than just a line in a graduate student’s paper or an aphorism attributed to Hemingway. (“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” “You have the sheet of blank paper, the pencil, and the obligation to invent truer than things can be true.”)

Because we live in an age where each of us can create our own narrative, some writers have cast off from the fiction pier and are floating into waters closer to the shore that has been called, forever, by the bad name “non-fiction”. The problem is, despite its bad label, non-fiction is a real thing. There is an underlying school of craft – we call it journalism – that has rules and boundaries. A fiction writer can’t simply declare that he or she has landed on the shores of non-fiction and proceed to take up shop there; doing that would subject the writer to the rules and regulations governing the craft of non-fiction, a weighty commitment, particularly for those who love fiction precisely for the freedom it offers from overbearing regulation.

But that doesn’t end the matter. For those floating in the waters between fiction and non-fiction, new possibilities are arising, and I do not mean Creative Non Fiction. CNF, according to Lee Gutkind editor of the magazine Creative Non-Fiction, is subject to the same rules of reporting that govern journalism. The “creative” in CNF does not mean creating facts; it means telling the story with some of the tools of fiction – pacing, suspense, flashbacks, etc. A good piece of CNF is no less required to be grounded in actuality than a piece of straight up reporting. As Gutkind puts it:

“Creative” doesn’t mean … that the writer has a license to lie. The cardinal rule is clear—and cannot be violated. This is the pledge the writer makes to the reader—the maxim we live by, the anchor of creative nonfiction: “You can’t make this stuff up!”

When writers ignore Gutkind’s maxim, disaster can follow. Truth in labeling is the way of American commerce, why should it be different in writing than in, say, soup packaging? I like this quote about the writer of A Million Little Pieces, an Oprah Book Club Selection that became a best seller before The Smoking Gun outed the book’s many fabrications:

James Frey wants us to believe that he is a tough but sensitive bad-boy writer with a drug problem. The truth is, he’s a sensitive but boyish bad writer with a truth problem[1].

No, calling fiction CNF will not solve the writer’s dilemma. Fortunately in this, as in so many things, writers can borrow from another art form: movies. With the bigger budgets and the legions of people involved in making a movie – they have producers, best boys, gaffers! They have lawyers on the creative team! – no wonder motion pictures have fished these waters better than solitary writers tapping their keyboards in lonely scows and leaky rowboats. The movie industry has created a finely gauged explanation of the territory between fiction and non-fiction and that can serve as an excellent guide for writers.

The foundation of movies – perhaps other than documentaries – is to have  extremely good looking actors and actresses pleasingly stand in for the sad sacks whose stories are being related (All the President’s Men – I mean, really, Robert Redford is a beat reporter?). Given that foundation, it is hard to say that any movie is actually “true” – but a movie will frequently self identify as A True Story. That’s a wonderful phrase and frankly might be just the perfect oxymoron to serve any writer in need of a forgiving description of their work. Yet if the body of CNF proves anything, it is that non-fiction can be told as a story and therefore A True Story may not be quite as oxymoronic as one might have supposed. No, further nuance is needed.

Based on a True Story – here is a category that gives a writer some freedom! Nothing in it says that lying is involved – the writer is telling truth! – it is just that the truth the writer is telling is devolved from an underlying truth;  it is an expression of that truth, just not exactly the literal truth that might be found in the Palace of Truth and Justice. True, but not true in the pedestrian sense a member of the public might have otherwise expected. Understood properly, BTS is a branch of metaphysics.

So much of fiction is BTS that the category – by itself – solves the problem for most writers. But for writers that paddle even further from the banks of non-fiction, the movie industry offers an even more flexible concept: Inspired by a True Story. This one is a winner. Short of flat out fantasy, what fiction doesn’t fall under the category of ITS? And how could any reader complain if that little bit of disclosure were to be appended to the description of a book marketed as fiction? How could the writer be called out? As far as I can see, the best approach for one bent on attacking the description would be to say that a dreary work was not inspired. That would seem easier to prove in a court of law or public opinion than the proposition that somewhere – anywhere – there wasn’t some true story that the writer’s tale sprang from. Yes, Inspired By A True Story does the job: it will lend almost any piece of fiction a fine patina of truthfulness.

As good as ITS is, it doesn’t quite work for me. I write many stories that are all or mostly dialogue. I have come to believe – for better or worse – that you can tell the reader all they need to know about the characters by what they say and they way they say it. Many of my stories have come to me by eavesdropping – one of those things, like lying, that are essential parts of a fiction writer’s trade. Often I will hear a conversation and later on, after I have played it through in my head a dozen times, I will put it down on paper and find that I have a story that – at least to my own taste – is of interest.

Yet this is where I run into trouble. An editor will read my piece and ask if I am submitting the story as Fiction or Non Fiction or CNF. (Indeed, Submittable usually requires a commitment to one of those categories right from the start.) I could cover myself with a judicious use of the key phrase Inspired By A True Story but that disclosure – broad as it may be – needs some adaptation to apply to my type of writing. For when you start with an eavesdropped conversation, you never know whether the event that is being discussed is actually true or not. You may have happened upon two bullshitters – whose conversation you may be reporting truthfully – but there is no true story beneath it. I needed a way to capture that nuance.

At first I tried to explain it – but many of my editors did not possess the forgiving span of attention that the nuance inherent in this thing requires. And then I had an inspiration. Why not handle it with a picture, a diagram, an illustration? That would save me explaining the details to editors too busy  to focus. And that is how I came to memorialize the Arc of Truth.

I am not much of an illustrator but I like the way the arrow on the dial moves between black and white with shades of grey in between. Not fifty of them, alas, but enough for these purposes:

Arc of Truth3

 

***

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer who blogs at www.jayduret.com. His first novel, Nine Digits, will be published by Second Wind Publishing this year. Visit the website: www.ninedigits.com. Jay welcomes feedback at jayduret@yahoo.com. Read his prior posts on the Second Wind blog:

Nom De Plume

Nom De Plume

Bridalplasty

Bridalplasty

Queen For A Day

Queen For A Day

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://listverse.com/2010/03/06/top-10-infamous-fake-memoirs (retrieved July 23, 2014).

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Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

Last Man Standing

By Jay Duret

They were in the seat in front of me on the BART. I could only see the back of their heads but their voices were distinct.

The woman said, “Oh my God it was bad. Really bad. The. Worst. Ever.”

The guy said, “Worst what?”

“Fundraiser. It was for that new school in the Mission. I went with Tommy and he said it would be really fun.”

“What was wrong with it?”

“Oh you name it, the bar was slow, the food sucked, and the speeches lasted forever. I was looking for some drinks and a nice dinner, you know, hear about the school and get home by nine. Fat chance.”

“Did they go on and on? They always do.”

“Oh my God it was endless.”

“Doesn’t sound that bad. I went to one that was much worse.”

“Couldn’t be.”

“No seriously, it was a hospital thing. You know that place where Jen used to work. A really big deal. Must have been 1000 people there. My boss couldn’t go at the last minute and so I had his tickets – they were like $2500 apiece or something insane.”

“Sounds like a big deal.”

“No kidding. There was a big tent and a million servers in tuxes. There were speeches and the tribute videos and the celebrity appearances and they had this big time sleazoid emcee guy and everything.”

“I hate those guys.”

“The last speech was a girl that had had surgery at the hospital and she had a cleft palate. They had before and after photos and she had looked really bad before and now she was great. I mean it was a great story and she told it beautifully – all the women were crying – and when she was done we all stood up to applaud for her.”

“Very nice. So what was so bad?”

“They wouldn’t let us sit down.”

“What do you mean?”

“The guy that was running the thing just said we should remain standing. He said they had come up with a fun way to finish off the evening.”

“I don’t get it. What were they going to have you do, dance the hokey-pokey?”

“SOO much worse. This guy says, ‘and now anybody who wants to provide $50,000 to help fund a new pediatric surgery chair should sit down.’ Everybody looked around at each other and didn’t quite know what to make of it. But some guy at the front table sat down right where everybody could see him do it. And as soon as he did, all these people burst out of the back room and started cheering and screaming. They were wearing these orange tee-shirts on top of their tuxedos – they looked like Oompa-Loompas, I swear to God – and they mobbed the guy like he’d just hit a three pointer at the buzzer.”

“Wow I’ve never seen it done that way.”

“I didn’t really even get it at first, but it became pretty clear cause then the emcee asked who wanted to give $20,000 to provide training for an intern in pediatric oncology. Like, he said, anyone who wanted to give should just sit down.”

“Oh my God, that’s awful.”

“Yeah and so like four people sat down.”

“Wow, what were you doing?”

“Shit I was just standing there, what else could I do? Like $20,000 is ridiculous. And I am like in the second table in the front cause I had my boss’s seats.”

“So what did they do next?”

“Well then they did $10,000 and $5,000 and then $2,500 and honestly I couldn’t believe it. People were sitting down left and right.”

“So did you try to sit down yourself?”

“No you couldn’t do it. They had us trapped because they had all these orange guys who kept swarming around anytime somebody sat down. You didn’t want to sit down by mistake. If you sat down you would be out $2,500. The only way to avoid it was just to keep standing. And so then they went to $1,000 and $500 and then they got to $250 and shit, I gotta tell you that by that point there weren’t that many people still standing and I’m there and everybody at my table is looking up at me like I’m a total cheapskate.”

“So what did you do?”

“Well, what could I do? I didn’t want to put up that kind of money so I just stood there and then they went down to $100 and then $75 and honestly I think at $75 I may have been the only person in the entire room left standing. They were all looking at me.”

“Oh my God. That’s horrible. How did you feel?”

“It had been going on for hours by this point, at least that what it felt like, and I had been feeling like a trapped rat, but when they got down to $75 I got really pissed. I am like screw this, I’m not sitting down. See what they do. So the guy went ahead and he called for $50 and I stood there and he looked at me and gave me a little friendly sort of sheepish smile like he was kind of sorry could I just help him out, but I am now in a total screw you mode and so I just looked at him like he was dirt.”

“Jeesus. What happened?”

“I think if I’d given him a signal that I could do you know 25 bucks he would have called that and we could have been done with it, but when I projected attitude, he started going down by $5 amounts.”

“You’re kidding.”

“No, seriously, it went $50, $45, $40 and by this time everybody in the place was totally pissed at me.”

“Why! Why were they pissed at you?”

“Cause they were all ready to go home and their cars had been valeted and they wanted to beat the line but they were trapped.”

“Why were they trapped? Hadn’t they already given?”

“Yeah, but I think they were worried that if they stood up people would think they hadn’t given and they would seem like they were as big a jerk as me.”

“Oh my God. How much did you give in the end?”

“I stood my ground.”

“Wow. You are tough.”

“You have no idea. They got down to 10 bucks and the sleazoid is giving me the stink eye but I just gave it back to him so he starts to go down a dollar at a time.”

“No way!”

“Yeah, finally some guy at the front had enough and he yells out that he’ll give $5,000 bucks if they’ll just stop.”

“No!”

“And the emcee smiles and looks at the crowd and he says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I have $5,000 do I hear $6,000?” And then people start bidding, just to stop the guy from trying to get me to put up a few bucks. It was wild, one guy bid $10,000.”

“And did he… Oh, shit… Goddamn it! You are bullshitting me, right?”

“Ha Ha.”

“God damn you. You are a jerk.”

“Thank you. Thank you very much”

“You are such a jerk.”

“Had you going.”

“Jerk.”

* * *

Jay Duret is a San Francisco based writer. His novel Nine Digits will be published by Second Wind Publishing this year. View the book trailer at www.ninedigits.com. Click below to see Jay’s other posts on the Second Wind blog:

Bridalplasty

Bridalplasty

Queen For A Day

Queen For A Day

 

 

Nom De Plume

Nom De Plume

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My First Shot At Regency Romance by Christina OW

I think I should start with a little introduction 🙂

Hi, my name is Rinah and I go by the author name Christina OW–it’s my mom’s names and initials. I couldn’t think of a better way to honor her and all she’s done for me being a single parent raising three girls. I write Paranormal, Contemporary, Fantasy fiction romance and now Regency/Historical romance. I must say, so far Regency romance has been my favorite to write– it feels like giving unknown personalities from the 18th and 19th century life by telling their ‘what if’ story and I find it remarkable.

Once upon a time, long long time ago I wasn’t much of a fan of historical books. Yeah, shocking! But I used to think the Old English was too distracting and I didn’t like the description of the characters especially the male ones–too unmanly. An image of a pale out of shape stuffy dandy with an annoying nasal voice kept popping in my head when I’d read some of the dialogue. And the women, they annoyed me most. Always written like complete air heads who fainted at the littlest things and hang onto the belief that without a man their lives were meaningless! I also didn’t like that they didn’t have a say in their own lives– I became a true feminist while reading those books. So I stopped reading them all together until I happened across a book by Jerrica Knight-Catania. There was nothing wrong with the genre I was just reading the wrong categories and books by authors who didn’t suit my taste.

She introduced me to lust worthy heroes and strong heroines despite their limited life coupled with restrictions of the society  and the best description of a world I wished I’d seen first hand. And let’s just say the forbidden fruit is tastier even for a passive audience like a reader. The illicit affairs, the forbidden loves and the lengths the heroes and heroines would go for happiness… regency romance became a fantasy fairytale to me full of passion and excitement that drew me in and left me craving for more! After just one of Jerrica’s books I became hooked, an addict for the genre searching for authors with the same writing style and adding them to my favorite authors list. Then one day I just thought, why not try my hand at it?

I knew I would need to do a lot of research to make the story authentic enough and change my way of thinking and writing to fit the genre and then finally, I let my imagination weave the rest and thus TRIAL OF LOVE, book #1 of THE SLAVE BOUND SERIES was born! It took a while before I queried it because I was so frightened it wouldn’t be good enough. But I took the risk, figuring the only way I could truly know it was read worthy was if I queried it to the same publisher who published a good number of my favorite regency/historical books.  I queried to Second Wind Publishing and Mike loved it. It was a long road before the final product was out but I’m proud of the book we both put out.

Trial Of Love, a turbulent love story about a slave from America and the Earl who saved her from a fate worse than death.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

Blurb: After her mother’s death, Melanie’s life in America is full of heartache. Still, she has never allowed herself to despair. She was responsible for the care of her beloved father. Then he remarried a woman to wicked to be considered a mother to Melanie or her two sisters. After years of abuse, the stepmother sells Melanie off—to work in a brothel, and about to be sold to the highest bidder. Through a series of fortuitous events, Melanie falls into the care of Christopher, Earl of Ashworth, who has family issues of her own. The solution to his problems—and redemption for Melanie—wind together toward destiny.

Book Link: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/product_info.php?products_id=237

It was great meeting you all!I look forward to my next post in the 2W blog.

See you in the pages of Trial Of Love!

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Five Lessons for Publishers by Mike Simpson, Second Wind Publishing

The excitement of being a publisher, I’ve discovered, is not unlike the rush a writer feels upon having his or her first book published. There is an almost other-worldly thrill when the first proof arrives and you realize that you are helping someone achieve a long-held dream. That first book was Norm Brown’s Carpet Ride and I had a photo taken of me holding the proof; I sent the picture out to all the authors with whom Second Wind had contracted. I still have “euphoric recall” thinking back to that moment.

Of course, like every important achievement in life, both getting published and becoming a publisher turn out to be much more beginnings than completions. I’ve found that the ecstatic bliss an author feels upon opening a book and reading text that she or he wrote lasts between thirty minutes and twenty-four hours. Somewhere in that fleeting period, the writer begins to notice things about the book that aren’t right, begins to wonder what sort of critical and financial acclaim it might receive, and, somewhere in there, begins to wonder if the publisher shouldn’t be doing more.

Don’t pity the poor publisher. He wonders the same thing. In fact there has not been a moment since the first fifteen minutes of holding Norm’s proof that I haven’t been absolutely certain I should be doing more for our authors, learning more about the industry and making brilliant literary and business decisions. Progress in my case has come in fits and starts. For the better part of an entire year I was sidelined with a health crisis, which meant having to turn a lot of the work I had been trying to accomplish myself over to coworkers—who turned out to be much more capable, creative and dependable than I ever was. There have been marvelous accomplishments right along with the lessons as well. Recently we published our official 100th title, the wonderful anthology of Novel Writing Tips and Techniques. And, because I’m even more committed than I was five years ago when the first dozen books appeared, I’m continuing to learn how to be a worthy publisher.

So maybe you want to be a publisher too (like I didn’t know you’ve been thinking you could do it better?). Allow me to pass along some wisdom to you, a handful of lessons that will be confirmed again and again as you proceed in the splendid insanity of the publishing business:

Lesson #1: You cannot make every writer happy. Or let me say it the other way—you will very likely make every writer, those you publish as well as those you reject, unhappy at some point. Clearly you’re going to upset people when you turn down their work. Because I’ve had my own share of titles turned down and I never forgot how that felt, I made the commitment early on never to take the standard, cop-out route of the impersonal rejection letter: “We’re sorry, but your manuscript does not meet our current publishing needs” (there’s a special place in hell for the jerk who came up with that one sentence soul-deflator). Thus, regardless of the quality of the piece that’s submitted to us, we always try to explain why a book doesn’t work for us. So far I’ve never said to anyone, “Please, God, stay as far away from a word processor as you can for the rest of your life,” although I have been tempted.

And once you publish authors, you’re still going to let them down and make them unhappy too. That’s partly because you can’t do everything an author wants you to—you can’t even do everything you want to do! I’ve learned the only way to atone for my shortcomings as a publisher is to keep learning the trade and try not to make the same mistake twice. Observable growth and the acknowledgement of your shortcomings seem to be the qualities that allow your authors to bear with you as you try to move forward in the publishing craft.

Lesson #2: The publishing industry is changing with astonishing rapidity and no one knows exactly where it’s going. We knew when we started Second Wind that e-books were a coming force to be reckoned with and we rose with the tide when Kindle, Smashwords and Nook emerged. While lots of folks presaged the direction of the market, I haven’t read anything yet about someone gloating because they knew that, in three years, digital books would outstrip print books by a factor of four. Here in the fourth year of the online, digital book revolution, we are already in the “third phase” of e-books. We know that 1) digital publishing has drastically changed both reading habits and the publishing business model, 2) literally millions of people are self-publishing with very mixed results, 3) the playing field has dramatically leveled for independent publishers like Second Wind. Ironically, with all the folks who are self-publishing, the legitimacy of being published by a legitimate press has never been more significant.

Lesson #3: If you stay with the process of growing as a publisher and try to be patient, marvelous things will begin to happen—things like watching a book go viral, like achieving national distribution, like having titles you publish nominated for national awards, like having people you don’t even know write nice things about your company on Facebook or Editor & Predators.

Lesson #4: There is very little in life more spiritually nourishing than working with an author as she or he takes a pretty good manuscript and transforms it into something truly unforgettable; it’s like watching an orchid grow, bloom and blossom out of another person’s soul. There is very little more rewarding than coming to the end of a book you’re editing and being truly sorry the story was over. There is little more humbling than being trusted by truly creative people expressing and growing in their art right before your eyes. The lesson is, publishing is spiritual garden: mostly you stay out of the way, pluck a weed here or there, fertilize, turn some soil, and then sit back and watch the miracle.

Lesson #5: A day comes when it suddenly dawns on you that the dare you took, the dream upon which you acted—it was worth it a hundred times over.  –Mike Simpson, Second Wind Publishing

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A Long-Awaited Peace — by Mike Simpson

Nobody has, but if somebody asked me what sort of person my father was, I would say he was an incredibly bright achiever. Dave Simpson was the only one of the fourteen children in his family to attend and graduate from college. He was by nature a problem solver who had the ability to design large systems and make them work properly. These gifts were particularly well-suited for a guy who designed, built and supervised production lines and factories all over the country.

Dad was a “brooder,” a fellow who got into his inner world and stayed there while he thought. Once he began to obsess about something, he did not like to be interrupted. We lived close to the Riverside Drive-In in Norman, Oklahoma, when I was a child and our regular Wednesday night outing was a family trip to the movies ($1 per car!). More than once my parents, my sister and I would be sitting in our ’52 Chevy watching the show and Dad would get out and just start walking home. He was thinking something over and the movie was distracting him. I think his love of escaping into his inner self was part of the reason he most liked dark paintings, portraits, charcoals and other art that invited introspection. Accordingly, the music he most loved was instrumental.

As one of nine boys, Dad grew up competing and he naturally wanted to make a contest of life’s activities whenever possible. For that reason he loved golf, cards, chess, basketball and fishing. The minute we got to any fishing hole, Dad would immediately challenge you to his famous three way bet: “Okay, the first, the biggest and the most fish.” We were never betting for anything but bragging rights.

Dad was not a talker and was not eloquent—sort of strange considering he was an attorney. He spoke when necessary and sometimes not even then. We took long drives when I was a kid. Periodically, after three or four hours in the car, my sister or I would feel the need to use the restroom. We would announce this from the backseat. Dad would show no sign of having heard us at all. As we would pass through the little towns that dotted the countryside, we would hope Dad was going to stop and guess when and where that would be—but we dare not ask or we’d get an angry: “I heard you the first time!”

Hard as it is to believe, Dave Simpson was really a messy sort of guy. I remember driving out to my folks’ farm a few years ago and parking beside his old Honda Civic. The inside of his car was littered with junk: papers, tracts, empty drink cups, newspapers and assorted other flotsam. I thought, “If only my friends could see Dad’s car, then they’d understand my study!”

As he aged, my father changed and mellowed. He quit wanting to argue with me about the politics and religion, and quit trying to give life advice to his grandchildren. He found lots of joy in activities like caring for livestock, planting trees, gathering pecans and visiting with the people he loved. In the last few years, as his struggle with dementia worsened, when he struggled to express the depth of what he was thinking and feeling, Dad wept a lot. It seemed the emotions of a lifetime at last were irresistibly bubbling forth.

Last May I traveled to Oklahoma from North Carolina to help my mother put Dad in a nursing home. His needs had simply exceeded her ability to cope. My sister and I had grown concerned that she would destroy her health trying to keep Dad at home. Within a month, his health deteriorated to the point that we placed him under hospice care. The oversight and tender daily visits of my mother contributed to his living for almost exactly a year in care. Dad died on May 5. When the tears subsided, there was long-awaited peace for all of us.

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The End Is Near – by Deborah J Ledford

So we’re coming up on the end of 2009 and I’ve been going down the list of everything to be grateful for.

First and foremost, professionally, is that my debut suspense thriller Staccato was picked up and published by Second Wind Publishing. This has been a decade-old dream and I am so proud of the finished product.

Three short stories were acquired for publication as well. The literary short “Sighted Brother” now appears in the Gulf Coast Writers Association anthology “Sweet Tea and Afternoon Tales,” my one and only humorous story “A Christmas Tail” was published by the Sisters in Crime chapter Desert Sleuths for their anthology “How NOT to Survive the Holidays,” and “The Spot” will soon be featured in the Second Wind Publishing anthology “Mystery on the Wind.”

Most of all, I am grateful for all the readers who have found my work, the reviewers who have showered Staccato with praise, and the other authors I have met during my seemingly endless online promotions.

A BIG thanks to Pat Bertram for her tireless and awe-inspiring efforts in promoting all the Second Wind authors. And, of course, to Mike Simpson for making my wish to become a published novelist come true.

What were your accomplishments this year? Let us know what you have to be grateful for.

Wishing you all a fabulous 2010! Hang on, it’s going to be a wild, exciting ride for all of us.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent book stores.

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With Gratitude – by Deborah J Ledford

I’ve been thinking for days what I should present for this book launch blog promoting my debut thriller Staccato, and my thoughts kept returning to how grateful I am, not only to have this novel in print, but to all of those tireless and committed souls who made this book release a possibility.

Staccato is being featured on the Second Wind Publishing blog along with three other equally intriguing novels. I am thrilled to be in the company of Mickey Hoffman and Amy DeTremp for their first novels from Second Wind, and the very talented writer Christine Husom for her second book. I know they share my excitement in being members of this unique and cutting edge publishing company.

Because the entire Second Wind team is first-rate I shouldn’t play favorites, however Pat Bertram is as instrumental in seeing Staccato to fruition as anyone else involved in the process. Pat is not only a gifted novelist, she is a tireless promoter of Second Wind authors, often putting herself in the backseat when it comes to touting her own exquisitely crafted novels. I wish her the best with the upcoming release of Daughter Am I.

Lazarus Barnhill, novelist extraordinaire, is also an influential force in my decision to see Staccato through to publication. Laz, Pat and I made it to the semi-final round of the TruTV (formerly CourtTV) Crime Writer Contest sponsored by Gather.com in 2007. I am grateful that none of us actually won this contest because now we all reside in the same Second Wind Publishing home.

Second Wind executive assistants Tracy Beltran and Stacy Findley really pulled out the stops as well. From providing and submitting formatted proofs, configuring a killer back cover, to making sure my author and book pages on the Website were exactly as I wished. I could not be more happy with what you ladies have accomplished in order to make Staccato as professional and aesthetically pleasing as I could ever have envisioned.

My gratitude would not be complete without the heartfelt thanks to Second Wind publisher, Mike Simpson. Mike expressed confidence in Staccato when all others had turned their backs. This kind and generous gentleman is a dream maker who put me at ease so many times with his assurances that we would make the September 15th release date. Somehow he pulled off this monumental and sometimes daunting effort. Kudos to you, Mike, Staccato is every bit yours as it is mine.

For those of you who visit this exceptional blog often, I thank you as well. We all look forward to your comments and appreciate your support of Second Wind Publishing.

 

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle and independent book stores.

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Ten Lessons I Learned (The Hard Way): A Publisher’s Reflections on the First Year

What a grand understatement it is, as I stand (well, actually I’m sitting in a ladder back chair) at the end of the first year of Second Wind Publishing, LLC, to say I have learned a few lessons.

In the fall of 2007, a group of writers I knew got tired of hearing me bellyache about the injustice of the publishing industry as it exists today.  They challenged me: “If that’s the way you feel about it, why don’t you start your own publishing company.”  I began to research the idea.  By the spring thaw of 2008, I was committed to starting the company.  Simultaneously I acquired equipment, software, authors and the rights to publish novels.  By June 1, 2008, the company was officially formed.  We had begun finalizing manuscripts for print by mid summer and the first book, Carpet Ride by Norm Brown was published on August 21. By September 1, half a dozen books were being printed.  One year later, nearly thirty books are in print and a total of forty probably will be available by Christmas, 2009.  Lots of exciting things are happening quietly behind the scenes as well, as we continue to work on promotion, acquiring fine new authors and creating our own bricks-and-mortar bookstore.

Rather than lingering on the numerical realities of what happened in the first business year of 2W, I think it’s more worthwhile to talk about the important lessons I’ve learned in my role as publisher.  I made a list and decided to stick just to the top ten:

  1. There are a great number of fine writers who aren’t getting read because of the current state of the publishing industryThis was something we suspected before we started and it was the real reason 2W was founded.  The publishing industry as it exists today is essentially focused on making money for publishing companies, distributors and big box bookstores and outlets.  The greatest injustice this perpetrates is forcing worthy writers to spend their time and energy begging for agents, who in turn must beg publishers on their behalf.  Our little outfit, along with many other small, independent publishers, is all about giving writers the chance to be read.
  2. Stories are like children.  It’s truly amazing that writer can send you a marvelous novel, sign a contract to give you the right to publish it, and then back up and rewrite the whole damn thing twice before you finally get it.  Novels have minds of their own.  They write themselves and then deconstruct themselves.  They haunt their authors and fill them with anxiety, causing their writers to beg their friends for advice (that is almost never taken).  Even a published novel is like a late adolescent child—it’s parent is still not quite satisfied and never will be.  The only salvation comes from focusing on other kids (writing more books).
  3. No two writers are alike.  There are truisms about writers we all know: they are drunken louts who pour themselves full of liquor and then pour their creativity into the work, apart from which they’re pretty much useless; they are tortured artists, using their creative angst to deal with the improper potty training that scarred them for life; they are oversensitive neurotics who create worlds in books because they can’t live in the real one; they are poetic schizoids whose only contact with reality is literary expression; they are romantic souls, hopelessly trapped in fantasy relationships because they cannot sustain real ones.  Okay, all that is bunk.  I remember our first Second Wind National Book Signing, sitting around the table with seven or eight authors and thinking to myself, “No two of these people are remotely alike.”  I’ve learned that their writing customs, creative processes and reasons for writing are all equally unique.
  4. Real writers are in it to write.  All the authors we’ve signed have read over their contracts very closely—not because they think 2W is going to steal their money, but because they want to preserve their ownership of their stories.  I bring this up because, in our greedy, venal little world, the authors I’ve come to know are as a group the least greedy, least financially motivated people around.  That’s not to say they don’t like their royalty checks or that we’re not trying to sell their books.  Selling books for our authors is a way of buying them more time and freedom to write; that’s the only thing they’re greedy for.
  5. Everything takes longer than you think.  In general, no one is more impatient than an author 1) waiting to hear if a publisher is interested in buying her/his book, 2) waiting for the contract/editing/proofing/etc. to get finished, 3) waiting for the proof copy, or 4) waiting for that first order of books.  Another general observation I’d make is that, the more impatient an author is, the more likely something is going to delay the awaited book.  On the other hand, the corollary to this rule is: authors tend to be tremendously forgiving and understanding when publication schedules get delayed repeatedly; and grateful when they final get published.
  6. Ask for help.  One of the reasons things get delayed is because an old timer like me can only get so much done in a twenty-four hour period, not to mention the fact that I have a day job and a family.  As work piled up more and more, I began to accept the offers of authors to help with various parts of the publishing process.  Surprise, many of them were much better at the work I was doing than I was.  Many of them discovered talents they did not know they possessed.  How thankful I am for the skilled, generous people who have made the progress of 2W possible—and you all know who you are!
  7. Play by the rules.  It’s easy, especially in an expanding market and an expanding business, to take short cuts.  We’ve learned not to shortchange our authors, our customers, the publishing process or the legal rules.  Not long ago we had an incident in which a person tried to post a stolen story in one of our contests.  It was a reminder to us of the financial and legal pitfalls that await if we don’t proceed properly.
  8. Ride the flow.  Julia Cameron calls it “synchronicity.”  Bill Strickland calls it “flow.”  One of my favorite writers calls it the “creative avalanche.”  Of course I’m referring to the amazingly serendipitous fashion in which things tend to fall into place when you’re doing what you love and trying to respond to the opportunities you have.  Forty books published in eighteen months is pretty astounding.  So many things had to fall into place for all this to occur.  Shakespeare famously wrote in Julius Caesar, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”  I think I  only understood that proverb when 2W came into my life.
  9. The publishing industry is in a state of foment.  This learning is particularly important in light of the one that proceeds it.  Between the financial difficulties of large publishers and large book chains, the explosion of digital printing, the universal communication facilitated by the internet and coming ebook revolution, this is a wonderful, frightening, exhilarating moment to be an alternative publisher.
  10. Take the dare.  Who is to say that 2W will exist next year at this time?  Who is to say that it will not exist twenty-five years from now?  Regardless, so many profound, transforming, delightful things have happened as a result of the founding of this publishing company that I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that I would take the dare to start 2W all over again tomorrow!  And thanks to all who have been a part of it.  —Mike Simpson, Publisher, Second Wind

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