Monday, February 27, 2012

What I Learned from My Debut Novel

My first published novel started with notes about a man learning about a woman who lived a world in-between reality and fantasy. Before I knew it, I had names, places, a plotline and subplots. I never intended to write a series. Yet, I had.

My initial draft was penned on unlined printer paper. When I finally sat to type it, I needed to learn how to format a manuscript. Title page, slug lines, double spaced true type font all stuffed into a tidy package.

The easy part was over. I had to write query letters to agents who I thought might want to represent my baby. The hook was written and re-written. My author bio drove me crazy. The synopsis haunted me. Still, I wrote them. And out they went.

I waited and I waited. Some had the courtesy of sending a reply, even if it was a canned one. Many did not. The noes poured in. The most heart wrenching replies were the ones who said that they enjoyed my work but, it wasn’t a good fit for them.

Onwards I pressed. I believed in my work. Finally, I decided to self publish. I started with one e-book only publishing platform in which I could publish my book myself.

The hardest work then began. I had to take my book from my neat manuscript format and transform it into an e-book format. The book needed a cover. I had to write a blurb and have an about the author page.

Honestly, from the beginning, I had dreamt about what my cover would look like. But, the question remained of how I would achieve it. Fortunately for me, I know someone who can make art with a push of a button. My brother has an incredible artistic eye. When I take a picture it is merely a picture. When my brother takes a picture he creates art. We put our heads together to get a rough idea. An early morning outing into the surrounding mountains with a digital camera started it all.

He, then, worked his magic turning the outing into my book cover. With butterflies in my stomach, I uploaded the cover and the painstakingly formatted insides. Once it hit live, excitement could not begin to describe my state.

Later, I found that I could broaden my e-book market. Off I went reformatting my original manuscript document for these new venues. Then, I decided to put my words into print.

That daunting task took much more time. Formatting is nuanced and tested my knowledge and skill with Word. I needed a cover that wrapped around a real book. My brother magically added trees to the spine and the back. Once the full cover was added, I ordered my proof. The proof wasn’t a complete disaster. The page numbers were off and not every chapter had a drop case at the start. But it looked good. I ran around town showing everyone I knew.

Writing and publishing were only half the battle. Promotion is the other half – an uphill battle of the steepest sheer cliff. How do I let people know that my work is out there and it is worth reading? My brother created a book trailer and placed it on YouTube. There is a learning curve. And the learning does not end.

With my next book on its way out into the world, there is much I would do differently. For a start, I will bypass the query letters to agents and publishers. Then, I am going to format for e-books in Word and leave it there. The print version will be my first priority. When I get my proof, I will not be afraid to go through it with a pencil and write in it. Then, if there are any changes to be made, do so. Only after I approve the proof will I upload it to the various e-book venues. It will take a few days before the new book to be live everywhere, but so be it.

For every book hereafter, I will first ink on unlined printer paper. I will continue to type it into a double spaced Word document. Each book has its own folder, physical and electronic. After each paper manuscript gets eaten by the keyboard, the large pile of paper gets stacked neatly into a sturdy box for safe keeping. My brother, who has since started his own graphic design business (more about that in another blog post), will continue to create my book covers and book trailers. All finished products will be promoted in both new and tried and true ways.

Sure, some of this may change with each new creation. But I promise to cherish every one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The World In-between on Indie Snippets

An approximate 300 word snippet of The World In-between is available on Indie Snippets.
Read the excerpt here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Generous Birthday Gift

Tuesday the fourteenth was my birthday.  To celebrate, I wish to share with you a coupon for my debut novel, The World In-between.

Leap into a hidden world known only to those who have been there.  Fall in love.  Battle for magic.  Find your inner strengths.

Take 34% off (makes it $5.93).  This offer is good only through Smashwords.  Smashwords offers every format for whatever e-reader you have or in an easy pdf format to read on your computer.

Find the ebook on Smashwords here.

At the checkout, enter coupon code: VY67U (not case-sensitive).

The coupon expires February 29th.

Happy Reading!

--IE Castellano

Friday, February 10, 2012

Writer’s Workshop – Trends: Chocoholics with fangs

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we are bombarded with chocolate. Commercials entice you to buy chocolate covered strawberries. Cooking shows feature chocolate in every recipe. Stores sneak chocolate candy into aisle after aisle. All because of a cliche or a very clever marketing scheme.

Women love chocolate. We want to eat nothing but chocolate. Bathe us in chocolate then enrobe us in more chocolate. At one point in my life, I enjoyed chocolate. Now, the Mayan food of the gods bores me. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a tasty piece of dark chocolate on occasion. It is just the onslaught of the chocolate trends has pushed me into chocolate doldrums.

Trend weariness happens more often than we like to admit. People see something popular and grab. What started as something lovely, morphs into a barrage of garbage. Those who contribute to the trend can find success before the inevitable happens. Often the problem with riding trends is that we are left with a gaping hole of nothingness once the wave has ebbed.

We see this in the book scene. The tsunami of vampires has finally ceased. When the water emptied back into the ocean, agents and publishers had nothing on which to fall. What is the new literary trend? Who cares? Not this author. To me, following trends has always been for people who have no original thoughts. Authors, on the other hand, should.

Writing about something because it is trendy sells yourself short. Write what you love. If an aspect happens to be a trend, then so be it. Once that trend fades, you will still have words to bring alive. Passion for your writing gives you substance, which in turn, enables you to transcend trendiness. As fiction authors our job is to entertain through our art. As artists, we need to constantly invent and reinvent.

Like the extolled cocoa bean, the written word’s versatility excites people. What trends will emerge after chilies in chocolate? The crystal balls do not show. At least a superbowl commercial does not need to kill all the habenero chocolate bars to help signal the end. Literarily speaking, the sun has set on the vampire, unless your surname is Rice. Nightfall has yet to break.  Keep true to your loves.  Perhaps you will set the next trend.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Birthday Suite

As the days begin to explode with pink, my birthday inches closer. In a little over a week, I am going to be older than I am now. Profound, I know. I thought it would be a good time to give you my backstory.

The wind blew white across the land that February. Already a month late, I was not waiting for a little snow to subside. While my dad was helping my mom to the car, the dog escaped through the back door. Marble loved to run and did so often, to the chagrin of my parents. Fortunately, his dark coat was easy to spot against the mid morning whiteness.

Too far back?

My love of the English language began early. With my parents reading to me constantly, I learned to love the fine art of storytelling. Reading at bedtime. Reading at other times. Reading while we all sat in the family room. Reading around the table. Family time included a book of either nonfiction or fiction in most genres from the classics like David Copperfield to Greek and Roman mythology. After reading, discussion followed. In a multigenerational family of avid readers, the shelves were never bare.

Growing up, many books adorned my bookshelves. The ones with the golden spines always glittered in the nightlight. As the years wore, cats wearing tall thin hats yielded to DNA encapsulating amber. Each new book held a new adventure. I learning something new with every page turned. My imagination never captured; it remained wild and free. Allowing it to settle on paper challenged me.

It was a dark and stormy night started my first novel attempt at the ripe old age of eleven. That was also the age I began penning poetry. My poems were mostly raw and emotional to me. Yet, they cloaked themselves in mysterious multiple meanings.

After writing a plethora of poems, the poetry muse decided to abandon me. She gave no warning. I had no substitute. Eventually, something crazy took over me. I picked up my forlorn pencil and paper. An idea flowed from the graphite onto the pulp.

My second novel attempt flowed out of me. What was I to do with it? I felt silly. Building courage, I read it outloud to my parents. I was exposed and had nowhere to hide. Prose shows everything. They loved it. They encouraged me to write more. So, I did.

Turn right. Those are the first two words of my first published novel. Which happens to be the third novel I have ever attempted. The first will remain in the depths of my childhood. My second rests unfinished in a folder waiting for my pen to ink the remaining pages.

This year, I continue to allow my imagination to roam freely. And with each stroke of my pen, my paper tells its tales.