Thursday, March 24, 2016

Who is The Music Box Girl?

BOOK REVIEWERS!  I will be ordering proof copies of The Music Box Girl within the next few days.  If you want me to reserve you a print copy, email me at kari (dot) stewart21 (at) gmail (dot) com.  If you’d rather have an ebook copy, I can make that happen too, just let me know what format you want it in.  (sorry, folk, I can't just hand out books to everyone who asks.  You need to have an actual book review site before I can give up my proof copies)

Thus far, you can pre-order the ebook here:

The print copy will be released approximately a week prior to the ebook release (which is April 26th), so that everyone can be reading it on release day!

Any questions?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

So You Want to Be a Writer!

I had an aspiring young writer email me with a few questions the other day, and after I got done answering him, it occurred to me that the questions were really good, and that others might find the answers interesting. So here they are, posted for your perusal, with his permission.

I'm wanting to be a writer, and I have some questions. How did college help you become a writer? When did you know you wanted to be a writer? What did you do early on that helped you? Is there any specific advice you have for me? What are some benefits and drawbacks to being a writer?

You’ve asked some really great questions, but I’m going to kind of answer them out of order.

First off, a lot of my earliest memories were of wanting to be a writer. When I was really young, I’d write stories set in my favorite worlds (books or comic books that other people had written). That’s called fan fiction now, but I didn’t know the word back then. I just knew I was having fun. I didn’t really start trying to create my own worlds until I was probably your age (12-13), and trust me when I say that those were really REALLY bad. But I got better.

However, that doesn’t mean that everyone that writes is a writer from day one. I have several friends who didn’t start trying to write/publish books until they were in their 50s. (and they’re doing quite well, actually)

When I got to college, I chose to major in English with an emphasis in Literature (instead of an emphasis in Writing). I did that on purpose, because it helped me learn HOW to read. It taught me about story structure, and literary devices. I learned about voice and style, and I learned all the rules and when/how to best break them. There’s a lot more that goes into telling a story than just the words you use.

The best thing you can do as writer is read. Read everything, in many different genres and many different styles. Make mental notes about the things that other writers do that you like, and don’t like. Note the things that you think they did well, the parts of the book that made you gasp or tear up, and note which things made you want to throw the book across the room. Think about, if I had been the one to have this idea, how would I have done it better, or different?

The benefits of being a writer vary according to what you want to get out of it. If you want to make a lot of money, being a writer might not be the best course of action. There are exceptions of course (Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling), but most of us don’t make a huge amount of money. If you just enjoy exploring different worlds and sharing those with other people, then it’s totally the thing for you. Some people write, just because they like writing, and they never have any intention of showing it to other people. Some people like writing and letting other people read, but they don’t care about money, so they just post their work online for free. And of course, there are people who write solely with an eye toward publication. There are many different roads to Oz, and only you can decide what Oz is for you.

I know that even if I never published another book in my life, I would still write. There are people and worlds in my head that need out, ‘cause it gets crowded up there.

But really, one of the biggest benefits of writing is that you will be a better writer. That will be obvious in any job you ever try to have in the future. Being able to express yourself well in written format is starting to be a rather rare skill, and employers notice. (and trust me, even if you want to write as a career, you will need a “real job” too. At least in the beginning)

Being a writer also teaches you about follow-through and commitment. I’ve heard a lot of people who say they are writers, but they’ve been working on the same project for like ten years and never actually finish it. You have to finish stuff. You have to slog through the hard parts, whizz through the easy parts, and find an ending. Even if you never touch it again after that moment, just finishing something is an accomplishment.

One of the drawbacks of being a writer is that you live in your own head a good deal of the time. It can be a little lonely and frustrating when you know that not everyone around you “gets” that your brain isn’t always in this world all the time. The trick is finding a group of like-minded people who you can share your work with, and who understand the same struggles you’re going through. It doesn’t even have to be people that you know in real life. I have a great group of writing friends that I met online years and years ago, and even though we all write very different things and are at different places in our careers, we’re all still really close and are always cheering each other on. ((Caveat: Don’t talk to people online without your parents’ permission. They’d kill me. ;) ))

Three good pieces of advice:

1) We have a saying in my writing group: “I am allowed to write utter poo.” The first thing you put down on paper is NEVER going to be perfect. It’s actually probably going to be pretty bad. And I say that about every writer ever, no matter how long they’ve been writing. But the great thing about having it on paper is that it’s THERE, and you can always edit. The only thing you can’t edit is a blank page. Editing is one of my favorite parts of the writing process, because I get to go back through and polish it up to be as awesome as it is in my brain. Sometimes, when I’m writing the first draft, I have to rush to get it down so fast that it’s not exactly right yet, but I know as long as it’s there, I can always go back and make it better.

2) Grow a thick skin. If you want to put your writing out for other people to see, you have to be able to take criticism. Now, there are people who will read your stuff and just be mean because they’re jerks. And those people you can cheerfully ignore. But for the most part, especially if you can find other writers to communicate with, they’re just trying to help you make things better. And also realize that not everybody likes everything. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer, it just means you didn’t click with that particular reader.

3) The two most useful questions you will ever ask yourself as a writer are “Why?” and “What if?” Every story I have ever written has started with a “what if” kind of question. That’s where ideas come from. You start with what if. “What if fire fighters had super powers?” Then you flesh it out with “Why?” Why would firefighters NEED super powers? What happened in this world that makes it a necessity? How did the world get that way? What other effects would it have? And suddenly, you’ve built an entirely new world with its own people and rules and you’re writing a story.

I hope you all find these questions as interesting as I did. I actually had a good time really thinking about the responses.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Jesse, The Music Box Girl, and More

Thanks to everyone who made Jesse James Dawson’s birthday so awesome!  It’s nice to have days like that where I remember that there are people who love him as much as I do.  Make sure to go out and leave a review on Amazon and/or B&N when you’re done reading!  If you didn’t like it, feel free to say so! Every review matters.

Once you reach the end of the book, I’m sure you’ll notice that I’ve included the first chapter of something else, called The Music Box Girl.  This will be the next project I’m self-publishing, and I hope to have it out sometime in April.  It’s already written, and fairly polished, but I’m wanting to take my time with the print copy design on this one.  Trying to get fancy!


I promised other good news, and while the above is all good news, that wasn’t what I was referring to.

Some of you may have noticed that Peacemaker has disappeared from all sales channels.  (It’s okay, I’ll wait here while you go verify, but I promise, it’s gone)  This is actually a very good thing!  Intermix, the original publisher, has reverted the rights to Peacemaker to me, and I am now free to re-release it, and in a PRINT version this time!

Not sure my timing on this one, since I want to get MBG settled first, but before summer, Peacemaker will be available again in a shiny new edition, and in print for the very first time!  I’ll keep you posted on dates.  And yes, this will most likely lead into me finally writing the sequels to Peacemaker in the near future.

I feel like this year is going to be a great year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Nuts and Bolts

First things first, thanks to everyone who purchased Second Olympus during my birthday sale!  I hope everyone loves it (or at least doesn't want to throw tomatoes at me). Once again, I beg,implore,grovel at your feet to PLEASE post reviews to places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  The number of reviews a book has (doesn't matter if they're good, bad, or indifferent) dictates which books get picked up by the system for things like "If you liked this book, you might also like THIS one!" which can bring me to new readers.  The general rumor is that 50-ish reviews is the golden spot for being included in the system algorithms, and you'll note that not a single one of my books has that many reviews on Amazon.  Love an author?  Leave a review.

Secondly, A Line in the Sand, better known as JJD5, is now available for preorder!  Ebook only, of course, because preordering the print copy isn't something that's available at this time.  The release date is currently January 23rd (bonus points if anyone can guess why), so I'll try to have the print copy released prior to that, so that we can all hopefully be reading on the release date.


Now, you might be saying "But why is there no cover art?  We want a cover!"  Well, yes, so do I.  Very very much, in fact.  But, things have to go in a certain order when designing a cover, so I'll gladly bore you with excessive details.

Pick up the book nearest to you.  Look at the spine.  Most likely, the cover of the book has a front piece, a back piece, and a spine piece.  Well, the front and back covers will always be the dimensions you designate.  For example, my self-pubbed JJD covers will be 5x8.  The spine dimensions, however, are determined by how thick the book is.  More pages = thicker book = wider spine.  Everything has to fit just so to line up with the edges of the book.  So, you can't begin designing a print book cover without knowing how many pages your book has, first.

Look!  Visual aids!

So where does that leave me?  Well, last night I finished making editing notes on JJD5. Some were handwritten new paragraphs, others were things like "Awkward sentence", or "re-order" or "WTF?".  My next step is to start typing all those changes into the actual Word doc that is my manuscript.   Once that's done, I can copy/paste the document into a template that will become my print book file.  I have to decide all about the front-of-the-book material, and if I want to include pages at the back from any of my other books, that sort of thing.  Only when that is ALL done, and I can get a final page count, do I then request my cover from my cover artist.

I'm hoping to have the edits all done by the 16th at the VERY latest.  That was the deadline I gave myself, and getting it done sooner would make me do a happy dance.  I'll probably spend a couple of days (or three, or four) getting the print copy formatted and prepped, and then I'll email about the cover.  I'm pushing the time limit to get everything set for a January 23rd release date (all final files have to be uploaded by January 13th at the very latest), but I'm way behind where I wanted to be originally anyway, and I hate to drag it out any longer.

In the meantime, while we wait, I give you my Christmas Groot.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Happy Birthday to ME!

So, in honor of my birthday at the end of the month, I've decided that I'm going to make the ebook of Second Olympus just $0.99 for the entire month!

If you haven't tried this one yet, now is the time!

You can find Second Olympus at your favorite retailer!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ode to Sarah

 I was seven years old (almost 8!) when The Terminator came out in 1984.  I don’t remember a lot of the marketing around it, but I have a vague recollection that I thought it was some kind of horror flick, which put it solidly on the “mom won’t let me see it” list.  And given that it was rated R, at seven, she was probably right.

However, I was about fourteen when T2 came out.  Now, kids talk, so I had a general idea what the original movie was about.  I could even quote a few of the lines that had made it into pop culture.  So I was all gung-ho about T2.  I think, by this point, my mother had given up on trying to protect my impressionable young mind.

I can’t remember if I saw T2 in the theater, or waited until it came out on VHS. (yeah, that dates me a bit)  I do remember being wowed by the special effects, and that my father loved them too.  Even now, when I watch it again (it’s one of my comfort movies), I always have to think that my dad loved it.

I also remember wanting to BE Sarah Connor.  Like I had wanted nothing before in my life.  She was strong.  She was decisive.  She was fiercely protective of her child.  She wasn’t scared of anything. There was no softness to her, no apologies, no hesitations.  She got the job DONE.

I wanted to be that, so very badly.  To have that much knowledge of the world, to be prepared for any situation that might come up.  To just not be scared.  I taught myself archery, herbal lore, field medicine.  Never could handle the noises guns make, so I skipped that part, but at one time I was wicked with a throwing knife and a hatchet.  I was ready for it, if the time ever came.  I didn’t know what IT was, but dammit, I was ready.

Later, as I grew up, I came to understand more of the subtleties of the character.  I mean really, no way around it, she was batshit crazy.  Sure, her delusions weren’t actually delusions, they were true, but that foreknowledge had taken a toll on her mind.  She struggled with day to day life, trying to connect the reality she lived in with the one that everyone else saw.

More than anything, I took away that she wasn’t perfect.  She made mistakes.  I found some comfort in the fact that she probably wasn’t going to win Mother of the Year, but she could probably come in a close runner-up.  She loved her son with everything she had, and she tried desperately to prepare him for the worst possible scenarios.  It was the only thing she (or anyone) could do.

I have tried to do the same with my own daughter.  No, not training her to lead the rebellion after a robot apocalypse (though, I bet she could).  Just to be prepared for whatever the world might throw at her.  I try to challenge her mind, asking her to think over questions and situations she may never actually have to confront.  I try to challenge her body, making sure she is strong and healthy and capable of taking care of herself.  I’m not training her to be a prophesied world leader, but her generation will someday have to run this world, and at least one of them should have a vague idea about what they’re doing.

I’m not sure if I ever became Sarah Connor.  Probably not.  I did let go of some of my more militant habits (if I try to throw a knife at you now, I'm more likely to injure myself than you).  Put on a few pounds more than she would probably have approved of.  But I like to think that she’d have agreed with how I’ve raised my child.  I guess only time will tell if I’ve done her justice.