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You know what they say, the best laid plans of indie writers oft go astray! Okay, that’s not exactly how it goes and I apologize to Robert Burns, but I’ve been living that old quote for the last 3 weeks.

Seriously, I have. I posted earlier this month about my plans for my books which are no longer available due to the closing of my publisher and well, all I can say is those plans certainly went astray. I started out strong, working on the edit and revision of Snow Shadows, the first book in my Eternal Shadows series which has to be completely edited because my publisher couldn’t find the final file and also because I want to change some things. Anyway, I made it about halfway through the book and then it was all “Book, Interrupted” or maybe I should make that “Writer, Interrupted.” No, I think “Book, Interrupted” works better in this case because the writer was still working but her attention was pulled away to another book…

the second book in the Appalachian Journey series. For those of you who don’t know, I also write under the name CC Tillery with my sister, Christy Tillery French. We write Southern Historical fiction and we have two books out in the Appalachian Journey series, fact based fiction about our great-aunt Bessie’s life in the mountains of North Carolina.

WW3-250The first book, Whistling Woman, has been on Amazon’s best seller list for Southern Historical fiction for the last year and a half and our readers have patiently–for the most part!–awaited the release of the next book in the series, Moonfixer. The Kindle version of Moonfixer was released a couple of days before Christmas and the next step was to release the paperback version…

and that’s where “Book, Interrupted” came into being thanks to CreateSpace. Don’t get me wrong, I love CreateSpace (usually!) and I love Amazon even more for making it possible for an indie writer to publish their work without going bankrupt in the process and most of all, that the author can actually make good money from doing what she loves.

Back to CreateSpace–like I said, I love it (usually!), but I have to say, putting your book on CreateSpaceIMG_5169-Mf1-500  can be a complete and total PITA at times. Frustration ruled the day for Christy and me while we were trying to get Moonfixer done, particularly the interior formatting and the cover. OMG, there were times I thought I was going to throw my laptop through my office window and then get in my car, drive to…wherever CreateSpace’s home office is (is it Charlotte? and…well, better not to give anybody else ideas so let’s just say, it wouldn’t have been pretty.

Anyway, we finally accomplished what seemed like the impossible and the proof copy is on its way to us as of yesterday afternoon.

Whew! So now I can get back to my “Book, Interrupted” and hopefully, I’ll have it out before the end of February.

Wish me luck–seriously!

 

Is it any wonder so many authors are turning to self-publishing? Not to me and probably not to the authors–myself included–who are publishing their own books. If you aren’t a celebrity, an athlete, been a nanny for some has-been (and never- shoud-have-been–Kate Gosselin, I’m looking at you) celebrity, been tried for murder (whether guilty or not), been tried as an accomplice to murder, or any number of things that shoved you into the spotlight for your undeserved 15 minutes of fame, then you may as well give up on being published by any of the big publishers.

Oh, wait, I forgot, if you were raised by wolves in the woods (or only imagined you were), a part of a gang in L.A. (or only imagined you were), or a recovering drug addict (or only imagined you were), then you can probably get a publisher interested in your story (made-up or not).

And now comes news of Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, both receiving publishing contracts so they can tell us the story of their relationship, murder trial, and imprisonment in Italy. Do we really need to read about it from their point of view? I don’t think so but hey, I don’t have to buy their books when they come out (and believe me, I won’t) nor do I have to read them. I’m not interested in hearing their side of the story because I’ve already read/heard it.

And I have to wonder if there are really that many people out there who will buy these books with their stories that are as stale as day-old-bread? I guess there must be judging by the fact that the publishers are apparently signing them as fast as they can.

\Rant off

/BSP on

If you’d like to read a great self-published story, try Whistling Woman by CC Tillery (that’s me with my sister), only .99 on Kindle and coming soon to print!

It’s a wonderful story about our great-aunt Bessie, based on family
stories and chock-full of history about the mountains of western North
Carolina, Cherokee legends and medicine, and the Melungeon
people. Set in the town of Hot Springs around the turn of the 20th
century, it’s historical southern literature at its best!
(I can’t believe I just typed that but I happen to believe it and I really
need to get over my aversion to self-promotion!)

\BSP off

 

I recently finished the Smashwords formatting on Whistling Woman. It took me a long time, but I’m happy to say I received this email from Smashwords within a half hour of submitting the book:

Congratulations! There were no AutoVetter errors! Your book is now in the queue for review by our vetting team.

So, Whistling Woman is available on Smashwords but it’s waiting on the Premium Catalog approval. Not too shabby for a first time effort but I have to be honest and tell you, it wasn’t an easy thing to do–even with the free Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker. Still, there were no Autovetter errors and I’m told that’s a really good thing.

The thing is, I’ve been reading quite a few free books on my Kindle and though I haven’t tried any yet, I plan to check out some of the free offers on Smashwords. That is, if I can bring myself to do it. I love free books but…I absolutely hate the quality of some of the ones offered for no cost. Because, they aren’t really free, some of them come with a price. Not a monetary one, but an emotional one. Too many–and if you ask me more than two or three is too many!–left me frustrated and in a few cases downright angry because of the time I lost reading them. Not that they were all bad, there were a lot of really good ones out there, but some of them were full of typos, grammar errors, and yes, bad writing in the form of repeated words, missing words, words that have no business being where they are in the book, cliches–yes, I know, my love for cliches is well-known, but come on, there’s a reason “too much of a good thing” is a cliche–historical inaccuracies, implausible events, TSTL characters…the list goes on and on.

And that doesn’t even touch on the worst of all–formatting errors. When I see a book that isn’t formatted properly, the first thing that comes to my mind, especially if it’s a self-published book, is this author doesn’t take pride in their work.

That’s not a good thing because there are plenty of books, many of them free on Kindle or Smashwords, that walk you step-by-step through the formatting. All you have to do is follow the books and you’re almost guaranteed to have a, well, maybe not perfectly formatted, but at least nicely formatted book. You know, one that doesn’t make the reader want to slam it up against the wall immediately delete it from their reading device and never purchase another book by you again.

So, please, if you’re an author, self-published or not, and thinking of putting your book(s) up as e-books on Kindle and/or Smashwords, grab a little pride! Get yourself a copy of these books, read them, and more importantly, follow them!

Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing (Put out by Amazon.com. It doesn’t really walk you through the formatting steps, but there’s a lot of valuable information in there and it’s free.)

How to Publish Your Kindle Book on Amazon for Free and Make Money From Home by Ron Taylor (I haven’t read this one yet so don’t know how much help it is. It’s free for Prime members and only .99 for everybody else.)

How to Publish an Ebook on a Budget by Stephanie Zia (This one’s no longer free)

Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker (Free and a must-have if you’re going to publish on Smashwords. You can also view it or download a copy on Smashwords.)

Also, if you do click on the links for these books, check out the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” box just below the book cover. Lots of other books there that not only deal with formatting, but with marketing and writing too. Plus, if you’re thinking of publishing on Kindle, there are lots of good tips and advice on the KDP forums and help pages.

And finally, check out Jinx Schwartz’s blog post DYI Kindle e-books, I did it and so can you. Ms. Schwartz just reposted this and if you’re going to publish on Kindle, it’s a must-read!

Starting today and continuing for the next eleven days, Whistling Woman can be had for your Kindle at the amazing price of .99! So, for all those people out there who received new Kindles for Christmas–like me!–and want a good read for not much money–also like me!–because they are, as my niece Meghann says, Scrooge-alicious–yep, that’s me! Just call me Ebenezer, Jr.–head on over to the Amazon Kindle Store and download your copy of Whistling Woman. It’s a steal at less than a buck!

Happy Holidays to all–and God bless us, every one!

CC Tillery has some big news to share! But first, a little backstory–toward the end of our book, Whistling Woman, the family celebrates Old Christmas, with Papa and Bessie telling Thee the meaning and the myths behind the holiday. The following is an edited section–no spoilers here!–from Chapter Twenty-one, Winter 1900, entitled, Breaking up Christmas:

Papa is talking to Thee:

“Ya’ see, boy, midnight tonight is when the baby Jesus was first presented to the world. That was when the three Wise Men arrived at the stables where Mary and Joseph had taken shelter so Mary could have her baby. The Wise Men had traveled for miles, following the light of a single star, because they wanted to honor the birth of their Savior. When they showed up and offered the gifts they’d brought, all the animals in the stables woke up, adding their praise to that of the three Wise Men and the angels singing up above. And to this day, they say if you go out right at midnight and stand quietly, you can hear the animals praying, and some say if you can get a look at them, you’ll see them kneeling, too. Don’t know how true it is, but I’ve heard tell that the wild animals out in the woods and up on the mountains wake, stand up, and then lay back down on their other side.”

I looked at Thee, his eyes wide and filled with love, and knew right then and there that not only could I forgive Papa, I had to for the sake of my family.

Loney, who loved Christmas, sat in the chair beside Papa with a nearly completed quilt top spread across her lap. She’d heard the story many times, but when Papa started telling it, she stopped sewing and listened as raptly as Thee. When the story was finished, she smiled and asked, “Have you ever seen the animals pray, Papa?”

“Can’t rightly say I have, but I’ve heard tell of people who sneak out at midnight and have seen it. ’Course, there’s folks who say it’s bad luck to go looking for the signs of Old Christmas, that if you do, something bad will happen to you. I don’t think that’s so, though, since the people I talked to that claim to have seen and heard it all looked hearty to me.”

“But if you just happen to be out and see a sign, then it’s all right?”

“Sure it is but why would a person be out in the barn at midnight?”

Playing along, Loney said, “Maybe they were late getting home and had to put their horse in the stable before they could go to bed?”

Papa laughed. “Could be, Loney, but we’re all safe at home, as most people are on a cold winter night, so I guess we’ll stay right here and let the animals and alder bushes do what they do without us.”

“The alder bushes?”

Papa winked at Thee. “Did I forget that part? Well, Loney, the animals aren’t the only ones who honor the birth of the baby Jesus. The alder bushes do, too. Right at midnight on Old Christmas Eve, no matter how cold the night is or how much snow’s on the ground, the alder bushes burst into bloom and some say they even sprout new branches. I’ve also heard it said that if you listen closely, you can hear the bees roar in the bee-gum, as if they wanted to swarm.”

Thee stood up, leaned on Papa’s knee and said, “Can we see the animals, Papa?”

“Maybe in a few more years, when you’re old enough to stay up until midnight but not this year, boy. This year, I’d say you’ll be fast asleep by the time midnight rolls around. Why, you already look like its long past your bedtime and here it’s barely gone dark. It’s a long time till midnight.”

Thee’s little face crumpled and Papa patted his head. “Tell you what, Thee, if you can keep your eyes open till then, I’ll take you out to the barn myself and we’ll see what we can see.”

Clapping his hands, Thee jumped up and down. Jack chortled and did her best to slap her tiny hands together, too.

“But Papa, what if it is bad luck?” Loney asked.

“Pshaw, girl, I’ve talked to lots of people who say they’ve seen just such a thing and they were all living and breathing when they told me.”

Loney picked up her needle and started working on the quilt top again. “Wouldn’t that be a lovely thing to see, all the animals honoring Jesus like that?”  She looked down at Thee and smiled. “I think it might be worth taking a chance on some bad luck, don’t you, little man?”

Thee nodded and clapped his hands again. “Tell us some more, Papa.”

“Why that’s all I know to tell, boy. Maybe Bess knows more.”

Thee ran over to me where I sat on the sofa. “Tell, Bessie, tell.”

I smiled at him and ruffled his hair. “I’ll tell you what else happens during the twelve days of Christmas, Thee, but it’s about people, not about the animals.”

He looked doubtful but sat down at my feet, prepared to listen.

“There are some things you shouldn’t do, like lend anything to anybody during the twelve days of Christmas because if you do you’ll never get it back.” I pointed to the fireplace. “You see how the ashes are piling up in the hearth over there? That’s because it’s bad luck to clean them out during the twelve days. It’s also bad luck to wash your bed sheets until Old Christmas is over.”  I leaned down and sniffed at Thee. “Good thing we only have one more day, else we wouldn’t be able to stand the smell.”

Thee giggled and dramatically sniffed the skirt of my dress, wrinkling his little nose.

“Tonight is Old Christmas Eve and at midnight people everywhere will be breaking up Christmas.”  His face crumpled again and I went on hurriedly, “That’s not a bad thing. What it means is most people will drink sweet cider and burn a piece of cedar or pine in the fire as a way of saying farewell to the season.

“Do they have to break it because it’s old?”

I smiled. “No, sweetie. You see, some people believe the twenty-fifth of December is the day when the baby Jesus was born and the sixth of January is when He was first presented to the three Wise Men and to the world. But a long time ago, most people believed the sixth was the day when He was truly born and that’s when they celebrated so that day came to be known as Old Christmas. There are twelve days between the two dates, from December 25th, the ‘new’ Christmas, to January 6th, the ‘old’ Christmas, and that gives us the twelve days of Christmas. During those twelve days, people have what they call Breaking Up Christmas parties. Tonight’s party is at Aunt Belle’s house and there will be lots of sweet cider to drink and music for dancing.” I leaned down. “And I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell. Promise?”

He nodded.

I bent down and whispered, “Aunt Belle is planning on having a small fire in the street outside her house right at midnight so that people can burn a piece of cedar or pine to officially Break Up Christmas. Don’t tell Papa though, or he might have to arrest Aunt Belle.”

Thee laughed and whispered back, “I won’t. Can I go and see the fire?”

“If you do, how will you see the animals in the barn when they kneel down to pray?”

He frowned. Uncle Ned boarded his horse at the town livery stables so Aunt Belle didn’t have a barn or any animals he could spy on to see if they really did pray at midnight.

I took his chin in my hand and lifted it to give him a kiss. “Why don’t you stay here with Papa and Loney, and if you can stay awake, Papa will take you out to see the animals. You can see a fire in the fireplace any old time and Roy and I will be sure to burn a piece of pine in Aunt Belle’s fire to break up Christmas for you.”

Roy came in from the barn, bringing the crisp smell of winter with him. “You about ready to go, Bessie? I’ve got the horses hitched up and they’re champing at the bit.”

I stood, lifting Thee with me. “You keep those eyes open tonight, Theodore Norton. I want to hear all about what you see tomorrow.”

He put his arms around my neck and hugged me, whispering, “I will, Bessie,” in my ear. I squeezed him before kissing his cheek and setting him down on the floor.

Walking over to Papa, I kissed Jack on the top of her head first then bent further in to kiss Papa’s cheek. I turned to Loney who set her quilting aside and stood up.

“Have a good time, Bess.”  She stepped forward and kissed my cheek, which surprised me. Loney wasn’t usually given to outward signs of affection.

I took her hand and squeezed it. “You sure you don’t mind staying home with the babies? I can stay and you can go to the party if you want.”

She smiled. “I don’t mind a bit. You know how much I enjoy taking care of them. You and Roy have fun.”

I hugged her goodbye. At the door, I turned and looked at my family and the strangest sensation washed over me, as if I stood far away, seeing them in a dream. I could feel their love for me, just as I could mine for them, but there was a distance there, a deep chasm keeping them from me.

Now for the big news, in honor of Old Christmas, and as a way of saying thanks to everyone who’s been involved with this book for the last four years, Christy and I decided to have a special 12 Days of Christmas sale. That means from December 26, 2011 until January 6, 2012, you’ll be able to download the Kindle version of Whistling Woman for only 99 cents!

Enjoy and a very happy holiday season to everyone!

Very interesting and thought-provoking post by Jane on Dear Author; Publishers, It’s Your Move. In the article, Jane gives a list of 8 things publishers can do to reconnect with their readers and in number 4 notes that: “The great wealth of crappy self publishing offerings helps to increase the value of quality offerings but if the higher priced goods are crappy, then readers might as well pay $.99 instead of $7.99.”

I have to admit to a slight wince when I read the “great wealth of crappy self publishing offerings.” My sister, Christy Tillery French (the other half of CC Tillery) and I spent upwards of 4 months reading, proofing,and formatting then re-reading, re-proofing, and re-formatting many times over before we even considered submitting Whistling Woman to Kindle Direct Publishing. Quality was uppermost in our mind while we did that. We read countless books on how to format your e-book for the various e-readers and did our best to follow the directions of authors who have walked the self-publishing path before us. And from all indications, we got it right. Everyone I’ve talked to who has read or is reading Whistling Woman (available on Kindle for a low $2.99!), has commented on how clean the formatting is. Both Christy and I have read the book on our Kindles and (pardon the vanity) it looks beautiful. So I have to disagree on the quality of self-published e-books. There are some that are of an equal or higher quality than the e-books being released by the major publishers.

In fact, judging by the e-books I’ve read from the major publishers vs. the self-published e-books, I’d venture to say that whether you pay the outrageous prices from the big publishers or the much lower price for a self-published book, the odds of getting a poor quality e-book are about the same. I have a Sony Touch e-reader, a Kindle, and a Samsung Galaxy Tab with all the e-reader apps, and I have numerous e-books on each one. With the exception of one Stephen King book and a few books by fave authors, I’ve never paid more than $5 for any e-book. I just refuse to do it and I no longer have an auto-buy list simply because I learned pretty fast that in the world of e-books, high price doesn’t always equal high quality. So, being a cheapskate, a skinflint, and a Scrooge admirer of the highest order, most of the e-books I buy cost no more than $.99, and though I don’t know for sure, I’d be willing to bet I have just as many that were free. A great many of those books are self-published, as Whistling Woman is, and I’ve found very few that have glaring formatting errors, typos, or grammatical mistakes. Which leads me to believe that most self-published authors are at least making an effort to get it right.

I heartily agree with Jane’s admonitions to the big publishers, “Be synonymous with quality” but I have to add that a cheaper price doesn’t always mean cheaper quality. And yes, I know that Jane isn’t saying all self-published books are low-quality because the truth is, there are quite a few that are…well, crappy, but there are also quite a few self-published authors who take pride in their work and strive to make it the best it can be.

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since I posted anything on here. But then, I’ve been busy what with polishing Whistling Woman and readying it for publication. Who knew it would take three…wait, what? You mean you don’t know about Whistling Woman? Well, let me tell you:

Whistling Woman is a book my sister, Christy Tillery French, and I co-wrote under the pseudonym of CC Tillery (a combination of our first initials and our maiden name). It’s about our great-aunt Bessie and is southern literary fiction. It takes place in Hot Springs, North Carolina over 6 years, 1895-1901, and is based on family stories we heard from our dad and Aunt Bessie when we were growing up. There is quite a bit of Cherokee folklore and medicine woven into the story, as well as some historical facts about Hot Springs and the surrounding region. The book is fact-based fiction, or faction, as I’ve heard it called.

The title comes from an old southern saying, “A whistling woman and a crowing hen never come to a very good end.” The meaning of the saying varies. It could be a warning to women to live a proper life or as I’ve always heard it interpreted, “be who you’re meant to be.” Just another way of saying be true to yourself. That’s exactly how Aunt Bessie lived her life and so that’s why we decided to title the book Whistling Woman.

So now you know what’s been keeping me busy for the last 3 months. One book, two authors, countless edits, and boatloads of frustration, learning, and anxiety. But, as of yesterday evening, Whistling Woman is available as an e-book on Kindle. Yay! Just click here to order your very own copy at the bargain price of $2.99!

Meanwhile, Christy and I will be tackling Smashwords so it can be available on all the other e-readers. Wish us luck!