MILES LEFT YET – ONE OF MY FAVORITE INDIES

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I’ve always had a soft spot for this book.

It’s one of the first I wrote for the indie platform. And for some reason, it just never “took off” (driving pun intended). Probably because I wasn’t doing quite as much advertising (or even newsletters) when I first started indie pubbing.

One of the reasons I have such a soft spot, though, is that my first reader / main editor is a “senior”–nearly 80. And the characters in this book are seniors as well. It’s not a group we see quite as often in literature–not as main characters, anyway. Usually, they’re part of the supporting cast. But that seems so strange to me; these characters have seen and done and experienced so much. They’re rich with development possibilities!

With characters this age, I get to say things in the narration that I wouldn’t with a younger cast. Seventeen-year-olds certainly don’t have the same world view as seventy-year-olds, after all.

I loved writing this book. And it is spring, after all, the season of deep-cleaning and gardens, of opening the windows, dusting off our old favorites, getting back out in the sunshine.

Sooo…

I decided to dust off this old fave. A new cover, a new synopsis. A wide release. It’s available in e-book form for $1.99 for a limited time. The paperback is available for $9.99. I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the synopsis and links below:

 

None of them really expected to wind up at the Granite Ridge Retirement Community for Active Seniors. And yet, here they are—Jim arriving after his wife’s unexpected passing, Norma after selling her home to rescue her financially strapped daughter, and Mildred after her lifelong neighborhood becomes overrun by crime. It’s an odd place to be, for sure—put out to pasture, some might phrase it. At the end of life’s road.

And yet, inside, they all still feel as young as ever.

When a figure from Mildred’s past emerges, a motley crew from the retirement community embarks on a road trip—in a vintage Mustang convertible, no less—which quickly turns into an adventure of second chances, fresh starts, and the discovery that love is never a landmark in the rearview mirror. No matter what the odometer reads, as long as there’s gas in the tank, there are always still new roads to explore…plenty of miles left yet.

**Includes book club discussion questions.**

It’s Never the End of the Road

None of them really expected to wind up at the Granite Ridge Retirement Community for Active Seniors. And yet, here they are—Jim arriving after his wife’s unexpected passing, Norma after selling her home to rescue her financially strapped daughter, and Mildred after her lifelong neighborhood becomes overrun by crime. It’s an odd place to be, for sure—put out to pasture, some might phrase it. At the end of life’s road.

And yet, inside, they all still feel as young as ever.

When a figure from Mildred’s past emerges, a motley crew from the retirement community embarks on a road trip—in a vintage Mustang convertible, no less—which quickly turns into an adventure of second chances, fresh starts, and the discovery that love is never a landmark in the rearview mirror. No matter what the odometer reads, as long as there’s gas in the tank, there are always still new roads to explore…plenty of miles left yet.

**Includes book club discussion questions.**

Links

Amazon
iBooks
B&N
Kobo

Happy spring, everyone! I hope your gardens are growing and your flowers are blooming and you get a chance to read beneath your favorite shade tree. (Come on–aren’t shade trees the perfect place to read?)

–Holly

INDIE / SELF PUBLISHING TIP: COVER ART FOR BEGINNERS

I still bump into indie or self publishers who are hesitant to create their own cover art. The task of creating a cover often seems far more daunting than actually writing a book. Each author has to weigh the pros and cons of farming out certain jobs when taking on self-publishing, and every author knows his or her own abilities. But I do think cover art creation can be not only a rewarding activity for indie publishers, but an informative one, too.

For those who have decided they’d like to take the cover art plunge, a few tips or ideas:

At its simplest, an e-book cover is an image with a few words on it. That’s it. To start out, a professional-looking cover can be had for a pretty small amount of money (under $50—most of my covers range around $30). All you need is an image and a font.

BUY A STOCK PHOTO

This is how most traditionally published covers are created, actually. (It’s also why you sometimes see the same image on multiple covers by different authors or publishers.) I usually frequent Shutterstock or iStock, where you can get a quality image for around $15.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A STOCK PHOTO

If you’re new to image editing, try to grab a photo that needs the least amount of work done to it. Refine your search for photos composed vertically (the natural shape of a book), and look for large open areas in the photo where your title and your name can be placed.

My own covers for MILES LEFT YET and ALL ROADS are stock images I found using this method—neither required any editing on my part beyond adding text:

GET A FONT

Don’t use the fonts already installed on your computer. Times New Roman does not convey any feelings regarding what’s in your book. I mean it—GET A FONT. You can actually find fonts that are free for commercial use (just Google it), but I’ve also found some really great, paid professional fonts on both Etsy and Creative Market. I’ve paid as little as $2 for a font, but I’d say $10 is pretty average. And it feels good to support another creative person who is independently selling their products online.

ACTUALLY, GET TWO FONTS

Rarely do I use a single font for a cover. (MILES LEFT YET may be the one instance I did). Think in terms of opposites for your fonts—try a script or cursive looking font combined with a sans serif. Again, fonts have personality—every bit as much as the image you choose! Be sure to reflect the content of your novel with your font. A good way to get a handle on appropriate fonts used for different genres is to either hit the shelves of your library or do a quick Amazon search. Examples: Romance novels have more calligraphy-style fonts, horror novels have drippy blood fonts, thrillers often use bold sans serif fonts, kids’ books frequently use childlike handwriting, etc.

USE A PHOTO EDITING PROGRAM

It doesn’t have to be Photoshop, especially if all you want to do is plug in text. GIMP is a perfectly good photo editor—and it’s completely free. It’s also fairly widely used, so if you ever get stuck, you can simply search for a how-to vid on YouTube.

That’s literally all it takes. A stock photo, a couple of fonts, and a program like GIMP. Of course, as you go along, you’ll have additional needs and ideas. You’ll begin to look for different stock photos that you can then edit / splice together, etc. You might even begin to take your own photos for covers. You’ll begin using Photoshop. But this is a great, low-cost way to get started. And the good news is that because you have used a professional photo and a professional font, your cover winds up intrinsically looking, well, professional—even if you’re not a professional designer.

THE NUMBER ONE ADVANTAGE OF SELF-DESIGN

You learn. I’ve actually learned far more through indie publishing than I have through traditional publishing. Not just about covers, either, although that’s been part of it. Some covers will hit and others won’t—since you’re in control, and since you spent little money to begin with, switching a cover isn’t going to break the bank. Doing it yourself means you’re adding design skills and promotional skills to your résumé (and yes, covers are promotional objects).

Now, get out there and design a cover!

 

 

 

SUPER SUSAN! (INSPIRATION FOR INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: If you’re writing for young readers, your old stuff is just a goldmine. And by “old stuff,” I mean anything that allows you to connect with who you were as a teen or fifth grader or college freshman, etc.

When I wrote my first YA, A BLUE SO DARK, I dug through all the old spiral-bound notebooks I filled with poetry throughout high school. Not only did it help me get back into the right teen voice, a few of those poems actually worked their way into the finished book (tweaked a bit to fit the events of the novel).

Last year, I bumped into this gem–it appears to be an old school project (I’m thinking I was about 8 when I did this, since that’s when I learned cursive) in which I invented a superhero. My creation?

SUPER SUSAN!

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Check out that impressive glitter work–and that’s real yarn hair! Pretty super, if I do say so myself.

When Susan is not being super, she is mild-mannered Susan Crawford:

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I’m not sure what Susan Crawford does, exactly. Maybe librarian? I probably would have liked a librarian.

Here I am brainstorming Super Susan’s abilities:

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And here’s my short piece on Super Susan:

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Susan’s true superpower? According to that last paragraph, it’s kindness.

I got such a kick out of this, and I wanted to give other young writers an opportunity to invent a superhero of his or her own. The end result? A brainstorming journal:

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In this journal, young writers will not only create a new superhero, they’ll also learn the basics of crafting strong characters, building solid conflict, and finding an emotionally satisfying story conclusion.

The journal also asks writers to consider how their characters change. Taking a page from the Super Susan book, the journal encourages writers to give their heroes a chance to show kindness to their enemy. By showing kindness, writers can see how those heroes and enemies can actually find common ground, maybe even join forces.

I hope your young writers come up with something amazing. Well–actually, I don’t hope. I know they will. Snag your own copy here.

NEW RELEASE: INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO

I’ve released my first writing how-to book for kids!

INVENT YOUR OWN SUPERHERO: A BRAINSTORMING JOURNAL

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Create a brand-new superhero with never-before-seen powers and the perfect arch-enemy. Learn to tell an exciting story!

Psst: And it’s fun, too!
~
Award-winning author Holly Schindler turns her attention to helping young writers learn the craft of storytelling. Yes, this activity book is a guide for creating a new superhero, but it also uses brainstorming prompts to take young authors through the process of constructing a story with solid characters, plenty of pulse-pounding conflict, and a satisfying ending. Great for individual or classroom use. Suggested grades: 3-8.

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Okay, okay, it’s my first writing how-to book for anybody, regardless of age. But this is specifically geared toward young writers. I’d suggest it for grades 3-8, but since every child develops at their own rate, of course it could also work for someone slightly older or younger, as well.

What does this writing journal offer?

Help creating a brand-new superhero with never-before-seen powers and the perfect arch-enemy.
A step-by-step guide that teaches kids to tell an exciting story.
Most importantly, it’s fun, too!

Yes, this activity book will guide users through creating a new superhero, but it’s so much more! This journal uses brainstorming prompts to take young authors through the process of constructing a story with solid characters, plenty of pulse-pounding conflict, and a satisfying ending.

Really, by using the hook of creating a new “superhero,” I’m introducing kids to the concept of “pre-writing,” or planning out a story before writing it. This journal gives them a starting point for how to become a “plotter” rather than a “pantser.” (A plotter outlines a story first, and a pantser literally flies by the seat of their pants, or wings every single book they write.) The farther along I get, the more I think the worst thing a writer could ever be is a lifelong pantser. There’s no way I could meet every single deadline writing that way. Professional writers need to master the art of outlining, brainstorming, and pre-writing in order to organize their thoughts BEFORE writing the first draft. Otherwise, they’re quickly overwhelmed. Projects gets delayed or even sidelined completely.

How does it work?

The journal contains both informative text and numbered brainstorming prompts. These prompts take young authors first through the process of creating a solid hero and worthy opponent (arch-enemy). Once the young authors understand their characters, they can then begin to craft the conflict and story resolution, as well.

Sneak peek:

As you can see from these sample pages, the journal introduces young writers to concepts like “foreshadowing” and “backstory,” and provides thoughts on how to “flesh out” characters and find an ending in which not only good prevails but characters change and grow as well.

What will young authors create?

Anything they want! Students can take all the ideas they generate here to then write a short story or book, illustrate a comic, even devise a script for a movie or play that can be acted out. The journal includes several blank pages in the back to get started with their projects, but after all this brainstorming, they might find they need far more paper to finish…maybe even a whole spiral-bound notebook!

Great for both individuals and classrooms!

Available at Amazon: http://bit.ly/HeroJournal

Best wishes in writing!

Holly

FORMAT E-BOOKS WITH SCRIVENER THE EASY WAY

Well, it’s the easiest way I’ve ever found, anyway. I type each chapter to look as I’d like it to as I write the manuscript. Then, when I compile, I basically uncheck everything that’s pre-checked by the program, telling it to simply format according to the way each chapter already appears.

Clear as mud? Here it is step-by-step:

  1. Make sure your chapters are all typed up the way you’d like them to look. Simpler’s generally better for e-books. (Here, I’ve simply bolded the chapter number, and made the first line of the chapter flush left.) Also, I arrange all my chapters in the binder as far left as they’ll go.

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2. Open the compile dialogue box, and make sure to click all the chapters you want to include under “Contents.”

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3.  Under “Separators,” choose “Page Break” for each option.

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4. Under “Formatting,” Uncheck all the “Title” options and check “Text.”

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5. Unclick “Override text and notes formatting.”

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6. Unclick everything under “Options.”

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7. Click “Level 1+,” then set “Page Padding” down to 0 lines and under “Section Layout,” delete all the Chapter information.

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8. Repeat Step #7 for all Levels.

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9. Unclick everything under “Transformations.”

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10. In the “Compile” dialogue, add your cover.

10 add your cover

11.  Also in the Compile dialogue, fill out the Meta Data.

10 fill out your metadata

Make sure you’ve chosen the right type of file to compile into (.mobi, .epub), then click “Compile” at the bottom of the dialogue box.

Done!