Tag Archives: Witchcanery

How I Got Back On Track With Writing Resolutions

My quivering computer awaiting my first words of 2014.  (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

My quivering computer awaiting my first words of 2014. (Photo credit: Sandra Bell Kirchman)

At the end of 2013, I am sitting at my computer, wondering how to sum up the year and whether or not I should set some goals for 2014.

Why did I fail to reach so many goals in 2013?  Was it because I took too big a bite, trying to do NaNoWriMo, and an online magazine column, two novels, three blogs, and a book of flash fiction stories?

Was it because of my body betraying me in a number of poor health ways?

Was it because I couldn’t get organized and had a mess on my desk and a clutter in my head?

As I ponder, I decide that each of the above reasons had something to do with falling woefully short of my goals. A small something.  How did I arrive at that somewhat startling conclusion?  Because I have really wanted to accomplish something in the past…a number of somethings…and ended up finishing them ahead of time.  Each of these goals had been as big as 2013’s targets.

"Witchcanery" by Sandra Bell Kirchman, First Editiion, pub. 2007 by FantasyFic

“Witchcanery” by Sandra Bell Kirchman, First Edition, pub. 2007 by FantasyFic

The key here was “wanting.”  I really wanted to accomplish them.  So did that mean I didn’t want to accomplish my writing goals for the past year?  No.  I definitely did want to finish my Nano entry and ended up in emergency instead.  The entry was the sequel to my published novel Witchcanery.

I had, in the past, had customers (fans) who made me promise that I would write the sequel to Witchcanery before they agreed to buy it.  They had read the dust jacket and wouldn’t even start such a “fascinating book”–their words, not mine–unless I agreed to do the sequel.

So the sequel had been in the works for several years and I had promised myself that 2013 was the year Witchcanery, Baby! would explode into being.  (As you probably know, you have to complete 50,000 words before you achieve the NaNoWriMo goal.) I got as far as 22,000+ words before Mother Nature pulled the plug on me.

And seconds after writing those last words, I received an epiphany.  There is a difference between “wanting” and “being dedicated to.”  And therein lies the difference.  I have been dedicated to accomplishing many things in the past, and EVERY SINGLE ONE was accomplished.

These goals ran from marrying the man I love, to finishing, editing and publishing my first book (which happened to be Witchcanery).  I have wanted many things in the past (and many of them were important) things like pierced ears (ouch!), continuing my volunteer work, losing weight…some I achieved or received…others I did not.

What's my priority?

What’s my priority? Photo credit: Stuart Miles | Freedigitalphotos.com

Now, here’s the kicker.  I felt fulfillment for EACH dedicated goal I achieved. Not many of them gave me real satisfaction if I achieved them.  I wanted a couple of writing courses, which I acquired after a small struggle.  I was sorry I had spent my money on them.

So what does this discrepancy mean to me?  It boils down to one thing for me.  It’s the difference between needs and wants, as simple as that.  And something I have know about since I was in my 20’s.  If I perceive it as a need, even subconsciously, then, being the survivor that I am, I will make sure I accomplish it.  If it’s only a want, I will prioritize it as to how badly I want it.  Even then, there is no guarantee I will get it.

So I’m sitting here, feeling a tad smug for having figured out what went wrong in 2013 (and quite likely how I messed up with my goals in other years).  I have a chance to right all the wrongs, like Ebenezer Scrooge after the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Proposed bookcover for "Witchcanery, Baby!"

Proposed bookcover for “Witchcanery, Baby!”

So the first thing I will put on my list for 2014 is completing Witchcanery, Baby! You want to know what happened there?  I was trying to complete it in 2013 for the wrong reasons…because fans wanted this sequel, because I had written in some parts for friends whose husbands had passed, and it was very comforting to them.  So I had to finish it, right?

Wrong!  It’s like dieting.  If I try to lose weight because my husband wants me to, or my kids, or my best friend (for some strange reason), then it’s not for me.  Body weight is personal…so is writing.  If I finish a story because I NEED to, then I have the write…er, right…of it.  And now, all the other reasons don’t matter.  I know I need to finish this story.  I can hardly wait for Dec. 31, 2014 to find out if it worked.  I’ll keep you posted.

So, how about you?  What keeps you from accomplishing your New Year’s Resolutions or any goals you decide to earmark for completion?  Here’s a post by Daphne Gray-Grant that I just read about using the right word when making goals.  I think it might help.

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Make Your Book More Professional By Harvesting Praise

We’ve been taught to not pat ourselves on our back because it feeds our vanity, and excessive vanity is apparently evil.  So we refrain from saying anything too nice about anything we do in case our vanity becomes too big to handle.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), this works against us in the professional world.  Now, people still have the idea that anyone who praises himself is perhaps vain, or arrogant, or a braggart, or all three.  Yet somehow it’s necessary to get the idea across to the readers that this particular book is really good and should be read.  So, what’s a poor writer supposed to do?

You can buy advertising, you can talk on radio, you can do book signings, but all this still is you talking about you.  Of course, some people have developed a knack of saying good things about themselves and people love it, but this knack seems to be for the chosen few.  For the rest of us, it seems like we are tooting our own horn.  Well, how about getting OTHER people to say nice things about your book?  If you have sold your book to a publishing house, then your publisher will generally take care of securing testimonials from people about how good your book is.  You usually don’t have to do much.

However, if you are taking the self-publishing route, then it’s up to you to find this praise.  You might feel funny going up to someone and saying, “Will you say nice things about my book?”  This is liable to earn you a cold stare, quickly followed by a colder shoulder.  We we have ways of making you like…er…there are ways to get people to comment on your book.  The best way is to let them read the manuscript.  So, initially, make sure you know the people and trust them to a certain degree.  Then you ask them to write a paragraph or two about what they thought about your book.  You are hoping that they liked it, but if they don’t, thank them anyhow…and, of course, don’t use it.  But, if they liked it…ah, if they liked it, then it is pure gold.

A few things you need to get from them…their name, their occupation, and their permission to use what they said for promotion of the book.  You can also get their location if you think that might be of interest to the readers.  These comments are called testimonials, and you will notice that many books will include them in the front of the book in what they call the front matter (the pages before the start of the novel).  And they definitely add a professional look and tone to your book, not to mention reassuring readers that this is a book worth reading.

For the 1st edition of my first published book, Witchcanery, I sent the manuscript to a number of people I thought might enjoy it and asked them to read it and let me know what they thought.  To be honest, I had gone over the durned thing so many times, I had lost all perspective of and feeling for the book at that point.  So I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.  When I got the first one back, I let out the breath I had been holding and sniffed back some tears.  Here’s what he said:

Witchanery drew me into a new world and brought me new friends and new heroes, new magic, used in new ways…touching and bright even when things were very dark.  And DARK things get!  The world of Sandra Bell Kirchman’s Witchcanery spans a great length of time and we are given but a tasty slice—I hope the hints of more are materializing from the fertile grounds as we watch.

I signed it with his name and occupation:  Starhawk Victor, User Support Specialist II, American Red Cross.

Try to get a good cross-section of people to read the book and comment.  For instance, my collection of testimonial givers included a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army, a retired schoolteacher, a warehouse manager, and a geologist.  On the back of the book, I used the testimonial of a friend of mine who also happens to be a PhD.

Book cover of Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Englishman's Boy

It doesn’t hurt to do a little bit of mild name dropping.  If you know a celebrity or have a friend who knows one, there is nothing wrong with asking them to write a foreword for your book, which is hopefully just a longer testimonial.  For the first anthology I edited,  In the Shadow of the Burr Oak, the gal who designed the front and back covers of the book, photojournalist Helen Solmes, knew the noted Canadian fiction author Guy Vanderhaeghe (The Englishman’s Boy and The Last Crossing).  Helen asked Guy if he would write the foreword.  He did and it was a lovely, touching one.

Don’t overlook sources close to home either.  I gathered a few testimonials for my second anthology, Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories, but  I made my first sale (other than to the various authors of the stories in the book) to my family doctor.  He had read my first book and enjoyed it.  When I asked him for a testimonial, he agreed.  It took a while because he is a busy man, but when it came, it was short, sweet, and well worth the wait.  Here’s what the good doctor said about Birth of a Unicorn:

“Riveting.  Sandra and her skilled team of writers transport you from mysterious forests to far-off beaches, high up into the mountains and right down into dungeons, whilst interacting with Unicorns, Dragons and other magical creatures. You won’t put it down ‘til you’re done.”

I will use it for future promotional brochures and other places I am promoting the book.  I will sign it with his name and occupation:  Johann Nel, M.D.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Go and find some people to write good things about your book.  What?  Your book isn’t finished yet?  Then go for the gusto and finish it!  You know you want to.

Book Signings Can Be Fun…Even If You’ve Never Done One (Part 1 – the Set-Up)

Bookstore

When I was contemplating my first book signing, I didn’t have anything to go by other than what I had seen on TV and in the movies…a bored author signing an endless parade of books.  It was a stereotyped image, and the author was invariably someone who was famous and had umpteen dozen best sellers on the market.  All of it was so far from my actual experience, that I was astonished.  Let’s deal with the stereotype and get that out of the way.

Unequivocally, if the author is bored, people will stay away in droves.  Now you might not be bored, but nervous instead and bury your face in a book to cover it.  However, it will give people the same impression:  you’re not interested in your book and you are not interested in the people.  They will stay away from your table.

Maybe we should go back to the beginning.

When the first edition of my novel Witchcanery was published, I was ecstatic.  Since it was self-published, I had to get out and spread the word.  I had no clue how to go about it.  Fortunately, I had attended a seminar on book publishing by small, independent publishers, and they had mentioned about a contact to get books placed in Chapters, a large Canadian chain of bookstores.  I telephoned the guy, who turned out to be the regional consultant for PR with the stores in Alberta.  He met with me and gave me all kinds of helpful advice, plus a list of stores to try.  I contacted two or three of them, asked to speak to the store manager (or the consignment manager), and set up book signings.  It was as simple as that. 

Booksigning Table

In a big chain, the stores will usually take the books on consignment (under contract).  That means you don’t get paid until the books are actually sold.  Then the store will take a commission for selling them for you.  With the big stores, it can be as much as 45% (which it was in my case).  It can also be as low as 10% in small stores, such as our local pharmacy.  Some places won’t charge any commission, but enjoy having the books as an extra service to their customers.

Many places will handle the publicity and posters themselves; others will ask your help.  I found it helpful to do my own signs and bring them, since on at least one occasion the harried consignment manager had misplaced the signs I sent her.  You can make high quality signs and posters on your own computer if you have a good graphics program.  Just scan the front cover of your book and use that as the image on your sign or poster.  If you can have bookmarks on hand, they are great advertising, and it’s nice to give something useful to your customers.  Here is what you will need to take with you to the book signing:

2 or 3 good pens
A small notebook
Scotch tape
A thermos of coffee or your drink of choice; also some water
Your own business cards if you have them
Any brochures you might have made about your book
A pillow for your chair
Your books (bring a few extra with you, even if you delivered books to the store in advance)
Display stands for your books
Your posters
* Cash box or pouch with change in it, depending on the price of your book
* A few plastic bags for your customers to put their book in

* The last two are for venues that are not stores themselves – art shows, libraries, etc.

Check if the store will provide a table covering (they usually do).  If not, bring a cloth to cover the table to make it look more professional.  A solid color is better than a patterned one, unless your book is about cooking or crafts.  Then a gaily patterned table cloth might set off your book better.  Use your judgment and good taste.

Display Stand

If you have had some publicity about your book, or if you took out a nice ad for it (your cost), clip out the story or ad.  You can buy some nice plastic stands at an office outlet to hold them.

You should arrive at least half an hour in advance, so you can set up your table.  The store will provide your table and a chair and will place it in the store for you.  The best position is facing an entrance so you can greet people as they enter.

Make the table look as attractive as possible.  The store will bring you a pile of books if they took them in advance.  Sometimes they want to put their magnetic codes on the books, before people buy them.  Arrange the books in attractive ways.  Marketing techniques say that you should have varying heights on your table to make it look more interesting.  Lay out your brochures, business cards and posters in an eye-catching way.  Big point is to not litter the table with pop cans, coffee cups, or burger wrappers.  This is the professional table of a professional writer, so you want to keep it looking that way.  Keep a little garbage bag under the table or your chair for refuse and keep the table for your books.  Make sure you have enough space on the table to sign the books as well.

If you have been just married, like I was at my first book signing, make sure you practice signing your new name a few times so you don’t make a mistake on the books.

 You are now all set for your first book signing.  Put on a happy face and wait for the next stage of the book signing.  Stay tuned to this blog for Part 2 tomorrow on what to do while you are at the table and how you can bring in more sales.

Welcome to Fantasyfic – Journey Through the Worlds of Fantasy Fiction

"Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories"

Anthology edited by Sandra Bell Kirchman and published by FantasyFic - recently released.

To paraphrase a well-known bathroom wall graffiti:  Here I sit, broken-hearted; came to write and never started.  I’ve discovered that writing is one of the loneliest occupations in the world.  Even if I am collaborating with someone else, in the end it boils down to me sitting down and…well…writing.  Just me and my computer screen.  On occasion, I’ve even felt like Dr. Johnny Fever, who, when sitting in on the all-night show for Venus Flytrap in “WKRP in Cincinnati,” called out over the mike at 4am, “For the love of God, is there anybody out there?”.  Fortunately, there are ways to counteract that loneliness.

Hi, I’m Sandra Bell Kirchman.  If you’re trying to write fantasy fiction and hitting road blocks, I invite you to follow along with me as I hit the open road of writing a fantasy novel.  It’s an epic adventure with the working title of Battle Cleric, full of various kinds of elves and a journey both into the past and the future of retired Battle Cleric Emerald Verity.  I’ll be sharing some information on plot structure, character development, world building, name-calling (but we’ll be polite about it 🙂 ), where, when, and if you need to find cover artists, and basically the joy and freedom of writing fantasy.  Perhaps we’ll explore book signings as well, something I’ve done a fair amount of.  And anything else that touches our fancy along the way.   I hope you’ll be sharing some of your techniques and ideas along the way as well.

In addition, we be touching on pictures and quotes to inspire us or represent a part of our writing.  We’ll also be discussing a few of our favorite fantasy authors and why they are our favorites, pinpointing technique and style as we go.  Fantasy movies will also be a part of it. 

I do hope you’ll join me, as we take our “Journey Through the Worlds of Fantasy Fiction.”

Fantasyfic logo

Fantasyfic Logo

I’ve written a fantasy novel, Witchcanery, which has won quite a bit of acclaim around the world and a few awards along the way.  It has also earned me a much-coveted spot in “50 Great Writers You Should be Reading” (I’m the one hidden behind the “d” in “Reading.”)  This is a book of hope for writers and insight for readers into the struggles and successes of 50 writers chosen by The Authors Show.  The book was published and recently released by The Authors Show for purchase.

I have also edited, contributed a story, and done the layout for two anthologies—one entitled In the Shadow of the Burr Oak, written by my students of a short story class; the other entitled Birth of a Unicorn and Other Stories, written by the writers at my website’s forum and just recently released.  I have worked a lot with these writers, and together we have written a wonderful book.

And now, together, you and I can explore the world of fantasy together, while I regale you with all my adventures and you share with me your own writing tribulations and successes. 

“Journey Through the Worlds of Fantasy Fiction” will commence January 4, 2011, perhaps heralding a brand new year and a brand new writing horizon.