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An Insult to the Written Word?   2 comments

Author Laurie Gough wrote an article titled Self-Publishing: An Insult to the Written Word in which she argued that self-publishing devalues to the art of writing, is disrespectful, and less desirable than sharing “a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump.” To rub salt in the wound, the word “published” is put in quotation marks whenever used to refer to a self-published author.

I wondered at first whether the article was satirical, but Gough seemed serious as she insisted that traditional publishing isn’t perfect, but it’s the best system that we have because it’s the only system that includes gatekeepers.


As a self-published author, I think her view is short-sighted.


Readers make the author. Whether published by the Big Five or their own imprint, an author is nothing without her readers. In other words, readers are the ultimate gatekeepers … and always have been. When I’m looking for my next book fix on Amazon — or at Barnes & Noble or Gulliver’s Book (local bookstore), I look at a book’s title, cover and synopsis first. If those pique my interest, I read the reviews before I click “buy”. Frankly, I don’t care if the book was released by HarperCollins or CreateSpace. It’s the reviews posted by readers that I care about.

Image result for image of independent publishingGough asserted that the traditional publishing model is the best system we have, so we shouldn’t mess with it. Just because some find the Big Five publishing near-monopoly works best for them doesn’t mean it should be the only system available. To have just a handful of major players dictating who gets a piece of the publishing pie is a recipe for disaster. It would mean a world of shrinking advances for authors, missed gems for readers, and a lack of sustainability for publishers.

With self-publishing, authors can create their own imprints and function as a small press, competing with traditional publishers. I love to cite the example of Meredith Wild, an author who self-published her series, built a brand around her imprint, and scored a multimillion dollar advance for five books. Over at Breakwater Harbor Books, a group of indie authors have banned together to create their own imprint. We’re writing books instead of endlessly submitting to agents and publishers.

Gough’s main concern with self-publishing seems to be the quality of the books produced by indie authors. Which is, of course, why editors exist. Authors can and do invest in thier books and realize that they need professional help to improve on their produce to make it more enjoyable for their readers and more marketable. Why put them down for that?

I know editors and designers who work at traditional houses who take on freelance work. I can’t afford most of them, but I don’t think their quality of work goes down when they edit for an indie author. Many writers have published with traditional presses and also chosen to self-publish. Successful self-published books sometimes get picked up by publishing houses. The overlapping of the two methods keeps the industry thriving through economic turbulence. Whether we prefer traditional publishing or self-publishing, this is good news for book lovers everywhere.

With the business aspect aside, self-publishing a book is, at its core, a way for writers to express their thoughts to a wider audience. Writing is an art, a method of communication with the world at large, and part of what makes us human.

Gough softened her post with a few half-hearted words of acquiescence.

“I have nothing against people who want to self-publish, especially if they’re elderly. Perhaps they want to write their life story and have no time to learn how to write well enough to be published traditionally.”

What I found interesting is that her arguments are the same one the Big Three auto manufacturers made against upstart car companies or that network television made against cable. Lack of competition had made these old moribund companies complacent and stale. The arrival of newcomers in the field improved the product for everyone.

Yes, good writing takes time to learn. You aren’t going to get any better at it by writing pitch letters to the Big Five and the handful of agents they listen to. You get better at writing by actually writing. Indie publishing allows us to do that and then pitch our work to the only agent that truly matters … the readers.


Free – 1 Day Only   Leave a comment

Grab The Willow Branch for free today and read the first in series at a great price. Mirklin Wood, Book 2, is only $1.99 TODAY ONLY.

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Posted November 18, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in book promotion

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A Great Fantasy at an Unbelievable Price   Leave a comment

Grab The Willow Branch for free today and read the first in series at a great price. Mirklin Wood, Book 2, is only $1.99 TODAY ONLY.

Epic fantasy at its best.

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Posted November 3, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in book promotion

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Get It While It’s Cheap   Leave a comment

Grab The Willow Branch for free today and read the first in series at a great price. Mirklin Wood, Book 2, is only $1.99 TODAY ONLY.

Epic fantasy at its best.


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Posted October 19, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in book promotion

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Taste Treat # 3 of Objects In View   Leave a comment

In my ongoing attempt to whet your appetite for my next published book, here’s a little tidbit of what you’ll find inside.


Objects in View Front CoverMike Biurrarena y Sanchez forced his fingers to release from the webbing as other soldiers began to grab their gear and file toward the back of the plane where the tail door would soon drop.

Ridiculous that flying still made him nervous. How many flights had he taken? He shouldered his pack and slung his AR-15. Warm air rushed into his face as he followed other men downward.

Men with wands waited at the bottom of the ramp. Mike didn’t recognize the equipment, but the odd clicking noises reminded him of Geiger counters. There’d been rumors in the air that something “big” was happening, but the details had been sketchy when the cell phone coverage cut out.

Nuclear? Dios mio!

The day’s heat still radiated off the tarmac while a huge tow truck pulled a passenger jumbo toward the far end of the terminal where the runway lights illuminated a string of passenger jets parked wingtip to wingtip in what was usually a no-man’s security area.

“Sanchez, Vasquez, Carlson, with me.”

Mike recognized Crispin, who was already surrounded by a dozen black-clothed men with duffels resting at their feet and various semi-auto rifles slung over their backs. Crispin had been the CO on two of his last three assignments. A competent leader, ex-Special Forces, given to ironic jokes that Mike usually didn’t get until Ric laughed. He’d have to pay closer attention without Ric to be the smart one.

“Men, thank you for getting on that plane. Do you know what is going on?”

They didn’t, really. They’d sat on the tarmac of a backwater airfield forever before they’d been given the scramble order, but no reason had been given for any of it.  The cell phone chatter had been suppressed early in the flight. Crispin sighed then stood a little straighter.

“At precisely 7 pm Eastern Standard Time, terrorists struck an as-yet-undetermined number of US cities with low-tech nuclear weapons.” He let that sink in a moment. Everyone looked stunned. “I know many of you have families and friends to be concerned about, but we have a mission to accomplish. I only know that Denver and Kansas City were hit. There are others, but the information is sketchy right now. Our job here in Wichita is to maintain order and protect the governor, who is relocating here because Topeka is considered too close to Kansas City. As soon as we can get communications channels cleared, we will let you call your families.”

Mike remembered to take a breath. A memory of Ric saying “Don’t be near any big cities on Wednesday” surfaced. How had he known?


Watch for the book launch October 4 or you can preorder right now.

The Willow Branch is Free   Leave a comment

Cover SeriesGrab The Willow Branch for free today and read the first in series at a great price. Mirklin Wood, Book 2, is only $1.99 TODAY ONLY.

Epic fantasy at its best.

Posted September 13, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in book promotion

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Don’t Miss Out!   Leave a comment

Front Cover LAWKI no windowLife As We Knew It is on Kindle Countdown for 99 cents through this weekend July 22-26. Read the first book before the second one debuts in the fall.

When terrorism abruptly changes life as they knew it, a small town must forge its own disaster plan.

#SupportIA, #amreading, #kindle, #apocalyptic

Lessons of A Lifetime   10 comments

What have I learned from writing, editing, publishing and marketing three novels?

Uh ….

This is me stalling …

Go see what my fellow authors have learned while I contemplate my answer.

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Everything we do in life has the potential for being a learning experience.  Where I started in the publishing game is not where I ended up.

Compared to many writers I know, I actually had some contact with publishing before I became a novelist. I trained as a journalist and worked as a reporter. I sold magazine articles and had short stories in a few of magazines and a couple of anthologies. And then I got busy with life and the need to pay my bills and I stopped writing to submit because I really didn’t have time. Back in those days, submitting was an ordeal of snail mail and the most I ever made was $300 for an Alaska Magazine article. I had other things to do with my life.

But I never quit writing because the voices in my head want to tell their story and it’s not crazy if you write them down. It’s creative!

The first lesson I learned was how really hard it is to find a publisher that is accepting submissions. I mean … really, really hard. Lots of publishers out there, but none of them are accepting submissions.

The second lesson I learned (from my squishy rejection letters from two agents who knew one another and liked my book … just not for either of their agencies) was that I am a good writer who doesn’t quite fit into the genres. Ah, the genres … ARGGH! The genres … (makes mean mug!)


The third lesson I learned was actually a lesson I knew without knowing. Halfway through my life, I learned that when I’m done being patient, I’m pretty brave and will set out on a path with a vague map and trust myself to get where I’m going.

This is actually something I knew about myself from traveling and hiking, but had never applied to myself in writing. I was willing to take the road less traveled … just as a brand new publication road was opening up.

Self-publishing works for me because I am willing to make mistakes and learn from them, which means I’m constantly in the process of learning new lessons.

WolfsBane_Cover_2015A killer cover is essential (like my friend Dyane’s here) — but if you haven’t got the money to buy quality, you can create the cover yourself … or pay a college student in blueberries to teach you how to do it. I’m not an artist. I can draw a reasonable facsimile of something I can see, but I can’t create anything from my imagination (my mind’s eye has perspective and shadow issues). I don’t paint either. But these days, that is not absolutely necessary. You can buy photos off the Internet and use a photo editing program to crop images to create a collage that looks like a real scene. My daughter (an actual artist) informs me that newly acquired skill makes me an artist, but I think it makes me a good technician in the graphic arts field. I use my circle of Internet friends as beta testers. And, here’s the thing … if I can do it, anyone can do it. It just takes some bravery, a lot of hours searching for the right images, and many more hours editing the images and layering them for the Willow Branch Blue White Recreation Covereffect  you want. You’ll then have to apply typographical principles to the text overlaying the cover image so that readers will be captivated at first glance. The one abiding key to this is — a cover should provide a hint of what you will find in the book and, personally, I think color makes readers click on those thumbnails on Amazon. The beauty of doing the cover yourself is that if one cover doesn’t work, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars trying another one.

I learned that I can edit my own writing, but it’s better if someone else does it too. If I, who spent four years in college learning the writing and journalism trade and have double digit years of using those skills in the job market, cannot edit my own writing to a degree of quality needed to be a professional novelist … most other people cannot either. That’s not a criticism. The fact is — we’re just too close to our own work to see our errors. Yes, editors cost money. You can make up for that by having several beta readers, which you will pay for (probably) in the time it takes to beta read their novels. Editors cost, no matter how you look at it. If I had to spend my money on an editor or a cover designer, I choose the editor.

Formatting is a pain in the neck, but well-worth it. Yes, you can hire people to do it for you, but I’m a control freak, so I do it myself … and formatting for e-book really is pretty easy with Smashwords Formatting Guide. I also take the time to format for print because I personally love to read print books (as opposed to the sanitized experience of an ebook) and I think it says something about me as indie publisher as well as a writer — that I will take the time to produce a high quality print book speaks to a commitment to quality. There’s also a local bookstore that will sell my print books.

These days social media is a necessary instrument for marketing. You are probably reading this article on social media … enough proof of the first statement. But … but, social media can consume a writer’s life and make it so we don’t get any writing done. Believe me, I know this. I wasted about 18 months on the Authonomy website discussing silliness when I could have been working toward publishing The Willow Branch. It was easy to do because Autho gave me access to beta readers who were invaluable. I made some great connections that I am still using years later, but … I also wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent. Same with Facebook and Twitter and Word Press and …. Have a social media plan and stick to it. In fact, keep a social media diary, so you can monitor how much time you’re spending there and prove to yourself when you are letting it interfere with your writing. I sometimes turn my back on my favorite groups for a while because I’ve become too involved there. When I go back and my friends ask “Where have you been?” I say, “I published that book” and they understand because some of them stayed and didn’t publish any books, but wish they had. Don’t let social media marketing become socializing to the point where it eats your next book.

It’s an old axiom, but true — you have to spend money to make money. My marketing budget is extremely limited, so I suck the life out of “free” before I plunk down the grocery money on ads. My books always start out on Kindle Select now. As a capitalist, I take it as a given that monopolies are bad, but after the dismal launch of The Willow Branch on Amazon, Smashwords and its extended network, I realized that Amazon Select has some great advantages with Countdown deals and free days. What I lose by submitting to a monopoly, I make up for by using their advertising (which is only available by submitting to the monopoly). I make use of Select’s promos until they don’t work anymore and then I release the book to Smashwords and all its extended network … which, by the way, appears to have revitalized The Willow Branch. Maybe it’s because I can do sales now without having to submit to Kindle Select’s rules, though I think it is more likely that Mirklin Wood is driving the sales of The Willow Branch because they are not stand alone books. Mirklin Wood is on Select, so it’s attracting attention to the whole series.

Let’s talk about “free”, shall we? Free days on Kindle Select is giving your book away for free … or is it? I now see it as advertising. Here’s the phenomenon I’ve observed. I put one book on free and my other books increase their sales during that period. I’m forgoing profit to make profit. I come out ahead in the end, so I’m not really giving the book away for free, I’m chumming the water.

In marketing, some “free” is more high quality than other “free”. Posting to author groups is largely a waste of time. Why would I read your book? I’m writing my own and if I spend money buying your book, I have less money to pay for advertising … or editing … or cover design. When posting to an author’s group, you are largely shouting into an echo chamber filled with whirling echoes … unless …

Some groups have secondary sites where they post your promo. Some groups are so good at this that they now charge their members for the service. I join those groups that have both a free and paid version and pay their fees because I’ve experienced the boost of their “free” promotions. Obviously, do your homework before you give them money. What are other authors saying about that group?

Now, I haven’t talked about spending money on advertising and that’s because I don’t have a huge budget, so I don’t buy a lot of ads. What little I have spent has convinced me of a few things. One … ads are not a guarantee of better sales and you really want to advertise where readers are. Goodreads is a good investment, though a particular campaign may not work. Amazon probably would be if you can afford it. Facebook and Twitter are affordable options, but less likely to get readers because of the wider focus on their audience.

Although I could go on with the lessons, here’s one final one and then I’m done for now. Authors on Amazon live and die by reviews. As a reader, paid reviews feel suspect to me, so I avoid them as a writer. It’s okay to ask family, friends and other authors to review your book — else a new author may never get any reviews. It doesn’t really bother me when a reviewer says “I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.” Again, you may be giving away some copies in order to get a little bit back, but it’s worth it. A lack of reviews affects your ability to advertise. But the best reviews are not always the 5 stars from your friends. The best reviews are the 3- and 4-stars that weren’t quite over the moon about your book. One or two of those adds credibility to the rest of the reviews. So don’t let them crush your spirit. Critics are sometimes our best friends.

Overall lesson from this indie author – be brave, take risks, carry a nice raincoat for when people rain on your parade and remember to dance in the puddles.

Devolution of Society   Leave a comment

This is Part 4 of a series – Manners in Medieval & Modern Society

You know the chicken and egg analogy? Did a code of manners create the possibility for democratic, capitalist systems, or did a capitalist, democratic system create the possibility for a culture of manners?

The truth is that they fed back and reinforced each other. Democratic systems helped create stable and secure environments where the risk of violence was rare and calculable, and manners could afford to be practiced. People who live in a world of danger and chaos don’t have the space and willpower to concentrate on chewing with their mouths closed and what to wear to a wedding. Even in a secure environment, people can’t carry out their 9-5 jobs and become involved citizens when they aren’t able to practice self-control and delayed gratification.

Both ingredients are necessary for the democratic and capitalistic systems to flourish.

And that brings up an interesting question: if manners made the modern world, then could the cycle be run in reverse — could their disappearance undo it, eventually bringing us back to a more medieval society?

In the Middle Ages there wasn’t much emotional/behavioral distance between children and adults. The young and old wore similar clothes, talked in a similar way, did similar things, and had a similar level of intelligence. Children were more adult-like than they are now, and adults were more child-like.

With the invention of the printing press, and other scientific, political, and economic advances, childhood was transformed into a prolonged and distinct period of life. This was done to give children a training period in which to learn the discipline and self-control they would need to grasp increasingly difficult books, study math and art, debate policies, and so on. A key part of this training was learning manners — learning to master their impulses instead of letting their impulses master them. The self-control they learned by practicing manners then carried over into all aspects of their lives. Step by step, this training initiated them into the society of adults in which they could take their places as the world’s future analytical scientists, shrewd businessmen, level-headed politicians, disciplined writers, and so on.

Today when people wring their hands about grownups acting no better than children, there’s a deeper concern behind the worry than simply being sad to see the degradation of past traditions.

There’s a concern, even if subconscious, that the failure to say “please” and “thank you” just might loosen the threads of civilization itself, and leave us with no steady captains who are ready to step up and pilot the ship.

I’m not sure that’s a crazy thing to worry about. We humans are funny about restraints on our behavior. On the one hand, we know that some rules and disciplines can actually enhance our liberty — after all, roads and traffic laws help us get where we’re going, so we pretty much volunteer to keep them — but, on the other hand, we all have the desire to chuck it all and be able to do whatever we want, where we want, how we want. We want to run that red light sometimes.

Our relationship with manners operates on a similar level. Sometimes we just want to let it all hang out and forget about all these sometimes seemingly pointless rules for social interaction. Haven’t things loosened up in the modern day without there being dire consequences?

What we fail to realize is that this loosening has occurred within a structure of an already well-established system of self-control that’s easy to take for granted. Norbert Elias explained it well:

“The freedom and lack of inhibition with which people say what has to be said without embarrassment, without the forced smile and laughter of a taboo infringement…is only possible because the level of habitual, technically and institutionally consolidated self-control, the individual capacity to restrain one’s urges and behavior in correspondence with the more advanced feelings for what is offensive, has been on the whole secured. It is a relaxation within the framework of an already established standard.”

While it may be fun and entertaining to flirt with a little more chaos, to break, or watch others break, the old fashioned rules of civility and respect, to indulge in a fantasy about a return to barbarianism (in which you’re always on the strong, winning side, never on the humiliated, tortured, enslaved side), as an author I have to wonder if all this loosening up would eventually compromise the integrity of the foundation of self-control that’s taken centuries to build.

Could we reach a manners tipping point and go full-on Thunderdome?

Right now, we have a couple of high status individuals in the political arena showing disdain for manners. Did their parents fail to teach them etiquette as children or did they stop getting daily training in self-control? Could this lack of regular practice and reinforcement contribute to the diminishment of citizens’ discipline in all areas of their lives? Might people in a world of atrophied manners start to have a more difficult time holding in their road rage, staying faithful to their spouse, and reading and discussing hard books/articles/news? If people lose the ability to digest nuanced information and thus can’t engage intelligently in the political process, could we elect a dictator who starts society’s regression back to the Dark Ages?

Ooops! I think I mixed my series up.

Lela Markham is a multi-genre author. In her fantasy series, people pretty much ascribe to the barbarian level of table manners while in her dystopian series, she is wondering just how far society might fall apart when the world as they knew it ends.

Why Manners Developed   Leave a comment

This is Part 3 of a series – Manners in Medieval & Modern Society

We know where manners came from and how they spread, but do you ever wonder why a culture of manners arose when it did and why did it win such widespread and vigorous acceptance?

It’s natural for lower status folks to imitate higher status folks, so that explains why the middle class was eager to adopt the mores of the upper. Still, European aristocrats engaged in all sorts of practices that never caught on with the masses. Codpieces were never the rage with the peasants. Even if it makes sense for the lower classes to fall in line with their social betters, why would the upper classes have ever deined to practice their manners with the common people?

Economic/political/scientific changes to the structure of society began to arise in the Middle Ages onward, necessitated a change in society’s emotional/social structure. Up until the Middle Ages, people led relatively independent lives. The poor were bound to their lords, but made, grew, or bartered for all that they needed. Lords provided for themselves from their land, and could get anything they lacked simply by using force and riding roughshod over weaker neighbors. Neither class had to worry much about offending their peers. In truth, folks didn’t really think in terms of being grossed out by other people’s behaviors. It just wasn’t how they related to each other and structured their interactions. Their greatest “social fear” was to be physically attacked and defeated/humiliated/tortured/enslaved by a rival. Table manners just weren’t all that important in comparison.

For this reason, people of all classes could afford to be volatile with their emotions and impulsive in their behaviors. Feelings were given freer rein and swung spontaneously between great extremes. Life was so uncertain that people lived more in the moment, acting without regard to future consequences. You fully embraced whatever inclinations you were experiencing at the time.

But as ruling power was consolidated into fewer hands, and more stable governments were formed, people began to be connected in more and more intimate ways. Thus a new emotional/social landscape became necessary.

The right to exercise physical force became reserved for those legitimized by the central authority (army/police), which made the chances of encountering violence increasingly rare and predictable. More and more pockets of security and stability formed wherein population, productivity, living standards, and labor specialization went up. As a result, members of society became more and more

As a result, members of society became more interdependent. The longer and more complex the chains of connection that developed between individuals, the more the “civilizing process” — the march of manners — took hold.

The more a population increased in density, the greater the division of labor. The deeper the interdependence of society grew, the more people had to be aware of the sensibilities of others — giving people enough space and privacy, being careful not to offend, monitoring moods, and anticipating reactions.

The fear of physical attack was replaced with the fear of embarrassing oneself in front of others, and proper social conduct became a form of weaponry and currency. The fight for status and success was no longer carried out on the battlefield but in the realms of politics, economics, academia, and most of all, within oneself. Behavior was not checked by external force but internal control, and victory was redefined as the chance to rise in the world and achieve one’s aims. Thus, status increased for the man with the greatest self-mastery.

In an interdependent society, all classes are forced to treat each other with at least a basic level of respect.

While courtesy began as a hoity-toity code of behavior dictating how lower status individuals should act towards higher status ones, and how higher status individuals were to act with one another, it ultimately became a set of manners all classes were expected to follow, regardless of whom they were interacting with.

In a pre-civilized culture, might makes right as independent bands of the strong can treat the weak with impunity. But in a civilized culture, where only a few are authorized to exercise violence, you can’t bludgeon someone in the head when they annoy you, or egregiously trample over their rights. Even if you’re rich, strong, and powerful, you rely on a doctor, trash man, electrician, mechanic, etc., as well as a slew of consumer goods made by factory workers, for your life to function. Such folks aren’t your slaves or indentured serfs, so you can’t be completely rude to them and expect them to do whatever you want. They’ve got power now too; the power to walk away from an economic transaction.

For free market enterprises and government bodies to function and thrive, people need to act in stable and predictable ways and be able to exercise hindsight, foresight, and delayed gratification. They must be able to forward diplomacy instead of insults and violence. They must be able to put aside short-term impulses and plan for long-term goals.

Manners are essentially practices for these skills and qualities — ways to build your foresight and self-control each day. They force you to reflect and look ahead, predicting what kind of behavior will garner what kind of consequences. They make you put your short-term inclinations to the side sometimes. You wait your turn in conversation, so that the other person won’t interrupt you when it’s your turn. You wear your best suit to a wedding. Instead of grabbing food upon sight, you pause to say please and thank you. Rather than acting on impulse, you master your behavior.

Individual self-control is the price of democracy, and practicing manners is central to the development of this quality. Manners thus provided the scaffolding that helped move Western society from courtesy, to civility, to civilization.

Or in other words, manners made the modern world.

So given the behavior in our political climate and parking lots these days, it’s probably a good idea to ask — if matters made the modern world, could boorishness unmake it?


a voracious reader. | a book blogger.


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