The Hermit Blogger Speaks

Again, this communique is long overdue by the rules laid down by the so-called professional bloggers dominating the blogosphere. But I’ve been busy with important facets of my life to boot daily, weekly, or barely monthly to this blog to keep anyone abreast of my art and writing “escapades.”

The book project is going well, though not on schedule. But that’s okay. I’m taking my time, developing the story, weaving and connecting the story and character threads and arcs, building the plots and their highs and lows, sanding the rough edges, and keeping my eye on the ending.

To do this my way and to keep it mine, I have to be a hermit from other writers. I don’t watch TV or movies while the final draft is in progress. I don’t read other books but my own. I don’t reach for books on writing because I don’t want to know anyone else’s rules on writing when I have those moments when I’m stuck. I need to work out the problems on my own. This is my project. I need to be selfish because it’s no one else’s name on the book when it’s done but mine.

It also means not visiting writers’ blogs, which sometimes results in missing great writing from someone who worked hard to communicate something important to other writers. But that’s how it goes. I don’t cut into my writing time by liking and following the latest good stuff. In fact, I restrict my time online to 30 minutes a day—sometimes less. That means my blog is ignored too often, and even my emails go unread for weeks.

But when the book is done…

I don’t place too big an emphasis on publishing, not like some writers I know. This year’s project will be an ebook and paperback product at Amazon. Later, it will go to other outlets. Meanwhile, I’ll catch up on some of the blogs I’ve missed and a few books I want to read. And start jotting ideas for my next project.

Smashwords Interview

Here is my Smashwords author interview. You can click on the link https://www.smashwords.com/interview/CampbellAuthor or read it here at WordPress. I thought it would be a nice addition here.

When did you first start writing?

    Like many of us, I began writing at elementary school and continued in high school through encouragement and support from my teachers. They saw something I didn’t, so I never knew I could become a professional writer until I was at college, earning a degree in art.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

    Yes. The year was 1966 and I was 9 years old. There were plenty of books, movies and TV programs about outer space, and Star Trek had just made it to the TV airwaves. My first story was about five astronauts landing on Mars and exploring the planet. There were no martians or any other life there except for the astronauts who ended up colonizing the place inside a glass city they built. I had a fascination of someday living on another planet.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

    I became an indie author when I was 13 and received a typewriter for my birthday. I wrote stories, mimeographed the pages, put them in binders (or stapled the pages if I didn’t have money), and gave my books to family and friends. (This is when I developed the characters and places I still write about.) And like I did all those years ago, I still give away my books. It’s delightful to know your work is appreciated when you see a smiling face and hear that person say “I loved your book. Do have any more?”
    I think many people don’t realize that a few centuries ago, many authors who had their own printing presses were indie authors. Those who wanted to spend more time writing, hired someone to operate the presses. And someone somewhere opened a printing shop and created the first publishing house, changing the way authors published their books.

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?

    As I mention in my Smashwords bio, I grew up in a small town with lots of cousins who liked to tell ghost stories. I carried on the tradition when I began writing my books.

What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?

    I began marketing my ebooks with Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program because they were the easiest to find. Their author page and my blog have helped customers find my books. But the most effective technique has been word-of-mouth.

How do you approach cover design?

    I’m an old-school graphic designer, so I use pencil and paper and begin with a dozen or more black and white thumbnail sketches of the story’s main theme. From there, watercolor on paper board is the easiest medium for me, so I do a mock cover in paint after I choose a final sketch. I scan the painting, work on it using Photoshop, and transfer it to Microsoft Word for the text. Then I transfer that back to Photoshop and clean things up for the final cover.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

    I am always writing, it seems, even in my sleep. But when I do get away from writing and have time to relax, I enjoy watching baseball. I was an avid player in my youth, and I played softball in a men’s league for many years. I also read a lot of history, philosophy and biography books, as well as urban fantasy, and I snap wildlife photos and doodle in sketchbooks in my spare time.

How do you discover the ebooks you read?

    I’ve been a Kindle-holic since 2010, so I’m often browsing the books at Amazon. Before that, I surfed the internet looking for indie authors who published online. I recently joined Wattpad and began reading some of the many authors there. And now that I’ve discovered Smashwords, I plan to increase the number of ebooks in my online library.

What is your e-reading device of choice?

    Kindle.

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?

    The unfinished story. I have many. And it seems as soon as I finish one, I have added two more unfinished ones to my list.

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For my followers here who are members at Smashwords, check out my author page https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CampbellAuthor.

Come Wattpad with Me

I like online sites that let writers/authors post their writing/books free without taking control of the content. Wattpad is one of those sites, which I joined a couple years ago. It was during the same time that I created an author page at Goodreads, and I spent nearly all my online time there, listing my books, adding my blog, and letting all my readers and Facebook fans know about it. I did nothing with my Wattpad page, which was a mistake.

Most of the problems with Goodreads arose when I changed the titles of some of my books and took others off the market. These were e-books, not hard-copy books, and sold through Amazon, though I did sell a couple of titles at B&N. I wrestled long with the Goodreads librarians to keep my readers and fans abreast of those changes, which, after months of begging, the librarians refused to do. Original titles stayed, they told me. So did out-of-print books (their term for my e-books taken off market). To do differently would upset the libraries there. Frustrated, I ended my association with Goodreads. My author page still exists there, complete with all the incorrect listings of my books.

LibraryThing is another online library where authors can list their books. They allow authors full control of their pages. Where Goodreads is Hell, LibraryThing is Heaven. So, while I happily updated my books there, a reader/fan asked me about my Wattpad page—the one I ignored for two years.

If, by some slim chance you’re unfamiliar with Wattpad, it’s a writing community in which users can (in Wattpad’s own words) “discover and share stories: a social platform that connects people through words. … With Wattpad, anyone can read or write on any device: phone, tablet, or computer.” You can read and write stories, articles, poems, even fan fiction, and comment and like what you read. You can even join groups of your favorite genres.

As of this post, I have two followers and I’m following four people. I have five short stories there and more to add. I have far to go to build my readership/fan base. If you are at Wattpad, let me know. I would love to hear from you.

My Writing Room

sk-on-writing

My writing room is in the basement of my house, a bedroom that belonged to my youngest daughter before she married and moved away. It’s a quiet room, unless there are people in the living room above it, like when my grandchildren visit and have the TV on. A stereo of favorite music and headphones make for a pleasant escape from the noise.

My writing room is warm and cozy, though the floor is bare and gets terribly cold during winter. My favorite books and some of my early artwork surround my writing desk, and my soft leather chair swivels enough so I can prop my feet against my desk when I’m deep in thought or taking a nap. You can usually find boxes of Girl Scouts cookies on my bookcases, along with all sorts of written notes about my books in progress.

cluttered corner

mom's corner

I have a phone in my writing room, but I keep it unplugged. It was a souvenir from France for my late mother, so it sits as decoration next to the Greek vase and trinkets I bought her while I toured the Mediterranean nearly forty years ago. Her black KJV Bible sits there too, the one she carried with her when she taught Sunday school in the 1960s and ’70s at a church that died long ago when its pastor abandoned the place for greener pastures and warmer weather.

A curtain is drawn over the only window and I keep the only door closed but never locked. My writing room is a place to write at, not hide from family and friends. But few people ever visit me when I’m there, though my wife and dad have knocked on my door many times over the years. It’s nice to have visitors when the muse has left the premises.

My writing room is my sanctuary—a near sanctum sanctorum where I go to connect to the Great Mysterious … and to create the worlds in my stories and the people who live there.

My New Heroine Sketch

Vree sketch

Yesterday I wrote about creating characters, putting them on the story stage, and watching them act. In that post, I included an old gouache and ink sketch of my current main character, Vree Erickson. Today, I refined that old sketch to new paper with a pair of HB and 2B pencils. While I drew, I studied Vree’s facial features. There’s dauntlessness on that face, which makes me know that despite the odds against her, she was the right choice to battle Margga in my Night of the Hellhounds e-novel (available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

NotH

Dealing With Characters

Verawenda Renée Erickson Gouache and marker pen on canvas board Drawn by author, circa 1975 Modified 2007
Verawenda Renée Erickson
Gouache and marker pen on canvas board
Drawn by author, circa 1975
Modified 2007

During a bout with the flu in January, I began constructing the story outline for Verawenda Erickson’s next story. I saw her with both new characters and old ones—the latter familiar to me. The new ones were sketches, barely walking and talking those two months ago. Some didn’t have names.

I put them together and let them play off each other, seeing their actions and reactions in my mind. Some played well together; others didn’t while I took them through the measures of acting out the story I planned for them. Some even balked at doing what I wanted them to do. Nothing tests an author’s tolerance more than stubborn characters who don’t want to go by the script.

Some characters can even take over a story and bring a book’s production to a standstill with their demands to change the script to match their desires. I’ve heard that some authors kill off these demanding types just to get the story back on track. Other authors give in and sometimes end up writing a better story than they’d planned.

There’s an adage among authors to keep the character pool to a bare minimum. This helps keep down the noise of their demands. It’s confounding trying to direct a stage of overzealous characters who’ve developed giant egos and are always interrupting production. It’s all “Me, me, me,” and “She has better dialogue than I do.” Perhaps this is why so many authors drink excessively while they write. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep away from the booze and other drugs.

Also lucky for me is having a main character who does everything I ask of her without question. Vree tackles every scene with gusto and keeps it real. She is probably the best character I’ve ever breathed life into. Characters like her are the reason for trilogies and series stories. No author ever wants to lose them. They’re the reason readers come back for more. Add a great story every time and the rest is a relationship that can last for many years.

Long live Vree and characters who make stories real.

One Little Period Screwed the Pooch

I am an indie author who publishes as Steven L Campbell. The venues where I sell my books have no problem that I do not put a period after my middle initial. Neither do my faithful readers and followers. Why should they care how I wish my name to appear on my books or at my websites? It’s no big deal. Right?

Well, for some websites, it is a big deal. And a deal that seems close to being a criminal act.

When I set up my Shelfari account so I could add Book Extras at my Amazon Author Page, they said “No. You cannot be Steven L Campbell. You must be Steven L. Campbell.” Unfortunately, this created chaos when I added Book Extras to Steven L Campbell’s books from my Steven L. Campbell Shelfari account.

When I added an author page to my Goodreads account 22 months ago, I was Steven L Campbell, Goodreads author. Then the librarians there decided I had to be Steven L. Campbell, Goodreads author. Naturally, this created chaos similar to what I dealt with at Shelfari.

I think we Americans (in the USA, at least) make too big a deal about periods after initials. I have read many European authors who omit periods after initials, and who spell Mr, Mrs, and Dr without periods. Even some American authors, including Stephen King, have omitted periods in the titles I mentioned.

I was taught in high school not to abbreviate President Harry S Truman’s middle initial because it did not stand for a name. But some librarian got her panties in a bunch and almost all references to the man have a period after the S.

Whether I like it or not, I am Mr. Steven L. Campbell, author … at least in the USA … I mean U.S.A.