Tag Archives: publishing

Monday Mashup: Writing Tips and Self Care for Writers

I did it again. I filled up my Facebook queue with saved links like Emily Dickinson filled her mattress with poetry slips.

I scoured the internet, so you don’t have to. 🙂

Here are my favorite links from the past couple of weeks.

Writing Tips and Self Care for Writers, Along With Some Food for Thought


Self Care for Writers by paranormal/fantasy author, Jami Gold, is a must read for writers who like to go from one project to the next and need a reminder to schedule in some downtime too.

Illustrator Andrea Tsurumi shared You’ll Never Have Enough Time about carving out work time and space, avoiding burnout, and what going freelance really means.

If you’re feeling like Andrea from the last post, you’ll also enjoy 5 Tips for Making Writing a Daily Habit.

There’s lots out there about fair pay for writers right now and I thought this article on The Rich Writer Myth by Ros Barber was interesting. It’s written sharing examples of pounds, but I think you can convert it to dollars for us in the states.

Ros followed up her own article with one on The Guardian elaborating on the publishing industry with For Me, Traditional Publishing Means Poverty, But Self-Publish? No Way.

Because we can’t end on the bummer of bucks, or the misery of making moola, here are 20 Empowering Quotes By Female Authors That Are Perfect to Decorate Your Office With.

Self-Care and Body Positivity for All:

This was my de-stress project this weekend. Adult coloring and playing with my art journal. 

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time accepting compliments. I hear them and I immediately shrug them off or worse, name a flaw right afterwards. It’s something I’m working on. So of course, I saved this article on 7 Tips for Working on Your Self Confidence: Accepting That You’re Awesome.

And if you’re still feeling a little beat up mentally, here’s 6 Ways to Feel Better About Yourself Right Now. Read it, I’ll wait. … There now, don’t you feel better? 🙂

My facebook queue is always full of posts by Heather from Hiya Tootsie, and here’s one I wanted to share with you! What’s Luck Got to Do With It? 3 Ways to Honor the Work Your Dreams Require.

Are you constantly stressed from the day job plus the side hustle? This money saving blog offered all kinds of low stress money-making opportunities as well as a simple plan for setting money aside each month. How I Saved $1000 While Living Paycheck to Paycheck.

Because all bodies deserve respect, you should reward yourself by reading August McLaughlin’s How to REALLY Get Body-Positive. This post was blowing up my twitter feed and it’s worth reading more than once!


What are the posts saved up in your queues? Got any other good ones to share?
How are you practicing self care this week? 






What the Music Industry Can Teach Us About the Publishing One, Part 2

Hello and welcome back music lovers and readers!  We’re continuing our chat about the music industry and what we can learn from it in terms of the publishing field.  Missed out on Part 1?  No fear!  Click here!

What’s our focus today?

Social Media in the Music Industry

But first, meet our band!

TUGG:  Andrew Hughes-Vocals/Guitar, Joe Gantzer-Guitar/Keyboard, Jake McLees-Bass, and Ben Rohde-Drums

(Excerpt from their California Tour DVD – filmed and edited by Rob Born, Resident Cameraman, literally…He told me I’m his favorite roommate!)  *grins*

Here them play!  

And see more mustaches.

Bradley Was a DJ

Lovers Rock

Like the tunes?  You can win both songs and more by commenting on today’s post!  Chances improve by commenting on Part 1 or tweeting both posts!  Winner receives a FREE copy of TUGG’s full album:

Come Sunrise

Social Media:  The Why’s, the What’s In It For Me, and its Wonders (fans!)

Jess:  There are many positive effects surrounding e-publishing:  readers can check out excerpts of your book before buying, cost is less overall, authors earn more (on average), receipt of the product is instant.  But all these advancements mean we market and perform differently.  Book clubs and book bloggers have become a widely watched group of people because their reviews are now driving book sales.  Do you think the impact on music sales or concert attendance is as driven by audience at this time?

Andy:  Yes I do.  The audience is driving the boat.  We’re an independent band so we can’t book a tour on the promise or premise that we’ll sell out the venue.  The promoters and venues have to trust that we have the audience reach or the potential to reach the audience in that market.  When we get to a point within a market that we know we’ll be successful I think it changes.  We control our own destiny a little bit more and then it becomes our responsibility to grow that market and make sure we are doing a good job of getting our products into their hands.

Blogging for authors has become a way for the writer to interact with his readers.  We can get to know one another by commenting and sharing personal stories.  In what ways does the band outreach to its listeners?

We’re constantly doing Social Media and meeting our friends/fans.  When we meet folks at shows we always try and get connected with them on a social media platform or exchange numbers so we can text them.  Anyway that we can keep the conversation open and let them know when we’ll be back in their town.  Our audience, which become our friends is the backbone of everything we do.  When we go to a new market, our goal is simple.  Make at least 1 new friend on this night and in this city.  If we can at the very least do that we’re successful.  The second part of that equation is that hopefully and usually that 1 friend brings a friend the next time.  So if we do our job well and keep in touch with the first friend, hopefully everytime we come back to that city our crowd grows outward from that one fan.  Then you start having more and more little groups that just keep growing.  Honestly, those are the folks that year after year are who we put on our guest-list when we play, that original friend we made on our first or second time through a city.

When we go to a new market, our goal is simple.  Make at least 1 new friend on this night and in this city.

We also have found it to be important to keep sharing our music and ideas with our friends.  Sites like Bandcamp and Jam’s Space, and YouTube have been a  great way for us to keep offering our true friends/fans incentives, free music, etc.

L to R: Andrew Hughes, Ben Rohde, Jake McLees; Center: Joe Gantzer

What’s the best way a fan can support the band?

The best way for someone to support us is to friend us, like us, follow us, share us, etc on Social Media and our website http://www.tuggmusic.com.  From there, buying our albums and merchandise from us at our shows is the best way to monetarily support the band.  If you are not able to get to a show then buying and sharing our albums on things like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, etc are also solid ways to show support.  We’re all about sharing.  In our industry sharing is truly caring.  If we can get 50 people in 1 day to share our Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/tuggmusic) in a few days and we get 100 more “likes” it means everything.

Growing fans is like oxygen for artists and performers.  We thrive on our audience’s excitement.  With technology’s advancements for instant download of a book or album, they’re also much hungrier for “the next big thing” that much quicker.  Many writers have released novellas and flash fiction pieces to maintain presence in the reader’s mind.  Do you think the same process applies in music with the increase in singles and EP’s?

Yes definitely.  We’ve talked about this as a band and we’re actually in the middle of releasing music for this very reason.  We live in a “what have you done for me lately” society and it is no different being a musician/artist.  As you said, everyone is looking for the next big release or next big something constantly.  We were releasing 1 album a year for our first 3-4 years and we feel like we’re behind.  We’re actually going to release some tracks that we recorded around the time we did our last EP Home Brew as it’s own EP on iTunes digitally.  We will begin to record our next full length album at the end of this month.  We figured that doing this release now will give us a little room and space to release the full length album on our own terms as far as a timetable.  It’s nice to be able to put something out and then put your head down to work on the next when the rest of the world is just starting to digest that release…..at least that is our plan.

How has social media changed the number of your followers?  Do you think it has impacted your music sales?

Yes it completely has.  Our last 3 albums have gone to the Top 50 Chart on iTunes Reggae.  Our last album Home Brew went to #2 and it is directly because of Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter in that order.  It has also changed the way in which we can tour and hit markets when we play out.  Because of Facebook and Twitter we are able to pack in places consistently and keep our overhead lower.  We don’t have to spend a whole lot of money on advertisements but we can still bring people into venues so it’s a definite win and something that has changed the way we do business for the better.

[Social media] has also changed the way in which we can tour and hit markets when we play out.

The writing community is full of wonderful, talented individuals.  But the act of writing is a solitary career.  How would your life be different as a solo musician?  What has the band meant to you personally and professionally?

My life as a solo musician would be a completely new experience.  I started music as part of a band and I have always been a part of a group.  I learned guitar so that I could musically contribute to the group dynamic.  For me, all I know about music is about being with a group of people that collaborate to create.  I don’t know if I could be a “Solo Musician”.  I think I need that group dynamic around me to feel comfortable with what I do.  It’s easier to know your place, what to do.  I know how I fit into the group and what my contributions must be.  I’ve also been lucky, especially with the lineup now to be surrounded by some of the most talented people I’ve ever known, so I try and be like a sponge most of the time….musically speaking.  A lot of my learning and growth as a musician and a songwriter is done like that.  Soaking up a little of the sheer greatness that’s constantly moving around me.  Besides the technical aspect of creating music with a group I will have to say that being in this band, and hopefully to anyone else that does what I do…being in a band is one of the greatest feelings you can know.  You form a brothership and there is this sense of comradery that I can’t really explain and there’s is really nothing else like it…

Truth:  Worst thing about being on tour.

Missing my wife and daughters.

Best thing about being on tour.  And where was your favorite show played so far?

Creating experiences through music and getting to share those with my best friends.  Also, the people we get to meet and some of the sights we get to see.

Favorite show: House of Blues Chicago with The Dirty Heads on St. Patrick’s Day (Sold Out)

What do you predict is next for the music industry?  Any wishes for the next 10 years?

I don’t know what’s next for the music industry other than it’s going to change, and it’s going to happen quick.  
I think that as far as format (Mp3 downloads on iTunes, etc) it will stay generally the way it is for a while but the delivery method is going to get crazy.  So there, that is my prediction.  Something huge is going to happen with the Delivery Format of music.  Like we’ll get into our shower and the shower head is going to ask us if we want to download the latest Katy Perry Record or something, haha.

My wishes for the next 10 years is to be able to continue doing what I am doing and hopefully being able to grow it into something that me and the band can comfortably do full-time.

Andy, thank you again for  contributing your thoughts on what it takes to stay competitive and smart in our industries!  Social media is everywhere now, but you have to use it wisely to be successful, and TUGG is definitely exhibiting some smart business moves and growing a fan base from your interactions!  Much success to all of you!

TUGG’s official website

TUGG on Facebook

TUGG on Twitter

Got a question for TUGG?  Share an opinion on social media?  What’s your favorite medium?  I think mine’s Twitter…which is funny cuz I can’t write short blog posts to save my life!

Happy Weekend Everyone!  See you in the comments section!

What the Music Industry Can Teach Us About the Publishing One, Part 1

I live with a musician.  And over the years, Joe and I have had several conversations about the similarities in progression of the music industry with the publishing one.  It wasn’t all that long ago that the buzz topic was programs like Napster and then i-Tunes changing the face of music.  Instant download isn’t only for e-books.  Audiences can buy a single song versus the whole album, and now many writers are letting readers download free chapters for a taste of their books.

To discuss the matter further, I hounded my boyfriend’s band’s lead singer to share his take on the music industry and the similarities it has to the publishing one.  We had such a good time discussing the industries we work in, I had to split the interview into 2 parts.  Tune in Friday for Part 2.

And a quick announcement to say the winners of my Mix Tape Blog Swap Music Giveaway are:  

Julie Glover, Dawn Hobbie Sticklen, and Renee Schuls-Jacobson

Congrats, Ladies!

Meet TUGG.

L to R: Ben Rohde, Andy Hughes, Joe Gantzer, and Jake McLees

TUGG, apart from being four of the grooviest guys I know, is an original Wisconsin reggae band.  Our state may be known for snowstorms, cheese curds, and “Midwest Nice” attitudes, but these boys can still jam their original reggae – ska style tunes on topics of summer, friendship, and love.  Here’s their latest music video!  (fun fact: It was filmed in my house.)

Meet Andy.

Andy Hughes is the lead singer and writer for TUGG.  And I’ve gotta say, he’s a writer I respect.  He takes what he does seriously and exemplifies the hard work that goes into it.  He is one of the most humble people I know, and never takes his own talent for granted.  It was an absolute pleasure conducting this interview with him.  Now see for yourselves:

How many years have you been playing music professionally?

In terms of getting paid to perform music I have been doing it since I was about 17/18, so just more than 13 years.

How have you seen the music industry change over those years?

The biggest and most noticeable change is one that I think anyone my age could identify with and that is the shift from “physical” to “digital”. When I first started booking shows I had to actually send a “Press Packet” which would contain a demo CD, a printed and bound band bio, stickers and anything else that looked professional.  When we did early tours we would print out directions and then put them in a binder.  I can remember how amazing it was when we got our first navigation device in the van.  Now, whomever is driving is just using the navigation on their own cell phone.  Napster was just hitting when TUGG started in 2001 so in the early years selling our music digitally was not an option but we knew that it was going to be the way, so to speak.  Nowadays, we have 1 site on our website: www.tuggmusic.com/about that serves the same purpose that those packets used to.  In those days I would have to send out around 100-200 of those physical packets which probably weighed close to 2 lbs to schedule a 2-3 month tour.  It’s pretty crazy to think that now when we are booking or once we’ve booked a show we send the promoter 1 link that has everything they need on 1 web page ready for them to download.


In what ways do you try to practice your craft?

I am a writer so that is what I am constantly doing.  There’s no real format that I stick to when I write.  I tend to leave little notebooks, pieces of paper, backs of bills around with words, ideas, characters, etc.  Music and songwriting have always been a vehicle for me to express my words.  I am also constantly playing my guitar and trying to write songs.  With songwriting I have a mixed approached and a few different types of processes but they both involve trying to shape music around words that I have written.  The band itself also practices between 4-5 hrs a week on top of the shows that we play.

Yah, I’m aware of that, it happens in my basement!  Who are your music idols?

The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Tupac, Tim Armstrong, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, The Specials, Nirvana, The Misfits, Operation Ivy, Sublime, Toots and the Maytals, Jeff Buckley, Desmond Dekker, “Scratch” Lee Perry, The Doors.……..to name just a few!


As writers, we hope for book reviews and blurbs from our favorite authors.  Their advice and approval drives us to keep writing.  What musicians/bands have you worked with that have best exemplified support in the music industry?  What advice has been the most valuable?

Working with Brad from The Ziggens has formed one of those relationships in which there’s a lot of respect and you could say that I look for his approval from time to time on music or decisions I’m making (especially at the time that we were recording with him).  Some of the best advice I received from Brad was to,  “sing less words and say more”,  which is easier said than done.  Josh Heinrichs is another person that we all really respect and has really supported us by bringing us into his hometown and putting us in front of his fans…opening his home to us.  Josh and his wife Kaytee are some of the nicest people in the world and have welcomed us into their lives and home more than once.  Receiving a “good job”, or “awesome set” from Josh means a heck of a lot!

Sing less words and say more.


In the last 10 years, the publishing industry has radically changed.  E-book sales and self publishing are a valuable option for writers.  Similarly, the music industry has changed from programs like Napster to I-Tunes.  And almost everyone has a portable device like an ipod or their phone allowing them to be plugged in all the time.  What changes have you, as a musician, made to stay in touch with the evolving music industry?

We’ve been lucky enough to really grow up in this new digitally charged Music industry.  Napster is the reason I was able to find bands and have immediate access to their music so I was taught or self-learned from that moment to make sure that I as an artist was plugged into the digital landscape and stay current with the changes that are constantly shifting.  I think some of the biggest game changers have been iTunes, Facebook, and YouTube.  Facebook is literally an online community and it’s readily set up to help you as an artist connect with people that want to associate with you and be your “friend”.  The idea of getting “likes” for your band is one of the first things you’ll notice people will say when talking about a band.  YouTube has been one of those unique platforms in which the truly “unknown” can become overnight sensations.  To a certain degree it’s the last real frontier for discovering the unknowns without being a person that is out in clubs and dive bars scouring for undiscovered talent.  We’ve just always made sure we’ve stayed current on technology.  We make sure that it works for us, because not everything does and the feeling that you have to do everything is overwhelming.  We’re putting QR codes on all of our stuff (posters, stickers, flyers) that people can scan for 10 free songs, we’ve had a lot of success with our Music Videos on YouTube, and we always try and make sure we make as big a splash as possible when we release music.  We always go for those big release days on iTunes because we know how important that can be.

We make sure that it works for us, because not everything does and the feeling that you have to do everything is overwhelming.


And yet, it remains a dream for many writers to be traditionally published.  There is still a stigma that a large publishing firm carries more authentication and respect to the work than that of a self published writer.  What are your thoughts on the various options musicians have for record deals now?

I think it is more difficult and far less romantic for bands to get “signed” or be offered “recording contracts” now.  The day and age of Artist Development is gone.  The big record companies are seeking the bands/performers that can give them the fastest turn around.  If you look at shows like American Idol and The Voice I think it really captures where the Mainstream Music Industry is today.  The big recording companies want people that can go live on a major network TV station 1 night and by the next morning can have a Top 10 song on iTunes.  They’re not looking for bands that they intend to spend time and money developing into strong touring/performing/recording acts which is really what most bands need to go to that next level.  To me, what it gives you is a very fleeting limelight where there is not much staying power.  I think that in all industries we want the authentication of the most known and formal entities.  However, for the music industry now I think bands like us realize that you have to take your own driver’s seat until there comes along a person or company that you really feel will do all aspects of driving your figurative bus better than you, because remember, you’re now paying someone else to do what you used to do for free.

You have to take your own driver’s seat until there comes along a person or company that you really feel will do all aspects of driving your figurative bus better than you, because remember, you’re now paying someone else to do what you used to do for free.

Thank you, Andy, for sharing your thoughts on the music industry with us! 

Tune in this Friday for Part 2!  And partake in the fabulous giveaway of TUGG’s cd, Come Sunrise

Leave a comment for your chance to win! 

Double your chance by tweeting this post with the hashtag #TUGGmusic.

Want more TUGG before then?

TUGG’s official website

TUGG on Facebook

TUGG on Twitter

What do you think?  Does the music industry offer us a comparison of what’s to come for publishing?

Author Interview with Michael Perry and Book Giveaway

It’s finally here!  The day has arrived!  Michael Perry is interviewing with me and I’m thrilled to introduce him to you guys!

Michael is a Wisconsin native, born and raised in the midwest.  If I could describe his writing style, it would combine side-stitching stories of humor in one paragraph with the most heartfelt tales of humans and their ability to love in the next.  His voice is unique and humble, descriptive and personable.  Can you tell I’m a huge fan?! 

Michael’s previous works are his memoirs Population: 485 – Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, Truck:  A Love Story, and Coop: A Family, A Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg.  I was introduced to his writing through Population: 485 when my library did a memoir discussion series.  Population recounts Michael’s years as an EMT in his small town of New Auburn, WI going from accident scene to accident scene while sharing stories of the eccentrically warm individuals in his town.  Truck chronicles his days refurbishing his beloved vehicle and meeting the woman who would become his wife.  And then in Coop, Michael and his wife have taken over her family’s farm and are raising one daughter, with another on the way.

Visiting Tom

His newest release, Visiting Tom, came out August 21st and he is graciously giving away 3 Hardcover copies to 3 lucky commenters on this blog!  Thank you, Michael!

You can check out more about his books and his blog at his website SneezingCow.com!  Or find him on Twitter @SneezingCow.  Or Facebook.

Check out the book trailer for Visiting Tom to peak your interest!

Without further ado, please welcome Michael Perry!

Describe yourself in three words. 

Want more words.

What three words do you wish described you?

Consistently reverent husband.

 You’ve been a busy man.  You’ve completed nursing school, spent a few years as an EMT, started up a farm with your wife and 2 daughters, released two humor cd recordings, sing and play guitar in the band The Long Beds, and you’re a writer.  Did you always want to write, or was it something that found you along your journey?  Oh, and when do you sleep?

Apart from some Crayola-based short stories and the usual naive college-aged noodling driven by a quagmire of angst at least a quarter-inch deep, I didn’t set to writing with any purpose until I was out of college and working as a nurse. Even then I didn’t have any particular direction. I just wrote about my experiences as a cowboy and a hitchhiker and a farm kid. Then a local magazine showed interest in one of my essays. So then I went to the library and got a book about how to be a writer. Then the real work began. Years of writing everything and anything, from used car ads to pizza commercials and brochures for legal seminars. I slowly wangled my way into the magazine world with essays and nonfiction pieces. After a decade or so I had wedged my way into a few national titles. Then an agent in New York read something I had written and tracked me down in Chippewa County, Wisconsin. That eventually led to my first book deal. But even that took several years and many more false starts.

I am blessed with the ability to sleep pretty much anywhere and in any position, and I am also a big fan of the post-prandial nap. You have to get what my wife and I call “the dip”; a short nap where you just dip beneath consciousness and resurface refreshed. If you sleep so long your face gets mashed, then it’s not as helpful. Frankly, years of not getting enough sleep is catching up with me and I can’t recommend it although I don’t regret it.

You also host a program called Tent Show Radio which features live performances from Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua and is sponsored through Wisconsin Public Radio.  What’s that been like?  Who have your favorite guests been?

Most of all I love how the radio show introduces people to the tent itself. It’s a wonderful place to see a show, no matter the act. A blue tent on a green hill overlooking the Apostle Islands…the setting is unusual in the nicest way. And there’s something about gathering beneath the canvas that amplifies the shared experience between the audience members and the performers. I love to perform up there myself, and will be there September 8 with my band. (Editor’s note: Due to the show format and scheduling Mike’s portions are usually recorded during the editing process – meaning he’s not actually hanging out with Steve Earle).

You typically write memoirs.  From Population: 485 chronicling the colorful characters of your home in New Auburn, WI to Truck: A Love Story, which simultaneously shares its pages with the budding romance of your would-be wife.  And in Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting you recount your own childhood with how it compares to becoming a father yourself.  Do you think you’ll write children’s books now that your girls are getting of age?

I am currently working on a two-book Young Adult series. Or Middle Grade series. I’m not clear on the difference, it seems to be shifting some. It’s been a challenge. I love the storytelling aspect, but I am a respecter of genres, and I don’t assume that I can successfully jump from one to the other. Plus, mine have no talking unicorns. But I’m enjoying it. And the main protagonist is a girl roughly the same age as my oldest daughter, so yes, there is some “in-house” research happening.

Do you keep a journal?  And if not, is that why you include so many disclaimers about your memory in your books?  You’ve even made a blog category called Oops! that allows readers to send in any discrepancies they find.  Is your mother your biggest caller?  😉

Nope. I write ever day, but I don’t journal. I think journaling is a terrific tool for many writers, but I’m just too scattered. I journal informally, constantly jotting down notes and observations and stuffing them in my literal and figurative pockets, but lack the discipline to journal on schedule. Also, I have maudlin tendencies, meaning the few times I have kept journals and gone back to read them I found myself incapacitated with ineffable longing for things irretrievably passed. This leads to pensive gazing, intellectual paralysis, and banal prose and I’ve already got more of that than I need.

The “Oops!” thing is just a straightforward attempt to maintain the trust of readers. Despite my memory disclaimers and my all-too-scattered nature, I go to great lengths to get the verifiable facts right in my nonfiction work. And yet, I make mistakes. And it seems the only thing to do in this day and age is get those mistakes right out there. To set the record straight. I just got two emails saying I made a factual error in “Visiting Tom,” and although I’m on tour right now, driving from town to town, I’m going to follow up on those as soon as I can and add them to the “Oops!” category.

Your new book Visiting Tom shares the intimate story, albeit an eccentric one, of your neighbor.  How did you first meet?

It had to do with the woman I was dating at the time. I’d been a bachelor for 39 years. Our first visit to see Tom changed that. The rest of the story is in the book. As you can see I am currently in promotional mode.

 What does Tom think about you writing his story?

I asked his permission first, and he gave me his approval contingent on my changing his name. I spent many hours with him and his family, fact-checking the book. During that time he said I got things right. But then he grins and says since I changed his name he’s telling everybody it’s fiction. Of course at this I nearly had a seizure in light of all the controversies in the genre. But he has this wicked grin when he says it, and that’s Tom in a nutshell. Bottom line? I was over to visit him again right before book tour, and we just sat and visited. I wasn’t a writer, he wasn’t a subject, we were just neighbors again. And that’s my favorite role. Being his neighbor.

When you write about the people in your life, you have a way of making them get off the page and walk down the sidewalk in front of the reader.  You really hone in on details about people.  When you meet someone for the first time, what are the stand out traits that interest you?

I don’t think there’s a standard answer to that one. I will say that when I’m profiling someone – whether for a magazine piece or a book – I prefer to spend a lot of time with them before asking them a single interview question, because when you ask questions first, two things happen: 1) you ask questions that can be better answered through observation and natural conversation, and 2) the subject tends (rightly or wrongly, and usually wrongly) to read some sort of direction into the questions and tries to give “right” answers.

Met any interesting literary figures on your travels?  Who’s been the most inspiring to you?

Because I live in rural Wisconsin I really don’t spend much time in literary circles. I have one editor I’ve worked with for ten years and we’ve only met in person once, for a short lunch. I’ve only ever met my book editor twice. Most of my writerly friendships have been developed through chance meetings at conferences and the like. For instance, I’ve become email/Twitter friends with Christopher Moore because we wound up huddling beneath the same potted plant at a high-tone event in L.A. We were both dressed poorly for the occasion and thus bonded forever. One thing I want to make clear, however: I am not poor-mouthing literary circles. I have had wonderful experiences at places like Bread Loaf, I have benefited immeasurably from writers far more academic and artistic than I who took the time to talk writing with me – either in person or via electrons. Anybody who is writing – whatever the genre, whatever the level – has much to teach me, and I welcome all shop talk.

Maybe I’ll come at this from another angle. About 6-8 years after I started typing with intent, I read my first book by Jim Harrison, and it changed my writing life. I owe him so much. On book tour one year I had the chance to meet him for ten minutes in the back room of a bookstore. I thought it over and passed, leaving him a note instead. I realized that it was his work that changed my life, and in ten minutes on the fly I would likely just mumble things I’d spend the next three days wishing I’d said better, and also, having been on book tour myself I knew he’d probably prefer ten quiet minutes. I don’t know if it was the right decision or not, but I think so.

Do you have any superstitions or habits when you sit down to write?

Nope. As a freelancer I am driven by deadlines and house payments, so I write whether I’m in a Super 8 or sitting in my favorite coffee shop or the room over my garage. But the good news is, I get up every day as hungry to write as I was 20 years ago. And because I never saw this coming, the main thing I feel when I sit down to type is gratitude.

That said, a cup of fresh-ground snobby coffee doesn’t hurt…

What’s your opinion on the changing face of publication?  Are you a fan of e-books and blogs?  Tweets, Likes, and Pins?

I don’t think it’s a matter of being a fan, it’s a matter of navigating reality. I owe my existence to independent bookstores and hand selling, and I still try to focus my tours and my thanks and my sales accordingly. But I also know I have to keep the boat afloat wherever the river flows. The tricky part is balancing all the bloggy/tweety/likey stuff (which is an invaluable way of keeping in touch with and thanking readers) with the writing that is at the center of it all. I don’t always get it right.

What’s your favorite book of all time?

I don’t like to narrow things down that way. I’m omnivorous. In “Coop”, however, I do talk about how “All Quiet On The Western Front” changed my worldview in third grade and why I’ve re-read it so many times.

What’s your favorite thing about Wisconsin?

Again, I just don’t care for the favorite thing. Not being cranky, it’s just that today it might be deep-fried cheese curds, tomorrow it might be a black-and-white cow in a green field beside a red barn, and then Friday night it might be the cotton-candy scent of burnt racing fuel at the dirt track races.

Best place to go in our state?


What do your daughters think of what you do?  What family member is your biggest fan?

I come from a blue-collar family. Farmers, loggers, nurses, truckers. I reject the idea that being a writer is any more special than any of those things. I always say I’m a writer with a small “w”, and I figure most critics and people would agree. My family is just as interested in my writing as they are interested in my brother’s corn crop or my sister’s factory job and that’s how it oughta be. My daughters know their dad is self-employed and gone a lot, but they also know that truckers and soldiers are gone a lot more and under much tougher circumstances. I love what I do, I’m grateful to do what I do, and it may be a calling, but it’s not a HIGHER calling.

Growing up you were raised with a number of foster kids in the house; some were legally adopted by your parents.  Coop shares a lot of that story, but for readers here, what impact do you think it had on how you parent now?

Well, it makes me feel a little bit guilty, because I simply haven’t demonstrated the ability to take in children the same way my folks have (and still do). That said, I think the greatest impact is that my children have come to understand that health and a happy home are the greatest gifts and never to be taken for granted. Also, because my Mom and Dad still care for some profoundly challenged children, my daughters are growing up with a sense of compassion and are not fearful of children who are “different.”

What’s the best parenting advice you’ve been given?

Not a “best” but to synthesize all the good advice I’ve been given, I’d say it comes down to “Stand firm, take the long view, and prepare to pray no matter the state of your faith.”

Best advice about relationships?

Best? Dunno best. But try this: Look in the mirror regularly and see if you can maintain eye contact. Not as easy as it sounds, and reminds you what the other person is dealing with.

LOL.  Ok, best writing advice?

OK. Finally I can give you an absolute “BEST”!

Do exactly what Neil Gaiman says you should do: Read. Write. Everything else is just circling the rug.


Michael, thank you so much for being on The Happiness Project!  It was a pleasure having you, and sharing a favorite local author of mine with my readers!  I gotta give Wisconsin cheers when I can!

Michael Perry is a humorist and author of the bestselling memoirs Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, Truck: A Love Story and Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting, as well as the essay collection Off Main Street.Perry has written for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Backpacker, Orion and Salon.com, and is a contributing editor to Men’s Health. He has performed and produced two live audience humor recordings (I Got It From the Cows and Never Stand Behind a Sneezing Cow) and he performs regularly with his band the Long Beds.  Perry lives in rural Wisconsin, where he remains active with the local volunteer rescue service. He can be found online at www.sneezingcow.com.

Raised on a small dairy farm, Perry equates his writing career to cleaning calf pens – just keep shoveling, and eventually you’ve got a pile so big, someone will notice. Perry further prepared for the writing life by reading every Louis L’Amour cowboy book he could get his hands on – most of them twice. He then worked for five summers on a real ranch in Wyoming, a career cut short by his fear of horses and an incident in which he almost avoided a charging bull. Based on a series of informal conversations held around the ol’ branding fire, Perry still holds the record for being the only cowboy in all of Wyoming who was simultaneously attending nursing school, from which he graduated in 1987 after giving the commencement address in a hairdo combining mousse spikes on top, a mullet in back, and a moustache up front – otherwise known as the bad hair trifecta. Recently Perry has begun to lose his hair, and although his current classification varies depending on the lighting, he is definitely Bald Man Walking.

Perry has run a forklift, operated a backhoe, driven truck, worked as a proofreader and physical therapy aide and has distinguished himself as a licensed cycle rider by careening into a concrete bridge completely unassisted. He has worked for a surgeon, answered a suicide hotline, picked rock in the rain with an alcoholic transvestite, was a country music roadie in Switzerland , and once worked as a roller-skating Snoopy. He can run a pitchfork, milk a cow in the dark, and say “I don’t understand” in French, Greek and Norwegian. He has never been bucked off a horse, and contends that falling off doesn’t count. He is utterly unable to polka.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and enter for a chance to win a Hardcover copy of Visiting Tom!  Comments must be in by Saturday, September 29th, midnight.  

How Important is a Book Cover? Guest Post by Marcia A Richards

Hi, All! I’m filling in for Jess while she and Joe are out west on a well-deserved vacation. She’d better bring back a ton of pictures to share, right?

Jess does a lot of amazing book reviews here and we even get to meet an author now and then! That girl reads A LOT! So, in keeping with the theme of book reading, here are a few questions for you.

Do you read the blurbs on the book covers? Do you look at the publisher’s name, read the excerpt? Do you read the bits of book reviews on the cover?

Before eReaders became popular, the book cover was the conveyance of the main character or the tone of the book. The colors, the font and the images all melded into a message. It was how we knew if the book was right for us.

Walking into a bookstore or library transported me into a magical world of hushed voices, the scent of paper and ink, the visions of the authors’ imaginations. That world always promised a happy experience.

Today with many bookstores closing due to the popularity of eReaders and digital books, our children or grandchildren may never have that same experience unless we take them to a library.

Now that all eReaders present in color, we can see the beautiful book covers, teeny tiny as they are, and read the blurbs and review quotes. We can let the message of the cover flow through us, just as if we were physically standing in front of the bookshelf.

But do you still go looking for the cover on your eReader? Or do you read the synopsis and purchase the book based on that and price alone?

What is it about a book cover that attracts you? Is it the color or the image that draws you in?

For me, it’s the subconscious message the cover conveys. I get the feel of the book from the images and it gives me context.

Here are some examples of covers that spoke to me so loudly I had to buy the book:





What book covers have WOWed you? Do you need to see the cover before you buy?

If the cover isn’t important to you now, was it important before eReaders and what does that say about the effect of technology on us?

Marcia Richards is the author of Marcia Richards’ Blog…Sexy. Smart. From The Heart. Marcia writes about women, history, and the path to realizing your dreams. She has a Historical Trilogy and a collection of Short Stories in progress. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing with the grandkids or her husband, traveling or turning old furniture into works of art. She believes there is always something new to learn.

Come hang out with Marcia at: http://twitter.com/MarciaARichards or http://facebook.com/MarciaARichards .

Visit Marcia at: http://Marcia-Richards.com

Celebrating My Writing Slump

This past weekend I attended the DFW Writer’s Conference (Dallas/Fort Worth, for those of us not from the South).  Let me just say, this conference rocked more than Jon Bon Jovi, and I even stood behind him in concert once on National TV!  That’s another tale.

I truly do recommend attending this conference, or one closer to you if cost is a concern, because the information and MOTIVATION that come out of these sessions is priceless.  Plus, here’s a bunch of the writers/bloggers I met there:  Kait Nolan, Julie Glover, Tiffany A. White, Jenny Hansen, Kristen Lamb, Donna Newton, Piper Bayard, Nigel Blackwell, Jillian Dodd, Roni Loren, Melinda VanLone, Ingrid Schaffenburg, Candace Havens, Kendra Highley, Joann Mannixfellow Life List Club blogger David N. Walker, and New York Times Bestselling Author James Rollins    

Don’t believe me?  I’ve got proof!

Jenny Hansen, David N. Walker, Jillian Dodd

Me, Tiffany A. White, Julie Glover

Donna Newton, Nigel Blackwell, Ingrid Schaffenburg

Piper Bayard, Me, Jenny Hansen

Me and Kristen Lamb

Me and Kait Nolan

James Rollins, Me – How cool is that?!

Piper Bayard, Ingrid Schaffenburg, Kristen Lamb, Me, Donna Newton and of course, Spawn

Now, why exactly are we celebrating my writing slump?

The DFW Con is my second writing conference.  Last year I attended the Madison, Wisconsin Annual Writer’s Institute.  You can check out my conference posts if you like:  The Do Re Mi of Conference Attending, Creativity? How to Force More of It and Have Fun Too, and City Slickers and Social Media.

Here’s a little bit of backstory of what happened between that conference and this one:

1.  I met a group of people at the conference who I totally connected with, who were all writing in the same genre as me (paranormal/fantasy) and who had blogs!  Squeee!  We swapped contact info and started our own online critique group, rotating weeks and sending in 10 pages.

  • Oh yah, it totally bombed.  About 3 months in, people were no longer sticking to the schedule, everyone was at such different pacing, many weren’t even blogging regularly (not moi!), and some took on different projects altogether.

2.  So, I had an opportunity to join another writing group.  The Warrior Writer’s Boot Camp!  We focused on making the synopsis clear and the key characters strong.  This was so helpful!  But it also showed me more holes in my story, and I had to make so many changes I no longer knew what story I was writing.

  • What I learned here was invaluable.  It was great to have a group fully dive in with feedback and meaningful questions.  I also realized this was no longer a story I knew how to write because it had entirely changed.

3.  Then NaNoWriMo happened!  Ok, here it is!  All or nothing, I’m cracking this baby out in one month!  Not sure where I’m going, doesn’t matter!  I’m writing this bad book boy!

  • Um, hello, I work in retail!  What was I thinking trying to whip out 50K on a book I hadn’t plotted or outlined well during the peak month of Christmas shopping?!  Stupid, stupid, stupid!

I’m celebrating my writing slump because I learned some hard lessons along the way. It was irrevocably and irretrievably pounded into my brain this weekend that I had not planned well.  I half-a**ed my book outline and pantsed the rest expecting word nirvana to appear for me with little effort. I wasted time. Plain and simple. I wasted time, and I let myself down.

A few things have changed for me between that last conference and this one. For one, while I was one of the few people at the previous conference who had started blogging, now everybody has a blog, and they also have a twitter handle, a facebook page, they’re on Pinterest, and they’re launching their own website.  Second, the whole market has changed. Where self-publishing was represented by a panel here and there, in the course of one year, at least one session each hour covered a panel or speaker discussing and promoting self-publishing options and how to hybrid with traditional publishing.

There were things that remained the same too. We know that we’re living in the Wild Wild West of Publishing now. Things are changing rapidly and every day we don’t actively write or market our book is a day wasted in this fast-paced technology driven world. There are more options than ever, but it’s important to research them and plan your platform and marketing pitch just as much as it’s important to edit and revise your work until it’s the best possible writing.


Traditional publishers are looking for the goose that lays the golden egg.  If the goose stops laying golden eggs, then the publishers are going to kill the goose and roast him for dinner.  So, what that means for us as writers, is we always have to keep writing. We’ve got to have a plan for what that next project is going to be.  And if we don’t, expect to get fried by your agent.

Sound harsh? Think of it this way: Don’t you want people to demand more books from you? If you’re like me, working on that first novel, what’s your plan for the next one? If you haven’t thought about it, you’re in danger of becoming a one hit wonder. And that’s only IF you get the first one published.

 But wait…

Author James Rollins (image courtesy goodreads.com)

Here’s a success story of epic proportions. James Rollins, remember me mentioning him, the NYT Bestselling Author? Yah, that one! During his keynote speech, he shared with us while he was still a veterinarian starting out writing, he wrote several different books, some in the thriller genre and some in the fantasy genre. He also received about 50 rejections letters, including one particularly personal handwritten note that read, “This is unpublishable.” But, he kept writing.

He happened to meet, at a conference no less, an agent who was interested in his fantasy series, a storyline previously unsupported by his other agent. Now, he was in the midst of two agents wanting to help publish his work, but only because he continued to write books even when it seemed no one wanted to read them.

Still not sold on the planning and preparedness of this process as a business strategy? Well, how many of you are hoping for the proverbial writer’s dream of quitting your day job, telling your boss to suck it, and moving into the castle across the moat from J.K. Rowling?  Then you better plan to make some money on your books.

Author Lori Wilde (image courtesy pinterest.com)

Bestselling author Lori Wilde was another speaker at the conference and she broke it down like this:

  • On average, most writers will make about $15,000/year on their book.
  • Subtract the 15% share the agent takes of that.
  • Subtract the ___% share the publisher takes off of that.
  • And now you’re left with your shiny new book in print that your boss at Starbucks won’t let you put next to the Pike’s Place roast on Buy One Get One Tuesdays!

So what you need to do is determine how much money you want to make a year, and based on the above numbers, calculate how many books you’d need to write and publish each year.

I’m not sharing this information to depress you into taking your crinkled pages of manuscript as scratch paper for next month’s grocery list. Well, maybe I am, it betters my chances of success. I’m sharing this information because I think it’s so crucial to know about your business if you want to be a writer. A writer with more than one book out there and who doesn’t have to also work the drive thru window her entire career.

A few of my favorite de-slumping activities (I’m an expert at slumping, so I get to make up words about it) are:

  1. Experience the world with all 5 senses (Blindfold yourself if you have to!)
  2. Listen to the sound of silence.  When you hear noise/nature again, it will all be amplified.
  3. “Even if it’s a negative thing, stop and appreciate it because it’s teaching you something.” – Lori Wilde
  4. Get back to the basics.
  5. Write something totally different.
  6. Don’t whine!  Breathe and then get it over with.

All of us have slumps, when do you hit yours? What advice got you out of it? What tricks or tips help you move past it?

What do you think of the ever-changing nature of our business? Are you excited about this Wild Wild West of publishing? Do you know another writer success story?

A Mini-Road Trip and Mash Up

Hey Peeps!  How are you all today?  I’ve been thinking of you!  I’m currently on a two day hiatus trip home to give my mom and pop their Mother’s Day and Father’s Day presents early.  I’ve got a crazy summer schedule starting up, so I’m glad I got to hang out with the family for a day.  Spent the three hour drive home jammin to old school Tori Amos cds, which was fun and don’t worry, I know you’re jealous.

Today, I slept in until 8 am!  Then I stayed in bed and read until 10!  When I went downstairs I was loudly greeted by my 3 year old niece dressed all in pink princess wardrobe.  I managed to squeeze in a mini work out by chasing her around and doing what I consider to be weighted leg curls because we played “Super Sonja” for quite some time until my legs gave out.  We totally earned that snack break of juice and chex mix.

Many of you are up to more studious things, or things that made me laugh, so I’m happy to share them all with you!  Please feel free to chat, and know I’ll be with you momentarily after I drive the 3 hours back home.

On Writing and Reading:

Kristen Lamb has been blogging some REALLY INTERESTING stuff on the nature and future of the publishing industry.  Find out what’s in store for Barnes and Noble in Big Six Publishing is Dead – Welcome the Massive Three and also The WANA Plan to Save Bookstores and Revive Publishing.

Leanne Shirtliffe, of Wordbitches, recently wrote about a topic I could relate to:  My Love Hate Relationship With Triberr.  What’s your take on this new social media aid?

And Rachelle Gardner had guest blogger Dineen Miller talking about how to put some marketing in your book!  Rooted Marketing:  Building Marketing Tools Into Your Story.

Movie Reviews (Mostly on The Avengers):

Amanda Rudd got advanced screening tickets to The Avengers!  OMG!

Jillian Dodd has you covered this MANday, blogging about the men of The Avengers.  And don’t forget, it’s not to late to enter the MANday Contest!  Find out how to win a $500 Amazon Gift Card here.

Tiffany A White gives her Fabooolous opinion on the flick in Time to Avenge.

Ellie Ann Soderstrom and the gang at Slacker Heroes gives us their Most Anticipated Summer Movies reviews and expectations.

Because Exercise and Nutrition are Growing More Important to Me:

Sherry Isaac guest blogged at the Life List Club about her plan of attack or lack thereof with her exercise routine.  I totally empathized, you might too.  Now she’s got me making changes.  Check out Weigh the Method, Relish the Outcome.

I love this article posted by August McLaughlin, who should be your go to blogger for nutrition and well being.  August explores the myths and gives tips on Body Image.

That’s what I’ve been reading!  Got a link for me?  Include it with your comments!  And I’ll be there to join you soon!

Mash-up of Awesome Writing

There has been an outburst of talented and thought provoking blogging lately!  Or as Clay Morgan from Educlaytion calls it, Posts That Pop!  I’ve been trying to get my maximum dosage of great bloggers this week as I will be out of town on vacation next week!  I’m headed to New Orleans, LA to see my best friend from High School!  So, I won’t be around to regale you all with stories of bad eating habits, getting lost, injuring myself, or otherwise fascinatingly frightening moments that encompass my life…for at least a week.

Here are my favorite,  most thought provoking posts of the week!  Take your time, enjoy, stop back and say hi, and I’ll see you all in a week’s time!

Posts on Writing:

Rachelle Gardner on E-book Publishing Effect on Readers

Anne R. Allen on The Reality of Writer’s Block, Don’t Bully Your Muse

Kristen Lamb on Reality Deficit Disorder, Why Writing Can Make Us Crazy

Katie Ganshert on Setting Realistic Goals for Improving Your Writing

Posts with Humor:

Elizabeth S. Craig on 8 Things You Need to Know About Living With a Writer

Clay Morgan on School Picture Day:  What Happened To Me?

City Slickers and Social Media

Hello and welcome to the World of Writers in what will now be referred to as the Wild Wild West of Publishing.  Let me introduce to you our panelists who will cover the vast opinions circling social media today:

Patrick McGilligan, Film biographer and Social Media Nay Sayer. If you'd like to know what he thinks about something, please just email.

Josie Brown, Fiction Women's Lit Author and Social Media Champion. Click the image to link to her blog, facebook, or twitter account.

Judy Molland, Non-fiction Writer, Parenting and Social Media Advocate. For answers about teaching, parenting, writing and social media, Judy is your lady, and it comes with a genuine British accent!

Jim DeRogatis, Music Critic and Rock N'Roll Know-It-All, If you want the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God, Jim's your man. User of social media, pays someone else to do it, but it's definitely NOT his agent!

Wrapping up Saturday at the Writers Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, was a panel on Social Media.  Like old time wanted posters, these four pioneers of authorship sat in the front of the room, sharing their opinions and travels through the Wild Wild West that is today’s publishing process.  Patrick was kindly allowed to speak first, fully knowing the rest of the discussion would come back to charge him like the bull he was.  Patrick, luckily, is a man with a specific area of expertise.  He is a film biographer.  His agent and his publishing house let him submit a list of ideas to write about, they circle one, he does it.  Patrick sees no need for the extra work that goes into maintaining a website, blogging, facebook and twitter, and to him it’s all just that, WORK.  I should tell you that Patrick was pretty honest about not desiring to have it all either.  He makes a decent living for himself and he’s comfortable with that.  He doesn’t actively promote the sales of his books because in his mind it only accounts for about 10% more anyway.  Are you thoroughly depressed or angered yet?

For those of you that are, Josie’s got your back!  Full of biting quips and interjections, she personally forges the way for writers of today to get involved with their audience by allowing the audience to get to know them.  She blogs about things that inspire her and will hopefully inspire her readers.  She tweets, she uses facebook.  If you saw Josie riding through the rough terrain of the open range, her horse would have her newest book branded into its butt (assuming it didn’t harm the horse to do so, she strikes me as an animal lover).  The words ‘author’ and ‘platform’ are common terms in her vocabulary.

Judy is a teacher through and through.  Her opinion may lean strongly to one side more than the other, but she still wants you to play nice with the other kids.  Her experience led her to be in the middle of social media without fully realizing it.  She began in journalism, she was writing articles for parenting magazines, and then blogging, and now it’s just what she does.  The use of social media allowed her to work on her passion, the site www.care2.com, an activist site that helps people find ways to get involved, donate, and stay educated about causes.

Finally, you get to Jim.  Patiently smirking throughout all the banter of this rodeo, he’ll tell you, Yes, you need to be involved with social media, but don’t ask him how to do any of it.  He voices his opinion on his radio show, Sound Opinions, with Greg Kot.  He says writers do need to market themselves because most agents, including his, aren’t going to do it for you.  He has no idea what his agent actually does, and yet he earns 15% of the sales.  I actually got to chat with Jim for awhile before the day started one morning and he was very affable, happy to sign the book of his I’d purchased, and chatted with me about authors to check out and his band, Vortis, a delightful three piece band of “agitainment.”  Jim may not know the ins and out of html code (which for some of us is comforting, raises hand), but he knows the people to get him there and makes himself very available to the public.  (He told me to email him!)

This post may not have answered all your questions about social media, but it shows there’s a broad spectrum of opinions about it, hence the Wild Wild West of Publishing…and Platforms…and Print on Demand…and oh hell, gang, grab a pair of chaps and a lasso, we’re going writing!  I’ll be your host, Jess Witkins (picture Jack Palance with red hair), Perseverance Expert and Social Media Pony Show Captain.  Come along, subscribe.

For more in depth information on using social media check out the Social Media Expert, Kristen Lamb and her book We Are Not Alone.

What questions do you have about social media?  How are you using it or not using it?  What do you wish it was doing that isn’t yet?

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