Author Olivia Boler

writing is fun
April 10th, 2012

Hey, Jealousy!

Back in the day, I wrote a lot of book reviews for a major newspaper. Not a whole lot, but with some regularity. I developed a relationship with the book review editor there. Then, he left, taking a golden handshake. The new editor threw me a few bones. But eventually, he stopped. I’d send friendly emails now and then, letting him know I was available. Not one reply. “Well,” I told myself. “That’s that then.”

About a year later, I noticed that the author of the last book I critiqued for this publication had published a book review there. Hm, I thought. That’s interesting. Guess the new editor who had chosen to ignore me liked her. A few months later, another of her reviews appeared. And then another.

Today, there was a review in that very same newspaper about a new book by an author I’ve long admired. I glanced at the reviewer’s name. Guess who? Yup—the last author I had reviewed there! An author whose chosen subjects and themes have very little to do with the subjects and themes of my favorite author. Well, what did I do? I’ll tell ya!

I saw green.

I decided I sucked. As a writer. And a reviewer. And a person.

At the same time, I knew I could have written that review. I knew that my review would have been just as good, if not better. Maybe it would have won an award or gotten the notice of and a big appreciative laugh from Anthony Lane. I wondered where I had gone wrong in life, what had led me down this path of obscurity and mediocrity. When I was 30, I had so much promise! Ten years later, what have I done wrong?

But,  I didn’t wallow for long. I couldn’t. I had to get dinner on the table for my kids. And I had a blog post to write, a certain rant about those doubts that are always there, even as they get shaken loose a little by the need to monitor the boiling water for chicken tortellini.

 

 

January 29th, 2012

Twiddling my thumbs as Amazon uploads my book

Finally, finally, finally! I uploaded my novel, The Flower Bowl Spell, to Amazon for the Kindle. I really hope it looks good. The preview made me worry that the cover and my author photo are going to somehow get converted to tiny pixellated images of cameras with an exclamation point. Still waiting on Premium Status for Smashwords, but have sold a few copies and had some sample downloads, huzzah!

Apologies also for the lack of maintenance on my Publications page. I know, I need to get some hyperlinks in there, and I will make it so, very soon! I promise. This whole formatting and uploading thing has hold of all my attention, and also the strange loss of many of the WordPress widgets when I went from having a straight blog to my own domain name. But that’s boring. The fact is, I was up late last night (that means 1 a.m.—it’s a wild life I lead), trying to figure out where all my sexy widgets went. So that, and putting off my actual paying work has been the M.O. the last couple of days. In fact, I’m starting to feel almost as anxious about it as I do about all the stuff I have to do for indie publishing. Stress—what a motivator!

December 8th, 2011

The nit and grit of indie publishing—edit, draw, format, shoot

Procrastination. There’s always something to procrastinate about. Until this very moment, I was procrastinating about writing a blog entry. But now, in order to procrastinate walking the dog and getting back to my freelance work, I’m logged on and ready to update you, my bloggish friends, about my latest publishing news. Poor dog.

So, I found a copy editor for my manuscript. She’s lovely, a friend of a friend. We live on opposite coasts and have only communicated via email, Facebook, and She Writes, but I have faith in her. I am also excited to see what she’ll do to my book. For my book. My writing friends have read it—some have read several versions of it—but there’s nothing like a fresh pair of eyes, you know? So, I have to send her a final final copy by next Wedensday, and of course I haven’t cracked that baby open in many a moon. But I will because…

I’ve been doing my author-services research! And I know I’d like to get the manuscript in shape for submitting it to Smashwords and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). For some reason, and I should know this, but have yet to get it straight in my head, I need to do both because Smashwords can convert my book to a format readable on Kindle, it does not deal directly with Amazon. Is that right? If anyone knows, please tell me. I need to get on the Kindle boards and confirm this. I am also going to use CreateSpace to make old-fashioned paper pulpy copies available, and I think that conversion process is a bit less painless, but I could be wrong. I won’t know until I try.

On other fronts, I’ve discovered a cover artist, a teenage girl in Singapore named Fena. You can check out her work on her website. I really like her stuff, and am amazed at her talent. She’s also very sweet. I know this because we’ve communicated via email. Of course, the Internet is bizarre that way. Fena, if you’re out there, could you please confirm you’re not actually a middle-aged man in a Tucson, Arizona, trailer park? Just kidding.

And last but not least, I’m getting a new author photo taken by my wonderful and talented sister-in-law, Andrea Price. Check out her gorgeous wedding photos on her website. She might even help me revamp my old, tired, long neglected website. Which is here, just in case you’re curious.

The dog is chewing on my pant leg. Ta ta for now!

 

October 3rd, 2011

The Lipsticks of Elizabeth Street: A Noe Valley Cosmetics Line Is Born

The Lipsticks of Elizabeth Street: A Noe Valley Cosmetics Line Is Born. Sorry for the wee blog (or, you’re welcome!), but just wanted to share some journalism/feature writing I’ve done and did. Yes, I wrote this article about a very cool entrepreneur in my nabe. Please read!

August 10th, 2011

Genre fiction, or what’s in a name?

I admit, I haven’t done a lot of research on the whole e-publishing microcosm—I don’t know what e-publishers are out there, the ones that are following the rules of traditional publishing with submissions, rejections, standards…you know, not vanity presses but “real” publishers. Oh, and that handle editing, cover art, distribution, publicity, and royalties (of the two I’ve checked out so far, they do not give advances). So just this very minute, I did a Google search and found this site, ebook crossroads. The link is a list of ebook publishers they’ve compiled. I’ll study it in more depth and invite you to do the same. Let me know what you find, if you don’t mind.

Like print publishers, many ebook publishers specialize in particular genres—romance, science fiction, westerns, etc. A few years ago, I interviewed author Clare Willis, who wrote Once Bitten, a paranormal romance about mosquitoes. Just kidding. It’s about vampires, of course. She told me an interesting tidbit—the best-selling genre of all genres is romance. Could I beef up the romance in my own paranormal novel? she asked. I wasn’t even sure if my novel could be labeled “paranormal.” For a long time, I thought of my book (and still do, although what do I know?) as “cross-genre”, like, if I may be so bold, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, or a part of the magical realism subset of literature. (Remember, I’d been trained by my creative writing program to think like this: literary fiction=good, genre fiction=meh.)But my book might be too plot-driven or mainstream-ish or—gasp!— accessible to the reading masses to be classified as any sort of literary fiction. Anyway, I had discovered the genre of urban fantasy and thought that might be a good fit.

But romance? Well, again, my snoot radar went up. I didn’t read romances. Well..sometimes I read chick lit, but it was like a dirty little secret, an indulgence. But romance novels with busty ladies in corsets and long-haired, steroid-riddled pirates hovering over them on the covers? Not since a brief foray into the romance shelves of the local used bookstore back when I was in high school. I preferred the ones that took place in the Old West.

But I digress…I do like a good love story. A tantalizing triangle. There is an element of that in my book. Sure, I could beef it up. And it might even make the story better, more crackling.

Plus, once I checked out these publishers (and not all of them require lots of steamy sex, sometimes just “elements of romance”), they had clearly moved beyond corsets and pirates. There were fairies, vampires (of course), witches, space rangers, and normal everyday people. Other genres that have been around for 40, 50 years, I’m just learning about like steampunk and cyberpunk. Even if I’m not writing for those audiences, it’s exciting that other writers are, and that readers are demanding more.

Am I a romance writer? I wouldn’t go that far. Is my book a paranormal romance? If I can find a wider audience for my book, I’m open to the idea that it is. If you’ve changed your mind about genre, have always written genre fiction, or have some thoughts about e-publishers, do share.

 

August 6th, 2011

It’s no fiction contest

Since my early twenties, I’ve spent lots of money entering my short stories in contests. These contests are usually sponsored by literary magazines or universities with lit mags, and the entry fee is on average $15 to $20. I keep a little notebook recording my efforts under four columns: Date Sent, Story Sent, Forum Sent To, Answer. The Answer column is mainly filled with one word: NO. Sometimes, there’s a triumphant, YES!

None of the yeses come from contests. The notebooks contain records of submissions to agents or magazines and organizations that have called for stories. I’ve only ever been paid for one story, and that was a few dollars from St. Mary’s College for my short story, Unlit. Please read it!

I gave up on contests for many years (I can only take so much rejection, people!), but recently, inspired by my good friend Siobhan Fallon, who for some reason is one of my biggest cheerleaders and for every good reason is one of my biggest inspirations, tried again. I entered Crab Orchard Review‘s contest, one that Siobhan has won, with a short story my writing group and Siobhan both loved. I would be over the moon if I were a finalist or even in the honorable mentions. Well, guess what happened? Nothing. I recorded another NO in my notebook. A sensitive soul, I always take these disappointments hard in some way, either swooning, muttering bitterly, or with a glass of the house white. I’m thinking of giving up again.

But I am intrigued by Amazon.com‘s Kindle Singles, which are brief pieces (5,000 to 30,000 words) like essays, novellas, and short stories that are pretty inexpensive for Kindle users ($0.99 to $4.99). Yes, in addition to an iPad, I have a Kindle, which I L-O-V-E (so light to hold! no eye strain! built-in dictionary! note taking! stores thousands of books!), but it’s not perfect (can’t read it in the dark, can only read things downloaded from Amazon, can’t access library books with it) Admittedly, I haven’t purchased any Singles yet, but I wonder if this might be a good way to get some of my orphaned stories out there. There’s still a submission process that’s a bit more selective apparently than Amazon’s direct publishing requirements for book-length work. So, in my grand tradition, I’m not completely ruling out the rejection experience.

What do you think, dear bloggers? Is this a good avenue to explore? What’s your experience?

August 4th, 2011

OK, traditional publishing, I’ll give you one more try

So, I’ve been obsessing about this whole e-book phenomenon, and it’s no wonder as I plow through the first Sookie Stackhouse novel (yes, I’m one of those True Blood fans who’s finally found her way to the source material) on my iPad. The app that truly legitimizes this basically rather expensive toy, although my kids would argue accessing Disney movies and Angry Birds is reason enough, is OverDrive Media, which I highly recommend to anyone who is an advocate of library usage. Through OverDrive, you can “check out” e-books and audible books (i.e. books on tape) for free. You get the file for 3 weeks and then it disappears. No late fees! Pretty awesome. Oh, and the app is free.

Anyway, e-books haven’t completely replaced real books in my personal library. An author I admire can’t sign my e-book, can she? I recently scooted down to a wonderful local bookstore, Bookshop West Portal, because I knew one of my favorite authors Ann Patchett had done a signing there for her new book, State of Wonder, and I’d be able to get a lovely autographed copy. Granted, I have yet to read her book (but it’s going to be good! It’s getting excellent reviews) because the e-books I requested keep rolling in from the library, and I have to accept them or they disappear from my “hold shelf.” But I’ll get to Ms. Patchett’s book soon. Don’t you worry! And for now, I can admire the lovely cover.

Of course, there are e-book publishers out there that specialize in digital books, and because this whole indie e-book publishing thing is kind of daunting (just found out, for example, that hiring an editor is going to cost mucho dinero), I might give one of these publishers a try. Yes, give them a chance to reject my beloved book one more time, then head off on my own, as Planned B. Let’s see…if I send out my manuscript by tomorrow to the editors, it could take three to four months before I hear back from them.

What say you, dear readers. Should I do it? Should I invite more rejection into my house?

August 3rd, 2011

Once upon an agent

Yes, at one point in my life, I had an agent. It was an amazing feeling when this complete stranger said she would like to represent my first novel. I was about 26 or 27 years old at the time, and it seemed like the work I’d done in grad school, despite my extremely yeasty doubts and insecurities, actually had some merit. I had found her in a heavy tome my thesis adviser had recommended, along with the advice to look for younger, newer agents, because they are “hungry” and more likely to take on an unknown writer. Plus, they will work really hard for you.

My agent was in Colorado. Not the hot bed of publishing, but I wasn’t prejudiced. She also wasn’t a member of AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives), saying she had the qualifications, so why pay the big fees? Fine, fine. I understood about that. She asked for $600 to cover expenses like photocopies and postage. Red flag: all my grad school professors (at the time, these were the only published people I knew personally) said this was a big no-no. NEVER give money to an agent. They should make their money on the commission only. But I had a good job as a paralegal and could spare the bucks. Plus, she was the only agent, out of those I’d so far queried, who had said she wanted to represent me. What can I say? I was in love. Head over heels.

We had lunch once. She was in San Francisco for some reason. And I won’t give any specific personal details, but that meeting planted the seeds of doubt about her commitment to my work. She had not actually read the whole novel, she said. Well, I wondered, how did she know it was any good? But I shook it off. We went dutch on the lunch.

Rejection, rejection, rejection. One big nibble from St. Martin’s Press, but in the end, no thanks, the editor said.

Every day, I waited for my agent to call with news. Sometimes, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I called her for an update. It was like being in a relationship with a boyfriend who ignores you most of the time, and you wait by the phone, can’t eat, can’t sleep…you get the idea.

At the end of our year contract, she gave me a 3-month extension. But about a month in, she called me and said, not at all kindly, “I don’t want to work on this project anymore. No one is interested, and the writing isn’t very good, and I just don’t want to spend any time on it anymore.”

Was I devastated? Hell, yeah! All of my insecurities were totally validated! I let it sink it, numb me, then went home and cried on my husband’s shoulder.

“What happened?” he asked.

“My agent broke up with me!”

I called her a few days later. She was polite. I asked her if I rewrote the book, would she consider representing it? She said she’d take a look if I had something in a few months, but she didn’t have any specific advice for changes, or maybe I was too dumb to ask.

But instead of calling her back, I went into hibernation. After a while, I might have done some editing of the book on my own. Maybe not. But I did decide not to go back to the agents. I went back to the heavy tome and looked for small publishing houses. And  that’s how I found Dry Bones Press.

August 1st, 2011

Sidetracked by money issues

Today was completed wasted in tracking down proof that I do NOT owe the City and County of San Francisco 16 times the amount of money they accused me of owing, that I do not, in fact, actually owe them ANY money at all! It’s really boring, but long story short, having to crawl through my garage looking for a copy of a check I wrote back in 2005, plus going through all my files, getting on the phone with various bureaucrats, etc., is really, really draining, and leaves very little room for those creative juices to flow. I can’t even think of something fun to blog about.

Good news is, I don’t owe money. Huzzah!

If you can, avoid being self-employed. Unless you are [INSERT FAMOUS, RICH AUTHOR AND ENTREPRENEUR NAMES HERE]. There is little pay-off, although I do enjoy working in my PJs and answering to no one (except my clients, of course). Since I write fiction for free, non-fiction is where I make that butter and bread (very small loaf). I have written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Marin Magazine, Poets & Writers, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, and ForeWord Magazine, among others. Mostly book reviews, a few essays, interviews, even encyclopedia entries. Stuff like that. I was a caption writer for the America 24/7 photojournalism project. I am the Other Voices section editor of The Noe Valley Voice, if you care to submit poetry, fiction, or artwork. I’d gladly consider it.

I also write web content for the hospitality industry, meaning the stuff you read when you go to a hotel’s website to check them out. You won’t see my byline on that sort of thing. It’s all pay, no glory, but I don’t mind it—the working in my PJs thing.

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