Monday, January 31, 2011

Time Out

I am taking time out from the self publishing story today because I want to talk about my trip last weekend.  Sherri and I drove (well I drove, Sherri passengered) up to New Jersey on Friday in the snow (not pleasant) and stayed with my cousin Joan and her family.  On Saturday we all went in to Brooklyn to an Italian restaurant to celebrate my Aunt Gloria's 80th Birthday.  It was a wonderful party and it was fantastic to re connect with all of my cousins, their children and other family members. 

The party was a true sensory overload.  Sixty East Coast Italians in a medium size room with music, food and reunions, conversing in thick accents, with long "A"-s and not a "TH" to be heard.  Loud and joyous!  As I looked around the room trying to take in all the hustle and bustle, I realized what a wealth of character was filling the room.  From my cousin's, daughter's, 2 year old toddler, with his curly light brown hair, to the eighty year old neighbor lady who has known my aunt her whole life because she has lived in the same house her whole life.  There were four generations represented in that room.   The love and affection for everyone in the room, and the honest emotions and rememberances expressed for those of the oldest generation, who were no longer with us, ( Including my father who passed away this last summer) was powerful and moving and inspirational.

With all the hate and anger and strife that seems to be consumming our world today, it was hardwarming to know that in that little corner of Manhattan Island there was love and caring, and people who really knew the meaning of "Family."  It was all over too quickly, but I will remember it for a long time.  It also made me remember a t-shirt that was real popular around the time the "Godfather" movies were around.  The front of the shirt read, "There are two kinds of people in this world, Italians, and people who wish they were Italian."

Friday, January 28, 2011

On the Company web site it listed all of the booksellers they deal with, including Barnes & Noble and other brick & mortar stores.  It was quite impressive and I had visions of my novel lining the shelves and featured on the “New Arrival” tables.  I asked “Bruce” what the procedures were to get my book into those stores.  His answer was a real eye opener.  I will try to tell you what he told me in the simplest terms, this is NOT what he said, but he basically told me that in order for my book to be carried in stores, like B&N, the store had to get 40 to 70% of the retail price AND a guarantee that the books would sell.  The higher the percentage I was willing to give them, the more likely they were to carry the book.  The guarantee meant that whatever books they did not sell I would take back, at MY expense.  So this is how it would work; I would pay the Company to print the books, GIVE them to B&N to sell at a 40-70% profit, and whatever they didn’t sell, they would then send back to me and I would have them….on my shelf……at home.  Here was the kicker.  In order to do this I had to “participate” in the “Buy Back Program.”  The “Program” would cost me $500 a YEAR to participate in.  Paying to be in the program did NOT guarantee that the stores would carry my book, they could just pass, but there was NO way they were going to get my book if I was NOT in the program.  ( If you’re following this, you are doing better than I did on the phone with “Bruce.”)  Of course, my book would be listed on and B& and other Internet retail sites, for free, and they would order the books from the Company as they sold them so there would be no “Program” to be a part of, BUT I would have to pay a $35 a year fee to keep the listing active so Internet companies could get my book and/or info about it.  So,” Bruce asked, “can I sign you up for the program?”  Now, I am a rookie at this, and maybe I’m naïve and this IS how things work.  I wasn’t sure.  I didn’t KNOW what to do.  I needed to trust the people I was paying to “Assist” me in publishing my book. 
First I had to think about how much I was going to sell my book FOR?  I was thinking about $10 because I thought that was less than average and that would make it attractive.  If I didn’t make a lot, that was ok.  I was in this to start a series and I hoped that eventually I would sell millions.  (Hey, if you’re gonna dream….dream BIG.)  “Bruce” just kind of snickered at this.  The math didn’t support that idea.  The reality was that the Company was going charge me $10 each to print it.  Ten Dollars was what they would sell ME a copy for.  (Because I was going to need copies to give to family, friends and samples to send reviewers etc. etc. etc.)  In order for me to make ONE DOLLAR on each book sold (ONE DOLLAR !) it was going to have to have a retail price of a minimum of $16.95.  Anything less and I would not make ANY money at all.  I sighed, because my ambition to keep the price down was not going to come to pass.  I reviewed the math and realized I could not afford $500 a year for a “maybe.”  I told “Bruce” I would NOT be participating in the “Program”…… right now. 
He asked if I had any more questions.  I had tons!  I still didn’t understand %100 about the “program.”  Why did I have to pay the Company to take back books that I paid for?  I was confused and no amount of explaining that “Bruce” did made it any clearer.  The bottom line was that my book was NOT going to line any shelves or be featured on any tables any time soon.  I was beginning to feel like I had been a fool and I was about to lose more than just my $1000.
 I could tell that he was losing interest fast now that he knew I wasn’t buying anything more.  “Bruce” said a quick goodbye and promised that “Alice” would be calling me, soon, to continue the process.  Maybe she could explain it better to me…..

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I finally navigated my way to the author center.  I registered my “Title” and got my "Title #."  I was ready to get down to the work at hand.  Let’s kick this pig!  There were decisions to be made.  I had envisioned that I would be “talking” to someone who would be asking me what my preferences were as far as “dressing” my “baby” but it looked like it was just check boxes on a web page.  OK….I guess that was OK, I mean this was fast and easy, right? 
The questions seemed simple at first, but the more I looked at them I realized that I had no frame of reference.  I ran to my library ( not a pretty picture; me running <limp limp> upstairs) and grabbed a couple of random books for examples.  Surely I could do this, I mean I did computer forensics for goodness sake, this should be a piece of cake.
What size did I want the book?  Color cover or B&W?  What color interior?  Any illustrations? Cover material; Paperback or hardbound ( Hardbound = more $)   Line after line of DETAILS.  My head was spinning.  I didn’t KNOW.  I needed advice, someone who KNEW what was best for my project.  Thank goodness I had “One on One” help.  I searched the list of my assistants and found a phone number.  The person on my team at this point of the process was a “publishing consultant” who had taken over from the “Review Team” member.  (We’ll call him "ADAM".)  I called Adam and got his voice mail.  I quickly told him who I was (with my Book’s Title #) and explained I needed to talk to him ASAP ref: the choices.  Please call me back.  I also sent an e-mail requesting a phone call and explaining I was retired and available almost anytime, Just call.
<Insert cricket sounds here>
I called again, left voice mail, e-mailed again, started to get nervous.  More then week later I got an e-mail.  It was from; we’ll call her “Alice.”  She explained that "Adam" had handed me off to her now.  She apologized for not getting back to me, she had been on vacation, and listed four (4) times that would be good for her to call me.  I was to pick one and e-mail her with which one I wanted.  My return e-mail reiterated that I was retired and any of the four were fine, just please, call.
<Insert cricket noise here.>
The four call times came and went, no call came.  I called The Company and asked to speak to the head of Publication.  I was informed that she was not available but I could leave voice mail.  I reluctantly accepted that and left a curt message about how disappointed I was with the communication so far and stressed that I had paid them my $1000 all ready and would like to get this process going.
The next day I got a call from a guy who introduced himself as “Bruce.”  He apologized for “Alice” not getting back to me (she had been on vacation )  and he would be happy to answer my questions.  In fact he would be happy to take over my project from “Alice” if I wanted.  I told him that I just needed a little help with getting through the details.  He told me not to worry, it was easy! and he would be glad to help.  (He reminded me of all the guys I had ever bought a car from.)  For a half  hour we plodded through the details and as we talked I checked the right buttons, moving through the process.  We made a good start.  I had two big questions,
1. How do I get a brick & Mortar store to carry my book and
2. How much should I sell my book for?
The answer to those 2 questions were about to set me back on my heels.  It would also be the LAST time I ever got to speak to a real person from The Company, on the telephone, again.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Ok, where was I.  O yea…”The Company.”  Before I go on; a word about “Copyright.”  Legally-the moment you put pen to paper ( literally or figuratively ) your creation has copyright.  The problem comes when that copyright is violated.  You have to prove that you created it ( in court if necessary ) and it helps to have more than just your word for it.
When I first started writing Blood and Chocolate, I typed out a couple of paragraphs outlining the plot and the characters.  I sealed it in an envelope and mailed it to myself.  The dated postmark served as my “proof” that anyone who made claim to Kelly and her adventures, after that date, could be exposed as scoundrels. 
When I finally finished writing I wanted to have an official “Copyright,” so I went to and followed the typical government bureaucracy, filed my papers and paid my $35.  I kind of forgot about it because I was thinking of other things and about 8-10 weeks later here it came in the mail.  My “Copyright Certificate.!”  I was thrilled.  I now had “Intellectual Property!”  How cool was that!
The reason I bring this up is because The Company wanted $100 to do the same thing “for me.”  The same thing I had done in a couple of minutes with very little fuss, and a third of the price.  I should have taken this as a sign of what was to come, but I just shrugged it off and rationalized that labor was expensive and they needed to pay “someone” to do it if I couldn’t/wouldn’t take the time.  I was glad that I had taken the time.
OK, back to our regularly scheduled program.
I decided that if I was gonna do this, I was gonna do it right.  SO I took the plunge and ordered the most expensive package The Company offered.  $1000.  Not spare change to be sure, especially on a pension, but I really WANTED to do this.  I wanted Kelly’s story to be read, by people, someone who was not obligated by marriage ( or friendship ) to like it.  I sent a copy of my Galley to The Company along with my credit card info for the $1000.
I received an e-mail congratulating me.  My manuscript had been read, and judged to be good enough to be published by The Company.  I was thanked for my order and now that my manuscript had been approved, I was promised a simple and exciting journey through the publishing process.  I was welcomed to The Company and provided with a list of a group of people who would be my “One on One” personal guides.  I was assured that I would be assisted every step of the way and also provided with testimonials from other authors who had been there before me and sang The Company’s praises.

The first person on the list signed the e-mail and told me that I was now being passed on to the second person on the list who would be in touch soon to start me on my way.  Later that day, here came an e-mail from the second person.  She introduced herself and I was again congratulated and thanked.  The rest of the communiqué was a long confusing message outlining the strict guidelines for submitting my manuscript for publication.  The spacing had to be thus, the font thus, the margins…etc. etc.  etc.  If any of the guidelines were not strictly adhered to the manuscript would be rejected.  If I wanted The Company to do the formatting “for me” they could; for a price of course.  ( Do you see a pattern yet?  Don’t worry… will.)  After the formatting guidelines came a list of “other services” The Company could provide, the price for the service and how easy it was to order.  I was then directed to go to my “Author Center” page on The Company web site.  I was assured it was easy to find.  I needed to be signed into my account, and there, decisions were to be made about the publication of my book.  How GREAT was this !  Here we go; we’re on the road now!  This is Gonna HAPPEN !
Over the next 15 to 20 minutes I tried to easily find the “Author’s Center.”……………..

Friday, January 21, 2011


After the re-write (for the 20th time) I was happy with what I had.  It was long enough, funny enough and pretty good.   ( IMHO)  I had a stack of pages I had printed out with John's red ink on them, and an ink jet printed, one sided, double spaced, copy of the finished product.  John liked it and that said a lot because if it stunk up the room he would have pointed that out.  I passed it around to a few Beta readers who all liked it.  Including my wife, Sherri, who gave me a thumbs up. ( that is hard to come by.) 

I joined a writing group in Charlottesville through a contact I made at the University.  It was a small group of people who had jobs, unlike me who had nothing to do but sit around and write (poor me :) Oh, yea...and mow the lawn.  One of the members of the group (Sara) was a nice girl who owned a used bookstore/coffee shop in the next County.  She read it and liked it also.  One of my biggest worries was that I had missed the mark as far as Kelly's homosexuality.  I didn't want to portray a "straight guy’s fantasy lesbian," I wanted Kelly's lesbianism to be honest; a part of her character, like how tall she was, and not the anchor of her personality.  I wanted to paint her as a strong, competent investigator, who just happened to be gay.  Sara assured me I had not made any major faux pas in that aspect of the story and I breathed a sigh of relief.  The last thing I wanted at this point was more re-writes.

I blew the dust off of the old query letter saved on my hard drive and pulled out my file of rejection letters.  I read every one of them (painful as that was) making sure I hadn't missed any subtle suggestions or advice.  As I read them a feeling of dread settled on my shoulder.  The thought of getting on that ride again was really depressing.  There had to be a better way.  John Grisham lives in the neighborhood, maybe I'll just pop over to his house and I'm sure he'll be happy to have HIS agent take me on.


I had seen something on the web about "self-publishing" and I started to research that process and the various companies out there and the options they offered.  This was exciting.  I might be able to get a printed copy of my labors without having to go through the agony of first getting an agent, who might or might not, get me a book deal.  If I had a successful run, maybe that would a selling point for attracting an agent?  Or, was I hurting myself?  Maybe an agent wouldn't want someone who all ready had a printed novel?  It would take research and soul searching.  I scoured the web, gleaning what I could.  I decided to go for it !

I settled on a company that offered a variety of services and seemed to fit my needs.  I have fought with myself about mentioning the name of the company here.  I have a lot to say about them, good and bad, and I don't want to taint my comments by naming them.  I will let you read about the journey and if you really want to know who they are, e-mail me and I will be happy to tell you who they are in private, but for the purposes of this discussion I think it is best to just call them, "The Company," and let you make up your own mind after you hear the story.  The bottom line is "Would I recommend them if you were going to self-publish?"  The answer is "Yes" but you need to hear the story and know what's going on too.

The Company had a web site that I navigated to and started to go through page after page.  The fact that they had numerous options seemed at first a good thing, but the more I got into it, the more confused I got.  So many choices!  They had package deals for almost every conceivable scenario.  Unfortunately, I liked a couple of things in this package and a couple from that.  Only the most expensive of the packages had most everything I thought I needed or wanted, naturally.  There was hope tho, they promised “One on One” assistance with my project which was the one thing that attracted me most to them over any other I had found, to help me decide how to proceed.  Ah...... if only I’d known what was to come............

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


After two decades as a police officer I earned a retirement.  I truly loved my job and would probably have done it forever, but Southern California was "squeezing" me.  The cost of living and unbelievable traffic, coupled with the fact that I would have to work into my late 60s to afford to retire there, made me take a look at re-locating.  We (the wife and I) did an Internet search and discovered that taking everything into account, the Charlottesville, Virginia area was the #1 area in the country to live.  I held my breath and took the plunge.  We sold our house in California and with the proceeds paid (no mortgage) cash for a 3000 square foot house on land that was measured in acres, not feet.  We set up our new lives outside of Charlotteville, just down the street from Thomas Jefferson's old house.  It was a drastic step.  I left the city, everyone and everything I had known for my entire life and started over living in the country.  It was DIFFERENT to say the least, but in a good way.  Rush hour traffic was two or three other cars with you on the 2 lane highway leading to town.

Life was good, relaxing.  My wife Sherri took a position as a nurse in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of  University of Virginia Medical Center.  It was rewarding work that she really enjoyed doing.  I spent my days remodeling our Queen Victorian house and taking care of so much land that it takes a good 8 hour day to mow the lawn on a ridin mower.

In late January 2009 Sherri was diagnosed with a milignant tumor in her left breast.  Her family history was grim when it came to Cancer.  She had lost her mom to Breast Cancer at a very young age, so she decided that the best course was to have a radical mastectomy.  Removing both of her breasts seemed to be the best way to ensure her survival.  The initial surgery was only the beginning, and the rest of the year turned into the same type of physical and emotional turmoil that we had gone through with my leg, 10 years earlier.

Recovery was slow, with a lot of down time and anxiously waiting for test results and prognosis about the future.  In an effort to keep my mind occupied and off the different scenarios we were facing, I pulled Kelly Bloodsworth's story out of the drawer. 


A big part of Kelly's story revolved around technology.  I have always loved electronics and I had integrated a lot of "toys" into the plot.  A lot had changed since 1999.  Complicated computers, and everything associated with them, had morphed into commonplace household  items.  The Kelly Bloodsworth novel needed tweaking to bring it into the 21st Century.  A floppy disc, with it's huge 1.2 MB storage capacity was a central plot point.  (If you don't know what a floppy disc is, look it up)  Now that a USB thumb drive's capacity is into the two digit Gigabyte range it needed to be changed.

I started from the beginning and went line by line, page by page and modernized my story so that it was up to specs, tech wise.  Even as I was writing, things were changing so fast I had to go back an change / add to them again, just to stay current.

When I finished the last page, creating Kelly's world had once again helped me through a rough patch in my life; and there was good news.  Sherri's tests all came back negative.  The Cancer was gone, and she was not a strong candidate for it coming back in other places in her body.  Her nodes were clear so no radiation or Chemo was necessary.  By the magic one year mark, February 2010, she was cancer free, reconstructed and back to work with her premmie babies, and I had a 300+ page baby of my own that I still wanted to share with the world. 
I sent my pages off to my best friend, best critic, and one of the people I most hated leaving, John Godfrey.  John is a teacher back in So. CA.  He "dusted and cleaned" the story and returned it to me with praise, constructive criticism and spatterings of red marks.  I turned all of his red ink, black, and I finally had a finished product.  Now I was ready to hit bricks and get an agent for sure.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Journey Begins


I have been a writer almost all my life.  In Grammer School I wrote poetry and satire for the amusement of my classmates.  In High School it was to court girls.  In college I took creative writing classes and got serious about putting my imagination to print. ( but still courted girls.)  I was a Drama Major and tried my hand at plays and screenplays.  (Frustrating and not successful.)  I opened one of the first Video Rental stores in Southern California in the 70s and wrote a "Club Newsletter" and advertising for our Family business.  I became a Police Officer in 1984, first as a Reserve and then full time in 1986.  Here I wrote for a living.  Writing police reports was great practice, and I wrote a LOT of em.  Even though creativity was not allowed, writing the facts, just the facts ma'm, provided the opportunity to hone the skills of being concise, descriptive, complete, and writing in a style that was easily understood and helpful to anyone who needed to read it.  I became a traffic accident Investigator and a Motorcycle Officer in 1990.  My reports now had to be extremely detailed, but without any emotion.  This was especially difficult when an accident involved serious injury or a fatality.  It was hard to seperate "just the facts" from the tragic emotional impact of the events.  I wrote for the Police Department newspaper and had articles reprinted ( with permission ) by other Agencys' publications.  I wrote a History of the Anaheim Police Department that was publishd in a Yearbook type format and sold to employees, both Sworn and Civilian, of the City of Anaheim.  It sold out its one and only run.  It is also featured on the Department website.


In 1999, while working radar speed enforcement just a few blocks from Disneyland, my motorcycle skidded out in some spilled fuel on the roadway and 1100 lbs of motorcycle ended up falling on my left leg.  It bent it in a direction it was never meant to bend and the bones shattered and broke.  (Ouch!)  Surgery and a three week stay in the hospital put it all back together again, but the prognosis was not good.  My career as a "Motor Cop" was over and there was no chance that I would ever walk again.  In the 3 weeks I spent in the hospital post-op I went from a 185 lb weight liftin, strong Motor Officer, to a 150 lb wreck that was parlysed from the left knee down and was advised by MDs that I would NOT recover from my accident.

The next 9 months were spent in rehab.  I felt nothing below the knee, but the knee itself was another story.  The pain was ....well......intense.  So much so that I could not sleep.  For more then a month I lay awake at night.  To occupy my time and keep my mind from the pain and the aspects of my future, I turned to writing.  I let my imagination run wild and created a character and a world.  I created a future for my character that was positive in contrast to what appeared to be before me.  There is an old saying to "Write what you know," so I of course made my tale a "Police Story" but I needed something to really challenge my creativity, something I really had to THINK about. 


My character was born.  I named her Kelly, and Bloodsworth so that her nickname could be "Blood."  A Female,  "Private" Investigator" and to really shake it up, a Lesbian.  So as a straight, male, sworn policeman, I took up the challenge of creating Kelly's world.  This process helped me through the months of difficult and intense physical therapy.  (Along with the assistance, love and support of my wife and friends.)  By the 1 year anniversary of my "crash" I came out the other side of my physical and emotionl tunnel.  I was not only walking (with a limp) but back to work.  Writing Kelly's story had done what I had hoped it would and I now wanted to share it with the world.


I read all I could about the process of getting a novel published.  First step...get an agent.  Write "querry letters."  Boy, did I write letters, lots of letters.  I even received replys from almost all of the ones I sent.  All of the replys were polite, supportive and had a basic message,  "Thanks, but, No Thanks."

Some showed interest and asked for pages to read.  I got excited.  I sent pages and waited anxiously for the news to come that someone wanted to represent the work and me.  Surely after they read it they would love the material as much as I did.  The new mssage was clear.  "After reading your pages we think your story is great but it is "Not for Us" or we "Could not give it the attention it deserves."  Very Polite and Supportive.

By Spring 1991 I was back to work at the Police Department, A Detective, working a brand new area called "Computer Crimes" and becoming skilled at a new process called "Computer Forensics."  I was doing police work again, I had proved the doctors wrong, I could walk (sort of) I was back to work, and I HAD recovered from the unrecoverable.  I put Kelly's story in a drawer.  I never forgot about it, but I was writing again (Detective Reports this time ) so my dreams of being a published novelist was put aside.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Hello and welcome.  I have recently self published my first novel, and am looking for an agent.  I hope my "Kelly Bloodsworth Novel" will be the first in a series.  I would like to share my experience in the self publishing world, as well as my journey in writing the sequel(s).  In the posts to come I will tell of the hoops I jumped through to see my dream become a reality.  I will also have some advice and tips from my point of view.  My experience is of course unique to me and may or may not reflect what others have had happened but I think it will interest you if you are at all thinking of self publishing.  If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me, and again....welcome.