Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Reviving Backlist Titles - A Guest Blog by Nancy Cohen



This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Nancy Cohen. Nancy is the author of the humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who's Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. Currently, she is President of the Florida Chapter Mystery Writers of America. She has recently released an Author's Edition of Hair Raiser (#2 in the Bad Hair Day series), a delightfully saucy tale of sabotage, murder, and culinary chaos. Nancy was our featured writer on April 4, 2014.


“What’s old is new again.” This adage certainly is true when authors receive reversion of rights for their earlier titles. In this era of indie publishing, we have a choice as to what to do with this gold mine of books:
·       Resell them to another publisher
·       Publish them through an author co-op like Book View CafĂ©
·       Use a service like Belgrave House or Draft2Digital that does the work and takes a percentage of the royalty
·       Self-publish the titles

I chose to indie publish my mystery backlist titles on my own. Having completed two non-fiction works this way, I already had a cover designer and formatter. But here you have another choice to make. Do you publish your earlier titles as is or revise them first?

Mine definitely needed fixing. I glanced through the first few books in my mystery series and recognized many areas that needed tightening. But I didn’t have a complete file on my computer. I’d have to get these books scanned in. In the old days, I’d written each chapter as a separate file and printed these out to compile the whole book. Then I mailed it to my publisher from the post office. Now I had to hire a scanning service. This meant sacrificing a paperback for each title as it would be torn apart and not returned.

Once I had the file, I had to check for scanning errors. This is a tedious task, but it’s extremely important. You have to go word-for-word as weird symbols end up between letters, like this one: let­ter. If you can’t see it, the two t’s have a dash between them when the paragraph symbol is turned on in Word. That could mess up the formatting when converted for Mobi or ePub. Quotation marks and periods may be missing. A character’s name like Arnie could end up as Amie. I-75 becomes 1-75. Feels good becomes Teels good. Startling becomes starding.

But as I went along, I also tightened sentence structure, removed characters tags like “she hissed” or “he chortled.” My writing skills had improved greatly in the fifteen years since my first mystery was originally published. Restaurants that I’d mentioned had gone out of business, so I changed those names. And a myriad of exclamation marks got removed. I also updated the technology, so an answering machine became voice mail.

What emerged was the same story, but it was better written. For Murder by Manicure, I added a cast of characters as well as a complete book list at the end and an excerpt for the sequel. Revisiting the story brought me pleasure. I loved it as much as I had when writing it. I laughed out loud at the hijinks between my hairstylist sleuth, Marla Shore, and her friend Arnie, owner of Bagel Busters. Back when I first wrote the story, I’d joined a gym for the three month trial membership same as Marla. The main research topic—animal testing in the cosmetic industry—remains relevant today. So I hope you’ll come along for the ride and join me for Marla’s adventure all over again. And if you’re a writer who has received rights reversion, decide which route you wish to take to re-publication.

For more information, visit Nancy's website at www.nancyjcohen.com.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Self-Esteem and Anxiety - A Guest Blog by Dr. Harold Shinitzky


This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Dr. Harold Shinitzky. Dr. Shinitzky is a licensed psychologist and former Director of Preventive Services at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics. He has been the mental health correspondent for Animal Planet, Radio Disney, ABC and Fox Television in Tampa. He is also the co-author (with colleague Dr. Chris Cortman) of "Your Mind - An Owner's Manual for a Better Life" and recently released "Take Control of Your Anxiety - A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life." Dr. Shinitzky was our featured writer on January 17, 2012.

Janelle was an overachiever.  She always achieved top honors in school.  Her teachers praised her at the end of every marking period.  Her parents showered her with rewards for her successes.  She pushed herself to achieve the Dean’s List.  Janelle was humble with every comment or award that was bestowed upon her.  Unbeknownst to anyone was the fear that she would be discovered to be a fraud, and she worried that she was never good enough.  The anxiety led Janelle to self-imposed pressure to seek perfection at every turn. 
 
Throughout her life, Janelle struggled with her self-esteem.  At a young age she was taught, “Don’t get a big head.” Compliments would be minimized, trivialized or negated.  She would graciously nod her head when she was recognized for some stellar performance, her grades, a successful task, or a specific accomplishment.  Surprisingly, her self-esteem was always in doubt. 
Her parents apparently were perplexed as they indicated that they had spent their entire lives showering Janelle with kudos. Though it is truly wonderful to have loving and compassionate parents who sing your praises, what is far more important is for Janelle to assimilate her own accomplishments. When we are born, our self-worth is neutral.  But as we develop and experiment with life, we set, work, and hopefully achieve our goals.  If you achieve your goal, your self-esteem becomes positive.  However, if you set, work but don’t achieve your goal, you are hopefully able to learn from the experience so that the next time you will be able to achieve your goal.  In Janelle’s case, she minimized her achievements.  Her personal narrative was that she was not worthy of the “false praise.” In reality, none of her triumphs were ever accepted into her self-worth. Imagine the impact to your psyche if every positive in your life was negated.  She employed mental gymnastics to convert every positive into a neutral value.  Reality was never truly assimilated. The little voice inside was predictable and negative. It was like her friend, actually, her “frenemy.” Janelle’s own disbelief and internal self-talk has led her to be filled with anxiety and fraught with self-doubt. 
  
You probably know someone just like Janelle -  bright, talented and respected, but for some reason their self-esteem does not match up comparably to their abilities.  A healthy self-esteem is not braggadocios, arrogant or snobby. A healthy self-esteem reflects your awareness of what you do, the feedback you have received and your capacity to accurately self-appraise. To have a healthy self-esteem, your behaviors should match up with your values. In essence, you need to live congruently between your choices and what your core values are.
In our book, Take Control of Your Anxiety: A Drug-Free Approach to Living a Happy, Healthy Life (Career Press, 2015) we discuss many steps to address an individual’s anxiety and struggles through the use of a variety of adaptive coping skills. In Chapter Four - Garden Tools, we discuss Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques (CBT).  In CBT, we encourage individuals to master two parts to this healthy self-esteem equation. First, catch yourself when you begin to have negative internal self-talk. Second, insert a comment that is positive, constructive and productive which is based upon reality. Most people feel like the first part will be easy while the second part will be a challenge. Actually, it is just the opposite. It’s rather difficult to catch your internal negative dialogue as it has become so common.  The goal is to catch the negative self-doubt and anxiety as soon as possible. Then you need to begin the process of honestly taking in the feedback and praise offered by others. The tendency of anxiously rejecting all positive experiences in life leads people down a path of apprehension, fear and worry.  Instead, begin to hear the feedback and compliments that you receive based upon your behavior.
Interestingly, many people are not comfortable accepting compliments. Again, we are not talking about creating a pompous, self-righteous individual. Anyone who receives these labels needs to consider toning it down. When we help individuals confront their internal negativism, we oftentimes need to help foster the development of the skill of accepting compliments. There are two parts to the process of accepting compliments. First, you literally need to say the words, “Thank you.” Not “Thanks.” Not “No biggy.” Not “Anyone could have done that.” Rather, you actually have to produce the two words, “Thank you.” Second, you need to state why the compliment matters to you. Based upon the goal that you had created, the plan that you enacted, and the fact that you achieved the goal, now that you are receiving feedback and praised based upon the reality of your behavior you need to acknowledge the reason that this compliment is important to you.

Here is an example for you. Compliment: “I am so proud of you for getting the high grade on your exam.” Response: “Thank you. I have been working harder this quarter to do better in class.”  This process might seem foreign to someone filled with anxiety and self-doubt, but in order to attain an accurate, healthy self-esteem you need to take these two steps. 
 
When Janelle acknowledged that her lifelong style of rejecting praise had not helped her feel secure about herself she decided to consider these two strategies. Whenever she heard that little internal negative voice, “You’re not worthy,” she would challenge this with a positive and truthful comment, “When I have applied myself, I have been able to reach my goals.”  She also practiced accepting compliments. She admitted that this was a major challenge. However, when she started sharing the reasons why the compliment was important, she realized that she had put forth effort in life.  
Janelle had taken two major steps toward addressing her anxiety and negative internal comments which, for the first time in her life, left her proud yet humble about her accomplishments and honestly grateful that people she values offer their compliments regarding her achievements. To Janelle and all the Janelles reading this, you now have the tools to challenge your anxiety in order to lift your self-esteem in a beautiful way.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, Sesame Street, and My First Writers’ Conference - A Guest Blog by Robert Lane

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Robert Lane. Robert is the author of the Jake Travis mysteries. His second Jake Travis novel, Cooler Than Blood, will be released on February 24, 2015. Foreword Clarion Reviews praised Cooler Than Blood as "...gripping and highly enjoyable...," and Kirkus Reviews described it as "A solid, entertaining mystery." Robert was our featured writer on December 4, 2014.

I was pumped. Finally made the commitment. I was attending Eckerd College’s Writers in Paradise week-long workshop and conference in St. Petersburg. Why not? It was close to home and I was a writer, right?

Quick disclaimer: For reasons not worth delving into, prior to my decision to become a writer, I’d just completed a long streak (decades?) of limited fiction reading. My fiction reading during that tenure had been reserved for a few favorite and revered authors. Meanwhile, the biography pages I read easily surpassed five digits. I also devoured tomes of war books. War is, after all, as Thomas Hardy said, “rattling good reading.” I had kilo-pounds of books to support his observation. To this day, the word “Stalingrad” makes me shiver.
           
Now the conference.You know the drill. The attendees, twelve of us, each turned in a first twenty-five pages. The morning arrived to critique my first twenty-five. I felt pretty good about the opening of my magnum opus, as I’d already received unsolicited positive feedback. The class batted me around with the standard faire. The conversation, however, soon became dominated by the workshop leader (a successful author whom I admired) and another attendee. They obviously knew each other and were both mystery writers.
           
“Who does he (meaning me) remind you of?” she inquired of her co-conspirator.
           
“Raymond Chandler,” he chirped in.
           
“I agree. He’s going for that style. Maybe a little too much.” Hello, I’m right here.
           
I nodded.
           
But what I kept inside was this: Who the eff is Raymond Chandler?
           
I jotted the name down. I’d have to look into his fellow who, apparently, was ripping me off.
           
Then this. “And his dialogue,” she plowed ahead. “Sounds a lot like Elmore Leonard.” Did I detect an accusatory tone? “Is that what you’re going for?”
           
I nodded again in agreement. The door was to my left. I could be on the beach drinking in five minutes. Screw this stuff.

“I concur,” the other attendee assented. “A lot like Elmore.”
           
Elmore Leonard or Leonard Elmore? Like two first names? Gotta look him up as well. Sesame Street. That will be my mental reminder of that cat’s name. And Bernstein, you know, "West Side Story." He was a Leonard.
           
I felt properly admonished. I pinky swore not to copy the style of others—whoever they were—and to search for my own voice. I slithered out of the room, the appropriate posture, I thought, for someone who had been unveiled. Fraud-city here, folks. Really took me to the mat, didn’t you?
           
During the next twelve months, I made up lost time like the USS Enterprise flashing into warp speed. I studied mystery writers and wrote a brief bio on each one: 75 and counting. I devoured RC and became intimate with Elmore. Tore their stuff apart like an osprey eating a fish. Read biographies and articles on those boys as well as their best works. Pretty good writers. But the world knows that.
           
Can’t say they influenced me one way or the other.
           
Can say this: I’m comfortable in my voice. Think my style is something you’ve heard? I’d be shocked if parallels can’t be drawn with any particular writer and someone else. The only thing new in the world, Harry Truman proffered, is the history you don’t know.
           
I learned a lot at Writers in Paradise. Highly recommend it. It’s an excellent conference, and I drank in the air and hastily scribbled every spoken word into my notebook. (They had passed out little engraved notepads. What good are those? I filled legal pads.)

I really don’t know if there’s a lesson here for I’m not one to dwell on such things. But try this on.
Be yourself.
Be confident. Aggressive.
Be joyful.
And if someone says you sound like someone else? That person, dead or alive, sounds like you.


  
For more information, visit Robert's website at www.robertlanebooks.com.