Saturday, November 26, 2011

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

I actually did it. I completed writing 50,000 words in a novel with 5 days to spare. Here's the deal: The NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) website graphs your progress after you register and as you update your word count. I was behind the count needed to finish on time throughout the majority of the month, only getting ahead on days 7 and 24 and the few days following.

Last week I was feeling defeated because I knew the 4-day holiday weekend was coming up and I figured I would get nothing written. However, the opposite happened. I wrote thousands of words over Thanksgiving and jumped way ahead on the graph, allowing me to surpass 50,000 words today. I have to give my husband a lot of credit, because he kept himself busy over the weekends and holiday and didn't try to pull me away from my hermitage in the bedroom where I was under the covers and typing away on my laptop.

Thanksgiving was the easiest we've ever had. Since it was just my husband and I, he baked some chicken breasts in the oven, because we didn't want to have to hassle with turkey leftovers, and right about the time they were done baking, I spent maybe 15 minutes preparing the other portions of our meal, we ate while chatting with our daughter over speaker phone, my husband did the dishes, and we were done for the day. It think it took up a grand total of two hours of our time, which allowed me to spend most of the day writing.

This does not mean that my novel is done, obviously.  There is still much more to write and many revisions and proof readings before I can even consider publishing it as an ebook.  Did you hear that?  Yes, I said "proof readings."  I'm getting really tired of downloading free ebooks only to find multiple typos on each page.  Authors who publish without checking their work are making a bad name for ebooks and making themselves look unprofessional.

It feels so good to be back in the swing of writing daily after having my schedule hijacked for the majority of the year.  I want to thank my writing buddies for their knowledge and encouragement:  Katharine Swan and achieve1dream.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo

This is my first year attempting NaNoWriMo. The sun has almost set on the first day of November and I still need to get that first word written. Hey, I can't quit my day job, but hopefully my participation in this 50,000 word challenge will pressure... er, uh, inspire me enough to make more progress in the writing side of my life.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Publishing Map Challenge

Back in the 1990's I belonged to a writer's group that enjoyed coming up with challenges for its members. One of the founding member's promoted the idea of getting laminated wall maps of the United States and writing all the names of journals and anthologies where our work has been published. The first person to get published in all 50 states would be the winner.

I, of course, never believed anyone would reach that goal, but it was a fun proposition. Ironically, the very founding member who came up with the idea was able to get his poems published in 49 of the 50 states. This was back in the days when people had the time and money to establish literary journals, so there were plenty to pick from. However, this man could not get published in one last state, because it only had one literary journal that published poetry, and it only published women's poetry.

Undaunted, he began submitting his poetry under a female pseudonym. The editors were not fooled, and continued to reject his submissions. Eventually, this friend and I lost touch and many years later I was saddened to read about his passing in the paper. I've always wondered if he ever reached that goal of getting published in all 50 states.

I started recording the literary journals where my poetry, short stories and essays had been published, but eventually forgot about my map, despite it hanging on my office wall for 20 years. Recently, a writer friend came to visit, saw the map and asked what it was about. I told her this story, and now that she has reminded me of this lost goal, I'm telling the story to you.

Somewhere in a file cabinet I have a plastic bag filled with rejection slips. I kept every one thinking I'd make a mosaic out of them some day. My favorite three notes from editors and contest judges that I use for encouragement hang from the map on the wall. They are curled and wrinkled now, but the words written on them are nourishment for the soul, so I suspect I will keep them in plain sight until I can no longer see them.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

In the Line Up

Sadly, we all know of Borders Bookstore's demise. Our local store is down to its last week of being open. I picked up all the books in the picture at a rate of 70%-80% off. I think the grand total was around $25. I felt a bit like a vulture picking at the bones of a carcass while people wheeled bookshelves out of the store on dollies.

Has anyone read any of these books? What did you think?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Message for Young Writers

When I was younger, people often said to me that I've got to live my life before I will really have anything interesting to write about. I beg to differ. Young writers are often in the position to use their imaginations, because they don't quite have the weight of the world on their shoulders yet.

Years ago I used to teach creative writing workshops to children and teenagers, and was always pleased with what they came up with. The world was full of possibilities for them, and if our world didn't have what they were looking for, they'd invent another world.

I admit that I often feel like I lost my mojo for writing. There was a time when I could write half a dozen new poems a day, and a short story in a couple of days. There was so much to write about, because everything interested me. I could sit next to a stranger on a plane, listen to his life story, and be completely fascinated.

Things are different now that I'm older. I try to fall asleep or bury myself in a book as soon as I board a plane, because I want to ward off conversation. When possibilities come up for how I can spend my time, I reject most of them because they just don't interest me, and I figure they will just lead to more problems, so I prefer to keep a low profile and do the bare minimum. I used to look at something and see the magic in it. I could write a poem about anything from an interesting perspective. Now everything just appears to me as being mundane and predictable. I have a "been there, done that" attitude.

So, if you are a young writer and have people around you trying to discourage you from doing what you love, just remember this: You shed many skins as you grow. There is no guarantee that you will keep the skin that motivates you to write. Use it while you've got it. There are no rules that say you have to live your life before you can write. Not everything has to be a memoir or autobiography. You can create whatever you want. The possibilities are limitless.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Choose Your Words (and Hat) Carefully

Of course, we must choose our words carefully when writing, but the same is true for when we are speaking.  I always know when my local supermarket manager is putting pressure on his staff to be friendlier and more chatty with the customers than normal, because every employee interrupts my train of thought with a greeting, and whoever is bagging my groceries ends up saying something tactless.  All they know is that they are being watched by their supervisor and they have to come up with some kind of conversation with the customer.  That kind of pressure usually results in a foot in the mouth. 

I have always appreciated some level of privacy when it comes to my grocery shopping habits.  I'm kind of a middle-of-the-road eater -- not always eating healthy, but also not risking my health either.  I usually balance out the healthy foods with an occasional snack to satisfy my sweet tooth, and then balance that out with some exercise.  I drink water with most meals since so many other options are bad for you in one way or another, but will occasionally enjoy a soda or beer if I eat out.  Ultimately, I just don't like to have people being nosy and studying my eating habits by surveying the items in my cart.  I just want to get into the supermarket, get my stuff, and get out without an in-depth discussion of my purchases.

So, today I had one of those courtesy clerks who felt pressured to make conversation.  Since she didn't know me, she resorted to discussing the food items I bought.  (Sigh.)  She held up a package of Mother's Fudge Cookies for everyone in the store to see and announced, "These were my all-time favorite cookies when I was pregnant.  I ate one right after the other until I got grotesquely big."

I could see the people in line next to me checking out the size of my derriere.  I wanted to say to the clerk, "What's your point?" because it certainly sounded like she was trying to discourage me from eating those cookies.  Instead, I gave her the cold shoulder and turned my back to her to make it clear that I was no longer open to conversation on the topic. 

She then grabbed a bag of fried chicken I picked up from the deli for my husband and started waving it around in the air saying, "Mmmmm.  This chicken smells so good."  She dropped it into a bag and handed it to me as if she expected me to eat it right then and there in front of her and said, "Enjoy your lunch." 

At that point I think the annoyance on my face finally registered in her brain and she added, "Or dinner... or whatever." 

I wanted to point out that her mistake was assuming it was mine.  Just because I buy food doesn't mean I'm buying it for myself.  There are other people in my family too.  Sometimes I'm buying food for sports teams or social events.  You never know.

On this same day I got burned by another assumption and poor choice of words in a different way.  A company sent me a refund check for an account that I cancelled after my mother passed away.  Most companies just send refund checks made out to my mother, even though she passed away, because I kept her bank account open and can deposit checks in her name.  However, this company wrote the check out to "The Estate of" my mother's name.  The bank would not honor the check because of those three words that were put in front of my mother's name.  (Sigh.)

Just now my son grabbed a hat off the rack on his way out the door and said, "I need something substantial to cover my head."

He shut the door behind him, only poke his head back inside to ask, "Is this a lady's hat?"

Good boy.  I've trained him well.  Never assume anything.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Found Novels

Back when I was participating in weekly poetry workshops with the Ash Canyon Poets in Carson City, Nevada, we had these things we called "found poems."  Found poems could be anything from a portion of a news article to a billboard sign to graffiti to a classified ad.  They were always written by someone else without the intention of being a poem, but to us these pieces of writing came across as poetry.

While collecting scrapbooks from my mother's house I came across a rare find that I'm calling a "found novel."  While growing up, I knew that my grandfather had been an attorney at one point in time, but for as long as I had known him, he never worked.  I was repeatedly given the impression that my grandfather was somebody special, because everyone respected him.  Sundays were devoted to drinks and dinner with my grandparents, and everyone would sit around enamored by my grandfather's stories, except for me.  I was usually sent outside to play.

When I entered college, I discovered that I had the ability to pull off the best grades in all of my science classes.  This led me to consider majoring in forensic science, which was a relatively new science at the time.  I remember my mother prodding me to talk to my grandfather about it first.  When I brought up the proposition, my grandfather stared out at the world through his bay window for a very long time saying nothing.  I knew he was hard of hearing and wondered if he had heard what I said.  However, once he cleared his throat, I knew I was in for a lecture.

"No granddaughter of mine will ever go into forensic science!"  he boomed.

I was horrified by his reaction.  At the time I approached him, I thought he would be proud of me, but instead he put up this wall without explanation.  I think I managed to squeak out a "Why?"

He went on to explain that there were some things I was better off not knowing.  He said forensic science is all about blood and guts and bodily fluids.  It was about learning the details of terrible things that people do to one another.  He said I would be happier to choose another field of study. 

I knew better than to ask him about his own experiences, because I had always been under the impression that his life was a secret and off limits to children.  Now, nearly 25 years after his death, I have come across a scrapbook containing news articles and photographs from my grandfather's mysterious life.  I learned that he was Deputy District Attorney of Los Angeles in the 1920's and 30's.  He prosecuted charlatans, kidnappers, rapists and murderers.  He worked for silent screen movie stars.  His life was unique and fascinating.

Of course, as soon as I found this scrapbook, I couldn't contain my excitement, knowing that I have material for my next novel or perhaps even my next few novels.  Unfortunately, most the people who he told his stories to have now passed away, so I will have to rely on other forms of research and probably fill in the blanks with fiction, which I prefer to write anyway.  At least these newspaper articles give me a platform and some inspiration. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

TOWN FOR THE TREES by Justin Evans

I had the pleasure of reading Town for the Trees, a book of poems by Justin Evans.  Mr. Evans holds a Master's Degree in Literacy Studies, and this latest book contains a collection of poems that were mostly set in Springville, Utah, a place that comes across in his poems as being a peaceful, quiet space where one has room to think.  Mountains, valleys, a creek and the moon hold special meaning here.

It has been a while since I've read poetry that has inspired me.  I admit I am partial to poems that immerse the reader into nature since I am currently surrounded by sirens, construction workers, and honking car horns in my home environment.  I moved to Northern Nevada 22 years ago from a big city, and back then my Nevada home was in what was called a rural community in which everyone owned livestock and kept quiet and still enough that one could hear nothing other than cows mooing softly, birds chirping, and frogs singing.  Some days I could swear that I heard butterfly wings flapping, but those days are gone now.  I have to turn to poetry to commune with nature.

Lines like "The letters N E W S were derived / from the four winds..." and "the past is a thief / escaping on the wings of blackbirds" are stated succinctly, yet contain enough power to make me pause.  You know you are reading fine poetry when you give each line a few extra seconds to sink in before moving to the next.

In the poem "Pre-Dawn:  Three Sisters", Evans writes the following stanza:

Whenever I come back to this place
after years of absence, it is the mountains
which startle me the most, their size
always shrinking in my mind
like the old memory of a broken arm.

I know how haunting it can be to return to the place of one's childhood, as I am about to embark on one such journey myself to settle my mother's estate after her passing.  The environment seems alien, yet still contains triggers to memories we thought were long gone.  Having broken my arm, along with many other injuries, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can be in so much pain one day, and barely remember the agony the next.  The intensity of life fades, and comparing that to how mountains shrink within our memory is divine.

Though Evans grew up in Utah, he now lives in Nevada and having studied and worked with Nevada poets for much of my adult life, I do see how some of his peers have influenced his writing.  It didn't surprise me when he included an epigraph from one of Gary Short's poems, as Short is one of my favorite poets and I could see similarities between their works.

I think my favorite stanza comes through in the poem "Song":

Infinite stars
piercing the deep blue of night
like needles wielded by my grandmother
to a make a quilt.

This stanza offers such a strong sense of time.  Obviously, time plays a huge role in the study of astronomy.  Scientists are always searching for clues to how long stars live, how long they have been in existence.  Being a quilter myself, I know the time and patience that is required to piece together fabric and quilt by hand.  Sewing machines speed up the process probably ten-fold or more, and I can tell you that I have been machine-piecing a bed quilt for over two years now.  It feels like there is no end in sight. Drawing the similarity between stars and not just needles, but needles used in quilting by his grandmother -- perfect in so many ways.  Perhaps the night sky is a quilt being made just for him.

In today's frantic, fast-paced society, it is rare to find moments of solitude where one can reflect on where life has taken us, how a river has changed its course, how an entire summer "evaporated in a single breath."  If you need a break, I recommend that you sit down and pick up Town for the Trees.  It will help you learn to breathe again.

For more information on this book, visit the author's website.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

THE NEXT DOOR in Top 4 Percent of Kindle Books Sales

I checked the statistics for my suspense novel, THE NEXT DOOR, on Amazon's Author Central today and found that based upon sales it is ranked at 28,961.  I know.  You're thinking, "Big whoop."  However, this is significant when you consider that this ranking is out of more than 750,000 books in the Kindle Store.  That places THE NEXT DOOR in the top 4% in sales.

I am so pleased that people who have read the book have taken the time to offer me their feedback.  Some have reviewed my book on Amazon.com and some have kindly posted reviews on their blogs.  All of this has helped others find my book amongst everything that is available out there.  I am so grateful for your support.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ideas That Come While We Sleep

I recently published my suspense novel THE NEXT DOOR through the Kindle and Smashwords, and am currently working on my next suspense novel, which is completely different from the first.  I think that deep down inside I worry, because I feel like I should be working on a sequel to THE NEXT DOOR while that novel is fresh in my mind.  I left a certain murder case and character intentionally unresolved.

However, last night I had a dream that showed me how I can work that unresolved case and character into my new novel without making a sequel.  Fortunately, that idea clung to me while I woke, because I love it and want to use it.

Sometimes I read a book and I like the author, but the characters in the book just don't interest me enough for me to run out and buy any sequels.  However, I am interested in buying more books by the author.  I just want a fresh story with new personalities.  This idea of writing a completely different book with different characters, a different storyline, and different style, and then weaving in a couple of unresolved issues from a previous novel in a unique way excites me.  It's like serving leftovers from the night before in such a well disguised manner that everyone thinks they are eating a completely different meal, and technically, they are.

THE NEXT DOOR is focused on action and information, while the novel I am working on now is more visceral with the need to employ all six senses.  Yes, I mean six.  It's not a typo nor a lack of education.

For those who did read the first book, they will recognize the unresolved case and character and get that sense of familiarity one gets when they run into an old friend.  For those who didn't read the first book, it won't matter.  The second book will still be seamless and the reader won't feel like he is sitting on the outside of some inside information.  The carryover from the previous book will be minor enough that it won't feel repetitive or intrusive like an unwelcome person walking into a room and then monopolizing the conversation.

If I could carry this style of writing from book to book, it could be my signature, kind of like a computer programmer leaving virtual "Easter eggs" behind in his software or Disney placing hidden Mickey's around his amusement parks.  I'm sure this is nothing new and that other authors are already utilizing the idea, but I like it as a way to loosely tie all my books in together and offer conclusions for previously open aspects of each novel.

Do you ever have solutions to problems come to you in your sleep?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Benefits of Reading Bad Writing

Up and coming writers are always given the advice to read as much as possible, but what you read has a lot to do with how much you learn from that reading.  If you are always reading course-assigned literature, you are always reading good writing.

If every chocolate chip cookie that I ate was delicious, that doesn't mean that I would be able to bake a delicious chocolate chip cookie myself.  However, if I ate chocolate chip cookies baked by many different people, I'd probably come across some that leave my taste buds feeling disappointed and maybe some that are so hard that they chip my tooth.  Eating both delicious cookies and yucky cookies would naturally make me analyze what goes into making my preferred cookie.  I'd probably start asking questions about ingredients, measurements, temperatures, and baking times.  Then I would hold the knowledge needed to bake some delicious chocolate chip cookies myself.

Writing is the same way.  My first introduction to great literature was in a high school English honors course.  I couldn't get enough of that good writing.  I took a bunch of literature and creative writing courses in college, literally rushing home so that I could read the evening's assignments.  A good poem or short story was like a delicious chocolate chip cookie to me.  I wrote, but I didn't write anything delicious.  I tasted good literature, but hadn't inquired about the ingredients just yet.

It wasn't until I started working as an editor on the campus literary arts journal that I had the opportunity to read unpublished work from students.  Some of that writing churned my stomach and I had to wonder how the authors even made it into the university.  After a while I began seeing similarities among all the bad submissions, and I understood why they didn't work.  I was able to compare the good writing in my world literature classes with the bad writing of improperly prepared writers, and see what one had that the other didn't.

Back then, most everything published was in print and had been run through a gauntlet of agents, editors and publishers.  It was difficult to fail with so much talent and knowledge backing one's collection of words.  Reading unpublished student writing was the best way to gain access to bad writing.  Today there is bad writing all over the Internet.  There is bad writing in some self-published ebooks, but not all of them.  Many self-published ebooks never got published via traditional means either because the agents and publishers believed there was no demand or interest in the subject, or because the author simply chose the fast track to publication.

The point is that today we have better access to both good writing and bad writing than ever before.  Take advantage of it.  Learn from it.  You'll become a better writer for it.

Going back to the handful of old, rotten paperbacks I purchased at the local library book sale, I did throw one of them in the trash without reading more than the first couple of chapters.  This decision did have to do with the headaches I was getting from holding rotten paper too close to my nose, but it also had to do with the fact that I couldn't follow the story.  I read the whole first chapter believing that the main characters were two little boys somewhere around 10 years of age.  Then upon reading the second chapter I discovered that one of the boys had pot-smoking roommates.  They were young adults, not children.  How hard would it have been for the author to clarify that in the first chapter?

Then the author brought so many new, indistinct characters into the second chapter that I couldn't follow who was saying what.  People were randomly wandering in and out of the scene interrupting the conversation for no good reason that was obvious to me.  It just made me feel as if someone were interrupting my reading, which was making my headache worse.  Also, the characters were trying to figure out something that the author already spelled out to me -- the reader, which felt like a waste of time.  Why would I want to sit through hundreds of pages of characters trying to solve a mystery that is obvious to me?   I tossed that novel in the trash with a thud of finality.

The next book I picked up was newer, so the yellow pages didn't reek as bad.  I've been having a hard time putting it down.  It flows well.  I'm immersed in the story.  At no point do I feel like shoving the author out of her own way.  I'm learning from it, just as I learned what not to do from the author whose book ended up in the dump.  Iris Johansen's "The Ugly Duckling" is a breath of fresh air, but I'm also thankful to the other author for drowning me in the mistakes she made that led to both my confusion and unintended education.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

One More Argument for Ebooks

I made the mistake of picking up a handful of old paperback books at my local library's book sale, only to open them up and be smacked in the sinuses with that rotting paper smell.  I instantly developed a headache.  I've been trying to figure out how to read these books without getting sick, but after about two pages of reading, my head is throbbing.  I could take an antihistamine, but that combined with reading would put me to sleep.  I'm afraid I may have to toss my purchases in the trash and just be happy with making a donation to my library.  Live and learn.  If any of the books can hold my interest for two pages, I'll search for them on ebook sites and save my sinuses by downloading them there.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Kindle for the PC and Mac

For those of you who don't own a Kindle device, you can download a free Kindle for the PC application and read my books on your computer. This application is compatible with Windows 7, XP and Vista.

You can also download Kindle for the Mac if you have a Mac OS X 10.5 and above. That application is free as well.

If you have an Amazon account, you can log in and start using the application. Otherwise, you can create an Amazon account.

I just wanted to get this information out while I'm researching other avenues of publishing. Thanks for your interest in my books.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Books are Officially on the Kindle

Currently, my two books are available electronically through the Kindle. I'm still working on getting them formatted for other eBook publishers.


THE NEXT DOOR is a thriller/suspense novel that is about 62,000 words in length. Here's the summary:

Home-based web designer and weekend equestrian Ivy Landor has lived peacefully on her mini-ranch with her husband Wade and teenaged daughter Crystal for the duration of Crystal's 16 years and beyond. However, as Ivy watches her small rural community grow with an influx of strangers, she feels uneasy with the changes they bring.

The new neighbors next door start out to be a mild annoyance, but soon Ivy finds herself embroiled in a struggle to regain her peace, quiet, privacy, and safety. Her ability to work with her horses is limited by her neighbors' thoughtless actions after Ivy suffers injuries from a couple of accidents which she considers might have been intentional.

When Ivy starts paying closer attention to these neighbors, she realizes that their trespasses exceed mere rudeness. The entire family is stalking her and her daughter. Ivy must find out why before this discomfort escalates to terror. Using her technical skills as well as some stealth, she investigates these odd people and is shocked by what she finds.


Available in the Amazon Kindle store for only $2.99: THE NEXT DOOR

If you own a Kindle and do read it, please give me your feedback. If you like it, I could use some reviews on the Kindle Store site. A lot of people won't read books unless they have 4 or 5 stars from other readers. Also, I left the ending open for a sequel, so I'd like to know if you would be interested in reading a sequel to this novel. Thank you!


HOMESPUN AND WOVEN is a collection of poems I put together when I was pregnant with my first child up through when she turned six-years-old. I actually do have some chapbooks of the 1996 version that I can mail to you for $5.00 if you want to read it, and don't have a Kindle. Here's the summary:

First published in 1996 as a chapbook, Gayle Sliva's HOMESPUN AND WOVEN is a collection of poems crafted from the universally known spaces of marriage, pregnancy and motherhood. These poems span the range of emotions that come to those who work with young children. Quotations from the Queen incorporates sometimes impossible, yet wise quotes from a preschooler, such as "Shadows just tell you where night is."

Electric with lines like, “She's been my extension cord for one full year now, reaching outlets I'd rather not let out,” this collection of poems is honest and pure, simple as a spring day in some cases, and complex as a memory from the poet of her own near-drowning and comparing it to her child choking on food, the very fuel that keeps one alive.

Though some serious subjects are explored, the book is not without humor, such as with Spaghetti Under Duressed -- the words “under duressed” being a play on both “under duress” and “undressed”. Mundane moments such as doing laundry and cutting hair contain love and warmth. The final poem, Letter to my Daughter, is a freeze frame of the cruelty that can be imparted by kindergartners and thoughts of what the future may bring.

Available in the Amazon Kindle Store for only 99 cents: HOMESPUN AND WOVEN

If you look at the sample, all you get if the first half of the first poem. They cut it off before the ending. The quickest way to locate these two books with your Kindle is to type "Gayle Sliva" into the search box.  Again, if you enjoy reading either book, I could use a few stars in my favor. Thanks again!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Electronic Publishing Tips

Some readers have expressed an interest in electronic publishing through the Kindle.  Here are some steps to get you started:

1.  Go to https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin
2.  Create an account and review the Kindle Publishing Guide in the Getting Started and FAQs section.
3.  Pay attention to the links.  Someone them will help you download the software you need.
4.  There are many ways to publish and many formats you can use, but this is the way I did it...

I created my books in Open Office, which is open source freeware, and I saved them as .docs.  My first discovery was that though the tool that imports your document and converts it into the type of file needed for publishing does import Microsoft Word documents, it does not import Open Office documents saved as Word documents.

So, then I tried saving the books as .html.  You just change the extension in the Save As box.  That successfully imported.  You then follow the steps in the wizard to create a format that is compatible for publishing on the Kindle.  This file has an extension of .prc.

Then you view that converted format in a previewer or emulator tool, which looks just like a Kindle screen, only on your laptop or PC.  Here you will find all kinds of formatting problems, because what you wrote in your original format never completely translates once you reach your final destination after multiple format conversions.  There will always be indents and extra lines where you don't want them and vice versa.

At this point you need a tool that helps you alter the .html document.  I used Mozilla's Sea Monkey, but if you aren't familiar with .html, the changes you need to make may not be intuitive.  Don't worry, if you hit a wall here, there are companies that dedicate themselves to doing all this work for you for a fee.  Once you are satisfied with the changes in .html, you can import the changed .html document and rebuild, thus overwriting the Kindle format document on your desktop.  View it in your Kindle previewer or emulator again, make a note of what needs to be tweaked, and go back to the .html drawing board again.

You need to actually upload your Kindle formatted document to their website while logged in to your account in the browser.  You can't use the conversion wizard to do that.  Be prepared to upload a cover and a summary for your book.  The summary is kind of like what you see on the back flap in a bookstore that tells you what the book is about and gets you interested enough to buy it.  This is probably the most important couple of paragraphs you could write, so don't rush it.

The cover is equally important, because it must appeal to the eye.  When you are searching hundreds of books, you first consider the titles and the covers.  If the book passes your scrutiny on that level, you then read the summary, and the summary may lead you to browsing inside the book.  It is at that point when you make a decision whether to buy it or not.  I created my covers by opening my own photographs in Photoshop, adjusting their appearance and size to the guidelines, and adding the title and by line text.  There are plenty of free software programs out there that can help you do this too.

At this point, there is another Kindle emulator on the website in which you can view your book before hitting the PUBLISH button.  I found that the website's Kindle emulator displayed my book differently from how my PC's Kindle emulator displayed it.  I had to deduce that this was a bug in the emulators and decided not to make further adjustments.  

Once your book is uploaded for publishing, you can watch it change statuses on your bookshelf.  I published two books within two days of one another, and there was some kind of mix up.  My bookshelf told me that Book A was live while Book B was still in the publishing phase.  However, when I went to the Kindle Store and searched for my name, Book B showed up and Book A didn't.  I decided to give it another 24 hours to see if it corrected itself, and if not, I was going to contact support for help.  It turned out that Book B had previously been in Amazon's search engine, which is why it got published so fast.  Book A was new and it took another 24 hours for it to go live, and then another 48 hours before it showed up in a search engine.

I downloaded a sample of Book B, and found that my title page was split in two on the real Kindle when I didn't see that problem on either of the Kindle emulators.  So, I had to make more changes to the .html file and republish the fixes.  Formatting is the most difficult part of the process since the software isn't reliable in showing you exactly how your book will look on the Kindle.  The text size setting can really mess up your page breaks.

I recently had a writer tell me that the sign of an amateur fiction writer is someone who indents his paragraphs after transitions and at the beginning of chapters.  I dug around in some fiction books and found that he was right.  Most book publishers do not indent in those locations.  So, I went through all the work of removing indents in those locations in my Open Office document.  Then when I converted it to .html and the Kindle format, I found that they forced me to indent in those locations.  I didn't want to look like an amateur, so I had to remove all those indents in the .html file.  It can get quite tedious.  But ultimately, you spend way less time formatting your own book for electronic publishing than you do waiting for the support of an agent or print publisher.

Writing is a gamble.  You don't get paid for all the work you do before the book is published if you don't already have a contract with a publisher.  You just have to have faith that all your hard work will eventually be rewarded with royalties.  However, you are still not done once you are happy with how your book is presented on the Kindle.  Now you have to go out and market it.  That's where social networking comes in.  Those of us who have made the effort to keep up with the use of computers and the Internet are at an advantage.  The world is literally at our fingertips.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In the Works

I have a few writing projects in the works at the moment.  The first is a suspense novel that is in its final phases of proofreading and formatting.  I've performed a boatload of research and have spent time debating whether to take the traditional route of finding an agent or publisher for it, or trying out electronic publishing.  I'm not squeamish about self-publishing.  It's all business to me, and time is money.  I have a strong background in writing, editing and publishing, so I trust myself to do a professional job with my own work as well as the works of others.

I made the decision to take the route of electronic publishing, mainly because I want the experience.  I want to learn whatever this new process has to offer.  I know I have to do my own marketing, which most authors have to do to some extent anyway.

When I wrote the ending to my novel, I thought the rest would be easy, but the mere process of polishing the final product has been quite time-consuming.  Because I don't have an advance on a contract, I didn't make a dime for my year of effort that I put into writing the book.  It's difficult to justify that loss of that time without payment to those around you.  I can't wait to complete this project, because I'm so close, but at the same time I know that I can't let my anxiousness influence the amount of time I put into it or I will end up producing a lesser quality product. 

Also, I'm trying to write new poems so that I can have enough to submit for a state fellowship.  I've come close to achieving a fellowship in years past, and have learned that your chances of winning have everything to do with the preferences of the poet who judges the competition.  I made the mistake of not submitting one year, only to be told by all of my friends that I most likely would have won, because the judge that year turned out to be one of my favorite poets, a lady who writes in a style very similar to the style I choose to write in.  To this day, not entering the competition that year has been one of my greatest regrets.  I may not have won, but at least I would know that this poet who I greatly respect and admire had read my work.  Receiving feedback from award-winning poets is the true prize in entering such competitions.

Lastly, I am researching freelance article gigs on a regular basis in search of assignments that are up my alley.  During this process I find myself feeling disdain over requests for the same old articles that are included in magazines each month.  I may have to come up with some fresh proposal myself.  I do believe that magazines should strive for some level of consistency, but at the same time provide their readers with new information in each issue.  Otherwise, reading feels like deja vu.  I tend to not renew magazine subscriptions after the first year, because most magazines roll out too much repetition, and so many articles only scratch the surface due to either space constraints or a lack of effort to do research on the writer's part.

These are just my writing projects.  My photography projects are a whole different deal, but for the moment while my toes are cold and my body prefers to reside under multiple layers of blankets, quilts, and Snuggies, the writing projects are winning out.  Thank God for laptop computers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Discussing Silence

Everyone Goes to Church But the Motorcycle Mechanic 

                                                                                                       by Gayle Sliva

                                              
                                          All week I anticipate
                                          Sunday morning when all
                                          good neighbors go to church,
                                          and peace is restored for
                                          both my horses and the poet
                                          in me who begs to write.

                                          We lead the three Arabs
                                          from back paddock to front
                                          pasture where, on Sunday
                                          mornings, traffic is
                                          cut down to a fraction
                                          of its normal weekday volume.

                                          Heads down, the horses
                                          graze within their
                                          acrylic white fence while I
                                          bring a chair, pen, and
                                          tablet to the shade of the
                                          poplar tree. A cool breeze
                                          caresses my bare arms,
                                          Russian Olive leaves tremble
                                          pleasantly, crickets chirp,
                                          birds gossip, and two
                                          resident cottontails meet
                                          beneath the pines to
                                          discuss silence in the
                                          wiggle of whiskers, the
                                          turning of periscope ears.

                                          Within minutes, the motorcycle
                                          engine starts up, loud as
                                          Godzilla attacking Tokyo.
                                          Again and again, it revs
                                          and roars, clawing the air,
                                          ripping jagged lines through
                                          the blue Sierra sky.

                                          Mountains crumble.

                                          The horses lose their
                                          appetites, run frantically in
                                          circles in search of an
                                          escape route from the
                                          screaming beast, and I
                                          lose the poet in me
                                          within a flock of sparrows
                                          scattering from the Willow trees.
 
*************************************************************************

When it comes to writing poetry, I practically go into a trance.  Loud noises, distractions, and interruptions are the enemy.  Often when I write, I'm in a race against time to get a first draft from beginning to end before something jerks me out of the mood.  It's important for writers to have a space where they can have control over the airwaves.  That space used to be my patio, but then the motorcycle mechanic moved in across the street, the granite counter top grinder moved in down the road, the dragster mechanic moved in way too close, and the construction foreman moved in next door, building cabinets and whatnot on his driveway right next to my barn.

Fortunately, the noise isn't as bad as it was during the big construction boom.  Back then I even had 18-wheelers turning around in my driveway several times a day, their drivers oblivious to the fact that they were terrifying my horses, causing them to cause themselves injuries in their panic, and running up my vet bills.  If a truck driver is going to pull into my driveway while I'm riding a young, green, fearful, inexperienced horse, he may as well bring a shotgun with him and shoot me, because roaring a huge vehicle with a loud engine right up to an untrained horse carrying a rider has the same result.  If you haven't read Maxine Kumin's memoir, Inside the Halo and Beyond, I highly recommend it... especially to truck drivers.  My husband had to put up a barrier at the end of our driveway, because these truck drivers didn't have the courtesy to respect my PRIVATE DRIVE - PLEASE STAY OUT sign.

For years I've watched the motorcycle and ATV fanatics clash with the horseback riders and nature lovers.  I'm fascinated by communities built specifically for people who share the same hobbies and interests.  In New Mexico there is a neighborhood specifically for pilots.  They can fly their planes to and from the neighborhood airstrip and taxi down the street into their own driveway and hanger next to their house.  In California there is a horse community where the stores have hitching posts and the land is designed to allow a harrow bed truck loaded with hay to back right up to the hay storage.  Writers' communities usually consist of one building dedicated to housing writers or a group of cabins used for a writing retreat.

I'd like to see more of this -- intelligently designed communities where rules don't necessarily have to be made and enforced, because everyone shares a similar mindset.  Quiet people here.  Loud people there.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Inspiration

When I was younger, the fact that I could crank out half a dozen new poems a day disgusted my other writer friends. Ironically, my favorite poet had a habit of only writing maybe a dozen poems a year, and spending a tremendous amount of time revising each one as if it were a treasured jewel that needed regular polishing to maintain its shine. I always wondered how he knew when a poem was finished.

I had a mindset back then that allowed me to see the magic in everything. I could make connections that were far-fetched, yet made perfect sense after globing them together in a poem. I miss that part of me and want to get it back.

I've put in a lot of time searching out non-commercial writer blogs and clicking the FOLLOW button, hoping that each day I might find a post within my RSS feed that inspires me. The blog world hasn't failed me.

I chose the word "unfolding" for the title of this blog, because I feel like a wadded up piece of paper tossed in a trash can that occasionally creaks and crackles as it tries to unfold itself. I can't wait to see what is written on me.

Countless times I have tried to make a living doing something I love, and every time life and the need to eat and pay bills took over. Just when I'm about to have a breakthrough, I have to go out and get a real job with a regular income. I'm there again.

I keep telling myself not to give up, but to trust in the unknown and the unformed. Have the courage to be vulnerable, and seek out fuel for transformation. Words inspire words. Bring it on.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

Nicole Ducleroir is holding a Bernard Pivot Blogfest in celebration of passing her 500 Follower milestone. You can answer the following questions and get to know other bloggers in the process.

What is your favorite word?
"Congratulations"

What is your least favorite word?
"Sorry"

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
A quiet trail ride in the mountains with just my horse and no one else around.

What turns you off?
People who invade my peace, quiet and privacy.  Especially people who stare.

What is your favorite curse word?
"Criminy"

What sound or noise do you love?
The sounds of horses grazing.

What sound or noise do you hate?
The sound of too much testosterone trying to act cool by revving loud vehicle engines.  Oh, and doors slamming.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Monk.

What profession would you not like to do?
A medical receptionist answering too many phone lines, putting people on hold when they have emergencies.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
"Go back.  You have so much more to do."

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Revision Checklist

    Here's a little set of guidelines I put together years ago to help myself and other writers.  Most of this advice was learned from years of poetry workshops.  Feel free to print it out for your own use.  --Gayle


    REVISION CHECKLIST

    • Pare out words that have no purpose.
    • Pare out lines that have no purpose.
    • Pare out poems that have no purpose.
    • Pare out clich├ęs.
    • Pare out unoriginal ideas.
    • Pare out each determiner, such as “the,” “a” and “an” that is not necessary.
    • Pare out possessives that are not necessary.
    • Pare out excessive modifiers.
    • Pare out redundancies.
    • Pare out contrived language.
    • Pare out contrived images.
    • Pare out explanatory passages, unless the explanation is particularly unique and poetic.
    • Pare out or replace weak openings.
    • Pare out or replace weak endings.
    • Pare out or replace weak middles.
    • Replace passive verbs with active verbs.
    • Replace present participle “ing” verbs with present tense verbs. (ie. Bleeding to bleeds)
    • Replace prepositional phrases with tighter language.
    • Replace excessive use of alliteration.
    • Replace titles that do not draw you into the poem.
    • Replace titles that give away your ending.
    • Replace epigraphs that tell it all.
    • Replace rough transitions.
    • Replace common language with musical or poetic language, and pay special attention to the combinations of vowels and consonants.
    • Check spelling.
    • Check punctuation.
    • Check for consistency of tense.
    • Check for consistency of voice.
    • Check for unintentional repetition of words.
    • Check line breaks for best pause effect.
    • Check information to verify its authenticity.
    • Check for clarity.
    • Check for double meanings you may not want.
    • Check for balance.
    • Check for irregular rhythm.
    • Check for best usage of stanzas.
    • Check ethics of content. Is there something you wrote that could hurt a reader?
    • Consider combining nouns with verbs not usually used with those nouns, such as “night leans.”
    • Consider changing to a different point of view. (ie. First person to third person)
    • Avoid creating a falsified antiquity.
    • Stick to only those languages you have mastered.
    • Aim for subtlety or revise toward the mystery.

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    The Impact That Throws Us Head First Onto Poetry Road

    "I'd like to see a show of hands for the poem you thought was best... and you can't vote for your own." Mr. Gold, my sixth grade teacher, leaned on his podium with the first half-smile I'd seen in weeks. Each student had just stood to read his or her original poem, and the result seemed to please him. His eyes traveled slowly from head to head up and down the rows, his voice called out the name of each student. Everyone waited for someone to raise his or her hand, but so far not one poem received any votes. 

    I was in the fourth of five rows, I could feel my name around the corner, a freight truck in the oncoming lane. Susie, behind me, would get all the votes. Everyone wanted to be Susie's friend because no one wanted to be beat up by her. My name hit me along with a sudden slap of hands into the air above our heads. I stared around the classroom, stunned, as Mr. Gold took in the count of votes.

    "Oh no, my poem was stupid," I said in protest. I thought for sure this was some kind of conspiracy formed for the sole purpose of picking on me. 

    "No, it wasn't. It was good," I heard Susie say, followed by several similar comments from her many friends.

    "It was quite good," said Mr. Gold. 

    I looked around, studying faces for a glint of deceit, listening for a snicker under clasped hands. I had just read a poem about being in love with a dead race horse. How could anyone think that is good? Yet a strong feeling of sincerity occupied the room. I began to let the sweetness of it all expand inside me as the class continued the voting process. This was the first time in the seven years of my elementary education that my peers showed any approval toward me. I finally had a taste of popularity, and just in time for junior high school. 

    Many years later, when I was a wild high school student, not popular but a loner who like to cause trouble, a self-sensitive girl who spent her evenings writing poems by her window when she wasn't out turning the town upside-down, I answered my door to find a little Girl Scout selling cookies. 

    This could have been a wonderful opportunity for me, since my mother had appointed my brother and I to be responsible for chasing off the peddlers. Just the week before, my brother thoroughly impressed my mother by scaring off a couple of Bible bangers while opening the peephole and speaking in a possessed voice reminiscent of Linda Blair in The Exorcist. However, before I could conceive a creative idea on how to get rid of the girl and somehow still obtain a package of Thin-Mints, she spoke up with a seemingly omniscient gift.

    "Did you used to be in Mr. Gold's class?" she asked.

    Feeling nervous that this girl not only knew where I lived, but knew my sixth-grade teacher, I mumbled a yes.

    "I thought so. He talks about you all the time."

    "What?" I said, sensing fear rising in me, searching for something I'd done wrong that Mr. Gold might still remember. It was the spit wads, he must be using me as an example of what happens to students when they fling spit wads.

    "I saw your soap box derby racer in your garage. He talks about your cars and he reads your poems to us."

    "No way," I said, challenging the girl as if it were all a lie. She's picking on me, I thought. In one short conversation and the mention of Mr. Gold, I had shrunk down to the size of this little Girl Scout standing on the step before me.

    "Would you like to order some cookies?" she asked.

    I took her order form from her and signed up for three boxes of Thin-Mints and one box of those peanut butter cookies. Then I thanked her kindly and wished her luck, warning her that my brother was at the next door neighbor's house, and she just might want to skip selling cookies over there.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Greetings

    Welcome.  My name is Gayle Sliva and I am a writer, among many other things.  I got my start in publishing back in college when I wanted to prove a professor wrong.  Circa 1985, after taking two classes with a creative writing professor who consistently awarded me with nothing less than A's, this same professor told me I would never be able to publish my short stories, because they weren't "good enough."

    I immediately submitted several short stories for publication in literary journals, and they all were accepted for publication.  Much to this professor's credit, though, he did say as an aside that I "might" be able to get some of my poetry into circulation.  I remember thinking at the time that I didn't care about poetry.  My passion was with short stories.  However, I eventually became addicted to poetry and did wind up publishing poetry in literary journals around the United States and England.

    In 1989 I joined a group called the Ash Canyon Poets, based in Carson City, Nevada, and met with this eclectic set of characters every Friday night for about ten years to critique poetry.   I owe them credit for the majority of my growth as a poet.  During that time, I taught poetry at seminars and in workshops to both children and adults.

    At one point I had a job that required me to take over a newspaper column.  The editor of the newspaper tried to talk me into leaving the agency I worked for and to write full-time for her newspaper.  I remember telling her that I wasn't interested in journalism.  My heart remained with the creative writing genres.  Years later, I thoroughly regretted my actions and wished I had accepted the job.  I got so interested in news reporting that I started blogging.  I took it to the hilt by attending events, taking notes and photographs, interviewing people, and blogging about it all.  I did it for free simply because I loved the whole process.

    My husband, who was an actor, award-winning poet and playwright at the time I met him, coached me in writing screenplays.  For a while there, I was completely consumed by writing for the theater and movies.  We had special software and books galore on the subject.  However, before I could complete any of these projects, life always got a hold of me and I had to go out and get a real job.

    And yes, I started many novels as well, but the way my life and finances were going, getting 80,000 words down on paper before all hell broke loose and pulled me away from my keyboard became impossible.  However, I recently finally did complete a novel with the help of lousy economic conditions, and hope to publish it soon.

    At one point I had grand plans to start my own publishing business.  I knew exactly whose work I wanted to publish.  I had one memoir and two poetry books lined up.  Then our toilet overflowed and we had to take all the money that I set aside to start the publishing business and direct it toward replacing our entire septic system leach field.  Life stinks sometimes, but if it comes down to me having to choose between my porcelain throne and poetry, well, let's just say I'm sitting pretty.