"Here Be Monsters" is now available!

A link to the CreateSpace store where my novel is available for sale!!!

It will be available for sale on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle format in the next few days, and I will also be setting up a sales page on this website for people interested in signed books (once I get a few copies in hand).


Thanks to everyone for all of their support and encouragement through the writing and editing process.



A bit about CreateSpace Customer Service...

CreateSpace is the company, a subsidiary of Amazon, that is publishing my book.  I have been generally impressed with their site and the user-interface and their level of service...but...

They were supposed to get my printed proofs to me on Wednesday, and they have not yet arrived.  They likely would have arrived yesterday, if not for the massive storm that killed all of the roads in rural CT.  I'll post later today, when (if) they do arrive.

The thing that I liked was their response to my whining and complaints about not being able to get my hands on my precious!  They have all manner of CS software for email and chat, but I wanted to talk to an actual person, and have been able to do that more easily than with any other business that I've dealt with in memory.

I entered the number of the phone that I wanted them to reach me at, in this case my parents' place in CT, and hit the button.  Literally within a second, the phone rang, and it was CreateSpace.  The phone-bot informed me that a person would be on the line shortly, and in both cases was within 30 seconds. 

They reassured me about the process and shipment, fully refunded my shipping, and both polite young women personally sent me an email within a few minutes of getting off of the phone with me, to follow-up about the service call.

I'd like to have gotten my printed proofs on time better, but this level and efficiency of customer service is pretty nice to have in the company that will be help me to produce my books.



Logo work and waiting for the printed proofs

The printed proofs of "Here Be Monsters" should arrive in the mail today.  I'm eager to see my words in print, and to see how the cover artwork and layout works off of a computer screen.

We noodled around to produce a publishers logo for SmartPig, as CreateSpace allows us the space on the back of the book.  SmartPig is an integral part of the Tyler Cunningham books, so it was fun to play with some images and ideas.

I'm very excited to read, and report back about, the proof copy of HBM...



Proof Copies are on the Way!

Gail and I have been working hard at putting the final edits and formatting in place for "Here Be Monsters" over the last few weeks, along with working on the cover materials; yesterday we made some last-minute touches, and submitted it all to CreateSpace.  We heard back a few hours later that the book was ready for final proofing, and rather than look at it (again) as a PDF, I ordered 2 print copies, and the should be here by Wednesday!

Here's a screen-grab of the cover art, minus the publisher's logo (which is still in progress).

I couldn't be more excited and scared and eager to see this thing that came out of my brain.




I finished my final read-through of "Here Be Monsters" last night; working through the track changes was an interesting and essentially painless process (thanks to a superb editor).  Now I'll focus on front and back matter for the book, generating all of those extra pages that go into a book, but aren't actually connected to the story.  I'm still waiting on cover art, and am thinking about adding some maps to the book (Gmaps probably).

I'm hoping to get the book to CreateSpace and KDP in the first week (or so) of the New Year, so that people can buy print versions, or download copies, of the book before the end of January.

Thanks for all of the support from friends and family and other interested parties!



Track Changes and a Final Read-through...

I got "Here Be Monsters" back from my editor a couple of days ago, and have been walking through the corridors of my mind and words, slightly altered by another person since then...it's a bizarre feeling. They've done a superb job editing the novel, but this very personal creation of mine is no longer solely the work of my brain and fingers, which takes a bit of getting used to; thank goodness for my having a reasonably well-developed ego.

I've been reading through the book for the "who-knows-how many-th" time, only in this instance I'm looking for highlighted word or phrases or sections in which the editor suggests changes to my work.  Microsoft Word makes this possible, and it is a great way to work with someone on a text.  I can (and do, in fact) take most of their suggestions by simply hitting a button to accept the track changes.  By the same token, however, I can reject those few suggestions that aren't in keeping with my vision of the novel for whatever reason.  It's so much easier than dealing with red pen on printed paper, and allows writer and editor to interact without having to find common time to edit the work.

Another thing I'm finding out about the process (and perhaps everyone else already knows this), is the utility of sidebar notes left by my editor.  After her first read of my rough draft, we had a face-to-face conference to discuss the story, looking at discontinuities or underdeveloped characters or scenes or unfair assumptions that I made about reader conclusions.  I took a list of issues away from that meeting, and worked through them in my second draft, before giving it back my editor for a detail-level read.  Thankfully, I had worked through most of the issues discussed in our earlier meeting, but she still generated a number of questions/issues about the novel; this time embedded in "note" format alongside the relevant section for me to look at as I went through, looking at the track changes.

In the first round of fixes, I addressed issues in whatever order I felt like.  This time, in what I consider to be a final read-through, I'm working my way from the first page to the end of the book, dealing with each issue as it comes into view, along with the track changes.  It's an interesting process...I'm learning a lot about my book, my editor, and myself.



Playing with CreateSpace: Made a Workbook!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I am publishing my novel, "Here Be Monsters", through Amazon.com's self-publishing site, CreateSpace.  In order to get acquainted with the production/publication process, I wanted to make a practice book, to explore all of the nooks and crannies of their software and try to avoid surprises when publishing my "real" book.  To that end, I made a workbook out of the various exercises and worksheets and note-taking devices that I used in writing HBM.

I have started thinking about the next book already, and a huge part of the process (for me) is pre-writing.  My pre-writing process includes lots of brainstorming, character and setting notes, plot and story arc work, and an ongoing series of idea-catchers (for random thoughts that wander into, and might fall out of, my head if not for a space to collect, if not organize, them).  I had been thinking of formalizing and gathering and organizing all of my pre-writing stuff anyway, to help facilitate the process of getting ready for the next month-long writing sprint, and this provided a great opportunity (excuse).

I looked at what I had done for pre-writing prior to the NaNoWriMo Summer Camp in August for HBM, came up with some ways to streamline and improve the process, and kludged it all together into a 54 page workbook.  I worked on formatting and made a cover using CS's cleverly named "Cover Creator" and filled in the forms and boxes and such, after which I submitted the book for approval by the CS gnomes.  I had an email waiting for me this morning, notifying me of one minor problem (a jpg inside the book was slightly below their suggested resolution levels), and am debating how to deal with it.

I'm somewhat on the fence about listing the book for sale on Amazon.  I think that it's a useful tool, and am certain that I'll use it (or subsequent editions of it) for each novel that I write.  On the other hand, I don't want to risk having some disgruntled writer slam me for the simplistic formatting of the worksheets if they shell out their $4 (it apparently costs $3.59 to produce) and aren't satisfied.  I may just leave it on my CS account bookshelf, and order the occasional proof copy when I update for future editions...hard to say at this point.

At any rate, it was a fun learning experience, and I got some practical knowledge about CreateSpace and a nice workbook out of the process.




I'm starting to think about the next Tyler Cunningham book, peering around the final edit and formatting prior to publishing, "Here Be Monsters" {HBM} in order to do so.  I'm finding that it's working in much the same way as the first time around, and wonder if I've developed a writing process.

  1. My first ideas duck and weave around a few central ideas...in the case of HBM, it was drugs and crime in the Adirondacks; in the case of the next book it seems to be the relationships between rich summer people and the year-rounders that work for them, and justice/revenge being in the eye of the beholder.
  2. Next I try to imagine how the central idea(s) hangs on the place and setting, in my case the Adirondack Park (and to some extent, Tyler's myopic view of the Park).  In HBM, the Park was almost a character in the book, due to its importance in the development and involvement in the storyline and resolution of the novel.  In the new book, the Park remains critical, but the meat of the novel will exist within a dying piece of what the Adirondacks used to be: the symbiotic relationship between the Great Camp owners and their caretakers.
  3. With central ideas and place/setting in place (to some degree), I focus on the characters that will inhabit the novel and explore the central ideas, carrying the plot across the finish line; hopefully to a happy conclusion.  In HBM, being a first novel, I had to build all of the characters from the ground up; some will be moving on to the second novel, some will not.  In the next novel, I get the chance to further character development of Tyler and other main characters, as well as bring in a few new ones that will hopefully, like new spicing, change the flavor of this novel enough to keep it interesting.
  4. With a framework built from central ideas, draped with place/setting and characters, I move on to envision the arc of the story, imagining conflict and tensions and resolution and falling actions.  In HBM, a character closely related to Tyler (he doesn't have friends in any traditional sense) got in trouble, and Tyler had to work his way through a nested set of issues to a messy resolution.  In the next novel, Tyler's challenge will not involved another member of his inner circle (I want to avoid Jessica Fletcher Syndrome in this series), and be drawn into a struggle that only his unusual skill/knowledge set can resolve.  I sketch out (literally, on paper with boxes and arrows) the arc of the story and various plot-checkpoints along the way from introduction to conclusion of the story's action.
  5. Once I have a visual representation of the story, I work on developing a list of story details and bridge elements and sidetracks and character trials/illustrative-points and other drop-ins that occur to me day to day.  I kept, and filled, a notebook of this stuff for HBM, and am in the process of doing the same for the next novel already (although I'm still exploring the 3rd and 4th parts of this process, I find myself skipping ahead to this stage early this time, and I'm giving myself permission).
  6. Once I have all of the previous steps in place, and worked up to my satisfaction (although it's a continuously iterative process), I organize everything and try to check that things line up in some manner...this provides me with a general roadmap to work from once I start writing.
  7. For HBM, I participated in NaNoWriMo's Summercamp during August of 2012, and was able to write the bulk of HBM's rough draft during the month.  I would very much like to do the same thing for the next book, having enjoyed the process of quick and dirty writing for 3-4 hours each day during my lighter summer schedule.
  8. I put HBM away for about a month after writing it last summer, and then gave it to my editor for a first read.  Her first look was for big-picture issues, plot-line or story-arc disconnects, and character/scenes that were underdeveloped and needing rewrites (or unnecessary and needing to be chopped).
  9. I worked off of the meeting notes with my editor to do a re-write of the novel. addressing those points that she outlined, and also polishing things that occurred to me as I read and rewrote the novel from page one onwards to the end.
  10. With the rewrite complete, I gave the new, and hopefully improved, HBM back to my editor for a finer level edit, this time looking at structure and grammar and spelling.
I have enjoyed this process, and while I wouldn't claim that it is the way that I'll do all of my writing from now on, or that it's the way that everyone should write, it seems to be working for me.

Thanks for reading!



Reading in the Great Outdoors!

Most of "Here Be Monsters" takes place in the deepwoods of the Adirondack Park in Northern New York; the outdoors are as important to my protagonist, Tyler Cunningham, as they are to me.  He spends a lot of his time (when not solving, or involved in, murder mysteries) paddling or camping or reading in the woods.

That being the case, I thought that it would be cool/fun to gather some pictures of people reading in the woods for use in starting some buzz for the book.

If you have any pictures of you, or anyone, reading in the woods, please send them to me at jsheffield@gmail.com .





I'm using CreateSpace to self-publish my soon-to-be-released book, "Here Be Monsters".  While the editing is still in process, I cannot get too far into the guts of their online machinery, but have been very impressed so far.

They have extensive articles and forums for help and information, as well as live people at the other end of email addresses and phone numbers who respond to pleas for help within minutes (in the case of my phone query) or hours (in the case of my email query).  Their online apps for planning covers and trim-sizes and book costs are instructive and easy to use.

They do offer assistance-for-pay for every step of the publishing process, but also allow those of us who want to go it alone to do so (with help from the exhaustive resources available to members).  The option that I'll be paying for in the whole process will be expanded distribution ($25), which makes my book available through other bookstores beside Amazon.com and libraries and other academic institutions and other resellers (through B&T and Ingram and CreateSpace Direct). 

I was surprised today to find that my 180 page manuscript translated into 360 pages, when dropped into a pre-made template CreateSpace offers in the trim-size that I'll be using (5.25"X8").  I've also been playing with Cover Creator, a free and handy online tool for designing your book cover, and have high hopes for the final product.  I've read through about 30 of their articles on the self-publishing process, which range from very general to amazingly specific.

As the process moves forward, I'll post about the good, the bad, and the ugly from my experiences with CreateSpace.



A Recipe from "Here Be Monsters"

Tyler Cunningham, the protagonist in my soon to be released novel, is not much of a cook, but in an effort to appear more human (and distract attention from some recent mayhem that he was involved with) he makes a mean Tiramisu.

It occurred to me today, that some people following my progress towards publication through the blog or FB or twitter might like a nice dessert recipe for their Thanksgiving dinner that was not simply another pie...

Tyler's Tiramisu

5 egg yolks
0.5 cup maple syrup
0.5 cup bourbon
1 pound mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 dash vanilla extract
40 ladyfinger cookies
12 ounces espresso
3T bourbon
2T sugar in the raw
2T cocoa powder

1) beat the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl
2) add maple syrup and bourbon, whisk until blended
3) put yolk/syrup/bourbon mix over heat in doubleboiler and mix until smooth and just beginning to bubble, set aside to cool
4) whip heavy cream and vanilla extract to soft peaks in another bowl
5) mash/whisk the mascarpone until smooth in another bowl
6) pour yolk/syrup/bourbon custard over mascarpone and mix until smooth
7) fold in the whipped cream with a spatula
8) mix espresso and sugar and bourbon in another bowl
9) dip one ladyfinger at a time into the coffee mix and arrange them fairly tightly packed across the bottom of a baking dish
10) when the bottom of the dish is covered in dipped ladyfingers, spread half of the yolk/mascarpone/cream mix over the cookies
11) repeat step #9
12) repeat step #10
13) sift the cocoa powder over the top
14) chill covered for 4 hours before eating


Cover Design, Website Design, and Formatting

I've moved on to the next stages in preparing the book for publication.  It's being edited as you read this; after that edit, I'll give it a final going over for content, and then put it to bed.  While that's going on, I have started to think about the design process for the cover; a photographer is generating some hi-res pics for use in the cover, and I'm working through the process of what information goes on the front and back covers (as well as the Front/Back Matter).  Along with those mini-projects, I've been working my way through the steps involved in setting up my writer's website.  All of these projects will certainly take me through into early December.

My goal is to finish up editing work on the novel in the first two weeks of December, then shift into formatting mode (hopefully finishing before New Year's Day).  Once the formatting is completed, I'm hoping to get the book up and available in ebook and print formats by Mid-January.

I'll try to update weekly(ish) with progress reports.



Saying Goodbye to a Friend

I snuck out of work early today,
not wanting to miss the chance to say goodbye to Cedar.

At this time of year, one needs to plan,
to catch the ground between the frosts of morning and night.

I got lucky, and one of his favorite places in our backyard
was still being warmed by the thin November sunlight.

It's just outside the barn
where he once moved faster than I would have thought possible
to catch a quail in his soft mouth.

Miles helped me to pass the time,
not digging much, but also not talking, as others might do.

We both remembered Cedar,
each in his own way;
Miles was done before me,
and sat while I dug, and sweat, in the cold.

I enjoy grave-digging,
not for the occasion, of course,
but for the time and effort that it requires.

Time to think...
about death and dying,
life and living,
friends leaving before you're ready,
wanting it all to be ... neater, better, more...

I always dig a grave too big,
death diminishes my friends;
my memories of them are far grander than the reality.

Miles sits and stands and walks and wags and cries,
I give him a pat and look down into the hole,

The first shovelful never fails to bother me,
but not Cedar...
he's passed caring,
passed indignities,
past tense.

The sun has moved off of the spot by the time I've filled the hole,
topped it off with sod and logs,
and tried to explain what's happening to Miles.

Cedar was a little shit,
a prince,
a hassle,
a giver of sweet little kisses in time of need,
irrationally hateful of red squirrels,
beautiful to watch on the hunt in his prime,
ugly as a mud fence when death was hunting him.

In the end, he tricked us one last time,
dying bloody in the road,
when we all knew he'd now die peaceful in his sleep.

He was better than I gave him credit for,
and he gave me credit for being better than I am...
dogs are like that.