Ripping Ozzie Reads Interview

It was an honour to be interviewed by Ripping Ozzie Reads in the last few days. Being a quiet person by nature, I feel totally “out in the open” right now. It feels strange to bring my personal life and writing life together and just be me for a change, to share the emotional journey through to the end result – Hope.

Each day brings a smile to my face when I discover another book (or two) has been sold. It makes the long hours and sometimes stressful times totally worth it. Finally, I feel like I have done something worthwhile and will help other families avoid the loss I endured. My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who made this possible.

Hope is beginning to make an appearance on the world wide web. It is now available in paperback and ebook versions on Amazon and will soon be available through other online bookstores.

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“Hope” is Here!

My name is Karen Henderson and I use my birth name, Karen Lee Field, as my pen name. “Hope” is a project that is close to my heart. I have wanted to do something since I lost my son to suicide in 2006. In many ways, it gave me purpose, which in turn gave me hope. So the anthology is aptly named.

In late 2010 I decided to put my plans into action and I approached writers from around Australia, telling them my story, asking for their help. I was astounded by the response!

Yesterday, Hope was launched online. The book launch is still going and I invite you to head over to the book launch and say hello. You might even win a copy of the ebook. And there’s a real possibility that you’ll win a paperback book too.

My story “Boundaries” is included in the anthology, but for me the story is not important. To me, the message of the book in its entirety is the important thing. Hope gives the reader thirteen speculative fiction stories, but it also raises suicide awareness with short ‘snippets’ of information on suicide. I urge teenagers to read the book so they are able to ‘see’ when a friend may need their help. And I urge parents to read the book so they will ‘know’ when their child may be showing signs of being suicidal. Being suicide aware may save a life. That’s what this book means to me.

I will be forever grateful to the contributors to this anthology. Together, we can make a difference.

And I think it’s important to mention at this point that none of the contributions received payment for their time or their stories. They gave these things willingly because they want to help raise suicide awareness. All profits from the sale of the book will be donated to Beyondblue and The Anika Foundation.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Preface by Karen Henderson
Introduction by Simon Haynes
High Tide at Hot Water Beach by Paul Haines
Suicide: An Introduction by Warren Bartik and Myfanwy Maple
Burned in the Black by Janette Dalgliesh
Australian Suicide Statistics
The Haunted Earth by Sean Williams
The Causes of Suicide
Eliot by Benjamin Solah
Warning Signs
Boundaries by Karen Lee Field
Indigenous Suicides
The Encounter by Sasha Beattie
Drugs and Alcohol
The God on the Mountain by Graham Storrs
Suicide Around the World
Deployment by Craig Hull
Suicide: The Impact by Myfanwy Maple and Warren Bartik
Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden by Joanne Anderton
Helping a Friend Through Loss
Blinded by Jodi Cleghorn
Myths and Facts
The Choosing by Rowena Cory Daniells
How to Help Someone at Risk of Suicide by beyondblue
Duty and Sacrifice by Alan Baxter
What You Can Do to Keep Yourself Safe by beyondblue
A Moment, A Day, A Year… by Pamela Freeman
Where to Get Help
About the Authors

And this is a summary of the stories included by some of Australia’s best speculative fiction writers:

High Tide at Hot Water Beach by Paul Haines
A man dying of a terminal disease bets his life on one last chance at survival, a chance that looks like certain death from the perspective of his family.

Burned in the Black by Janette Dalgliesh
A jaded starbeast herder, with more secrets than she cares for and a difficult task ahead, is swept into an uneasy alliance with a troubled technobard whose unique gifts could mean her salvation … or her downfall.

The Haunted Earth by Sean Williams
Not all aliens are evil, but every first contact comes at a cost.

Eliot by Benjamin Solah
Eliot hides his dark memories in the pages of journals. But there is one memory he needs to uncover once the face paint washes away.

Boundaries by Karen Lee Field
With cursed blood running through his veins and boundaries touched by magic, an escaped slave battles for life as a Freeman.

The Encounter by Sasha Beattie
A woman’s desperation finds her in a small town where she learns of a dark secret that threatens to take away her only hope of happiness.

The God on the Mountain by Graham Storrs
An ambitious scientist’s career may be over if she dare not seek the god on the mountain and confront it.

Deployment by Craig Hull
After choosing the loneliness of deep space, a woman must confront her painful past to save the life of a child.

Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden by Joanne Anderton
In the ruins of a dying magical Garden, two people from opposite sides of a dangerous clash of cultures must learn to trust each other to survive.

Blinded by Jodi Cleghorn
The past and present collide for exo-biologist Dr Thaleia Halligan when the most recent addition to her exploration team is revealed as something other than a field medic for hire.

The Choosing by Rowena Cory Daniells
In a harsh, tropical paradise, a world of scattered islands where the poor live on boats and whole tribes live the canopies of sea- growing trees, two boys set off to prove they are worthy of being called men.

Duty and Sacrifice by Alan Baxter
In endless grasslands an assasin works her way towards the biggest job of her life, and maybe the last.

A Moment, A Day, A Year… by Pamela Freeman
The Oracle ordains everyone’s role in the Yearly Round, but there are more choices to be made than anyone knows, and some of them are deadly.

It’s a brilliant book, so please help us help those in need and you can become suicide aware at the same time.

The Wide-Brimmed Publisher’s Hat and Hope

Yes, I live! I thought I should post a quick update to let you know I haven’t been swallowed by a black hole, or scared off into another dimension, or snatched by aliens from a distant planet. No, I’ve been wearing my wide-brimmed publisher’s hat for the last six weeks.

Lots of writing has been involved, but of the non-fiction variety. I’ve also been working on the cover and the interior of the Hope project. I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now. And I know you’ve been to the Facebook page and ‘liked’ it to show your support. Right?! 😉

Hope Anthology

The blurb on the back of the book reads:

From thirteen Australian writers comes a collection of original speculative fiction short stories that will take you from the great unknown of our own planet, to the stars, and beyond to mystical fantasy worlds. These stories of ‘hope’ include High Tide at Hot Water Beach (Paul Haines), Burned in the Black (Janette Dalgliesh), The Haunted Earth (Sean Williams), Eliot (Benjamin Solah), Boundaries (Karen Lee Field), The Encounter (Sasha Beattie), The God on the Mountain (Graham Storrs), Deployment (Craig Hull), Flowers in the Shadow of the Garden (Joanne Anderton), Blinded (Jodi Cleghorn), The Choosing (Rowena Cory Daniells), Duty and Sacrifice (Alan Baxter) and A Moment, A Day, A Year… (Pamela Freeman).

These brilliantly crafted stories, combined with essays donated by Beyondblue and Dr Myfanwy Maple and Mr Warren Bartik, from the University of New England, are accompanied by short snippets of information on suicide.

Did you know approximately one million people die by suicide each year worldwide?

Suicide happens on a daily basis. It can affect you. Are you suicide aware?

Everything in this anthology is donated by Australians to help raise suicide awareness. And…all profits will be donated to suicide awareness.

The project has moved into the pre-press stage. I am currently waiting for the proofs to arrive from the printer. Once I know how much has been done right, and how much needs to be changed, then a release date will be set. At this time, however, I estimate it will be the end of September or beginning of October.

Anthology Available for $US1

The anthology, Speculative Realms, which includes my story Where Strength Lies, is now available in many ebook formats. These formats include epub for iPhone, iPod Touch, Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook and most mobile apps; mobi for Kindle and many handheld devices; pdb for Palm Pilot devices, PalmOS, Symbian OS and several others; and, then there’s pdf, rtf and plain text for use on computers and some other devices.

If you purchase an ebook before the end of the month (in any format available at the Smashwords website) and use Coupon Code ST94L at the checkout, you will receive your copy of the anthology for only $US1. What a bargain! But hurry, because as I’ve already said, the offer expires on 31 January 2010.

Visit the Speculative Realms page at Smashwords to find out more.

Anthology On Special at Amazon

Yes, the Speculative Realms anthology is on special over at Amazon. At the time of this post, it was selling at $11.19, however, I saw it for $5.88 last week, so the price is slowly creeping back to the recommended price of $15.95.

My story “Where Strength Lies” is included in the anthology. It’s about a woman who would do anything to save her young son, even go against strong mages who are determined to take him from her. But mine is only one of the stories in the book. You’ll also find a story about a young man stepping into Hell to say what he needs to say to his deceased father, but those who go to Hell are not allowed to leave and this young man isn’t even dead! Then there’s the story of the evil girls who play with the minds of the occupants of a dilapidate house in the wilderness. Not to forget the stories about the man who battles a dragon, the man who must shout when he can’t even talk to save the woman he loves, and the mage with women troubles.

If you haven’t got a copy of the anthology, then now is the perfect time to purchase a copy…while the price is low.

Anthology Woes: Amazon Try to Rule the World!

When I started out on the Anthology Project (back in early 2007) I did so with enthusiasm and excitement. For several years, I had been trying to help writers become published and finally, I believed, I had found the way to do just that.

Whilst receiving and reading submissions for the project, I was also spending hours and hours combing the internet to find the right printer for the job. There are so many printers out there, but when I read the small print I was surprised by the charges involved and the odd terms that didn’t sit right with me. I continued my search, widening it to include reading what other people’s experiences were and this narrowed the market for me considerably.

From memory I ended up with three possibilities. None of them were perfect, but these three sounded better than all the rest and the reviews were more positive too. For reasons I can’t remember, I settled on Lulu. I set about creating an account and started a “fake” project so that I knew the process well before doing the real thing. In all honesty, the process was mostly painless even if it was time consuming.

The anthology was published on 25 July 2008. And that’s when my excitement truly started to wane.

Suddenly, everyone at Lulu was complaining that the distribution service had changed; it had gone downhill…and quickly. It is clearly stated on the Lulu website that books published by them will appear on Amazon and other online bookstores within 6 to 8 weeks. The anthology appeared within three weeks so it wasn’t an outright lie. However, it showed an “out of print” status and no one, no matter how eager, could purchase the book. Although I was aware a problem existed I didn’t know (or understand) the depth of it…or the ramifications. I am, after all, a writer, not a publisher. But that is no excuse and I realise now that I should have made it my business to know what the problem meant. Anyway, the anthology has now been published for 16 weeks and the status remains unchanged even though I have been in contact with Lulu repeatedly in this time.

No wonder the service had suddenly become “free”. If they (meaning Lulu) had charged for the service then they would have been faced with a lot of unhappy people demanding their money back – me alone with them. I feel they knew the problem was bigger than they were letting on and that’s why they dropped the charge and this knowledge angers me more.

Having said all this, I understand that Lulu is between a rock and a hard place. I don’t think they wanted or intended for this to happen to the people who use their service – not at the beginning. I also believe that there is nothing much they can do about it, which presents a problem for the anthology (but I’ll get back to this later).

Amazon is the real problem. They have become greedy and are trying to squash print on demand books being published by anyone but themselves. If a POD book isn’t printed by their subsidiary then they will not list it on the website (or they will, but the “buy” button will be deactivated so they may as well not list it, in my opinion). From what I’ve learned, this only applies to the books distributed from about six to eight months ago. Those already in the system are not affected.

If the people at Amazon want to be jerks, fine. I’d be happy to ignore Amazon from this day onwards and buy my books from other online bookstores instead…and I would encourage everyone else to do the same thing because, quite frankly, Amazon isn’t the “be all and end all” of the publishing (or reading) world.

But…the other bookstores are listing the book as unavailable too! Why? What reason do they have? Are they sheep? I’ve contacted a couple of them and their response is that they want copies of the book sent to them so that they have them in stock. Why? POD means the book is printed as needed. It never runs out of stock. They don’t need a stock pile. Honestly, I have no idea what the hassle is and I’m finding the whole mess frustrating and pointless.

At this point, I would like to clearly state that I do not recommend Lulu in any way, shape or form. I would never use them again. Ever! If you had any brains you wouldn’t either. It’s not worth the stress.

What does all this mean to the anthology?

In hindsight, if I could redo this project from scratch there are certain things I would change. Of course, experience is talking now. I didn’t have any experience when I started this project back in January 2007, but now I’m older and wiser.

The main change I would make would be that I wouldn’t pay for the stories and artwork in royalties. That is the biggest mistake I made. I would have been better off paying outright for the stories and artwork and having a contract for world wide exclusive rights for the first year and then the right to continue publishing the book, but allowing the authors to submit the stories elsewhere. If I had done this I wouldn’t be bound by a contract that has literally killed the project. You see, it’s because of that contract that I can’t pack my bags, walk away from Lulu and start afresh with a POD company that doesn’t have the hassles Lulu has. In order to do this, it would mean I would have to apply for a new ISBN (because Lulu owns the current one). With the new ISBN I could apply a new cover, fix anything that might be wrong with the current book and then publish a second edition. The contract doesn’t allow any of this to happen because it’s for the first edition only. The second edition would require a new contract and, to be honest, I’m not keen to go there.

Right now, that means two years of planning, reading and publishing (and I don’t mean just me here either) has been…for what? To me, it feels like a waste of time. Maybe the others don’t feel that way, but when I was bubbling over with excitement two years ago I wasn’t imagining the frustration I’m experiencing now. I was imagining speechless joy and wonder. Believe me, this experience doesn’t come close to that.

Anthology Marketing & Promotion

It doesn’t take a genius to know what I’ve been up to in recent weeks. Anyone who knows me even slightly well will grumble when they see this post – “No! Not more on the anthology!” 😀

Marketing a book is no easy task. That’s something I have discovered first hand. It takes a lot of time and effort and it’s no wonder that traditionally published books only have a short shelf life – the publishing houses just don’t have the time to devote to one book, let alone all the books on their list.

If I had the money to spend, I would look into getting those expensive displays for bookshops and have them distributed, but I don’t have the money so I have to make do with other avenues. Here is a list of what I’ve done so far:

I’ve sent out two worldwide press releases – one announcing the publication on the anthology and the other announcing the online book launch party.

I’ve organised (or should I say, I am still organising) an online book launch party on Monday 1 September 2008.

I have made a promotional video and uploaded it on YouTube.

I have flooded Facebook with purple and white promotional material – links to the Speculative Realms website, links to the party, links to the video, direct links to purchase the book and I’ve even set up an event for the party, uploaded the book to the marketplace and uploaded the book to the book library application.

I have uploaded the details and the video to MySpace.

I have done the same to MyFamily.com. I belong to a group where there are several thousand members and I’m related in some way to all of them (although I know only a handful).

Today, I sent out emails to my family and friends, and to acquaintances I hardly know (over 200 emails in total).

I have included the details of the book and a link to the website in my signature for all my emails for the email writing group I belong too (a little over 100 members).

I have included the details on Scribe’s message board.

I also included the details into my signature for the message board. Even though signatures have been turned off on my own board, I am a member of many other boards and have written many, many posts over the years and I made sure that the new signature changed every single one of those posts.

That’s all I can remember at the moment. But that’s what I’ve been doing and there are twelve other authors hopefully doing their bit too. At this stage I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Alan Baxter for including the video on his website.

I haven’t reached the end of my list and friends are always providing additional resources for me to follow up – thank you Benjamin Solah for a brilliant idea this morning.

If you know of other promotional ideas that I haven’t mentioned yet, please tell me about them by emailing me or leaving a comment.

Anthology: Online Book Launch Party

As you know, my short story “Where Strength Lies” has been published in the anthology “Speculative Realms: Where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

My story is a romantic fantasy story and the other stories all fall into the speculative fiction genre, which include fantasy, science fiction and horror. There are 13 stories in total and the authors are from Australia, England, United States, Canada and Netherlands. You can visit the website – Speculative Realms – to find out more about the stories, the authors and, of course, to buy a copy of the book. 😀

To celebrate, we are having an online book launch party on Monday 1 September 2008 at the website’s forum and I would love it if you could come along and show your support. It will be a lot of fun. There will be “games” and you can “chat” with the authors. Free copies of the book will be given away on the day. If you want to be in the running for one of them, all you have to do is write a post and your name will be automatically put into the draw. Good luck! (You will need to join the forum to post, but I guarantee your details will remain private and you will only be contacted if you win a prize.)

If you know anyone else who might be interested in the book or the party, please feel free to invite them too. The more the merrier.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

Here’s the official press release:
Speculative Realms Plan an Online Book Launch Party That Will Last for More Than 24 Hours

What Name Was That?

Today, I had a “first time” experience that felt quite different to what I had imagined it would. Someone asked me to sign their copy of the anthology!

If this had happened through email or a website, I would have been fine about it, but this was a real life experience and it threw me off balance. My first reaction was one of embarrassment. I still feel shocked by that. The embarrassment was quickly followed by anxiety.

Isn’t that the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard?

I always thought that I’d feel honoured by such a request. In all honesty, I was honoured, but on this occasion the other emotions were stronger. And I know why!

I’m a shy person. In real life I don’t share much about myself freely. I certainly don’t advertise the fact that I write. And having someone confront me in a very public place with something I tend to keep private was a bit of a shock.

That accounts for the embarrassment, but what about the anxiety. Laugh if you want to, but I was worried about the actual signing of the book. I had to practice first as my pen name is not my real name. I can sign my real name without thought, but it felt foreign to sign Karen Lee Field. It felt strange and it looked strange.

However, the signing is done and the book has been returned to its owner. Now I can let those rotten emotions go and bask in the good.

I signed my first book today! I honestly cannot believe it.

Anthology: Published!

There has been a good reason for my absence from the internet. I’ve been working diligently on the Speculative Realms anthology and I’m proud to announce that it is now published.

Speculative Realms: Where there’s a will, there’s a way

A collection of fantasy, science fiction and horror stories
Edited by Sasha Beattie

Purchase now from Speculative Realms

Honestly, this project was hard work and I couldn’t have done it without the faithful help of a number of online friends – especially Sasha Beattie, the editor, and Heather Anderson, the artist.

And now that it’s finished, I must admit that I have had a change of heart regarding self publishing. It certainly isn’t for everyone, and I will continue to say that my novel length manuscripts will continue to be submitted through traditional publishers as a first option, but I no longer feel dead against self publishers. Self publishing has a stigma attached to it and I am finally removing the barriers that have always held me back from purchasing self published books.

Let’s face it, there are a lot of rubbish books on the market – and not all of them have been self published. If I purchase a book and don’t like the content I will not buy something written by that author again – that is the same if it is self published or not. And I have discovered that because advances are paid to authors prior to publication, from traditional publishers, and the fact that the publisher is not recouping that advance due to lack of sales, new writers are not being given a chance. The publishers are not willing to take a risk on unknown writers. I also know there are a lot of talented writers out there who haven’t been discovered yet. From frustration, those authors might turn to self publishing. They deserve a break. If something looks professional on the outside, you can presume that it is professional on the inside too. If it doesn’t look professional, then stay away from it.

Yes, this project has taught me a lot and I expect to learn a lot more in the coming months too.