A Second Blog: Writing Wranglers and Warriors

I also blogged about writing-related subjects once or twice a month at Writing Wranglers and Warriors along with several other writers.

This is a list of my posts:

The release of an author’s new book means it’s promotion time. Since most new authors can’t afford much paid advertising, we are always looking for free ways to bring our work to the public’s attention. In these days of proliferatingsocial media, there are some outlets that are crucial. Before the book is released a writer should have a Twitter account and start following and gathering followers. I started by using the search box and looking for writers, tweeting general writing items, and slowly gained a following.
Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
A writer should have a Facebook account, another place to gather friends and join groups where one can promote. In addition to a writer’s personal account, an author page and/or book page is mandatory. I’ve found Facebook useful for connecting with other writers, keeping up with what others are publishing and how they are promoting, and even as a place to learn how to use Web-based tools that I wouldn’t have discovered on my own.
WordPress Logo
A writer these days must have a blog. A writer must have a Web presence, a place to expound and expand, a place to showplace publications and link to one’s Facebook page as well as to places to buy the book.
G is for Good Reads
Amazon, Shelfari, and Amazon’s newest acquisition, Goodreads, are all places the writer can build an author page, list published works, describe characters and settings, and link to Twitter, as well as one’s blog and one’s Facebook page.
English: Google+ wordmark
There’s Google+, which kind of resembles Facebook as a place to connect and see what other writers are doing. I’ve been unable to fine tune the settings on Google+, though, and a very few writers have hijacked my notifications to tell me every single thing they’ve seen, read, or thought about during the day, all day, every day. Google+ overwhelms me with useless information although I do like the new design of showing three columns at a time and the fact that a writer can now post a separate page for each work.
English: Red Pinterest logo
English: Red Pinterest logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There’s Pinterest, to show in pictures what one is interested in, to pin pictures from one’s blog or the Web, or to tell a story in pictures which is mainly how I use it.
Image representing LibraryThing as depicted in...
Image via CrunchBase
The newest writer/book sites that I’ve joined are LibraryThing and AUTHORSdB. Since I’m already friends with hundreds of people on Goodreads and haven’t found a way to import my books to LibraryThing, that new site holds scant information. I haven’t had much time to explore AUTHORSdB beyond uploading my book’s cover and some personal information.
Yahoo! Groups used to be big, but I think more and more writers are migrating to Facebook to disseminate their news.
LinkedIn, again, connects a writer with a lot of people. But I don’t know that a listing there sells any books.
It is getting harder and harder, with all the writers, the books, and the book-related Web activity,  to attract the attention of readers. The ways that I have been trying lately, outside of promoted posts on Facebook which I think is way too expensive for the scanty returns, are guest posting on the blogs of other writers, and blog hops.
Guesting on another writer’s blog is usually a book spotlight consisting of blurb, excerpt, cover and links, or else an author interview or character interview. The hope here is that a writer gets wider exposure by being introduced to another writer’s audience.
I have just begun participating in blog hops, where writers of the same genre get together in big groups of 50-100 to host giveaways and link to each other’s blogs. It is getting extremely difficult to build up an audience and attract comments to one’s own blog, even to give something away. Blog hops offer the chance to contribute to a big grand prize, so I’m hoping for a better response but I’m not holding my breath!
As readers become more jaded and more surfeited with free books and swag giveaways, there will inevitably be more sites that authors are expected to join to advertise and promote. The only question then is when and what to let go of in the time crunch: sacrifice more writing time or just ignore some of the social media sites.
**This will be my last post for Writing Wranglers and Warriors. In addition to Willow Vale, I have a new contemporary romance out plus another newly accepted, and have signed a contract for a second historical. It’s been fun contributing to this blog, but writing under two names means I have two blogs of my own. Thanks for reading! It’s been fun.**
The author of historical novel Willow Vale, available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media, Alethea Williams blogs on ActuallyAlethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  Follow on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or like Alethea Williams, author on Facebook.  Friend her on FacebookGoodreads, LibraryThing and Google+.  Connect with her on LinkedIn and AUTHORSdB. Comments and honest feedback always welcome!

A Rose by Any Other Name

by Alethea Williams
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet…
Most writers will recognize Shakespeare’s lines from Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet is lamenting the fact that it is only Romeo’s surname of Montague which bars them from being together. Preceding these most famous lines about a rose, Juliet Capulet proclaims:
 O, be some other name!
When choosing the name under which to publish my historical novels, I can’t say I had Shakespeare in mind.  I’m not sure I would have had the courage to publish under my given name. I did feel like an actress, another, braver version of me with a version of my name could present my work to the viewing public. But there were more reasons than one that I  chose to publish under a pseudonym. I didn’t want to use my first name as when it was combined with my surname the result seemed generic. Not quite as bad as Jane Doe, but close enough. And there were already at least five people on Amazon with published works under that name. So I thought I would use my middle name. There wasn’t anyone on Amazon publishing under “Alethea Williams,”so I was fairly sure it would be unique. I had never met anyone else named Alethea; it had to be uncommon, right?
Alas, I should have done a bit more homework. There might not be anyone else publishing under my chosen name, but on Facebook my sisters-in-nomenclature and I form a virtual throng: Wrong Alethea Williams? Why, here are at least eight more! Do a search of the name and eleven additional Alethea Williamses pop up.
Photo credit: ♥KatB Photography♥ / Foter.com / CC BY-NC
DON’T HIDE YOUR IDENTITY               Photo credit: ♥KatB Photography♥ / Foter.com / CC BY-NC
To make matters worse, I came to discover that using any other name than the one people knew me by for my whole life garnered some rather testy results. I wasn’t deliberately trying to fool them, but that must have been how it appeared. My naive use of a nom de plume in my home town turned out to be something less than a crowd pleaser.
When I asked my editor what worked best to sell books, she said, “Word of mouth.” There is a trick to that, however, and the trick is to try and see that people are saying good things about you. I’ve read advice on other blogs that discourages writers from using any name other than their own.  Apparently, some people will not accept that Rose smells just as sweet when she is called Alethea. I think my experience with a pen name showed me that the people who personally know a writer  feel a sense of ownership in that person and, as a consequence, in that person’s writing.  Your old friends know you, they probably know more than a bit about your subject matter, and they can be one of your advertising advantages, just because they remember you from way back when.
So now, a year later, I’ve had a second novel accepted for publication. This one is contemporary instead of the previous historical. It’s sensual versus the sweet content of my historicals. I should have an easier time attracting readers to this new work, since I’ve already done the hard work selling Alethea the Writer, right?
Photo credit: ViaMoi / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
MASKED Photo credit: ViaMoi / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
Well, no, as it turns out. I’ve learned a different lesson. Many of those who read and told me they loved my first book are not those I think of as the audience who will read the second book without some kind of resistance. I don’t want to sell anyone a book under the false pretense of expecting what they got from the first book. To avoid anyone feeling cheated because they’re not getting what they now expect from the writer of historicals, Alethea, I made up a whole new pen name under which to publish my contemporary romances. And so I must start over building an audience for this persona, the Writer of Sensual Romance.
And I hope this third version of me is the end of branching out as a writer, and that I don’t take it into my head to start writing fantasy and science fiction, or horror, or YA.  The last thing I need is yet another writer in my house. My desk already feels crowded with the three of us sitting here elbowing each other for our turn at the keyboard.
Writers aren’t exactly people…they’re a whole lot of people trying to be one person.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald
US writer (1896-1940)
For another, more courageous take on how to handle publishing in more than one genre, see Nancy Jardine on Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog. http://writingwranglersandwarriors.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/anonymity-is-it-worth-it/
The author of historical novel Willow Vale, available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media, Alethea Williams blogs on Actually Alethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  Follow on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or like Alethea Williams, author on Facebook.  Friend her on FacebookGoodreads, LibraryThing and Google+.  Comments and honest feedback always welcome!

Judging a Book by the Cover

by Alethea Williams
I designed the cover of my first book with the help of my editor. I thought it was beautiful. It looked so classy to me. The tree picture was free from a stock photo site. The cover color I chose reminded me of antique, yellowed, handmade paper—perfect, I thought, for a book set in the 1920s. I wanted my grandma’s passport picture in an oval frame at the bottom, because her story was the inspiration for my fictional account of an immigrant’s journey to happiness in America.
51WyJNthFML__SS500_The comments I got on my perfect cover almost broke my heart. My father-in-law thought my grandmother had a mean look on her face in her passport photo. My son wasn’t looking forward to reading the book because he thought the cover indicated it would be a sad story. Everyone who reviewed the book assumed it was a true story because of my grandmother’s picture, even though I tried to be clear it was a work of fiction.
New Picture
Image credit: Jargon Media LLC
One of the editor’s suggestions was that I use a cover picture of an old house with lots of sunny blue sky. When I solicited comments from family, I was told the bright sky blue color indicated cheerfulness and hopefulness. I thought it looked spooky and abandoned, not the first impression I wanted potential buyers to have of the book, and so I discarded the blue.
I thought the book would have more electronic sales than paperback, completely misjudging my audience. I thought the audience for this book would read Westerns, and historicals, and maybe sweet romance. Sales were okay for a first book, but not great.
New Picture (1)
Image credit: Jargon Media LLC
If I had it to do over, maybe I would change several things:
  • Find a picture of a ranch.
  • Make my grandmother’s picture less prominent, or perhaps bite the bullet and leave it off the cover.
  • I think I misjudged my audience. Maybe I would try to sell the book as mainstream literary fiction, lower the price of the paperback, and really push paper sales. I don’t think the people who really liked the book read Westerns, or sweet romance, or even historical. I don’t think they own an e-reader. I don’t know how many times I heard, “My mom (or grandma) really loved this book.” If the reader was familiar with coal mining towns, so much the better. My aunt warned me she doesn’t read fiction, and she read it twice.
  • Maybe I would listen a little more closely to the editor, whose opinion I had paid for and who certainly had more experience in publishing than I did.
  • In thumbnail, which is how the cover is seen on most sales sites, my name is so tiny it almost can’t be read. I would make it bigger.
Perhaps part of getting published is realizing how much of our cherished illusions we’re willing to give up in order to see our name on the cover of a book. All in all, publishing my first novel was a good experience. I learned a lot. I sold the industry average number of books for a self-publisher. But, in the end, maybe I wouldn’t change anything. I still secretly like my cover best…although if I could sneak back in time and change the size of my name, I would make it bigger.
The author of historical novel Willow Vale, available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media, Alethea Williams blogs on Actually Alethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  Follow on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or visit Alethea Williams, author on Facebook.  Comments and honest feedback always welcome!


Historical or Contemporary Romance?

Writers and readers of romance novels have an important choice to make: whether to immerse themselves in a bygone time and place or jump headlong into a story set in modern time.
What are some of the pros and cons of each?
Historical
Photo credit: The book by Dave Heuts / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Photo credit: The book by Dave Heuts / Foter.com / CC BY-SA
Historical is a well-traveled road. There are built-in audiences for all historical periods, from Jean Auel’s prehistoric period to regency England to the Western. So as long as the author follows the strictures of the particular sub-genre, there are readers who will accept stories from characters representing all layers of society within the designated time period. There are also well-informed readers who will challenge mistakes in historical fact, that is unless the genre is alternate history.
If one is writing a historical romance, it’s perhaps better not to be a trained historian. The sweeping, epic historical novels that span decades and generations and are about three inches thick in paperback demand rigorous research on the author’s part and strict attention on the reader’s or both become lost. Historical romances are generally less demanding of the writer and reader, more pure escapism built on a platform familiar and enjoyable to readers. Authors of regency romance, for instance, might learn more from reading other regencies than reading history books.
Contemporary
Photo credit: Stewf / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: Stewf / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA
Contemporaries, especially romances, seem for the most part confined to one economic stratum of society. As most of society in the developed world seem to be middle class, it should be easy for readers to accept stories of this layer of culture. It takes much more effort from a writer unfamiliar with real poverty or real wealth to portray with any sympathy characters who might actually live those lives, and such a setting and characters demand more empathy from the reader than one seeking pure entertainment might be willing to give.
Researching the contemporary novel should, in theory, be easier than researching the historical. Take a walk, pick up a magazine, watch television. Simple observation reveals much about the world around us. Paying attention and listening, the author picks up useful patterns of speech, slang, and regionalisms that add authenticity to the contemporary.
None of the above opinion takes into consideration the genre-blenders becoming popular today with the more adventurous writers and readers. How about a time-travel romance (already well-established by such writers as Diana Gabaldon but being expanded upon daily by more recent authors) or a werewolf Western?
I have a lot of fun writing both historicals and contemporaries, and enjoy the challenges of each. I can only hope readers enjoy the experience just as much.
There is a fascinating new blog by historical novelists on writing historicals here: http://writinghistoricalnovels.com/
An Irish writer’s blog on formula romance: http://www.trishwylie.com/tips.html
On genre blending YA novels from the American Library Association: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2012/10/05/wait-what-is-this-book-anyway-genre-blending-in-ya-li/
The author of historical novel Willow Vale, available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media, Alethea Williams blogs on Actually Alethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  Follow on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or visit Alethea Williams, author on Facebook.  Comments and honest feedback always welcome!


Where Does a Story Start?


This entry was posted in 
UncategorizedWriting and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. EditAletheaby Alethea Williams
Most of us who write have had the experience of someone wanting to tell us their story so that we can write it down and make lots of money.  The two things I have trouble conveying to people who don’t write are:
1) I have enough story ideas of my own.
2) If they dream the story from beginning, to middle, to end, with a little discipline they can write their own story.
So where does your story start?
Characters: Do you see your characters first? What do they look like? What are they doing? Are they talking to you? (If you’re hearing an imaginary conversation between characters you know you made up, you’re not losing your mind. You’re a writer.)
Loving Handsome Couple Relaxing by photostock at freedigitalphotos.net
Loving Handsome Couple Relaxing by photostock at freedigitalphotos.net
Stylish Lady Standing With Trunk by sattva at freedigitalphotos.net
Stylish Lady Standing With Trunk by sattva at freedigitalphotos.net
Setting: Do you visualize a situation first? What’s happening? Where is this action taking place? Is it day or night? What’s the weather like?  Can you smell anything?
Sunrise by dan at freedigitalphotos.net

Sunrise by dan at freedigitalphotos.net
Plot: Does the story occur to you beginning to end? Or does the middle slump so you have to scramble to come up with what comes next? Do you outline? If so, do you stick to your outline or does the story insist on taking off in its own direction? (When the muse is visiting, I find the plot unrolling like a movie in my head and myself typing as fast as I can to keep up.)
My Spring Garden Notes by Simon Howden at freedigitalphotos.net
My Spring Garden Notes by Simon Howden at freedigitalphotos.net
Theme: Perhaps you have a message you want to convey through your story and build the entire story around your theme. Is there a lesson in what you have written? Do you mean for readers to take a moral to heart from your writing? (Readers have said that they were hesitant to start reading Willow Vale because it seems like a sad book. It’s actually a veryhopeful book, so I am grateful so many have stuck with it and finished Francesca’s story!)
Writing is half hard work – the willingness to sit butt in chair and persist until it’s done. The other half is magic – watching the story unfold as our characters and start talking, with us writing as fast as we can to keep up!
The author of historical novel Willow Vale, available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media, Alethea Williams blogs on Actually Alethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  Follow on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or visit Alethea Williams: author on Facebook.  Comments and honest feedback always welcome!



Locations Featured in Willow Vale

by Alethea Williams
Originally posted on Actually Alethea June 9, 2012
Just as the characters in my historical romance are fictitious, so are the locales.  Saying that Willow Vale is a “Wyoming” novel gives me a big canvas to paint with broad strokes of an imaginary brush. When Francesca Sittoni lands in America, her first home is a Union Pacific coal mining camp in southwest Wyoming.  In 1898, the Union Pacific had seven coal mines in Wyoming, from which the company sold coal in addition to mining coal to feed its own steam engines.
 
Two images of U.P. company houses c. 1920s.  The company boardinghouse is on the right.
Photos courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum
The Union Pacific Railroad did not set out to be a coal mining company.  But its coal supplier in Wyoming was charging excessive rates so the U. P. started its own mining company.  From then on, the Union Pacific Coal Company could dampen competition by requesting that the Union Pacific Railroad Company charge excessive rates to anyone but the U. P. Coal Company to ship coal.  There are several good books on the early railroad; my personal favorite, which I returned to again and again, are the two volumes of Union Pacific by Maury Klein.
 
Overview of coal camp of Superior, Wyoming c.1920
Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum
My fictional town of Hawk Point, Wyoming, is an amalgam of historic Western coal mining towns.  Coal camps sat atop the mines.  If the coal town survived the closing of the mines with the coming of diesel engines, what resulted was a hodgepodge of former little camps cobbled together into one community with very crooked streets.  In the case of Rock Springs, the main east-west route through town exits from the Interstate highway on 9th Street, changes to Center Street, and then switches to Dewar Drive before finding its sinuous way back to I-80.
After her husband’s death in a mine explosion, Francesca goes to fictional Willow Valley to live with Wyoming rancher Kent Reed.  Again I used a compilation of facts about ranching in Wyoming to imagine their life on a Western ranch in the years after World War I.
The lack of electricity, the stringing of telephone wires on barbed wire fences, dry farming and the trials of traditional homesteading in the arid West are all true.
 
Mud Spring Ranch south of Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Photo courtesy Sweetwater County Historical Museum
Burntfork is a real place; I have always loved that name and couldn’t pass up using it as the name of the creek near Kent’s house in my book.  The Burntfork is a tributary of the Henry’s Fork, which is a tributary of the Green River, which feeds the Colorado River, which flows through the Grand Canyon and then all the way to Mexico!  If you don’t get enoughWyoming rural history from Willow Vale, I recommend reading the template for a woman learning to live on an early Wyoming ranch: Letters of a Woman Homesteader, written by Elinore Pruitt Stewart about her life in Burntfork, published in 1914.
There are fascinating websites dealing with Wyoming history that I found during research for Willow Vale.  Here are two of my favorites.  For at least 13 years, G. B. Dobson has been working on http://www.wyomingtalesandtrails.com/.  I recommend it.  For a smaller, more intimate look at Burntfork, see http://www.mckinnonwyoming.com/.
The author of historical novel Willow Vale, available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media, Alethea Williams blogs on Actually Alethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  Follow on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or visit Alethea Williams, author on Facebook.  Comments and honest feedback always welcome!


I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This

by Alethea Williams
Thanks to my friend Abbie Johnson Taylor and comedian Bob Newhart for the title of this blog post.  It comes from his book I Shouldn’t Even Be Doing This: And Other Things that Strike Me as Funny, which Abbie reviewed for her blog, Abbie’s Corner of the World.
Abbie is a writer.  She reviews books.  I am a writer, and I review books.  Call me crazy.  I’m probably wasting my time, as reviews by writers are being deleted by Amazon, so I shouldn’t even be doing reviews. But I have had my new Kindle for about a week and there are already 98 book selections in my library!  How could this happen?

by adamr at freedigitalphotos.net
First of all, I am an admitted book junkie.  I will read any genre, literary, and nonfiction. So when I run across the marketing promotions authors run on Facebook for free downloads of their books, I usually can’t resist.  What they’re looking for is a review in exchange for the free book – in addition to a bump in their book’s ranking which is supposed to develop buzz and help sales when the book is no longer free.
Amazon is in the process of deleting reviews of books by authors, claiming that writers somehow have a financial interest any book since it has been discovered that one author has pseudonymously written bad reviews for others’ books and good reviews for his own.
I only download free books I really think I would be interested in.  I haven’t read one yet that I think deserved only one or two stars, but if I can’t leave at least three stars I don’t rate the book.  I do leave reviews of books that I really like, stars for books that I merely like, and nothing at all for books that I don’t like.  Is this system dishonest?  Does my awareness of how bad reviews hurt writers’ feelings – if not actual sales figures – make my opinion biased?

by digital art at freedigitalphotos.net
For my own part, I don’t pay much attention to reviews.  I notice if a book has a bunch of five-star reviews and one or two outliers of one-stars.  I also notice if a book has no reviews or a lot of bad reviews.  It’s my experience that most one-star reviews result from people indiscriminately downloading books they wouldn’t ordinarily read, just because they’re free, and then being disappointed with their own mistake.  I don’t read every single review, and so I’m not sure if the hubbub over sock puppet and paid reviews is merited or whether Amazon’s decision to take down all reviews of books by writers isn’t hurting them as much as us.
What do you think?  Do you write books as well as review them?  Do you feel you’re doing your best to be honest when you review?  Have you had any of your reviews deleted?
The author of historical novel Willow Vale, available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media. Alethea Williams blogs on Actually Alethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  Follow on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or visit Alethea Williams, author on Facebook.  Comments and honest feedback always welcome!


Chain Bookstore Adventures


This entry was posted in 
MediaNovel RelatedPublishingUncategorizedWriting and tagged . Bookmark the permalinkby Alethea Williams
This post was first published on Actually Alethea April 10, 2012
Willow Vale is set in southwest Wyoming.  My daughter tried twice to get Willow Vale on the shelf in the local southwest Wyoming chain bookstore.  Sixty highway miles, a lot of waiting around, and two months later, the only answer my daughter has been able to get from the chain bookstore is, “Call corporate headquarters.”
Publicity for Willow Vale in southwest Wyoming has been good: a big story on me and my novel by Connie Wilcox-Timar with my picture in the Rock Springs Daily Rocket-Miner.  Just this last weekend Willow Vale made the cover of the Sweetwater Guide in southwest Wyoming: a nice, informative article with a nice, big picture of the book, distributed free all over the county.
My friend Marcia, author of Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West, went in to the chain bookstore on my behalf on March 23.   One perk of being a published author: Marcia got to talk to a back-room person, who said Willow Vale didn’t show up on Ingram’s distribution list on the store’s computer, so therefore the store couldn’t order my novel.
I started trying to follow up on why a southwest Wyoming chain bookstore couldn’t order a novel of southwest Wyoming interest that was getting good southwest Wyoming publicity.  I called twice on March 23, once on March 24, and once on March 26 when I finally got to speak to the same back-room person who had so rashly given Marcia her name. The back-room person said the book wasn’t showing up on the store’s computer and that I should call my publisher and see if there was a problem.  Another phone call on March 29 revealed that the problem wasn’t Ingram’sor my publisher’s.   This back-room person apparently employed part-time by the chain bookstore couldn’t order just any book.  Willow Vale had to show up on an approved list on her computer from corporate headquarters’ computer.  But she would e-mail corporate headquarters and find out why a novel of southwest Wyoming local interest wasn’t on the approved list of southwest Wyoming local books on the company’s corporate computer.
I tried on April 5 to see if the part-time back-room person at the chain bookstore had gotten an answer from corporate headquarters.  She wasn’t in, but I got to speak to another person.  I told once again how I was trying to get a novel of southwest Wyoming local interest ordered in to their southwest Wyoming store.  She said Willow Vale wasn’t showing up on the computer, but she would talk to the store manager and I would be called back.  Uh-huh, this story is certainly starting to sound familiar.

Image by imagerymajestic courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The morning of April 10, I called to follow up with either of the two persons I had spoken with about Willow Vale.  By this time the first one had quit and didn’t work at the chain bookstore anymore, and the second wasn’t available.  (All the employees of this particular chain store must be part-time on a nightmare schedule because they’re the very dickens to reach on the phone during what I thought were normal business hours.)  But I patiently went through the whole saga about trying to get my novel of local interest on the shelves of their local store with yet a third back-room person.  This third person said Willow Vale wasn’t showing up on their computer.  When I asked about maybe consigning a couple copies of the novel as I had good local publicity and people asking me where to buy the book locally, she said, ”Oh, you want the sell-back program where you can sell us used copies of books you bought from us?”
I said, “Forget it,” and hung up.

Indie Bookstore
I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to see this chain follow Borders into bankruptcy.  Support your indie bookstore!
If you would like to read my historical novel Willow Vale, it is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media. It was written for adults but its latest review suggests it is also suitable for older YA audiences.  I blog on Actually Alethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  You can follow me on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or visit Alethea Williams, author on Facebook.  I always welcome comments and feedback. Thanks!


A Degree . . . or a Car? Lincoln and Education

Blog post by Alethea Williams
As a young man, Abraham Lincoln described himself as uneducated and penniless.  Growing up on the frontiers of Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, Lincoln was largely self-taught.  From such humble beginnings, Abe Lincoln rose to become America’s visionary President.
One hundred and fifty years ago, in addition to signing a bill authorizing the transcontinental railroad and the homestead bill, in 1862 President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, the land grant college bill.  To fund the new educational institutions, a state was awarded 30,000 acres of federal land for each member of Congress it had according to the 1860 census.

Avg. $30,000
In the intervening years, college has become big business.  According to Wikipedia, there are 106 land grant institutions of higher education today. Time Magazine says in total there are 4,400 degree-granting institutions in the U.S.  Any news or financial source announces in chilling headlines the rising cost of college.  President Lincoln might have joined parents and students in asking whether the cost of a degree will pay off.

Avg. $28,400
But a President as pragmatic as Lincoln might also ask if all thewhining in this country about going into debt for a college degree isn’t a tad embarrassingly hypocritical.  The figure touted, $30,000, is almost exactly equal to the cost of a new car.  I don’t see too many magazines or news websites crying about Americans financing a car for seven years, especially not when they’re featuring stories and pictures of the shiniest, newest models.
If the question is purely about knowledge versus a degree, President Lincoln might also have applauded the appearance of new, free, online courses as one means of self-education.   As Amanda Ripley concludes in “College is Dead.  Long Live College,” education is not about a certificate on the wall, it’s about learning!
If you would like to read my historical novel Willow Vale, it is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media. It was written for adults but its latest review suggests it is also suitable for older YA audiences.
blog on Actually Alethea about writing, writers, and Wyoming history.  You can follow me on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or visit Alethea Williams, author on Facebook. Thank you!


Growing a Sense of Place

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This blog post by Alethea Williams
When I first began attending writing classes, the teachers stressed that a novice must acquire two things in order to make writing personal and yet unique.  One was “voice.”  The other was “sense of place.”  Both of these, in the same vein as whether an image is art, are difficult to define – but as the adage goes, you know it when you see it.

Trentino Landscape
More than landscape, more than geographic boundaries, more than description, a sense of place denotes belonging.  In the novelWillow Vale, sense of place looms large, almost a character in itself.  The place Francesca Sittoni comes from, Val di Non in the Tyrolregion newly wrested from the Austro-Hungarian empire after WWI, is a high snow-fed green valley in the Dolomite Mountains.  Beautiful but ultimately deadly, the narrow valley, with orchards and fields carved from the mountainsides, is not capable of supporting all its hungry residents after the war.
Francesca and her little daughter emigrate to America.

Wyoming Landscape
But imagine her shock and dismay upon her first sight of Wyoming.  Surely people can’t survive here in this dry place of layered rock.  And it is true Francesca experiences a time of trials in the wind of the high desert.  When mother and daughter are taken in by Wyomingrancher Kent Reed, they come full circle in their search for home, finding ultimate happiness in another green place carved from former sage lands, Willow Valley.

Wyoming Landscape_2
Some places are easy to describe and easy to love.  I spent six years in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where one can supposedly jam a twig in the ground and grow a tree. But beautiful as it was I never felt at home there.  The opposite of my heroine Francesca, I grew up in the country of open sky and sunshine.  It is harder to explain why I feel at home in Wyoming, but here I can see for miles during the day instead of my sight being blocked by yet more fir trees.  The sun shines almost every day and I can see the stars at night.
I started Willow Vale as a search for my own Trentino roots.  I am still searching, but have come upon some fascinating resources. Two of the most helpful are:http://trentinoheritage.wordpress.com/ and http://filo.tiroles.com/Customs.html.
If you would like to read Willow Vale, it is available at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Jargon Media. The novel was written for adults but its latest review suggests it is also suitable for older YA audiences.
If you are interested or have news or questions for American Trentino descendants, please visit and like my new Facebook page, Trentini News USA.  If you want to know more about me, you can read my blog Actually Alethea, follow me on Twitter @actuallyalethea, or visit Alethea Williams, author on Facebook. Thank you!


Dependent on Technology


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Alethea Williams
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by Alethea Williams
When I first started writing, my desk was my kitchen table and my tools were one of my kids’ leftover lined notebooks that were four for a dollar at the back-to-school sale, and a Bic pen that  couldn’t have cost more than that.  I wrote longhand for many years.

Old and New
My first word processor cost $200,at that time a lot of money to me.  It had no hard drive and stored everything on big floppy discs.
It soon developed an electrical short and ate up all my work.I had   a Commodore computer for a while.  I think these  computers had 256k of memory.  Commodores had  a sort of cult following, with users writing programs that were published  in a magazine for others to copy.  It  seemed like a toy to  me.  It was a gift from my dad, and when I got  rid of it, it   still looked brand-new because I  never used it.

Commodore
I went to a DOS-based computer, expensive in those days, and again started saving my work to disc.  I had a manual of DOS commands – that still comes in handy sometimes, although I have the feeling Microsoft would rather its casual users didn’t know too much about messing  around with a computer’s operating system.  I don’t remember how much memory this computer had but it wasn’t much.  And I had a dot-matrix printer which I heard a lot of moaning about from editors at conferences who  had to struggle to read those submissions.  Ah, the good  old days, when editors actually accepted unsolicited submissions!
Computers kept getting faster and cheaper, with more memory.  I got my first laser printer, which turned out beautiful manuscripts on 20-lb. bond paper.  Still, the rejections came in.  I couldn’t understand it.  Wasn’t I doing everything right?  I was certainly spending a lot of money on tools for writing.
My latest computer is an all-in-one with cordless  keyboard and mouse.  Goodbye tangles of wires, hello inability to  stay connected to the downstairs modem, so yesterday I had to go buy a range extender.  I compose directly to the computer nowadays, and I save my work to a thumb drive. No more yearly purchase of a thick guide to editors and agents, all that information is available online.
Submissions are sent as an e-mail attachment, so no  more paper, printer, or postage expense.   Publishing is a self-serve option now, with Lulu and Book Baby and CreateSpace.  Some of the bigger publishers offering do it yourself book services.  And promotion is almost entirely online although I’ve seen some authors lately having postcards printed to be sent out announcing their book signings.  The novelty of using slow, old-time advertising is getting them noticed.
The “business” of writing has changed so much.  There might still be pen-and-paper writers out there, but I don’t personally know of any.  How about you?  How dependent are you on your computer for your writing?  Do you think technology has made you a better writer?
I did get published, thanks!  You can get a copy of my award winning novel Willow Vale from:  AmazonBarnes and Noble, or the publisher.  Follow me on Facebook, and Twitter at @actuallyalethea.  Read my personal blog at Actually Alethea.


To Tweet or Not to Tweet

 by Alethea Williams

Do you begin your day by logging on to Twitter to see what all your on-line acquaintances are talking about in 140 characters or less?  Do you then follow the URLs to their websites and blogs, and spend time reading and commenting on each one?

To Tweet?
Do you spend even more time looking up your friends’ book listings on Amazon to see how their rankings are climbing?  Do you first check your e-mail accounts and take care of all your mail?  (And you see I assume, if you’re a writer, you have more than one e-mail account!  I also assume, if you’re a writer, that most of the time you spend on social media is work-related or promotional, or support for your writer friends and acquaintances.)

Not to Tweet?
Or is your priority your writing?  Maybe you use your time on the Internet as a reward for a day well-spent.  Two hundred fifty words equals fifteen minutes checking e-mails!  Five hundred words equals a half hour tweeting.  One thousand and you can get on Facebook, but just for one hour!
Time to ‘fess up: Do you jumpstart your day with your own word works, or linger over your promo and the output of others before tackling your most recent writing project?
Follow me on my personal blog: actuallyalethea  On Facebook: Alethea Williams, Author or mypersonal page and on Twitter: @actuallyalethea Willow Vale available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Willow-Vale-ebook/dp/B0075R4IH2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

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