Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Script Frenzy Finish Line

I did it! After a grueling day of almost non-stop typing only interrupted by my daughter needing something (ever try to type and serve dinner at the same time?), I actually finished writing a 119 page play in one month! I even got a certificate from Script Frenzy to print out and a new logo for my blog which announces I WON! I'm so dang proud of myself that I pulled this off!

My Muse is quite proud too. She was the one who wouldn't let me out of the chair until I finished my play TODAY. Occasionally I was allowed to pee, and of course I could take care of my Mommy-duties, but otherwise it was non-stop, keep typing, only twenty more pages to go, work.

It's 9:30 at night, and my back, arms, shoulders, hands and neck are killing me. My whole body is screaming at me to STOP TYPING IMMEDIATELY AND TAKE A HOT BATH OR ELSE.

Okay, I'm going, but I had to announce it from the virtual roof-top that I DID IT.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Northern California Publisher's and Author's Conference

On Saturday, April 26th, I went to the annual Northern California Publisher's and Author's Conference in Sacramento, California at the Red Lion Inn. Excellent Conference! I learned more in that one day than I have at any other workshop or conference I've attended this far. With speakers like Dan Poynter, Stephanie Chandler, Micheal Larson and Elizabeth Pomoda, and Bud Gardner,how could I not?

The key note speaker was Dan Poynter, the man who wrote The Self Publisher's Manuel, which is the book that got Medusa's Muse started (as well as thousands of other presses). Not only is he THE expert on small presses, he is a lively and entertaining speaker. He talked about the future of publishing and how our society's love of portable devices and our hunger for information is creating a surge in e-book and audio book demand. If we want our books to survive in this market, we MUST make portable versions. With that in mind, I'll re tackle the audio book project and research the best way to develop an e-book version for sale on the Medusa's Muse Website. His talk also helped me realize just how competitive a small press can be. We are able to be far more responsive to the needs of the book market, which is something large presses are unable to manage. If we see a niche or need in the market, we can swoop in and fill that void within weeks, rather than the year plus it takes the large houses to develop a project. As Dan says, "It's the first book that counts." We small presses can create that first book before a large press can even get the cover designed.

The first workshop I attended was taught by Stephanie Chandler, called "Marketing Your Books Online." Very good, basic information and ideas about how to create sites and fill it with content that will get you noticed online. She also talked about effective blogging (which made me wonder if this blog is providing the kinds of information my readers need) and building your social network (you mean all that time I spend on MySpace and Tribe isn't a waste?). I bought her book, "From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur" to help me support my authors as they try to market their own books and set up speaking engagements. She's written several other books about running a small business and marketing which I intend to buy as well.

After that came lunch (which was actually quite good. Even this Gluten-Free person found enough to eat) and a presentation by Micheal Larsen and Elizabeth Pomoda, two respected and well known agents in the book industry. I was impressed that they took the time out to speak to us and learnign that agents are now looking at small press and self published books as a "testing ground" for potential new talent was heartening. It looks like the stigma against self-publishers is starting to change. They also provided excellent hand-outs packed with information on developing a manuscript, pitching a story, contacting agents, as well as one that helped us define our writing goals. How much money do you want to earn as a writer? Hmmm... I haven't thought about that. I mean, I'm happy with a hundred bucks, which I'm still hoping to make someday. But really, how much do you WANT to earn? That's an important question that will help you determine your writing focus.

After lunch I attended the workshop called "Behind the Shelves: What it takes to sell high volume through major retailers," led by Clint Greenleaf of Greenleaf Book Group, an Austin Tx. based book distributor. That one was eye opening! Did you know that to get "face-out" placement in the front of a large chain book store will cost you thousands of dollars? Not only do you have to work to get your book in there, you then have to pay to have it displayed in an area where a reader will actually find it. He also talked about returns. You should expect more than half of the books sold to be returned, and many of those returned books will not be in good condition. Also, a retailer can return the book TWO YEARS after purchase. It's crazy! I have definitely devoted my creative life to a bizarre, counter-intuitive industry.

The last workshop I attended was led by Karl Palachuk, called "Recorded Products and Other Non-Printed Spinoff Products." The best thing about this workshop was the information about specific programs, software, hardware, and technologies available to create audio and e-books. Karl is a tech guy by trade, whose written several books, including "Relax, Focus, Succeed," a book about focusing your energy to achieve your goals, rather than working so hard without a direction.

At the close of the event, a panel of the speakers talked about the future of the small press. There was a lot of talk about technology and how that is fostering the growth of the industry, while also creating monumental changes. Who really knows what the next five years will bring? The entire book industry is changing, and it is the small press which is better able to navigate that change.

I met some wonderful people, including Michele Avanti, NCPA board member and author of "Tales of Tamoor." She sat by me at lunch and we immediately started chatting. I was struck by how open and friendly everyone was. Dan Poynter said it best when he stated, "We (we the publishers) are not competitors, we're colleagues." Attending the NCPA conference showed me how true that is.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Laura Fogg Reading in Willits, Cal.

This Saturday, April 26th, Laura will read from her book, "Traveling Blind; Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers." A discussion about her work with visually impaired children and a demonstration of white cane technique will follow, with plenty of time for your questions. The event begins at 1 p.m. at St. Francis of the Redwoods Episcopal Church, 1 North Main Street, Willits. Here is a link to the announcement in the Willits News.

Books will be available to buy and one dollar of every book sold at the event will go to the Church's building fund. I myself will not be there (I'll be at the Northern California Publisher's and Writer's Conference in Sacramento this weekend, of which I'll write about on Monday), but Jane Mackay, Medusa's Editor, will be and can answer any questions you may have about the press.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Medusa Writer Revealed!

You waited all weekend on pins-and-needles, eagerly checking the blog, disappointed to see no new post, hungry to learn who is the NEW WRITER!!!! (I can pretend there are people out there whose entire lives revolve around what I write in my blog, can't I?). As promised, the name of the new, fabulous, extremely talented and brilliant writer, will be revealed today. Yes, TODAY! Can you stand the suspense any longer?

Her name is.....

Tamarian Graffham!

Yes, the writer of the funny and very popular blog, Tales From The Den Of Chaos, is the new Medusa's Muse author. Her book, which shows how she managed to escape crushing debt and save her family from financial ruin, is scheduled for release late Fall, 2008. The title is to be determined, but the tone and style will be in the voice you've grown to love from her blog, full of the same humor and helpful tips.

If you can't wait to read the book, go to the Den of Chaos to read her blog. And if you are already a long time reader and begin to feel frustrated that her posts are less frequent, remember she is busy finishing her novel. Send her little notes of encouragement. And check back here for updates on the book's production.

Well, now that the secrets been revealed, you can all go back to your daily lives, comforted by the fact that Medusa's Muse is alive and well and a new book is in the works (because I'm sure my readers have nothing more to worry about than Medusa).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Laura Fogg Interview About Her Quilts

There is an interview with Laura Fogg, author of Traveling Blind: Life Lessons from Unlikely Teachers, posted on the website Center For The Quilt. The site is sponsered by the Alliance for American Quilts, a non-profit organizations supporting the textile arts.

Here is a portion of that interview:

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave. I'm doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Laura Fogg. It is March 8, 2007. It is 7:11 in the evening, and I'm in Philo, California. Thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview with me. Tell me about the quilt that you brought for the interview.

Laura Fogg (LF): This is a fairly typical quilt for me (photo of quilt can be seen on website). It is called "Brodiaea on Greenwood Ridge," and I love doing the landscapes. That is mostly what I do after having lived in this county for over thirty-five years. Every place I go there is just another scene that I want to capture. So I started doing this collage style raw edge landscape. The whole thing is under a layer, well in this case, I didn't use toile, I used, I'm not sure what this stuff is called, it is voile or organza.

KM: [looking at the quilt and the fabric specifically.] Organza.

LF: It is really transparent, but under that I've layered different fabrics to get the sky and the distant hillside. I have several layers of the white organza over both the sky and those distant hills to try and gray them down, make them look like they go into the distance. Fewer layers over the closer hills.

To read the rest of the interview, follow the above link.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The First Edit; What am I looking for?

Pencil in hand, I am reading the first draft of the manuscript sent to me by my new author (who will be revealed next week. Really!). This is my absolute favorite part of being a publisher and is the number one reason I do this work. It's also the reason I keep looking for more authors, even though I have more than enough projects right now. Still, being the first to read these words, the two sides of my brain working cooperatively with my heart and gut, my Muse eagerly snatching each page as I finish them, the excitement of beginning to create a new book... this is why I am a publisher.

A lot of what I do is instinct. I have a knack for finding the heart of a story; discovering the threads that tie it together while cutting out what doesn't. But I've been trying to pin down what it is I do exactly.

I begin with what the writer told me the story is about. I'm not the writer, so I don't want the author to write like me. I want them to write in their own voice. My job is to make sure they're doing that. So if the author tells me their book is about a man who hunts the world for his lost love only to discover he never really loved her in the first place, then I'm going to look for those bits in the manuscript that perpetuate that. I ask lots of questions, like, why did he go to Cuba? What is it about this girl that haunts him? How did he discover he doesn't love her? Lots of Why type questions, and then even more "What if..." If I read something in the book that doesn't add to the story directly, then no matter how beautiful or inspired the prose, I say cut it. When the man goes to Japan and meets a woman who teachers him how to play pin-ball, that might be a fun part of the story, but how does it tie in with finding his lost love?

When I was working with Laura, she had many pages of beautiful prose about the landscape of Mendocino County. Really well written and lovely, but how did it help the flow of the book? Setting is important, but was the book about Mendocino County, or the students who live there? She slowly cut those passages down. It wasn't easy and I know it probably hurt "killing her darlings." But in the end, we both agree it tightened the pacing of the book and brought the focus to her and her students, which was where it needed to be. And now she has several pages of beautiful prose sitting on her laptop, waiting for the next book she wants to write, which will be perfect for those descriptions.

The new author's book is about personal finance and day to day life. It's funny and well written, full of helpful advice about getting out of debt. So I am reading it with that in mind. What is the focus? Is this book a "how-to get out of debt" book or "personal essays about getting out of debt?" That question has to be answered early because both types of books have a different tone. Plus, the author's voice is very strong and unique, so I am looking for the places in the writing when that voice is true, and highlighting the places when the voice is weak.

It's still early in the process and I'm sure we'll go through several more revisions before we agree it is her best work (yes, the new author is a woman). Happily for Jane, there are very few spelling or punctuation problems. The copy-editing process should go smoothly.

But we don't get to that part for at least two more revisions, so I'd better get back to work on this first draft.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A New Manuscript

Our new author just sent me her manuscript. Who is this mysterious author and what did she write? Can't tell you yet, not until the contract is signed, which it will be once I read her manuscript and make sure it's something I can work with (Oh, I already know it is! But protocols are protocols). So not much longer. She and I are meeting to talk contracts and editing suggestions next week and after that, it will be Official and I can reveal her name.

Here's a hint, her funny, informative, and prolific blog is listed with my "favorite readings." Try to guess which one.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quarter One Results

Determined to take more of an active part in the business side of running the press, my Muse helped me count up the sales figures for our first quarter of 2008. We totalled the number of books sold, amount earned, sales tax owed, cost per unit, shipping, and the remaining amount after all those deductions that we would pull Laura's royalties from.

"344 books!" My Muse said, leaping up and laughing. "We sold 344 books!"

"Possibly more because I don't have the exact count from LSI. We only got paid for December. We'll have to wait for the rest."

"Maybe more. Maybe we sold more books. More than 344! That's wonderful!" She clapped her hands. "Do you realise that most books only sell 150 copies total?"

"Yes, I know."

"And most of those books were sold right here in Mendo."


"And the word of mouth is growing, so her book sales will only go up."


"We might have a best seller! How many more books until we break even?"


"After that, you'll be able to make a profit?"

"Maybe. Depends on our overall costs. But Laura's book will be paid for."

"Excellent." She turned and walked toward the kitchen. "Well, now that that's done, I'm going to have a cup of tea."

"Um... we're not done."

She stopped and spun around to look at me. "We're not? Are there more sales to tabulate?"

"No. Not sales. Costs. We haven't totalled up the receipts to tell us how much we spent this quarter, and with the two conferences I registered for, the cost to earnings ratio will be well in the red."

"Oh." She shrugged. "You can do that part. I'm done for the day." She vanished.

So much for helping me manage the business. I turned back to the computer and sighed while reaching for the folder packed with invoices and receipts. Then I sat up. Later. I decided to have that celebratory cup of tea. In the publishing business, you've got to celebrate those little moments when you feel successful and don't know how broke you actually are.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Last night was the auditions for the Festival of New Plays at Mendocino College. I finally got to meet the director who chose my play and together we would try to decide who would be a good choice for the parts of Chris and Laura. My Muse came along, wearing a stunning vintage 40's black skirt and red blouse with a black beret. The outfit made her look straight out of a Film Noir located in Paris. She sat behind me and whispered her opinions of the actors.

"Too young. He needs to be closer to 40 than 21."

"I like her, but I wonder if she can play Laura with the stern sultriness you wrote?"

"Ugh! Where's the proverbial cane to grab that guy off the stage?"

"Oh he's cute!"

"She's wonderful. A bit young, but she could probably play older."

The actors were auditioning for all seven plays, so the process took three hours. A long night for everyone, but I was impressed by the energy of the actors and the focus of the directors. As I watched them, I began to get nervous. I realized how quickly my little play about lost love and lust could very easily fall into a soap-opera if the characters are not played by skilled actors. One of the men was excellent, but so young. Would he be able to understand the depth of regret in my play? The director and I talked about my fear and she admitted to the same feeling. She's actually more nervous than I. As the director it's all on her shoulders to make or break the play. I'm glad I only wrote the thing!

My Muse was impressed. "I think the director will be fabulous and the play will bring tears to the eyes of the audience."

I said, "It's not supposed to be depressing."

"I know, and it's not. But I think the director will manage keep the actors away from melodrama and the honesty of the play will touch everyone who sees it." She straightened her beret and smiled. "Trust me."

The director and I also talked about how involved I wanted to be in the process. I explained that I'd like to come to the first rehearsal to hear it read so I can make any necessary changes (I already heard two lines from the two pages they used for the auditions I want to fix). Mainly though, this is her baby now. A play is a constantly evolving, transforming entity. I have to let go and allow the director and actors to create what they see from my words and to try to hold on to my original vision is counterproductive. Of course, I have no intention of rewriting it to fit an idea that is outside the play. But how much she wants to up the sexual tension or cut it back is entirely up to them. I'm curious to see what the actors will do as they make the characters their own.

My Muse is eager for me to get back to work on my Script Frenzy play.

"Imagine how it will be to watch your full length play on stage. Thrilling, yes?"

Before that can happen, I'd better finish it. Now if I only had the time. People don't need sleep, right?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Holidays and Other Time Management Problems

"I decree that there shall be no more school holidays," my Muse announced as she plopped onto the couch. "All this time interruption is giving me a head-ache." She watched me continue typing an email. "You're so far behind, and I fear we will never catch up."

"Probably not. But I've given up on catching up." I turned and looked at her. "Catching up is relative. All anyone can really manage to accomplish is throwing away a completed to-do list, which will be quickly replaced by another. It's a losing battle." Turning back to my computer screen, I said, "To do lists are fascist."

"Says the Queen of the Post-it note to do list."

"Color-coded Post-it note to do list. Don't forget that part."

"Which is pinned to the wall so you can never throw it away."

"Ah, yes. But I so enjoy crumpling up those bits of paper and throwing them across the room."

My Muse picked up the couch pillow, folded her arms around it, and sighed. "But really, what are you going to do?"

I pushed the send button for the email, then turned to look at her again. "About what?" My Muse pointed first to the Post-it note to do list, then my desk where a pile of punk rock stories needed editing, then the computer screen where 22 emails waited to be answered. "Oh. That."

"And you need to start working on your play. The challenge has already started and you've yet to write a single word. If you keep putting it off it only increases your page number quota, and as it is now, you need to complete nine pages a day."

"Nine pages? Is that all? Why I'm sure I can do twelve a day."

My Muse scowled. "Laugh all you want, but these school holidays have got to end. How do other parents manage? All these interruptions from their work; it's criminal."

"You think this is bad? Wait till summer. Then we'll have three-and-a-half months to get behind."

"I'm going on a vacation. You obviously won't be needing me this summer."

I got up and moved to the couch where we sat together silently. Then I said, "She told me she doesn't like Dora the Explorer anymore."


"Yes. She's loved Dora since the 2nd grade and last night she threw her Dora bath toys out of her bath and said, I hate Dora."

"She is in the sixth grade now."

"I know. And next year she'll be in Jr. High. She's growing up. That's good." I picked up the other pillow and held it against my chest. "Last year it was Madeline. The year before it was Strawberry Shortcake."

"She still likes Arthur."

"Yes, but for how long? Every year she gets bigger and more mature and eventually it will be me she says she doesn't want anymore."


"Kids go through that. They hit fourteen and decide they hate their parents."

"And then they realize how much they still need their parents and want to be with them." She touched my knee. "Don't worry. She'll always love you."

I nodded. "I know. And I'm not saying there aren't days I wish she was with her dad or times I want to ship her to her grandparents. Believe me, I'm not one of those Pollyanna parents who can't imagine life without their children. I can, and it'll be great!" I laughed. "But even when I'm tired or stressed or really want to do nothing more than sit at my lap top and work on my play for the next month, I know my daughter's childhood is ending, and that makes me sad. I want to scoop her up in my arms a little longer and forget all about writing."

My Muse sat up straighter. "Mother angst. Beautiful." She looked at me. "You should write that down. At least it will be a little bit of writing. And then I'll stop bothering you about your play."

"No you won't."

"No, I won't. But I'll give it a rest for a few hours."

So I did as she asked. My Muse read this and smiled and true to her word I didn't hear another peep from her about the play for three whole hours.