One of Those Dopey Days

Some days my own dopiness astounds me. Today was one of those days.

 

D. Wallace Peach

D. Wallace Peach

I had a day of writing planned…no interruptions…no other duties…a Saturday of pure 100% BLISS.

However, I decided to clean up my wordpress media library which was overloaded with images.

Never having done this before, I looked up instructions on the handy internet. Easy enough. Go here, click there, wave the magic cursor over the images and select “Delete Permanently.”

“Well,” I said to my myself, “most of these images I’ll never use again. I might as well just delete them.”

Ta Da! That felt good. 50 images gone…breathing easy. I’m getting really good at this!

Then I open my website. My background is GONE. The images for all my posts are GONE. A little lightbulb blinks on in my head. Crap!

Guess what I did all day…

Donating Royalties to Charity

Five Elements CoverAt least once a year, my writers group slips into a period of enthusiastic over-exertion. In 2014, our creative mania took a fresh turn. We decided to write short stories built around five randomly selected elements: a ghost, an alien, a spaceship, a conflict with a boss, and a fireplace poker.

Despite the unifying elements, the result was seven entirely unique tales. After months of rewrites, we chose to publish the Five Elements Anthology and donate all royalties to charity.

BooksForKids2Choosing the charity took a whopping thirty seconds. We selected Books for Kids, a Willamette Writers’ literacy program here in Oregon. Far more complicated was figuring out how to make the donations. I discovered early on that there’s no definitive source for information or guidance on this topic.

I can guarantee that I’m no expert on this, so the information below should not be taken as gospel. My intent is simply to share what I learned. More accurate and/or detailed information is welcome!

That said, here goes:

1. Amazon has rules about mentioning a charity on the cover or in the blurb. The best Amazon link I found on rules is here. For our book, we elected to avoid the rigmarole and placed information regarding our donation in the Author’s Note. We included the sponsoring organization’s logo and link, and the name of the charity with its logo and mission.

2. Several sources recommended the obvious: Obtain written permission from the organization to use the name of the charity, and its logos and links. We did this all through email. Once we had conceptual approval, we submitted the final Author’s Note for a second written approval.

I will add here that Willamette Writers expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for our effort. It probably helped that the organization is writer-focused, and one of our authors is a member. We sent one sample story their way, but don’t be surprised if an organization wants to read the whole book before approving the use of their name.

3. We were not able to find any way for royalties to be paid directly to the charity without the charity itself taking on the role as “publisher.” My research suggested that charities, in general, are resistant to assuming this role for fear that it may in some way conflict with their tax-exempt status. They may also be unwilling to take on the additional accounting requirements. Though subjective, the consensus on this topic seemed clear, and we chose not to investigate this as an option.

4. The IRS wants its share, of course. Though we have six authors, one of us had to take official ownership as the “publisher/author.” He will receive royalty checks by mail and simply sign them over to the charity. He agreed to absorb any taxes a well as any benefits from the donation, unless of course our little anthology sells tens of thousands of copies. That would be a nice problem to have, and would likely require some adjustment to our arrangement.

I won’t belabor this point, but f you are engaging in this adventure with other authors, such as we did with the anthology, use caution and be certain to work out the financial arrangements in advance.

5. Finally, what did we gain from this? We received free publicity in the Willamette Writer’s newsletter when the book when live. We’ll get a little promotion when we hand over the big, fat check (yep). In addition, we hope that if readers enjoy our stories, they’ll link to our other books. And finally, we feel great about supporting our community of future readers!

Hope this was helpful.

If you are so inclined, you may order your $.99 copy here: Five Elements Anthology

 

 

 

 

 

 

Write and Change the World

JeffersonMost of us have days filled with small acts of kindness. We smile, kiss hurt elbows, throw tennis balls for our dogs. We pay for a coworker’s coffee and leave a big tip. We call a friend in need, chauffeur teenagers, cook a favorite meal, or pick up ice cream on the way home. These small invisible acts often go unacknowledged, but they travel around in overlapping circles, keep our lives balanced and relationships healthy. We see the results in strengthened bonds, deeper commitment, and abiding love.

87230b4a08df4def07bae73905d9319bBut what about those times when we don’t see the ripples? When we toss acts of kindness and compassion into a seemingly bottomless well of suffering and despair? When we perceive no reward for our efforts? When we don’t know if we’re making any lasting difference in our world at all? Some strangers we’ll meet face to face, but most we’ll never know. The poignant tales of their lives will play out in other neighborhoods, other cities, and other lands, unseen and unheard.

download (1)In our political landscape, acts of kindness and compassion are often labeled as weak, a waste of time and money, conciliatory, poor investments, and unpatriotic. In a culture that values money over lives, the manipulations are intense.

Yet, I would argue that when we ordinary folk commit small everyday deeds of kindness and compassion, the ripples are there even though invisible to our eyes and silent to our ears. Those random acts are cups of water that we pour down that deep, collective well. They blend and build, until over time, the bottomless well holds a limitless reservoir from which a garden grows. I have faith that no act of kindness or compassion is wasted, ever.

gandalf quoteI’m not really surprised that Gandalf sits up there with some of the greats when it comes to quotes regarding kindness. Does it matter that he’s a fictional character? Not really. Through Gandalf, Tolkien’s wisdom reached millions. Such is the power of the written word. Books can and do have the power to change the world…

 

Grant Handgis, Interview with a Memoirist

Grant Handgis

Grant Handgis

Exactly a year ago, I had the opportunity to swap books with author Grant Handgis. Though never a reader of memoirs, I was instantly mesmerized by the humor and honesty with which he shared his personal story. Perhaps it happens all the time, but at the end of that literary peek into his life, I felt as though I’d met a friend. As it turns out, I had.

Sleeping Under the Bandstand

Sleeping Under the Bandstand

I recently finished reading Handgis’s latest work, Sleeping Under the Bandstand, a compilation of stories his mother wrote about her life while growing up in Kansas. It’s a captivating account of a complex human journey, of a woman’s intrepid spirit, rich in determination, honesty, and insight.

I’m delighted to share the author and his books with you.

DWP: I’m fascinated by an author’s decision to write a memoir. What was the impetus behind your choice?

I have mine...Show me Yours

I have mine…Show me Yours

GMH: Up until the time I had made the decision to make the plunge into writing a book as personal as a memoir, the books I had written were rather eclectic, including two books of poetry, a children’s fairytale and a book about Mexico. All had been previously written some years beforehand; before digital publishing became available. I had just completed getting those books in print and was contemplating the next book project. I hadn’t yet waded into fiction, so was working out how I wanted to begin. I was also reading new authors at the time, garnering ideas and observing their writing styles.

My daughter handed me a book by David Sedaris one afternoon and I began reading “Naked”. I enjoyed his style and his approach to the memoir, which led me to pick up Augustine Burroughs’ book “Running With Scissors”. I was about halfway through that book when all of a sudden it became quite clear to me that I could do that. Up until that time I had always thought that no one in their right mind would want to read a book about my life. That mental battle only lasted a few days, until I sat down to see what might happen if I should make that attempt. The reason I decided to divide the memoir into two parts, two books, was simply that my life story was basically divided into two parts. It seemed like a good idea at the time anyway.

DWP: I imagine that writing about real people can push against a few boundaries. Some memoirists go straight for the truth of their experiences, regardless of the impact on others. What factors did you consider when writing about others, including family members?

Waking Up Naked

Waking Up Naked

GMH: The reason it took several days before I began actually putting anything on paper, well, computer, had to do with this question. How much do I tell, and what would be acceptable to readers. Considerations to topic and language were fairly quickly tempered after considering what I had read of Sedaris and Burroughs. They laid it out in brutal detail, even sexual escapes and adult situations. Most of my life story was devoid of much of that excellent sexual history so that became a minor issue. The more important element was using names of real people, and characters involved to keep things real. I queried the family members who would be named in the book for their feelings for my using their names, and no one complained.

Being that it would have been impossible to contact the other historical characters in the book, I only named those which were integral to the story, and then only wrote about them in a humorously positive fashion. I never denigrate or demean, or put a character in a bad light. I was writing satire. I even apologetically explained my having sued someone I worked with for breach of verbal contract, and regretted it afterwards. The final consideration was how much of me I was willing to expose, being there was so much potential for satire directed at myself, my past cluelessness. And that became the basis of the story’s theme; learning to think. I wrote into the story the process I used for that process.

DWP: I recently finished your latest book, Sleeping Under the Bandstand, a compilation of stories your mother wrote about her life. You state in the prolog that you made an artistic choice to limit your editing. Tell me what you hoped to accomplish.

Sleeping Under the Bandstand

Sleeping Under the Bandstand

GMH: That project was over two years in the making. After reading the stories as they were handed to me, in folded dot matrix printouts, it became clear that my mother had her own voice, relaying the stories in the oral tradition. My mother grew up in the mid-west, in Topeka, Kansas, and she framed a good deal of her speech from the regional dialect and period use of slang words. I didn’t want to alter that in any way. It was her voice and for me, made the stories all the more personal and real.

The only additions I made to the work were adding commas, to make it more readable from the page, instead of listening to the stories verbally. I will confess to one small addition to the story itself. I added five words at the end of the next to the last chapter. My mother had passed before I was able to complete the book, so there were to be no additions or revisions by her. Being there were dozens and dozens of stories in the original collection, I had yet to fully organize them all, and therefore had no way of seeing how they would all fit together. The ending story of that chapter, just ended, describing a rebuke from her then husband on her being a lady. To finish the ending of that chapter, and account for the ensuing years of her life with my step-father, I added five words; “for the next twenty years”. I believe she will forgive me for that.

DWP: You also wrote a children’s book that your talented wife, Christine Mach-Handgis, illustrated. Do you have any more children’s books in your future?

Teeny Tiny Tammy

Teeny Tiny Tammy

GMH: I am still out on that one. With my wife supporting my writing in general, and children’s books in particular, I know she would illustrate whatever children’s book I wrote. Being a serial confessor of sorts, the children’s book I wrote didn’t start out as a book idea, but a poem written for my daughter, when she was about eight. Being in the right frame of mind at the time the words continued to flow after that, and the poem became the open page to the larger story behind it. I had written the first five pages of the story in one sitting at that time, yet simply could not work out the point of the story, let alone any moral to the story. That didn’t happen for thirty years. At this time I have over a dozen books outlined and awaiting my attention, so another children’s book will likely be somewhere near the bottom of the list, although inspiration may step in and change that without notice.

DWP: Now that your planned memoirs are complete (at least for the time being), you’ve started writing in the realm of fiction. Tell us about your current project.

Living on Dreams

Living on Dreams

GMH: Without original design, I have ended up connecting my books by using a technique that came to me upon finishing the first memoir. The final line of the book became the title to the subsequent book. From that, the next book in line was to be “Marinating In Dream Sauce”, my first fictional novel. I have the opening and the ending, and know the characters and the thrust of the story. Being it will be my first work of fiction, I’m feeling some headwinds on that front.

There were a few things I did leave out of the memoir, with but a mention. One of those things was my experience in Vietnam in 1967. I have never talked about that. So many books have been written on that subject and that time. Mostly blood and guts material. I tend to write satire, and I just never felt there was anything particularly funny to write about those experiences, or that war. Some months ago surviving marines I served with found me through social media and contacted me. One of them asked me that very question, and I gave him the same answer.

Over the months I have put way too many hours into pondering that decision and have come to believe that writing about it may be as cleansing as writing a memoir, which was indeed a cleansing experience. I have begun working on that project, although my intention is to focus on the psychological aspects of warfare, through irony. Something akin to the storyline of Catch-22. Unless things change, the title will be “The Irony of War”, and it will be non-fiction.

DWP: What have you noticed about the transition from non-fiction to fiction? What do you enjoy most about fiction? What do you find the most challenging? Any surprises?

In the Age of Youth

In the Age of Youth

GMH: The first thing I notice is something akin to fear. It is an entirely new area of writing I have yet to experience. Non-fiction is fairly easy. It entails getting all the details correct and in place. Fiction, on the other hand, is made up entirely, and one needs believable characters in believable situations, even though it is all fabricated. It has to seem realistic. My writing instincts indicate I will make that happen as I do enjoy description and embellishment. I just don’t know how credible I will be when I begin. I can only imagine that talent comes with time, and lots and lots of practice.

The part of fiction I would likely enjoy is fabricating situations that tell a larger story through the characters personality, and their foibles. I like to weave philosophical meaning into the story, sort of an application of vicarious learning. That attracts me more than anything else. The most challenging aspect of writing fiction for me is simply the unknowns. I will likely overdo things until I find the right voice and flow of the story, and settle into letting things unfold naturally.

DWP: Can you give us a brief rundown on your books with links?

A Gringo's Tour of Mexico

A Gringo’s Tour of Mexico

GMH: So the reader knows, I offer a 20% discount on any book purchased from my website, Brother Coyote Publications where all my books are listed. The discount code is on the site. Click on any book to get to the check out page where the code is (copy/pasted) in the code window during check out.

 

Shop at Amazon: Grant Handgis Books

Shop at Barnes & Noble: Grant Handgis Books

My list of books; in order of publication:

  • “In The Age of Youth” (poetry)
  • “Living On Dreams” (poetry)
  • “The Story of Teeny Tiny Tammy” (children’s)
  • “A Gringo’s Tour of Mexico” (travel)
  • “I Have Mine…Show Me Yours (memoir)
  • “Waking Up Naked” (memoir)
  • “Sleeping Under The Bandstand” (memoir)

I want to thank you for inviting me to do this interview. I am honored. I have read your books and am enthralled with your writing ability, and your stories. They are beautifully crafted and so enjoyable to read. You have set the mark for me.

Hybrid Publishing: An Experiment

2075040_screen-shot-2013-12-19-at-17-15-55-pngIn my school days, I was unimpressed by science. Now that I’m older and know a mere fraction of what I did as a teenager, I’ve changed my opinion. I’ve dusted off my white lab coat and decided to conduct a pseudo-scientific experiment in publishing. My analysis of results will be totally subjective, a fact I’m willing to guarantee.

After six books with a traditional publisher, I’ve decided to self-publish the next one. Am I the first to do this? Of course not. But I’ve always been one of those kids that learns by doing. Don’t tell me the ice is too thin, the cliff too high, the dive too deep, the shark too toothsome; let me discover those things for myself! It’s an impactful approach—I have the stitches and mended bones to prove it.

So, why the switch, Diana? There are two reasons:

One is timing. In my totally unqualified opinion, it takes a loooong time for books to cycle through the traditional process. I’m in no way attempting to minimize or disparage the role traditional publishers play. I understand that producing a quality book is careful, painstaking work. Editors and publishers know their business and bring immeasurable value to the process and product. As a new writer, I depended heavily on their expertise and learned tons about the business. The editorial feedback made me a better writer. That’s a fact…in fact.

That said, traditional publishers have multiple clients—it’s not all about me! Can you believe it? Since my name isn’t George R.R. Martin, I’m still a publisher’s long shot. Yep, I’ll admit it. I have to respect priorities and get in the queue with everyone else. My publisher is currently working on my Dragon Soul Trilogy—a sequel to Myths of the Mirror—and honestly, I’m too impatient to slide a new book to the bottom of the pile for a 2016 release.

The second reason boils down to a desire to experiment with marketing. Even with traditional publishers, particularly small presses, marketing falls heavily on the author’s shoulders. This seems to be the norm these days, and whining about it hasn’t improved my sales one red penny. I’d like to experiment with discounts, pointed giveaways, and other pricing strategies that I currently have zero control over. My hope is that more aggressive sales of The Bone Wall (due out this month) will result in readers picking up my other books, which is good for me AND my publisher.

I suspect that I’ll ultimately end up doing a hybrid of traditional publishing and self-publishing. And my experiment is just starting. It may be wildly successful, a total bust, or make no difference at all. I’ll be sure to give everyone an update on results. I might even cobble together a chart!

The Bone Wall will be available this month, initially via Kindle…

Blue light ripples and crackles as the shield walls fracture. The remnants of a doomed civilization stand vigil outside, intent on plunder and slaves, desirous of untainted blood to strengthen their broken lives. With the poisons, came deformities and powers, enhanced senses and the ability to manipulate waves of energy—lightbenders and fire-wielders.

For those who thrived for generations within the walls, the broken world looms, strange and deadly, slowly dying. While the righteous pray for salvation, Rimma prepares for battle, fueled by rage and blinded by vengeance. Her twin, Angel, bound to her by unbreakable magic, seeks light in the darkness, hope in the future, and love in a broken world.