Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RIP Crad Kilodney

The late Crad Kilodney, legendary Toronto street author.

Who’s your biggest influence as a writer?

Sometime way too long ago to admit, a friend told me about a guy who stood out on the streets of Toronto selling his books. 

A crazy guy, with a crazy name:  Crad Kilodney.

In an era before self-publishing (think 1972), he typed his own stories and printed them off himself.  Then stood outside, all year long, in all kinds of miserable weather, getting the word out thanks to sandwich boards around his neck.

This is how I first met him.

The late Crad Kilodney, legendary Toronto street author.

This is what he looked like.  Sometimes with the pipe, sometimes not.

Most pedestrians on the busy downtown sidewalks he occupied rushed past pretty quickly.  Trying not to make contact with the greasy-haired guy selling – ahem – literature.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly literature.  Actually, it was the kind of crazy, train-of-thought, free-associated ranting my mother might refer to as “verbal diarrhea.”

Story and pictures by Crad Kilodney

I don’t believe my mother ever opened up one of those grimy little books that must have come home with me from time to time.

*** Caution:  a small excerpt of his writing is below which contains some NSFW / adult content.  I’m warning you now so you have time to shut the window.  (Also, any of these images of his stories could contain inappropriate language so don’t click if you don’t want to know.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Should you crowdfund your next book (on Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or PubSlush)? 3 reasons why not.

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Should you crowdfund your next book (on Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or PubSlush or whatever tomorrow’s Next Big Crowdfunding Site happens to be)?

No.

Well, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Now we can all go home.

What?  You want me to defend that statement?

Well, okay.  Here are three reasons.

#1 Your crowdfunding project makes me feel spiteful.

I’m not saying this to be nasty, I promise.

I love you, I love writers, I want to encourage independent writers to get their books in print and live their dream.  Really… I do.

But if you publicize your crowdfunding project in writers’ circles, you’re going to get a LOT of people staring at your post, thinking, “I paid to publish my books, darnit; you should pay to publish yours.”

Either that or they’re just plain bored. 

Bored with writers who hang out online on facebook, LinkedIn, and anywhere else writers hang out, telling me to fund their book… when they ought to be writing. 

Another question that may just cross our mind when you announce your crowdfunding attempt: 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

KDP Kids: a first look at Amazon’s new Kindle Kids’ Book Creator software.

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Spoiler alert:  I like it.  VERY much.

So much, on a first trial pass, that I’m planning to redo all my Kindle books to make them even more true to the print originals.

Okay, let me back up for a second.  Amazon has just released a new program designed to make creating beautiful kids’ books a total no-brainer.  This is huge news, because self-publishing illustrated kids’ books for Kindle has always been somewhat of a pain in the you-know-where.

Huge.  Like, “drop everything” kind of huge.

So I dropped everything to test it out.

I have a bunch of other things to do this morning, but I wanted to check out the program right away.  You can download the Kindle Kids' Book Creator tool free here. (I love that they remembered the apostrophe!)

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I  decided to give it a “quick whirl,” a process that occasionally ends in an hours-long disaster.  Not this time.

Install was quick, easy:  hassle-free, and the program launched right away after install.  It has a fun, friendly look.

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Again, I was in a rush, so I thought, let’s just haul in an existing PDF and see how it does.

I’m in the middle of preparing a book called Panda Purim, a Jewish holiday themed follow-up to Penguin Rosh Hashanah (which made it to #9 last night in the Jewish children’s books category!).

So I just whomped in the PDF file, images, text and all.

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How I ended up writing a Bible story (and why you might, too).

Excerpt from Writing the Bible for Children:  How to write blazing Biblical stories and picture books for kids.
I never write a story I don’t love.

But sometimes, it’s possible to write a story you don’t like very much, at least at first.  Stories can grow on you surprisingly quickly.

The scrawny chicken baby


Years ago, I wrote a personal essay about how I didn’t bond with my daughter instantly.  She was a preemie, scrawny and demanding, her wail high-pitched and insistent.  Her birth was unexpected, my marriage was in trouble; it just wasn’t the best time in my life to have a baby, and then she was whisked away to the neonatal ICU moments after birth. 

Trust me, it wasn’t the best setting for mother-baby bonding.

Yet I fell in love with my daughter anyway, albeig on her second day, because the first was just so crazily difficult.  That story, one of my most successful, was later anthologized in the book Chicken Soup for the Mother-Daughter Soul.

The fact that editors loved it, that it sold almost instantly tells me two things:  one, I’m a great writer (yay for modesty!) and two, a lot of people have gone through that experience of not bonding instantly – of falling in love with their baby a little late but just as deeply.

(That daughter, who will turn 19 soon, has never forgiven me for referring to her as a “scrawny chicken baby” in the story.  She doesn’t care that there’s a happy ending!)

I mention this because you may experience the same thing with a Biblical story.  Or perhaps with all Biblical stories.

Most of them are hard to love, at first.

Most of them are pretty scrawny, for one thing.  From a modern perspective, they’re short on details:  there’s almost no attention to basics like character development, establishing the setting, or on making sure the thing flows from one narrative to another. 

If it wasn’t God’s book, you could easily imagine it getting one or two stars on Goodreads or Amazon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Elijah and the Priests of Baal, covers, interior, and the secret back story.

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Know what’s awesome?

Getting proof copies in the mail.

There may be more wonderful feelings, but not that are reasonably cheap and legal in all 50-some-odd states.

This book is called Elijah and the Priests of Baal. It’s an approachable Biblical narrative for slightly older kids. Illustrated by a super-talented artist who was a pleasure to work with. More words & substance than your typical picture book... more pictures than your typical big-kids' book. It's sort of a hybrid for big kids who like pictures.

Here I am getting my hands on it, literally, for the very first time.

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I’ll be honest:  I was always bored to tears, or thought I was, by stories of the ancient prophets (in Hebrew, nevi’im).  I never thought I would write a Biblically-based story.  I’m just not that kind of person – I thought.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Look what came in the mail today!

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Know how sometimes you second-guess yourself?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a print edition of my new book, The Seven Day Manuscript Machine:  Edit your children’s book to perfection in under a week

(Thanks to the steampunk cover, my children have taken to calling it The Seven Day Time Machine!)

But then I thought, why not?  Costs nothing but about a million headaches formatting the thing.

I’m so happy I did.  The proofs came today and they are absolutely beautiful.

An ebook is definitely still a book.  But it’s not a BOOK like a book is a book.  If you know what I mean.

Somebody emailed me last week to say he didn’t love the choices of fonts, but honestly, I think the combination I picked works very well together.  I’d love to hear what you think.

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I am utterly thrilled with the size of these, by the way.  It’s exactly 120 pages.  Too thin to have text on the spine, which is a shame, but also thin enough that it’s not a daunting project to take on.

Somewhere between an ebook and a full-length writing manual, this definitely feels like something that is “do-able” by an average writer in an average week.  I really believe anyone can use this book to make their own story (stories!) sing.

I can’t wait to get feedback.

(Okay, yeah, I’m a little scared, too.)

As I post this, you still have a few hours to pick up a Kindle copy free (I think it’s on until midnight, August 31st).

Enjoy!

Three FREE graphics programs writers need in their arsenal.

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Need a quick tweak for an illustration or cover? 

It doesn’t have to be a pain.  I promise, I’ll make this as easy and low-tech as possible.

Ideally, a professional would handle anything image-related, from changes to illustrations to adding text to your covers.  But for small fixes, you’re not stuck with Windows Paint. 

And even if you’re not planning on doing a lot of image manipulation, there are good reasons why you need a reliable paint program to turn to from time to time.

Obviously, you don’t want to spend a ton of money, which is why I’ve gathered this collection of three good, stable choices that you can download and start using absolutely free.

(I don’t get any kind of kickback for suggesting these – they’re just good programs that I have used myself.)

Autodesk Pixlr (Desktop version)

This program is free, fast to load and pretty nifty.  It’s also very bare-bones.  There is an “upgraded” professional membership for $15 a year that gives you access to more features.  I don’t know that it’s worth it, but the free one is a handy tool to have.

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What can it do?