Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I had a few stories left over from Twisted Vol. 1 that weren't quite ready for prime time, and I decided to save them for Vol. 2, but last week I had my first new idea for Vol. 2 that I felt like I really needed to work on.

Here's the sketch:

It's what actually happens after you go in for surgery and they hit you with the Forget-Me Stick. Working title will be "Appendectomy."

I guess I've already given away the punchline, haven't I.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

All Hallows Read

In case you didn't know about it, Neil Gaiman had an idea a couple of years ago that he called "All Hallow's Read" where, instead of (or in addition to, it doesn't really matter) giving candy at Halloween, you give a scary book instead. You can gift it, you can leave it somewhere, you can give it to a library. It doesn't really matter. All you really need to do is get people reading!

So, as in the past, I've designed a bookmark for the occasion. It's free to download and print as often as you like, and free to give away with that scary book you're going to give this Halloween. Download the hi-res pdf version on the Hairy Eyeballs Press site.
The font I used on the bookmark is called Canker Sore, and it was designed by John Martz.

As for scary books, may I suggest Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1? It's fun, it's scary, and it's just the thing to tuck your little ones in at night.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Twisted one-sheet

I've updated the one-sheet I put together for Twisted, and the hi-res pdf version of it is available here. I've included quotes from Kirkus Reviews and the Midwest Book Review along with the entire Publishers Weekly review. The QR code takes you to the Hairy Eyeballs website. I pulled the colors directly from the cover image to tie it all together. The rest of the media kit is available either from the book's site or the Hairy Eyeballs Press site.

I hope I remembered everything.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Media kit: Done

After a little (O.K. a lot of) rearranging and reuploading and relinking, I finally have the media kit finished for Twisted Vol. 1. I had a bit of a kit available on the publisher site, but I hadn't uploaded anything yet on the book site so I wanted to get moving on it. That, and the original media kit was mostly geared toward the Kickstarter campaign which, if you haven't noticed, was finished about a year ago. I had some catching up to do.

So available for download would be:
  • The cover image (both low and high res)
  • A still from the book trailer (low and high res)
  • Two head shots to choose from, one casual, one formal (low and high res for each)
  • The book's one-sheet (pdf)
  • A contact sheet (pdf)
  • An author bio (pdf)
  • Info about the book (pdf)
I also have links to all the reviews I know about, plus the Kirkus Reviews Indie Spotlight Q&A they did with me and whatever other press the book has gotten along with all the links for the book: the book's site, blog, trailer and shop.

I'm hoping I haven't forgotten anything. I'm sure somebody will let me know if I did (and thanks in advance).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kirkus interviewed me about Twisted!

After they reviewed the Twisted book, Kirkus contacted me and asked if I would do an interview for them. Of course I said I would! Here's a link to the page:
Nora Thompson's Twisted features 28 brief chapters of repulsive, funny flash-fiction. In our review, we noted that the debut author “shines at using multiple perspectives to breathe new life into conventional tales, with story endings that are surprising and skillfully foreshadowed.”
Repulsive? Yep. That's what they said.

The interview was done back and forth over email with Kathryn Lawson, and I thank her much for taking the time. Please, if you will, "Like" the page, g +1 it, email it, tweet it. Any help will certainly help!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The August Kirkus Reviews last page

The August edition of Kirkus Reviews is out, and their review of Twisted is in it! And you'll only have to flip to page 1,716 to read it. Yeah. That would be the last page.

Hey, it's Kirkus and they like the book. It doesn't really matter where they put it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Trials and Tribulations of a Reluctantly Reluctant Reader

I wrote a post about a month ago in response to a few comments I received in a couple of book reviews I got on the Twisted book, and I just reread yesterday what I had written in the post. After a little time away, sometimes you see things you missed that maybe bring up points you hadn't originally planned on making.

The post itself was supposed to be about how people were perceiving the book and how my implied words and illustrations weren't being taken at face value. As if that wasn't my intention from the start, but let's not go there right now.

When I reread the original post, I saw a few lines in there that I had written that weren't exactly what I was aiming for in hindsight. Here they are:

First, my mentor. Dr. Michael A. Arnzen taught me everything I know about writing fiction. He's a good teacher, and from what I've heard, a good writer as well. Why don't I know he's a good writer? Well, because he writes horror, and I really don't like to read horror. I've tried reading his stuff, but it's not what floats my blood cells, if you know what I mean. But you know what? He's won enough Bram Stoker Awards to shut up anybody who thinks the genre is all about teen gore movies. Just do a search for "Arnzen" on this page, and you'll see what I mean.

That paragraph made me think about something that has come up a few times since the book was released. I was going to post another comment on that post, but quickly realized I had a bigger point than I could put in the space of a comment. (And as an aside, I actually find Dr. A's flash fiction and poetry very entertaining. It's still classified as horror, I understand, but my mind doesn't wander off when it's in smaller doses.) The point I was trying to make was that just because I don't like to read something doesn't mean it isn't good.

That's the conundrum of a reluctant reader.

Let me try to explain. I'm a picky eater. Always have been. I think of mushrooms as fungus, and generally I avoid them when I'm choosing from a menu. But as a vegetarian, I've found that a whole lot of people think that being a vegetarian must mean you really, really love portobellos because that's the vegetarian choice in many restaurants. Apparantly, portobellos are considered very delicious. They're just not delicious to me.

I've also always been a picky reader. I don't like it, and I try hard to get as much variety in my reading diet as I can, but I've found there are some things I have trouble with. And it's not always everything by a certain writer, and it's not always a certain genre, and just because the vast majority of readers and critics agree it's a classic doesn't mean I won't have trouble with it.

Just to give you an idea. Here are a few of the books that I've tried to read that I haven't been able to finish (but am still trying):

A Farewell to Arms by Earnest Hemingway
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft (I understand it's only a short story, but that doesn't seem to be making it any easier for me.)

Here are a few books that I wanted to like but struggled violently to get through:

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (illustrated by Lane Smith)

Here are a few books that I pushed myself to finish but won't be reading the rest of the series (which is terribly sad for me because I love collecting entire series of things):

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Field Guide by Holly Black
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

And then here are a few books that I read and will likely read again:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (illustrated by Dave McKean)
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (which I wrote about on my other blog here)
The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

See what I mean? There's no rhyme or reason. Those top books are considered classics; the portobellos of the literary world. I wish I could explain how a reluctant reader thinks, but I don't understand it myself. Some things stick and some things don't. Some books keep my attention, and some books make my mind wander, and it really doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the writing or illustrations.
  • I picked up Lemony Snicket, Spiderwick, James and the Giant Peach and The Graveyard Book because of the illustrations.
  • I kept with Raw Shark and Extremely Loud partly because of the graphics that were added throughout.
  • I had trouble with The Hobbit and Hitchhiker partly because of the odd names and words that I struggled to keep straight.
  • I kept with The Graveyard Book and Slaughterhouse-Five partly because of Gaiman's and Vonnegut's turn of a phrase.
  • But Vonnegut's great phrase turning didn't help when I forced myself to finish Titan.
There are a couple of things I would like people to know—and when I say "people" I mean readers who devour books. Those people I would so like to be like. I think something that I do understand that I would like other people to understand is that I don't like that I can't stay focused. I don't like that I won't be reading the second book in the Harry Potter series. I don't like that I don't like portobello mushrooms. Because if I could stay focused and read the rest of the series and eat the mushrooms, I would fit in so much easier socially. I could be part of the discussion. But I know what a struggle it is to make myself sit and read the same sentence over and over and over and still not hear what it's saying. I decided a long time ago to stop putting myself through it.

I also want to point out that just because I'm not reading it doesn't mean that I don't think it's good. I'm absolutely sure that it is. It's just not flashing my neurons the way it's supposed to, the way it does all those people who can devour a book in one sitting. I've never, in my entire life, been able to stay focused long enough to devour a book (longer than a picture book) in one sitting. And it really doesn't have anything to do with the book. I still haven't figured out why I like the things I do or not like the things I don't. But if I ever do, it will make it a lot easier when I shop for books.

I know this probably hasn't shed much light on the mind of a reluctant reader, and the only advice I have for the parents and teachers and librarians out there who are dealing with one (or many) is to not give up. Don't stop trying. There's a Graveyard Book out there for yours; you just have to find it. Dig it up. It took me 45 years to find mine.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Redesigned covers

With three positive reviews from major reviewers to boast, I decided to redesign the Twisted covers to include exerpts. While I was at it, I made a few more changes of things that were bugging me. Here's what I did:
  • I was afraid the image was printing a little on the cyan side, so I adjusted that
  • From the beginning I wanted the title on the front to be much bigger, so I messed with that a little, too (although I'm not quite happy with it yet)
  • I added a few spot colors of that aqua from the image in some of the text, which I like a lot better
  • I changed most of the fonts from VT Portable Remington to Goudy Old Style like the body copy in the book
  • I made some changes to the spine in the image and the font
  • I changed the Hairy Eyeballs Press logo so it will show up better
Here's the hardcover before:

and here's the hardcover after:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Won: Two Purple Dragonflies!

Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1 is the proud recipient of two Purple Dragonfly Book Awards! The first one is a First Place award for Fiction: Collection of Short Stories, and the second is a Second Place award for Interior Design. Here's a link to all the winners:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Are people seeing what the reviewers are seeing?


Sometimes I wonder what people out there think they're reading. Or seeing. When you read, how much of what you see comes from what you yourself are bringing to the reading?

The Twisted book just got reviewed by Kirkus last week (yay yay yay!), and I'm noticing a pattern here. I'm not a horror person, let's just say that up front. At least, not in the way it's come to be known. I don't go for gore. I'm more of a Sixth Sense kind of scary story person. But between the book's review in Publishers Weekly and now in Kirkus, I'm starting to wonder...
  1. About myself
  2. About what people think they're seeing
  3. About does it really matter
I'll get to "1. About myself" later, but first, let's do 2.

"...the main character is brutally attacked"
"...a jack o'lantern sits mutilated in the foreground..."

Publishers Weekly

"...Her artwork tends toward the gory..."
Kirkus Reviews

I don't want to sound like a writer who just got bad reviews and wants to throw a fit; that's not the problem at all. I'm totally thankful for the reviews I got. They were positive and encouraging and much appreciated (thank you, MBR, PW and KR).

The thing was, when the Publishers Weekly review came out, I thought it was a single instance of someone who was reading more into the stories than was actually there, and I just let it pass. But with this new Kirkus review, I'm starting to wonder what's at play here.

Without giving too much away, let me address first the PW quotes. In the first one where "the main character is brutally attacked," I sort of make a face like, huh? Except for two lines, the main character isn't even touched by the thing after him, let alone brutally. (By the way, the lines are: "Oily fingers grab at your throat," and "It reaches through from the back of the open stairs and seizes your ankle.")

In the second quote, I think the easiest thing to do is show you the illustration. And that would be it, over to the right. If the seeds that are left after gutting a pumpkin to make a jack-o-lantern are considered mutilation, maybe parents should think twice about letting their kids at the gourds this Hallowe'en. Just sayin'.

Now to the Kirkus quote, and I think I'll have to post another illustration here. That picture on the left? That's as gory as it gets. He's a butcher. You know, like the one who works in your local supermarket. I'm not even trying to be funny here. I'm a vegetarian, and the poem that goes with this illustration was actually my reaction to just how rediculous the eating of meat (including the kind that will probably be on your dinner table tonight) is to those of us who don't partake in that sort of thing. Seriously.

Here's a list (without giving too much away) of the rest of the illustrations in the book:
  • clouds (not kidding)
  • two birds in a tree talking about the person walking under it
  • various poses of an artist drawing a graphic novel
  • a clown
  • the jack-o-lantern from above
  • the butcher from above
  • a doctor (not even playing doctor)
  • a child's drawing of a rainbow, a sun, a flower and clouds (those darn clouds again)
  • a child in bed sleeping
  • the butt of a monster looking in a refrigerator
  • a vacuum cleaner
  • a kid looking scared in the shadow of a cartoony monster
  • another clown (this one's scary, but not at all gory)
  • a chair knocked over with broken glasses and a book
  • the zombie waitress on the cover
That's it.

Now about "1. About myself." I was worried at first about being categorized in a genre that I really didn't like and thought I had nothing to do with.

But then I thought about, well, two things.

First, my mentor. Dr. Michael A. Arnzen taught me everything I know about writing fiction. He's a good teacher, and from what I've heard, a good writer as well. Why don't I know he's a good writer? Well, because he writes horror, and I really don't like to read horror. I've tried reading his stuff, but it's not what floats my blood cells, if you know what I mean. But you know what? He's won enough Bram Stoker Awards to shut up anybody who thinks the genre is all about teen gore movies. Just do a search for "Arnzen" on this page, and you'll see what I mean.

As for the second thing I thought about: Alfred Hitchcock. So what if these people are seeing something that isn't there. Alfred Hitchcock banked his career on the possibility that they would, and his is considered classic material.

So I'm not going to worry about any of this after today. If I ever get around to a Vol. 2, I'm going to stick to my guns (but I probably won't draw any because I'm a pacifist) and draw and write the stories that make me laugh.

And, I'm going to enter the book in the Bram Stokers.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thumbs up review from Kirkus!

Oooh hoo!

Kirkus Reviews has gone and reviewed my Twisted book, and I'm getting the idea they liked what they saw!

A lot of the review is directed toward book buyers and summarizes some of the stories, but here's a collection of parts where it's all about the review:

A clever collection of stories and comics by debut author Thompson.

An experienced illustrator and graphic designer, Thompson organizes this flash-fiction book into 28 extremely brief chapters on many subjects and uses both text and spacing to heighten interest. Her artwork tends toward the gory, though the drawings also contain elements of humor. The words themselves are arranged on the page for an atypical and interesting reading experience...Thompson shines at using unexpected or multiple perspectives to breathe new life into conventional tales, with story endings that are surprising and skillfully foreshadowed. This balance between the unpredictable and the expected rewards rereading. Thompson uses amusing chapter titles like “Cleaver Over-Achiever” and “Lobotomy Pie,” and her phrasing is often similarly adroit...the book is an excellent example of its genre and will likely appeal to younger readers.

An assortment of repulsive yet funny chapters makes for a quick and enjoyable read. —Kirkus Reviews

I don't think some of the words they use to describe the book are entirely accurate, but I'll focus on that aspect next week. For now, I'm just going to bask in a repulsively positive review!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My book is totally available--with incentives!

It's taken me a while, but I finally was able to get my book available for purchase on its own site:

And that's not all: If you buy the book directly from me (rather than through Amazon or Barnes & Noble), not only is it cheaper (cost-wise), I'll also throw in a free bookmark (those are them to the left over there) and I'll sign it for you! Even with personalized signage! Just let me know who to dedicate your copy to in the "Add special instructions to the seller" box when you check out.

Yep. It's that simple.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Publishers Weekly liked the book!

Yes! THE Publishers Weekly!

Here's what they had to say (and how it looks on the printed page):
In "Garlic Toast," one of nearly 30 brief works of "flash fiction" in this collection of dark comedy and horror, the main character is brutally attacked and chased by a monster, before awakening in bed from a nightmare. "You wipe the sweat from your forehead.... You close your eyes and smile. You hope the next one is just as good." That type of kid—the one who revels in being terrified—is the audience first-time author Thompson is aiming for. In stories that last only a few pages and comics that resemble Nickelodeon cartoons on acid, Thompson riffs on zombie, werewolf, and other ghoulish genres, while also finding the horrific in unexpected places. In "Testophobia," a test-taker's increasingly anxious thoughts are superimposed over a blurred-out exam below ("Hemophobia: Fear of blood. Won't wipe off. On fingers. On sleeve, paper. Smeared. Trembling. Shaky. Shaking"). And in a cartoon labeled "Lobotomy Pie," a freshly baked pumpkin pie cools on a counter, while a jack o'lantern sits mutilated in the foreground. Just the thing for readers who aren't scared of the dark—or for those who are and like it. Ages 12–up.

And here's the link to it online:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I got to talk about writing and illustrating—and people actually listened!

A few weeks ago I was part of a panel at the Frick Art & Historical Center discussing kid's books, writing and illustrating them and getting them published. The panel was in part in conjunction with their current exhibit: Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children's Book Illustration, but it was also to celebrate Women's History Month.

We talked about our influences in writing and reading kid's books, including influential female characters and writers. I explained that I wasn't a very good reader growing up—not that I had trouble reading, but that I just wasn't interested in doing it. I was what publisher's now refer to as a "reluctant reader," which generally is code for "boys."

When I wrote Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain, I had no trouble keeping that young, reluctant reader in me in mind. I wrote short, short stories that would work well with the short-attention-spanned reader I used to be. I also illustrated many of the stories in the book which addressed the "pictures or it didn't happen" side of my reading brain. And, for the part of me that wasn't interested in the subjects that were available for me to read at the time, I wrote about the things that might have kept my attention.

So I guess I wrote this book for the me I used to be, but I'm hoping it sticks with other readers who are struggling to pay attention as much as I did. And those readers aren't just the boys in the room. I'm proof.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

See? I wasn't lying. Saturday rocked.

I totally survived my first book signing last Saturday at the Frick Art & Historical Center, and had a great time. It was fun seeing how people "got it" when they opened the book and got a look at the twisted illustrations inside. I don't know who else I signed for, but I know one of my books will be going to the Murrysville Community Library, so I'm just warning all you parents with kids over there: It's coming.

It was also terribly fun to use my new Square credit card reader on my iPad. The best part was how the people handing me their cards also thought it was fun. I was a tiny bit afraid they might be apprehensive about it, but I had no problems at all. It was fast. It was easy. I'd recommend it completely. (I've mentioned Square so many times on my blogs that people are going to start thinking I work for them. I really don't.)

Book buyers were rewarded with a free bookmark to take home with their new book, and we also had prints and posters available, along with various free postcards options to choose from.

I'll be doing a little research to see where else I might be able to have a book party. If you know of any independent bookstores or quirky shops that might be interested, just let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Just a reminder about how great Saturday is going to be

As I mentioned in my last post and to remind everybody, I'll be doing my first book signing for Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1 this Saturday. Here's the info:

What: Book signing (along with my new buddy Stacy Innerst)
Date: Saturday, April 14
Time: 1:30-2:30 pm
Location: The Frick Art & Historical Center, in the museum rotunda

For more information:

What you can expect when you get there:
  • puppets
  • write and illustrate your own stories
  • storytimes
  • book signings (that's me!)
  • kid's flicks
  • food!
Events start at 11:15 and run through 4:00.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book signing @ The Frick

Last week I was one of the speakers on a panel at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh. We talked about writing and illustrating kid's books, and I wrote a preview about it on my kid's illustration blog here.

The museum's current exhibit is Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children's Book Illustration, and on Saturday, April 14 they're going to have a family day. Admission will be free with lots of activities for kids throughout the day. Besides book readings, puppets and movies, they're also going to have book signings, and they've asked me to be a part of that.

So. I'll be doing my first book signing for Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1 a week from this Saturday! Here's the info:

What: Book signing (along with my new buddy Stacy Innerst)
Date: Saturday, April 14
Time: 1:30-2:30 pm
Location: The Frick Art & Historical Center, in the museum rotunda

For more info:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Midwest Book Review on Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain: "very much recommended"

I sent Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1 out to reviewers back in January, and at the time I was thinking getting a review from The Midwest Book Review looked kind of promising. Turns out I was right.

Not every book that gets sent to TMBR actually gets a review, so just the fact that they did review mine makes me terribly happy. Here's what they had to say:

"Life doesn't make a whole lot of sense, so sometimes we need some stories to match the madness. Twisted Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1 presents unusual stories of flash fiction, meant to bring readers into a dizzying spin of problems and how those losing it may deal with it in all the wrong ways.  Twisted Tales to Rot Your Brain is a humorous and intriguing delve into flash fiction, very much recommended."

Did you catch that? "Very much recommended." (!) So not only did they review the book, they also liked it!

I've updated the book's listings on Amazon to include the review, but I'm still working on updating the Barnes & Noble listing. I'm also brainstorming all the ways I need to use the review in promotional materials: business cards, Facebook, Twitter, blog (duh), newsletters, sites, book stickers, and on and on. Looks like even more late nights are in order.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

This just in: Root canals may be good for your creativity

I'm starting to believe root canals have their benefits if maybe you're a creative person. I'm starting to believe this because I'm trying to find a bright side. Over the last couple of weeks I've endured yet another one, and it got me thinking about pain and what in this world I can do about it.

A little over a year ago I had the root canal that gives root canals a bad name. It started a few years earlier than that with a "root canal" that I had with a different dentist that had been done very incompletely. He didn't bother digging into the root that was curved (he didn't want to bother, I guess) and he didn't dig all the way to the end of one of the roots where he did bother (he must have been thinking along the lines of "good enough"). The only reason we discovered the problem was because the cap that he put on fell off one day while I was eating a salad.

A very good argument against eating more salads, I'm thinking.

My regular dentist thought the root canal I needed would be better off being done by a root canal specialist. Cause, you know, it was going to be a tough one. I didn't even realize those people actually existed.

My zombie tooth
I went in with a positive attitude. They projected the image of my injured tooth right on the screen in front of me, and I took a picture of it when they were out of the room. I called it my zombie tooth.

The rubber mouth thingy

When it came time for the actual root canal, the first thing that got me going was the rubber contraption they attached in my mouth. I'm not sure if claustrophobic would be the feeling, but I never, ever want to have one of those in my mouth again. Ever. I spent the hour of the first visit while he was working on my tooth trying to convince myself that I could still swallow and he really wasn't trying to suffocate me. Yeah. A little panicky. Then I spent the hour of my second visit doing the same thing. Then I figured out that stress excites my bladder and before I left the dentist's office (on both visits), I had the longest bathroom break of my entire life. I'm not kidding.

As it turns out, the actual root canal was just the beginning.

Twenty-four hours later, almost to the minute, the pain kicked in. The prescription for pain killers did next to nothing. Also, my face swelled up like somebody beat me up. And really, they did.

Here's the thing, though. The pain was pretty much unbearable, but look at where it took me: zombies, claustrophobia, suffocation and headaches. So I sat down and wrote, and I let my imagination take the story where it wanted to go. I wrote about how it felt like something was trying to break out of my head. I wrote from the perspective of the thing trying to break out. I combined the two and edited and rewrote.

Then I included the story in the Twisted book. It's called "Headache," and it made me feel better after I wrote it. And it all started with a common dental procedure.

The zombie part didn't make it in to the story. Maybe Vol. 2.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pennsylvania Academic Standards

One of the things I wanted to put an effort into once I got the book printed was organizing school visits to talk about it. I decided that before I started trying to put a school visit schedule together, it would be a good idea to give schools a reason to have me there.

Yeah, that would be a really good idea.

I know they are on tight budgets these days and aren't able to bring in entertainment like they used to do when I was in school (back in the day). They need their programs to fit their curriculum or they won't be able to justify the expense. So I'm saying hello to the Pennsylvania Academic Standards.

I wanted to do as much work ahead of time for the schools as possible, so my next step is downloading and pouring over lots of pages of academic standards. I've decided to concentrate on my home state to get started (Pennsylvania, duh), and I've downloaded the English and Art academic standards from the state's Web site. (The pdf for the Arts and Humanities standards is "pdfarts.pdf" by the way. Made me giggle.)

I'm not looking forward to trying to decipher and then figure out how to apply some of this stuff, but you know what helps in situations like these? When your husband was an art education professor for 35 years and offers to help. Mine was. And he did. Yep. That's a big help.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Publisher's Catalog in Publication—Got it!

It looks like the book is a little more official now.

Quality Books created a Publisher's Catalog in Publication for Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1, and it's now printed on the copyright page of both the hard cover and paperback editions of the book. There was a brief burp while the new text files were uploaded to the printer, but that's all finished and both editions are back in stock. And looking pretty official.

A Catalog-In-Publication is usually given out by the Library of Congress, but they're not really interested in working with publishers who aren't yet "established" (meaning they have published less than three books). But it's not like somebody else can't do the work for you.

The Catalog in Publication is there to help the librarian catalog your book. That's it. Here's how The Donohue Group (another PCIP vendor) describes it:
"PCIP gives librarians all the information they need to quickly add a record for the book to their database or card catalog. This means improved service to library users (and happy librarians)."
So if you know somebody who knows what all the CIP symbology is about (like a really cool librarian), they could make one for you, if you ask them nice. Otherwise, there are companies that provide the service online for a fee. I think just having happy librarians around makes it worth it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lake Benton Public Library, Minnesota

One of the libraries I sent a free copy of Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1 to was in Lake Benton, Minnesota. Lake Benton is a really small town, but they can still claim an Opera House (the first image below would be it) and a barber shop. The library even wrote about receiving the book in their newsletter, and they were kind enough to send me a thank you note (hand written, of course). That doesn't happen so often these days (and really, they were the only library that did).

So thank you, Lake Benton Public Library, and if another volume of this book ever hits the shelves, watch for your copy in the mail soon after!

(And special thanks to Eileen Stephenson for taking the Lake Benton photos right in the middle of a Minnesota winter and getting them safely to my inbox.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

ePubs and ebooks and mobis

Over the past couple of months I've been teaching myself the ePub thing in Adobe InDesign CS5.5 (a Christmas present from my lovely husband), which wasn't so hard except when you have images that kind of have to be where they are, the way they are. Figured it out, sort of. It just got to the point where I had to decide how much I was willing to give up in exchange for my sanity.

The short version of this is, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth Twisted: Tales to Rot Your Brain Vol. 1 is now available for immediate download on your Kindle! Yay!

I've checked and double-checked and triple-quadruple checked to make sure this thing works on Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle for iPhone and Kindle for iPad. No small feat.

Next victim: the Nook at Barnes & Noble!

As an aside, I just noticed the URL for the book uses the phrase "Twisted-Tales-Your-Brain." I wonder if the "Rot" in the middle of that was too offensive for them.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Reviewed at the Madhouse #twistedtales

Sending out a special "thanks" to Stephanie Wytovich for her review of Twisted in her latest post in the Madhouse. It warms my cockles when somebody gets it:

" fuses the worlds of literature and art together in such a macabre fashion where it’s suitable for kids, but still really creepy and entertaining for adults."

If you (or someone you know) are interested in reviewing the book, send me an email, and we can have ourselves a little talk.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Contest entering

I spent a lot of time this month preparing books to be sent out for writer's contests, and I still don't know. Should I be doing that? Does the starburst stickers on the covers of books really make people want to buy them more? And is that what it should even be about? The groups giving out the awards kind of market their award along the lines of "win our award and get yourself noticed." Any stickers that got stuck would be limited to the ones I stick on the books myself anyway, so I'll just go with the "hey, I can tell everybody I won an award" justification.

I'm probably second guessing the whole awards thing because of past experience with juried art exhibits. It's all a crap shoot. In juried art shows, the jury—or rather the juror (they are usually only one person)—may or may not like the kind of art you do. They may or may not have a sense of humor. They may or may not have had their coffee that morning. They may or may not have had a full night's sleep the night before jurying the show you've spent good money to submit your best piece to (that you've labored over in both creating and choosing to submit). But mostly they might just like a certain kind of work, and if that's the kind of work you do, you're in. If it's not, better luck next time. And then, once you get in, the possibility of actually winning an award is pretty slim. So, yeah, a crap shoot. One person's opinion.

I'm thinking I'll have a go at the writer's contests this year, and if it feels like it's been a total waste of time (and it has taken a lot of time), I can always skip it the next go 'round.

I did a lot of research trying to figure out which awards might be worth entering, and here's the list of the ones I finally submitted to:

The dates the awards are announced vary, but they're all still at least a few months away. So now, all that's left to do is wait. And keep writing more.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Author pages on Goodreads and Amazon

I'm learning, I'm learning.

Everything I'm learning about one thing as a publisher leads me off onto another island of things I need to learn about and do which ends up scooting my raft off onto the next island.

Somewhere in the middle of all this Twisted book stuff, I was able to put together a couple of author pages on Goodreads and Amazon. I'm still learning what I need to do to get everything up to speed, but slowly it's happening.

If you're on Goodreads, give me a shout. A review or rating would be excellent. I'll make you a deal: if you let me know that you would like to review the Twisted book on Goodreads, I'll send you a copy for free to review.

Yep. Free.

That's as good as it gets short of cupcakes.

As for the author pages...


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Business cards for

Over the last couple of weeks I've been working my tail off getting books out to reviewers and submitting for awards. One of the reviewers I sent to (Midwest Book Review) requires a press kit along with their review copies, so I had to back up a little and work on all that in the middle of a ton of mailings.

Let's just say I've been getting a lot of designing done for Hairy Eyeballs Press lately.

One of the things I needed to include in the press kit was business cards. I didn't want to put a whole lot of information on them because I didn't think a lot of that stuff was necessary, at least not right now. I opted for a two-sided card with the Web address on one side (the top card in the photo) and the email address on the other side. I used the same three colors I used on the site, but mixed them around a little on the email side.

For the record, the logo was one I drew by hand. I thought with a name like "Hairy Eyeballs Press", I really needed a hand-drawn logo. It just felt right.

And most importantly of all, I had the cards printed on recycled stock from GotPrint. That's one of the things I've been slowly integrating into my business practices, and I'll write more about that in a later post. Too much to include right now.

So. Business cards. One more step toward migrating toward legitimacy for a little business I thought would be a good idea to call "Hairy Eyeballs Press".

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Books out for review

While I was trying to find contact information to send out books to local libraries, I started seeing a pattern of replies: some of the bigger libraries want to see book reviews from major sources before they're willing to stock your book in their library. So I guess I need to back up the truck a little. In researching reviewers, I'm finding some of those major sources cost some major money, so I had to do a little sifting to figure out how much a review was worth from which reviewers.

I've spent the last few weeks getting everything together to send copies of the book out to the reviewers I've narrowed the list down to. Different review places want different things, and that meant I had to not only write what they were looking for (media kit information), but I had to design some stuff, too (Hairy Eyeballs Press letterhead and business cards). It's a a wee bit time consuming, but I guess that's what you're in for when you're a one-person operation.

[the places I sent to...]

Publishers Weekly—I think PW will be a bit of a stretch if I can get a review out of them. The first thing you have to do is register your book in their quarterly supplement (it costs money). Then, if the stars align for you, you could be one of the 25 or so books that PW picks for review. Twisted will be listed in their March supplement and, if it gets reviewed, that review will print in the same supplement. I would say, "Don't hold your breath," but I'm holding mine, so who am I to stop you?

American Library Association—ALA doesn't charge anything for a review, but it's looking like your chances of them picking your book to review are pretty slim. Their site says they get more than 60,000 submissions each year. Ouch.

Midwest Book Review—Midwest Book Review might be a little more promising when it comes to getting picked for review. I'm not really sure why I feel that way because right on their site they say only half of the books submitted make it to final review for various reasons, and they receive 50 book submissions each day (I did the math for you: that's 18,250 submissions a year. Unless it's a leap year which, of course, this is, and then it would be 18,300). I guess I feel a little hopeful because they give special preference to self-published books.

I'm keeping Kirkus in my back pocket for now. They'll do your review for you, but it will cost you $425. I'm not sure if I can justify or afford the cost right now. Maybe if I sell a few more books on Amazon? Maybe some more people could write a review on Barnes & Noble? Maybe you can tell your friends? Your family? The person sitting beside you on the bus?

In the meantime, I'll be watching to see if I get any reviews from the ones I sent.

Crossing them fingers.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book plates for the libraries

In my last post here (two weeks ago—I know), I told you about how I set up a form on the Hairy Eyeballs site where you could request a free book for your local public library.

Well, things haven't exactly gone as planned (as if they ever do)...

About five days after that post I totally migrated all my sites, emails and domain names out of GoDaddy's life. Lots of work. Lots of nail-biting. Lots of "Yay! I did it!" I'll have to tell you about that at a later date. All you need to know right now is that the form I sent you to in the last post? Yeah. That's not working at the moment. It looks like I'm going to have to do a little coaxing for that to happen, so don't expect anything out of that form until further notice.

What I was able to accomplish over the last couple of weeks was get the books that were already requested ready to ship out. I designed a book plate for inside the front cover of each book showing what library the book was donated to and who requested the donation.

And here it is, all fancy-shmancy like:

And now for the totally geeky colophon stuff:

The main font is ITC Blackadder, designed by Bob Anderton for Linotype. It reminds me of a treasure map, which felt right for the design.

The "Pittsburgh, PA" font is VT Portable Remington, designed by Susan Townsend and was also used for the chapter titles and page numbers in the book.

The handwriting in the background is a couple of images of Leonardo da Vinci's writing that I melded together in Photoshop. Here's a cool Leonardo handwriting generator that lets you type in words to see what they might have looked like if Leo had written them.

The Hairy Eyeballs Press logo was hand drawn by me during breaks at my day job. Just a little mindless doodling and there you go.