Thursday, May 27, 2010


Gwynn Ambrose is a first-time published author with Penumbra Publishing, and also has contributed to the design and execution of several book covers for Penumbra Publishing. Leslie Dyer, Sales/Promotion Director at Penumbra Publishing, conducted an online interview with Gwynn to share her views and experiences with artists and writers everywhere.

PP: Gwynn, please tell us about your background interests. How long have you been writing, and how long have you sustained an interest in art?

GA: Leslie, I've been interested in drawing all my life, from the time I was a tot and got spanked for coloring on the walls at home. I've always been a doodler, drawing little images or scribbles in the margins of whatever might be at hand, be it school homework, utility bills, or notepads by the phone. This tendency has often gotten me in a bit of trouble.

My interest in writing arose when I was required to produce a 'term paper' in eighth grade for social studies, incorporating various geological and sociological factoids. Bored with the prospect of writing a dry treatise on the gross national products of several different countries, I decided to ‘spice things up’ by writing a short story about a ship at sea that visited several ports. The various characters were involved in such things as diamond-smuggling and attempted murder aboard ship. This apparently impressed my hard-nosed teacher, and she pointed out my effort to the class as a shining example of how to creatively fulfill the homework requirement. The experience was an eye-opener for me, and I realized then that a lot of the artwork I’d been doing – drawings, paintings, etc. – were actually illustrations depicting a scene of conflict or action or drama. It was then I realized I was a storyteller, or at least wanted to be one. I went on to illustrate my own comics (or graphic novels, as they are now referred to), and busily wrote many daring and romantic stories to entertain myself. It wasn’t until several years later that I realized I too could become an author of books like those that I eagerly devoured for escapism. It took me a long while to get up the courage to participate in some online and in-person writing and critique groups. When I decided I’d finally developed the writing maturity to complete a novel (short as it is), I felt I was ready for publishing.

In the meantime, I amused myself with learning how to create electronic-based illustrations for book covers and other purposes. So the art and the writing have pretty much gone hand-in-hand for me. I’m sure many other people have similar background stories to tell about their experiences. I know I’m not unique in this, because there are so many creative and successful artists and authors out there, it astounds me.

PP: What are your future plans for putting your creative skills to work?

GA: I hope to remain involved in cover production for Penumbra Publishing, as I’m happy with the environment and eager to tackle creative challenges that each new book cover presents. As far as writing goes, I am involved in a lot of other activities, so sometimes writing gets put on the back burner, even when I have a strong desire to work on current writing projects. Sometimes it’s difficult to set priorities so that personal wants and needs are met satisfactorily. I guess if I were to look at my writing as a profession rather than a hobby, my priorities would necessarily have to change, but that’s hard to accomplish with a ‘day job’ that interferes with preferred pastimes, even if that job represents the major earnings potential in my life.

I guess my real goal, then, is to replace my day job with a creative gig that can sustain the same or even surpass my current earnings I'm making now while working for someone else. Of course I never forget that even self-employed authors and artists always end up working for somebody else somehow, to some degree – and usually the person they work for is the one who buys their work. So it’s a trade-off, but I hope to make it one where I call most of the shots and make most of the decisions I want to make, rather than having someone tell me when to show up and when to leave, and what to do in between. The dream of self-employment seems to promise an end to that, but oftentimes, for writers especially, deadlines loom almost as oppressively as a punching a time-clock.

PP: Gwynn, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

GA: Thank you for asking!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Latest Book News and Updates


The Cat's Fancy is now available in print on Amazon and our web site, and is coming soon in ebook (Amazon Kindle and in other formats at Smashwords and our web site). The Cat's Fancy is a cute, short, and sweet romance revolving around matchmaker Max the Cat. Cat lovers and romance readers, check it out!


Great news - Robert Wetherall's dramatic story of a woman's love of flying has been accepted for publishing and will be available in print and ebook soon. "Last Flight Home" - an emotional tale full of technically accurate background information on piloting and the corporate world of airlines during the Sixties and Seventies.


Progress Report: Andrew Arrowsmith's gripping high fantasy tale "The Realms of Beliar - The Sword Myndarit" features a stubborn and resilient heroine and her entourage as they seek a sentient sword to help them save the Empire from the encroaching evil Alliance. In the last stages of preprint production, the book is coming soon in print and ebook. Stay tuned for more updates on the upcoming release date!


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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Are you and your book ready for publishing?

Many writers want to be published authors but simply aren’t ready.

The reasons are many, but very few newbie writers recognize them. The main reason a writer isn’t ready for publishing is he/she hasn’t put forth the necessary effort to learn the basics that good writing requires – an understanding of grammar and story structure, and the skill to make writing interesting. While just about anyone can string some sentences together to tell a tale, whether it’s something the typical reader will want to spend time reading is another question altogether. Learning and honing these skills takes time and effort – two things in short supply for the impatient newbie writer.

The upsurge of self-publishing in recent years has fueled this impatience, and subsidy or vanity publishers have helped make self-publishing appear to be the grand answer for anyone who thinks he has something worthwhile to say and wants to see it in print.

Self-publishing feeds the desires of newbie writers who rush to see their work in print without first taking the very necessary steps to properly edit and package their books to garner the respect and attention of readers. What can often result is a poorly designed book riddled with laughable errors and saddled with a rudimentary or even embarrassing cover. The opposite can also result – the eager author shells out thousands of dollars to a subsidy publisher, hoping to get a decent cover design and competent editing. Oftentimes those hopes go unrealized, and the book is overpriced out of the normal reader buying market.

So how is the typical newbie writer supposed to figure out when his/her book is ready for publishing? A first step generally taken by most authors serious about attaining publishing status is to get an impartial independent opinion of their book’s publishability. A legitimate and trusted writing critique group can provide valuable insight regarding first-reader reactions to a book. If the writer can’t stand the heat from a writing group, then submission to a publisher or agent is out of the question. So getting one’s feet wet by testing the waters of a local or online writer group is nearly essential. Don’t go by the opinions of friends and family as most of these folks will tell what they think the writer wants to hear rather than what they really think.

Once the author has received sufficient feedback to get a feel for what test readers and fellow authors think of the book – and assuming the feedback is favorable – the submission process to a legitimate publisher or agent is the best trial by fire method for determining whether a book is ready for publishing.

The important thing to remember is that rejection of one’s work from for-profit professionals such as agents and publishers may not be based on the perceived worth or quality of the writing, but more on the projected marketability of the work. And each publisher or agent’s opinion can be based on a variety of factors the author may never be aware of – for instance, another book that is similar is already in the publishing process, or the submission load at that particular time is too high and there’s no one available to properly review the book the writer submits for consideration.

It’s also important for the newbie author to realize that not every writer gets a superior publishing contract with one of the big traditional publishers. Sometimes smaller independent publishers are a better choice. The writer’s most important job after finishing and polishing the work is to research and submit to publishers or agents that seem to be a ‘good fit.’

Self-publishing can seem like a quick, inexpensive, and easy alternative to the work of researching, submitting, waiting, and possibly being rejected by publishers or agents. But make no mistake in believing it is easy – if the book is to have the look and feel of a professionally published book, the author must either hire professionals to do the prepress work, or personally be up to the challenge.

And then there’s the marketing aspect. Self-publishing requires the author to be sales rep and distributor and promotion king all at the same time. While it’s true that most authors, even best-selling authors, must take part in promotion activities, those with name recognition already are way ahead of the game. Stop and think about it a moment. Who will buy your book if no one knows it exists? It will be your job as the author to make readers aware of you and your book. Are you ready for that? If not, then think again about considering yourself ready for publishing.

Your Book - Creation or Commodity


You’re an author, and you’ve finally finished your book, the project you’ve slaved over to make as perfect as you can. It’s your personal tome, a part of you, your baby, your creation.

Now what?

Now that you’ve finished the thing that’s taken over your life for (insert number of years you worked slavishly on your book), what are you going to do next? Are you going to stuff it away somewhere, never to be seen again, or are you going to tout it to the world? The next logical step for most authors serious about writing is to seek publication. A good many will not take this next step due to personal fears or other obstacles, but one thing’s for sure … the motivation for writing will drive what you do next.

So, why’d you write the darn thing in the first place?

Every author has a reason for writing, and not all authors’ reasons are the same. Some dream of instant fame and fortune so they can quit their despised ‘day job’ and not have to worry about money or anything else ever again. (A fantasy that rarely comes true for the typical author.) Others have something to prove to someone, the world, or themselves – usually that they can finish something they set out to do. Still others have a story inside them that’s bursting to be told. The reasons are probably as numerous as the authors who harbor them, but one thing’s for sure, very few people will have spent years of their life losing sleep and missing the growing up of their children just to write a bunch of words that will sit forever in a dusty box under the bed. Writing is a legacy, a thing left behind to remind the world that the author lived and had something he or she felt was worthwhile to say. And that is why most authors want to see their work published and read by others – as a testament and sharing of their thoughts, their lives.
Which brings us back to the question … creation or commodity?

While the story remains in the sole possession of the author, it remains his baby, his creation. However, as soon as the author relinquishes control of the story for publishing, it ceases to be the author’s possession. It ceases to be one of a kind, an oddity or curiosity for contemplation and appreciation. It ceases to be a creation.

When the story is published, it becomes a thing to be replicated and packaged and marketed and sold to consumers. It becomes a commodity.

And why is this distinction important?

One word: marketing. The publisher wants to sell books to make money. The reader wants to buy books to read. These two groups therefore look at the book as a commodity to be bought and sold and used (or consumed) for a practical purpose. A creation on the other hand, while it might be purchased, does not usually serve a practical, consumable purpose. So once the author’s work is handed over for publishing, it becomes a commodity that must be marketed if it is to be sold.


While no author wants to imagine reducing all his hard work and thoughts – his soul – to a pricetagged item for sale, that’s exactly what the author’s book becomes in the hands of those who will use or consume it – his readers. But this shift in thinking is absolutely necessary for the author to realize that sales of his book may very well depend on his own salesmanship.
The author may have spent years honing his writing skills to perfect his book without ever realizing he’d have to equally hone his sales skills to get his book into the hands of interested readers. But that’s exactly what has to happen.

We’ll talk more about marketing in a later post. For now, let it be enough to burst the bubble of the fantasy that sets the author apart as a creative genius with no responsibility for the future success of his creation. The author must sponsor and promote his creation so that it thrives in the commercial world of commodities for sale and consumption.

America's Galactic Foreign Legion Book 2

America’s Galactic Foreign Legion -Walter Knight’s BOOK 2: REENLISTMENT, the second book in the America’s Galactic Foreign Legion series, is now available in print and ebook. Get your copy today and enjoy more laughs as gambler, casino boss, and ex-legionnaire Joey Czerinski continues dealing with alien spider adversaries in the politically incorrect military space saga…