What I’ve learned from self-publishing

It’s been one year since I self-published my first novella. Boy was that an adventure and a half. Just months earlier I had written my first short story (Storm of Passion). The overwhelming positive feedback and encouragement I received from readers prompted me to write an expanded version of the original short story. Mind you, I had no prior writing experience or training, yet, I boldly went where I had never gone before.

The first draft of the manuscript was sent off to a small group of Beta readers who volunteered to give their feedback on my story, grammar, punctuation, etc. Their comments came back and I could barely make out the actual manuscript from their too numerous to count comments. I sifted through their notes and I made revisions to the manuscript. After reading my revised work, I created cover art for the book cover and then formatted the manuscript for submission to Amazon and Smashwords.

Already, I had learned some valuable lessons and more would follow:

  1. Importance of patience

    Take the time to do it right to my fullest ability. Don’t rush.

    My novel Auf Wiedersehen~Journey to Goodbye is the perfect example. It’s been three years in the making and it’s still morphing and improving as each day passes. This is the fourteenth re-write, the core story has not changed, but the manner of how the story unfolds has changed dramatically. Patience I tell myself – Rome was not built in a day.

  2. Importance of relying on the kindness of others

    I could save myself time and frustration if I do it alone, but the final outcome is more rewarding if I recruit outside help. Beta readers for example, they were wonderful. But they had not been in total agreement with their generous comments and suggestions during the Storm of Passion Beta read. I took from the experience the comments I was in agreement and revised the manuscript of my first novella.

  3. Importance of editing & proofreading

    Ok, here’s where I learned the valuable lesson about the importance of proper editing and proofreading. After the novella (Storm of Passion) was published, the reviewers comments were focused on the lack of and need of editing and proofreading. I will be the first to admit that I have no idea how to structure a proper sentence, my punctuation skills suck and I can’t spell worth a ding dong. But through my many flaws and inadequacies, I was still able to get the gist of my story across to most readers.

    An author friend told me that there are three kinds of writers:

    1. The technical writer: an individual that has the training and proficient skills to write professionally, but they aren’t as creative as a storyteller.

    2. The storyteller: an individual that can mesmerize his/her audience with endless stories, but can’t write a proper sentence if his/her life depended on it.

    3. The technical writer AND storyteller: an individual who possesses BOTH talents (like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling), but this kind of extraordinary talent only comes along once in a blue moon.

    So, I’ve accepted the fact that I can weave a yarn (in fact quite a few) but lack the technical training and ability. There are lots of folks in this world that are more than willing to assist, if only I ask.

  1. Importance of formatting

    Formatting a manuscript for self-publishing can be a chore and a headache. I read all the manuals and help hints and guidelines before I began my various forms of formatting for self-publishing. I applied all of the knowledge I had absorbed and began the online manuscript submission process. Overall, they came out ok, there were a few minor glitches I was unable to rectify.

    Recently the importance of proper formatting slapped me in the face (big time) as I read a self-published book on my Kindle. The text was all over the place, and not on just that page but the entire book. It was difficult to follow the story and especially the witty dialogue. I limped through the rest of the book, just because I was drawn into a wonderful story. Had the book been better formatted, the read would have been much more enjoyable. After all, isn’t that what a reader wants, an enjoyable read?

  2. Importance of believing in myself

    I’d have to say that the most important lesson I’ve learned is to believe in myself and to follow my dream. From the start, I realized that I had to block out the little voice inside me, the one that said I couldn’t do it. Because I ended up doing it! I had self-published my first book.

    I had considered the suggestions and comments from Beta readers and took what I deemed the better of the advice and applied it to my writing. I never compromised my story, but willingly listened to the advice along the way. Ultimately, that advice vastly improved my story.

    After the Beta read of my second novella Masked Identities, one of the Beta readers advised me to trash the whole manuscript as it was nothing but sheer crap. Sure, the comment stung, but I wasn’t about to let one person’s opinion squash my story. After all, for each story read, each individual reader will take away a different opinion. This particular comment had only been one person’s opinion. I forged ahead and self-published the manuscript. As of this writing, Masked Identities has two 5-star reviews posted on Amazon and additional 5-star reviews on other review sites.

  3. Importance of setting a goal

    Right from the start, I was determined to write and publish my stories, because I had tales to share. I wasn’t writing for fame or money, I wrote to tell my stories. Sure, my books haven’t graced the best-seller lists, nor have I received huge, whoppin’ commission checks, but that wasn’t my goal. I enjoy weaving my tales and hope that one or two readers will be whisked away from reality for a few minutes and settle into the fictional world I create in the form of a written story.

    Pulpit To Porn, my current WIP is just that kind of novella.

  4. What have I learned?

    More than I could have ever imagined. I’ve traveled to places and periods in history where it would have been otherwise impossible. I’ve become intimately acquainted with colorful characters living within my imagination. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve cheered. I’ve told my yarn.

    That’s the reward of self-publishing …


Dustin Reviews: What A Tangled Web: A Non Fiction Narrative by Daniel Curzon

The Dark Side of the Internet appears in the form of a so-called Teacher Review website that becomes a source of Machiavellian deviltry.

A college teacher (Dr. Nathaniel Tack) runs into the dark side of the Internet when a libelous website is allowed to post lies. Also tells the story of being a gay father as well as being in a hard-fought love relationship with another man. A side theme is the stranglehold Political Correctness has on telling the truth.

What A Tangled Web was a delightfully funny story, but a difficult read due to a slaughtered job of Kindle formatting. The text was all over the place which made it difficult to follow the witty dialogue. Let’s not even begin on the long list of missing words and repeated phases. This manuscript needs a good thorough editing/proofreading. Overlooking the train-wreck technical flaws, the story was wonderful, it was just difficult to read due to the overwhelming amount of errors. I give the story a 5+, however the technical issues made for an uncomfortable read. Overall, the best I can rate this book is an anemic 3.

About the author

Daniel Curzon (born March 19, 1938) is the pen name of Daniel R. Brown. He is the author of Something You Do in the Dark, first published by G. P. Putnam in 1971 and which may be considered as one of the first gay protest novels.It is the story of a gay man’s attempt to avenge his entrapment by a Detroit vice squad police officer by murdering him.

Curzon has written other novels, including The Misadventures of Tim McPick (original title: Queer Comedy), From Violent Men, Among the Carnivores, The World Can Break Your Heart, Curzon in Love, The Bubble Reputation, or Shakespeare Lives!, and What a Tangled Web. His non-fiction books include The Big Book of In-Your-Face Gay Etiquette andDropping Names: The Delicious Memoirs of Daniel Curzon. This last was described by Ian Young in Torson as “ferociously honest and very funny” and by Philip Clark in Lambda Book Report as “a blunt, hilarious, page-turning ride that is…impossible to put down.”

Curzon edited and published the early homophile magazine “Gay Literature: A New Journal” In 1975 and 1976. The magazine included poetry, fiction, literary reviews, essays, photography, and short plays. Curzon’s own written work sometimes was included. Curzon contributed articles for other magazines such as “Gay Times” in 1976 and “Alternate” in 1978.

In the theater, Curzon won the 1999 National New Play Contest for Godot Arrives, and has won many other play contests, such as the Great Platte River Play Contest. His play My Unknown Son was produced off-Broadway at the Circle Rep Lab in 1987 and at the Kaufmann Theatre in 1988, as well as in Los Angeles in 1997. Baker’s Plays published Curzon’s one-act play, A Fool’s Audition. Seven volumes of his Collected Plays have been published as POD books through BookSurge.

Curzon, who is openly gay, is currently a retired professor of English.(Wikipedia)

What A Tangled Web: A Non Fiction Narrative is available at: Amazon

Tags: pet, chicago, alcoholism, sexual violence, rape, oral sex, black gay, dogs

Print Length: 569 pages
Publisher: IGNA Books (February 24, 2010)
Language: English
ASIN: B003XT5J92

3- out of 5 stars

Running – Running – Running Away

During his high school years, he was like most teens who grew up in small towns, he wanted to move away and pursue a dream far from the confines of a small community. He had a burning desire to get as far away from that town and as soon as he could –  he couldn’t get out fast enough. He wanted to shake the haunting memories and the life that he thought he should have had, but hadn’t had. He wanted out so badly he hadn’t considered where he was running too, just as long as he wasn’t in the shadow of that town.

When the time came, he was gone!

He didn’t look back as he passed the city limits – he didn’t even think twice. He was free at last. But as the months and years passed, he still couldn’t separate himself from his past. He traveled further and further away, yet, he couldn’t get far enough away. He kept running, running away from a past that he didn’t want to claim as his own.

For ten years he ran and was still no further from the past than when he started. Finally giving up, he realized that no matter where he traveled, the past would always be there, stalking and haunting him.

Less than one year ago, I began to write a novel OUTED BY ANGER. Angrily I wrote about a young boy coming out in a small rural Oklahoma town during the 70’s. Hate, bullying, prejudice were the key words in a politically charged theme attacking the establishment. Just this past week, I re-read the first six chapters of the incomplete rough draft. In my reading I was stunned that I was perpetuating the very theme that I was taking a stand against: HATE.

I stepped back and re-examined the very story that has been in my head since I was in high school, now the beginning of a manuscript – a manuscript that turned my stomach. This is not the way I had intended to tell this story.

I began at the very beginning of the manuscript and started editing the story. Instead of a narration from the hindsight perspective of an angry man, I turned the voice into that of a confused and naive teen boy. Through the eyes of a teen boy, the story unfolds. My hateful and angry prose were replaced with compassion and sympathy for a boy on a journey through his internal confusion and insecurities. A story of navigation along a rough road of discovery into small town politics and religious prejudice. A tale of a boy with only one objective – to escape the town as soon as he could.

That boy was me.

As I write this story which parallels my own high school experiences, I’m coming face-to-face with my past, the very past I’ve spent my entire life running from. Yet I’m sensing that in writing this tale, it might possibly explain what has eluded me for so very long. What exactly was I running from? Or was I running toward a destination which I had failed to define? A story which began as a coming-of-age story about a young teen boy, may very well become a journey of revelation for the man who is writing it.

The Never Ending Chapter…

It’s a new year, a time to put the past behind and to begin fresh and new. The arrival of a new year is like closing one chapter and beginning a new one. But I’m stuck in a rut and for some reason, I can’t seem to move into the next chapter. Did I forget to set up the story line for the next chapter? What am I missing? Why can’t I get the story to move forward?

My life is just one gigantimous ongoing novel. I expect to complete one chapter and move seamlessly into the next. Somehow my life hit a snag-a-boo and the last chapter seems to keep rewriting itself over and over. It’s as if I’m stuck in a looped instant replay. The chapter can’t be deleted and I can’t find a way to edit it.

Aren’t I supposed to be the author of my own life?

What the F***! Where did my story go?

One fine day, a little over one year ago, I sat down at the laptop and started writing a story. I had never written anything in my life, other than some crappy reports in school. To be honest, I hated to write.

Several months had passed and the manuscript grew longer and longer with each passing day, until one afternoon I had typed the the final words to, not just a story, but a novel.

A friend read the manuscript and insisted I submit it to be published.

I didn’t exactly know how the whole submission process worked. I had read that a Literary Agent was a good way for an unknown author to get his/her inaugural work in front of a potential publisher. So, I queried a few potential agents and within a few weeks I signed a contract. Now, I would sit back and wait for the offers to roll in, or so I thought.

Months had passed without a word from my agent. During the waiting period, I had written and self-published a short story and a novella, with more ideas brewing in my brain.

While self-publishing my works, I had learned a lot about the publishing industry and even more about the writing process itself.

The finest lesson I learned was about a special group of individuals called: Beta Readers.

Before I self-published my short story and novella, these fine folks tore apart my manuscripts, not in a bad way, they had helped to improve the stories immensely.

Beta Readers have now become an important part in my writing process. I transfer their tons of notes, highlighted words/phrases, suggestions and corrections to my grammar and punctuation, onto my MASTER MANUSCRIPT. Each Beta has a predetermined font color and I add all of the colorful notes directly into my manuscript (corresponding with the particular issue). When I have completely transferred all the notes onto the MASTER, it looks quite colorful and pretty with all of those different colored fonts.

A friend noticed my MASTER on my laptop one afternoon and she inquired about it. I explained to her how my manuscript revision method worked. After all the colored Beta comments are posted onto the MASTER, I start at the beginning of the manuscript and address each Beta issue. One at a time, I make my revision or correction and delete the colored Beta comment and move onto the next Beta issue until no colored Beta comments remain on the MASTER. After addressing and deleting all of the Beta issues, my MASTER is a totally revised manuscript.

My friend began to read some of the Beta comments and became extremely offended over comments they had made in regards to my manuscript.

I closed the laptop and immediately changed the subject, not wishing to get into an involved discussion of how their comments made my stories more readable.

Several additional months had passed and still no communication from my Literary Agent about my novel. I sent copies of the novel manuscript to Beta’s for an initial evaluation. WOW! Was I ever impressed with their extensive comments.
After completing a new revision of the manuscript, I sent the improved version off to another round of Beta’s.

Result: the Beta’s suggested the deletion of six entire chapters and in doing so required major modification to the story.

My contract with the Literary Agent had expired, without even an email asking if I wished to extend it.

I have since realized that my involvement with the agency had been a waste of time. The agent had lead me to believe I had an excellent manuscript, ready for publication and the agency would locate the most suitable publisher for my work. In actuality, my manuscript was a piece of shit and needed a tremendous amount of reworking before it could be considered “submission ready”.

On my own initiative, Auf Wiedersehen~Journey to Goodbye has already gone through eight entire rewrites and I have begun the final revision. It’s basically the same story as it was one year ago, but it reads like a real novel now.

Funny how things in our lives change, sometimes over night. Nineteen months ago, I sat down at the laptop to write just one measly story…

A Story Without a Genre – or – If You Write It a Genre Will Come

For months, I did research for my latest novella, Masked Identities. The storyline includes a period story sandwiched within a contemporary story. In other words, I was writing two stories that would ultimately become one.

The interior story of Ambrose and Sebastian takes place in 1890 Victorian London. Mind you, I have never been off the shores of North America and I definitely had not lived in the 19th Century (at least not during this lifetime). To properly tell this story required months of research into Victorian London history. I recreated a large 19th Century map of London which was taped to the wall in front of me along with reproduced photos of clothing styles, buildings, actual newspaper articles, court and police records, birth records (to select from popular names given to infants during the period), along with tons and tons of notes. During my research I discovered actual events, places and even people that made the story seem like it was becoming more than just a work of fiction. Not having written a “period” piece before, I encountered a challenge with phrases and words that sounded too contemporary or too “American”. Luckily, I had come across two comprehensive directories of “1890 Victorian Slang Terms” which was quite beneficial as well as educational. I began incorporating the results of my research into my story. There was a nagging voice constantly chattering in my head: “The story has to be authentic and historically accurate.”

Once the interior story was completed, I finished the contemporary (exterior) story of a troubled relationship between Megan and her boyfriend, Chandler. But, I had two different endings and was undecided of which to use. I flipped a coin and that decided the ending.

The completed story was sent out to Beta Readers for review. The extensive comments were mixed and quite varying. The Beta’s were evenly tied in their comments of how the story should end, although they had no idea I had a second ending which I had not included in the manuscript. During the revision I decided to include both ending, so the story had an alternate ending. I would leave the selection of the ending to the reader.

Then what to do about about Cover Art? I had six mock-ups and was just as undecided on which I liked best, so I put the mock-ups to a vote of my peers on Facebook.

The story was completed and ready for publication. So, exactly how many writing rules had I broken?

(1) The story has both a Contemporary story and a Period story – OK, that’s a genre specific issue.
(2) The interior story is gay themed and the interior story is hetero themed – another problem.
(3) An alternative ending rather than just one ending – can I break any more writing rules?

To publish the story, I had to consider exactly which genre did this story belong? The publishing industry has specific established genres and my story severely crossed over genre lines. Pondering my dilemma, I questioned why in the heck had I written this story in the first place.

I was reminded of an author friend who recently told me that there are two kinds of writers:
(1) The writer who follows all the rules of grammar, punctuation and writes the edit-perfect book.
(2) Then, there is the “story teller” who creates wonderful tales, but does not follow the writing rules, either due to a lack of formal training or just because they are a rebel.

The author friend had classified my writing style in the second category, as a “story teller”. Yes, I can tell you a tale, but don’t ask me to diagram a sentence, or ask me to identify an adverb or a noun, and I’ll put a period or comma wherever I feel like it. And what the **** is a gerund?

I was reminded of Cyril Connolly, who said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Masked Identities was released in digital format on December 4, 2011 and the paperback edition will follow. Maybe no one will read my story, and those that do may not like it. Whatever the case, I will always consider Masked Identities as my alternative fiction that lacked a genre.

Synopsis of Masked Identities

Megan thought she had read every book in her grandfather’s extensive collection of fiction, until stumbling upon an unfamiliar title. Curious, she delves into the book, realizing that her own relationship with her boyfriend of four years parallels the story she is reading of Ambrose and Sebastian. Can a story of love between two men provide the answers to salvage her floundering relationship?

This unusual tale is actually a period story wrapped inside of a contemporary storyline. The interior story includes actual places and events of 1890 Victorian London. One story follows the relationship of two men in Britain, the other story follows Megan and Chandler in upstate New York, USA. Not specifically defined as a romance novella, since this manuscript crosses genre specific lines: gay / hetero, period / contemporary, and even includes an alternate ending. Definitely not the traditional run-of-the-mill read, but a journey into alternative fiction.

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006IU902U
Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/111086

Where do authors come up with those fabbo story lines?

No matter what author you talk to, no two will give you the same answer, probably because author’s stories are generated from somewhere that isn’t tangible. The funniest myth I have heard is that authors use a computer program which they fill in the names of the characters and their story is randomly generated. Ha! If it were only that easy everyone would be “generating” stories.

Some writers have reported that they develop a plot, then carefully diagram out a detailed outline. While others just sit down in front of the puter and craft a story onto a word processor as they go along. I actually dream my stories while I am sleeping. The process is like watching a movie on a theater screen. I will dream a scene repeatedly over the course of the night. In the morning, I enter the scene into the word processor and that same scene will continue to play night after night until I have captured all of the details into the word processor. Then, for some strange reason when the projectionist in my head is satisfied with what I have written, he will play the next scene of the movie. This continues until the entire story or nightly dream-movie is captured as a completed manuscript. I am continually amazed when I go back and read what I had written. If it weren’t for the little projectionist in my nightly dreams, I would have no earthly idea where to start writing.

I have learned that during the initial writing stage I sleep with a hand held voice recorder in my hand to record any thoughts when I wake during the night. It’s been a great help, for many times I’ve had these really awesome ideas during the night but when I wake up in the morning, the thought is gone or the phrasing isn’t as brilliant as the original. What is it about sunlight that diminishes our night time inspirations?

Just as there are a myriad of authors, each author has their own writing process that works well for him/her. Either just sitting down and forcing an idea, plotting an idea, writing a story around an idea or dreaming it, each author is just as unique as the stories they write. So, the next time you are reading a book, an article or a short story remember that somewhere an author plunked the idea down on paper or into a word processor and did not use the elusive Computerized Generating Book Writing Program, it all originated inside an author’s head before it became reading material.