GiveAway Winners Revealed…

Blog winner imageTHANK YOU ALL!

What a phenomenal turnout! I’m thrilled with the wonderful response! I’m definitely doing this again next year (hopefully, announcing the launch of my next novel).

Before I announce the winners of the KindleFire and Amazon Gift cards, I want to thank all of you who stopped by, left comments, left a drive-by hello, and/or shared this post all over. I’ve had over 1K+ shares of my Anniversary GiveAway post!

O.M.G.! I am Gobsmacked by the response! I wish I could give each and every one of you a gift, but of course, I can’t.

I also want to thank Stephanie Neighbour, Margie Miklas, and Lelani Black for graciously allowing me to BlogShare on their sites. I also want to thank Barb Drozdowich, my computer Goddess, for creating this lovely site to post my Anniversary Blog. These wonderful ladies are proof, you can meet great people online and become lifelong friends/sisters. I love each of you ladies from my soul.

OK…Here are the Winners of my 2nd Anniversary GiveAway!

$25 Amazon Gift Card Winner… Enrique Herrera – 

$50 Amazon Gift Card Winner… Barbara Adams – 

$100 Amazon Gift Card Winner… Donna N -

KindleFire Winner… Jacob Billings –

I will email each of you to confirm your win. According to the rules of the rafflecopter, you must respond back to me within 24 hours or another participant will be chosen. So, get back to me as soon as possible!

To all of my lovely followers…Thank you for following me on this gut-wrenching, often overwhelming, always amazing journey; catching me when I stumbled, embracing me when I fell.

Falling, is part of life. It’s the getting back up that is truly living… #WarriorDash here I come!

” We define ourselves by the best that is in us, not by the worst that’s been done to us…” ~Anonymous

The best of me...my girls.

The best of me…my girls.

 

Write with passion…

Taylor~

 

 

Audiobooks: Emily Eldridge~She is my voice…

MPWB AUDIOimageThis is it!

My 2nd Anniversary Blog GiveAway!

Yeah…I know! I can’t believe it! My journey is almost complete…It will officially end May 16th when I run in the #WarriorDash 5K obstacle run to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I’m happy the money is going for that worthy cause, but my reasons for running are selfish, I’m afraid. This book journey has taken me from quiet, subdued, doormat, and transformed me into a Warrior for myself and Sexually Abused Children.

So here it is, two years of social media, my new and improved website, and the revised publication and redistribution of my book, in ALL formats, including an audiobook! Who’d of thunk it! Now it’s time to Celebrate! And this time, I’m doing it right!

So, what do you have to do to be entered in this Rafflecopter Giveaway? Just leave a comment and share this post (Facebook, Twitter, etc…). Easy-peasy!

You don’t have to wax poetic. You don’t even have to say anything…you can leave an * or an emoji, or any (clean) text you want. You’ll automatically be entered in my Giveaway, which by the way, is HUGE!

First prize…A 7″ HD~8GB Kindle Fire

Second prize… A $100 Amazon Gift Card

Third prize… A $50 Amazon Gift Card

Fourth prize… A $25 Amazon Gift Card

So…Let’s do this!

All you need to do is to sign into the Rafflecopter widget below to register your points. Click on the activities that you do – leave a comment or share this post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

AUDIOBOOKS: AN UNTAPPED GOLD MINE OF READERS

ACX is where it’s at when it comes to producing a professional quality audiobook. It is another company owned by Amazon that is linked to Audible.com and iTunes. I first learned about ACX and their services while in New York at the Book Expo of America, for the IRDA~Indie Readers Discovery Award  in July, 2013. They had a booth right next to the Createspace Booth where I received my first award for my book.

ACX~Audiobook Creation ExchangeThey loaded me up with hoards of informational material and coupons for free audiobook downloads on Audible.com. I was overwhelmed by all the information they gave me, and thrilled by the coupons!

I love audiobooks! I have over three hundred in my iTunes library. They’ve come a long way over the last decade, and it’s no longer a monotone, lifeless voice reading with a case of the doldrums.

Narrators are actors, gifted souls portraying and becoming the characters in the books they read. Their skills and abilities bring a book to life! I am amazed by their talent in terms of voice, pitch, tempo, and character distinction. To hear a conversation between a male and female character, each with their own distinct and different voice, is a wonder and a pleasure to hear. They can literally take you away to another place and time…So much so, I’m afraid I was transported back to my past while listening to mine…

Em Eldridge ACX Narrator

When I left New York, award and information in tow, I really didn’t expect to ever be in a position to make MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS an audiobook. I thought it was too involved, too technically difficult, and way too pricey. I was wrong…

The process is relatively easy…

  • Go to ACX.com and set up an account.
  • Fill in the metadata for your book and answer a few questions regarding your copyright, if you are the rights holder, and links to your book on Amazon. It’s much like filling out the info on your Author Central page or KDP page.
  • Fill out the Title Profile. This is where you put all the enticing attributes about your book. This should include a short synopsis of the book, where it is sold, how many reviews the book has received, any awards it has garnished, and anything else that would entice a narrator to audition for the book. This is where you want to make your book shine. All of this information, including your Twitter following, and your Facebook fan base will be placed on an open forum for all of the narrators to see before they submit for auditions.
  • You can post cover art…but you must make sure it is a square cover, with ACX specifications ( I did a blog post about the difficulty doing this…you can read it here). I have read that it’s very hard to remove cover art once it has been uploaded, so I just left this blank for the time being. When my narrator and I came to an agreement, ACX sent me a reminder to start getting my cover art ready.
  • Post links to your book…Some narrators like to take advantage of the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon, and read a few excerpts to get a feel for the story before they decide to audition.
  • Specify your needs in terms of a narrator…Female/male voice, type of accent, dialect or slang, young, mature, comedic, dramatic, etc…
  • Post your word count…ACX will automatically estimate the hours it will take to narrate your book. Mine turned out to be estimated at 15.6 finished hours. The actual time is 16.3 finished hours. This will give you an idea of what it will cost when you start looking at narrators and their *finished hour rates if you choose to forgo the royalty share and pay for your production.
  • Choose your royalty option…Royalty Share or Pay for Production. Royalty Share is a program where you and your producer/narrator come to an agreement that you want to work together, and you’ll share your book royalties 50/50. Your royalty rate is 40% with ACX, so you and your narrator split the 40% royalty, 50/50. You also share the rights to your book with ACX for a term of seven years. With Pay for Production, you both agree on a per finished hour rate (PFH) and you pay the narrator in full when the production is completed, retaining all rights and the full 40% royalty for your book (again, your cut is 40% royalty from ACX).
  • Now you are ready to upload an excerpt of your book for audition. This should be something that tests the skills and abilities of the narrator. I recommend uploading an excerpt with dialogue (preferably between different genders). This allows you to hear how well the narrator distinguishes between voices.

Emily Eldridge ACX Narrator

  • You can wait for narrators to contact you, or you can seek out and connect with narrators/producers on the ACX website via their message box. You’ll be notified on your dashboard that an audition has been submitted. Click the link and a five-minute excerpt is there for you to hear. Sometimes, you hear “the one” right from the get-go. Sometimes, you don’t. I had my book up for auditions for two weeks. After eighteen auditions, I had four potential narrators when all was said and done. The last night of auditions, Em Eldridge, the beautiful lady in all these pictures, blew me away with her dry-run audition! She was the last audition (number nineteen) and my only choice…She is my voice!

Em Eldridge ACX Narrator

*Note…Amazon and ACX are both dedicated to making this service affordable and available to all authors/rights holders. They have a Stipend Program for eligible, Royalty Share authors (this is decided by ACX algorithms i.e… reviews, sales info, potential sales, and staying power on Audible) to entice experienced, quality narrators to audition. Em has narrated thirty plus audiobooks. The stipend book program offers the narrator $150/finished hour of audio. Even though my book was a stipend book, I didn’t opt to do the royalty share program.

*What’s a finished hour? It can take anywhere from four to eight hours of work by the narrator to complete one hour of finished audio ready for upload. That’s a lot of time and effort to get a polished, professional product. Some of the newer, less experienced narrators charge between $50-$100 dollars per finished hour. The more experienced narrators charge anywhere from$200-$500 per finished hour. The elite narrators used by publishing houses and best-selling authors footing the bill, can be in the thousands of dollars per finished hour range.

  • When you find the right voice for your book, it’s time to contact the narrator and make an offer. You can do that in the  ACX message center. Once you both come to an agreement, I recommend you exchange emails and communicate that way. I found that some of my messages didn’t get to Em in a timely fashion. We also exchanged phone numbers and had some one-on-one chats so I could share pertinent information (if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, no harm-no foul).

Emily Eldridge ACX Narrator

  • Now it begins…You and your narrator agree to a timetable  when the first fifteen minutes of the book will be completed for your review. Listen and decide if his/her interpretation is going in the right direction. This is the time to be honest…Is it what you want? Does he/she set the tone and mood of your book? How’s the pace? Too fast, too slow, or just right? Once this part is a ‘Go,’ your narrator will give you a total-book completion date. While they are working on the audio, you’ll receive completed chapters in your project folder. You can listen and make edit notations with the timestamps at the bottom of the screen…make note of mispronunciation, dialect nuances, skips or misreads, mistakes, background noise, or other suggestions you feel should be implemented in the production. It’s your baby!
  • When the book is completed, you need to do a full listen-through of the entire book. At this point, the narrator can’t make changes until you notify them to do so on your dashboard. When it’s perfect and ready to go, click OK and your book is on its way to ACX for their fine tuning and approval. They do all the sound checks and technical work with the narrator to make it technically perfect and ready for sale. This process takes a few weeks. ACX will notify you when they upload your book on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Amazon and Audible upload quickly, while iTunes takes a few weeks.

My Prison Without Bars Amazon Audiobook Page

*Note…This is also the time when you get to listen to what the narrator has chosen as your sample audio. Give it a listen. I will tell you as a READER…THIS IS WHAT SELLS ME YOUR BOOK! If you don’t love your sample excerpt, change it! Now is the time to do that! Pull the best five minutes of your book from anywhere; use the best dialogue, the best scene, a hook that will draw a reader to your book and won’t let them go. This is imperative!

  • Now…Copy that URL, get out there, and sell that audiobook!

That’s it! Easy-peasy!

Look…When it comes to writing and publishing, I’m not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, so if I can do this, you can too! Trust me, with real life pulling everyone in a thousand different directions, it’s hard for people to find the time to SIT and read. Audiobooks allow you to stuff ear buds in, do what you need to do, all while LISTENING to a great book. It’s truly an untapped source of readers. People who listen to audiobooks (umm…that’d be people like me) are voracious readers. We are brilliant people cuz we can multi-task…heehee!

I hope you’ll take a look into ACX and audiobook production. Go to their HOME page and check things out. If you feel overwhelmed (I did) give them a call. There’s always someone there to answer your questions and help you navigate the site.

There’s no greater thrill in the publishing arena than HEARING YOUR BOOK COME TO LIFE!

I know this is a long post, but I had a lot of info I wanted to share. Thank you for helping me celebrate my 2nd Anniversary! I’m so grateful for the visit! For those of you that follow and often comment on my blog, I have no words sufficient to thank you for your friendship and support! You are the best!

Please…Don’t forget to comment and share this post to get yourself registered for the Rafflecopter giveaway! I’m hoping for a big turn out, so I will apologize in advance if I can’t respond to every comment. Just think of it as letting you get to have the last word…

Write with passion…

Taylor~
My Prison Without Bars Billboard

 

New WordPress Website! Welcome to My Journey…

My journeyHello! Long time no see!

Whew! Long time between posts, I know! I’ve been a very busy girl. First of all, Welcome to my new and improved WordPress Website! What’d ya think? Go ahead, take a look around. I’ll hangout right here till you get back!

I’m so excited for you to see my new place! I am still fine tuning things, exploring stuff, and clicking buttons right and left! It’s wonderful to lose the fear of navigating your own website. It’s also damn enlightening to go back to the beginning, updating your ABOUT page and HOME page, seeing just how far you’ve come.

Well…I’m all grown up now, and actually looking like a professional author (2+ years later) thanks to Barb Drozdowich, my All~Things~Computer Guru/Goddess, and Jolene, CEO of JoGraphicDesign.com, my Go~To Goddess of Graphic Designs. Because of my lack of computer knowledge and skill (but I’m learning) I have dealt with several dozen services and service providers in the last two years. I can say without equivocation…These two women are the most honest, ethical, and genuinely professional service providers on the web! Bar none!

A Complete WordPress Overhaul…

 

bakerview_adIf you follow me, you’ll remember my post concerning documents and their properties, specifically PDF documents, and all the heartache and headaches I endured after a botched, revision edit. I learned a very costly, yet valuable lesson about working with documents. *Note to self…when editing your manuscript, you want to make sure that you are using a Word doc. Always remember, when you send your MS to your editor, it must be a Word doc, not a PDF. I was introduced to Barb a few months ago after discovering I couldn’t use my revision edit. I had paid a premium price for a revision edit that was useless to me because I had sent the editor a PDF. When she tried to convert my PDF back to a Word doc for editing, the conversion corrupted the file and all of it’s formatting code.

PDF is the single most secure file that exists…a document strongbox without a key!

YOU CANNOT ALTER A PDF!         

P.E.R.I.O.D.

So, one of my best friends in this world, Stephanie Neighbour, took pity on me and introduced me to Barb Drozdowich. I have been blessed beyond words! We not only have a lovely, professional relationship, but I also pride myself in being able to say we’ve become good friends.

Facebook for AuthorsBarb is the master-mind behind Bakerview Consulting  An author herself, Barb is all about Helping One Author at a Time with WordPress design, WordPress and Social Media training, and Building an Author Platform. She has a full menu of services  ranging from basic web design, to Deluxe setup, to ‘a little of this and a bit of that’ Ala Carte, all with the intent that by the time she gets through with you, you know how to manage your site from the inside out, and you get the most exposure for your content. As an author/blogger, that’s ultimately what we’re all looking for…exposure for our content. Blogging can be tedious and time-consuming. So, for the time and effort you put into it, you want to do it well, and do it right.

When we started, the goal was working on my website. I told Barb that I didn’t really like to blog because it was like wading in muddy water. I felt like I couldn’t see where I was placing my feet, just stumbling along, hoping I was doing something right. Between our phone~chat lessons and reading her tech hints on her blog, the murky water has cleared somewhat. I’m still no expert I assure you, but I no longer dread the thought of blogging, or fear my keypad. I’m not a once a week blogger…I don’t like to blog unless I have something useful to share. If your inbox is like mine, you don’t want me prattling along about a whole lot of nothing. But, when I do take the time to blog, I want to know I’m doing it correctly.What's your Author Platform?

Barb has given me tools on my site to maximize my SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and my branding. She has taught me how to link my content, look more appealing to Google and other search engines, add things more easily, make effective short cuts, share similar content in my posts, and how to get the most bang out of my posting. If I encounter a problem, she’s just a phone call or a Facebook message, away… #CallBarb!

Later in our sessions, Barb convinced me that I couldn’t just sit back and eat the cost of the botched revision edit, letting my book remain out there as is. She was appalled by what I had been through with my MS, and said as much. So, I relented, and sent her my corrupted file. She worked with it as much as she could, then sent it to several friends: editors and computer magicians, trying to find an affordable and expedited fix. She did! I will never recoup the money I have put into this book, but I’m proud to say that Barb and her magic have given me as perfect a book as I can possibly have.The Ultimate Goodreads Guide for Authors

A few months later, I had a brand new Word doc that she and I could work with. After two rereads on my part (requiring several glasses of wine and a cleansing cry or two) and two~four hour phone conversations, going page by bloody page, I have a fully formatted, workable MS ready for upload to any and every retail site out there.

Ooh…did I mention that she does distribution, too! She set up my dashboards, then uploaded my book to iTunes, Barnes&Noble, Smashwords, Nook, and so on… No, really! Yes, of course I know I can learn to do that myself, but why in the world would I want to? I do Open Heart Surgery! Barb does computers! I’m totally good with that equation. I’m saving my sanity while stimulating the economy! Win win for everybody!

The Author's Guide to Working with Book BloggersDid I mention, Barb is also an author? Heehee…Well, she is! She’s put all of her valuable and helpful  information into several books, with the hope of not only helping the fledgling author, like myself, but also help the seasoned, multi-published author learn the ropes of social media, web branding, and secrets of book blogging. THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO WORKING WITH BOOK BLOGGERS is the first in a series of books in the Building Blocks to Authors Success Series, written by Barb for the express purpose of “demystifying the promotion of your book on a book blog.” 

If you can’t do the one-on-one consultation, or you don’t need the detailed help I needed, you can find a plethora of information to help you on your own publishing/blogging journey in the pages of Barb’s books. These are quick and easy reads with step by step instructions and recommendations. Click on any of the book covers to view them on Amazon. They are must-have reference material for any author. I have all of them loaded on my Kindle.

Book Blog Tours An Essential Marketing Tool for AuthorsBarb is also a virtual ‘contact list’ for service providers. From editors, computer wizards, to graphic designers, Barb can hook you up. She is the equivalent of a GPS tracking device for all of your online needs. She introduced me to Jolene, my phenomenal graphic designer. Jolene created the beautiful header for my website…did you see the reflection of me in the window? How cool is that?

Jolene doesn’t just dabble in graphics. In her day job, she is a professional Graphic Designer, residing on the west coast. She has an extensive portfolio of graphic art ranging from print, illustrations, to full animation. She is the genius behind  JoGraphicDesign.com. She is fast, affordable, and reliable. Her work is beautiful and her turnaround is remarkable. She does so much more than just throw together a website or Facebook header; she gets to know you, your brand or vision, then works with you to achieve the look and feel you want. If her time is booked up…she tells you! She is the quintessential professional! If you’re in need of a header, print material, a 3-D cover graphic, or in my case, the ever-elusive SQUARE BOOK COVER for iTunes and Audible.com, this is the woman you want in your resources file.

jo_ad_sb1

I hope all of you will check out these two wonderful women. They are starred and flagged in my contacts folder. I never endorse anyone unless I can give my full assurance that they are who and what they say they are…so take these two ladies to the bank! I would recommend them to anyone, any day of the week, and twice on Sunday!

This journey is almost over. It has totally changed me, the person behind the taboo novel…for the better, I hope. It’s an ending, but also a new beginning. So of course, I need to embrace the new and keep moving forward. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of my old site. It was wonderful for a tech~virgin like myself, just starting out. It was also great to show my girls what determination can get you. But it’s time to move forward.

I want to continue to help people just starting out~the ones with no clue what they are doing or where to find information~people just like me. I will continue to share information, sites, and services I feel are essential to making your Indie publishing life easier, but I also want to share so much more! My beautiful new site will allow me to do that! Yes…this book journey is almost completed, just a few things left to tidy up and then “my heart” will go on the virtual shelf. Thank you from my soul, Barb!

Next up, my Anniversary #GiveAway Blog! Details coming, soon! I’m so glad you stopped by and I hope you will come back and visit again.

Write with passion…

Taylor~

MPWB Finale: From Anger to Audiobook…

MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS BY TAYLOR EVAN FULKS  NARRATED BY  EMILY ELDRIDGE

MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS NARRATED BY
EMILY ELDRIDGE

 Holy Cow! I did it!

A fit of rage somehow resulted in the writing of a novel, MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS. Almost two years later, it has just gone live on Audible.com, in the form of an audiobook! This wasn’t even a distant dream of mine, but here it is, two years after publication, my book has a voice! And talk about a phenomenal voice…Emily Eldridge is not only a phenomenal actress/narrator, but also a truly courageous young woman. She is hands down the voice for my book…She is my voice!

No child should have to fear a monster under the bed...MY PRISON WITHOUT BARSWhen I graduated from High School, I packed all my belongings and crammed everything in my little, Ford Pinto, then moved to the Oklahoma State University campus to forge a new life for myself. I had never done anything independent in my life. I had to find housing on my own, which I did. I had to buy my books on my own, which I did. I had to find gainful employment to subsidize my grants and loans for college in order to live, which I did.

image~ My daddy said, "This is our little secret. You can never tell..." So, I never did, until now...My very first day on campus, I had a car wreck (a woman hit me from behind…very dangerous situation, as my Pinto was one of the recalled versions known for an explosive rear gas tank). The police were called, and I remember being on the verge of hysteria, so upset and overwhelmed by all the paperwork, and the monumental task of getting my car fixed, not to mention paying for it. I sat in my dorm room floor and cried! Life was unfair! Life was too hard! Little did I know of what was to come…

Fast forward thirty years…

image~ I put you on a pedestal so high, I lost sight of me...Picture, if you will, that same overwhelmed and angry girl, writing her story and reliving each and every moment of her childhood horror, while awakening feelings of shame and self-loathing…add in experiencing a nightmare or two in the process. It causes a funk she finds hard to come out of. Then, she had to talk about it to total strangers, while trying not to stutter and stammer about the taboo, unspeakable subject matter. To make matters worse, she had to enter a new world (the world of self-publishing, websites, and social media) totally foreign to her, lay herself bear to that world, plus reveal her ignorance of all she was doing.

After Two years of stumbling on this journey…

The little girl reaped the good with the bad. Her story was in the top 25 in her two categories for twenty-eight weeks, and earned 250 reviews on Amazon (200+ are 5 stars). Her book has won four prestigious awards. She has received over 500+ emails and messages from readers and other warriors who have survived this secret crime, and thrived. She has made life-long friends from all over the world, some readers and some authors. She’s found acceptance…

image~ I have endured the catacombs of hell, and call the devil, 'Daddy.'She has received scathing and brutal comments and reviews from some of the most cruel and most hurtful people in the world, though she prides herself for never engaging. She’s overcome cyber bullies, hate mail, death threats, and an attempt by some, to ban her book. She wallowed in shame and self-pity for a time, crawling into a corner to hide from her new abusers…classic behavior for a victim. But through the strength and support of friends, she picked herself up and stood tall for the first time in her life, determined to stop being a victim.

image~ Dark, Disturbing, and Graphic...I speak of her, the little girl from the trailer park, in third person because she and I have parted ways. Before this journey, she had been my persona throughout my life…the poor little girl with a dark secret, always a victim, always victimized by the rest of the world. She was my go-to girl. She was always there when life was unfair. She was always there for me when life was too hard…much like my first day at college.

That little girl is gone…forever. She has been laid to rest. She’s a distant memory of a past I’ve left behind. I’m no longer that little girl, nor does she reside in my conscious mind. She is my past. The woman who made this amazing journey is my present, and my future. I really like the woman I’ve become…

My soul has been consumed long enough…

image~ MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS~ Not memories of a victim; these are memories of a survivor reclaiming who she is...MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS has just gone live in audio format on Audible.com. It will do likewise on iTunes and Amazon in a few days. I assure you, an audiobook wasn’t even a passing thought in my mind, much less a dream I fathomed when I started down this path. Now, it’s a reality, thanks to ACX and Amazon.

This is the finale of my book…the finale of my maiden voyage into the world of publishing. It’s time to close this chapter of my life, time to put MPWB on the shelf and move forward. I’ve started my next novel, but it will have to pass muster with the perfectionist inside of me before I put it “out there” for the rest of the world to judge. I may publish, again…I may not. But I did the seemingly impossible; I wrote my memories, my story, my way! Yes, I did the impossible! What a life-lesson to teach my daughters!

I’m celebrating not only my audiobook release, but also, my two-year book publication anniversary coming up this month, my two-year anniversary on social media, and the two-year anniversary of my website (soon to be revamped and redone). I think a giveaway is in order! Don’t you?

image~ MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS~ Live on Amazon US UK, Audible.com, and iTunes.  I’m going to blog about my ACX-Audiobook experience as soon as my book is live on iTunes and Amazon. What better way to celebrate than to have a giveaway for the best people I know? Umm…That would be YOU! I’ll get all of the particulars together, very soon (probably the way I did it last year…If you leave a comment on my designated post…NOT THIS ONE…you’ll be entered to win a KindleFire and/or Amazon gift cards). I’ll let you know.

So stay tuned…

Thank you from my heart, for walking behind me when I was sure I would fall, for walking in front of me when I needed protection, and for walking beside me when I needed a friend.

image~ Announcing an upcoming Give Away

Write with passion!

Taylor~

 

 

 

 

✨Newbie Mistake (Part 2) So You Think You Own Your Cover…?

image~ Mr. Cool Frog in sunglasses.

I’ve said many times in many other posts, that  I was computer illiterate when I started this journey. For that reason, I used Createspace’s “Publishing for Dummies” all-inclusive package. For a small fortune, I received an ISBN, full interior formatting, a line edit, a full content edit, Kindle formatting/upload, formatted print version and forty free copies, worldwide distribution, and last but certainly not least, a full custom cover that I could design, (which I did) and have Createspace “create it” for me. I chose this service without knowing the nightmare that was ahead of me.

image~ Baby tree-frogIn July 2014, my exclusive obligation to KDPS ended. I had been with that program for over eighteen months and I finally decided I wanted to distribute my book to other sites (KOBO, NOOK, iBOOKS, etc., hopefully gaining other readers by making this move). Then, in August, my book miraculously won its fourth prestigious award, so I thought, Hey…it’s time to complete my revision edit, revise my cover, and do this ‘ACX Audiobook thing’ that Amazon is pushing. Kind of go with the momentum my book was experiencing, if you will?  Well, you read what happened with the revision edit! Here’s Part 2 of my Ignorance~nightmare!

I plan to blog about my ACX experience when my audiobook is complete, so I don’t want to go into too much here, but suffice it to say, I researched the site, read all the contractual agreements and rights, and jumped right into the process with both feet. My book is in the hands of a wonderful narrator, Emily Eldridge, who is truly the voice of the little girl inside of me, crying out to be heard. I opted for the Pay to Produce instead of the Royalty Share. I’ll go into that, in a later post, but essentially, the whole process has come at a premium cost to me. So, there’s no going back!

image~tree frog in the rain.So with that in mind, imagine my horror when I found out I couldn’t get a cover…MY COVER...for the thumbnail next to my ‘soon to be released’ audiobook! No one told me it was going to be nearly impossible to get a square cover. Without a square cover-thumbnail, I will have a color board next to my audiobook on Audible.com and iTunes that says, COVER NOT AVAILABLE.

ACX (an Amazon Company) requires a square cover pic for upload; they upload your files to Audible.com and iTunes for you, as part of the service. Thank you, God! Both Audible and iTunes require a square cover pic…because it resembles a CD cover, or so I’m told. Easy-Peasy, right? Just cut, copy, and paste…right? Wrong! There’s a page dedicated solely to the specifications required for the cover art, with pictures of example covers they will not accept. You can’t just make your rectangular cover a square. Geometry 101 says, “You can’t make a rectangle into a square without losing part of the rectangle.” Gah!

So, I contacted Createspace to have them make me a square cover. They should be able to do that, right? They already have the files on hand and readily available. It’s not like they have to start from scratch!

image~ Red-eyed frog stomping.“We don’t offer that service, Ms. Fulks.” What? Are you kidding me! No one told me this would happen! Where does it say that I don’t own my cover? Irritated and ready to toss my laptop into the pool, I spent a full day researching graphic design sites, then contacted some graphic designers on the Web (99 Designs, Fiverr) and was told by each and everyone one of them that I needed my PSD, or layered files from Createspace. What? What’s a PSD file? 

PSD

A .PSD file is a layered image file used in Adobe PhotoShop. PSD, which stands for Photoshop Document, is the default format that Photoshop uses for saving data. PSD is a proprietary file that allows the user to work with the images’ individual layers even after the file has been saved.

When an image is complete, Photoshop allows the user to flatten the layers and convert the flat image into a .JPG, .GIF, .TIFF or other non-proprietary file format so it can be shared. Once a PSD image has been flattened by conversion, however, it cannot be converted back to PSD and the user can no longer work with the image’s layers. It is important, therefore, so always save the .PSD file and not overwrite it during conversion. (Source… http://whatis.techtarget.com/fileformat/PSD-Adobe-Photoshop-default)

Again, I contacted Createspace to beg for my files…Nothing! They wouldn’t  return my emails, phone calls, or put me through to someone who could make, or override a decision. My book goes live on iTunes and Audible in late October or early November, and I still don’t have a square cover! This has gone on for two months!

MY PRISON WITHOUT BARS rectangular cover on Amazon.My original, rectangular book cover (the one on my Amazon book page) is made up of four or five major components…the man’s eyes, the wooden door, the keyhole, the little girl, and the different fonts for the title and the author attribution (and these are only for the front cover. The back is another set of files). These components are separate and unique files that have been blended together, and photo-shopped into a PSD file. Ironically, I’d still have this problem if my cover had been a landscape and a single font. Even though I purchased my custom cover, Createspace owns the PSD cover files. I don’t!

No…really!

I have been fighting with Createspace since August 6th, literally begging them to release these files to me. Without the files, a graphic designer can’t replicate my exact cover. I either go with…NO COVER AVAILABLE, or completely change my cover. Neither option is acceptable. At one point, I thought I was going to have to purchase another custom cover package for my already existing cover, at a premium price of $399! I can’t tell you how many tears I’ve shed over this!

I finally made headway with my project coordinator this last week. She’s a Createspace administrator, and in-the-know. They finally sent me my PSD files… at no charge! No…really! I still had to find a graphic designer and pay for my square cover-thumbnail, but I finally got my files!

During our conversation, she let me in on a little secret. Even though Amazon owns all these entities…Createspace, Author Central, KDP, Audible.com, ACX, and has an ongoing agreement with iTunes, this octopus’ arms are all detached, separate, and independent from the main body, which is Amazon! Are you surprised?

image~surprised red-eyed frogConfusing? Yes! Inconvenient? You know it! Frustrating? I’ll spare you my gutter vernacular! Anyway, apparently, I’m one of the few out there that has had this issue…I guess I’m a test tube baby! They, (Amazon) have plans in the works for alleviating this disjointed service issue…hopefully, in the near future. Luckily for the rest of you, they want to rein in all the arms of their self-publishing services, and put them all together under one umbrella.

Ha! Could you speed things up a bit? Please!

So why am I sharing this nightmare? I can assure you, it’s not because I enjoy wearing the “Biggest Idiot Award,” tattooed on my forehead!

No one should have to go through all of this! And for what, when Amazon is the one really pushing the audiobook format by asking readers, “Would you like to have this book in Audio? If so, contact the publisher.”

Umm…That’d be me! Haven’t you seen this? Since the advent of the KindleFire and the Whispersync feature, they’ve been putting it on everyone’s Amazon book page. I’m sure it’s on yours! The problem is…they don’t offer a service for the requirements of the sites involved in the process (ACX, AUDIBLE, ITUNES). This puts the author at the mercy of online service providers, and trust me, I know how costly that can be…

Cover Graphics Priority Number 1…

If you have a cover made by a graphic designer, ask for a contractual release of the work. In other words, purchase not only the cover, but also the rights to your cover. Get it in writing!

*Note…You will not have this issue with Createspace or KDP if you upload your own cover. It’s only an issue if you have Createspace make your cover, and/or you don’t own the original files to your cover art.*

image~ cool cat in sunglassesYou spend all this time pouring your heart out writing your book~then comes the editing, formatting, uploading, and finding cover art. You move forward in the process with your heart in your hands~tweeting, posting, marketing, and branding yourself with your story, your genre, and your cover. Don’t risk all of this by making my mistakes. Do the homework…read, research, question, and know what you’re getting into~small print and all! Heehee…take it from someone who has read the twitter rules, twice (OCD has it’s drawbacks). Trust me! You don’t want the nightmare I’ve just endured!

There is a bright spot in all of this! My new, wonderful Graphics Designer, Jolene, just sent me a phenomenal surprise while I was writing this blog. Are you ready for it?

Drumroll, please………………………..Ta-Da!

My new SQUARE COVER PIC!

My Prison Square Audio Cover

After a good cleansing cry and some ear-splitting classic rock (if you can’t feel it, it ain’t loud enough) I’m going to have a stiff drink!

Cheers, everyone!

Write with passion,

Taylor~

 

Admitting my ignorance…

image~ Tree frogJeez! When will the madness stop? I’m sharing my stupidity and ignorance for the benefit of others! “Have you no shame, Taylor?” Well…No! Not anymore! But, I do have a question for all of you…

How many of you know the type of document you are using right now for your manuscript? Microsoft Word, right? Are you familiar with the other types of documents out there, and their properties? For instance, what’s the difference between .doc, .docx, and RTF? Or, do you know what PDF stands for, or what properties it possesses? Are you familiar with the differences between Word, Works, Acrobat, and the tools these applications provide? Of course you are! I’m the only idiot on the planet that sets out to swim in unfamiliar waters…and live to regret it, then tell the tale!

Come on…be honest. We’re all friends here, trying to help each other through this maze of technology so we can get all of this right. OK, well I’ll come clean. When I started this craziness, the only thing I cared about concerning the differences between Works, Word, and differing files, was finding the application that offered me a blank page and the ability to save it, and find it again. Pretty pathetic, I know!image~ jellyfish

When I started this blog, I knew I didn’t want it to be a site about Child Sexual Abuse. I’m woefully ill-equipped to do something like that. No…*insert sarcastic whiny voice* I wanted it to be a helpful site for fledgling authors like myself…and again, I’m woefully ill-equipped to do that, as well. There are loads of resource sites out there, better suited than I am to offer information. But I wanted to try to help others that are in my shoes, by chronicling my own self-publishing journey, while sharing any and everything I’ve learned along the way.

This has been “on the job training” for me, from the get-go. There hasn’t been a single aspect of this process that’s come easily. Maybe it isn’t supposed to be easy…such is life.

image~ jellyfish

Well, anyway, I’ve made a huge blunder, so I thought I would share. In short, when I bought my computer to write my book, my PC came with Works already installed. So I used it! No…really! I soon found out I had to use Word, as it was required by Createspace and every other publishing site. Days of stressing and fruitless copy/pasting, lead me to Mr. Google for answers (we are dating, by the way, though I hear he’s not monogamous). I finally found a solution and converted forty-two different files to Word. Yes! Then I tried to upload to Createspace. You must have one large file, not forty-two individual ones. Crying, and ready to toss the lot, again, I made a date with Mr. Google and once again, found a solution, but my MS had become a jumbled, embarrassing mess. Thankfully, Createspace was able to make sense of it, format it beautifully, and publish it on Amazon and Kindle.

image~ more jellyfishAmazon sent me the final PDF of my book: the document that is currently in print. The document they sent me isn’t JUST a manuscript. It is a fully formatted document. So, when I hired an editor to do a revision (clean up edit) I sent the editor my fully formatted manuscript in a PDF, as it was the only “clean” and organized file containing my MS, that I had. Big problems ensued after I did that.

The editor’s conversion of my book with Acrobat back to a Word .doc for editing, corrupted (a loose term for screwed up, not a virus) my file formatting…permanently. It can not be used. It was NOT the editor’s fault. Most people send a raw, unedited document to their editor…not a fully formatted PDF file.

Here is an excerpt of a blog forum on the Acrobat Website. The common question was like mine…“Can you edit a PDF With Acrobat?”

Question~”How do I edit a PDF file using Acrobat 9 – Version 9.4.”  Bill@VT Oct 20, 2010 5:09 AM (in response to ~graffiti)

Answer~“If you can not get the original files, then it is probably best to save the files as DOC files or such. Then try to edit those. You will likely lose all of the formatting and such, but you won’t have to start from scratch. The editing in Acrobat is for minor changes only. If the changes you mention are minor, then you might consider it. In that case you would use the Touch-up Text Tool. However, be aware that the editing is not easy and things may appear to get really messed up. Acrobat is not really an editor.”

image~ jellyfishIn essence, my ignorance of documents and their properties has cost me a small fortune, provided me with an edit I can not use, and taught me a very hard-learned and very expensive lesson…KNOW YOUR DOCUMENTS! Know what can and can’t be done with them. Your editor needs a Word doc, (either .doc, .docx) or RTF. They can send you the best edit in the world (mine did) but manipulating a formatted PDF is a recipe for disaster!

PDF

PDF stands for “portable document format”. It was introduced to ease the sharing of documents between computers and across operating system platforms when you need to save files that cannot be modified but still need to be easily shared and printed. Today almost everyone has a version of Adobe Reader or other program on their computer that can read a PDF file. Important: Once you have saved a document as a PDF file, you cannot convert it back to a Microsoft Office file format without specialized software or a third-party add-in. (Source~Ask a Librarian http://nwtc.libanswers.com/a.php?qid=134366)

*Note…I did download a trial version of Acrobat 11 to try to do some minor editing of my edited, PDF. It still altered the formatting, making sentences overlay on each other.*

Word (.doc, .docx)

Docx is file format extension of Word document files (.docx) created using new Microsoft Office Word program from Microsoft (2003 and earlier). It replaces .doc format of file extension used in older Microsoft Word program. As a result, docx Word document files do not open in older version of MS Office software. Ideally, one would require latest Microsoft Office Word software program to open, edit, and read docx format Word document files. (Source…http://www.tothePC.com)

Rich Text Format

The Rich Text Format (often abbreviated RTF) is a proprietary document file format with published specification developed by Microsoft Corporation since 1987 for Microsoft products and for cross-platform document interchange. It’s and earlier format with many variations since it’s inception.
(Source~Rich Text Format – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rich_Text_Format)

image~ jellyfishSo, now you know! IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS! When your editor asks you to send your MS, send them a copy of your Word .doc (or .docx). It will save you and your editor a lot of grief and misery. Next week, I’ll share my cover art nightmare…Did you know that even if you paid Createspace to make your cover, you DO NOT own the files!

I want to publicly apologize to my revision editor. I gave you a mess and you happily did a wonderful edit. I’m so sorry for the headache. I hope you can forgive my ignorance.

To all who read this, I hope my sharing helps…

Write with passion!

Taylor~

image~jellyfishP.S. I added the jellyfish to try to calm myself with something soothing. The pics were taken when I was at the Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Ah, who am I kidding? Nothing will make this mess go away. I’d kill for a do-over…

Twitter Etiquette~A Newbie’s Guide to Twitter (Part 2)…

image~ mean twitter bird We often remember the negative in life, vividly…“humans have a tendency to recall vividly that which terrorizes or harms us, far more easily than that which makes us smile.” ~My Prison Without Bars
My first few weeks on Twitter are a vivid memory, I assure you.

As I said in Part 1 of Twitter Etiquette, these are MY observations and MY lessons learned over the course of two years on Twitter. Part 1 entails what you should do to make yourself an enticing follow.
Part 2 encompasses what (in my opinion) you shouldn’t ever do on Twitter. It’s an extensive list, so let’s get started…

Twitter “Don’t Do” List…

1. LOSE THE EGG: image~ baby twitter bird
When you sign up for Twitter, you start with an Egg Avitar as your profile pic. Change it, immediately! It indicates a multiple-account, spammer…in the eyes of most follow/unfollow apps people use, as well as to most seasoned Twitter users. Many on Twitter won’t give a second look to an Egg AVI, much less a follow.

I use my own image as an Avitar, but if you’re uncomfortable doing so, use your book cover pic, a pic of your pet, or some image other than the Egg to identify you on Twitter.

2. AUTO-MESSAGING: image~ just unfollow site logoimage~ just unfollow message from twitter..."It would be a pleasure to connect with you here"( link supplied)
DON’T DO THIS! It is the bane of every tweeter’s existence!
“Hi! Thanks for following me. Welcome to the team! Please like my Facebook page @enterlinkhere…” via Justunfollow.com. This instantly infuriates me! I never respond…but I want to ask, “Does this really work for you? Is this how you say hello in the real world?”  It’s like asking someone if you can bum a cigarette, then a lighter…“Would you like me to smoke it for you too?” Every author and friend I have on Twitter, hates the AutoDM with a passion. And many, automatically unfollow the offending account.

3. NEVER CLICK ON LINKS:
When you get a DM (a direct message) that contains a link in the message on Twitter, DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK! EVER! I don’t care if it’s a Facebook account, and email address, or a message saying, “There’s a funny pic of you, here. Check it out @here’sthelink.com,” or “@SoAndSo posted this about you! Click here to see the post!”
DON’T DO IT! Your account will get hacked (spammers will use your account to spam others) and your followers will drop you like a turd in a swimming pool.
DELETE THE MESSAGE! I was hacked eight times when I first started Twitter. Finally, a very nice person explained what was happening.

4. DON’T ASK ME TO LIKE YOUR FB PAGE:image~ begging twitter bird...Follow me please!
This rule goes in conjunction with rule #2 (above). Think about how you interact with a person you’ve just met, in the “real world.” You wouldn’t think of walking up to a complete stranger and asking them to buy your book, pay your rent, and then nurse your child (at least, I would hope not)…OK, a bit extreme, I know…but come on, say hello first, strike up a conversation, or RT something of theirs; better yet, tag them in a tweet or tweet for them. Then, if it feels appropriate, offer to EXCHANGE FB likes.

5. NEVER ENGAGE WITH THE “NASTIES”: cartoon bad reviewer image
I know all too well about Bullies and Nasty People on Twitter. I received hate mail, death threats, and assaults on my Goodreads and Amazon book pages for nine weeks in October of 2013. It was the worst, and the best thing that could have happened to me. I won’t waste time going into it now, but suffice it to say, I NEVER ENGAGED!

There are roughly 7 Billion people on this earth. Let that sink in…7 Billion. Why let one idiot, nasty mouth, or bully (or even a dozen of them) rule your existence, or ass up your day? Seriously! People who prey on others aren’t worth the effort of acknowledging, much less wasting your time responding to them. They are pathetic, socially retarded individuals with no life; their focus is to spread their unhappiness to others, and they feed on your response to fuel their histrionic needs. “The most effective form of fighting is silence.”~ MPWBimage~ dead twitter bird

Best advice…IGNORE! UNFOLLOW! BLOCK! If it persists…REPORT THEM! If you don’t wake up next to them, and they don’t sign your paycheck…get rid of them! Actually, if you have the afore mentioned…get rid of them too! Life’s too short!

6. #TAKE #IT #EASY #WITH #THE #HASHTAGS: image~ twitter bird with a hashtag
You shouldn’t use more than three #Hashtags in a tweet. According to the Official Twitter Rules (click here to view) multiple hashtags in a tweet denotes spamming. From my own standpoint, it makes the tweet hard to read because everything is highlighted.

7. NO RELIGION OR POLITICS:
At least for now, we live in a free country where freedom of speech (and beliefs) is still a right afforded to everyone. By the same token, no one likes to have religious dogma, or political rhetoric rammed down their throat. DON’T DO IT! You run a greater risk of offending than you do enlightening. If you want to discuss it, do it in a DM with a willing listener. This conduct will get you unfollowed fast!

8. SAY “NO” TO DICTATORS: book critic image
In Part 1, I mentioned joining groups and some of the benefits derived from doing so. But, there are also groups with very stringent rules and regulations. They approach you, tell you they’re looking at having you join, then sit back and watch your account. Be wary!

Don’t join a group that incessantly monitors your tweets, dictates whom you tweet and RT, or has so many rules that you’re called out every time you post. Believe me, there are groups out there that do this. They tweet and RT for their membership only, expecting their members to do so as well (I swear, it baffles me). Make sure their expectations and yours are the same.

9. IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT YOU: image~ Book pimping twitter bird...Buy my book!
As I said before, everyone has something they feel is important to share or post. Each of us are mere droplets in this vast ocean we call the Internet. If you try to swim alone…you’ll drown!

If people are kind enough to share your posts, quote your tweets, or tweet for you…THANK them, RETURN the gesture…don’t just RT what they’ve done for you. I’ve seen numerous timelines where there are only that person’s tweets for themselves, and RTs of what others have done for them. It doesn’t work that way…at least, not for long! Kindness and giving back will be of great benefit to you in the long-term, and that’s what you’re looking for, a long-term following.

10. DON’T FOLLOW/UNFOLLOW: image~ Follow me Cartoon tweety
This will get you unfollowed, quickly and permanently! Trust me, word gets around! I used to follow everyone…not anymore. I look to see if they’re selling followers, have rude profiles, or no profile pic, and I move on without following. I also avoid the #TEAMFOLLOWBACK, #TEAMFOLLOW, #FOLLOWME, etc… These invariably are selling followers, or using your account to entice followers.

Always be wary of someone who is selling 5K followers and has eleven hundred followers of their own…just sayin’! Do the math…

11. MY TWEET IS MY OWN: image~ mean twitter bird
Don’t pimp you book, your blog, your FB page, author page, book link, or any other link on someone else’s tweet! This goes for FB as well…don’t tag someone in a post about your book, your blog, or some promo you’re doing! That’s their page! If they want to advertise for you, they will…it’s called sharing.image~ Tweet...Hello Taylor, look up another prison book written by me called (insert title)

The same goes for multi-person #shoutouts where there are several @Thisperson and @Thatperson handles in a #FF Friday shoutout. I’ve seen a few people reply to these with a link to their book. DON’T DO IT! It’s low-class and unprofessional, and will never get a RT or a read…at least not from me.

Don’t thank someone for a RT with a link or book-plug in the “thank you” tweet…
EXAMPLE:image~ tweet 'thank you' with book link addedimage~ 'Thank you' tweet with their link added

I can assure you, it’s a wasted effort…I won’t RT it, and none of the people I follow will RT it either. It’s cheesy, and poor marketing.

12. SHOUTOUTS:
It’s a wonderful gesture, and truly flattering to be on a list with others in a shoutout, especially with those that you admire and respect. However, Twitter monitors this activity, and sometimes punishes the sender for it…suspended account! No….really! I never send multi-person shoutouts or RT them. I’ve seen too many authors suspended for doing so. I usually just respond to the sender, thank them for including me, or I will do a shoutout featuring them, only. Some would disagree with me…fair enough. I’m just not willing to risk it.

13. DON’T BE A SNOB: image~ picky judgemental twitter bird
I have two points to make with this rule…

  • No one is better or worse than another. Try to remember…each tweet, book blurb, message, and post has a person behind the Avitar, with feelings and emotions just like you. Their music, their art, or their writing subject matter isn’t necessarily who or what they are (trust me, I know this first hand)…it’s their craft. Whether one likes what they do or not, that doesn’t give them license to bash, trash, or judge another person’s work. And for the record…even though the Internet gives a sense of anonymity, many of us know who the bullies are behind the AVITAR.image~ Tweet...Taylor, I am sorry, I feel obliged to unfollow you because of the "erotica" you promote. May God bless you and keep you.
  • Be kind to Newbies! Every one of us has been a beginner at one time or another…We don’t come out of the womb knowing how to copy/paste. I’ve been blessed to have connected with some absolutely, phenomenal people who unselfishly, and graciously share information; little tricks to make life easier, and great links to apps, blogs, and sites  that make Twitter so much easier to master.

14. WE AIN’T DATIN!:image~ Twitter love birdsimage~ Tweet...Hi sweetie How are you baby? Thanks for following me.
Twitter isn’t the place to find a date! Well, maybe for some, it is. Most of us aren’t on Twitter for that reason, though. Quite frankly, to me, this is pathetic and screams, “I’m hard-up!” Don’t do it!
I suggest BlueHarmony.com or some other dating site, not twitter. If you send these messages, you’ll likely get unfollowed…and blocked.

 

15. DON’T BE SO SERIOUS:

Photo by ~ One Man Can...Blessed are the weird people:

Photo by ~ One Man Can

Have fun! Make friends! Share weird, wacky, and fun stuff. If you’re on Twitter for sales or marketing only, it’s a long and lonely road. Remember…”All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy…with no followers.”

Best advice this Newbie can give…Look for the person behind the Avitar! Share your knowledge. Ask or answer a question. Welcome someone new into a conversation. Introduce a new follower to others you’ve met. This world is more often than not, a very harsh and unfriendly place. A little patience and kindness goes a long way toward changing that…at least in your small corner of Twitterverse.

This concludes my Twitter Do’s and Don’t’s. Again, these are MY opinions and not the rule of the land…but, following my own advice has not only worked for me in terms of a substantial following, it’s also made Twitter an enjoyable part of my life.

Anything you want to add to this list…feel free in the comments. I’ll be happy to update this post with good suggestions. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your Do’s and Don’t’s that work for you, and I’m sure others would too!image~ baby twitter bird

Write with passion…

Taylor~

The Naked Truth~This post could save your life…

image~ snowy front yard...long winterSpring is in the air! Even though this has been a harsh winter for most of us, and snow has been in abundance for way too long, sunshine, warm temps, and beach vacations are on the way. So this post is for all of you sun-lovers out there…

The Naked Truth…

Although I’ve written a dark, disturbing, graphic, and to my surprise, award~winning novel, none of that pales in comparison to what I’m about to do with this post. As I did in my novel, I want to extend *FAIR WARNING* about the *GRAPHIC NATURE* of this blog post.

This is the scariest (public) thing I’ve ever done; even more so than my book…With my book, I didn’t think when I wrote it, I just did it. This however, is a planned thing. Some of the emotional damage I encountered in my life, concerned low self-esteem and low self-worth. I was called plain by someone I loved…so I believed it. I’ve loved someone who had/has wandering eyes. That plays hell on your self-worth and skews your view of your body image.

So, I never go anywhere without what I call, “full metal jacket.” That, being makeup and every hair in place. My friends at work tease me, because we wear the equivalent of shower caps, pajamas, and house shoes to work in the operating room, and yet I’m made up under my mask. It’s just the way I roll…I do it for me because it makes me feel better about myself.

I guess you could say I’m going for the shock factor…In my writing and in life, I believe that’s all this society understands. We’ve become so desensitized about everything, so, unless it’s in your face (no pun intended) people don’t get it.

Anyway, this post encompasses valuable information that may in fact, save your life or the life of someone you love. So I urge you to take a moment to read this, look at the pictures, then go and inspect your own body and/or the body of someone you care about.

Here we go…

I fight skin cancer…it’s not the deadly kind, even though I’ve had a melanoma removed from my leg, but it’s a constant battle I have to stay on top of. I see a dermatologist every three months for a full body check. She leaves no fold of skin un-inspected…literally.

image~ basal and squamous cell on right arm

About eight years ago, I found several itchy lesions on my neck, ears, and forehead. I also had an odd-looking freckle on my thigh that seemed to be getting larger and darker in color. I tried all kinds of creams, acne medications, and hydrocortisone ointments to try to get rid of them. Nothing worked. I went to a dermatologist and she told me to use a new soap, gave me a cream to stop the itching, and said that we would “Keep an eye on the freckle.” Needless to say, it didn’t work and I sought out another doctor.

image~ basal cell found in armpit
The moment my new doctor saw my leg, she said, “That has to come off, now!” She also informed me that the lesions on my face were cancer. From that day until now, I’ve seen her every three months, undergone chemotherapy numerous times, and have had lesions burned off, frozen off, or excised and stitched to remove cancer.
image~ basal and squamous cell on left arm
The freckle I was supposed to “keep an eye on,” turned out to be a melanoma on my leg. It was in the form of an odd-shaped freckle…nothing raised, nothing painful, and nothing that resembled a mole. It just itched like hell! It was just a freckle…that could have killed me! My dermatologist saved my life! And hopefully, if I do this post right, I can do that for someone else. My doctor has given me a lot of material and is really excited about this post.
I had laser surgery back in September for basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma on my face, neck, chest, arms and hands. I made a conscious decision to photo-log my experience, and when the time was right, do a blog post about it. These are graphic (what else would anyone expect from me…heehee) and rather awful pics of my skin before the laser, after, and during the healing process.
image~ ice pads post surgery
I was stupid as a teen and an adult. I lived in the sun, coached softball in the sun (sans sunscreen), and when tanning beds came into vogue, I had a membership at two different salons…I went the max time, twice a day, everyday. I used Cooking oil, baby oil, sheets of Reynolds wrap to reflect the sun, and every known tanning bed intensifier there was on the market. No one else is to blame. I did this to myself. Yes, this is something completely avoidable, yet in all fairness, we didn’t have all the sunscreens and knowledge about sun damage we do now.
image~ me coaching softball

Even in B/W I was a toasty brown.

Skin Cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers. More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. Fair-skinned individuals who sunburn easily are at a particularly high risk for developing skin cancer. Other important risk factors include use of tanning devices, family history, repeated medical and industrial x-ray exposure, and more recently, studies have linked light-colored eyes (green, hazel, and blue) as high risk. (Source: AAD…American Academy of Dermatology)

Types of Skin Cancers

Actinic Keratoses (AK)
AKs are considered the earliest stage in the development of certain skin cancers. They are small, scaly spots most commonly found on the face, ears, neck, forearms, the scalp of bald men, and backs of the hands in fair-skinned individuals who had significant sun exposure.
image~ Actinic Keratosis
They can be treated by cryosurgery (freezing using liquid nitrogen), topical chemotherapy (cream or lotion), chemical peeling, dermabrasion, laser surgery.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is the most common type of skin cancer; it occurs most frequently on the head and neck, with the rest mainly on the trunk and lower limbs, and often appears as a fleshy bump, nodule, or red patch. BCCs are rarely found on dark-skinned individuals. BCCs usually do not grow quickly, but this doesn’t mean treatment should be delayed. While BCCs rarely metastasize (spread) to other organs, if untreated, the cancer often will begin to repeatedly bleed and crust over and can extend below the skin to the bone and nerves causing considerable local damage. Treatment is the same as above.
image~ basal cell
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC is the second most common skin cancer; it is primarily found in fair-skinned people. Typically located on the rim of the ear, face, near the mouth or on the trunk, this cancer may appear as a firm bump, or as a red, scaly patch. SCC can develop into large masses and become invasive, leading to extensive local tissue destruction and possible risk of metastasis (spreading). It is important to get early treatment.
image~ squamous cell When detected and treated early, both BCC and SCC have a 95% cure rate.
Malignant Melanoma
Malignant Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Every year, more than 8,000 Americans will die from melanoma; it is projected that more than 100,000 Americans will develop melanoma annually. Melanoma begins in melanocytes, the cells throughout the skin that produce the pigment called melanin which make the skin tan; clusters of melanocytes are what make up moles. Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole, or another dark spot in the skin, such as a freckle. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on the body to detect changes early. Since melanoma cells can continue to produce melanin, this skin cancer often appears in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black; although, it can also be red or white.
image~ mole asymmetry/shape
Any changing mole must be examined by a dermatologist. Early melanoma can be removed while still in the curable stage; melanoma readily spreads, making early detection and treatment essential to increase survival rates.
image~ mole border (shape)
Dark skin is not a guarantee against melanoma. People with skin of color can develop melanoma, especially on the palms, soles of the feet, under the nails, in the mouth, or on the genitalia (teens are at high risk because of genital hair removal, followed by tanning bed exposure to these areas).
image~ mole color
image~ mole diameter
Warning  signs of Melanoma…
  • Changes in the surface of a mole.
  • Scaliness, oozing, or bleeding from an existing mole or the appearance of a new mole that looks different from others.
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a mole into surrounding skin.
  • Change in sensation including itchiness, tenderness, or pain.

 

How to protect yourself from UV light…

  • image~ years of sun damage Generously apply a broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 15 at least. Re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming and sweating.
  •  Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeve shirt, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Seek shade during the suns most intense rays…between 10 am and 4 pm. If your shadow is shorter than you are…seek shade.
  • Protect children from sun exposure and reapply sunscreen frequently.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun which can increase you chance of sunburn.
  • Get Vitamin D through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun for your daily “D.”
  •  Avoid tanning beds! UV light from the sun and tanning beds can and does cause skin cancer.
  •  Check your birthday suit on you birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin Cancer is very treatable when caught early.

 

Still not convinced?

September 12, 2013 I had laser surgery for both basal and squamous cell carcinoma on my face, neck, arms, chest, and hands. I opted for the surgery instead of the chemo, hoping for faster, less painful removal (the chemo takes four to six weeks to obliterate the cancer cells). This was my journey…

Here I am in recovery, still under the anesthetic and pain-free.

image~ Post surgery, still under anesthesia The laser starts out like an intense sunburn, but penetrates deeper than it appears on the surface. Each hour after the procedure, the intensity becomes more pronounced. Here is one hour post surgery…

image~ one hour after laser surgeryIt is recommended that you keep the laser sites lubricated with ointment, and sleep sitting up for at least three days.

Day 1~Post surgery…I slept (?) in a recliner, but found myself slumped over the arm of the chair, and was mortified by the gross swelling…

image~ Day 1 post surgeryEach night after, I slept with a neck brace and pillows stuffed around me to prevent me from lying flat.

Day 2~Post surgery…image~ Post surgery Day 2I developed an infection and had to be put on antibiotics. This was the most painful day.

Day 3~ Post surgery…

image~ Day 2 post surgery...infection sets inImagine taking a shower and letting the water beat on raw flesh.

Day 4~ Post surgery…

image~ Day 4 post surgeryI can’t describe the heat and drawing sensation. Note the little dots; each is a single shot from the laser.

Day 5~ Post surgery…

image~ Day 5 post surgeryGetting better, but the skin is very tender to the touch (clothing hurt like hell).

Day 6~ Post surgery

image~ Day 6 post surgeryBy now, my clothing doesn’t hurt too much, and it’s safe to be around my dogs. They were off-limits before, because of the risk of infection.

Day 7~ Post surgery…

image~ Day 7 post surgeryAlmost healed completely…bear in mind, my arms and hands had laser treatment as well. I was unable to type because of the swelling in my hands…and the pain.

Day 8~ Post surgery…

image~ Day 8 post surgery...back to normalHealed and “full metal jacket!” My skin is still tender, even now, and will be for about a year. But my biopsies came back negative for any cancer. At the moment…….I’m cancer free!

image~ Before and After Surgery pic

Summer will be here before you know it. Check yourself, your children, and all your loved ones. Look at your entire body every month. Get familiar with your skin and your own pattern of moles, freckles, and “beauty marks.”

The sun, in any form, is off-limits to me. I no longer coach fast-pitch softball (a hobby I love above all others), and I can no longer garden on a sunny day (I am forever, the “nocturnal gardener”). I hope you will heed my warnings. Protect yourself and your loved ones, so you don’t have to hide from the sun, like me.

This is truly the hardest thing I’ve ever done…publicly. It was far easier to write and lay my secret abuse out there, than show you the reality of my skin cancer. But here it is, in mega-pixels and living color. Showing you my journey is embarrassing and humiliating on so many levels; but hey, if it saves one life…It is well worth it!

Take care of, and Love the skin you’re in…

Taylor~

 

 

 

 

 


 

Based on true crimes…Murder, Mystery, and Author~Mike Worley

Mike WorleyIn my first blog post for 2014, I invited readers to let me know what topped their reading list for the New Year, so I could post them. I also invited writers to share a bit of what they are working on for the coming year. I was thrilled when someone actually took me up on my offer. I was contacted by Mike Worley~Author of the Angela Masters Detective Novel Series, and found him willing to share his past works and the writing project he is working on now. I was equally tickled to find out that he lives close to me, in the neighboring state of Kentucky.

When Mike and I began corresponding, he let me in on a little secret that absolutely floored me…He has never done a guest blog! I must say, I was not only shocked, but also jealous. He has been able to focus much of his time to the craft of writing, using his blog to more or less chronicle his writing journey.

So with that little secret out of the bag, I can honestly say, I am honored to be his ‘Debut Guest Blog Stop.’ I’ve assured Mike, though my site is very small, I have the best, most vocal and engaging followers on the web. I hope you all will make this a great experience for him.

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to…

Mike Worley~ Author of the Angela Masters Detective Novel Series…

*It’s great to have you on my blog Mike. I’m so glad you took me up on my offer. So, introduce us to Mike Worley, and tell us how you got started with your writing.

GrandJeteCoverI was in law enforcement for 34 years, moving from officer to chief of police.  During my career, I commanded criminal investigations and internal affairs, which have given me some of the insights for the stories I write.

Many of my fellow novelists say something like “I always wanted to be a (fiction) writer” or “I’ve been writing stories since I was in grade-school.”

But for me, fiction writing was never something I imagined myself doing.  In high school, I wrote a few (bad) poems and had penned a couple of equally bad short stories.  Most of my writing life was spent in the world of non-fiction, specifically police investigative reports.  Over the years I also sold a dozen or so magazine and journal articles, but again, these were descriptions of real-world situations.

Then, in the early 1980′s, my partner and I were assigned to assist another agency on a murder/kidnapping case.  Our role in the case was rather small, but we followed the progress after it left our jurisdiction, and the outcome was not what an investigator hopes it would be.  Perhaps because the case involved two young girls, my sense of injustice was piqued and I started to write a story.  It was based on the case, but would be different from the start.  And, it would have a very different outcome.  In fact, the epilogue was the first thing I wrote.

However, after about eight chapters, the story — the redefined story — was settled in my mind and I no longer felt a drive to write it.  From the beginning, I never had any intention of publishing what I had written.  The unfinished manuscript languished on my computer — actually two or three computers as I moved files during upgrades.

*What made you decide to complete the manuscript?

Over the years, my son, who had read the initial draft, often pestered me to finish the manuscript.  I brushed off his entreaties as I occupied my time with other matters.  Then, in 2012, an old friend, retired Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Margot Hill, published a fictional work called Esplanade.  She had published the book for Kindle, something unavailable when I wrote my initial story draft, even if I had considered publication.

RetributionCoverI too, was retired at that time and I decided that perhaps the time was right to see if I could craft a complete fictional work.  I edited the initial manuscript and fleshed out the story as it had unfolded in my mind.  The epilogue remained unchanged from my first draft.  Within four months, I had my first book, which I titled RETRIBUTION. After I researched the changes in indie publishing, I was spurred to finish the book and publish it as an ebook.  Reader demand later pushed me to go through CreateSpace for the ‘dead-tree’ version.

*So, tell us about your latest book, and/or your favorite(s) in the series?

GHOST is the fourth book in the Angela Masters Detective Novel series.  Each of the stories takes elements of three or more actual events and weaves them into a fictional account that’s plausible.  GHOST is the story of a woman found murdered in her apartment.  The detective’s quest to find the killer is hampered by conflicting evidence and theories.  Part of the story involves criminal profiling.

EntitlementCoverThe first book, RETRIBUTION, remains my favorite because it was born from a tragic case that I was involved in.  ENTITLEMENT, the third book in the series, is also a favorite because of the complexities the detective must manage.

Happily, the reviews for my books have been positive.  That was a factor in my decision to do what I initially never intended, to write more than one book.

*What do you feel are the special challenges in writing a series?

The greatest challenge is staying true to the characters’ lives.   In the case of this series, the books are not written in a linear sequence, i.e. book five actually occurs before books two and four.  So keeping events in order requires some planning.  It helps that I have developed complete biographies for my main characters.

*Have you ever written characters that you truly despise? Do they stay with you?

They say it wouldn’t be a good crime mystery if there weren’t a couple of really detestable characters.  I have those, but I also have ‘bad guys’ who are not inherently evil, but are a product of their reaction to adversity.  My most despicable characters are composites of people I’ve actually known, with a little extra ‘baddie’ twist or two thrown in.  The characters themselves don’t stay with me, because I know they are fictional.  I do remember the real-life bad people I’ve encountered.

*What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions to be about indie authors?

New Ghost CoverOf course, there’s the perception that anything indie is ‘bad writing.’  Conversely, there is a perception that anything published by one of the major houses is ‘good writing.’  Both statements have elements of truth and both have elements of absolute falsity.  But I think people are coming around to the idea that the quality of a writer’s work is not solely a function of the type of publisher.

*You said you wrote the epilogue of your first novel, first. Do you always know the ending of a book before you write it?

I know the basics of the ending, but RETRIBUTION was the only book where I actually wrote the epilogue first.  That was because I had a specific idea of how the story would turn out, and then built the action with that end in mind.

FireStormCoverIn my current work in progress, FIRE STORM, I’m about 2/3 finished with the draft.  I have also written the ending scene, but the actual scenario didn’t come to me until the book was about half way written.

*Some writers, like me, edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished, to edit. What do you do?

I definitely edit as I go.  For most of my life, I’ve written factual reports and narratives.  In those, you have to be accurate on the first submission.  There are no ‘re-writes.’  That said, I use a beta panel of editors for critique and comment before I submit my fiction work, but the story is basically in place when I finish my first draft.

*What, if any, advice do you have for first-time authors?

Learn from the styles of others, but write what is important to you and in a way that works for you.  If your readers don’t like your style, then you might need to modify it, but try what is natural to you, first.  The style of RETRIBUTION, my first book, violates many of the ‘proven’ characteristics of a mystery novel.  Yet it is still my best selling work.  Last month, it saw its greatest monthly sales ever and it’s been out for 18 months.

Mike…It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and your work. Your books and your style of writing are compelling, and I’m anxious to start reading them. I truly appreciate your willingness to make your debut ‘guest blog appearance’ on my site. See…I told you it wouldn’t be painful. I sincerely hope you’ll comeback when you finish your current WIP.

I hope all of you will leave Mike a comment or stop by and say ‘hello,’  welcoming him to the world of guest blogging. You can find out more about Mike and his books by clicking on the links below…

Write from the heart…with passion!

~Taylor~

Website:                                                                                                http://mikeworleybooks.com

Mike Worley Amazon Author Page:                                                http://www.amazon.com/Mike-Worley/e/B00946DZ9E  *Retribution, Entitlement, Fire Storm, Ghost, Grand Jeté.  Each story is stand-alone so the reading order really doesn’t matter.

Facebook:                                                                                                 https://www.facebook.com/MikeWorleyLouisvilleAuthor

Twitter:                                                                                                                 @MikeWorleyBooks