Posted in Blog

FREE short story, plus sneak peek at upcoming books

Yesterday, I sent all of my newsletter subscribers my latest short story for FREE, the first chapter of my book, Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan, and the first look at my latest book series (which starts with The Road to Hope). If you’re on my mailing list, you got to see the covers of my next two novels before anyone else. Spoiler alert: they’re gorgeous!

Did you miss this email because you’re not on my list? Don’t worry. This free gift is also for people who are brand new to my mailing list, as it’s my way of saying thank you for trusting me with your email.

Here’s the synopsis of the story I want to send you:

Neverland Free book_edited-1Neverland’s Mother (a short story):  Based on the characters and setting in the book, Peter and Wendy, by J.M. Barrie, this tale shares the land of Neverland and the themes of Lost Boys, merfolk, pixies, and pirates. However, there’s a twist. Peter Pan is now a waifish girl named Petra Pan, Wendy Darling is now a lad named Wendell, and Captain Hook is now the sinister Captain Hess—a woman who leads a band of female pirates over the seas. In this story, Wendell struggles to remember his past. Little does he know, the truth might be better left forgotten.

What can you expect if you join my mailing list? You will be the first to know about any deals, giveaway, author events, and book news. Plus, I regularly send out freebies to my mailing list. What I don’t do is spam your inbox, as we all get too many emails! I try to only send out a newsletter when I have something important to share (which sometimes includes something to give away!).

So if you haven’t signed up for my mailing list, do it now – especially if you want to see the new gorgeous covers of my next two novels, and read a free short story!

Sign up at bit.ly/crissilangwellnewsletter, and happy reading!

Posted in Blog

Anthology idea: A Day in the Life of Sonoma County

writers

This morning I came up with an idea for an anthology that I might want to head up, though at this point I’m just musing since I’ve ever done something like this before. I thought it would be cool to gather a bunch of essays that share what a day in the life of different people who live in Sonoma County looks like. For instance, a day in the life of a homeless person, a vineyard worker, a garbage man, an author, a fashion consultant, a secretary, a lawyer, an events coordinator, an artist, a social worker, a sex worker, a retired senior, a college student…and so on. My purpose behind this anthology would be to show the vast contrast of the people who live in Sonoma County, and to offer a realistic view of what each life looks like. This wouldn’t be to shame or exalt anyone. It would just be about reality.

There are several reasons why I want to do this project.

First, my personal life has gone through several periods of massive change. I went from growing up in a middle-income family with plenty to be grateful for, to living in poverty, to surviving domestic violence, to divorce, to being a low-income single mom, to moving up the corporate ladder, to remarriage and blending a family, to living a life filled with blessings. I know what it’s like on both ends of the spectrum. I’m hoping that by sharing the stories of people in all walks of life, we can also share perspective and promote understanding.

Second, every person has a reason for where they are today. A homeless person did not just wake up homeless. There were events that led to that way of living. Same with a lawyer or a bestselling author – success did not happen overnight, there were steps that were taken to reach their career goal. I want these essays to not only reflect what a day in the life looks for each person, but to also give an idea of why that person is living that life today.

Third, I want to offer an in-depth look at the everyday people who make up Sonoma County – not just the big names we often see in the newspaper, but the ones who you pass on the street every single day.

Fourth, I want these essays to be about different people told in different voices. I think it would make a lovely patchwork quilt of stories.

I don’t want to list a bunch of specifics (though I’m thinking about them), but a few details would be that these are biographical about a Sonoma County resident (not memoir or autobiographical, and definitely true), are 2,500 words or less,  and are original works (previously unpublished). I would also offer no compensation (other than notoriety and a link back to your website), there would be a small submission fee (to cover printing and publishing costs), submission won’t be guaranteed, and 100% of the proceeds (after printing and publishing costs) would benefit a yet-to-be-determined Sonoma County nonprofit. In other words, this would make none of us money (though it could lead readers to your books or cause).

Promotion ideas would include republishing a few essays on my Press Democrat books blog at books.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. If this pulls together like I think it could, I might even be able to get some of these essays in print (though that’s not a guarantee).

As I said before, this is just an idea. I’m not sure how big this idea would be to pull off, and I’d definitely want a team of people on board should I decide to move forward. Right now, all I’m looking for is interested participants. If you’re in Sonoma County, would you want to take part in something like this? Would you want to read something like this? Would you want to be a part of the teams that helps put this together (mostly looking for editors).

I have other books news to share, which I’ll do in my next blog post. But right now, I’m just throwing this idea out there to see what you think. If I think there is enough interest, I’d love to move forward with this. If not, this idea might just quietly go away. Let me know what you think (or if you have insight on the amount of work it takes to put together an anthology).

Posted in Blog

My novel writing ritual

I wrote this 4 years ago, and came back across it again while I was stalling to edit my novel. Some things never change, I guess. 😉

Crissi Langwell ~ Author

I wake up every morning at 5:30 a.m. The coffee is set for 5:20 a.m., so by the time I drag myself out of bed I have a full pot ready to be inhaled.

I spend the first twenty minutes or so waking up. That means checking my Facebook, my Twitter, and any important emails that might have come in between 11 at night and now. Then I check my online bank account to make sure I still have money. Finally, I repeatedly check my book sales to see how many millions of people have bought my book, and am genuinely surprised to see that it’s still just the one person. I make a mental note to thank my mom.

At about 6 a.m., I decide it’s finally time to get down to business. I open the manuscript I’m working on and read a few paragraphs above where I left…

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Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

A bad grade isn’t all that bad

Last night in my Critical Thinking class, the professor prepared us for receiving back our essays we’d turned in a few weeks earlier. The assignment had been to write a one-page, double-spaced essay on one topic. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. It’s incredibly hard to get a point across in that small amount of space, especially when you have a habit of being wordy, like me. I originally wrote two pages worth before I edited it down to one. When I turned it in, I was confident it was as good as it was going to get, and it was worthy of an A.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong.

Before we even got the essays back, we were told to write down what we thought we earned on this assignment. Naturally, I wrote down that I would get an A. I was humble about it, figuring I’d get a 45 instead of a 50 on the assignment. After all, none of us are perfect, right? I’d received A’s on all of my essays in my previous English class, so I didn’t think getting an A would be hard in this class either. Besides, I write novels and I work at a newspaper. Writing is like breathing. Getting an A was a given.

Did I mention that I was wrong?

After estimating our grade, the class then received their essays back. There was no grade on it, but there were marks on what could be improved, what was unclear, and anything else that needed fixing. Here’s what my paper looked like:

essayexample.jpg

(Yes, I blurred my essay. But I’m sure you can see how much it’s marked up) The gist of the comments were that I was way too broad in my topic (to the point that my topic wasn’t even clear), that I used a lot of extra words, and that I completely confused my professor. My citations page had a novel of an explanation as to why my essay didn’t work, how I really should have met with her first, and how I never supported my original thesis. Re-reading my “A”-worthy essay, I saw exactly what she meant, and realized I wasn’t as awesome as I thought I was.

Then we were asked to estimate our grade again. I knew I’d be lucky to get a C, but figured I probably had a D paper in front of me. When the grades were finally released, I was relieved to get a C.

And you know what? I’m embracing that C. I needed to get that “bad” grade. I needed to see that I still have so much to learn, and I’m excited to have a teacher who is not only honest in her grading, but who also takes the time to show me how to improve. You better believe that I’m holding on to this paper as a lesson—that there is always room for improvement, that I am still in learning mode, and that I need to seek help instead of thinking I can do it all on my own.

As a side note, I’m in editing mode on my yet-to-be-named sequel novels to The Road to Hope. I’m taking my time on them, though. Part of this is on purpose. I feel like I’m learning so much in my English class right now, and everything I’m learning can only benefit my writing. All those comments on my essay are the same things I need to edit on my rough drafts. So my education is benefiting all of you, too. 😉

Second side note (and I’ll be mentioning this often), I’m the featured author at Copperfield’s Books in Montgomery Village (Santa Rosa) on April 25. If you live in the Santa Rosa area, I’d love to meet you there. The event is 6-7 p.m., and I’ll be presenting The Road to Hope. I’ll also be talking about my writing and publishing process. If you’ve always wondered about writing a book and what it entails, come to this event with your questions. I encourage you to also read The Road to Hope, as I’d love to chat about the story with people who want a deeper look into the characters, storyline, etc. See my events page for more information.

Hope you all are well!

Posted in Blog, Inspiration, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, The Road to Hope, Writing

Two novels, four months. Here’s how.

Back in November, I battened down the hatches and cleared my schedule to take part in yet another NaNoWriMo. As you may remember, I really grappled with whether I would actually write a novel this year. I’d just started school, and it was taking up a good portion of my time. I eventually made a last minute decision that I’d at least attempt a NaNoWriMo effort, and would give myself grace if I didn’t finish.

Well, I’m one persistent writer. I managed to stick to writing every day, even with a busy school and work schedule, and ended up with a rough draft novel by the end of November. I had chosen to continue the story I began in my novel, The Road to Hope, and it was incredible to revisit these characters I had grown to love when I first wrote the original story.

Thing is, the story wasn’t done when I finished that novel. Towards the end of the month, a whole new situation arose with these characters, and I realized I had another book in me. So when I finished that first book, I began the next. This time, I took my time in writing it. First, school dictated my pace. I entered a new semester with harder classes and more demanding homework. There were some weeks I could only write on the weekends.

img_8144This past weekend, I planted myself in a chair and spent three days completing the story. On Monday,  thanks to President’s Day and a work holiday, I completed the final hours of that manuscript and was finally able to type The End.

In my book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, I encouraged all you artists on ways to work your schedule around your craft, and to place priority on being creative. And then I started school. I seriously thought my creative life was going to have to be placed on hold for the next few years, and this killed me! Not only was I sure I’d be miserable, I was also afraid of being a hypocrite. It was easy for me to tell people to make time for their craft. It’s not so easy to make that happen in real life.

Not so easy, but not impossible.

reclaim tableI stand by everything I wrote in Reclaim Your Creative Soul, especially now. We have 24 hours in each day, and there is always space to include the things we love to do. I’ve sacrificed sleep, lunch hours, mindless television, and playing on my phone in favor of writing or just being creative. Sometimes, the sacrifice is painful. But it’s always worth it because a life without creativity is worse.

Do you have anything standing in the way of your creative endeavors? You are the reason I wrote Reclaim Your Creative Soul. If you wish you could be more creative, but aren’t sure how you could possibly fit creativity into your busy schedule, then I hope you’ll pick up a copy of this book. It could totally change your life.

Posted in Writing

Should authors self-publish or seek a traditional publisher?

It is said that everyone has a book inside them just waiting to get out, and thanks to advances in self-publishing, getting that book out is easier now than ever. Authors who have previously experienced slammed doors from the gatekeepers (agents, editors, publishers, etc.) are skirting around these middlemen by going indie. By doing this, they are experiencing a multitude of benefits. Authors who self-publish can:

– write about whatever they want instead of what a publisher deems marketable.
– own complete control over the book process from start to finish.
– keep up to 70% of their royalties instead of paying the majority of the book’s profits to the gatekeepers.
– can publish as fast or as slow as they want.
– aren’t under contract.

Of course there are plenty of downfalls to being a self-published author, as well. An author who goes indie is in charge of making sure their book is formatted properly, has an enticing cover and title, is professionally edited, and so on. As you can imagine, this process can be quite costly. Producing just one book can cost more than $1,000. On top of that, the majority of self-published authors, especially those just starting out, won’t make back that amount…often not even close.  (Check out northcoaststories.com for an example of services for self-published authors.)

Then there’s the purpose of those gatekeepers — there are many self-published books that should be edited and rewritten several times, but are still being published. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many self-published books that are wonderful reads. But there are also many that are, well, NOT. These books are the ones with the bad covers, the odd titles, contain spelling and grammar mistakes, and could probably use a few cuts.

Plus, self-published authors must do all of their own marketing, which is something that’s completely unnatural for writers. Often this can look like “Buy my book!” in a series of Tweets.

Finally, there are those who just believe self-publishing is an insult to the written word, as author Laurie Gough wrote on The Huffington Post in a controversial article that has since been shared thousands of times by irate self-published authors.

So what if you go traditional? The reasons to find a publisher are solid. With the backing of these book professionals, you get the golden stamp of approval that your book is quality. While a few lemons still squeeze by, in general terms, a traditionally published book has a good storyline, is free (or mostly free) of errors, and is an enjoyable read for those in its demographic. A traditionally published author doesn’t have to deal with much more than writing the book, as a team of professionals will edit it, format it, and give it a gorgeous cover. These authors have a straight shot to book stores and libraries, and they also land some pretty awesome speaking gigs, depending on the awesomeness of their agent. They have a team of professionals who want their book to succeed, as they all have a vested interest in this book.

However, traditional authors are not free of some of the harder aspects of the book business — namely, marketing. Both traditional and self-published authors must market their own books, and it’s in their best interest to have a solid platform (mailing list, social media followers, etc.). For traditionally published authors, this is even more important. I’ve heard some publishers refusing to even talk to an author unless they have at least 50,000 fans on Facebook. That’s a hard number just to get in the door, especially for an author who is just trying to get discovered.

A traditionally published author may find they have less control over their books than they want. They may be on contract to write a certain number of books, or to slow down their publishing process. They may be told they can’t write a certain book because it’s in direct competition with one of the publisher’s other authors. They may be told the story needs to lean in a different direction to match the market, even if the author disagrees. They may not even be able to write what they want at all, just to be able to continue working with that publisher.

Finally, there’s the money thing. Sure, there might be an advance, but it’s usually small. Plus, selling enough books to make up that advance is no easy feat. Once the gatekeepers have been paid, there really isn’t much left over for the author.

So which is better? As a self-published author myself, I still lean in that direction. Sure, I’ve yet to hit the big time. However, I love the control I have over my own books, and I can still see the possibilities. If I go traditional, I might make more money. But I just can’t fathom giving up that control.

But maybe I’m wrong. Whether you publish indie or traditional, share your triumphs and gripes in the comments below.

Note: This post is also published at books.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

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If you’re looking for help with formatting, editing, proofreading, or other indie author services, I can help. Visit northcoaststories.com/about for more information. 

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Posted in Blog, Life as I know it

4 things I’m going to do when I find my iPhone

phone
My iPhone and me in happier times

Yesterday, I lost my iPhone. It was just before I started my Astronomy class, and I know exactly how it happened. I was about 30 minutes early for class, and I was headed to the bathroom. I asked another student for directions, and she was looking for directions to her next class. We figured out that we were in the same class, and I pulled out my phone so I could bring up the map. She then waited for me while I continued on to the bathroom. Once in there, I set the phone down on the TP dispenser, and did my duty. Then I left the stall, washed my hands, and we continued on to class. Twenty minutes later, I thought I’d check my phone for messages before class started only to realize I didn’t have it on me. I went back to where I left it, and, of course, it was gone. No biggie, I used my new friend’s phone to call my phone. It went straight to voicemail. Then I called my husband so he could locate it using Find My iPhone. But the phone was offline. I figured that maybe the person who had it was in class, and it just wasn’t getting reception. But here we are a day later, and the phone is still offline. I’ve called the school’s Lost & Found and I called campus police twice, and nothing has come up.

My phone is gone.

Here’s the good news. iPhone is awesome in these situations because you can put it in Lost Mode with a finder message on it. If the person who found it is honest, they’ll turn on my phone and find my husband’s cellphone number on it, and can then call us so we can meet up. Lost Mode also turns off Apple Pay, so I’m sure no one can use my credit cards from my phone.

Here’s the bad news. I used my phone for everything. And I mean, EVERYTHING. My checkbook was on there, ensuring that I always had an ironclad budget and knew my money to the penny. My passwords to everything are on there (passcode protected, fortunately), and now I am locked out of so many things until I can reset the passwords. I already blocked myself out of one of my accounts this morning. And then there’s the convenient apps I had that made life enjoyable: my Starbucks app for an occasional coffee treat, email at my fingertips, my calendar, my maps, all of my music including Spotify and Pandora, my Kindle app for reading on the go, and so on. Not to mention I’m completely unreachable unless I’m behind a computer.

I’ve already gone through several stages of grief. It started out with shock that this had actually happened. After all, I’m attached to my phone! Then came the denial as I searched and re-searched my bag for the phone I knew wasn’t there. During this stage, I also kept calm, sure that some Good Samaritan had found my phone and we’d be reunited before the night was over. Throughout the night, I began thinking of ways I could entice the person to want to give it back to me. I wanted to punch everything in sight. I submitted to a full on ugly cry. The one I’m still teetering on is acceptance, but I am clinging to hope – hope that an honest person is in possession of my phone, or that their conscience will get the better of them!

Here’s what hasn’t helped. “It’s just a phone” or “We got along fine before we had phones”. I know both of these statements are true. But my iPhone has become my personal assistant, my credit card, my entertainment, my map to the world, my music, my flashlight, my EVERYTHING. In the years that I’ve been an iPhone owner, I have slowly transferred my whole life to my phone. It has so many photos, videos, and so on that are all missing with my phone. Now that I’m without it, I am literally lost. I find myself reaching for it, and then becoming sad all over again when I rediscover it’s not there. I feel phantom vibrations, and wonder how many messages I’m missing. What if my kid needs me from school?

One way or another, I will have a phone in my hand again. If this phone doesn’t show up, I’ll be forced to bite the bullet and purchase a new one. However, once I am an iPhone user again, here are some things I vow to do (and you should, too):

1. BACKUP MY PHONE!!! Currently, my lost phone has so much stuff on it, I haven’t been able to back it up. I kept telling myself that I would clear it eventually so I could back it up properly, but I never did. So stupid! I promise to always have a current iPhone backup so that I’m never in this situation again.

2. Invest in a password manager. This I need to research more, but there are apps out there that will store my passwords in one place with some rock solid security, and I’ll have the ability to access it from my phone, my computer, etc.

3. Invest in a checkbook ledger that can be accessed on a computer. I was using iReconcile, which I loved. But the developer hasn’t updated it in years, so I just recently switched over to one that doesn’t have that capability. That meant I had some hefty balancing to do just to get things right. And now I’m back in the market for a new checkbook app.

4. Take a digital detox. It’s telling how often I am still wanting to reach for my phone, and how I don’t know what to do with myself when I feel stressed, or bored, or really any feeling at all. My phone became my crutch, the thing that muted all those unpleasant feelings so that I could move through them easier. If I felt lonely, I could scroll through Facebook. If my computer wasn’t loading, I could check my email. If I wanted to be entertained, I could watch videos. If I wanted to tune out the world, I could listen to music. But without it, I can feel emotions. I can see things around me. I can be present. I may even be able to smooth out those unsightly creases on my neck from too much bent over screentime.

In the meantime, I’m still hoping, praying, and crossing fingers that I’ll find my phone. Please think good thoughts for me!

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