Our mission is to discover talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves. Our primary focus is fiction across a wide range of genres; however, we selectively consider non-fiction books as well.
The simple answer is no. Does that mean writing courses are a waste of time? Or that getting an MA or a PhD in creative writing is a fool’s errand? Of course not. Classes can teach good writers to become better, but classes will not turn a good writer into a Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway. Great writing requires a certain native ability, which is rare.
However, that does not mean aspiring indie authors should give up. While truly great writers are few, there is ample room in the world for really good writing, the pursuit of which should be the goal of every self-published author.
How then does a new writer judge the value of a writing course? Well, to begin with they need to understand what their objective is. If it is to become fluent with the basics of style, syntax and word usage and, thereby, feel more comfortable integrating these into a clear and cohesive story, then do it. Or, if it is to enjoy the sense of camaraderie of classmates and gain the constructive criticism of a good teacher, then proceed. But if it is to short circuit the hard work that is the sine qua non of good writing, then their time would be better spent sitting alone, in front of that unforgiving keyboard and writing. And when they are not writing, they should be reading. And then writing again. And so on, and so on.
Now some of you might ask, how do you know whether you possess that certain native ability I mentioned above. Well, let me share with you what an eight-year-old girl, who is the daughter of one of our readers, did at recess the other day. She began to write her first novel, titled The Seal and the Merdog Named Midnight. Yes, at recess. Not as a class assignment, simply because she loves to write. Here is an unedited excerpt:
There I am sitting on a rock. Me. Emily Moon and yes, I am a seal. It is a dark but not stormy night. Emily starts waddiling to the sea. One fin half in the sea but then she turns around and hears a scaterring noise. It scares her depply but a little sound will not scar her. She keep waddling into the ocean. Then she hears a crack. She turnes around again this time futher in the sea. A second later a weird dog like thing comes running in. “Hey!” Emily says. “Who are you?” A few seconds later a reply comes. “I’m Midnight the Merdog”. As Midnight is coming closer Emily says “Ooh Midnight that is such a nice name.” “Thanks” Midnight says, and as she is saying it, Emily quitly keeps says “Midnight, Midnight, Midnight, then she stoped.
Native ability? Of course it is too soon to know. But as an indie author, I can tell you that I never skipped recess in the 3rd grade to start writing a novel.
In 2013 I was awarded a Gold Medallion by Indie B.R.A.G. for my Juvenile Book “Jenny and the Hummingbird Faeries”.
First off I cannot thank your group enough for the honor. I did receive some Medallions and used them on the books I sold.
I wanted to let you know that they were a great asset in selling by book. The book has continued to sell in the hundreds and I believe you were instrumental in making that happen.
I have a number of venues coming up in the next several weeks and months where I will be selling even more books. The problem is that I have used all, yes all, the Gold Medallions and am desperately asking to purchase from you 200 more. Is that possible? It would be a marvelous if you could send them as soon as you can.
Thank you in advance. Keep up the tremendous work you all have been doing.
Definition: a genre of novels and memoirs filled with stories and recipes
Split at the Root
Tully, Catana. Split at the Root
Catana Tully, in her memoir, Split At the Root, takes her readers on an intense journey into identity, motherhood and what labels mean. At times despondent, at time joyful, the author pulls herself apart until she finds her core.
Who we are is intrinsically connected to our family, our community, our race, gender and religion—among many the many categories we create to define identity. Catana Tully wonders aloud why we need to check off the boxes about who and what we are. She checks other. She told me, “The thing is, when you have a nationality that identifies you culturally, it is a shock to have to define what you are according to other people’s perception. It feels demeaning and disrespectful. One day we’ll all be ‘Other’ but that’s a long, long time away from now.”
Yet Catana is driven to find the essential questions about her mother, family and culture. Where does she feel comfortable and at home? It has taken many years and now, in her 70’s, she feels comfortable asking these questions.
Catana’s story is unusual, in some ways magical and in other ways heartbreaking. Not sure if she was taken away voluntarily from Rosa, her Guatemalan birth mother of color, Catana was brought to a white German Guatemalan family who raised her (although never adopted her) in an upper middle class setting with a fine education, manners, gourmet food and away from others who had dark skin. Catana writes, “People as dark as me were an uncommon sight in Guatemala City.”
She wrote in her memoir that she had a tremendous dislike for dirt, disorder and the unkempt. “The dirt that accompanied poverty, the vender children who came too close for my liking, their sticky unclean hands, their uncombed dusty hair with pieces of dried grass in it, the limp rages they wore, which like their bodies, had not been washed in days, all disgusted me.”
Catana never called her birth mother “mother” only “Rosa” and she called the woman who raised her Mutti (mother) and not Esther, a name Mutti assumed later in life. Mutti called her Mohrle, Little Moor or Little Darkie, which today would be considered totally inappropriate. While her German family loved her, there was an unconscious fear in Catana about being taken away and about not fitting into the family and culture. I asked Catana how this affected the way she raised her own son.
“He was protected in the most conspicuous way. In retrospect, I believe I lived the fear of losing a child, as my mother Rosa did; and the fear of someone taking my child away, like Mutti must have felt. Until he was in kindergarten, my son was always at my side or with Fred [Catana’s husband]. He never had a sitter.That is why he tells me he always felt secure, protected and self-confident.”
Catana’s story reveals her fears of abandonment and acceptance and her later struggle, strength and success in her adult life. “By the time I started therapy to address the complex identity issues, both Rosa and Mutti had died. It would have been HUGE to have been able to talk to them…”
Her search to find her own identity nearly broke her apart. How Catana Tully puts herself back together is a story worth reading.
Catana told me her favorite meal is chicken livers fried in butter with onions and parsley over jasmine rice. She adds a few apple rings braised in golden butter on the side, and an heirloom tomato salad. Today, her diet goes according to her age in its simplicity. Desert is always fresh fruit.
A luscious fruit salad with some tropical fruits in honor of Catana’s Guatemalan background is what we are sharing! Perfect for the late spring as fruit is in season and great for the approaching warm weather.
Tropical Fruit Salad
This luscious fruit salad is light and naturally sweet and is Catana’s favorite way to end a meal.. With so much fruit in season, you can try to vary the fruit you use according what is growing in your area. Take advantage of world wide shipping for some tropical fruit as well. For a special treat, stir in a tablespoon or two of amaretto.
1 small papaya, peeled, deseeded and sliced
1 small mango, peeled and sliced
1 red plum, pit removed and sliced
10-15 strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 pineapple, cut into small chunks
1/2 cup blueberries
Mix fruit together.
Drizzle amaretto over the fruit, if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until time to serve.
By Steena Holmes on Apr 05, 2018 02:23 pm
If you are a writer, raise your hand if you feel the pressure to rush your process and just get those books out.
(my hand is raised and I know yours are too!)
There are so many factors to this rush:
bills are piling up
so many of your writing friends are releasing books in quick succession
you keep hearing this is the only way to get noticed (ie. 90 day window)
any other number of reasons to feel like you’re missing out
Can I say something that might be against the norm?
Stop. Slow down. Don’t panic.
I know, I know, easy enough to say, but hard to accomplish, right?
I’ve been there, in your shoes when I saw my income going down and my bills piling up. When I would hear of others talk about their numbers and stepped back so no one would notice me and ask how I was doing. When I would visit different FB writing groups and the advice was to write/publish/repeat as fast as you can in order to increase your visibility.
Every time I would hear this, something inside of me would twist and not in a good way.
What about placing our readers first? What about remembering that promise we’ve made that we will write the best book possible for them? What about the experience we want our readers to feel?
If we rush to write our books, if we don’t take the time to really focus on the story, if we don’t write the best possible story we can — we’re risking breaking that promise to our readers.
To me, that’s not worth it.
Now, before you start throwing tomatoes at me (I’m allergic so that wouldn’t be nice), let me say that I realize some writers are amazingly fast and because they can write quickly, they are able to get the proper editing and therefore can actually publish one book every month, or every other month or within that 90 day window.
But…and this is a big but…the majority of us aren’t like that.
I’m about to get honest with you all…for years I was only focused on the marketing and branding of my books. I got caught up in the hustle and bustle and loved being able to write what I wanted, when I wanted and put it out as fast as I could. I had someone proofread them, I had a few beta readers but that’s about as far as I went. I didn’t focus on my craft, I didn’t spend the time ensuring I wrote the best book possible.
Don’t get me wrong. My books were good. They sold. I got contracts. I won awards. But my books were good. Not great. Not deep. Not anything special. I didn’t write the kind of story that others said were beautifully written or that others said they wanted to write like that.
I remember having a huge light bulb moment when I read a book by Kimberly Belle and I wrote my agent and said ‘you have to read this. Her writing is amazing. I want to write like this!’. You know what her reply to me was?
So why don’t you?
I wasn’t writing like that because I wasn’t giving my story the time it needed to be written like that. I was rushing. I had a huge list of everything I’d wanted to do and accomplish and taking time with my books meant none of that could get accomplished.
I wasn’t thinking about my readers. I was only thinking about me.
So I stopped. I slowed down. I focused on my books. I took courses through Margie Lawson. I focused on learning how to write in a way that would leave my readers breathless. It took time but my editors started to notice, my readers started to react and I knew I was finally on the right path.
I get it. I really do. If writing is your career, how you pay the bills, then the more product you have available for people to buy, hopefully you’ll start seeing the sales and be able to take care of your family.
What if you stop focusing on the sales
and focus on your readers instead?
Would that be so bad?
If all you’re doing is focusing on sales, you’re eventually going to lose your readers. You can blame it on the market, on the abundance of books available, on the low visibility…you can find any number of reasons to blame the low sales but maybe the real reason is you’re losing your readers…because you haven’t focused on them.
It’s just a thought.
I’m constantly being asked if I had one piece of advice for writers, what would it be. This is what I say:
Stop focusing on sales and focus on your readers.
Take the time needed to write the best possible story
Challenge yourself to write a better book each time you start a new project
Start thinking about how to utilize your backlist to find new readers
For more than a century the only “gate keepers” for writers have been literary agents and publishers. This arrangement worked reasonably well until new technologies made it possible for hundreds of thousands of new authors to present their work direct to the public without recourse to gate keepers at all.
At present the market suffers from an over-abundance of fiction, much it of it, let’s be honest, pretty mediocre. Publishers are wary of taking on new writers. Most play safe, concentrating on a pool of proven commercial authors. This is understandable. The industry sails in stormy seas.
A few years ago Geri Clouston had the foresight and boldness to introduce Indie- B.R.A.G. as a third gate-keeper, one willing to seriously evaluate every book that was offered .The B.R.A.G. Medallion is now a vital and much needed addition to the world of books and writers.
Indie BRAG is as generous as it is unique. As far as I can see, there is no other organisation in the world like it.
Geri and her team are tough. When they turned down my first book, I knew I had to raise my game. When, eventually, my latest novel was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion, I was over the moon. I knew I had received something worth having. Writing is a lonely business – this was encouragement indeed!
For two years now I have made a point of ordering and reading the work of other B.R.A.G. awardees. I am never disappointed. I write an Amazon review for each book. It costs nothing except the odd half hour and I think the time is well spent. I recommend the practice.
I congratulate and thank President Geri Clouston on leading a remarkable project. She will never know where her influence stops.
“President Geri Clouston and all the wonderful people at B.R.A.G.Medallion are performing a vital service by recognizing and promoting previously unheralded independent authors. I am proud to be a two-time B.R.A.G.Medallion honoree, and I urge everyone associated with independent publishing to celebrate and support this magnificent organization.”
Joe Perrone Author of the Matt Davis Mystery Series
In Time Exposure, Lynne Kennedy makes Civil War photography the lens of her novel. “Photography hugely impacted the way society viewed the war….I combine my love of history and science with my penchant for mysteries!” Lynne does a superb job—an intriguing mystery, wonderful characters and exciting history. All make this a fabulous read.
Lynne Kennedy’s Time Exposure.
Buttery Fried Nutmeg Apples
During the Civil War, favorite sweet side or dessert was Fried Apples. In the field, it was typically made in a cast iron pan over a fire and worked well with tart apples. A variety of sweeteners could be used from honey or brown sugar, more available than white at the time.
The Gibbs Museum in Charleston, South Carolina mounted an exhibit of Civil War photographs, which I went to see a few years ago. The black and white photographs were clear and surprisingly modern. There was the heroic; there were also the photographs that were brutal, unnerving and full of war’s agony. There was the view of Robert E. Lee’s home, with Union soldiers on the porch, his property made into the now national cemetery at Arlington.
Lynne Kennedy’s Civil War historical novel, Time Exposure, is seen through the lens of photographers, the first time that civilians are on the war fields to photograph warfare.
Lynne, once a museum director, had attended a workshop on Civil War Photography at her museum. And she told me that she became hooked on the subject. “After much research about Civil War photography, I chose a real CW photographer, Alexander Gardner, who worked under Mathew Brady before he set up his own shop. I also fictionalized a photographer for story purposes: Joseph Thornhill. His descendant, Maggie would,140 years later, become involved with his mysterious death.”
We see the scenes of war literally through Joseph and his lens. As modern readers, we know more about war details than those in the Civil War era. Yet the descriptions still send chills to us, as we contemplate this deeply divisive war, some divides that last until today.
Joseph to his fiancée, ”Fences are down, rails blackened and burnt, orphaned children wander hungry and homeless, begging for food from strangers.”
Photographs were exhibited during the war. Joseph watches the crowds that come to his gallery. “They gaped at the images so powerfully depicting the brutal nature of war. Ladies, dressed in their finest, with parasols folded at their sides gasped at the scenes, covered their eyes from one horror only to come to face with another death scene.”
Lynne said to me, “Photography hugely impacted the way society viewed the war. Through the photographs, the public got up close and personal to the horrid battleground landscapes…that they may otherwise have only imagined.”
Mystery intertwines with the civil war descriptions. Thornhill, not only a photographer, is a spy, working for the FBI’s predecessor, the Pinkertons. They seek to solve the treason of Concord Armaments. Concord Armaments supplies the Union Army with shabbily made armaments and then, fixing the books, supplies the South with arms as well, although theirs are not damaged. “There was much profiteering and treasonous activities during the Civil War, as in any war. Concord Armaments … was not a real company, however, sad to say, it could have been,” Lynne shared.
Concord Armaments hire Jack Cade, AKA John Wilkes Booth, to eliminate those officers investigating their company. While Joseph sees Jack Cade in action and warns President Lincoln, this mystery lasts up until the modern age, when a descendent of Thornhill works to solve the crime, the modern frame around the novel.
Louisa May Alcott enters the novel as a friend of Thornhill’s fiancée. In real life, the beloved author of Little Women volunteered as a nurse in Washington, DC and wrote a series of sketches about her experience.
The author includes scenes of Gettysburg, the most brutal Civil War battle. Thornhill tells his companion photographer, Alex Gardner, “You know Alex? Men get to know each other pretty well in this sort of experience, being confined so closely together. Living together, working together, freezing together for more than a year. Some form bonds the will last a lifetime.”
The author writes eloquently of the mundane and the philosophical. Kennedy has much experience writing in this genre. She draws us into the very fabric of life in another era, allowing us to view events in the Civil War era that so dramatically influenced our country, even to this day.
Buttery Fried Nutmeg Apples
During the Civil War, favorite sweet side or dessert was Fried Apples. In the field, it was typically made in a cast iron pan over a fire and worked well with tart apples or ripe, if available. A variety of sweeteners could be used from honey or brown sugar, more available than white at the time.
Here, our Buttery Fried Nutmeg Apples creates a wonderful side dish or dessert.
Tart apples cooked with butter and sugar create a wonderful side dish or dessert.
5 tart cooking apples, unpeeled
4 TB butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and sugar mixture
Wash, core and slice unpeeled apples into narrow slices.
Melt the butter in a skillet or cast iron pan and add the apples.
Cover the skillet and cook the apples 5 minutes over medium low heat. Stirring continuously, add the brown sugar and nutmeg. Stir well. Continue cooking the apples covered for 10-12 minutes or until apples are tender, check every few minutes while cooking.
Add additional butter or water if needed to prevent the apples from sticking.
Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on top before serving.
Recipe adapted from Authentic Civil War Recipes
Nondairy: Use a dairy free margarine
Sugar Free: Use a sugar free brown sugar
Peachy Keen: Try peaches for a great taste as well.
Find out more about Lynne Kennedy and her great books at her website
Self-publishing is expanding exponentially; it has long ceased to be a minority interest. But along with the glorious freedom of writing any genre, mixed genres or no genre and the ability to control every aspect of a book’s production comes responsibility to the readers.
Some authors write books purely for their own pleasure and that’s great fun and personally very satisfying, but today self- or independent publishing is a serious option for commercial writers. However, not everybody is conscientious in producing a well-rounded, page turning book with impeccable production values. How is a reader able to distinguish the dross from the diamonds in today’s avalanche of self-published work?
This is where the B.R.A.G. Medallion® comes in. When INCEPTIO, the first in my series of Roma Nova thrillers, was awarded a Medallion, I was delighted; my writing had passed one of the highest bars around. Rapidly becoming recognised in the world of self-publishing as an impeccable seal of excellence, its selection process is rigorous, rejecting 90% of applicants. If a book carries a B.R.A.G. Medallion® sticker, it will be a quality assured read, whatever its genre. I was proud to explain what the sticker meant and people were impressed. More importantly, I’m sure it helped clinch purchasing decisions.
I now have 6 books in my Roma Nova Series with the B.R.A.G.Medallion! I still haven’t come down from that particular high.
Writing and publishing a book is just the beginning of a journey for an indie author. Once your book is out there, marketing and promoting your baby begins. These days there is a plethora of platforms where you can reach out to a wider audience. Book signing offers the opportunity to connect with readers. Reviews play an important role in providing readers with an overview of what others think of you your book. These are all tools that can be used in your marketing plan, but one thing that does makes people sit up and want to learn more about your book is an award. There are zillions of books published and only a few of these will ever receive recognition or an award. Receiving an award is an indicator your work has reached a high level. To be honoured with a BRAG award is a first class accolade on any scale of published books. My third published book, Sometimes It Happens… in 2012 received a BRAG award. I was speechless when I learnt of the award because BRAG does not give out awards to any author. In fact more than 90% of books that pass through their hallowed halls are rejected. So to have one of my books proudly displaying the BRAG logo, makes me feel humble and very proud. It has provided me with additional confidence to talk about my work and my award. But it does not end once the award had been made, BRAG continues to promote all of its honourees through their extensive programme, no one is excluded, it is an exclusive place to be and I am proud to be associated with an organisation that has a reputation for excellence.
Thank you so much for your thrilling email that I have achieved the second B.R.A.G award in The Voyagers trilogy, Kitty’s Story. You really made my day.
Just to mention that when Kitty’s Story was in manuscript form, I offered it to HarperCollins. They loved it, but because I’d self-published Annie’s Story (which achieved the B.R.A.G award) and Juliet’s Story (which apparently only missed the award by a whisker), HarperCollins decided I should continue to self-publish Kitty’s Story. You can imagine my disappointment. But in the next breath they asked if I would write a series for them set in WW2, and the first one, An Orphan in the Snow, under the name Molly Green, came out on 30th November. They’ve chosen it as one of their leading titles for their Autumn/Winter brochure. I’m still pinching myself!
I just thought you might like to hear of a success story from a previously self-published author.