Stone Patrick on Smashwords

The following guest post was written by Stone Patrick, author of The Fallen Body
 
 
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I just came across Smashwords.com, which is a great website for publishing your books, novels, poetry, short stories, etc. It only took a moment for me to convert my .doc file to the site, and they converted it to other ebook formats for me! It was so easy.
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 The site includes ebooks of every kind of category, and there are a number of them that are free or included at discount prices. The nice thing about Smashwords is that it is free for all authors to make their ebooks available.They also make your ebook available to their distribution network as long as it passes a 2-3 day review period.Smashwords mission statement is as follows: “Our mission is simple: we want to create the world’s single best ebook publishing and distribution platform for our indie authors, publishers, literary agents and retailers.” – Mark Coker, CEO and Founder of Smashwords. There are a three ebooks written by Mark Coker that are offered for free on the site. These books have helped me tremendously. The first one is Smashwords Style Guide.

Smashwords Style Guide

This book provides a step-by-step guide on how to style your manuscript so that it is readable on the different ebook platforms, i.e. MOBI (Kindle), EPUB, PDF, RTF, LRF, PDB, and TXT. It is required reading if you want to submit your books to the major ebook retailers. The second book is Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide

 This is an ebook marketing primer that gives easy-to-implement advice on how to market books at Smashwords and other ebook retailers. It starts with an overview of how Smashwords helps promote your ebook, and then provides 41 simple DIY marketing tips that will help you promote your ebook. You get to choose to which ebook retailers you want to upload your novel.  The third book is Smashwords Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.

Smashwords Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

 This book is a must-read for new or veteran authors who want to take their marketing to the next level.

Finally, Mark Coker produces relevant and interesting industry content on the Smashword.com blog, which can be found here. His most recent posting about the Indie Author Manifesto is brilliant writing. It is loaded with talking points and culminates in 10 self-evident truths. For an example of what I have done, you can find me on Smashwords here:

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 Try it for yourself and see the power behind this website!

Yes, you need an editor.

C.S. Maynard is the author of Blood of the Wolf and she has agreed to share her self-publishing experiences  with us today. Thank you so much, Charlotte! 

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C.S Maynard on Self-Publishing and Editors

I had worked on a couple of books and written a couple of novels before my husband sat me down and said, this next one we’re going to publish. We’re going to go all the way. We did our research, we looked at the numbers, we read about traditionally published authors who were actively choosing self-publishing over traditional and then we decided. We chose the self-publish option.

We won’t go into the stigmas of self-publishing or the quality of it versus traditional. We won’t go into how or why an author should choose that over the other options. That’s another post. I want to talk about editors.

If you go the traditional route and you get a contract, you will have an editor. Sometimes not one, but several, depending on how big the publisher. They understand how important it is to have someone else give it a look over.

My husband and I fought over this concept as we pushed to write this novel that we were insisting that we were going to go all the way to the end. He kept insisting that we didn’t need one, couldn’t afford one, he could help me, we had good beta readers. The list of his explanations and excuses went on and on and it was always something so important that we just couldn’t make it happen.

I finished the book, we started having our beta readers do their work. I have some really good beta readers, some writers themselves and they all found important things. I learned a lot in the process, I’m still learning, and everything I had experienced told me that we needed that final editor, someone with grammar and punctuation skills that could give it that final polish.

Still, my husband fought me, insisting that we could do it on our own. Nothing I could say mattered. Then, he went to the most critical of our beta readers to get her opinion just on the first chapter. She was polite, non-specific, too nice in her opinions and he realized there was more to what she wasn’t saying than what she was.

They talked for awhile and he discovered that she did have issues. All manuscripts have flaws. You can be the most experienced, talented writer and there will always be something that you miss. In fact, there were so many issues that this very experienced reader couldn’t get past that first chapter. She didn’t finish it.

We had a real problem if we were going to take this book to publishing. Finally, I had that second opinion, that firework in the sky to convince him that maybe there was something to what I had been trying to tell him all along. We needed an editor.

I had worked with a free service before and they had some really good options, opening up their editors to doing original fiction. However, these were volunteers and not professionally trained. You roll the dice and hope that you get assigned to someone who not only reads and enjoys your genre, but has the skills and training to accomplish what you want. When I used the service, I found just that. It is possible, but you might have to go through a few to find the one that works best with you.

This is an option if you don’t know anyone. It’s an amazing service and I recommend at least trying it if you choose to self-publish. Especially with your first few books, money is very tight and every little penny counts.

In my case, I have a neighbor who does technical editing for a local University and she was willing to help me out. We paid her a pittance, but it was important to us to give her something for the really amazing job that she did. The difference was outstanding. She didn’t change the story or the characters or mess with my theme in any way. A good editor won’t.

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She took what I had, the rough cut, fogged gem and cut away the detritus. After her polishing, my gem wasn’t the dirty, ragged thing I had given her. I won’t say it had become a diamond. It might be more accurately likened to a bit of topaz that you can find out on the ground in the mountains near where my story is set. But it was a far sight more beautiful after her touch than before.

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I recommend self-publishing if you can put in the time and effort into promoting it. You will have to deal with the fact that it’s definitely not as fast growing and most don’t sell 100 books in the first month.

If you do choose to self-publish, however, find yourself an editor. You don’t have to pay the $2500 for some that I saw being offered, there are other options. Let the master do the work they love, put the polish on your baby and know that you really did put yourself out there in new and exciting ways that you can really be proud of.

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You can find out more about Charlotte or preview the first chapter of Blood of the Wolf on her website. If you just want to go hog wild and purchase the entire book, click here

 

Caleo & Dome – both free on Amazon today

Feb 5th

Free Kindle Books

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Learn more:

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Every High School has their social outcasts. The band nerds, the math geeks, the chess club, the girl that chews her hair, but at Butler High, even the creepy nose picker in the chess club is more popular than Caleo Anima. No matter what he did, his pale skin, snow white hair, and piercing blue eyes always made him an easy target. He used to think that the only way things could get worse would be if someone found out that he was gay, but that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of problems after a mysterious stranger shows up and changes Caleo’s life forever.

Hidden amongst our society, a secret and magical race of people known as ‘Leeches’, have been engaging in civil war for decades. Both sides are desperately searching for a weapon with unlimited power that will give them the advantage they need to rule their world. This wouldn’t mean anything to Caleo, except for one problem…He is that weapon!

Forget making it through High School. Caleo has bigger problems! As the search for him goes on, the world is quickly crumbling around him. He’s now fighting for his life and the life of what little family he has left. With the help of new friends, he has little time to try and master his newly found powers as he tries to figure out who he can trust, who is trying to use him, and who just wants him dead. One wrong step and being the awkward pale outcast will be the least of his worries.


Click here to claim your free copy on Amazon today only!


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What if you knew the exact date and time the world will end, what would you do?Sam Tucker was faced with that dilemma when he began getting visions of the Earth’s demise. Luckily for him, he was able to save his family and as many people as he could before the tragic event occurred, and he did so with the help of unknown visitors. With Earth now destroyed, Sam, his family, and thousands of other lucky survivors must live the rest of their lives on a faraway planet in a Dome that simulates life on Earth. But Sam’s mind can’t seem to rest as a few questions arise. Why did the aliens save them? How did they know about Earth’s sure fate? And exactly what are they hiding?

Emma Tucker begged for an escape from her boring life but never in a million years did she think it would come at the destruction of Earth. Living on a new planet and finding it difficult to get rid of her rebellious habits, Emma finds herself making friends with a member of the alien race and it soon develops into an unexplainable love; a love that is more dangerous than she could ever imagine. While her father is searching for his own truths, she has no idea that she is stumbling on a truth of her own.

Told from the point of view of both Sam and Emma, author Nova Sparks takes readers on a journey to discover love, fate, faith, truth, and the mystery of the DOME!


Click here to claim your Free copy on Amazon today only!

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Disciple: A Guest Post by L. Blankenship

I’m excited to have a guest blogger today. L. Blankenship is the author of Disciple Half-Omnibus, which collects the first three parts of Disciple into one meaty book. If you haven’t read Part I yet, you can try it for free. 

 And don’t forget to scroll way down at the bottom of this post to enter for a chance to win a free copy of her forthcoming book! And now on to the guest blog…

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DISCIPLE, PART IV arrives on March 1st!
 

I’ve been self-publishing for over a year now. A year and three months, to be more exact. I’m still waiting for the Fun Police to kick in my door and stop me.

Because while self-pubbing has been stressful and frightening and at times soul-crushing, it still feels like I’m getting away with something I shouldn’t be able to. I’m part of a group of writers who say a manuscript should be submitted around “until hell won’t have it!” so at first I joked that by self-pubbing I was catapulting my story straight over hell’s walls and they had no option about having it… bypassing publishing’s infamous gatekeepers and all.

 The joke wore off as it became obvious that my manuscript was probably sitting on a sidewalk inside hell’s walls, being stepped over and ignored.

 Nobody came to stop me, though.

 So I loaded up my second manuscript and fired that over the walls too. Then the third one. Each time, I went through the same ritual of betas, revision, and hiring a freelance editor. I plotted long-range character arcs and pondered the changes in narrative voice. I hired cover artists and squeed over what they sent me.

I was sure that would alert the Fun Police, but they still didn’t serve me a cease and desist order.

 Self-publishing is not a bed of roses unless you mean a bed of rosebushes rather than one of flower petals. I came into this with 15 years’ experience as a graphic designer, prepress technician, proofreader, and a small-press publisher in the tabletop gaming industry — and I still have my share of thorn scratches.

 Each of those is from the silence that follows a promotional post. An offer of free review copies that went unanswered. A Sunday that I went around to my sales sites to collect the “weekly eggs” as I call those strings of zeros.

 This is why writers need thick skins. The bed of thorns.

 I do catch the scent of roses, though. I still squee when my artist sends me sketches for my next book cover. When someone posts that they liked my sample, it’s a welcome ray of sunshine. Every time I go looking for zeros and find numbers instead, it plasters a smile on my face.

 I’m going to keep doing this until the Fun Police kick in my door and haul me away.

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Click here to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway!

Be a Maker

A guest blog written by Jonathan Kahn

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Before we get started, I have a riddle for you. What is both hand-made and fabricated by a machine? Read on for the answer.

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Did the holidays run roughshod over you… again? Do your Christmas memories consist of old specials on TV, bad traffic, and all-out panic? Year upon year, do you vow to start your Christmas shopping in August, only to find yourself staring at end-caps of pre-wrapped $9.99 gifts at 11:30 on Christmas Eve? Don’t be afraid to admit it; there will be no judgment here. In fact, this was me only a few years ago.

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I have mixed feelings about the commercial nature of Christmas. I like the way malls, stores and even cities decorate for Christmas, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t if not for the commercial appeal. But I very strongly dislike the way everyone is urged to buy gifts. The operative word in the last sentence is buy. I do like giving gifts, and I would love it if the gifts people gave each other showed thought and effort.

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Ideally, gifts that are made do this quite nicely. We all know someone who is skilled at carpentry or pottery – making tangible things with their hands. If you’re not one of those people, you’re in the right place – I’m not one, either. But I am good at other things. A few years ago I recorded a couple of classical piano pieces, put them up on Facebook, and burned a few CDs. That was my gift to family and friends. It may sound cheesy, but it was something I made with my own hands.

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This year, I published a collection of short stories. Yes, self-publishing is frowned upon in some elite circles. But like my classical piano recording, my little book is something that I made. It may not be a custom-built spice rack for the foodie in my life, but it’s not another $9.99 set of monogrammed handkerchiefs given in haste to someone who never wears a suit, either.

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Technology gets blamed a lot for making humans more isolated, but it’s really just an enabler (for good and bad behaviors). Technology enabled my two projects, by making them economically feasible for a guy who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them. Recording software meant I didn’t have to buy expensive studio and mastering time. On-demand publishing and e-publishing meant I didn’t have to commit to printing a thousand copies of my book.

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So now that we’re just past Christmas, turn that annual get-started-by-August vow into a plan for making your gifts next year. Stick by Robin’s blog, and you’ll surely get a few cool ideas. Oh, and in case you’re interested, my book is called Vanity Plate Tales. It’s available here.
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Do you make your own gifts? What do you make? If you don’t, what kinds of gifts would you like to make for your loved ones in 2014? Let us know in the comments.

Start now. You’ve got plenty of time until Christmas. 🙂

The artwork in this post is courtesy of Marcus McAllister. Visit him by clicking here or on any of the pieces above. You can find Jonathan Kahn on Facebook.

2014 is going to be our year to shine!

As we prepare to start a new year, I thought a crash course in my inky efforts might be useful. As I’m sure you know, one of the primary goals of Ink & Alchemy and More Ink is provide a place for writers and artists to network and show off their stuff. Another of my goals is to teach by example. I work diligently on my platform and hope that by doing so, each of you will pick up some useful ideas for strengthening your own platform.

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As I reflect on 2013 and consider how to improve I&A and MI in 2014, one fact keeps swimming to the surface. We haven’t used this platform as effectively and consistently as we could have. Much of this is my fault and I have an incredible number of ideas floating around in my brain aimed at improving in the future.

I don’t mean to point fingers here, but some of this is also your fault.
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There are many ways that you can take advantage of the free marketing I’m offering, but many people don’t. This surprises me. People are downright desperate to get their work out there, and I don’t blame them a bit. So am I. The market is tough and it’s hard to make yourself heard above the roar of the crowd.

This blog post is a friendly reminder of myriad of ways that you can take advantage of the promotional opportunities that I offer in the upcoming year. Let’s work together so that we’re more successful than ever before.

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  • My website has lots of free resources, including lists of recommended sites and a reading list, links to help you promote your ebook during your free KDP days, and a PDF describing the basics of building your social media platform.
  • I offer Featured Artist and Featured Writer programs. Submit your work. There is no cost to you and the bottom line is increased exposure for your work. Use these enthusiastically. When I feature you, you should re-post that link far and wide and comment when you can. Leverage every single bit of exposure for all it’s worth.
  • A tip about features: I do my best to give everyone a fair shake, but the bottom line is that if you regularly frequent the page, interact with others, or share my links, you’ll likely get featured more often. Reciprocity. It’s just the way it works.
  • If you have an upcoming event (book release or signing, exhibition opening, etc.), send me the info. I’ll do my best to post it throughout my platform. You can increase your odds of being promoted by sending me a well-formatted blurb complete with links and an image. Copy, paste! How much easier can it get?
  • Along the same lines at the previous bullet – I offer guest blogging or features on a regular basis but people seldom participate. This is a win-win. Fresh content for me that I didn’t work very hard to get and content for you that you can smear all over cyberspace. You can wax poetic about how incredible you are and blame it on me if you like! Just send me a piece that is publication-worthy (with links and images). Please, please, I beg you – do not send me poorly spelled and punctuated ramblings. Because I’m basically a nice person, I spent way too much time correcting and editing this kind of thing in 2013. New year, new rules. In 2014, I will do light editing, but I don’t have the time to re-write submissions.
  • Sometimes people apply to be featured and then shoot themselves in the foot. You really need to have a website or at least a FB or blog page that is regularly updated. I can’t promote what doesn’t exist. If you’re still starting out and building your platform, consider submitting a guest blog. See previous bullet.
  • I’ll admit that I like to control the content at Ink & Alchemy. It’s kind of my baby and I’m a little protective of it. Every once in a while, I open it up for link sharing (like today RIGHT NOW), but for the most part, I curate this page. More Ink is another story. You may feel free to post useful links, events, and anything else you think will energize us to greater creativity! Think of More Ink as ourpage, yours and mine. If you’re a part of Ink & Alchemy, you should probably also frequent More Ink. It’s a less formal, more open forum and I’d love to have you!
  • My platform reaches far and wide and isn’t just limited to the FB pages. Try to branch out in the upcoming year and use a new medium. How about Vimeo, Behance, or Tumblr?

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If I were going to summarize what I think successful promotion looks like, I’d say this:

Consistency

Content

Reciprocity

Cross-linking

What do I mean by cross-linking? Imagine that networking is…well, a gigantic net. Every single interaction that you have in cyberspace is tiny potential thread in the larger mesh. You can’t build a strong, reliable network by rushing or using a shortcut. It’s not quick because you have to earn the trust of your followers. Every little thread should be carefully placed and secured. How can you do this? The best approach is to consistently post quality content. Regularly interact with others. Be patient. Be genuine. Your network will build itself slowly. I’ve talked about this in many other places (like here, here, and here), so I’ll spare you the details.

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I encourage you to take your platform seriously. Take action in 2014. Come up with a plan and hold yourself accountable. I recently started a new series designed to help you become a (social media) badass. My plan is to post practical, useful actions throughout the year that you can take to learn how to better manage your platform. Try it and let me know how it works.
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Join my mailing list or check out the archives. You’ll find lots of links and information to help you with promotion.
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This art knocks your eyeballs around a bit, doesn’t it? I adore the work of Jaeyeol Han. He’s a Korean artist who works primarily in oil bar on canvas and is part of the I&A Featured Artist Program.Pay him a visit at his website by clicking here or on any of the images in this post.

Need a creative kick in the ass? 

Pop over for a quick art or lit fix.

P.S. Wanna hear something fabulous? Sheila Cameron has made my day. She is one of my favorite artists (not to mention just a terrific and kind-hearted person) and has created a very special discount today in celebration of Ink & Alchemy.  I am beyond honored.Go to her Etsy store and enter coupon code: INKANDALCHEMY for 20% off. But you’d better hurry, because I’m heading over now and I can’t guarantee that I’ll leave anything for you.

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Worse Than it Looks, a post by Tom Janikowski

I recently made the acquaintance of Tom Janikowski and it has been a distinct pleasure. What I love about him the most was best expressed by a recent visitor to his website:
 
“He is deranged.” – Penny Watson
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His newly released collection of poetry, Worse Than It Looks, is exactly the kind of gritty midwestern darkness in which I revel. This collection was drawn from his experiences working with people who have made bad choices – addicts, convicts, users, and the like. Written over the span of two years on the streets of the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, the poems include many that appeared at his collaborative poetry site, “the lost beat,” where he writes with his cousin, the poet Denise Janikowski-Krewal. Worse Than It Looks available in both paperback and epub formats. I opted for a paperback and my copy is winging its way to me as we speak. I just hope the UPS truck isn’t highjacked by a drug-crazed maniac during its journey, because I WANT THAT BOOK.

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Because Tom is freaking terrific, he agreed to a guest post on my blog. I cannot thank him enough. And now, I shall let Tom speak:
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The American Shakespeare – Mr. William Faulkner – once said “don’t be a writer, be writing.” Truthfully, I do not know if he said it once, twice, or a hundred times, but I have tried to follow his advice. I have been writing since about the age of eight or nine, but I have always seen myself as one who is just about the business of writing – it is only what I do and not who I am. I hear from a lot of folks who say things like “I am a writer – that’s just who I am,” and I used to think that perhaps I was less of a writer because I defined myself differently, but I have grown out of that. It only took me forty years to do so.

I write, I write, and then I write some more. Sometimes I take breaks and don’t write for a bit, but then I start writing again. I have a very simple process, I suppose you might say. I like to drink lots of coffee and put words together so as to give shape to the world that I take in throughout the day and though all the days past. Like most writers, I read a lot, and sometimes I find myself crafting something that comes out a bit more like something that I have read than I would have expected. There you have it.

My absolute rule is that I never write less than 1,000 words at a sitting, and I try to sit down as often as I can. My exception to this is when I get something of an itchy feeling in my brain and I know in my gut that I cannot work on fiction at a given moment. At those times I allow myself to sit down and write poetry. That usually seems to work like a dose of extra-strength caustic drain cleaner. All the crap gets flushed out, the pipes get cleaned, and the waters start to flow again. Most of the time this works.

I love to write flash fiction and “prosetry” on a regular basis, as it keeps me from getting overly flowery with my language. I love economy of expression, especially when it can be hard, gritty and abrasive without being explicit, vulgar, or cheap. I had a professor during my undergraduate work in philosophy who was absolute death on non-essentials, and he left a mark on me. Give it to me straight. Tell me what is going on. If I rely upon symbolism, I try to make it powerful, or at the very least succinct. Sometimes it works.

When I get on a roll and start writing like mad, I try to make hay while the sun shines, as the old saying goes. I wrote a 70,000 word novella last year in just a few days this way. I was taking prednisone for a bronchial infection at the time, and it gave me loads of energy, kept me awake at nights, and got me up early in the mornings. The result was a rather cohesive (albeit strange) story. My agent is still trying to find a home for that little devil.

During these writing benders I like to eat apples in the mornings and stale pretzels in the evenings. When I am done, I cap the session with a very dry martini and try to sleep. I will take walks with my dogs to clear my head and I listen to Hoagy Carmichael and Smashing Pumpkins to get me ready for the next session.

How is that for creative method?

I find myself silently muttering about interesting things that I see taking place, and this is usually where the writing really begins. I might see a really dirty car pull up, the door open, and an angry man get out, shouting at his companion something about a sandwich. I might start saying “gimme’ my damn sammich…damn sammich…gimme gimme damn sammich…” over and over to myself as I listen to similar words coming out of his mouth. I then start to make up a story about why it was that someone else had his sandwich. What kind of sandwich? Was it partially eaten? Was it rancid? Was it stolen? What kind of bread was it on? You know the sort of internal dialogue – I assume that this is the same sort of thing that all writers do.

The most underestimated tool in my writing toolbox is my attention to synchronicity. I try to watch for examples of the universal unconscious mind or whatever you might want to call it, and I am making an effort to do even more of this, as I am convinced that I currently miss a lot of answers. Invariably I will be writing about something – cream cheese, for instance – and, without fail, all sorts of references to cream cheese start popping up in the world around me. Often these are in the most unlikely situations, and they tend to answer a lot of questions that I am facing in writing a given story.

What does it mean to write? It means, I firmly believe, to give some shape to what we experience – whether or not it is in the physical world. When Kurt Vonnegut said that in writing we are continually jumping off of cliffs and growing wings on the way down, I don’t think he could have been closer to the truth. Jump, and you jump into the world of what is. Grow your wings, and you might just make some sense out of it all.

Geronimo.
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Tom Janikowski was born in 1968 in Cudahy, Wisconsin, the grandson of Pomeranian and Carpathian immigrants who left Poland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Janikowski studied English and philosophy at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and eventually at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where he studied fiction under author Larry Watson (Let Him Go, Montana 1948, Orchard) and poetry under William L.M.H. Clark. Graduating in 1994 with a philosophy degree, Janikowski’s professional writing for a long time consisted of strictly non-fiction endeavors, including book reviews for GP Light, the English supplement to Gwiazda Polarna – the nation’s largest Polish-language newspaper.
 
After lengthy forays into songwriting, bartending, and the self-publishing of poetry chapbooks, Janikowski continued his studies and earned a Master’s Degree in 2002. Despite this setback, he is still able to write in complete sentences and in the past several years has focused almost exclusively on writing fiction. His flashes and short stories have appeared online and in print on both sides of the Atlantic. Now represented by Monika Luukkonen of Oulu, Finland, he has begun working in longer forms and his forthcoming Crawford County Sketchbook (due out late in 2014 from Red Hen Press of Pasadena, CA) is a collection of tales set in a rural county somewhere in the deep South.
 
Janikowski has been greatly influenced by “Lost Generation” authors such as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, but he also admits long-standing love affairs with the writing of Kurt Vonnegut and John Updike. Formerly a resident of Upstate New York and a frequenter of several speakeasies inthe Catskills, he currently works, posts at http://www.martinipen.com, and mixes cocktails in Davenport, Iowa, where he lives with Shelly, his best friend and beloved wife of 15 years.
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As always, you can find a list of featured writers and artists on my website, Ink & Alchemy. If you enjoyed this post, pop over and give Tom a little cyber snuzzle. You can find him all over the web: