Category Archives: Guest Posts

Growing a Garden for Your Novel | Guest Post

If you’ve been here for a while, then you’ve met Starr Bryson, head insomniac in charge at The Insomniacs Dream, freelance writer extraordinaire and my bloggy best friend. Today she’s going to tell you about a workshop she attended about self-publishing, the new project that she needs YOUR help to launch and there’s a video where I interview her at the bottom. But why am I telling you? Let’s get into it.


Long ago I had decided that if I ever (finally) finish one of the one hundred or so half-written manuscripts lying around my house I would self-publish.  Perhaps because I have no love lost for literary agents, or perhaps because I fear being lost in a slush pile, but most likely because I have an irrational fear of rejection.  I can handle critiques and an editor ripping my stories to shreds, but what I can not handle is a firm no.  Even if an editor tears my story apart, there’s still a chance that it could be re-written into something wonderful.

It is easier now than ever before to venture into the world of being an author, anyone can write a thing and self-publish, and that, to me, is a beautiful thing.  No longer does some nameless editor get to sit at a desk of judgment as the end all decision maker, choosing which books are released and those that are not.  We now have publishing freedom.  This can be can certainly be a draw back though, as more and more books are being self-published and it’s a competitive world out there, with thousands of books all vying for attention.

Because I promote indie authors, and I plan to self-publish myself, I am always looking for workshops and seminars on the topic.  Thankfully, Pittsburgh is literally teeming with writers and indie authors, and I have the privilege of being a member of several writing groups with access to many workshops.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to ride along with a friend and attend a class on self-publishing, taught by the successful local author, Kathie Shoop.   Kathie is a best- selling author and has made quite the career for herself, and she has never been published the “traditional route”.  You can read more about her and check out her books on her website.

In her workshop, Kathie focused on the steps a writer would need to take to not only finish a novel and self-publish, but how to promote the book and continue to be successful after the initial launch. She focused on what she referred to as “evergreening” – a process that most bloggers are already familiar with.  Kathie says to think of your book as an oak tree.  In order for you to be successful as an author, you must plant a garden around the tree.  Your tree needs a lush and full garden around it so that it can flourish.

Kathie shared a checklist of things that a writer needs to do to get their book the best advertising and exposure.  While all of the things work together to help promote and boost sales, Kathie admits that she can’t tell you which of these things works better than others.  In fact, she told us she is only sure that any of it works if you do all of it.

Here is the list of things Kathie recommends you do to promote your book.  Again, don’t pick and choose, it’s important to do all of these things.

  • Online advertising
  • Blog Tours
  • Social Media
  • Local Press
  • Local Signings
  • Press Releases
  • Enter book award contests
  • Magazine ads
  • Book clubs
  • Libraries
  • Public speaking at workshops and seminars

I did learn some things from Kathie about the traditional publishing route that were pretty shocking, which only served to cement my decision to never go down that road.  If a publishing house picks up your book they, obviously, own the rights to it but it’s years and years before the rights are reverted back to you, the author.  And, you have only a few months on the shelf to prove that your book is going to sell, if you don’t hit whatever lofty goal they set, they will pull your book off the shelf and stop printing it.  So let’s say your book doesn’t do too well in the first two months, not only does it get pulled by the publisher who stops printing it, you can not sell the book yourself or try the self-publishing route because they still own the rights.  So you wait years to own your own work again while it’s sitting in their publishing house collecting dust.  In most cases, this carries over to e-books and audio books, too.

Generally, you’re expected to do all of the marketing and promotion for your book, as well. If you’re going to do all the work anyways, you’re better off self-publishing and retaining the rights to your work.

What are you waiting for?  Go write your book and grow that garden around your tree.

Campaign LogoI’m currently running a crowdfunding to raise funds to launch Starry Knight Word Slayers, a new business that focuses on providing affordable book promotion for indie authors.  Stop by, read our story, donate if you can, and share with your friends.

PenPaperPad note: Check out the interview we did together where Starr tells you more about her passion to help other authors achieve their dreams.

Starr works from her home in Pittsburgh as a freelance writer.  Her professional work includes editing, Social Media marketing and management, ghost writing, content management and SEO for websites, entertainment journalism, and book promotion for self-published authors.  In the past, she has taught classes at writers’ conferences in Pittsburgh about freelancing as a career and the best practices for blogging and social media.

http://penpaperpad.comStarr’s creative writing ranges from humor laced snarkfests, gritty and painfully raw non-fiction all the way to the dark world of Erotica. The author behind The Insomniac’s Dream, she claims blogging was only the beginning of an amazing freelancing career.

In her spare time, Starr writes fiction and is working on a paranormal novel and companion serial.  In addition, she writes short stories and manages a local writing group.  When she’s not writing, Starr is kept busy by her two hilarious and fantastically disgusting boys.

 Starr enjoys adult grape juice, reading in her non-existent spare time, the occasional Netflix binge, and connecting with other writers and her readers.  She loves Halloween, Zombies, and all things horror. She aspires to be a Vampire someday. 

Her claim to fame is her caustic wit, copious swears, and an ongoing battle with insomnia.  You can catch up with Starr on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  You can see what Starr has published by visiting her Amazon Author Page.

Important links for her campaign:

Indiegogo Campaign :





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Bachelorette parties or Drunken cowboy hats in hot tubs

bride's maidYou guys, I don’t know if I told you, but this summer The Mathmagician and I have traveled to our homeland of West Virginia for part of the summer. I’m in two weddings: a maid of honor and a bride’s maid. So, essentially, I’m going to need a vacation from my vacation. Until then…me and my liver are living through one of the fundamentals of this wedding life: bachelor parties. *gulp* I wrote something over at Menopausal Mama about it. Check it out, you’ll laugh. And leave some comments to show her some love.

Aloha y’all!


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Homecoming: Living in Appalachia as a Biracial Writer (Guest Post)


I met Sumeeta through my TweetChat on Tuesdays called #writestuff. She’s been one of those people who started popping up in the beginning. It just so happens she’s also from my homestate. Take a moment and let Sumeeta tell you about finding her identity in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.  


When I was a six-year old child living in the southern coalfields of Bluefield, West Virginia, I was mercilessly teased and bullied by the next-door 16-year-old boy, who hated me because I had parents of “different colors.” His father made horrible racist remarks about my parents, who were East Indian and White Causasian respectively, and I now assume that this boy was following suit. My father said not to waste his time on such “uneducated people” while my mother became friends with the mother of the household, and the bullying eventually stopped through her intervention. Unfortunately, the intervention did not occur before the fight happened.

One day, I was in the back yard playing when the boy and his best friend climbed a tree overlooking our yard with a large red bucket. He began taunting me and I ran over to defend myself and was greeted with a face full of garbage, dirt, and animal feces. I got angry and started throwing the dirt and garbage back at them. They laughed at me, and through my tears I found the strength to fight back. For me, this situation perfectly describes my life as a biracial writer in Appalachia—the ongoing fight to define myself in a region that is noted for being wild, undefinable, and unpredictable.

Even in those heady days of my chaotic childhood, I knew I wanted to be a writer. My father insisted that I read the encyclopedia to enlarge my vocabulary and my mother would buy me any book or notebook I wanted. Through the years of writing, much of which has been lost, my work focused on identifying self. Who was I? How do I relate myself to the context of my surroundings? I was a natural-born Appalachian, but considered a foreigner in the land of my birth. Like most young people, I wanted to get out to some place more sophisticated like New York or Los Angeles– A place where people would appreciate my otherness, and allow me to demonstrate my talents. Yet, despite opportunities to leave, I never took them. It was many years before I understood why – my connection to the land.

Any writer who grows up in Appalachia will tell you of a special connection to the land. While sometimes the people are sometimes not open to differences, the land itself, with its wild, beautiful, and sometimes unpredictable nature, invites any brave soul to venture into the mountains and discover their soul. Through the last few years that I have been writing, I have always written about my connection to the land—the slope of the mountains, the crispness of the fall, and deadly breath of winter. When I leave and return home, it is a true homecoming. The sight of the mountains always welcome me back and inspire me again. Living in Appalachia has not always been easy, but I would never live anywhere else. It has made me the writer I am today.


Sumeeta Patnaik is a writer and poet living in West Virginia with her family. She has a doctorate in Education, and works for Marshall University. Sumeeta likes to write about cultural and identity issues.


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