Promote or Perish: 3 services publishers used to offer.

Publisher. Publication. Publicity.


Hit the bricks and sell those novels!

See the similarity in those words? It’s not a coincidence. Those who hang out the “Publisher” shingle on their little shack are promising, by their very title, to create publicity for the works they print.

And yet, authors, how many times have you been preparing to submit a manuscript, and been deflated by a statement like this?

Over the past ten years, the publishing industry has changed drastically. These changes now mean that authors carry the responsibilities of promotion, marketing, and publicity for their works. Many authors fail at this difficult task, meaning their contract is cancelled, and any future contracts are at risk. It’s a cold, hard fact that an author’s books must become popular for the industry to be able to keep publishing.

This is an excerpt from the submissions page of a small, independent press. I have changed (and, I must say, corrected) some of the vocabulary and sentence structure, in order to keep search engines from locating the exact source. I would credit this publisher, but it might seem I am picking on them. I am not. Such clauses, to some degree or another, are fixtures in most small publishers’ disclaimers these days. That “cold, hard fact” is one that has affected us all.

Here’s the thing, though, about facts: people with power are the ones who create them. I think most of us would agree that, even now, publishers hold much more power than authors.  Continue reading



As the temperature rises to the point of causing slow insanity in the town where I live, people often ask me if I wish I’d stayed in a cooler climate. Sometimes I have to think about it, but my answer is always ‘no.’

Here’s why.



It was her dance with this northern land that had kept him here.

He would have sought warmer climates if just for himself, but could not imagine life without her delight over the glittering flakes and various snow-beings: men, angels, and bunnies. She would advance each day into the spiritual winter, then return to him with stories that overflowed him, for that evening, with perfect understanding.

He could not imagine her dance without the winter as her partner. Continue reading

Robbed by the Girl Who Played Kimberly

Diff'rent Strokes

So many drums…

Remember Kimberly? She was the girl who moved to the beat of that other drum. While her adopted brother from Harlem was asking everyone what they were talkin’ ’bout, Kimberly was attending private school, deciding whether to go on ski trips with boys, and even grappling (for twenty-two minutes) with Bulimia.

Kimberly was also my very first crush.


Finding a way to shine…

I’m not convinced that I can entirely credit my crush to the lovely Dana Plato, who quietly played Kimberly behind her much louder costar. It was more that I had grown up just enough to notice the first age-appropriate girl who appeared on my TV screen. Nevertheless, there are some ‘firsts’ a boy never forgets—his first big TV, his first belly-laugh, and his first crush—so Kimberly lives on, to this day, in my affections.

The Girl Who Played Kimberly did rob me of something, though. She robbed me of the illusion that notoriety brings everlasting success. Continue reading

Viewpoint Variation

Recently, I was struggling to distinguish the characters in one of my first-person novels. Every character in the story had their own personality, which I had clearly planned and defined, but I was starting to see that they all behaved too much like the narrator. As an exercise, I recalled an incident that happened to me as a very young boy, then forced myself to rewrite it as it might have happened from the perspective of a teenager—who, at the time, seemed to me like a man—I had encountered.

This is the result. Time will tell if it helps with my novel, but sourcing and rewriting an event from a writer’s own experience can be a valuable strategy. It might even be the best definition of the irritating old adage, “Write What You Know.”


Manly Pursuits

By K. Alan

beetleIn summertime, songs would reach Stanley through the fruit vines as he fought to remove an old tree. Every morning, he would arrive to Mr. Greenberger’s ranch-house, wanting to wrangle. He wanted his calluses to come from reins and saddles, not from a shovel. He wanted to be a man for just a few minutes.

Instead, Greenberger would send him in the rusted VW to hack at this stump as its roots clawed the soil. The old oak would have blocked some proposed grapevines; it had to go. Stanley put a sleeve to his brow, and stared along the imaginary line of vines up the hill.

Continue reading

“Fire in the Sea” targets ages 12-15: the “Right Age” for Mythology.

If you have not already, please visit my award-winning Flash Fiction here, here and here. While you are there, take a moment to browse around the community at WOW; enter a contest, take a course and read their informative blog. Without hyperbole, they are as supportive and encouraging a group as any that a new writer will ever find.


A Minotaur is fresh to some readers, but still recognizable.

When I first wrote Olivia of Olympus, I thought I was being original. After years of experiencing Dystopian YA fiction through the eyes of my students, I had begun to question why those familiar tropes should not instead be applied to existing legends. After all, it was the Norse and the Romans who first told tales of young heroes being pitted against impossible trials. It was the Greeks who proposed a society where women were freed, but at the cost of their lovers being killed and their sons enslaved. And when Zeus defied his wife, Hera, to express his overwhelming love for the human girl, Alcmene… well, a story like that has to give even Bella Swan a run for her mournful money.

Continue reading

The “Right Age” for Mythology?


For this entry in my series, The Right Age for Young Readers, I hope to start a discussion about whether existing mythology provides as valid an adventure in YA fiction as newly invented worlds. An excerpt from my edited 3-day novel project, Olivia of Olympus, is the starting point.

Olivia of Olympus, by K. Alan
from Chapter ε—A Long List of ex-Fathers


By the middle of this fifth chapter, Livi has gotten over her anger at her nerdy classmate, Kent, for ruining her chance to dance for scouts at a talent show. The show is cancelled when Kent cannot bring back his nerdier friend, Steve, after making him disappear. Trying to untangle the failed magic act, Livi and Kent, along with their friend Elsie, discover a portal to the ancient Greek land of Themiscyra. After learning of the Amazons’ abuses against Kent for simply being male, Livi is angry, and no longer just looking for Steve. Olivia is now looking for justice.


“You’ve got a lot to answer for, lady,” I sizzled upward to the Amazon Queen.

Hippolyta seemed remarkably unconcerned. “The slave’s time was short,” she reasoned. “His passing was inevitable. Killing him was a mercy.”

A sunrise behind us was revealing more detail to the surroundings where the sentries had taken us. We were in the arena of some kind of coliseum, with circles of concentric benches all around us. Kent was seated on the lowest of these, while Elsie tended to the most obvious of his wounds. It was up to me, then, to face the woman who I had thought, up until now, might want to help us.

“Even if that’s true,” I countered about Ozzie’s death, “That doesn’t explain your treatment of the other slaves.”

Hippolyta shared a look with each of her attendants, taking a little too long to examine their flowing hair and the flowers decorating it. As if they were all sharing a joke, she shrugged down at me from her throne, explaining simply, “They are men.”

“They’re your sons.”

My comment passed darkly over her features, and I knew I had pressed a button.

Continue reading

3 Electric Ways TV can Defibrillate your Writer’s Block

I need a break from my current series, The Right Age for Young Readers. Since I am having some writer’s block of my own, I thought I would fill the gap by reblogging this post, which was originally on Cow Pasture Chronicles. Hopefully, it will help someone else to deal with theirs!

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with television. I dreamed of the day that I could watch my choice of any TV show, at any time I wished. Now, that day has arrived, …

Source: 3 Electric Ways TV can Defibrillate your Writer’s Block

No Such Thing as The “Right Age” for Confronting Issues

Completing the third arc in my series, The “Right Age” for Young Readers:

I admit it. It was a trick question.

selfharmIn this case, I wanted my previous post—asking for opinions about a suitable age for Young Adult fiction to address issues like misogyny and self-harm—to generate reactions of shock and outrage. I wanted comments to argue over whether teens should be shielded from these horrors, or whether it is better that they be prepared for the dark world around them. I wanted flame-wars debating their impressionability against the resilience they possess to absorb the knowledge of a complex world. I wanted mothers to decry how fiction corrupts their daughters, and daughters to insist upon having a choice of content. I wanted arguments.

Instead, I got no comments at all.

Perhaps this is a sign that the question has no answer. The average adult’s natural instinct to protect young people is tough to criticize, after all: it’s not hard to take sides when parents want their kids safely at home, or to roll our eyes when a parent locks the liquor cabinet. Censorship, perhaps the filthiest word in literature, takes place every day in nuclear families and school libraries, and nobody objects. Nobody objects, because, where kids are concerned, it’s just better to be safe than sorry.

Or is it?

Continue reading

The “Right Age” for Confronting Issues?

For the third arc in my series, The Right Age for Young Readers, I present an excerpt from my young adult novel, Labels: Too Much Information. Those interested in learning more about the premise can read a sample chapter here. Following this excerpt, though, I am asking for comments about what might be the “right age” to read about the very real issues of misogyny, rape, and self-harm.

Jessica Johnson has developed the reluctant ability to see a word in the eyes of others: a “label” that describes their most recent wrongdoing. Discovering the her psychiatrist is a misogynist who becomes a murderer, she seeks help from anyone who might believe her, including the mysterious girl who has been watching her from the corridors of the hospital. The stranger is even more reticent, though, so Jessica tries to chase her…

From Labels, Chapter 4

Hips and Curves


…Glancing up, I saw a ventilation grate move just slightly. Someone was putting it back onto the vent.

From the inside.

I grabbed the grate, letting it cut into my fingers as the girl struggled to clasp it in place. Channeling every chin-up I’d ever been forced to do, I hauled myself closer to her level, ignoring the slicing sensation in my fingers as my weight forced the grate, with the girl, closer to mine. Of course, unlike those ultra-feminine cops on my TV shows, I was unaccustomed to hot pursuit, so I couldn’t anticipate what she would do next: let go of the grate.

That was the moment that Sarah’s orderly raced into view, toward the commotion. I only caught a glimpse of theft in his eyes, and part of me wondered what he had stolen while I tried to get up.

“Hey!” he shouted at the pile of my limbs on the floor, so I did what my newfound instincts demanded; I threw the grate at him like a Discus, and he dropped like a Shot-Put. Grabbing the lip of the vent again, I fought the lubricating blood on my fingers to pull myself up, and, surprisingly, found Old Patchy to be still in view. She had needed to turn herself around in very tight quarters, but this had definitely gained her the advantage, now that she was crawling in the right direction. In fact, she had the same advantage that I had resented for years in Marnie, in my mother, and in half the girls in my grade at school.

She was skinny.

I wasn’t fat, of course; that reassurance rang through my head in the dozen adult voices that had said it to me while I was growing up. I had hips, though; ‘hips and curves’, my mother had called them, while other kids had been less kind. Candace Bellingham herself had favored the name ‘Jumbo Jess’ for me, but the adults had promised me that my hips and curves would give me an advantage as I got older. They had been right more than once.

It turned out, though, that hips are not an advantage when chasing a skinny girl through the ventilation ducts of the local nuthouse. Who knew?

As I wriggled through each joined section, I tried to reason with her. “It’s OK,” I kept calling. “I just want to—” That was usually around the moment that she would cut suddenly, left or right, into a cross-vent.

These narrow escapes lasted until I managed to clamp a hand around her ankle. I saw the brand on the tread of the shoe I was holding still: ‘Yanto,’ a design that was usually the choice of those who have money. My blood stained the lower cuff of her jeans, as I pleaded with her struggling leg. “Just talk to me,” I offered, forgetting how often I had rejected that same offer from others. “Just tell me what’s wrong.”

Her head came into view, then, as she arched her back, and I saw more clearly the patches of hair that were missing. Each pink shape stood out like a continent against the thinning ocean of her hair, but it was no longer the pink or blonde colors that drew my attention. It was the outline of red around each missing patch: some brightly bleeding, and others scabbed over. Like an atmosphere, sympathy suddenly pressed in all around me as I realized that this girl had been tearing out her own beautiful hair. Something in her life was that terrible.

Then, her arched back gave her the flex that she needed to kick the top of my head with her other foot. She kicked me five times before my bleeding fingers finally let her go, and said her first words to me before disappearing.

“Just leave me alone! Somebody’s got to stop him!”

I had more to say to her. I was desperate to say it, but a recurring foot to my skull has a tendency to daze me; I could only focus on crawling forward without speaking. Our fracas—combined, I suppose, with my hips and curves—had weakened the next joint in the ventilation ducting, and I heard a sickening creak that seemed to last and last before I crashed through the suspended ceiling. I landed like a sand-bag in the Shady Acres’ lobby.

I could almost hear the scandalized oooohs of my classmates, inevitable after they found out how much I was in trou-ble. As orderlies raced toward me under the toppled furniture, I gasped the words I had been trying to say to the vanished girl.

“I just want to help…”

– Your opinion please: what is the “right age” for these Words from K. Alan?