Tag Archives: Deborah Schneider

Holiday Magic

A few months ago I learned that my nephew was getting married, and he was planning a “destination wedding”. He loves Disney World, and he and his fiancée had decided to get married there a week before Christmas.

Initially, the idea of traveling 3000 miles for what will amount to a long weekend the week before Christmas was exhausting. I mean, who needs a major trip right in the middle of the holidays? Then I started to think about it.

I confess, I really love theme parks. I visited Disney World when it was just the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and Kissimmee was a little town. I remember staying with a friend and picking oranges in the backyard, right in the middle of town. When I visited a few years ago with my family, things had certainly changed.

But the magic is still there. I love the idea of entering a place where you suspend disbelief. A theme park is like a book in that way. You know none of the illusions are real, but you really don’t care, because you’re there for the entertainment.

So I did some research and discovered that there are special decorations, and even a special Christmas Party with Mickey and his friends. I planned my trip so I can visit Universal Studios too, because there are new rides around Harry Potter, in the same park as all the Dr. Seuss characters.

So, what initially had sounded like a disruption to all my holiday planning will be a short vacation. I’ve heard the weather is lovely, (72 degrees is tropical to those of us who live in the Northwest). Best of all,

I’ll see my Mom, sister, niece, grand-nephew and my nephew who is getting married.
I just hope he doesn’t object to the Minnie Mouse ears at the wedding! Have a Happy Holiday!

Deborah Schneider


Playing Dress-Up

It’s a stage I have never actually outgrown. You  know— when as a child you donned princess outfits, cowboy boot and hats, played with toy guns (not politically correct now) and became a knight, a soldier, a Queen or a pirate. Living in a fantasy world of your own creation.

I’m definitely a grown up now. Officially a “Grannie” and yet I simply can’t shed my love of dressing up and assuming the role of a character. Not necessarily a character in one of my books, that’s too personal. After all, I know more about those folks than anyone else, and they are not me.

But, from time to time I create costumes, put them on and wander out to portray someone else in the real world. It’s called “cos-play” now-a-days. A fancy name for what my mother simply calls, “your get-ups”.  And while that might sound a bit derisive, it isn’t. She contributes more to my cache of costume treasures than anyone else. She loves garage sales, church sales and thrift shops, where all the best treasures are found. I simply have to tell her what I’m looking for and before long; it appears on my doorstep via UPS.

So of course, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but when you can combine cos-play with Halloween, you have the perfect weekend. “Steamcon IV: Victorian Monsters” was held October 26 -28 in Bellevue, WA. I’ve been to every single Steamcon, and the programs and events are always fun.

I learned about Victorian burial rituals and mourning, Spiritualism, Monsters, the influence of Fairy Tales on the Victorians, and listened to a variety of music. The art displays were amazing, and the merchant’s room filled with creative stuff I wanted to buy.

But best of all, I had the opportunity to dress up and mingle with other folks who share my enthusiasm for the Neo-Victorian life and “get-ups”. To the extreme. What a lovely way to spend a weekend.



Feeling Like A Celebrity

One of the things I really like about attending conferences is that you never really know who you will strike up a conversation with while you’re sitting in the bar, riding the elevator or attending a workshop.

My friend Sheryl and I attended the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention last April in Chicago. We’ve been to this conference several times before, and it’s one of my favorites. There are more book readers than authors, so it’s a nice place to talk to fans. There has been a bigger focus on writing workshops these past few years.

Sheryl and I were particularly interested in the “Indie Publishing “ programs, with some of the biggest names in the Indie publishing world,  speakers like Mark Coker, J.A. Konrath and Bob Mayer.  My critique partner, Sheryl, has an inquiring mind and she is often the first person in the room to raise her hand to ask questions.

After the second program we attended, a very nice young man approached her and said, “Hello, I’m Andrew, and I’m writing an article for the NY Times. You asked really good questions, and I’d like to talk to you about self-publishing.”

Andrew interviewed her, and since she talked about me and my recent self-publishing experience that inspired her, I was interviewed too.  It was great fun, but we both knew that reporters write articles that never get published, so we didn’t count any chickens.

That was a good thing, because Andrew reported to us in the summer that that the article was not going to be published. He hadn’t given up, but Sheryl and I went on with our lives, writing, editing and publishing.

Then a few weeks ago, Andrew reported that he had a friend at a magazine interested in the article, and he’d get back to us. We found out that the article was acquired by Time magazine. TIME magazine. Then we were told that they would be sending a photographer to do a photo shoot.

It worked out that Sheryl was volunteering at the Northwest Bookfest on the weekend we did the photo shoot. Chris showed up with Mike, (a helper to carry all the equipment). Chris had major camera equipment, reflectors; extra cameras, tripods,  it was just like those photo shoots you see on TV.  People kept watching, probably wondering if we were famous.

My favorite moment was when Sheryl and I had our photos taken outside the Teen Center. A gaggle of young ladies were standing and watching the process. I smiled at them and said, “You thought only tall, skinny girls were supermodels, huh?”

I have no idea when, or even if the article about us will be in the magazine. It still strikes me funny that they would include an article about Indie publishing in a news magazine. But should it happen, I’ll be thrilled to be featured in the same publication as Fareed Zakaria!


Sun, Sand, Surf

Anyone who knows me, or has read this blog knows how much I love going to the beach. My favorite winter time escapes are usually tropical in nature. I need a good dose of vitamin D and days of swimming in the ocean to find my balance when the days are long are dark.
But, when our boys were young, we spent more time visiting the beaches in Oregon during the summertime. Now, I’ll agree that Washington has some gorgeous beaches. We spent a week camping on the Olympic peninsula many years ago. But, some of our favorite trips were down to the Cannon Beach area in Oregon.
We have a new generation in our family, our granddaughter Sophia, (who now that she can talk, prefers to be called “Sophie”). This summer, we wanted to begin creating memories and family traditions for her.
So, we rented a house down in Lincoln City, Oregon for week. She’s almost two years old, and it seemed to me that water and sand at the beach would be a perfect combination to entertain a toddler. Plus, with a stop in Portland in between, it seemed a manageable car trip.
I was right. From the moment we stood on the deck of the house and pointed out the ocean and beach, she couldn’t stop talking about it. “Beach, beach, beach” she repeated, before we’d even stepped a foot onto the sand.
Sticks, seashells, feathers, and piles and piles of sand, both wet and dry intrigued her. A pretty substantial amount was taste-tested, (maybe it was the salty flavor?) It was the simple pleasures of putting our feet in the ocean as it curled up to the shore, finding amazing starfish in the tide pools and watching whales frolic off shore that entertained us.
Our family meals were filled with jokes, laughter and memories of previous trips to the ocean. Sometimes a bit sad because of our loved one no longer with us. But, we did create new memories for Sophie, and as I look at the photos we took, it’s astonishing to consider how simple pleasures like this enrich our lives so much.
Like the sand on the beach, we pile up tiny moments of wonder into a rich, swirling life that stretches across years. Our memories are the things that link us together and connect our hearts.
Go find your best beach.

Dinner with George

I get invited to many cool events, but when an invitation to the Clarion West dinner with George R.R. Martin arrived in my inbox a couple of months ago, there was nearly no pause to my quick R.S.V.P.

This is the man who wrote the books behind the “Game of Thrones” on HBO. The series that brings my house to a stop, with chairs circled around the big screen as we wait to see what will happen next to the good, the bad and the really strange characters.

And I love the books, with complex plotting, a nearly endless cast of characters, (over a thousand now, George tells us at the dinner). How does he keep track of them all? “Mostly in my head,” he says. As a writer, it took all my self-control not to jump up and scream, “How do you do that?”

George is pretty low key guy. He was interviewed by Connie Willis, who is a long-time friend. She knew George before he was famous, and apparently knows where a lot of the skeletons are buried. She teased him about his suspenders. “What’s with the suspenders”? Connie asked.

“They hold up my pants,” he responded deadpan. “I used to wear a belt, but when security started making me remove it at the airport, I switched to suspenders.” Recently he discovered with the new machines, he needs to remove his suspenders too. His solution, suspenders made with plastic grips.

It takes George a pretty long time to write a book. Well, have you seen these books? The paperbacks are over 1000 pages. So his publisher decided to create a book of maps for his created lands. It wasn’t supposed to involve any of George’s time. He’d just review the mapa, approve them and get back to writing the next book in the series.

Then the editor asked “What’s beyond the border to the east?” George replied, “It doesn’t matter, no one goes there.”

His editor wasn’t satisfied with this answer, and George then had to create lands in the east. Lands that he still insists…”No one goes to. Ever.”

I discovered things about one of my favorite authors that evening. Not only is he funny, in a no nonsense, tell it like it is way. He’s also still fascinated with the process of writing and creating imaginary worlds. He writes because people interest him, and putting his characters in unique situations teaches him, and us as readers, about the complexity of human nature.

I think that’s what drives us as storytellers. We want to explore inner worlds just as much as the places where we set our books. Westeros, the surface of Mars or Victorian England, we put our characters there to test their wills and watch them survive.

And we cheer for them, cry for them and sometimes, our hearts even break for them. For me, that’s the true magic of telling their stories.


Library ladies hanging out with George R.R. Martin

My Huckleberry Friend

My not quite two year old granddaughter just had her first overnight camping experience. She slept in a tent with her parents, and by their account, she had a wonderful time picking up sticks and pinecones, playing in water and watching wildlife.

It brought back memories of camping trips we took with our boys when they were young. I suspect these memories are closer to the surface because we just got rid of the thirty-five year old van we used for those trips. I remember carefully making lists, preparing the food, packing it all up in the van and taking off for a week. We could barely contain our excitement.

When you have three young children, camping is actually a lot of work. You live in a very primitive fashion, setting up your home, hauling water, building fires, and working had to get the meals together, then cleaning them up. Yet, there is all that fresh air, fishing, swimming, hiking and enjoying the great outdoors as your reward.

One of the things I enjoyed most was the aspect of stripping down our lives to very basic needs. A nylon tent was our home, with air mattresses and sleeping bags spread across the floor. Like nomads, we could pack up every few days, (or even every day) and seek out new adventures.

Our favorite times were sitting around the campfire, toasting marshmallows, poking at the hot coals with a stick and telling stories. My boys loved the true life ghost stories I told about seeing strange things in my grandmother’s house. I will still swear today that old house was haunted. And it was these stories of the humpty-dumpty doll that came alive and danced on mybed and the Civil War era woman who slipped through my parent’s bedroom one night that they still remember.

We still sit outside on summer nights, but now it’s on our back porch with candles lit instead of around a campfire. Tonight we talked about some of our favorite camping trips. That special place on Orcas Island reserved only for tent campers. Osoyoos Lake, the Oregon coast, Kelowna in Canada and Eastern Washington were all on that list.

I have photos of these trips, but sometimes it’s more fun to simply talk about those vacations. We compare notes, try to recall the dates and correct each other until we’ve built a story. These are the tales I want to share to with my little Sophia. I want to sit around a campfire with her someday and tell her how her Dad made bows and arrows , stripped off many of his clothes and ran wild through the woods with his brothers.

My son Garth once described his childhood as, “a Huckleberry Finn experience”. And who wouldn’t want that for their children and grandchildren?

We’re after the same rainbow’s end
Waiting ’round the bend, my huckleberry friend, moon river and me.

Moon River – Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini


Plotting – it isn’t easy

A few days ago, I received a review for my newest release, “Whistle Down the Wind”, and one of the things the reviewer mentions is that “Stone builds her plot easily, making the readers truly wish they were part of this fascinating relationship.” As I forwarded this to my various Social Networking links, I commented that I hoped my critique partner, Saralynn Hoyt didn’t see it. She knows how hard it is for me to plot out my books.

Saralynn responded with a post that really made me think about the way I plot. She mentioned that I use maps, photos, notes, images and notebooks. She suggested that I used the “scrapbooking” method of plotting my books.

I think she described it perfectly. I carefully construct a variety of things for my books, beginning with a “mindmap” that is a visual diagram of my characters, their motivations, the time period and any initial details that come to me. I add a “T-shirt” for each character, which is actually their underlying issue, things like “I don’t trust anyone” – “I have Father issues” basically like the thing they did in “Glee” where every character had to create a shirt that told someone a thing they wanted to hide about themselves. It’s an idea I borrowed from a parenting class I took, because the instructor suggested everyone had this t-shirt, but it’s invisible.

[sample Mindmap, it’s not pretty but it gets me thinking]

Then I create a list that I call, “20 Things That Could Happen In This Book” which is a brainstorming exercise to come up with major plot points and action. Some of these plot points won’t make sense as I write the book and I won’t use all of them. New ones will develop as I write the first draft, but I will have a skeleton to hang the pieces of the story on as I begin to write it.

But I won’t be writing yet. I’ll go through my collection of character photos, clipped from magazines or printed out from the internet. This is to give me physical descriptions of my characters so I can “see” what they look like. I’ll add the maps of the area, timeline, character notes, and sort it all neatly into a 3-ring binder.

I stock up on binders, organizers and notebooks in September, when all the school supplies go on sale. I’ve even blogged here about how much I love loading up on writing supplies so I’m ready for the “new school” year. Each notebook sits waiting for the idea to hit, the characters to grow, the story to develop.

When I launched this latest book with a blog tour, I was grateful for my lovely notebooks. I wrote 15 blog articles about the research, the characters, the setting and the story, and all I needed to find the ideas were my notebooks. In the case of this book, there are two notebooks, because it will be a four book series. I needed a series research bible and a notebook for each of the individual books in the series.

My critique partner shudders when she sees my process, because she’s much more of a “pantster” who can sit down and write with just her research notes. It would terrify me to do that, because it would be like the dream where you’re walking down the hall in High School, heading for a test you haven’t studied for– and you’re naked!

The most frequently asked question at author events is: “What is your process when you’re writing?” I think all writers are looking for the magic: the method that will make it easy, help the words flow and keep the muse hovering as the pages fill with words that thrill and amaze the reader.

But, for most of us, writing is hard. Writing well is even harder, as we struggle to transfer the amazing story that is in our heads to the page. We develop systems, create methods and search for inspiration. For me – this is what works.

I wish you well in finding your own writing path.


Indie Publishing – The Story Continues

A few months ago I wrote about jumping into the “Indie” publishing, aka: self-publishing, pool. I’d obtained the rights back to my first published book and I decided to publish it digitally.

The journey has been interesting, with lots of twists and turns along the way. Much like a vacation where you know the destination, but you’re taking the scenic route and waiting to discover unique sights as you travel.

First, let’s be clear, I didn’t really know what I was doing. This was definitely “on the job” training. My first step was to download and study the Smashwords style guide. Smashwords is one of the main distribution channels, and they will upload your files to Pubit! (Barnes&Noble), the iTunes store for Apple devices and Kobo.

I’d heard that Smashwords, and their malicious system called: “The Meat Grinder” would be the most difficult to upload files to, so I decided if I managed to get my book uploaded to them, it would work for Kindle. So, I studied the guidelines and typed out my manuscript… word by word. I could have scanned these files, but since I wanted to do a little polishing and editing, I chose this longer method.

Then I needed a new cover design, so I contacted a friend who was a graphic designer. I had a model in mind, bought some photos and she went to work. As the author, having so much control of your cover art is unique and a bit scary. I think we ended up with an amazing cover.

Since this book had already been through the editorial process with my publisher, I didn’t hire an editor. But, I would recommend any time you are Indie publishing to hire an experienced editor. This is your name going on a product, and you want the very best presentation possible.

When I had both the artwork and the text in finished format, I sent it through the “Meat Grinder”, and I was surprised and delighted that it made it through the evaluation process the first time. The key to doing this right: follow every single direction in the Smashwords guide for formatting. Ebooks are very different from print books, and the formatting is different.

Finally I created a copy for the Kindle and uploaded it. Within a few days, I was PUBLISHED. Which seemed a bit strange, because with my previous publishers, it took months to finally see the finished product. Another important thing to remember: digital publishing is fast.

I’m happy to say that this book, Beneath A Silver Moon, has sold well. I’ve made 10 times the amount I was paid by my publisher, and the book still sells copies every week.

I just uploaded my second Indie published book, Whistle Down the Wind, and I expect since it’s a historical book with paranormal elements and under a new pen name, (Sibelle Stone) that it will take time to find an audience. But, digital books have a shelf life of – forever. So I can be patient, and I’ve moved on to work on my next book.

That’s the greatest gift that digital publishing has given me, a new delight and enthusiasm for writing. I have so many stories jumping out at me, that I had to make a file for “story ideas” on my computer.

Indie publishing is difficult, there’s an enormous learning curve, and it’s possible you will not sell any books. But , for me it’s been a wonderful way to get my writing in front of an audience.

You can find more information about Indie publishing on my Blog, http://www.sibellestone.com

Deborah Schneider

Writing what you love

I have a confession to make: once upon a time, I was a Social Studies teacher, and my particular area of interest has always been American History. I especially love colonial history through the WWI era, (although the roaring twenties do have their charms). Stories of the frontier, the heroes of the American Revolution, expansion into the west and the Civil War era all excite me. Those are the times I want to place my characters into for my stories.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned that these are not the favorite eras for NY agents or editors. I’ve heard often enough from these folks that certain eras don’t “sell” — including the ones I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching. Despite the possibility of moving my publishing career along faster, I just couldn’t move my stories to the Regency era or Scotland as many of them suggested.

That’s just not what I want to write. So, my books have taken a long time to get published, and some languished in my computer, (I only keep dust bunnies under my bed), waiting for the day when stories set in America would be popular again.

Then a strange thing happened to the publishing world, eBooks, (which I had been predicting would be big for years) hit their stride. The Kindle appeared and changed everything. Indie publishing appeared on the horizon, like a hero on a white horse for us hungry authors wanting to write books that didn’t fit into quaint little boxes.

After publishing my first book, Beneath A Silver Moon as an Indie author, I dusted off the first book in a series that I’d dreamed about for years. I love reading books with paranormal elements, but I don’t think there are enough books set in historical times in this sub-genre. So, I did what every good writer does when they can’t find what they want to read, I wrote it.

After months of work, rewriting after my editor finished with the book, rewriting again after my BETA readers gave me input and learning some new software programs, my book went live on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and all the other popular platforms.

It’s a book about a witch, that moves from England in 1664 to the colony of Jamestown, Virginia. It’s the book I was told by an editor that wouldn’t sell because, “witches in America sounds like The Crucible and everyone had to read that in High School and hated it.”

The colony of Virginia was a very different settlement than the Massachusetts colony. It was not settled by Pilgrims, Many of the early Virginia colonists were from the upper class, in search of wealth and adventure, and some of them eager to escape from the Puritan takeover during the Cromwell years.

These colonial families beget, (what a great Biblical term) some of the finest men our country has ever known, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

That editor might be right. Then again, I’m hoping to prove her wrong!

Deborah Schneider

Whistle Down the Wind by Sibelle Stone
Escaping from the persecution of the European witch hunts, a powerful witch with the ability to control the wind joins forces with a handsome Cavalier on a mission to save the King of England and the colony of Virginia while a dangerous stranger hunts them both. Book One: Mystic Moon Series.

Learn From My Mistakes

When I first decided to create my own publishing company, I was filled with enthusiasm. It was like saying, “Hey kids, let’s put on a show…” or “A Book Festival can’t be that difficult to…” No, wait. I really should have thought this one through more.

I’m publishing my second digital book this week. According to everything we know, the second time you do anything, it should be easier. After all, you are experienced. That’s the way we think, but sometimes there are complications.

So, here are few things I learned on my adventure to publishing Whistle Down the Wind.

• Be prepared. I didn’t plan for all the work it would take to support my pseudonym. My evil twin is very demanding. She needs her own website, her own Facebook page, business cards, bio, author photo. You name it, this gal apparently needs it. I knew this book would be released under a different name, but I did a poor job of preparing the necessary marketing support.

• Understand that every timeline you create will probably need to be extended. When I submitted this book to my editor, I planned a December release. I pushed that release date forward several times, eventually settling on March 10th. I needed to be more realistic about the amount of time it takes for revisions.

• When you are trying to publish a book is not a good time to learn how to use new software. I want to have some print copies for reviewers. So I’ve tried to teach myself how to use CreateSpace. It’s challenging. I send the book to them, the “Inside Reviewer” tells me what’s wrong. I try to fix it, and that apparently creates a new problem. At least the automated reviewer has endless patience. I discovered I do not.

• A Blog Tour means you must write blogs. Of course – I knew that, but kept telling myself that I’d get to that. I had time. Now I have less than a week to write a LOT of blog entries. I have my topics; at least I did that in advance. But given the endless opportunities to do other things, (see the above), I didn’t take advantage of the time I had to research and write blog entries.

Despite all the trials and tribulations of giving birth to this work, I really do enjoy the process of presenting my book to the world. I like controlling my own career, making decisions about cover art, design, editing, etc. But the reality is that this path is not for everyone. It’s a very “hands-on” experience, and in the weeks that I’ve been preparing the book for release, I haven’t been creating any new work.

And of course as writers we know, after the book we just published there is the “next book” we will create.