Friday, November 25, 2011

Welcome to Loblolly's Log Book

Hi and welcome to Loblolly Log, the official blog of Charlsie Russell, owner and sole author of Loblolly Writer’s house.

This is my first blog post, written well in advance of posting it; indeed, well in advance of creating my blog. A month ago, when determination finally had its way with me, I feared life might get in the way and I'd never find time to get started. But I do believe I need this blog, just like I need to sit down and figure out what I'm supposed to do with those 90 plus emails I’ve saved on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.

I am a fiction writer. When I began writing, all I wanted was to write my works of romance, wow a New York publisher, and become rich and famous. How delusional I was. In the intervening years, I’ve learned that my work, though containing romance, is not “romance” as defined by those young editors working for traditional New York houses, and if what I write is not romance, then I don’t really want to write “romance.” I want to write what I want to write, which I’ve managed to define over the years. I write historical suspense set in Mississippi, marketed as love, romance, sex, violence, mystery, suspense, and happily ever after from the deepest of the Deep South.

The South was right, at least regarding the Constitution, and with all their faults, her people and her leaders were certainly no more wrong than those in the North. And if I’ve got to go with wrong, whatever that is, I’m going to go with my own. Lincoln, with his clear violation of the Constitution and repeated abuse of executive power is not, in my opinion, this nation’s greatest president nor its second greatest, but should be placed near the bottom of the list. Six hundred and fifty thousand American dead--killing one another no less--does not, in my opinion, constitute great leadership. The Northern states gave up their rights to the Federal government, and ultimately the South had hers stolen from her through defeat. The end of slavery, nominally the cause of the War, and I agree it was a catalyst, but more for its economic repercussions than its moral ones, was the consolation prize, and the only one.

But I digress. I include the above diatribe to impress upon you that I am clearly a niche writer, writing escape fiction with a passion for something I love. I liken my work to a cross between the beauty, the passion, and the violence of Frank Yerby’s Old South and the romance and happy endings of Zane Grey, who wrote before him. But this blog is less about writing and history than it is about independent publishing, or more precisely, self-publishing.

I worked for seven years to wow those traditional New York publishers or, as I soon realized, their young editors. They were, they said, always looking for new talent. Nevertheless, nominal success in the form of contest wins and, from time to time, the request for a full never led to a contract, even after some attempts to compromise my work in favor of what I thought New York wanted.

As the years passed, I focused more and more on Mississippi history (history is an old love), retaining the mystery, suspense, and romance, which I enjoy when I read for pleasure. The more I leaned that direction, the farther I receded from traditional marketability. By now confident in my work and embroiled in my setting, I decided to publish myself, and in 2005, only weeks before Katrina rolled across the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I established Loblolly Writer’s House.

Did I tell y’all that I’m from Gulfport, Mississippi? And yes, I was here for the storm--lost a roof, but not a house nor, more importantly, someone I love. One year later, after I’d spent years and a relatively small fortune (by my standards), my first historical, The Devil’s Bastard hit the streets at the same time the market here on the Coast and throughout Mississippi was flooded with first-anniversary Katrina survival stories. Mine wasn’t really of interest, at least not to local media. Personally, I think escaping from the misery is better than wallowing in it. Maybe my misery wasn’t great enough--from the storm, I mean, but alas, the realities of publishing were seeping in. Timing can prove disastrous for any publisher; it just hurts worse when you’re little bitty.

Which brings me to the point of Loblolly Log—sharing my journey to self-publishing and beyond. That’s where I am now—beyond (sometimes I think I must be in outer space, but in reality I’m simply lost in cyberspace). Anyway, my goal with the Loblolly Log is an attempt to harness the marketing potential of the internet. Heavy tents and boxes of books in conjunction with awkward tables and chairs—not to mention summer heat and winter cold endemic to craft fairs—are getting old. With Loblolly Log, I hope to entertain fellow writers, readers, self-publishers, and teach/support potential self-publishers by sharing my journey. At the same time, I hope to draw interest to my work, with the added benefit of learning through reciprocal comments to my posts.

In future articles I intend to discuss subjects ranging from print books to ebooks and audio books; editing; typography; covers; and writing. Oh, and, ugh, marketing (which, I repeat, is what brought me here to begin with). In many cases I will lead the reader through my most trying endeavors—for example, I am in the middle of creating my first mobipocket book for upload to Amazon for sale on the Kindle. And "no", I do not want to simply send a word document to Amazon for them to create (and have) the only mobipocket version; I want my own mobipocket document. [Actually Smashwords created a mobipocket version of all my books, but Smashwords and Amazon haven’t reached an agreement for resale. I love Smashwords, and I’ll discuss them in a later post.]

Anyway, the mobipocket creation has been a learning experience, which I will share in coming weeks. Look for a new blog post from me about once a week and let me hear from you.

Thanks for reading,