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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Almost Ready, Still . . .

Okay, so Chicago Stories:West of Western is finally almost ready to post on Kindle. Except we're waiting for the new cover. I so loved the cover Dustin Ashe of IndyArmada did for Chicago Stories 2: Ravenswood that I asked him to design one for West of Western as well. So we're waiting for that. Dustin's a genius and it's worth the wait.

In the meantime I've been revising and reworking Seraphy's second adventure, Chicago Stories 2: Ravenswood, which takes place in the old Chicago neighborhood of Ravenswood on the North Side. This neighborhood, developed before the turn of the 20th century as suburb of Chicago, has blossomed again inthe last few years as young professionals discovered the great old houses, tree-lined streets and big gracious apartments turned condos. Hard to believe it was once a suburb, since not it's considered to be in the center of the city (north of Addison along the Ravenswood tracks). Professor Thomas MacKinnoin commissions Seraphy to convert a church by famed Chicago architect Louis Sullivan into a library. Problem" she's hardly speaking to once-friend MacKinnoin since she found he's sleeping with her mother. Second problem: the corpse in the font.

My Aussie friend Sue Williams, who's writing about the out back town of Rusty Bore and it's feisty defender Stef, a woman of meaty arms and limitless adventure, has asked me to write about self publishing. Like I know anything.

I've covered my early days at this. Since May, I've found that just when I thinkI have a manuscript ready, a rereading exposes doxens of thing I want to change. After driving my formatter, Kimberley Hitchens of, to distraction with chang after change, I finally declared it done and willnot look at it again until it's up on Kindle! Otherwise I suspect it would never be good enough and I'd still be callign for one more change as they screwed the lid of my casket down.

About Hitch: it's just silly to think I could format the manuscript for Kindle myself. Ha. You've all read about the lousy editing and formatting of the ebooks, and I've seen a bunch of those myself. When Tim Hallinan wrote on dorothy L about his wonderful formatter, I listened. Hitch and her minions are wonderful, with the patience of Job and the smarts of Steve Jobs. And not that $$ when you consider she saves you from looking like a fool in print. contact Hitch at

Same thng for the cover. A professional cover artist, like, say, Dustin Ashe at, is a must. I tried someone newer and cheaper, but Dustin's work is soo much better. Not terribly cheap, but again, the cover is the first thing most folks see, so I wanted something complex that expressed the feeling of the book. 


Monday, August 22, 2011

Almost Ready?

I tore the first chapter apart, deleting a scene I'd labored over for months--probably because I knew all the time it wasn't right. gone now, and the story starts a bit later, with Seraphy's first sight of the neighborhood west of Westrern and of the building she rescues.  The rest of the story went fairly quickly with only a few changes, but now I have to go back through very carefully, to clear any errors I've added since the ms was edited. I never appreciated Word's review tricks before!

And I'm thinking about finding another cover. If I had the guts I'd get Photoshop and try to design my own, but as a card carrying Luddite . . .

It seems I'm reading everyday about another well-known writer jumping ship and posting new work directly on Kindle. I'm just reading Tim Hallinan' s (nominated for an Edgar for his traditionally published Queen of Patpong) Smashed, his first Junior Bender novel, and its sequel, Little Elvises. Funny, fast and a great read, both of them. Go, Hallinan! Tim says he published Junior Bender's stories himself when his publisher declined them. Bad decision, publisher. To judge from his blog, Lawrence Block is having great fun dragging all his old work, published under an assortment of aliases, out for an airing on Kindle, and has some new work up as well. And of course, many of us tyros and lesser authors are choosing to go Kindle as well.

I like the totally open attitude Kindle has--if you can post your work, you can post your work. If it's any good, you may find readers. If not, then not, but at least it's not because an agency's overworked and underpaid reader hates redheads and your protagonist is a redhead, or an editor in New York didn't think anyone would read a book about black household help.  

Friday, August 5, 2011


I got the review copy of West of Western May 25, just as I was preparing to go to the hospital for a bilateral knee replacement, and for some reason, couldn't manage to proof it before I went. No problem, I thought, I'd do it during those two weeks of in-hospital rehab.  After all, I'd have nothing else to do.
Wrong.  I wasn't counting on the opiates they flooded me with to block pain generated by having  bones sawed off, pinned and glued and reassembled, not to mention muscles I never knew I had sliced and diced. I felt very little pain. I had very little brain, either.
 It's been almost two and a half months now, and I'm finally able to think in words of more than one syllable, count all ten toes and remember my phone number. First they shifted me from morphine to oxycodone, then to vicodine, and when I had no pain left, to nothing, but it still took me a couple of weeks to clear everything out of my body.
I'm not the same person I was before. It's not only new bionic knees, I seem to have subtly shifted brain cells as well. When I read the proof sheets for West of Western, I hated it. Yikes! The writing felt spiky, the characters undeveloped, the setting thin. So I waited a few days and read it again. ARGHH.
Nothing for it, I pulled the production and am rewriting.  Not the big stuff, the structure and plot, but scene by scene to let the reader know the Seraphy and other characters as I know them to be.
Shouldn't take more than a month . . .

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Allen sent me the cover design for West of Western today, so maybe I'll have Seraphy on Kindle soon. I hope.

Everything seems caught up in the hurry-up-and-wait process, and in the meantime it's spring here in the cornfields, flowers and trees and weedsa throwing themselves up out of black soil, baby rabbits munching  around the yard, the attic full of breeding squirrels, and an enormous opossum making overtures to become a renter.

I'm trying to remember when I was excited about this book business. Was it really just last month? Ah. Right. Well, another week or so of yard tending and housecleaning and reading day and night, and I'll be ready to get on with it.

It being the final revision of Seraphy's second outing, in which she works on a lost church by Chicago architect Louis Sullivan and finds a body in a font and a secret WWII concentration camp journal.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chicago Stories: West of Western coming . . .

After weeks of revising, editing, finding a formatter and cover designer, registering the copyright and generally tucking in bits and pieces, I seem to be at one of those hurry up and wait stages. Allen Chiu, my cover artist, tells me it's coming. Soon the cover goes to the Hitch, my formatter, and she works her magic, and there will be more decisions.

In the meantime, I cleaned the periwinkle out of the path around the house and replanted it in the raised beds where it can grow and flourish so I'll have nice big clumps to plant when--if ever--I get the rocks (left from a former owner'smisguided attempt at landscaping) and the plastic under them up, the soupy soil under them dried out and enriched with compost, and the whole border replanted. I've been contemplating this for soem five years. It's a heavy and nasty job. Maybe later this summer. After I get my new knees. In the meantime, the periwinkle can grow its little heart out.

Time to clean up the bits and pieces. Since I'm projecting Chicago Stories as a series, I'm making up a master book of character bios, so when a character reappears I'll remember the details. I have Seraphy and her family, Her boss Max, Sister Ann, Mischa the mysterious Ukrainian and Mario the gangleader with the MBA done.  Others exist in 1 paragraph notes only, just enough for West of Western. So now I'm going back and filling them out a bit to give me  more to use in the future. Also to appease my need to tidy up.
Or maybe to put off starting something new? 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Chicago, murder, illegal immigrants, gangs, Seraphy Pelligrini, architect

Today I found out about metadata, or how to make my blog more findable, thus the title of today's segment. Yesterday my formatter, Kimberley Hitchens,, sent a Production Checklist for Chicago Stories: West of Western.  Just a few items to get, like copyright registration and ISBN number. I've groused about the federal government for years (who wouldn't, when for most of us, our experience is mostly IRS), but the copyright office was fast and uber-helpful. And now I'm official. Chicago Stories: West of Western, copyright 2011 by Eileen Hamer. Has a lovely ring, no?

Between hunting for the exact twenty words to sum up an 87,000 word novel and the right images for the cover, it's been interesting. Fun to think about, hope I got it right.

Yesterday I posted a bit of the information I've been gathering about epublishing to a group of writiers to which I subscribe and started a firestorm. I had no idea the folks who have agents and editors and publishers, and those who work with/for them, were so extremely sensitive to the very thought of soeone epublishing their own work. Wow. Silly me, of course those who've negotiated the obstacle crap shoot called finding an agent are angry that someone might actually have the nerve not to hunt for one. they invested all that work, so of course agents are essential. The editors and agents and miscellaneous publishing flunkeys are worried about their jobs.

As they should be. But there will always be a need for good agents, and there will always be hardcopy books, just maybe not so many.  But now, with epublishing, they won't have the stranglehold they once had. There has always been self-publishing, and in spite of what you hear, it hasn't all been self-indulgent crap. Anyone who's done research in, say, art  history, has found at least a few beautiful privately-printed books issued by individuals and organizations essential. Mostly those are now in collections.  

So now it's not all about the means of production, it's the means of distribution that's the agent of change.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chicago Stories: Keep falling forward

Chicago Stories: Keep falling forward: "Still accumulating bits of info needed to make this publishing project a reality. I've been delighted at the willingness of some well-..."

Keep falling forward

Still accumulating bits of info needed to make this publishing project a reality.  I've been delighted at the willingness of some well-known writers to offer advice and assistance to someone they've never met.

Aside from all this housekeeping stuff, the next task is a final read-thru of West of Western, getting it into the best shape possible. At the same time, find a graphic designer for the cover (have two possibles so far), a packager (to check the formatting and so on, get the whole thing ready for Kindle), and put it all together.

At that point, I'll post a bit from the books here to give you a preview.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jumping off the Cliff

Day 1

Just setting up my first blog. Easy, so why do I feel a bit intimidated?
Old dog trying to learn to jump through hoops?

Chicago Stories: West of Western, the first of a mystery series set in different neighborhoods in Chicago, is finally finished.  I think. Written, revised, revised, revised, edited and almost ready to publish through Amazon Kindle.

So now its a matter of the business of publishing--finding out about ISBNs, copyright, formatting, all that. Yikes!  Can I afford a professional designer? or a packager? Hmm. Will they take visa?

Chicago Stories: West of Western is the story of Seraphy Pelligrini, ex-Marine and Darkpool agent, wounded in the Middle East, now home in Chicago to start a new life in an abandoned building in a marginal neighborhood. She has a few problems: smashed widows, death threats painted on her garage, a man shot on the doorstep, three more down the street. With the help of unexpected friends, Seraphy finds herself hunting a killer in a neighborhood of strangers.