2022 Writing Heights Conference

It has been such a long time since I have been in person at any event, let alone a conference, that I felt quite giddy at the thought of attending this in person event. 

The 2022 Writing Heights Conference was hosted and organized by Northern Colorado Writers and held in my home city - Fort Collins. It was as if the universe was telling me something - this was an event I had no excuse to miss. 

I took leave, advised my colleagues that I was following my joy and attended my very first writers conference. 

For me, the conference started with a masterclass on Thursday, April 28th, 2022, a four-hour class on what it takes to successfully self-publish conducted by Kerrie Flanagan. The conference programming started at 9am on Friday April 29th and ended the afternoon of Saturday April 30th. 

Each night I came home with my brain humming, overheating with all the new, actionable information I had learned.

I love learning new things. 

It is going to take several weeks to digest everything that I learned. But in this moment, now, as I write this here are some of my key takeaways: -

  1. Author Website. I've been blogging since 2003, and my website looked quite frankly like an ancient relic. I don't have the budget to spend on author website design, so I decided to look at what other templates were available and try them out. I think I will continue to tweak until I am happy with this. 
  2. That it is ok not to write every day. 
  3. Every author whether they are self-published or with a traditional publisher is expected to do some marketing. That was an eye opener. I always thought that if one is traditionally published that the publisher handles all the marketing. Not true. 
  4. Marketing - you can't do everything, so try out different things, and find the things that you are most comfortable doing. 
  5. The importance of a critique group. I have been feeling very anxious about this. But I attended a wonderful session given by Kendra Griffin who explained the value of critique groups, and how to give and receive good critiques. I made a connection or two. So fingers crossed I can get started in a critique group. 
  6. Know, study and read your genre. 

 

 

 


Author Q & A

How did you begin?

The first book, The Lost Colors was first written about 20 years ago. In 2019 when we lost our 10-month-old kitten, (who is the inspiration of this series) I was devastated. I was cleaning out my study and came across the manuscript and computer disc. I reread the manuscript (it was such a long time since I had written it, I could not remember what happen.) I thought it would make a great story of a girl, Caitlin and her cat Rio (based on my Rio.) We had to scrounge to find a computer old enough to download the files. My husband, Kevin unearthed an old computer from our basement. I was surprised when I found that the disc contained a number story outlines, and character outlines of a couple of other story ideas – including a murder mystery.

I wanted to write the kind of stories that I remember enjoying reading as a child. For this series, I wanted to create a world where anything is possible. I also wanted to create a story with strong female characters. I want the central characters, Caitlin and her best friends, Molly and Trudie to solve mysteries and defeat evil. Of course, they are helped by Caitlin’s extraordinary cat, Rio.

Can I read the books in any order?

I have tried to make each book stand alone. However, for your maximum enjoyment I think reading the books in order is the best way to read the entire series.

Are your books based on real life characters?

These stories are a work of fiction, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. However, I do take my inspiration from real life events, experiences and inspirations. For example, the Rio in the series is inspired by my kitten Rio. The Missing Cats was inspired by a walk around the neighborhood and seeing the lost cat notices. Mr. Brewster’s dog, Angus is based on a Jack Russell terrier called Angus that I had growing up.

Who is your audience?

This series is for ages 8 – 12 years.

Why did you decide to write for this age group?

I want to write the kind of stories that I remember loving at that age.

Where do you get your ideas for your stories?

Ordinary suburbia is my inspiration. I like thinking about how I can take something normal and turn into something interesting and different.

How many books are in the Series?

I am not sure. When it feels right, the series will end.

Are your books available in Kindle?

Yes. All the books in the series are and will be available in Kindle.

Are your books available as audio books?

No. Currently the books are not available as audio books.

Why can’t I buy your books at Barnes & Noble?

My books are only available for sale through Amazon.

How can I find out when the next book will be released?

There are several ways – you can follow me on Amazon. Or check the blog, www.sallyalexander.com for announcements. Or email me at sally dot alexander at comcast dot net to be signed up for author announcements.

What does it mean to be an independent publisher?

Thanks to Amazon, independent publishing is easy and accessible. This means I can publish my work, without having to try and find a corporate publisher. The decision of when and what to publish is my decision.

Another name for independent publishers is self-publishing. Before deciding to publish through Amazon, I did investigate several self-publishing companies. I was not prepared to spend the money they were asking to self-publish.

Why are the books only available in American English?

For my readers in Australia, New Zealand, UK and South Africa you will no doubt notice and be quite annoyed that the books are written in American English with American spelling. I am an American now, and I write in the USA, and so I write in American English. I am also an independent writer and publisher. If I had a corporate publishing contract, the publisher would handle the publications of different editions for different markets – that is American English for the USA market, and British English for the other English-speaking markets. Thank you for supporting independent writers and publishers.

I love your stories. I love the Series. Is it available as a computer game?

What a great question. Thank you. Currently I have no plans to release the series as a computer game

If you have other questions?

Email me at sally dot alexander at comcast dot net.


Amazon Independent Publishing - some thoughts

Thanks to Amazon, independent publishing (or "self publishing") has never been easier. Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows you to publish and sell your work through the Amazon marketplace. The hard part is creating the material, designing the book cover, and marketing the finished product. 

I found the website to be very intuitive and packed full of very useful information, informative videos and a forum. Amazon KDP does offer templates - for designing your book cover (or you have a choice of Amazon design selections), for your manuscript for print versions, and an easy platform called "Kindle Create" to create your Kindle version. 

I am really cheap. I didn't want to spend any money on vanity publishers, nor did I want to spend any money on professional designers to design the book cover. My cover and illustrations do look cheesy. I am not a professional designer and illustrator, and I guess it shows. But it least all the content is mine. 

 


Amazon's Author Central

So this is awkward. I published my first book in the Adventures of Caitlin and Rio series, The Lost Colors. Amazon automatically searches for authors of the same name, and assumes that if you have the same name, you must be the same person. It turns out there is another Sally Alexander out there. It is not immediately intuitive but I was able to contact Amazon's Author Central, identify the book by the other Sally Alexander, and request that the book not be associated under my bibliography. I do hope that Amazon can fix this. I feel awkward and uncomfortable having other people's work attributed to me. 

Fingers crossed. 


The writing project - The Adventures of Caitlin & Rio

I am so excited. I have published book 1 of the Adventures of Caitlin & Rio. It's called "The Lost Colors." It is now available on Amazon for $7.99 (print edition only.) 

The story is about a girl, called Caitlin and her cat, Rio. It's about 20,000 words. The intended audience is ages 8 - 12. I was inspired to write the story when our 10 month old kitten, Rio was diagnosed with Feline Infectious Peritonitis, or FIP. We were devastated to say goodbye to such an amazing cat. Like the Rio in the story, my Rio had beautiful blue eyes, a panda face and a black tail.  Unlike my Rio, the Rio in the series is a very special cat - he can talk just like a human, and he has two superpowers - the power of telekinesis, and mind control. 

In "The Lost Colors" Caitlin and Rio have to save the world. Something, or someone has stolen all the colors. Together with Caitlin's best friends, Trudie and Molly, they hunt for clues in search of the lost colors. They find out that an international terrorist and criminal mastermind, MacDougal has stolen the colors. It was in fact Professor Pinch's invention that sucked up all the color from the world. Professor Pinch thought he would be able to convert the colors into clean energy. Instead, MacDougal had duped Professor Pinch. The Professor, Caitlin, Rio, Trudie and Molly find out what MacDougal is really planning to do. Can they stop him in time? Will they be able to restore the colors back to the world? 

I am currently working on book 2, "The Missing Cats", and book 3, "The Wild Turkeys."

Book 2, "The Missing Cats" picks up where "The Lost Colors" ended. In "The Missing Cats" something very odd is going on. Blue-eyed cats are disappearing. This is very distressing to their owners. Why are the cats missing? Where are they? Together Caitlin, Rio and their friends hunt for clues and solve the mystery. (The Missing Cats is not yet published. 

In Book 3 we see how MacDougal's mis-use of Professor Pinch's invention has further disrupted the natural world. (The Wild Turkeys is not yet published.)