No Sharks In The Harbor

MHP_indicia_200pxPublishing can be a brutal business, mostly because it is a business, and the collision of creativity with commerce can leave writers bloodied and disillusioned. At Muse Harbor, our core principle is simple: money flows toward the writer. We do not take money from authors to publish their books. Ever.

This extends to all facets of our business: there is no earnout, so our authors start earning royalties from the very first copy they sell. We don’t charge authors money under the guise of “additional services,” like editing, book design, cover design, or a better marketing package. There are no “reading fees.” We don’t steer our authors towards agents who will then submit books to us and take a kickback when we accept the manuscript. We don’t assign copyright to ourselves, or pressure authors to buy their own books, or any of the other shady things that industry predators do to separate authors from their work, their money, their sanity, and their basic faith in humanity.

Plainly put: we do not exploit the writer.

Many new companies have sprung up in recent years that were created to cash in on the explosion of self-publishing by donning the trappings of a publishing house in order to sell services to authors. But they’re not publishers, they’re consultants. Their business model centers on the extraction of money from writers who have worked long and hard on their books and want to see them in print.

Muse Harbor Publishing’s business model is based upon the extraction of books from writers whom we want to see in print, and a fervent belief that in the midst of corporate consolidation, monopolization, and industry-wide upheaval, there’s still a place for a publisher that respects authors, loves books, and wants to make as many of them as it can.

Write On,

Muse Harbor Publishing


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Simple, But Exciting (Part 1)


Rules-headerA blog for fiction writers and impending writers. An editor’s perspective.

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Simple, But Exciting (Part 1)

If I could distill the fundamentals of potentially great storytelling, my advice would be this: Keep it simple, but exciting…exciting, but simple.

While such advice may seem paradoxical (“Paint it black, but paint it white.”) you’ll find a marvelous co-dependency at play in writing a novel that: A) moves the story swiftly forward, without confusion or unnecessary intrusions, and; B) imparts a breathlessness, a passion, a cerebral metamorphosis that transforms the reader’s reality into one entirely of your choosing.

One manages such duality by keeping: A) the fundamentals simple, and; B) your voice exciting.

Simple: The mechanics and structure of your writing, the clarity of your language. (In other words, grammar.) Note that simple doesn’t mean uninteresting or brief, nothing synopsized or truncated—but rather clear and concise.

Exciting: The unique personality of your style and voice, the ebb and flow of your journey (that is, the structure of your plot), your joie de vivre. Your subtle—but oh-so-witty—nuance. Your tantalizing dialogue. (See Exciting, but Simple. Also see Dialogue.)

Even those writers who attempt to climb (metaphorically speaking) the Mount Everest of epic adventures or those who navigate the Pan’s Labyrinth of complicated plots, the basic mechanics of fiction remain fundamentally simple: Write in clear, precise sentences. (That’s Rule #7, by the way.) Communicate to your reader in intelligent thoughts, carefully constructed, while providing a constant, continual procession of relevant information.

Think of writing a novel as being similar to a long trek through the Sahara. As a reader, I’m following the trail you’ve intentionally set out on page one. I must be able to follow (e.g.; comprehend) each footstep you take along the way. A misplaced thought or a convoluted sentence will give me pause. What did you mean? A muddled chapter and I may be stymied. Am I still on track? Which way did you go? Lose readers midway through the desert and they’re likely gone for good.

My advice? Don’t get deviously clever or snarkingly cute with your audience. Do not withhold necessary information or keep secrets—intending a sleight of hand later in the story. Do not write under the influence of an advanced thesaurus. Do not assume we’ll dig deeply enough to catch your subliminal brilliance, your existential aura, your interpretive, Nureyev-like rond de jambe. Yes, your characters can be devious, but not your language. Sure, your plot can be multi-layered, but not your innuendo. Your protagonist may be shrouded in mystery, but do not shroud your words from the reader. Maintain clarity. Keep it simple.

Stagnation = Boredom. Movement = Drama.

Another fundamental? Every sentence you write, every scene, every chapter, every act, must constantly push your characters toward trouble (a.k.a. conflict, a.k.a. tension, a.k.a. drama), or else snatch them away again.

You’re either pushing your lovers toward elusive but everlasting happiness, or else dragging them away.

You’re pushing your swashbuckling adventurer toward a buried treasure, or wrenching her away again.

You’re pushing your Hobbit toward Mount Doom, or dragging him away (…again and again and again and again).

You’re pushing a hapless antihero toward a life of crime, or pulling him back—perhaps toward that carefree Montana horse ranch where lithesome Marilyn toils, pining for a good man. But, wait! Her ominous, one-eared stepbrother, Bart, also has lusty designs on Marilyn. Why? Because one can (and should) impart many tug o’wars into a story, often working in simultaneity. A writer is continually pushing or pulling each character into or away from situational danger, continually building or relaxing tension—with always a final goal in mind.

Such constant motion need not include physical expression (sprinting, dueling, skydiving without a ‘chute) but rather be certain that your writing is rich in emotion and dramatic impact. For instance, you’re concocting elaborate schemes inside your prisoner’s head that will ultimately spring him from his tiny cell, or you’re creating unforeseen obstacles that pull him away from his anticipated freedom.

See a pattern developing? If you’re not constantly pushing or pulling, you’re miring the plot, your characters, in mundanity. Think of movement this way: A novel is like an aardvark. Both have to constantly breathe—inhaling, then exhaling; inhaling, then exhaling. A flat plot or uninteresting characters or passive writing (see Active Voice) is pretty much total exhalation. Ask an aardvark to exhale continually for 300 pages and what happens? Right. Dead as a door nail.


Inhale: A thousand snarling, brain-craving zombies lurch through a dark tunnel, hungry for you and your family. At the other end, you find the tunnel’s hopelessly blocked! But, wait! You discover a service hatch! While you all scramble safely through that well-placed emergency exit, Aunt Mildred trips over her shoelaces and gets munched. (An inhalation scene is typically visually rich and plot-oriented. A war. A hot romance. A mystery revealed.)

Exhale: Sobbing afterwards, safe and sound, you and your family mourn poor Aunt Mildred. But, wait! Wasn’t the dear woman carrying your only map to the Zombie-Free Safety Zone? And also your last bottle of water? Now you have neither. You all stare at one another, aghast. Overhead, thunder rumbles ominously. (An exhalation scene is typically informational and character-oriented; poignant or empathetic, revealing or mysterious. An important conversation, a brewing plot. An inner monologue.)

Thus, Rule #8: Keep your characters moving. Either push your characters toward drama or pull them away again. (a.k.a.: Inhale, then exhale; inhale, then exhale; inhale, then exhale…)

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The Vision Thing

eileen-blog200x200As the author of Sacred Economics: The Currency of Life, and as one of the three cofounders of Muse Harbor Publishing, it falls upon me to articulate The Vision Thing. This project landed in my inbox because my life’s work focuses on the exploration of new ways for people to be in healthy relationships with one another, and – by extension – with the larger living world that connects us all.

Perhaps it’s a happy accident, but we at Muse Harbor consider ourselves to be equals. We love each other unconditionally, and we treasure our personal friendships. Above all, we each honor the crazy, flawed, wonderful, brilliant, amazing, creative and unfathomable beings we are. We’re learning how to rely with gratitude upon the unique skills and talents that each of us offers without defining whose skills should be worth more. For us, being in a healthy relationship means the love will always matter more than the work; but when it’s time for work we serve each other as well as we possibly can. We do so because we’ve come to realize we need each other if any of us are to thrive.

Being in a healthy relationship also means we’re dedicated to serving you—our authors and readers—so you can get the most out of what we’re co-creating. We want our writers to be able to afford to keep on writing, and we want our readers to be able to access as many books as they care to read. Our low prices and high author payout rates have been designed to serve that purpose. We trust that if our writers succeed and our readers enjoy their books, we’ll do just fine.

When we sign a new author we do so because we love the material. We’re acknowledging that we trust in the author’s vision and ability to refine it, and feel confident we can add value to the project. And whenever you purchase a Muse Harbor book, know that we’re committed to ensuring you’ll be getting a book worth reading.

Our favorite motto remains: “No fun, no do.” We strive to discover if the trust, friendship and openness we’re fostering in our new business model will birth a higher degree of excellence than does the decaying corporate model, which thrives by provoking fear and stress in people to induce greater productivity…but at what price? Perhaps joy, passion and gratitude will prove better fuels for the engine of human creativity over the long run.

We’ve made it our mission to build a safe harbor for authors, yet we’re conscious of the fact that we’ve plunged headlong into the oceanic abyss of a new business model without protective gear, so drowning remains a distinct possibility. We don’t pretend to have all the answers for what makes a successful company, or what compels a reader to select this book over that one. But we do love to tackle new challenges, so testing this kinder, gentler business model makes waking up every day a joy for us all (at least most of the time!)

I hope these words have helped illuminate what we’re attempting to do. Perhaps, if nothing else, they may move you to check out the books we’re currently offering. For some time now we’ve been searching for a pithy way to describe who we are, and what we hope to achieve. How about this: “Buy a book; save an author. Buy two books; support a new paradigm.”

You can find more of Eileen Workman’s posts on Reality Sandwich


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