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)

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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 dialog. (See Exciting, but Simple. Also see Dialog.)

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.

Hint:

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.

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.

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

[note color=”#a8d8ff”]You can find more of Eileen Workman’s posts on Reality Sandwich.[/note] Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Good Writing, Bad Advice

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

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Good Writing, Bad Advice.

My name (once again) is Dave Workman. I’m an acquisitions and content editor for Muse Harbor Publishing. My job is to: 1) read manuscripts, 2) reject most of them as incompatible with our needs, 3) accept a limited number of promising tales for potential publication, and; 4) edit the living daylights out of those same pieces—then expect the writer to do likewise—before MHP commits to a publishing contract.

I have few friends.

However, I do have a modicum of knowledge for those of you seeking advice. Whether you’re already a contracted MHP author, a promising talent or simply passing by, I can offer a bit of insight. Because I certainly know what excites me as a reader.

Might I impart any significant pearls of wisdom on this page? I offer no assurances. Nobody in this business—in any business—can guarantee success. Finding a publisher is sometimes more luck (sadly) than skill. More good timing than dedication. Sometimes it’s who you know. Sometimes it’s who your daddy knows. Success is a subjective son-of-a-bitch with a chip on one shoulder and a crazed twinkle in its eye.

But knowing how to write well doesn’t hurt. And knowing a few rules won’t hurt either. Success may be elusive, but to an unprepared or apathetic writer, success is little more than a pipe dream.

Do you know the Numero Uno, Most Common, Most Discouraging Failure, the Tragic Likely Outcome of all novel writing endeavors? It’s not finishing the book. Losing interest or losing your way, losing your nerve or losing your religion. It’s fear of success or fear of failure or fear of wrestling all those words into place, from “Once upon a time…” to “The End.” But if you can overcome that particular obstacle, you’re already closer to writing success than most.

 Finish the book. That’s Rule #1.

In this and subsequent posts, I’ll attempt to reveal what MHP seeks in terms of a desirable manuscript, although—bottom line?—it’s a polished, professional voice. Yes, voice. We’re far more likely to accept an uncanny voice over a fancy plot structure. Lock two characters in a dark closet, give them great dialog and personalities worth exploring, and we’ll consider that manuscript more closely than a story about brain-sucking aliens coming to digest Earth. (Although if your aliens have quirky, well-constructed personalities, we’ll look at them, too.)

Let’s face it, only so many plot-lines exist in literature. They’ve all been covered ad nauseam. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy is eaten by giant squid. (It’s been done.) But a unique voice is yours alone. Exclusive. Inimitable. Priceless. For a writer, a unique voice infusing excitement into a distinctive character is money in the proverbial bank.

Okay, enough preamble. I do have one significant bit of advice to share. My first shiny pearl isn’t a “what to do”—it’s “who not to listen to.” IMHO, it’s one of The Most Important Lessons an unpublished writer can absorb.

Rule #2: Don’t listen to anybody (and certainly not to me) if the advice doesn’t resonate. Go with your gut. Go with your own instincts. Sure, listen selectively to proffered advice—accept feedback when it’s constructively given, but about 80-90% of what you hear will be poison. Remember, success is as much about breaking rules as following them. If it feels right, crayon outside the lines. I think Gandhi said that. Maybe not.

To illustrate, here’s a story. This one still gives me nightmares. I still wake up cringing.

The most single, most horrific, most god-awful perverse piece of advice I’ve ever encountered occurred during a writers’ conference. (And a writers’ conference can be a wonderful, magical, scintillating experience… but, again, be careful who you listen to.)

One evening, a panel of “experts” bequeathed their brilliance to a capacity filled auditorium of eager, fledgling writers. An attendee stood and asked a panelist a question, and in doing so happened to mention that her nearly-completed novel filled some 360 pages. About 90,000 words.

Without a moment’s preamble—without a speck of empathy or a grain of intelligence—the so-called expert replied, “It’s too long. Cut twenty thousand words.”

This Expert of Knowing Everything While Knowing Nothing had no clue about the nature of the story or its genre, or of the writer’s level of craft, the tenor of the book. Simply “cut it.” The writer was, of course, crushed. And I have never forgotten my frustration over that absurdly idiotic remark.

Should anyone tell you to arbitrarily cut (or add) pages without otherwise knowing your story, smile politely and walk away. I’ve read too many manuscripts that feel truncated and unfinished… only to discover that the writer had been previously advised to “cut, cut, cut!” without further direction or counsel. In desperation, many writers blindly begin hacking all the style and nuance from an otherwise excellent story.

Think of a novel as a living, breathing person. If I feel that your story needs to lose a bit of weight, I’ll not advise you to remove its liver or stomach or left arm. The process is to shrewdly exercise your book—trimming adverbs, adjectives and excess verbiage like so many bloated fat-cells. Little by little. Or feed it more Skittles, should the opposite be true.

I acknowledge that the above-referenced workshop occurred before the Age of Internet Publishing. Stricter rules applied once upon a time (although stupidity didn’t count back then, either). And I continue to hear agents and editors and the so-called “people in the know” advising writers to cut or add pages, to alter a manuscript in order to satisfy some personal itch or the guidelines of a publishing system that no longer exists.

The biggest problem today? No one’s certain of the new rules yet. But in this rapidly changing paradigm of 21st century novel writing, here’s my best advice: Trust yourself—and hone those basic skills of storytelling in the (somewhat paradoxically) simplest, yet most exciting voice you can muster.
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Santa’s Pick to Calm Holiday Stress?

book6Awakening Into Perfect Peace is This Season’s Ticket to Ahhhhs
“Awakening Into Perfect Peace” author teaches how to be drama-free anywhere.

New Mexico, CA (PRWEB) November 20, 2013

This season, a new book could actually bring more happiness than Santa Claus.

Awakening Into Perfect Peace: Reflections on Freedom from Suffering, by Dr. Ralph Huber teaches readers easy-to-use tips to make themselves happy, for life. Helping someone free themselves of life’s personal drama, confusion and Holiday stress might land that gift-giver a permanent spot on Santa’s “nice” list, making everybody happy.

On Sunday, November 24, 2013, Unity Santa Fe, New Mexico will host a book signing for Communications Expert and Author Dr. Huber’s new book, “Awakening Into Perfect Peace.” Dr. Huber will be answering questions from his new book, based on his popular course and workshop of the same name.

Dr. Huber’s book is packed full of easy paths to inner peace.

Readers of these life-transforming tips will learn to see and understand frustrations in a brand new way, free themselves from suffering, allowing calming “Ahhhhs” to replace stressful situations.

Dr. Huber asks, “Do you want to experience a life filled with confusion and drama by resisting life’s unfoldment, or do you want to experience a life of clarity and peace that comes from welcoming all of life – as it is?”

In these powerful and simple life lessons, readers will discover:

 

  1. A powerful process to move from suffering to peace
  2. How resistance to ways life unfolds is a roadblock to perfect peace
  3. An access to peace through a grateful heart
  4. How to embrace “what is” to enhance your relationships with yourself and others

 

Dr. Huber believes that inner peace is achieved through the path of least resistance, which is often the simplest path to take. “Most of life’s conflict is self-inflicted,” says Huber.
Amanda Creighton, executive producer of the film, Within Reach says, “Ralph Huber is one of the great minds and hearts of our times. Awakening Into Perfect Peace serves as a fertile ground for self-actualization.”
Awakening recently launched on 2013’s International Day of Peace from Muse Harbor Publishing. It can be found on Amazon.com and museharbor.com.

Ralph Huber’s professional background includes educator, corporate trainer and vice-president of a New York based management consulting firm that offered services to major communication and retail industries. He is currently a member of Hummingbird Community in northern New Mexico and serves as board president for the Unity Church in Santa Fe. Ralph holds a Ph.D. from New York University’s Department of Communication Arts and Sciences. He has an affinity for Advaita, Zen and Christian Mysticism.

An engaging, inspirational speaker with practical “happiness” tips that benefit any reader, listener or viewer, Dr. Huber can be reached for further interviews, including Radio, TV, Print, Online Blogs and event speaking engagements, by contacting Margaux(at)museharbor(dot)com.

Friend Dr. Huber on Facebook and visit his book event this Sunday, November 24, 2013 at 11:45 a.m. at Unity Santa Fe, 1212 Unity Way, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506. For information on Huber’s personal coaching and seminars, visit www.awakeningintoperfectpeace.com.

Muse Harbor Publishing, based in Sea Ranch, CA, was founded in 2011 as an organization of “writers helping writers, in service to our readers.”

 

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