Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Collaborative book projects are expensive

Not too long ago, I posted about how I came upon the realization that I really SHOULD pay writers contributing original material for the Revisions book. (Took me long enough, right??) Well, recently, I've been asked about what kind of compensation I would be providing to people who are sharing their stories for the haunted cities book.

I wish I could say my answer is "financial compensation," but, alas, that cannot happen.

I really wish it could be. But it can't.

As it is, I have to save money for paying all those writers for the Revisions book. So it seems like the only kind of compensation I can provide would be a contributor copy. I wish it could be cold hard cash, but I only make so much money a month, as it is, and I can only afford so much. As it is.

Of course, aside from a payment upon publication of the book, I could provide a share of the royalties. Yes, I am aware of this option. However, I tried that before, with the Midnight Oil book, and I screwed up royally on that. And I do mean royally. I never really thought much of this agreement between myself and those writers since my royalty checks for that book were extremely scarce, and I've never gotten around to doing the math on all of that, either. (I AM making it a point to correct this, though. I WILL set aside the time to do the math and figure out what I owe those writers then send them a check. I MUST set that straight. The guilt over screwing up on that has hung over my head for so long. As it is, it took me months to pay the cover artist of that book. But I WILL get it resolved. That's a promise!)

But because I messed up on that, I won't make it an option anymore. I'm just too worried I'll mess it up again. I feel so bad about messing up the first time, as it is....

This whole thing has made me realize two things:

One: I won't be doing anymore collaborative projects with people. It is just too complicated and expensive.

Two: Doing a collaborative project is expensive. You pay contributors, you pay for information, you pay for travel expenses and phone calls. There's just so much money that has to go into a collaborative book. Which is why these two books will be my last collaborative books.

I am immensely grateful to all of the writers and paranormal investigators who took the time to contribute to these books. I harbor no ill will or resentment towards any of them who expect to be paid for their time, or even to receive a contributor copy. Believe me, I understand. I'm in the same boat. I rely on the money I earn from writing to help pay bills, put food on the table, etc. So I know where you are coming from.

Soon these two books projects will be done and then I'll move on to other book projects. But it just doesn't look like I'll be doing more collaborative book projects. However, I am grateful that, at least, I have done these books. I know readers, and writers, will enjoy them and appreciate them just as much as I have.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Story guidelines for the haunted cities book

When I am working on a book, whether it is nonfiction or fiction, I try to figure out the best way to write it. With the haunted cities book, I knew right away that I wanted the stories included to share first-person accounts of haunted encounters. This is what readers of the paranormal are used to reading: Eyewitness accounts. I thought this was especially important since I am unable to travel to the locations myself or recount everything that happened to somebody else as well as the person it actually happened to. I want stories from people who were actually THERE. But, specifically, the paranormal investigators handling these cases. And I knew if I wanted to do that, I would have to establish certain guidelines regarding these stories.

A lot of the paranormal investigators I have been in contact with have asked me what exactly I am looking for. I couldn’t say, “Oh, just…whatever.” That would not make for a very good book to read. So, after some thought and consideration, I narrowed my guidelines down to these factors:


I want paranormal investigations that took place specifically set in the city I have included in the book. Some investigators have mentioned neighboring cities or a city that is not THAT city by name but only by proximity (for example, calling a city in the Los Angeles area “L.A.” or “Boston” for cities not in Boston proper. For the latter, I didn’t know people actually did that until AFTER I started talking with a bunch of Boston-area investigators.)


The investigation must contain events which are good examples of paranormal activity, such as voices from EVP recordings, psychic input, physical contact (feeling a hand on the back, for example), activity in a room that is otherwise empty, video proof of a haunting, visual evidence, etc. Just, anything that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is/was paranormal activity and/or proof of a haunting at that location. If an investigation is called off even when these factors are present, that is okay, too. I’m not interested in stories of a “ghost” that turned out to be a jacket hanging from a hook or sounds of movement in an attic that turned out to be rats.


If the investigation takes place on private property and the owner wishes to keep the names private, I need to be apprised of this. I am fine with it and totally respect such a request. I'm willing to use "Anonymous Inn" or "Private Residence" in place of anything that would reveal a location's address. However, for public places, I'd like to know the name of the place and if it has a web site, so that I can include a little background on it in the book. I am also okay with keeping names of owners and civilians involved in the investigation private and/or using a pseudonym, if they wish.


Ideally, I want the investigators to tell their stories in first person, as though they were sharing it with a friend. How did they hear about this place? Why did they choose to investigate it? What happened during the investigation itself? I am hoping the story can be told where they share everything they see, hear, feel and do. Take me along on a step-by-step process of the investigation. Just share with me what happened during the investigation.


All stories will remain the property of the storyteller. I am only asking for permission to reprint them in the book. I will not assume any rights to the stories and they will only be used for the purpose of this book, nothing more.


In the event that investigators are unable to write out their stories themselves, I would be happy to interview them, as well as anyone else involved in the case, to put their story together. I can interview either by phone or email, though email is preferred. Please let me know which method and day would work best.


I am willing to look at as many stories and photos as the investigators are willing to share. I enjoy reading about these kinds of experiences, so even if I decide not to include a story, I’m still open to reading anything the investigator would like to send my way.

For the purpose of clarification, this is my wish list of cities to include in the book. Some of these chapters have already been written, though I am open to more stories for them. In the event I do not get any stories for a particular city, it will not be included. Cities in bold are definitely a go. I am accepting stories until September.

Hollywood, California
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Bristol, Connecticut
Washington, D.C.
Key West, Florida
Miami/Orlando, Florida (not sure yet which one)
Savannah, Georgia
Decatur, Illinois
Galena, Illinois
Greencastle, Indiana
Atchison, Kansas
Topeka, Kansas
Louisville, Kentucky
New Orleans, Louisiana
Boston, Massachusetts
Ishpeming, Michigan
Sleepy Hollow, New York
Athens, Ohio
Portland, Oregon
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Providence, Rhode Island
Charleston, South Carolina
Deadwood, South Dakota
Jonesborough, Tennessee
Nashville, Tennessee
Jefferson, Texas
Parkersburg, West Virginia
Glenrock, Wyoming

I hope these guidelines have cleared up any confusion. I also hope that they have given other writers of nonfiction books ideas on what kind of guidelines to establish when they themselves are working on similar kinds of books.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Giving historical fiction a chance

This morning, after reading a review of a novel, I was so taken with the writing (and, I'll admit, the story itself sounded pretty good) that I immediately headed on over to Amazon.com and added the book to my Wish list. But after I did that, I stopped, sat still in the desk chair, and asked myself, Did I just add an historical novel to my Wish list? You see, I used to be against reading historical novels.

As a history buff, it always bothered me when people got facts about history wrong. And when you combine fiction with history...well, a whole lot of things can go wrong!

For example, characters in a story that never actually existed. With one historical novel I reviewed, I learned that one character in the story was not alive at the time of the major character's story. I also learned that one character in the TV show Little House on the Prairie, a series based on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, never existed (he was the creation of the late actor Michael Landon).

Another thing that always bothered me about historical fiction is that authors tended to change history with their stories. This didn't happen, that happened instead!

Still, it's that whole "this happened instead" idea that can make a reader think. So many people wish certain events in history never happened. Some authors of historical fiction have decided to run with that and wrote about what could have been.

One historical novel that fits this example is Forward to Camelot by Susan Sloate and Kevin Finn. What if the Kennedy assassination never happened? The authors took this question and turned it into a novel. I liked their idea, but it doesn't change the reality we live with after we put the book down.
Still, it's enough to make us ask, "What if?" And really think.

The "what if?" question is probably what compels novelists to write their stories in the first place. What if this happened instead of that? Or, what if something people suspect about an historical figure is true? What if there was a shocking secret attached to a major historical event that people never knew about?

And what if historical figures were not who we thought they were?

I have read a few historical novels. I have enjoyed every one of them. Besides Forward to Camelot, I have also read Friedrich by Hans Peter Richter, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, Valeria's Cross by Kathi Macias and Susan Wales, The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon and Roots by Alex Haley. All good books, too.

So since I have enjoyed these novels, I have to wonder why I was ever against reading historical novels before. Used to be I'd see that a novel fell under "historical novel," and I'd pass on it without even reading what it's about. Nowadays, however, I'm willing to take a look.

Because it's not so much the history that these books are about, but the story.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

It’s not one book at a time yet, but I’m getting there

It used to be that I’d juggle multiple book projects at a time. Skeptics of this habit would tell me that doing so meant I wouldn’t be able to get good quality work done on each book, but I’d shrug that off and keep at it. As a Gemini, I’m used to variety. In fact, I crave it. But then things started to get busy, and my writing time happened less and less. That’s when I knew I’d have to start focusing on just one book at a time, since I had so little of that time available. That little time had to go into working on the book project at hand. My problem was, figuring out how to make that happen.

The first thing I tried was managing two books at a time. I would write one and edit the other. And for a while, this worked just fine.

Then I had things going on with multiple books, since one or more of them were going through the motions with publishing companies. I tried to space these out , but it just didn’t happen that way. A typical week had me working on three different manuscripts at a time. If I wasn’t writing one, I was editing two. Or I'd stop writing altogether to focus on requested edits and revisions. (Not happy with that!)

And while I thrive on having a full plate and a variety of projects on the table, I started to feel like each book was just not getting enough of my time, nor were they getting my best efforts. They just weren't getting the attention they deserved. And my work on them could suffer for that, because it's easy to make mistakes or get things wrong if I'm juggling too many books.

So I felt it was time to just say “enough.” Put the brakes on all of these book projects and focus on ONE.

Still, I’m not there yet. As it is, I’m back to work on the haunted cities book, but also editing another manuscript.

So I decided that maybe it would be a good idea to put all of my proverbial ducks in a row. Take ALL current and pending book projects and put them into a list of books I’ll work on at a time. The new version of November’s Child is at the top of this list. This is the manuscript I’m editing. And that gets done on the weekends. During the week, I'm at it with the haunted cities book, which is second on my list. Then when that's done, I'll tackle the Revisions book – the third book on my list which isn’t even done yet. (I started working on the haunted cities book again – it had previously been “done” until I decided it won’t be a series so I’m adding what would have been in future books. And I'm working on it NOW instead of later because there is quite a bit of work involved with the extra material, and it's really important for this book to come out THIS year, so this way, by working on it now alongside the editing business, I can be close to finished with it by the time it comes up on the list.)

After I was done creating this list, I had 24 books. Then I remembered OTHER manuscripts sitting on my hard drive. They are either finished drafts. WIPs or book ideas which, upon review, I decided were doable. That list went to a total of 31 books.

I know, that’s a lot of books. But it just goes to prove why it’s so important for me to create a method for this madness. After I am done with a manuscript, who’s to say what will happen after a publisher takes it? If it will be published in the order I have created with my list, if it will require more edits/revision before publication, or if it will even be published at all. At least I have everything in order now. That’s just one step closer to avoiding distractions or confusion over what gets worked on next.

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