Monday, October 18, 2010

Meet Tamara Lyon

Tamara Lyon-Novelist

Newest Release-The Ugly Tree

Ten years ago I endured six months of emotional highs and lows, the likes of which sent me straight to a mid-life crisis at the tender age of twenty-five. A little premature to be certain, but after enduring several family tragedies and an undue amount of stress, I began to question the direction of my life. After much prayer and introspection, I returned to my love of writing and with fortitude began my career as a novelist.

Being a writer has been a lesson in perseverance, patience, and humility. While I would love to concentrate solely on advancing my career, I have responsibilities. Over the past ten years, I have been raising my son, supporting my husband through medical school and residency, running my own cleaning business, and writing. It has been a precarious balancing act, but I take pride in the fact that I have managed to publish three women’s fiction novels during these demanding years. Although, I have to smile at the irony; I am an award-winning author who still scrubs toilets. The one dollar advance checks that I received from my publisher didn’t stretch too far!

The Ugly Tree, my most recent release, was intended for adults, but it has special appeal to young adults as it portrays an almost sixteen-year-old named Cane Kallevik, a spunky, intelligent girl who always goes after what she wants. The reader follows Cane through the summer of 1992 and witnesses her falling in love with a man named Justice, keeping a vigil at her Grandma Betty’s side, and engaging in warfare with her ex-best friend, Mikayla. For Cane, it’s a summer of discovery, growth, and loss. The Ugly Tree, which has already earned outstanding reviews, has been nominated for the YALSA Alex award and the Abraham Lincoln Award.

I am hopeful that the recognition and awards that I have been receiving for The Ugly Tree, and my two other novels, Fixing Forever Broken, a bronze medal IPPY winner, and Falling to Him, will lead to a literary agent, a bigger publisher, and an advance check that is a bit more than one dollar. I am actively working on The Peel and Stick Heart and hope to complete the project next spring, when I plan on leaving my cleaning business behind so that I can work towards my ultimate goal: becoming a bestselling author.

To order signed copies go to:

They are also available on amazon:

Tammy will appear this weekend at the Sterling North Book Festival in Edgerton this weekend,
October 22-23.
See the schedule for more informtion.
Here is the introduction for The Ugly Tree:

On the night that I was born, the circle of life sucker punched my family in the face. Grandma Betty stepped up to the plate, and out of her iron will to make lemonade out of lemons, she named me Cane, claiming it was because I was as sweet as sugar.

There are two problems with my name. First, there’s really not a thing about me that’s sweet. Second, I’ve read the Bible. The spelling of a name doesn’t mean anything, and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Before I had even come out of the womb I had broken the sixth commandment, more than once, and was in dire need of absolution by the time they wiped the birth matter off of me. When I sit in Grace Lutheran church with Grandma Betty, I’m always on the lookout for God, but I’ve failed to find Him. Maybe it’s because of what I did that God chooses to ignore me when I’m in church. “Come out, come out wherever you are,” I say to Him, but He keeps on hiding.

Wooden pews and rote prayers don’t offer much comfort, but I’ve found a place that has. Every Sunday evening after Grandma Betty has gone to bed, I tie a rope to the limb of the oak tree outside my bedroom window, climb down, and run to the forest preserve on the other side of town. Just inside the split rail fence that borders the back of the property resides a daunting hill that overlooks railroad tracks, cornfields, and one turbulent and defiant stream that floods every spring.

A solitary maple punctuates the knoll; unattractive but brawny, it was struck by lightning on the exact night I was born, during the storm that ruthlessly destroyed lives. An inspiring portrait of life and death, only half of the tree lives. It defies death every time it sprouts a leaf, grows a limb, and slowly but steadily inches its way upward, taking its dead half along for the ride.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Karen McQuestion

A Scattered Life....and more

A Scattered Life is the story of a friendship triangle. I've always been intrigued by the idea of feeling like an outsider in your own family, and in telling the story of the three women in this book I was able to explore that idea more fully. Some readers have said they laughed and cried while they read the book, which was gratifying to hear.

I heard Karen's interview on WPR a couple of weeks ago and e-mailed her. She's been a busy lady. Hers is the enviable story a real self-starter, the kind of woman who made "it" in this shaky business.

She's published five books with Amazon so far. Karen says, "After years of trying to get published traditionally, I self-published my books on Amazon's Kindle in 2009. Sales were great, and as a result, I now have five books (paperback and e-book) coming out under the AmazonEncore imprint, and one novel, A Scattered Life, optioned for film.

I'd like to thank the Kindle readers, especially the ones on the Amazon message boards and My good fortune is directly connected to their willingness to give an unknown author a chance. That alone would have been wonderful, but then they took it a step further by recommending my books to other readers, and it all snowballed from there. Believe me when I say, I am truly grateful."

So, how did she do it?

Although she says she had no huge platform, Karen did have an audience with some work she did at WPR and other places, but the following pieces from an interview with Joel Konrath have a lot to do with it:

I still post on message boards, and make comments on heavily-trafficked websites and blogs. I think some writers underestimate the power of the message boards, especially the ones right on the Amazon site. The Kindle readers are right there, only one click away from your book.

One thing I did, which I think helps, was to set it up so my posts on Amazon come up under “Karen McQuestion, Author.” That way, I can participate in general discussions and if people on the boards are curious, they can check out my books, and if they aren’t, that’s okay too.

I've also posted comments on, The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and other newspapers here in the US and worldwide. I'm genuinely interested in reading about anything Kindle /e-book/ publishing related, so it was natural for me to seek out articles on these topics online. Whenever I felt I could contribute to the conversation or politely clarify a point I did, and always mentioned that I spoke as a self-published Kindle author. I do believe this led to sales, but it's impossible to say for sure. Regardless, I felt it was a good use of my time.

(On whether she was raising her prices last June to net a higher royalty:) Readers who said in reviews or on message boards that they tried one of my books primarily because it was cheap, and then liked it so much they went on and read my other titles. I’d hate to raise my prices and miss out on even one reader. So, I’m torn. The short answer is that I may raise the price on one of the books, and see how it goes.

I have not used Smashwords. All of my books have been sold via the Kindle or Kindle app. If your writing has been vetted and you have every reason to believe it’s of publishable quality, I say go for it.
Amazon does not discriminate against self-published authors. In fact, they’d love for every indie author to sell millions of downloads. When you make money, they make money. The book pages on Amazon don’t differentiate--small press, self-published, big publishing house— each product page has an identical layout. And it’s free to upload a book on Kindle (I still can’t get over that)!

Four tactics that will give your book a huge advantage can be set into place before the book is even on the market:

Price: Set the price low--under $2.00 is best. A low price makes a huge difference in enticing readers to try an unknown author.

Title: Choose a title that’s catchy and easy to remember.

Description: Descriptions should be brief, ideally only a paragraph. Try to avoid making it just a rundown of plot points. Start with the main character and make sure you include the conflict. Use strong verbs and specific nouns, and leave the reader wanting to know more.

Cover: A cover can make or break a book. Try to make the cover as professional in appearance as possible. For ideas, look at traditionally published books similar to your own.

Additionally, when you upload your book, make sure you take advantage of the options in picking “categories” and “keywords.” And after the Amazon book page is complete, add appropriate tags. All of these things help readers find your books.

Finally, be prepared to spend some time doing marketing. For the first six months I spent at least an hour or two a day doing promotion online and it paid off in a big way.

People can’t buy your book if they don’t know about your book, so don’t be shy—get the word out!