Discussing the Research Process with Author Terri Sedmak

Terri Sedmak

This past summer WaveCloud had the wonderful opportunity to meet Australian author Terri Sedmak at Book Expo America in New York City. We love talking with our favorite authors so I decided to do a sit down of sorts (via email) with Terri to discuss part of the writing process that is near and dear to my heart as a librarian: the research. I always value a historical novel based on solid research and thought others might enjoy learning a little about the process as much as I would.

Also be sure to check out the excerpts Terri provided us from her latest series!

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Kari: You were recently in the States to work on research for your current series, The Liberty & Property Legends series, correct?

Terri: That’s right. My husband, who is also my business partner, and I combined a much needed holiday (beginning with a week in beautiful Boston) with some much needed research in St. Louis, south east Wyoming, and Denver. We also spent a week in New York City to attend Book Expo America, where to our delight we found WaveCloud. We love travelling in the States; this was our second trip, our first being in 2009, which was also a research trip. We toured more broadly on that excursion, so on this trip I was able to focus on more detailed information for the next two books in the series and for other writing projects set in The West.

Kari: What made you decide to write about the American West?

Terri: I fell in love with the American West when I was little and never fell out of it. Westerns as books, TV or film… loved them since I can remember. I think initially the adventurousness of it and the romance that surrounds it attracted me.  And horses! Then I grew to understand and appreciate and really love the history of The West. The layers of complexity in its settling. The idea of freedom and independence. The extraordinary natural beauty of it. Although my first attempt at a novel when I was eleven was not set in the West but in the Australian outback, it was only a few years later that I wrote a novel that was set in the Wild West of the 1880’s. My desire to write for this era was set from that time on and the essence of that story exists in my current series.

Kari: Did you find a lot of new information on your visit? How does that help you as an author?

Terri: I certainly did! Don’t ask me where I managed to pack all the books I brought back, but my luggage was 7 pounds overweight and there was some last minute rearranging at the check-in at Denver airport coming home. Then there are all the information booklets and relevant souvenirs. I took over a thousand photos, lots of those were of detailed museum content, of cities, towns, neighbourhoods, streets, lanes, street signs, scenic backways, from mountaintops to prairies, all in specific locations that I knew I would be, or very likely could be, or now that I’ve seen it I will be, writing about.

And then there’s meeting and speaking with people. Physical environment needs a heart and that’s the folks you meet. They give you a different (the local) understanding of what you read or view with your own eyes; they interpret your research in that sense. Although The West may have changed somewhat since the Wild West days, the folks who have a heritage of living there indicate that it’s kind of the same in spirit and they preserve their heritage with pride and affection. Heritage is one of the themes in my series, so I find this type of research helpful.

As an author all of this is invaluable. I wish I could have brought back more books, taken more photographs, shot more videos and spoken to the people I met for longer and spoken to more people overall. Everything you experience adds to your knowledge and understanding and sense of place. There is so much to take in and it can be overwhelming. You just have to do your best and know that it has all soaked in and it will come to the forefront at the right moment; I believe it will.

Kari: Would you consider physical research in the location you're writing about 100% necessary when writing historical fiction (opposed to online-only research)?

Terri: There is a great deal of information on the internet for sure, almost everything you could want – almost. I find that physically researching in the location of the setting of your novel allows you access to very specific, authentic details that really open up your writing. These are the special details which you just cannot find online that help you to create your special world and your particular characters, and that include locale-specific historical details.

Just soaking up the physical environment, breathing the air, walking amongst it, is invaluable location research. I call it walking in the footsteps of my characters.

I’ll never forget seeing the Laramie Plains for the first time. I was shocked by the unfathomable expanse of those remarkable grasslands and forever sky, and the shock went right through me and all I could think about was those pioneers in their covered wagons wondering where on earth they had come to and would it ever end. You don’t get that kind of profound reaction from looking at pictures on the internet! This stays with you, it creeps into your writing, and you make a point of including it somehow.

But having said that, you can write a whole novel, a pretty good one, historically set in another country from what you research while sitting all day at your computer in your pjs. It will give you the bones and the flesh and even the heart of your novel, but it won’t necessarily give you the pores on your skin, the mole on your cheek or the slight limp when you walk like location research can.

Historical fiction writing requires a certain kind of imagination, I think. You have to imagine a world in great detail that no longer exists, so it’s not there to draw on, but it has to ring true. That world must be a complete living entity in the writer’s mind, almost like a parallel universe to your everyday life. If it’s not, it won’t be for the reader either. They have to be transported there and be convinced that it and your characters truly existed.

The Liberty & Property Legends is not set entirely in The West. There are Eastern locations as well that I have also researched on location. The great cities of St Louis, Chicago, New York and Boston have been, or will be featured, some to a greater extent than others. Also, the great western cities of Omaha, Denver and San Francisco, as well. For me, the history of The West is a huge migration story. Americans of all ethnic and socio-economic persuasions went to it, with certain expectations and a certain mindset. In my series I take the ideal of liberty and property from the Revolutionary era and migrate it West, where it is embodied in the main protagonist of the series, Luke Taylor. And that’s where the adventure begins!

Currently, I am working on Volume Three, so look out for it later in 2013. It’s going to be epic!

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In the pearly gloom of a promising morning, smoke curls from the Keatons’ chimney, and there’s a smell of bacon on the wind.

Dave rides in from the cover of the forest behind the Keaton ranch house and cautiously leads both horses into the barn.

He casts his eye around the building; there don’t appear to be anything unusual except that at this hour of a deep winter morning, activity in the ranch house notwithstanding, all of John Keaton’s horses are fully awake and alert like he ain’t the first person they’ve seen today.

Empire for Liberty, Volume 2, The Liberty & Property Legends

“This is Wyoming territory. Whatever you think is odd, very likely is compared to the rest of the nation. Seventeen years ago this town was a bunch of tents and log huts. There were Cheyenne Indians out on the plains behind you and a whole bunch of people you’d rather not know making a fast buck waiting for the railroad to push through. It was hell all right. And look at us now. Sprouting like a twelve year old boy on summer vacation. We try not to make it up as we go along, but sometimes we have to.”

Empire for Liberty, Volume 2, The Liberty & Property Legends

When he wakes, his head feels thick and heavy, like he’s been boozing. And his leg hurts. He’s lying in a bed in a different room, which is so quiet the silence buzzes in his ears. The light of the aging afternoon strays into the room from a thinly draped window. Gradually, as the groggy sensation subsides a little, he becomes aware of two things. One, he is in the same room – the same bed – where Byron Sawyer died. And two, he is naked beneath the sheet and the blanket which cover him – at least he thinks so. Lifting the edge of the bedclothes, he checks. Hastily, he covers up again. The only thing he’s wearing is a bandage on his thigh. There ain’t a situation more nervy than being hurt and naked and in a dead man’s bed. How does he get himself into these things?

HEARTLAND On the Side of Angels, Volume 1, The Liberty & Property Legends

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Want more? Find Terri on WaveCloud today! Also be sure to check out her website and Facebook page.

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Following the bread crumbs of writer Rich Erixon

Have you ever wondered how your favorite author comes up with ideas or their approach to the process of creating a story? We are always interested in the writing process and want to invite you to join us as we launch a new blog series with one of our guest authors, Rich Erixon. Follow along as we learn about Rich’s experience as a writer. Each post will contain a question and answer session with Rich and occasionally an excerpt of his work as it progresses.

Who is Rich Erixon?

Rich is a fifth and sixth grade Social Studies/Language Arts teacher in the Denver area. He recently began working on his first book, a Young Adult (YA) novel, and agreed to let us follow him through the process. While teaching takes up most of his day, Rich finds himself writing in the evenings and provides great insight into how the process works for a first-time author.

Kari: Where are you right now in the process?

Rich: I am working on the fourth draft of my YA fiction novel. This being my first novel, I loosely followed Stephen King's advice: write what you know (being a teacher and a father), create some good characters and an event and write like the pages are on fire, and then sit on the story for a while before reworking it. After my second draft, the basic reworking, I gave a copy to a student of mine who would be honest with me, and a couple of other trusted people. Based on their sometimes painfully honest recommendations, I reworked much of the storyline and added a very evil antagonist.

My fourth draft comes after getting a few pages of my work in front of some agents at a writing conference and getting their take on how it would sell: make the young protagonist stronger and have her dive headlong into the fray instead of being pulled along; and make the setting a near future version of the United States instead of creating an entire new world. These are very exciting changes that will only make my story stronger, and I am chomping at the bit to implement them.

Kari: What are your current challenges?

Rich: My two biggest challenges at this point are completely changing my setting (the creative part) and working on getting my book out to the public (the business part). I will tell you right now that I struggle mightily with the business part. I am a creative soul and all of the different aspects of getting a book published get jumbled and mashed around in my brain, and I find it almost painful to sort out. But sort it out I must, because I desperately want to share my stories with everyone.

Kari: What is the most recent hurdle that you feel good about overcoming?

Rich: I was able to trump my ego and get my story in front of people. I chose a small writing conference in Crested Butte, Colorado that allowed me unprecedented access to some agents and editors. I allowed my work to be throttled in a critique group with an agent who was more worried about a good story than my feelings. One has to have a positive mindset going into those things, and I set my mind to come away having learned something about my story and my writing. I came away with a wealth of helpful information that I piled back into my book.

Kari: What is your next step?

Rich: The next step of my process is to get published. Not yet by a major publishing company, or even by self-publishing (close, but not yet). I need to get some of my short stories into magazines. Everyone needs a strong resume and getting into literary magazines can only strengthen a writer's profile. I am now going back to revise some of my older stories and I am also writing some newer ones.

Below you will find a News Feed from one of Rich’s blogs. Stay tuned for more from Rich Erixon.

News Feed!  Ex-IIF Agent Kidnaps Daughter, Goes on the Run

Patrick Cosgrove, a criminal and traitor to the United States, has been located but not yet captured. Cosgrove disappeared on October 24, the same night that the Independence Corps positively identified him. Reports state that Cosgrove kidnapped his daughter and forced her to flee with him. Their land-loving 4X4 was spotted heading south on I47. The Independence Corps has put out an all points and has scrambled every agent in the area to help in the hunt.

Cosgrove, a onetime IIF agent, went into hiding after escaping from an Independence Corps minimum security prison fifteen years ago, killing two men in the process. He has been living in Boulder, in the state of Colorado, as a teacher named Gabriel Turley. His daughter Carson Turley is his only child. His wife, another ex-IIF agent, does not reside with Turley. She has not been seen in 15 years.

Cosgrove was initially jailed for attempting to sabotage and destroy the Sons of Liberty immediately after the citizens of the US voted them into power. His actions were seen as a threat to the stability of the US, and an attack on its citizens. The Independence Corps has displayed pictures of Cosgrove and his daughter across the Big Sky. Please do not try to apprehend the fugitives yourself, as Cosgrove is assumed to be armed and dangerous. Please contact the Independence Corps immediately if you see them.

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How would you like to discover your next book?

Recently the website Goodreads did a study on book discovery and how best sellers are found by their readers. While this study was geared more toward authors and publishers, here at WaveCloud we thought it might be interesting to find out how, as a reader, you find the books you read.

After discussing it with some of our staff, we’ve found that we tend to gravitate more toward the word-of-mouth form of discovery. If a book is recommended to us by a friend or family member, we are more likely to check it out.

Other ways we've found books include free advanced copies we've received, looking at books from authors we have enjoyed in the past, and reviews from websites and other forms of media. We’ve even been tempted by ads for books that looked enticing.

Can you think of any other ways you’ve discovered a new book? Or more importantly, how would you LIKE to find your next book? We are working on new ways of connecting readers with authors and their books. Please share with us your “book discovery” wish list.

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Which e-Reader do you prefer?

There are so many e-reader options out there making a decision can be difficult. Do you want one that does more than just read books? Or will a basic reader do the trick? We decided to do a comparison of a few of the more popular options to aide you in your decision.

The Kindle

  • Kindle, $79: The least expensive and one of the more basic e-book readers, the Kindle’s e-ink mimics the look of actual paper and creates less eye strain than some of the color LCDs. It doesn’t include touch-screen capability and has limited a web browser. A good choice for people who simple want to read books and newspapers.
  • Kindle Touch, $99 ($149 for their 3G model): Personally I find the touch screen a necessity. If you’re like me, going with a touch screen model will cause less frustration than the $79 version. And while all Kindles are Wi-Fi capable, the Touch has a 3G model that might be worthwhile if you’re always on the go.
  • Kindle Fire, $199: If you want a bit more out of your e-book reader but don’t want to spend the money on a full-sized tablet, the Kindle Fire is a good choice. With a full color (LCD) screen this Kindle is great for gaming, web browsing, and downloading and using apps. Not to mention the color screen is a must if you’re planning to download children’s books.

The Nook

  • Nook Simple Touch, $99: Named the “best e-ink reader” by CNET, the Nook Simple Touch is Barnes & Nobel’s basic reader and their answer to the Kindle Touch. At the same price point as the Kindle, it does boast to have the world’s best reading screen as well as the longest battery life. While the two are very similar, the Kindle Touch offers 3G.
  • Nook Simple Touch (with Glowlight), $139: Nook’s most recent addition provides all of the functions of the regular Nook Simple Touch but is the only e-ink reader to have the Glowlight feature, which is great if you enjoy reading in low light.
  • Nook Color, $169 and Nook Tablet, $199: There are only a few differences between the two, one being the price. One feature the Tablet has is the Read and Record feature. The Tablet has a microphone (unlike the Color) and allows you to record the narration of children’s books. You can also record your children reading. This would be a great keepsake of a first time reader! Click here to read more about the differences between the two.

The iPad

  • The iPad 2, $399+ and iPad 3, $499+: The iPad continues to be the most popular tablet. It is very versatile and is compatible with all e-book apps (Kindle, Nook, etc.). Plus, it features iOs, so you can buy books from any website and access them on your iPad. So, if you don’t mind spending more and want something that is multi-use, the iPad might be your best bet.

It can be overwhelming trying to decide what type of e-book reader to buy but once you decide, be sure to check out WaveCloud’s new search features that allow you to narrow your search by the e-book reader of your choice!

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Our Favorite Blogs for Readers

Do you have a favorite blog about reading or books you regularly follow? Have they changed your point of view as a reader? While we hope our WaveCloud blog makes your list in the future, we wanted to compile a short list of some of our staff’s favorites.

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Book Blogs (http://bookblogs.ning.com/ )  –  A site run on ning.com this is a blog of a different style. Contributed to by multiple members and more a social network than just a blog, Book Blogs provides reviews, discussion and general advice to readers and bloggers.

Penelope Trunk (http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/) – Career advice author, Penelope Trunk, blogs about a variety of topics including her daily life in rural Wisconsin and current writing projects.

Guys Lit Wire (http://guyslitwire.blogspot.com/ ) – This blog is a great place to discover what guys are reading. When I worked in a high school library I used it regularly for ideas on what to recommend to my male students.

A Book and a Latte (http://bookandlatte.com/) – A great review blog for Young Adult literature geared toward those of us who frequently enjoy the genre!

Mad Woman in the Forest ( http://madwomanintheforest.com/blog/) – Young Adult author Laurie Halse Anderson blogs about her daily life, experiences as a writer and much more!

Watch. Connect. Read. (http://mrschureads.blogspot.com) – A great blog for any of you interested in Children’s Literature. This Chicago-area Teacher/Librarian blogs about his exploration of Children’s books and his work to get the right book into every child’s hands.

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We know this is just a handful of what’s out there. There are countless numbers of amazing blogs and bloggers out there posting every day for book lovers. Please share your all-time favorites!

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New Features News!

Faceted Search: A simple, yet important means of discovery.

It’s been nearly a month since WaveCloud launched in “beta mode”. We knew that launching in beta meant that every feature we wanted wouldn’t be ready, but the one thing that really drove me crazy about our version of beta was the fact that it was not possible to narrow down search results. Seems simple, doesn’t it? According to our developers, it’s easier said than done.

The good news is – the faceted search feature is now available! And while it has been tremendously helpful with discovery, it has become apparent that there may be another issue at hand. We, as a retailer of e-books, can only do so much with what we’re provided. The metadata that is used for the search function is important. If the metadata is weak, then the search is weak.

Filling out the metadata for a book is such an easy task. A task that should be performed for every book made available, yet we’re finding that it just isn’t being done very well. There are fields that are missing and genre categories assigned haphazardly. As Bill VanOrsdel, Chief Marketing Officer at WaveCloud, pointed out in another blog post earlier this week, if we were being graded, the industry should receive an F. Publishers want their Author's books discovered, yet the one simple task of assigning the metadata is not always done as well as it could be.

WaveCloud is still working hard to “build it bigger” and discovery is one of our primary goals. We will make your books easier to discover by providing the tools for you to make your metadata discoverable.  Stay tuned, our next release is less than a month away!

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Ten Social Networks for Readers

Mediabistro recently released a list of “Ten Social Networks for Readers”, which highlights a variety of sites that provide social experiences for readers and authors. WaveCloud is a bit too new to be included on this list but we are planning to debut features that will demonstrate why we will be in the future.

A major differentiator for us is how we plan to revolutionize the author/reader experience. While we will have all of the familiar features of online book sites including buying and rating books, virtual book and fan clubs, etc., we will also create new ways for authors and readers to communicate.

Currently authors have to monitor multiple sites to understand and take part in the social conversation of their books, and as we’ve mentioned in previous posts, this can leave authors feeling stretched thin. WaveCloud hopes to become a one-stop-shop for authors to engage with their fans and determine how readers are reacting to their work. Readers will also be able to “whisper” (direct message) to their favorite author and in turn authors can communicate one on one with fans if they so choose.

We’re excited to be launching these revolutionary features that we feel will change the landscape for author/reader engagement.

WaveCloud is going to fill that void and we hope you’ll be there right along with us!

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An “F” for Metadata…

As we build out the content of our WaveCloud store, we are adding new books from publishers and enhancing the metadata around those books with additional data purchased from Bowker.  Bowker is THE repository in the U.S. for all published books.

Metadata is critical for helping Readers find new Books and new Authors!

So how are we doing?  If school were in session, this industry would get an “F”.

Tens of thousands of e-books and metadata about them LACK ANY INDICATION OF GENRE.  This is the most basic piece of information for booksellers like WaveCloud.

When we offer browsing capabilities, the first thing most Readers want, is to drill into a particular genre/subject and look for books.

Without this data, your book is effectively invisible.  As my kids like to say, this is an EPIC FAIL.

If your book is traditionally published or self-published, please consider taking the time to check the metadata of your book, and make sure that that it is correct.

It’s simple: if our Readers can’t find your book, they can’t buy your book.

If you want to update or add to your book’s metadata on the WaveCloud site, please email us at info@wavecloud.com. Soon, we will have automated tools for this, but for now, I want to make your e-books visible to purchasers.

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Avant-garde Authors

We all know the publishing world is quickly changing. The role of the traditional publisher is quickly becoming less important as self-published authors, sometimes deemed avant-garde, are becoming more and more the norm. What does that mean to authors or readers?  Avant-garde is used to refer to those who are cutting-edge, particularly in literature, art and politics. Lately it is being used more often in regards to authors who go against the traditional publishing establishment and publish their own work.

There are many authors forging the way, and recently authors like Seth Godin and Jessica Park have been in the spotlight for their efforts. For example, Jessica Park had a literary agent and worked with traditional publishers but when it came to her Young Adult novel, Flat-Out Love, she chose to self-publish.

The novel had previously been rejected by multiple publishing houses because it didn’t fit specific “criteria”. “No vampires? The main character doesn’t fit into a specified age range? Sorry, but we can’t take it!”

Yet, Park knew that she had a novel her fans would enjoy and she was furious that no one would let her get it to them. So what did she do? She headed over to a self-publishing site and took matters into her own hands. The result was a fabulous success, generating average sales of 3,500 books a month!

More authors are seeking avenues to not only self-publish but to connect and communicate with their readers. At WaveCloud we’re building a platform for both our authors and their readers. Forget the standards of the traditional publishing world. If you have a novel and want to publish, let’s do it! Your readers are far more important to you (and us!) than whether or not your book fits the typical mold.  Perhaps the publishing world will soon not only be talking of the rise in avant-garde authors but of avant-garde self-publishing mediums as well. WaveCloud hopes to be at the forefront of that movement.

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E-book Readers Read More, Buy More

Have your reading habits changed since you started reading e-books? If you’re like me and have just recently started reading e-books, you can probably detail the changes fairly well.
According to a recent PEW Internet survey e-book readership is up. One-fifth of Americans over the age of eighteen have read an e-book in the past year, that’s about 21 percent of respondents.

Thanks to a successful 2011 holiday season and increasing sales in 2012, more Americans are becoming proud owners of e-readers, which certainly factors in to this upward trend. Since I got my e-reader in May, I’ve already read three e-books in addition to a print book.

One of the more interesting findings in the PEW survey was that those who read e-books not only read MORE than those who read print only, but they also read a VARIETY of formats.

“Those who read e-books report they have read more books in all formats. They reported an average of 24 books in the previous 12 months and had a median of 13 books. Those who do not read e-books say they averaged 15 books in the previous year and the median was 6 books.”

Another interesting discovery is that those of us who read e-books are more likely to purchase the book, rather than borrow it from a library. What they don’t mention is that there are a variety of factors at play here. Most notably, the fact that some publishers won’t even allow libraries access to their e-books. Those that do create so many restrictions on libraries, be it pricing or lending limits, that for these cash-strapped public entities, e-books are difficult to make available for their patrons.

Patrons find a very limited selection in libraries due to the contingencies publishers are putting on the lending of their books and therefore find purchasing to be the easiest option.

So again, how have your reading habits changed since discovering e-books? Do you find yourself reading more than you did when you exclusively read print?  Are you reading a variety of formats?  Do you find yourself buying your e-books more often than not? Let us know!

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