Tag Archives: Southern Yellow Pine Publishing

3, 2, 1, launch! Calusa Spirits official book release set

Calusa Spirits completes a trilogy in the Pirate of Panther Bay series

Calusa Spirits, the action-packed third book in the Pirate of Panther Bay series, is set to launch on—you guessed it—International Talk Like a Pirate Day! The official book release will be on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 from 6 pm to 9 pm ET. I don’t think we can get Ol’ Chumbucket or Cap’n Slappy to make an appearance. We can, however, take up their mantra by making this pirate day super fun and by releasing a grand high-seas adventure in an award-winning series.

Calusa Spirits makes the Pirate of Panther Bay series a true trilogy (although six books are planned in the series). So, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing is hosting an on-line virtual book launch with more than 10 prizes for people participating in the fun. Participants can call in and ask questions, talk to other fans (and readers), or just watch it unfold on Facebook. Continue reading

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Amazon links to “Unsafe On Any Campus?” are now live!

Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It.

Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It.

I am happy to report that the amazon.com links to Unsafe On Any Campus? are now live! I also discovered that pre-orders have hit #53 in the rankings under political science/public policy/abuse.

  • Amazon print $14.95: http://bit.ly/UnsafeAznPrint
  • Amazon kindle ($4.95): http://bit.ly/Unsafekindle

Pre-orders for $3 off are still available through Southern Yellow Pine’s website using the coupon code READ: http://bit.ly/syppunsafe

And, of course, we have an amazing line up of experts for our public forum and launch event at Element3 Church on July 28th, at 7:00 pm.

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Five take aways from the Royal Palm Literary Awards

StNicInc,COVERSt. Nic, Inc., my re-imagination of the Santa Claus myth through the lens of an action-adventure novel. won 2nd place in the Published Mainstream/Literary Fiction category of the Royal Palm Literary Awards. This was a great win for a small book (for now) from a small, but rapidly growing press (Southern Yellow Pine Publishing). But what does this mean for my writing?

A Few Notes on the Royal Palm Literary Awards

The RPLA awards have several benefits for writers, including the fact they provide feedback from the judges and they allow submissions into multiple categories. I submitted St. Nic, Inc. in two categories: thriller/suspense and mainstream/literary. St. Nic, Inc. didn’t make it to the semi-final round in the thriller/suspense category, but it nearly took home gold in mainstream/literary. So, this provides an interesting case study of how competition judges evaluate the same material.

RPLA_2ndPl_BadgeThe judging in the RPLA competition is based on two rounds. The first involves two judges reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript or book. Judges evaluate the submissions using a rubric that generates a numerical score between 1 and 50. Books need to score at least 80 points (or about a 40 from each judge) to make it into the semi-final round. If the book (or manuscript) makes it to the semi-final round, another judge will read the entire manuscript and score it using the same rubric to determine whether it gets into the final round and in the running for an award. The final judge’s score (also from 1 to 50) is doubled, so the final round submissions are ranked based on a total potential score of 200 points.

Here are the categories, each worth 5 points and scored from 1 to 5 except for overall impression which is scored on a 10 point scale:

  1. Setting
  2. Character
  3. Plot
  4. Story flow/plausibility
  5. Dialogue
  6. Creativity
  7. Mechanics/conventions
  8. Appropriate genre
  9. Overall impression

The Ugly: St. Nic, Inc.’s Uncertain Journey

Here’s the breakdown of the total scores for each judge for St. Nic, Inc. for both categories:

Judge Thriller/Suspense Mainstream/Literary
Judge #1 36
Judge #2 35
Judge #3 42
Judge #4 40
Judge #5 (FINAL ROUND) 49
Total Score

I think it’s pretty clear that the judges in the thriller/suspense genre—the one I thought St. Nic, Inc. “fit”–weren’t super impressed. I really wasn’t close to getting into the semi-final round, which means my book probably didn’t make the cut in the top 20% of submissions. (This is my estimate; RPLA does not release numbers of submissions by category.)

Reviewing the comments, neither judge felt the story moved fast enough, thought I devoted too much space to setting and not enough to plot and character development. One of the judges had trouble with the number of characters introduced in the first chapters (too many), and they wanted more “quirks” to make them interesting. On the final category, overall impression, they scored the story identically with a 6.

I appreciated the candidness of the comments as well as their specificity, but I could hardly be encouraged by their evaluation of something I had spent years developing. You need a thick skin if you are going to submit your work to the judgments of others. Fortunately for my ego, one judge wrote that he or she would like to see more work from me. Both these judges in this genre thought the book was in the right category. So, my decision to enter my book in this category was at least validated by the judges with experience in the genre.

Ironically, I’ve always felt that setting was the weakest part of my writing. I consider myself a character-driven author. These judges would clearly beg to differ with my self-assessment.

But this is where the story gets more interesting.

000_RPLA_Finalist_BadgeI also entered St. Nic, Inc. in the category of published mainstream and literary fiction. Honestly, I didn’t think it would perform well because I thought it was primarily an action/adventure story (and not really thriller/suspense either). I also thought this would be a more competitive category because many novels can fit under this umbrella. But my fortunes in RPLA this year turned because I accepted the risk of entering the novel into a second category.

As the table shows, however, the third and fourth judges didn’t warmly embrace my novel either. They also didn’t respond well to my emphasis on setting in the opening pages. Fortunately, these judges gave me scores that allowed me to get into the semi-final round where the full manuscript would be read by a fifth judge.

A review of the comments in the mainstream/literary category found that the first round judges also had issues with the plot and the lack of quirky characters. One judge noted it was difficult to determine which characters were the protagonists and which ones were the antagonists. They were also confused about the central setting of the story (which pivots between a hospital and DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia as two parallel story lines develop simultaneously). These judges also thought the book could be entered into the action/thriller genres, reinforcing at least my sense of where it would fit in terms of genre. The literary/mainstream judges wanted me to tighten up the action by streamlining the story, and one even suggested I consolidate a few chapters. Hardly a slam dunk into the final round, let alone scores to position me well for a top three placing.

Still, I made it into the semi-final round.

The fifth judge obviously made the difference. After reading the entire book—the only judge to read it in its entirety—St. Nic, Inc. received a 49 out 50. I have very little feedback because the judge liked almost everything in it. This judge also noted that the story could have moved faster, but she or he considered the story imaginative, creative, engaging, and pretty cool. Since this judge’s score was doubled in the final round, St. Nic, Inc., made it into the final round and received 2nd place.

The Good: Five Take Aways from RPLA

So, St. Nic, Inc. had a rocky ride in the RPLA judging. This was clearly not a cakewalk or an easy win. I also think it speaks well of the process, but that’s another story.

I want to close with a few observations about what this means for me as an author, with several more books in the pipeline. What are my take aways?

  1. You can’t always judge a book by its first chapters. Stories are organic, but judging (no matter how well it maps over buyer behavior) that focuses on the first chapters (or pages) really doesn’t tell you much about the story if it has much complexity. The first chapters are just the hook. While important, they are not the story. Many of the elements of Nic, Inc. that the judges criticized were, in fact, artistic decisions about plot and character development. As long as writers recognize the trade-offs involved, and the potential downside of readers not buying the book or judges appreciating its complexity in the early chapters, writers should note the objections and consider them, but not necessarily use them as a writing guide. Even in light of the judges’ comments, I don’t think I would change the story much.
  2. Stay true to your vision as a writer. Nic, Inc. scores ranged from 35 to 49 on a 50 point scale. At the end of the day, literary competitions, even when they use a rigorous methodology for ranking books, depend on the subjectivity of the judge. Notably, all the judges recognized that the manuscript was technically well written—no mistakes in grammar, syntax, plot development or character development. Their criticisms centered on the creative and artistic aspects of the book, many of which included choices I made as a writer about plot and character. Not all my characters had quirks because in many cases—such as the way I treat little people—I wanted to demonstrate they were normal people in an extraordinary circumstance and setting. Giving little people quirks would have transformed them into munchkins, the exact opposite of how I wanted them perceived.
  3. Judges in literary competition pay a lot of attention to craft. They like a balance of character, plot, and setting, and they are interested in manuscripts that push, or at least give a strong nudge, to pushing against the edges of convention. Good books that are excellent reads may not do well in a literary competition because judges are looking for artistic qualities, and these qualities may not be what readers care about. Paradoxically, genre judges tend to look for stories that fit certain formulas—the one page hook, unambiguous plots, etc. This all makes sense because they are looking for the stand out contributions, so they want to see something different within the confines of their genre.
  4. The book’s hook—the events that start the story off—is critical. As a writer I should not expect a reader (or judge) to be patient. Most people don’t want to waste an hour reading a book or manuscript to see if they are going like it. As a matter of efficiency (and practicality), the hook is essential. And, in the RPLA competition (as well as other competitions) the hook determines whether you can even quality for the subsequent rounds. An excellent hook is a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. This is useful insight in general.
  5. The judges like tight, polished manuscripts. They don’t want to be distracted by formatting, grammatical, or spelling errors. This reflects a lack of professionalism, and they don’t want to bother reading a book when the author hasn’t done their due diligence in producing a book that respects their time and value as a judge. All judges noted that fact Nic, Inc. was free of technical errors and was well written.

This was the third time I have entered RPLA with a manuscript. Notably, last year I submitted St. Nic, Inc. as an unpublished manuscript and it failed to advance to the semi-final round. While the 2nd place finish was gratifying, the ability to see the book do well in published form and receive excellent comments from the judges will help me frame my future submissions and keep me centered as an author.

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Five expected and unexpected benefits from winning a literary award

By SR Staley

St. Nic, Inc. was awarded second place in the 2015 Royal Palm Literary Awards, and the win was a real confidence booster for me personally. This isn’t the first time I’ve won a book award–Renegade (Wheatmark) took home second place in the Seven Hills Literary Contest and Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (Transaction Books) earned 1st place in the Sir Antony Fisher Memorial Prize–but the RPLA award has elevated my fiction writing to a new level of respect among my fellow authors.

RPLA_2ndPl_BadgeWith a few more years of experience under my belt, however, I can reflect on the impact of the award and its meaning, personally and professionally. So I put together these thoughts on the expected and unexpected benefits of winning the award.

  1. Professional validation. Perhaps now more than at any other time, authors wonder if their writing is “good enough.” In part, this is due to the tremendous change in the publishing industry. As traditional legacy publishers with integrated national distribution networks consolidate, and smaller presses focus on niches, authors are finding the only practical pathway to publication is often through self-publishing or some form of subsidy publishing. While many excellent books are published through these sources–in fact, Renegade was published through Wheatmark, a very professional hybrid publisher–authors are often left wondering whether their writing is good enough to compete. Winning an award tells us that yes, we can write and we can achieve excellence, at least as measured by our peers.StNicInc,COVER
  2. Reader validation. I didn’t really think about this until I pondered the self-centered nature of a one-star review I received on amazon for, ironically, St. Nic, Inc. The reviewer trashed St. Nic, Inc.–and I mean trashed it–despite a slew of four- and five-star reviews that proceeded it. When our books win a literary contest, we validate our readers and all those who enjoyed our stories and characters. No one who left a good review on amazon.com will ever have to justify their positive review, and, just perhaps, we hold the book snobs and narcissists accountable for their bad behavior.
  3. Raising awareness. Winning an award, or even making it to the semifinals or finals, raises awareness about our work, giving us a needed boost to our marketing efforts. Sometimes, publishers and authors get caught in a cycle of simply generating content and posts on social media just to keep our name visible. But winning a literary award provides real content and is a win-win: Authors benefit because the quality of our work is validated through an external, third-party source and the book awards benefit by marketing their contest, raising the competitiveness and improving the validity of the contest in future years.
  4. Rekindling the joy of writing. Writing is a long, arduous process. As creative as the it can be, we face many periods of slogging through stages we would prefer off load to someone else. I remember when my first book was published–Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities–its actual publication seemed anti-climatic. So much time had been spent finalizing the manuscript, monitoring the book through the production process, developing the marketing plan, and navigating dozens of other smaller administrative decision points that that joy and wonder of writing seemed completely displaced. Winning the Fisher Award goosed my creative energies (as have the Seven Hills and RPLA wins).Renegade,cover
  5. Validating my publisher(s). With nine published books under my belt, I think authors tend to forget the importance these wins have for our publishers. I have become more keenly aware of this since my venture with Wheatmark, a subsidy publisher (but not a true self-publishing company because they don’t take every project), I am more keenly aware of the time, effort, money and resources needed to bring a quality book to press. My publishers–subsidy, self, or traditional–deserve my best efforts to market and sell books for them. Otherwise, they go out of business and our careers stall. In years past, self-publishing was a dead-end for a career. Now, the game is completely different, and publisher like Wheatmark and my current (traditional) publisher, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing, are partners. Winning book awards validates their investment in me as an author.

Many authors are rightly proud of our work when we win an award. But I think the benefits are far broader than we often appreciate. So, this award is not just for me; it’s important for everyone who supports and invests in my career as an author.

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Seven cool and fun things I experienced at this year’s Decatur Book Festival

I attended the 2015 Decatur Book Festival with my publisher, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing on September 5-6th. It was a blast, and much more fun than last year. (Check out a gallery of festival photos from the Atlanta Journal Constitution here, including one of our crew here.) I’m a big fan of attending festivals and marketplaces as an author because I learn so much from about marketing and what resonates with readers by talking to fellow authors, book lovers, readers, and buyers. (Oh, yeah, I also like to sell books.)

So, I’ve compiled a quick list of the more fun and exciting things I experienced this year at Decatur, both as a writer fine-tuning my craft and a participant who just enjoys engaging with people and having fun.

  1. Guerrilla Haiku

IMG_1394I’ve always been a bit anxious about poetry, even though I know a lot of people that write it, and I enjoy reading it. On our first day, however, we were challenged by a group of students using Haiku (#haikuDBF) to “promote” discussion and dialogue among strangers. We embraced the challenge, and wrote the following Haiku–three lines, 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables–with sidewalk chalk:

 

Isabella IS

An awesome pirate lady

who trumps Jack Sparrow

This turned out to do exactly what these teens thought it would do: promote discussion! Many people simply noticed the Haiku, linked it to the sign, and then to the book. In addition to pulling me out of my comfort zone as a budding Haiku poet, it turned out (unintentionally) to be a great marketing tool.

2. Fine tuning my log lines

After talking to several readers and buyers, I realized that Tortuga Bay was more than just a sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay. The plot and story reflects a powerful new character arc for Isabella, the lead character, and I began to articulate it much more lucidly. The Pirate of Panther Bay is about Isabella’s search and discovery of her own identity, reforged after her escape from the sugar plantation and taking over as captain of her own pirate ship. Tortuga Bay is about Isabella finding her place in the world. As a friend of mine says, she is a “woman beast”!

3. Signing sneakers

IMG_1431Two other young readers were walking around Decatur getting other kids to sign their sneakers. They wondered if authors would sign them, and I’m proud to say that the Southern Yellow Pine Publishing authors were the first on the canvas! (Thank you Ellie and Hannah for providing some inspiration and joy at DBF this year.)

4. Spontaneous video interviews with kids

This year’s festival seemed to attract a lot of families–kids, teens, and young adults. This was great for me because my books are strong cross overs enjoyed by readers firmly within the adult and YA action/adventure categories. (Thank you M.R. Street for making sure I don’t lose my inner teen.)

We also found a lot of kids willing to engage with us and ask us questions. So, we pulled out the smart phone and asked them to pose any question they wanted on camera. I’ve posted them to my (SR Staley) youtube channel (with parental permission, of course) under the play list “Kids on the Street”. This was a great way to engage young readers in our profession. I hope to continue this at other book signings and at Downtown Marketplace in Tallahassee.

  • Jo Jo’s interview with me can be found here.
  • Brodie’s interview with me can be found here.
  • Gunnar’s interview with William Mark and can be found here.

5. My (really big) sign

SR Staley Tortuga BayThe one big marketing take away for me this year was the importance and effectiveness of signage. We were able to put up a 6-foot sign advertising Tortuga Bay and the impact was obvious. Of course, we were working with a great cover crafted by SYPP’s Jim Hamer, and that helped a lot. Still, we could see people walking down the sidewalk, see the sign, look over at the book rack, and then step over and pick up the book. (We had similar signs for Robert Burton’s The Burgundy Briefcase and V.L. Brunskill’s Waving Backwards.) The cover design had a huge impact on drawing readers into the booth. Thank you Jim for crafting such a captivating cover!

6. Getting to know my fellow authors

I also really really enjoyed getting to know my fellow SYPP authors Scott Archer Jones (who flew in from New Mexico!) author of The Big Wheel, William Mark (Lost in the Darkness), Roberta Burton (The Burgundy Briefcase), and V.L. Brunskill (Waving Backwards).  These are great people and their books are getting excellent press (and winning awards). IMG_1386

7. Selling Books

Of course, I really enjoyed selling my books. Tortuga Bay and The Pirate of Panther Bay did well with the crowd this year, and having two books in the same series made a big difference. Several people bought both books (even though they are stand alone stories). I sold a few copies of St. Nic, Inc. but the Panther Bay Pirate series was the clear winner for the weekend. I doubt I would have been as successful if my books were each one-offs. Thus, this year’s experience is another example of the benefit of series and multi-book authors.

I can’t wait until next year!

 

 

 

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Tortuga Bay Launches Isabella into Voodoo and Revolution

The official release date is set for Tortuga Bay, the sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay: September 5, 2015. We will be launching the book at the Decatur Book Festival (@DBookFestival) in Decatur, Georgia, September 5-6th. We will have a launch event in Tallahassee, as well, but the venue and date have not been confirmed yet. Take advantage of pre-release savings by pre-ordering Tortuga Bay and/or The Pirate of Panther Bay for $3 off the cover price! (Use coupon code READNOW.)

Tortuga-Bay-RGB-96-01I am very excited about Tortuga Bay. Isabella goes into very different and a very dark place as she grapples with voodoo and a nascent slave revolt on Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). Lots of swashbuckling action takes place, but I enjoyed working some bigger issues into the plot and character arcs in this version.

It helps that I’m getting great early reviews! Here’s a sampling:

  • “Isabella sizzles in this swashbuckling sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay.  Her sword slices through oppressors from the first page to the last in an adventure that puts her daring and decisive stand against slavery at the center of a story that shimmers like its Caribbean setting. Unputdownable!” Donna Meredith, award-winning author of Wet Work, The Color of Lies, and The Glass Madonna
  • “In SR Staley’s sequel to The Pirate of Panther Bay, Isabella once again shows she is made of as much grit as any male pirate captain.  The action starts on page one and never lets up.  Through exhilarating battles at sea and the start of a slave revolution on land, Isabella fights for the success of her ship, safety of her crew, and survival of her lover, who happens to be a captain in the Spanish Navy — a sworn enemy.  At the same time, she is searching for the meaning of the Prophecy given to her long ago by her now dead mother.  Staley’s familiarity with ships of war and the history of the region helps readers feel they are part of the action. “ M.R. Street, award-winning author of The Werewolfe’s Daughter, Hunter’s Moon, and Blue Rock Rescue.
  • “If you pick up Tortuga Bay you better strap on your seat belt because you will be transported back in time to an era of pirates and ships chased by the soldiers and sailors of Spain’s Most Royal Catholic Majesty. Isabella, continuing her role as The Pirate of Panther Bay from the previous book, is an intriguing character. By casting this young woman as a pirate captain Staley launches a frontal assault on all the female stereotypes so prevalent in literature, media and the entertainment world. He has done a remarkable job of mixing pirates, Royal political intrigue and Haitian voodoo into an entertaining tale.” Col. Michael Whitehead (ret.), author of The Lion of Babylon and Messages from Babylon.

Stay tuned for updates as we get closer to the release!

Also, keep track of my comings and goings on my website: http://www.srstaley.com

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