Review and Interview of Kai Strand’s Worth the Effort

Today I’m honored to be part of Kia Strand’s release tour for her novella “Worth the Effort.” I agreed to read and review her work, and she agreed to submit to an interview about the story, so we’re both happy. Here’s the review, and if you read on afterward, you can see our fun little discussion about coffee, love, publishing, and of course… writing. When you’ve finished, don’t forget to click the link for the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Woth the EffortElla discovers a homeless teen boy living in an alley behind the café where she works, and at first he frightens her. But as time goes by she gets to know him and in the process of overcoming her fear, she also attempts to shatter the high society expectations her parents have for her. But just when she thinks she’s getting to know Ayden, she discovers his shocking secret. This story will have you turning pages to see what happens next, and even though it’s a complete story, it will leave you wanting more. And since it’s a Kai Strand story, expect a last-minute twist to keep the ending from dragging on or becoming boring.

Here’s my interview with Kai. If my less-than-award-worthy reviewing ability didn’t convince you to try “Worth the Effort,” maybe our conversation will.

Kai StrandSince you live in the Pacific North West, and Seattle is known for coffee (among other things), and coffee plays a central role in Worth the Effort, what kind of coffee do you like and how do you take it?

I adore this question! Thank you for asking it. I am a coffee drinker. 24/7 when I can get away with it. My favorite brand is Starbucks. I like my coffee STRONG and usually black. I rarely drink flavored coffee, but when I want to spoil myself, I throw some dried orange peel and a snap of cinnamon stick into the grinder with the beans. When I REALLY want to indulge, I’ll mix chocolate milk into the brewed cup of coffee. (Picture Homer Simpson drooling here)

I’m not much for flavored coffee myself, but I do love some Highlander Grog when I can get it.

For a novella, Worth the Effort has many layers of depth: themes of poor versus plenty and breaking with norms/expectations contribute to this depth. Did you set out to write a story as such, or did the layers build on their own as you wrote?

This is a tough question. I don’t know that I set out to tell this story in particular. What I did know was that I wanted a high school girl to fall for a homeless boy. It was very, very important to me that people see the underage homeless population. As the story developed I realized I needed – no wanted – more dynamics in the story itself. That is when I decided these kids needed some surprises. The irony is, that when I was doing some research for the basis of my story, visiting a transitional living shelter for teens in my area, I was told a story of a boy with a similar enough background to my fictional Ayden that I knew beyond a doubt that I’d chose the right story to tell. I actually got shivers when I was told his story. Still do!

At first, I thought this was going to be a story of love(ish) at first sight. After reading it, I realize it’s not, at least not for Ella. Do you believe in love at first sight or do you think it’s just a tool to move some plots?

I’m sorry we aren’t sitting at my local Starbucks so I could fully answer this question. First and foremost I had an instant and powerful reaction – attraction – to my now husband. Was it love? No. But I’ve never had the same experience with anyone else. So there is SOMETHING to that feeling. Different people may have a different definition for it. Second, and I’m saying this mostly because my oldest daughter would cry foul if I didn’t mention it to the world when I’ve had some very in depth conversations with her about teen love…I don’t think teen love is a real love. WAIT! PLEASE LISTEN! I think it is very real for the people who are feeling it. I think it is possible (though rare) it will mature into a lasting love. But I don’t think it is formed on proper life experiences or even with a realistic sense of time, for that matter. Can it break a heart? Absolutely. Is it everlasting? If so, why not wait and see…?

You wrote this story in first person present, the other stories of yours I’ve read have been written in third person past (my more natural writing style). Did you find it difficult to write this way?

Oh, Eric! Can I just thank you for recognizing this? It was very hard for me to write in first person present. My poor editor was like, “Wait? Why are we switching to past tense here?” and I was like, “Cause this is HARD!” Ella’s story needed to be immediate. But it was my first time writing this way. I laugh when I hear others write this way all the time and have a hard time writing in third person past. Imagine that—she asked. *wink*

In my opinion, the worst part about being an author is either promoting, or the fact that I can no longer read anything just for its entertainment value. I can almost hear my high school literature teachers in my head asking, “Why do you think the author did this?” It greatly slows down my reading time, and it frustrates me (at times), but there’s nothing I can do about it.

You self published this novella, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s this first work you’ve self published. Tell us a few things you learned while self publishing.

I learned that writing is hard. Oh wait, I already knew that. I learned that it takes a team to write a book, writer, cover artist, editor. Nope—knew that already. I learned marketing…no, already did that too. Okay, I learned book formatting. Honestly, I did so much research prior to deciding to self publish that I don’t really remember what I didn’t know before. Prior to making the decision to self pub these novellas, I read a lot about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ so there weren’t a lot of surprises. At this point I don’t intend on leaving traditional publishing completely. I enjoy the overall experience of traditional publishing, but being a competent and capable person, I wanted to take advantage of the additional revenue stream. Especially on smaller work, like my novellas.

So this was Ella’s Story, and you tell us that Ayden’s Story is yet to come. Give us a hint of something we’ll learn with Ayden’s Story.

Ayden is the whole reason behind these two novellas. Therefore, in his story we will get to really know him. We will see even more clearly why he’s homeless. We live on the streets with him. We learn about some of the resources that are available to him (that he takes advantage of) and most important, how Ella impacts his life – which, I admit is big – and we’ll wonder if he can rise to the occasion. It was so much harder to write his side of the story than I expected it to be. I just figured I’d write the same story from his point of view, but well…that was boring! So I chose key scenes to dip into so readers can see what he was thinking when they happened. Other than that the story has to follow his life, which is nothing close to Ella’s.

Thanks for joining me, Kai, and I hope someone comes across this and finds your story interesting. But for a little more motivation, here’s a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Guest Post: Kai Strand’s Takes on Publishing

Today, I’m very lucky to host one of my friends (at least in the online sense of the word) who happens to be one of my favorite authors. Shortly after I signed the contract for my book, I started cyber-stalking. No, not in the creepy, obsessive, you-need-to-get-professional-help-before-you-hurt-yourself-or-someone-else sort of way. Instead the subtle, and more socially accepted, way of passively observing what other authors were doing. When I cam across Kai, her book Beware of the White caught my attention. First, it had an outstanding cover (CK Volnek, who did Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud’s cover, also did Beware of the White). The story also sounded interesting, so I read it. Not only did I enjoy it immensely, when I finished it, I realized it also had the same editor as my book, Katie Carroll. Maybe that’s just one of the fun quirks of being with a small press. I’ll let Kai tell you more.

Eeny, Meeny, Miny Moe – Today’s Publishing Options

It used to be that you could be a fantastic writer, but if none of the big six publishing houses or any of their imprints wanted to publish your work, your story was dead in the water. Today there are more small presses than ever before, including many that are taking advantage of electronic publishing and doing a good job of it, and there is accessibility and affordability in self-publishing. It is a great time to be a writer. The power of publication has shifted more into the author’s hands than ever before.

A book is a collaborative deal regardless of which route you take. With a small press, the collaboration is more intimate than if you were with a large publishing house and less over-lording than if you self-publish. You usually have good communication with your editor, input into your cover design, and can get answers to your questions from the senior editors or the publisher.  Though it is less likely you will get an advance from a small press, your royalties might be slightly larger, especially on the ebook. Their overhead isn’t as big as a large publisher, so they tend to give more back to the author where they can.

Of course there are drawbacks. Because small press keep their staff lean, the employees are often overburdened and might miss deadlines, pushing back your release date. Small presses often don’t even provide a solid release date because of this, leaving the author unable to prepare a ‘launch’ for their book or having to postpone a previously planned one (that can be embarrassing). Small presses usually don’t provide much support for promoting your book. Sometimes not even a Facebook page or Twitter, which costs the company nothing if they can get their authors to add the content for them. While small press can be the answer for publishing a niche story, they can often be limiting for the author as their career progresses, which is why I am published with four different presses. Not one press I’ve published with publishes all the books I write because their line up is more specialized than a larger house. And finally, small presses go out of business frequently, which can result in your book rights bobbing around for a while or your publication never coming to fruition. Do your homework on the company before submitting to them and if you choose to accept a contract and the company isn’t what you thought…move onto the next book with a different publisher. You usually will have a chance to snag back your rights after three years and then you can take the book elsewhere or self-publish it.

Small press fits my current publication expectations. I like working with people who know more about the aspects of publishing a book than I do. I love that I can have multiple books being prepared for publication at the same time while I keep writing new stuff. Last year I had two books publish within a few weeks of each other and this year there were only a couple months between book releases. It is much harder to do that if you are self-publishing, because it is all up to you.

Going forward, I don’t know that I will only publish with small presses. I hope my career will be long and fruitful, and my goal is to hit all the options eventually. However, I am enjoying my experience publishing with small presses and I’m learning a lot about the business of writing for children.

Thanks for joining me today, Kai. I had hoped to finish reading King of Bad before this went live so I could spend a paragraph saying great and wonderful things about it. Alas, I failed. But I will say I’ve enjoyed the first quarter of the book before moving on to your blurbs.

Beware of the White FinalBeware of the White: middle grade fantasy adventure

As is tradition, Terra learns on the Saturday past her twelfth birthday that she is a Natures Spirit. It is her legacy to serve in the peaceful underground city of Concord. Learning she is named in a prophecy and being threatened by the leader of the death tribe…that part breaks tradition.

The Trepidus are the death janitors of the Underworld, responsible for delivering fatalities with a smile and cleaning up after themselves until Blanco, recent leader of the Trepidus, decides the day of reckoning for his species is coming. He begins organizing the creatures and leads them toward an uprising. The prophecy says there is one person who can stop him. Terra.

With Spirit of Security, Frank, protecting her, Terra attempts to complete her training and discover her Spirit talents. Together, they go on a rogue investigation to learn how to defeat Blanco. In the end, it comes down to a battle of the minds. The future of Concord is at stake. Will Blanco, the older, more experienced being win? Or will Terra, the young, new Spirit earn back the peace of the city?

Buy It:

MuseItUp, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Or look for it on iTunes

King of BAD COVERKing of Bad: young adult fantasy

Jeff Mean would rather set fires than follow rules or observe curfew. He wears his bad boy image like a favorite old hoodie; that is until he learns he has superpowers and is recruited by Super Villain Academy – where you learn to be good at being bad. In a school where one kid can evaporate all the water from your body and the girl you hang around with can perform psychic sex in your head, bad takes on a whole new meaning. Jeff wonders if he’s bad enough for SVA.

He may never find out. Classmates vilify him when he develops good manners. Then he’s kidnapped by those closest to him and left to wonder who is good and who is bad. His rescue is the climactic episode that balances good and evil in the super world. The catalyst – the girl he’s crushing on. A girlfriend and balancing the Supers is good, right? Or is it…bad?

Buy it: Whiskey Creek PressAmazonBarnes and Noble Add it to Goodreads

Kai StrandAbout the author

When her children were young and the electricity winked out, Kai Strand gathered her family around the fireplace and they told stories, one sentence at a time. Her boys were rather fond of the ending, “And then everybody died, the end.” Now an award winning children’s author, Kai crafts fiction for kids and teens to provide an escape hatch from their reality. With a selection of novels for young adult and middle grade readers and short stories for younger children Kai entertains children of all ages, and their adults. Visit Kai’s website, www.kaistrand.com, to browse her books, download companion materials or to find all her online haunts.

My Thoughts on Alan Moore’s Advice About Publishing

You don’t have to spend much time on social media sites frequented by authors, most notably Twitter, before you discover a rift between traditional publishing and self-publishing. A few months ago, I wrote a post called, “Can Self-Publishing Authors Destroy Literature?” It came in response to a blog post I read where the author tried to claim just that. His argument had some serious loopholes, but what really upset me was his accusation that everyone using social media to promote their book has written a piece of garbage (I’m generalizing here). In my retort, I tried not to minimalize the role of self-publishing while still stating that my personal goal, as an author, was to have a publishing company accept my work. Basically, anyone can self-publish a book, but I needed someone else to say my work was good enough they would publish it to achieve my goal of becoming a published book author (I had already published several short stories and articles).

This was the right decision for me, and I’ll never question the route I took. But the other day I came across a video of Alan Moore, an author I hold in the highest regard, addressing unpublished authors. His advice is to self-publish, and he lists sound reasons. He states that being published doesn’t mean anything. To prove his point, he lists some authors who have sold millions of copies of their books, but who, according to Mr. Moore, aren’t talented writers. I could put together my own list of talentless bestselling authors–but I lack the confidence in my own work to make my opinions public.

Knowing what I do about Alan Moore, I would say he has an aversion to most things mainstream. It’s an aversion I don’t share. Although I mentioned my list of bestselling authors lacking in the talent department, one of my favorite authors is about as mainstream as you can get: Stephen King. And he’s certainly no stranger to voicing his opinion of pop-culture he thinks fails to pop. But something Stephen King frequently does, and this practice I have tried to mimic in my young career, is praise his editors for their hard work in making his writing better.

I’m sure this four-minute video of Alan Moore is incomplete, and maybe he goes on to stress the importance of editors. He does tell writers to go over their work and make it better, then go over it again and make it better (I’ve seen some self-published work I suspect is a first draft). I think part of the reason (possibly even the main reason) self-publishing is receiving such a bad reputation is the frequent lack of editors. I’ll read this post three times before I hit the publish button, and I’m certain I will still miss errors. You cannot undervalue the worth of another set of eyes on something you wrote. So this is my public service announcement: If you’re going to self-publish your work, please hire an editor. And I’m not talking about your mom or your favorite uncle, I don’t care if they are high-school grammar teachers. I mean a professional editor, trained in writing styles and grammar, and willing to give you constructive criticism. And then take that criticism. Remember, the editor’s always right.