Last week I had the pleasure of reviewing Christmas Lites here on the blog. In case you missed it, you can see my review here. Basically, a bunch of great authors, who can be found in the Creative Reviews group on Goodreads came up with an idea to write a book for charity. So, this talented group of people got together and collaborated on a short story anthology called, Christmas Lites. All the proceeds are going to the NCADV(National Coaliton Against Domestic Violence) charity. I feel that this is such a fabulous project, that I again wanted to do a feature on this book. I am sure you all don't want me to ramble on and on again, so I called in some help. I asked one of the people involved in the project to write up a little piece telling about all the time, effort and obstacles the group had to overcome to get this book to market. Here to share with us the story of the creation of Christmas Lites, is the one and only C.S. Splitter, author of The Willing and The Reluctant.
What with the blog tour coming up, website changes, my editor sending me more changes, new banners, new buttons, cover designs, and my day job, I was up pretty late last night. I got hungry and went to the fridge to see what might be in the offing. Nothing caught my attention except the discovery that my wife had made two hard-boiled eggs when she made the salad for dinner. Let’s be honest, a dinner salad is not going to keep a guy going for a whole night. It was no wonder I was hungry. Those extra hard-boiled eggs called to me, “Make a sandwich out of us! We won’t mind. It’ll taste good if you add just a little salt.”
Yes, food talks to me sometimes. Food cannot be trusted because sometimes it outright lies (like cauliflower which looks good, but tastes bad) and other times, it does not tell me the whole truth. The eggs did not bother to tell me about heartburn. I blame Mrs. Splitter for thinking that a salad was going to satisfy my manly hunger.
By 2AM, I was awakened from my sleep by the heartburn. It was a long night. The hard-boiled egg sandwich seemed like a good idea at the time. There were consequences that should have been anticipated, but went overlooked until later.
Christmas Lites was like that sandwich.
“Let’s do something for the holidays as a group,” Amy said. Everyone thought that was a splendid idea. But what should we do?
“Let’s put together a book of short stories and donate the proceeds to charity,” someone else said.
“Cool!” we all shouted (er…typed) in unison. “But what charity?”
“The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence,” yet another someone said.
“Yay!” we cheered.
There was much rejoicing. (Insert Monty Python celebratory cartoon scene here.)
It just made sense, like eating hard-boiled eggs at 11:30PM because they are tasty and convenient. Our GoodReads group, Creative Reviews, has a bunch of writers in it. It was no big deal to turn out a short story in a month for each of us. We also had editors, proofreaders, cover artists, and every other specialty we thought we needed to turn out a book in a record period of time. We came up with a timeline, got our volunteers, and Amy started divvying up assignments.
There was much backslapping and enthusiasm.
Honestly, my thought was, “Great! I write one short story and get it published, which lets me add another title to my author pages. Oh, and the charity rocks, plus they decided to make the book available to the troops through Operation eBook Drop.” Simple! All I had to do was write the story, which I did in one sitting. One very painful sitting, like when I bit my tongue while eating that sandwich last night.
It all seemed like such a good idea at the time. With the work being shared, no one would get inundated. This thing was on rails. Just like making a hard-boiled egg sandwich. The stories rolled in and the proofreaders and editors did their thing. The cover artist did her thing. Amy put it all together in a nice, neat little package to turn into a book.
It was done! Heck, I had long since sent in my story. The Creative Reviews forums went eerily quiet as the deadline approached.
“Call me!” Amy shouted at me in that email way we all know so well. Me? I gave my story. Why did she need me?
She needed to get the file uploaded to Smashwords and I had worked with that site’s aptly named ‘MeatGrinder’ before. Seriously, the first time you work with it, just go beat your head against a brick wall ahead of time. It is a wonderful, but quirky service. After you do it once, however, it’s not that bad.
Sure, I could help. Anything for Amy, our mega-moderator who doesn’t (normally) yell at me on the forums for my double-entendres and pseudo-sexual, pseudo-humorous remarks. Anything for the cause, right? I had already published a couple of books through Smashwords and still had fresh bruises on my cranium. No problem.
That’s when I first started hearing about the problems. Some people like to call obstacles “challenges.” I hate those people. A challenge is trying to open up a new level on Mario Cart. When you are on a deadline and all of the pieces are not in place, and you don’t even know where the pieces are, you have PROBLEMS. Amy and the crew had problems. Those problems were things none of us had really thought through ahead of time. We were all too busy creating our little piece of the Christmas Lites puzzle.
I started getting copied in on their email group and, let me tell you, these women were busy. They were climbing this monumental publishing mountain while playing whack-a-mole with unexpected problems. Amy was their quarterback running a two-minute drill out of her own end zone and needing a touchdown to win. For those of you not familiar with my sports analogies—she was calmly calling the shots to get the project out of deep doodoo (can I say doodoo on here? Oops).
I had not fully appreciated the size and scope of the project. As a typical guy, I don’t put much thought into how the sausage gets made; I just know it tastes good with hashbrowns. My job to write a short story was easy even though I had never written one before. Even my new assignment to get the files onto Smashwords was no big deal. Amy and the others were busy fighting valiantly to get the book out, and none of the rest of us even knew it.
Here is what they faced:
Bank account: Sure, we could publish the book and have the proceeds go to someone’s bank account, but the government would see those proceeds as income even though that person was going to turn around and write a check to the NCADV charity.
Taxes: If it’s seen as income, it gets taxed. Uncle Sam wants his share and that would cut down on the money going to NCADV.
Someone would have to administer the bank account on an ongoing basis. Who has time for that? Oh, and that would mean filing more tax paperwork too.
Copyrights: They needed releases from the authors to avoid any hint of plagiarism.
ISBN numbers: They did not have them.
Smashwords: It screwed up the table of contents (TOC). And didn’t like the copyright page. And it made random text look like it came from an old IBM daisy-wheel typewriter. And the auto-vetter would not approve the file for the Premium Distribution Catalog.
Everyone says, “Don’t panic.” They usually say that at just the time panic becomes a perfectly appropriate reaction. Post hard-boiled egg/initial-enthusiasm heartburn had set in for everyone involved. We were belching failure.
Amy met the panic like John Wayne walking through the swinging doors of a saloon in goggles and toe socks…you would just have to know Amy to get that last part. Everyone got their last minute re-assignments and Amy batted her editing eyes coyly at the MeatGrinder to get it to drop its guard and cooperate willingly with our publishing scheme.
NCADV solved the banking problems by letting us assign the proceeds of the book directly to their bank account. Bye-bye tax problems because they are a tax-exempt organization (bite that, Uncle Sam!). Amy put out the copyright release and the authors got them back to her in record time…for authors at least: we tend to be slow people.
Yeah, those solutions sound easy now, but at the time, we didn’t even know what all the problems were!
I wrote all of that just to give people some idea of what went into this project. For most of us, our roles were limited and easy to accomplish. But pulling it all together at the end fell on just a few women who had never done anything like this before. That it got done, and on time to boot, was only possible through a lot of hard work and a few minor miracles. One might even call them Miracle Lites…or Christmas Lites.
I have recovered from my heartburn, even though I still have that little tickle and weird taste in the back of my throat today. Amy and the gang have recovered from Christmas Lites, too. We should all know better, but I am sure they will put out another anthology some day, and I am equally sure, that won’t be my last hard-boiled egg sandwich.
Yeah, I only mentioned Amy in this post, but kudos have been given in other posts by other people. I just wanted to let people in on how much had to happen right at the end to make this fabulous book happen. And most of that fell on her.
Thanks so much to C.S. Splitter for stopping by today. I appreciate you taking the time to recount for us the many hours put into Christmas Lites. Splitter will be returning to Rainy Day Ramblings on March 14th, for his blog tour, featuring his new novel, The Willing. I hope you will stop by again for another witty post. In the meantime if you want to hear more you can find him on his blog, Splitter's World or lurking around the Creative Reviews group. If you would like to host him on his tour, there are still a few slots available.
Finally, a big thank you is in order for the wonderful Amy Eye, who spent countless hours editing Christmas Lites. If you are in need of a great editor, she can be found on her website: The Eyes For Editing. Thank you to Amy and everyone else involved in this project. Please support the NCADV and purchase your copy today, ebooks are available on Barnes and Noble and Smashwords for $3.99.