Amazon Publishing acquires Go Away Home – I’m giddy!

Have you ever thought you were as happy as you could be and then something happens to make you realize you could reach a whole new level of happy? It happened to me this month.

When I completed the manuscript for my World War One-era novel Go Away Home earlier this year, the thought of finding an agent and a publisher flashed through my mind for all of a nanosecond. Since publishing my memoir Growing Up Country seven years ago, I’ve been proud to call myself an indie author and an indie publisher. I didn’t hesitate to walk down the indie road again.

Then one morning – six months after I published – I opened an email from Jodi Warshaw, a senior acquisitions editor for Amazon Publishing. Warshaw said, Go Away Home “caught my eye because of all the rave reader reviews. Then I dipped in and couldn’t put it down!”

Warshaw wanted to talk about my interest in partnering with Lake Union “to see the sales match the review intensity.” She got my interest, all right. There’s no organization that knows marketing like Amazon.

I was thrilled – then skeptical. Could this be real? I contacted my go-to person for all things of this sort. Melissa Foster (best-selling author and founder of the World Literary Cafe) confirmed that, “This is great news.”

Lake Union Publishing

Lake Union Publishing

So I am pleased – thrilled – head over heels – over the moon (all cliches apply) to announce that Go Away Home has been acquired by Amazon Publishing and will be released under the Lake Union Publishing imprint in July 2015.

Between now and then, the manuscript will go through an Amazon team of editors (because good can always be better), gain a new cover, and a marketing team will prepare for the launch. All these people working on my novel makes me positively giddy. Can you believe it? I have “people.”

I haven’t made out a Santa wish list in decades. Even if I had made one this year, signing with a publisher would NOT have been on it. That would have been too unbelievable. While I don’t know everything this new affiliation will mean, I do know I’m excited by the opportunity to learn, and I couldn’t be happier.

I would not be here without all the support and encouragement of readers, of writers, of friends, of you. So, I thank you. And I wish you a joy-filled Happy & Healthy New Year.

“Wonderful debut novel” – A Writer of History

M.K. Tod started my week off right when she published her review of Go Away Home on her blog A Writer of History. Mary was one of my advance reviewers and I was particularly interested in her opinion since she also writes about the World War One era.

Here’s how she starts her review:

From the very first chapter of Go Away Home, Carol Bodensteiner draws us into the central conflicts of her debut novel: old ways versus new, farm versus city, youth versus maturity, man versus woman.

She continues:

The story flows with excellent dialogue and compelling descriptions, and each chapter ends with a hook that drives the plot forward.

I’m honored that Mary focused both on the story as well as the writing style.

If you like historical fiction, check out M.K. Tod’s novel Unravelled.

Song of Australia – Stephen Crabbe historical fiction author interview

Life on the Australian home front during World War One. 

Song of Australia--cover resized for webThe World War One centenary has many authors writing stories to illustrate that time. As I’ve been writing about life in the Midwest United States 100 years ago, it’s been a pleasure to discover other authors writing about the home front in their own countries.

One of those is Stephen Crabbe of Australia. His novel Song of Australia weaves three connected stories. German-Australians were the largest minority group in the nation as the country joined the British Empire to fight against Germany. As in the United States, people of German descent faced sudden hostility by their neighbours and the government. Meanwhile an adolescent boy who believes Christianity is a way of peace questions how he can worship with people who believe God wants him to fight – and perhaps die – in the war. Amidst the suffering caused by adults, gifted child-musicians find a way through music to help the world heal.

I invited Stephen to share the ‘story behind the story’ of Song of Australia.

What inspired you to write this story?

I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one thing: a number of factors all seemed to coalesce. However, at the core was the memory of my childhood piano teacher. Her passion for music and the development of the talents of young people was extraordinary, but it was a few decades later that I realised this. By then, of course, it was too late to thank her. I mention this in the acknowledgements section of my book—and my hope that her spirit will live on through the stories I tell.

How did you approach the research to understand the attitudes toward German-Australians during World War One?

Apart from recalling stories I heard from older relatives in childhood, the research was almost exclusively online. There are certain very helpful websites devoted to German-Australian history. I found old newspapers the most stimulating. In them I read reports of parliamentary debates and law court sessions (published almost as verbatim transcriptions in those days), letters to the editor, and sometimes accounts of an incident the day before. All this gives a sense of being right there listening to conflicting voices in the community of 1914-18 South Australia. Isn’t it remarkable to see all these old newspapers now so readily accessible online!

It certainly is. Research and writing can turn up much we don’t expect when we start out. What did you learn in the process that surprised you?

I was taken unawares by the variety of characters leaping out of the bush to claim a part in the story. I had never been conscious of most of them before drafting, and they would try to lead my story on new journeys that one book just could not contain. I had to be so ruthless in throwing these characters into the cupboard! There they had to stay until I had another book to accommodate them. Some of them are now allowed out to play in my new work in progress.

You studied piano. How did your own music experience come into play in writing?

As I reflected on the memories of my childhood music education, I could use my adult experience as a music educator to find new perspectives. The psychological theory of multiple intelligences, for example, gave me the idea that one individual could know the world and communicate with it principally through music, while another would rely on language or mathematical logic or another cognitive modality.

One theme of Song of Australia is the power of music to heal. Please share your thoughts on that idea.

We humans can hear long before we can see: our first aural experiences are in the womb, and the complex brain-wiring that occurs as a result is established at birth. Research shows, for example, that the new-born baby can not only distinguish its mother’s voice from others, but also recognise specific tunes heard before birth. Music can thus invoke that sense of security we felt when snugly nursed in the womb. Music—and especially singing—binds people together in a way that vision does not. It can create bridges of understanding that have nothing to do with logic and language. Research is now indicating that our ancestors developed language only after they could sing, because the mechanisms and techniques of song are the building blocks for linguistic development. So music can connect us with our deep past and with each other, both as individuals and as a species. This is healing.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading your book?

For one thing, that sense of renewal, as if they’ve had an excellent holiday trip to a very interesting exotic place. I will be gratified if the renewal comes from not just a few hours of mere escape from the daily grind, but from living the possibilities of a different way of perceiving life. I also hope that Australians in particular will consider our nation in at least a slightly new way.

What’s next for you?

My work in progress is a novel featuring the main characters in Song of Australia, still during World War One on the South Australian home-front. With a couple of new major characters, they continue to grapple with some of the same issues and confront some new problems as well. It’s only in the initial stages, but the structure of this narrative is already looking more complex than Song of Australia. And it will be a longer book.

Thanks for joining us, Stephen.


Stephen Crabbe

Stephen Crabbe

Stephen Crabbe was born in Adelaide, South Australia. His ancestors—Scottish, German and English—were among the earliest colonists from 1834 onwards.

Stephen studied classical pianoforte from the age of five until his late teens. He read widely in English and loved to explore all other languages. Eventually he became a school teacher and eventually specialised in music, a vocation he still follows part-time.

Stephen was always driven to write, but in later years he did this more seriously. His scripts were produced on screen and many of his articles were published. The main focus of his writing now is fiction. He lives in the rural south-west of Australia.

For more on Stephen and Song of Australia:

Song of Australia on the Australian Amazon site 

Song of Australia on the US Amazon site

Stephen’s Blog

On Facebook

Women’s Fiction – What message does it send?

Consequences of segmenting the author/book market

As a college student in the 1960s, I took a class called “Black Literature.” “Black” being the culturally accepted term of the day for African American. We read works including Native Son by Richard Wright and poetry by Langston Hughes. Though the class was taught by a female professor, we did not read anything by black women authors.file2621283662773

During that same time, courses in women’s literature were offered in the gender studies program.

My thinking at the time was that both “black literature” and “women’s literature” were special and worthy of study. I did not consider that by shining a light on a particular group of authors, the courses may simultaneously elevate and demote those authors.

An article titled “What does ‘Women’s Fiction’ mean?” by Randy Susan Meyers has me thinking more critically of the unintended consequences of segmenting the market.

Meyers observes that: “… to publish on Amazon, you must pick a category from a list of wide ranging possibilities that include ten sub-genres of Women’s Fiction and, zero that are labeled Men’s Fiction. The message is clear. Men are the norm. Women are a sub-category.”

From a marketing standpoint, which given a thirty-year career in marketing is how I think about many things, segmenting the market is a good thing. The closer I can get to finding readers who are interested in my specific product (fiction, World War One-era, United States, family, women), the more efficient my marketing and the more likely I am to achieve a sale.

Amazon marketing is sophisticated, and I’ve benefited greatly from their ability to know that “if you liked this author/book, you’ll like that author/book.” I wouldn’t want them to stop.

At the same time, I know that if Go Away Home is considered “Women’s Fiction,” by default the implication is that men may not find it as interesting. But we can go down the list, if it’s World War One-era fiction, people who do not care about that era may not find it appealing. If it’s United States based, people who want to read about Asia may not choose to give it their time. If it’s fiction, people who only read non-fiction are likely to pass it by.

There is a wealth of good literature out there. How do any of us decide? I admit I’m torn on this topic. I’m not fond of the idea of labeling anyone if it somehow makes them “less.” I am fond of knowing who the reader is because if you market to everybody, you market to nobody.

What do you think readers? Is “Women’s Fiction” denigrating to women authors and even women readers? Or is it a reasonable function of market segmentation?


Go Away Home – Book Cover & Release Date

World War One-era historical fiction on track for July launch.

It’s been a long journey writing my first novel – somewhere in the four to five-year range – but I’m excited to tell you the writing part of the journey is at an end. The manuscript for my first novel – Go Away Home – is complete. And now so is the cover.Go Away Home Revised Ebook Final Cover Large

The design is the work of Jenny Toney Quinlan of Historical Editorial who also worked with me as copy editor and proofreader. Every cover tells a story, and that is one of the many things I like about about this cover. To me, the curtains, geraniums, and view convey the rural setting of the novel, while the window draws us to look out, hinting at more. The overall golden tone suggests the past without being heavy handed.

I like the cover, but readers will be the real judge. So what do you think? Would this cover encourage you to pick it up?

With the cover and manuscript completed, I’ve chosen July 7, 2014 as the release date. That may seem like a long way off, but I know the days will pass quickly. I’m already knee deep in ramping up marketing for the launch, and I’ll share that journey as we go.
Now that I have teased you with the cover, I hope you’ll want more. You can read the first chapter of GO AWAY HOME here.

I’ve added Go Away Home pages here on my website and on Goodreads. If you participate in Goodreads, you can mark Go Away Home in the “want to read” category.

I’d love to hear from you. What story does this cover tell you?