Wordsmith Studio third anniversary blog hop

Alrightie, then!

Three years ago, Wordsmith Studio got its start.

WSS Homecoming 2015

Here’s my interview:

1. Are you a WSSer (a member of Wordsmith)? If so, sound off about how long you’ve been a member, your favourite way to participate, or anything you’ve missed if you’ve been away. We’re not your mother/father… there will be no guilt about how long since your last call.

I was with WSS from the start. I’m a founding member. I’ve only contributed one post to the collective, however. Life is busy. No excuses. Just facts. I have enough trying to keep up with the day job, my blog, and, what’s most important, my writing. Oh, and there’s that pesky family thing, too 😀

2. What medium do you work in? For our writing folks, are you currently working on fiction, poetry or non-fiction, or a combination? Anyone YA or mystery or thriller or…?

I started off getting published as a poet, and won a few short story contests. Now, I’m writing fantasy novels—yes, that was plural—and science fiction short stories. I continue to blog about aspects of the writing life that are important to me.

3. What’s the name of your current project (ok multitaskers, give us your main one)?

Initiate of Stone is my epic fantasy. I’m currently in my last revision (for now—I know there will be much more coming) prior to diving into the query process later this spring. I know, I’ve been saying that forever, haven’t I?

4. What is your favourite detail, sentence or other bit you’ve written lately?

Gah! I have to pick just one? OK. Here’s the opening of a recent short story:

“I wander endless halls, time compressed by shimmering walls, thought slowed by the dance of acrylic and oil over canvas, memory smothered by ephemera. There are only three floors and a block of conjoined buildings, but the halls twist and turn back upon themselves. I can walk for hours staring at the art and collectibles, which change regularly, and then stare at the plastic card in my hand, wondering which of the rooms I’ve passed is mine.”

5. Any obstacles or I-hate-this-chapter moments?

ALL. THE. TIME. I constantly doubt myself. I just keep writing anyway. It’s what we do.

6. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned lately from your writing?

Last year I experimented with working on multiple projects. I tried different approaches, but have realized that realistically, I can only work on two projects at a time (aside from blogging and writing short stories) and that they have to be at different stages of development. I can draft one novel and revise another, but I can’t draft two novels at the same time. It requires too much of the same kind of creative energy.

7. In what ways do you hope to grow in the next 6 months/year?

I want to become the bionic writer. I want to be faster, stronger . . . 😀 You get the idea.

8. In what ways do writing friends and communities help you do that?

I learn from everything I do and from everyone I meet. You might say I’m addicted.

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Since I didn’t blog this past weekend, I thought I’d get this posted for you.

And Tipsday will be coming up tomorrow. This will be interesting. I haven’t prepared my weekly posts in advance. This might hurt a bit . . .

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Why do I write and how do I stay motivated?

The question that Bob Clary of Webeducator.com posed to me was this: We’re wondering how other writers who write more for pleasure for than for financial gain stay motivated.

  • What were your goals when you started writing?

I started writing in grade three, at the age of seven, after having been inspired by the storybooks created by the grade five class. In particular, the story created by Siobhan Riddell, of a knight who fought a dragon to rescue a princess, made me want to write something like that. I sent my first submission to CBC’s Pencil Box, a show that dramatized the stories of its young viewers, that same month.

I didn’t have goals when I started writing. Nothing so formal. I wanted to write something that could make someone else feel the way Siobhan’s story made me feel.

  • What are your goals now?

The same. More or less.

Now, however, I have read thousands of books by hundreds of authors.

I have been published as a poet. This is not something one does for money. Especially in Canada. A “bestseller” in poetry in Canada is 500 copies. In most cases, you’re lucky to break even. Many journals pay in subscriptions. Many anthologies pay in copies.

I have won prizes in short story contests, five to date, the prize money ranging from $50 to $150. This is also not a way to earn a living as a writer, but it is a way to get published.

As of this year, I have had three professional sales, all for science fiction short stories. Even with professional rates, though, it’s hard to make a living this way. I’d have to publish a story every working day of the year to make a living wage.

I have now written three novels and am working on two more. None of these have been published. Someday, they will be, if not by a traditional publishing contract and deal, then by self-publishing. I am struck with the thought at how few people in North America actually live by their writing alone if they write fiction.

Non-fiction, journalism, and technical writing all pay better. If anyone wanted to write in order to make a living doing it, I’d recommend any, or a combination, of those fields.

Not that it’s impossible, but it is challenging and it takes a kind of bravery I have to admit I lack. I will not thrust responsibility for my care and upkeep onto my spouse. I cannot let our debts go unpaid.

Having said all of that, I still intend to make a living by my writing one day. There are conditions, namely, that all our outstanding debts must be paid off, I must make enough by writing to replace my current income, or we must become incredibly lucky and win the lottery 😛

  • What pays the bills now?

I am a corporate trainer working 37.5 hours a week.

  • Assuming writing doesn’t pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

That wonderful storybook from grade three. All the books I’ve since read. The ideas that I keep getting that just won’t leave me alone. The fact that my writing is my solace, my entertainment, my therapy, my passion, my calling, and one day, my legacy, keeps me typing, scribbling, and learning about my craft.

Though I started writing young, I have always struggled, and until about nine years ago, I didn’t write every day. I’ve had some very damaging experiences that have led me to distrust my talent and my skill, but the desire to write has never left me.

I can’t not write. I have often said that I will write until age and infirmity (it’s going to take both of them—I ain’t going down without a fight) rob me of the capacity.

Siobhan’s storybook has never left me either, and I can’t fulfill that childhood desire to give readers the thoughts and feels unless I publish more of my writing.

  • What advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

Read. Read everything. Read in your genre. Read outside your genre. Read non-fiction. Read the classics. Read crappy books. Read books that make you cry or cheer or race to the end (and stalk watch the author’s web site until the next book is out).

Write. The only way to become a better writer is to write and to finish what you write and then to start writing something else. Lather, rinse, repeat. Never stop.

Study the craft. Take workshops. Go to conferences. Read every writing craft book you can borrow from the library or afford to buy. Subscribe to blogs and newsletters. Love learning and be open. I got an MFA, but they’re not for everyone. You can often do more and or better without. Be savvy. Do your research. Trust your gut.

Be willing to work. Work your butt off. Work your fingers to the bone. If you love what you do, the work—well it won’t be easy, but it will be a burden you can bear with a glad heart, because you know that this is what you were born to do.

Invest in yourself. Join professional associations in your genre. Find the money to pay for freelance editing. Get into a critique group. Learn about the publishing industry. Hone your query or book proposal until it is perfect.

Never give up. Persistence pays.


 

You can see how Roger Sakowski and Janie Sullivan responded to these questions on the Webeducator blogAnd here are a few other authors who have participated:

Muse-inks

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Nov 2-8, 2014

First, it’s Remembrance Day.

Remember our armed forces and veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made for us.

Thank you, from the everywhere of my heart.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/remembrance-day-draws-huge-crowds-as-national-war-memorial-rededicated-1.2831009


 

K.M. Weiland discusses random story elements in her most common writing mistakes series.

Her weekly vlog focuses on scene breaks and including the right number in your story.

Katrina Kittle writes about how to facilitate your writing practice. Writer Unboxed.

How to invigorate your endings. Mythcreants.

Women heroes in pop culture, by Nina Munteanu.

DIYMFA’s master class with Jane Yolen.

Changing the way your world moves, by Brandon Kier on Mythcreants.

Patrick Rothfuss responds to the Ivory Tower.

 

How Hugh Howey Writes. Copyblogger.

Guy Gavriel Kay reflects on his apprenticeship. The Guardian.

Margaret Atwood on ageing, generational inequality, and what she’s working on now. The New Statesman.

Kurt Vonnegut on the shapes of stories:

 

Camilla Gibb on making a living as a writer. The Globe and Mail.

Molly Crabapple’s 15 rules for creative success in the internet age. Boing Boing.

More Molly at XOXO:

 

Why we should all be reading more poetry. Arts.Mic

See you on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

Sundog snippet: Writerly events and an update on the construction

Kim FahnerOn Thursday, I went to see my friend Kim Fahner read her poetry at the Open Studio Showcase. Along with Kim were all three of Sudbury’s Poet Laureates, past and present (Roger Nash, Daniel Aubin, and Tom Leduc). Richard Van Camp was MC and storyteller for the evening.

A couple of people signed up for the open mic and added some much needed estrogen to the line up 🙂

The theme of the evening was Identity.

Today, I took a trip out to our Chapter’s to visit with Mat Del Papa and Lisa Coleman-Brown, who were selling and signing copies of Creepy Capreol. While there, I met with fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild members Renny De Groot, Scott Overton, and Irene Golas.

Mat and Lisa

I an odd turn of events, a gentleman asked the table to watch his collie, fittingly named Lassie, while he dodged over to Kelsey’s for lunch.

. . .

In destruction construction news, the blasting is over, the rubble is cleared, and they’ve torn up all the old paving on our driveway.

SatOct18b

I think they need to move the storm drain and reconstruct the curb before they get the retaining wall started. The hold up with the driveway appears to be the mass of clay around the water shut off valves, which must, of course, be excavated and replaced with proper fill (otherwise, they’ll just have to redo things next year when the frost heaves all that clay again).

Nu is doing well. Phil and I are getting used to the VetPen, but I won’t have further news until Nu has her next glucose curve on the 30th.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, people.

See you all on Tipsday!

Sundog snippet

The next chapter: April 2014 update

The Next ChapterIf March was a little weird, April was a whole lot weird.

Lemme ‘splain.

I abandoned the thought of keeping to any kind of “schedule” with regard to my writing. At the end of last month, I had drafts for Apprentice of Wind and Figments completed, or so I thought.

So you’ll understand my surprise when I went to print off Figments, that I hadn’t, in fact, finished it. A few hundred words fixed that up, but boy was I embarrassed.

Then, once I had AoW and Figments printed, I heard Initiate of Stone calling my name. Even though I haven’t heard back from all my betas yet, I needed to do a little work on IoS.

I just finished reading Roz Morris’s first Nail Your Novel, and before that, I read Victoria Mixon’s Art and Craft of Story. I wanted to do a combination approach with each draft, using Roz’s form of beat sheet and Victoria’s holographic structure.

With IoS, I had previously eliminated a POV character. Now I’ve decided to remove her entirely and give the specifics of her plotline to other POV characters. It was something others had recommended and I resisted. I guess I just needed time and space away from the ms to realize the truth.

And it wasn’t half so difficult (read fraught) as I thought it would be.

So I knew that I would not be doing a lot with regard to “new words” in April because I’d mostly be focusing on working with my printed drafts and most of the new work would be on my blog.

Then I edited a couple of stories for submission, but the net new words for that was just over three hundred.

Once again, I find myself surprised.

April's word count

I am still eternally grateful to Jamie Raintree for this fabulous tool

Total word count for the month: 11, 612 (!), 10,930 of that from blogging alone.

Amaze-face.

Mind you, I have been blogging all those juicy sessions from Ad Astra. It’s transcription, but it counts.

Here’s the round up for the year so far:

Month Total Blog Initiate of Stone Apprentice of Wind Figments Gerod and the Lions Short Stories
January 11,532 7,114 0 2,781 207 821 609
February 9,789 6,303 0 47 308 1,296 1,835
March 10,781 8,193 0 333 1,488 312 455
April 11,612 10,930 0 0 381 0 301

So this has been an interesting month, and the next few promise to be as well.

I won’t be actively querying until I have revisions done on IoS, so that’s on hold, again, too.

I did receive my contributors’ copy of Sulphur IV, the literary journal of Laurentian University. I have three poems in there. The CV has been updated.

The Sudbury Writers’ Guild, with its slick new web site, is moving forward with its anthology, so I’ve set aside some work for that.

I made a decision at the end of March. I’d been an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets since 1999, but I’d never gone to its annual conference or AGM. So I decided this year not to renew my membership and instead invest in SF Canada and the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (home of the Auroras).

It’s been interesting so far.

As far as what’s coming up, Baen Books has a short fiction contest, and I’ve just become aware that Lightspeed has an open reading period for Women Destroy Fantasy.

So there you are.

Progress continues to be made.

How is your writing life going?

The next chapter: 2013 in review

I think it’s important to recognize all the good things one accomplishes.  With regard to my writing, 2013 has been a banner year.  I haven’t seen its like in … well a very long time.

You may remember way back at the beginning of the year what I wrote about resolutions, how I’m not fond of them, and how I prefer to make reasonable goals so I can have a chance to reach them.

It worked a charm for me.

I wrote four (soon to be five) new short stories this year and revised six others for submission. This has resulted in three fiction publications (one paid), and another three poetry publications.

While the goal of Kasie Whitener’s Just Write Challenge was to write thirteen stories in 2013, I think that eleven was pretty darn good, considering the other things that I’ve accomplished.

I sent Initiate of Stone for a content edit in January and revised the whole thing twice. I’ve now sent the manuscript to select beta-readers and have sent it off to one agent and will ship it to one editor shortly.

In the mean time, I started on a middle grade fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, and drafted Figments, a YA fantasy, during NaNoWriMo.

Since the end of November, I’ve given myself a bit of a break. I’ve written a crap-load this year (because in addition to the 11 short stories, poetry, revisions, and the 50k+ draft, I’ve also tried to keep things rolling with my blog) and felt the distinct need for a rest before diving back into things in 2014.

Though I was not able to meet my goal of revising my blog (reader response seemed to indicate it wasn’t a priority) or moving to self-hosted WordPress, those goals remain on the list.  This time last year, I managed to accrue 100 followers on my blog. Now I’m over 222. While I’m still considering a newsletter, I continue to hold off. Until I have a novel out, I’m not certain a newsletter will have much value.

This year I also attended the Canadian Authors Association’s (CAA’s) CanWrite! Conference (June) and the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (October). Both were amazing experiences, and I learned a huge amount from the sessions at both conferences.

Currently, though my services haven’t been much requested of recent months, I’m sitting on the CAA’s Program Committee, and so putting some of my efforts into not only the CanWrite! Conference, but also, the Literary Awards, the Roving Writers Program, and other events.

As a reward for all my hard work, I’m going to be investing in Scrivener, thanks to the NaNo

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

reward discount, and purchasing the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents.

As far as what I’m aiming for in the New Year, stay tuned. I’ll have a post on more reasonable goals coming up next week.

books for sale!

books for sale! (Photo credit: bookgrl)

In the meantime, please share your accomplishments. It really helps to put them down in writing. I think when you see everything you’ve managed over the last year in print, you’ll be amazed. I was.

Then celebrate! You were fantastic! And you know what? So was I 😉

Sorry, couldn’t help the Doctor Who reference. Geek girls rule!

LEGO Doctor Who (Collection)

LEGO Doctor Who (Collection) (Photo credit: ChocolateFrogs)

Saturday morning keynote: Susin Nielsen

YA novelist and Governor General’s Award-winning writer Susin Nielsen shared her journey to authorhood.

It’s an equation: 1/3 talent, 1/3 hard work, and 1/3 luck.

She showed use her first diary, and even read to us some of her early entries: “If I become famous, I may want to keep a diary.”

She aspired to be Harriet the Spy and her first diary lasted for all of 8 days.  Susin was in 7th drade.

There were always books in the house.  She was an off-beat kid.  It was a while before she realized that elaborate imaginary games were not where her classmates were at.

She didn’t have a lot of friends.

Her first book was The Smallest Snippet in Snippeton.  She showed it to us 🙂

She submitted poems to Seventeen magazine and received the response: “Nicely written, but much too depressing for us.”  Susin read us one of the poems: “Suicide.”  It was a little maudlin.

Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hour rule.  About that time, she was about the 200 hour range.

She went to Ryerson, got a job in food services for Degrassi, wrote a spec script, which eventually became 16 episodes of the long-running Canadian series.

When Word Nerd was published in 2006, her agent was incredibly helpful.

Susin Nielsen in Lorette, Manitoba

Susin Nielsen in Lorette, Manitoba (Photo credit: Tundra Books)

The bottom line: if you’re a writer, write.  Hone your craft.

The next chapter: July 2013 update

Just a few words here about my writing life of late.

I am continuing to revise Initiate of Stone, but at least once a week, I can’t seem to get to it after all my other responsibilities.  Then sometimes I make a choice.  This past Tuesday, for example, I chose to go to North Bay rather than taming my daily dose of the intewebz or write.  Though it was well worth it, I still felt odd not writing.

It’s an addiction now.  Healthy, but an addiction nonetheless 😉

Acceptances

Since my last update, I’ve received some good news.  The Atomy picked up two of my poems, Enhance will be accepting one of my photographs (wow!), and most recently, Sulphur will be accepting three of my poems for its next issue.

I received my contract from On Spec and am waiting to hear from their content editor on next steps (still so excited about this!).

I’ve submitted a couple of flash fiction pieces, but they’re both fairly recent stories and may need to mature (read, to be edited) before they find a home.

Writers of the Future wasn’t fond of “The Gabriel” but I have yet to recieve my personalized response.

Still waiting to hear about a few short story submissions from April, May, and June.

Oh, and I almost forgot.  I submitted the first bit of a story to Erin Brady too, and I’m curious to find out what will come of that 🙂

Just as I was linking those publications, above, I noticed that Enhance has a call out for that flashy fiction stuff!  Go see!

Conferences

This year’s CanWrite! was a success.  I certainly hope everyone got a lot of good information out of my CanWrite! blog posts.

Since I’m now a member of the program committee, which includes responsibility for the conference and the CAA literary awards, I’ll probably have some news forthcoming about next year’s conference in the future.  Watch this space 🙂

I’ve had to make a decision about When Worlds Collide in Calgary.  Though I would love to go and the line up looks great (Patricia Briggs, Robert J. Sawyer, and Angela Ackerman will be among the guests), I just can’t afford it.

The conference fee is reasonable in the extreme, but it’s the air fare and accommodation that make the event costly.  Domestic flights are quite expensive. I had my eye set on Surrey this year, so I think I’m going to stick with that conference and go to WWC next year.  I only have enough Avion points to take 2 trips anyway and one is already spoken for (a friend’s pre-wedding party) so there you have it 🙂

There’s a writing contest associated with Surrey too, so I’ll probably aim to submit something for that as well.

It’s good to keep the creative opportunities lined up and ready to rock.

Writerly Goodness

What’s everyone working on these days?  I’d love to hear from you about your creative projects!

Caturday quickies: The Conspiracy of Three reading series in North Bay

I went on a bit of a road trip on Tuesday evening with Kim Fahner and her friend Brenda—a poetic road trip!  Kim and our mutual friend Roger Nash had been invited to the Conspiracy of Three reading series in North Bay.

A word about the Conspiracy

Kim and I have both read at the Conspiracy before…like nearly twenty years ago (!) and on Tuesday, I learned that the series is close to twenty-five years old.  The reading series that preceded it (and out of which it emerged) ran for an even longer time.  So the Conspiracy has a long tradition in North Bay.

To the reading

The reading was hosted in the new location of the White Water Gallery and by Doyali Islam, who I met last year at the 100,000 poets for change event.

Also in attendance were Tim Robertson and his wife, Karin, Kevin Smith, and Natalie Wilson.

There was a brief discussion about upcoming events and the group’s concerns about Gulliver’s, a local book store that they’re trying to form a co-op for.  Otherwise, this independent book store might just disappear.

Kim and Roger were the featured readers.

KimSmilesTooKim was great, as usual, and managed to dig out a North Bay poem for the crowd.

Roger read from his recently published book of shYesRogerSmilesort stories, The Cobra and the Camera, and a few of his poems.

Afterward, the final set was for open mic participants.

I’m terrible with names, but aside from the curator of the gallery, there was a man who worked as a plumber whose poetic observations were witty and hilarious.  A young poet, Mary, I believe, was also quite good, but in the way of someone new to the reading experience, she needed to project her voice just a bit more.

It was a lovely night and the worst of the shadflies were over.  It started raining just as we arrived and stopped by the time we left.  While this mostly served to bring out the fishy smell of the shadflies, it was lovely and cool for the ride back to Sudbury.

Six questions with Anthony Armstrong

Tony Armstrong

Photo by Jana Armstrong (used with permission)

Find out more about Tony by visiting his web site: www.anthonyarmstrong.ca

___________________________________________________________________________________

I first met Tony through our mutual friend, Kim Fahner.  He’d been one of her teachers, and she credited Tony for setting her on the writer’s path.

Tony is an award-winning author of short stories, a published poet, spoken word performer, and photographer.  I may have missed a few things in there.  This man does a lot of creative work, all of it excellent.

Now he’s published his first horror novel Penage.

Welcome, Tony!

WG: When did you first start writing, and when did you know that you were a writer?

AA: I realized the power of words when I was a boy and my father would tell us marvellous fantasy adventure stories at bedtime. In elementary school, I could amuse people with silly verse. My grade seven teacher read a poem I wrote and called me a communist. In high school I began writing for personal solace and satisfaction. But it was not until I was about twenty that I wrote anything that contained a poetic perception.

WG: You work in different genres and forms. How is each different, and what do you like best about each?

AA: Poems and short stories exist as completed entities before I record them. They seem to be whole when I bump into them, but I will do some mental editing before writing them down. The novel Penage was different in the sense that it was in progress for a long time, but it did seem to have its own existence. It flowed out of itself. Things I wrote down one night had a significance that became clear to me nights later as the story revealed itself.

WG: You were a teacher for many years.  How has that part of your career played into your writing, or was it the other way around?

AA: Sometimes my enthusiasm for literature was evident when I was in the classroom, but schools are the antithesis of a creative environment. Teachers and students are carried along by institutional inertia.

WG: When and how did the idea for Penage first strike you and how long did it take to bring your project to fruition?

AA: Judy and I have a small piece of land on the shore of Lake Penage. It was given to us by Judy’s parents. My father-in-law told me about a plane crash near our camp. He also told me about retrieving a frustrated fisherman’s lost gear. I was disappointed when electricity came to our area of the lake. All these events and a what if perspective blended together in my mind without much effort from me, and a horror novel was born. I wrote the story at camp over twenty years ago. During June and half of July, I would write for two or three hours beneath a propane light after everyone else went to bed. In the morning I would read the results to Judy. In July, my brother-in-law, who also had a camp on Lake Penage, died suddenly. I was staggered by his passing and can’t remember exactly when I got back to writing the story. Some time later, I did get back to my routine and finished Penage. It was not until this year that the original work got a serious editing by Ignatius Fay and me. The ebook is the final product.

WG: I’m a big process geek.  Would you mind sharing something about your process as a writer?

AA: I am not a process geek. I am even reluctant to emphasize the role of the writer. I feel more like a recording secretary. I bump into ideas and record them. I think this is especially true of my poetry. I perceive something and write it down. I am not responsible for what I perceive any more than I am responsible for what I hear or smell.

WG: What’s coming up next for you?

AA: A print version of Penage is in the works. I am toying with the idea of a short story collection. When I bump into poetic perceptions of godless spirituality (I hate the word spirituality), I record them. I may look for an opportunity to present them publicly in the future.

Thanks for this opportunity.

Thanks for a great interview, Tony.  Best wishes for your future creative endeavours.

______________________________________________________________________________

Penage is the story of Madison Green, a man with a violent, possessive personality. His distrust of others leads to his having too many x-rays. He pilots a plane that is struck by lightning—twice. The lightning and the overdose of radiation transform him into a physical and psychological beast. The plane crashes into Lake Penage, and the beast lives secretly in its waters for many years. The remains of the plane are his prized possessions, and when they are disturbed and displaced, unwanted contact with human beings becomes inevitable.

As the beast searches for its possessions, its anger increases. It secretes an ooze that

Penage Cover

Photo by Anthony Armstrong (used with permission) Graphics by Ignatius Fay

protects what is his but destroys almost anything else it makes contact with. As the beast reacquires his possessions he comes to see himself as master of the lake; he comes to think of himself as Penage.

Even some of those who encounter the beast doubt its existence, and any public suggestion of its presence brings ridicule. A drunk, a school teacher, a widow, a marina owner, and a truck driver are forced to deal with the beast. Facing the beast means facing danger, terror, and death.

Penage is available at Kobo, the itunes bookstore, Smashwords, the Sony ebook store, and most major ebook sellers. Smashwords will have the lowest price:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/318759