Monday, April 8, 2013

The Story Behind "StearsWords: Volume 1"

Twenty years ago, my daughter was two years old and I was a stay-at-home mom. I'd been looking around for some work-at-home opportunities, but without a computer, I didn't have much luck finding anything.

Now, I've always loved crossword puzzles, and when my daughter was very little, I solved book-loads of crosswords just for something to do, something to keep my brain from turning to cottage cheese. After listening to me whine about my lack of work, my mother suggested that I try to make up a crossword puzzle and sell it to one of those magazines.

Armed with graph paper, a pencil, a very large eraser, and a handful of dictionaries, and undaunted by the possibility of failure, I spent a week designing that first crossword puzzle. Then, I painstakingly typed it on my mother's IBM Selectric and colored in all the black squares with a marker. I mailed it, and immediately started working on the next one.

Honestly, I didn't sell my first puzzle, or the second. But, the editor was kind enough to take the time to point out my mistakes, and I did sell one from the next batch. A couple of years later, I'd sold enough puzzles to buy a second-hand computer. Seven years later, I bought a brand-new computer.

And now, twenty years later, I'm publishing my first book of crossword puzzles.

If you've ever visited my website, you've probably noticed that it's a Google site. It's a perfectly serviceable site, and I'm happy to use it because, well, why pay for something you can get for free?

That's the same reason I'm publishing this book myself, and selling it myself. Why share the profits when I'm doing all the work? Also, I can use the clues I want to use and select the themes I like, and pay homage to the people and things that excite me. I created a whole puzzle about Stan Lee because I like comic books, and a puzzle about MS Office because I use it all the time and I love it, and a puzzle about my favorite video game, "Donkey Kong." I love puns and wordplay, so naturally the book is jam-packed with those, too.

There's one more advantage to doing all the work myself. As a fan, I know how exciting it is to receive a signed copy of just about anything. As a self-publisher, I personally sign every single print of "StearsWords: Volume 1" so that every fan gets a signed copy. There's even an option to include a special inscription when you pay for it. You can buy all the crossword puzzles books on Amazon, and you won't get that kind of personalized service.

I'm also a big believer in patronizing local businesses, so here's a shout-out to my printer, Minuteman Press in good old Youngstown, Ohio. I love walking in that place--the whole family works there, and it's not unusual to see some kids running around. It looks like a fun place to work, and they do some brilliant printing. And since my daughter created the famous StearsWords logo, I guess you could say we're a family business, too.

Speaking of Youngstown, if you're in the area next Saturday, April 13, I hope you'll join me at the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County in Poland, Ohio, for their annual Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where I'll be officially launching "StearsWords: Volume 1." It’s all fun and word games from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. The $10 registration fee will be your donation to the Public Library System of Youngstown and Mahoning County. 

If you like the free puzzles I post on my website, I hope you'll buy "StearsWords: Volume 1" so that I can keep posting them, ad-free, ad nauseum.

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