Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Guest Blogger--Sherrie Cronin Teaches Us How to Get Interactive!

Today's blogger has approached the business of publishing in a unique and innovative way! Welcome, Sherrie!

My first novel, x0, is a work a of speculative fiction that is meant to be strongly grounded in reality. It involves the oil business, Nigeria and a telepathic link between two very different women. One of my challenges was conveying enough information about Nigeria to make the plot interesting and believable without embedding too much extraneous text into the book. I knew that some readers would be far more curious about the subject than others. The solution I came up with was to imbed links to extra material. The nice thing about the links was that I could send the willing reader to everything from the U.S. State Department’s website to individual Nigerian’s personal photographs posted on their own blogs.

My other challenge was that I wanted the telepathy in this story to have a high chance of tying into my reader’s own personal experiences. I made music a central part of the plot, suggesting that a song in one person’s head is the easiest thing to transmit to another. It was hard to do this without mentioning specific songs and lyrics, and I ended up buying the rights to use words from two of my favorite songs. Turns out that is fairly expensive, and buying lyrics from all ten songs just was not a realistic option. Embedding links to music became, once again, the perfect solution. The songs ended up forming a sort of soundtrack to the book, and now I list them all on my website and they can even be bought as a playlist on iTunes (search under ping for x0: Lola’s songs.)

Once I had gone down the path of embedding internet sites about Nigeria and music, it turned out that there were a ridiculous number of other things to which to link, and the next issue was learning to control my enthusiasm. I had already decided that my plot had to work just fine without the internet, out of respect for any readers who did not have web access on their devices and for the sake of those who simply did not wish to go zapping around cyberspace while reading. So I made the decision to limit myself to no more than five links per chapter. That bit of imposed self-discipline forced me to think about whether a particular website loaded quickly, provided succinct information and really was likely to add anything to a reader’s experience. I think it was a worthwhile exercise.

I have been asked how I plan to handle the problem with websites becoming defunct or changing their URL’s. I understand that there is a certain level of upkeep involved that isn’t present in most novels. The book itself specifically includes an email address for alerting the author to links which no longer work. I am hoping to be able to offer alternate websites to future readers via my own website, but I have to recognize that this approach makes my novel a bit more of a living thing that requires care and feeding. I do know that other authors are experimenting with this idea also and I am curious whether in the end writers and readers will find this approach worth the effort and the problems.

x0 was published in late February of this year, and I just had my first book club read and discuss the book with me. I was delighted to discover that most of the readers liked the links and reported that they stopped to check out maybe half the websites while they were reading and some went back later and checked out more. The group was so positive about this addition that the second novel in the series, which I am now editing, will certainly have links as well. Lola, the hero of the first novel, tended towards classic rock and roll. The second novel centers around Lola’s twenty-something son. His life and his tastes are different, so a reader can look forward to websites about sailing, the South Pacific and a fair amount of electronic dance music.

Summary of x0:
Somewhere between the world one knows and fanciful places is the universe of x0. Here, seven billion people lead normal lives and seven hundred or so do not. This latter group includes Lola, a Texan geophysicist who doesn’t believe in nonsense, and Somadina, a young Nigerian who thinks her abilities are perfectly normal. These women have at least two important things in common, and that much can forge a powerful link.

When Somadina’s sister becomes a captive, the young Igbo woman draws upon her power to find an ally. Too bad it turns out to be only this distant American woman who insists on ignoring her.

When an unexpected lay-off and a near fatal accident combine to reintroduce into Lola’s mind a rather disturbing phenomenon, Lola tries ignoring it. Medicating it. Analyzing it. However, it keeps getting worse.

Once Somadina accepts that her sister has become a strategic pawn in a much larger and more dangerous game, she knows that she must do anything to get the attention of this kindred, uncooperative lady.

x0 reluctantly emerges from the shadows, only because somebody really needs to step in here. Both women are far more powerful than they realize, and to make matters worse, a fringe fanatic may be on the verge of altering history.

Author's note: This work of speculative fiction is the first book in a series of six involving super powers and various cultures from around the world. Some of the hero's everyday life was inspired by my own work in the oil industry, and much of my knowledge about and appreciation for Nigerians came from my co-workers and friends in real life. The book can be found at , or find it at smashwords.comwhere it can be purchased in formats for Nook, one for any Apple product, and those for several other reading devices. Finally, if you want to sample much of the book for free, read chapters one through ten on the website Worthy of Publishingand leave comments for me.
Also please visit my blog at

Sherrie Roth grew up in Western Kansas thinking that there was no place in the universe more fascinating than outer space. After her mother vetoed astronaut as a career ambition, she went on to attended Northwestern University studying journalism and physics in hopes of becoming a science writer.

She published her first science fiction short story in the November 1979 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Unfortunately, when inspiration arrived for the next story, it declared to her that it had to be whole book, nothing less. One night, while digesting this disturbing piece of news, she drank way too many shots of ouzo with her boyfriend. She woke up thirty-one years later demanding to know what was going on.

The boyfriend, who she had apparently long since married, asked her to please calm down. He explained that in a fit of practicality she had gone back to school and gotten a degree in geophysics and had spent the last 28 years interpreting seismic data in the oil industry. The good news, according to Mr. Cronin, was that she had found it at least mildly entertaining and ridiculously well paying. The bad news was that the two of them had still managed to spend almost all of the money.

Apparently, she was now Mrs. Cronin, and the further good news was that they had produced three wonderful children whom they loved dearly, even though to be honest that is where a lot of the money had gone. Even better news was that Mr. Cronin turned out to be a warm-hearted, encouraging sort who was happy to see her awake and ready to write. "It's about time," were his exact words.

Sherrie Cronin discovered that over the ensuing decades Sally Ride had already managed to become the first woman in space and apparently had done a fine job of it. Others had gone on to get Sherrie's second dream job as science writers and many of them wrote wonderful articles that Sherrie enjoyed.

No one, however, had written the book that had been in Sherrie's head for decades. The only problem was, the book informed her sternly that it had now grown into a six book series. Sherrie decided that she better start writing it before it got any longer. She has been wide awake ever since, and writing away.


  1. Fascinating concept, Sherrie! Thanks for posting here. Congrats on the book, and Mr. Cronin and the lovely family!

  2. I agree, Kaye! I think this is a really interesting idea and we'll see more interactive novels like this in the future.

  3. Something I have thought of doing-once I get the writing thing down...great post!

    1. Thanks Theresa. For x0, all of my links were added in after the main manuscript was written and edited. On the second book I found myself noting places where a link would work well as I wrote, but I still find the writing to be a seperate activity (and different mindset) ... so I agree with getting the writing thing down first! Best of luck to you!

  4. Looking forward to the next one :)

  5. May 8, 2012

    You had me wondering whether telepathy was really possible. I finally decided Naaaah.

    X0 held my interest. Half way through it I did not find myself thinking “Why the hell did I promise to read all this?”

    In keeping with a musical theme you could have named Zane Zeitman Zane Zeitmen Top.

    New Mexico Juan

  6. Sherrie,
    Hard to decide which channel to use in getting to you... I tried telepathy and think I got a poke back. Four Non-blondes? I have to say, first of all, that I love reading your writing-about-writing. I must have reread your author's notes 5 times while reading the book and now this site gives us even more of you. Here's what I think about the book - a uniquely positive message to our quite-troubled universe. Characters you can love or at least really like a lot. A plot that is intelligent and relevant and makes the reader feel so. Brilliant adaptation of current publishing technology with the links pre-selected to focus further learning about such important issues. The voice is generous, tough, loving, strong, determined, frank. It is so exciting to think of the next book and how good a foothold you've already provided in hinting at Zane's complexities. Personally, I hope there will be exposure of Big Pharma...but more than that, just another chance to spend some time with Lola. From Pat Alea.