Puck’s Call draft almost finished; #SelfPubFantasyMonth

Two things. First, I’m almost done with Puck’s Call’s rough draft. If I focus, I think I can finish by the end of this week.

Focus, in this case, means getting out my timer and doing sprints whenever I can. And doing occasional Pomodoros if I think it’ll work within my crazy schedule.

Second, it’s #SelfPubFantasyMonth on Twitter and Instagram. I’m going to try the challenge on Twitter. It’s my first time doing something like this, especially while I’m also trying to write. Not sure how it’ll turn out, but I’m having fun and learning about a lot more indie authors who write fantasy! I recommend taking a look if you get a chance.

Kick-off Post with info about this year’s offerings: https://www.selfpublishedfantasymonth.com/self-published-fantasy-month-kick-off/

Official website: http://www.selfpublishedfantasymonth.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SelfPubFanMonth

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/SelfPubFanMonth

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/1104550-self-published-fantasy-month

Any projects coming to a close? Any self-published fantasy books you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments below?

Why Going Back to an Old Story Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

In the indie world, I’ve read enough articles about how a person should never look back, that it’s a waste of time, that it will slow down the path to success because the point is to write and write as fast as you can so you can keep up with Amazon’s algorithms, etc., etc., that it’s good to read an opposing view. Especially given what I’m working on tonight.

When You Actually Should Dig Out Those Old Stories From the Dusty Drawer

In other news, I found a gaping hole in my storytelling that has to be patched with a new scene. I’m actually pretty excited about it, because not only will it emphasize Maple’s growth (hopefully) but it will show a little more of Doriel and how Tanner and Hushweather work together with Doriel to execute a strategy. And it will explain a little more about Doriel’s past and how it relates (no matter how much he tries to ignore it) to his present.

Can’t wait until I’m done with the Write-in and get started on the Type-in!

My (kinda) new self-publishing plan

Warning:  this is a long post with many words.

What browsing for books on the Internet sometimes feels like. (Photo by Seika Natsuki a.k.a. nSeika)

I’ve read a number of books, ebooks and blog posts on how to promote your writing on the Internet.  I’ve also looked at the summaries of the self-publishing survey from Taleist and had a tiny bit of experience on this myself.

First, the general consensus seems to be that a self-publishing writer must have a platform.  They should Tweet, use Facebook, blog, and have a website with the basic information on their books/stories.  While all the information I’ve gleaned makes it clear that you need a good product, most of them stress social networking as the means to letting others know about your product.  More on this in a minute.

However, what I’m actually seeing, and I want to stress that this is just my view of things so far, is that social networking isn’t a very powerful way of getting information across for someone without a name, meaning, if you aren’t already well-known it’s not going to work as well.  Taleist points out that the top earners in the self-publishing field don’t focus on social networking as much and I can see why.  Twitter is best for following news in the field (publishing, writing, authors, etc.) with occasional updates from writers you already know and trust.  I’ve only purchased one indie book from someone I found on Twitter and it took reading several of their blog posts, as well as a joint love of Norse Myths before I was willing to try.  The other authors I watch have been traditionally published.  I know I’m going to read quality when I read something of theirs.

Facebook still seems, to me, to be a place where people who have already read your stories and love them can gather to show the love.

A blog is a good way to update others who are already interested in following, and with the way blogs are designed nowadays, they can double as a website.  If you have a name, you can treat it more like a journal (see Neil Gaiman’s Journal or John Scalzi’s blog).

Unless, of course, you provide a related service, like writing advice, none of the above will matter without that strong fan base.  I don’t see where it has a very strong return on investment for most self-published writers.  Therefore, it seems a little backward to me for a person with no name and no time to invest a lot of that precious time on those tools.

Obviously, if you already have a name, either through some other venture or because you’ve already had some books published through a commercial publisher, social networking is going to become much more important.  It’s a way to connect with those who already love you and are looking for you.

For those without a name, I still think it’s a good idea to have things like a Twitter account, a Facebook presence, and a blog.  They can be fun in and of themselves, plus, you already have something set up for fan interaction, which can be really nice, especially if you hit the writing lottery and find your numbers climbing.

However, I think, for those without a name, it’s a mistake to focus a lot of time on social networking.  Here’s why.

Taleist points out that the top earners spent more time writing and contacting top  reviewers to review their books.  This is a very important point.  Time is valuable to a reader.  Any time spent reading a badly-written book is time they could have been reading something better.  So, people swap info on good books, look at the Recommended shelf at the library, read reviews, etc.  In other words, all the traditional tools are still being used.

Already, gatekeepers are appearing in the self-publishing world.  InD’Tale Magazine is a prime example of this, with excellent reviews of self-published work.  More than this, it is possible to find reviewers to spread the word.  Amanda Hocking herself says that once she submitted her stories to book bloggers, her numbers (which weren’t too bad to start with) really began to rise (mentioned in her post “an epic tale of how it all happened“).

Notice the plural in “stories”.  That’s the most important part, from what I see.  Amanda Hocking, and other self-publishers who are successful, didn’t put out one or two stories and then market the heck out of them.  I’m not saying don’t market the only book you’ve published, by the way.  Catherine Ryan Howard wrote an excellent article on that topic a while back, with advice on how to do it, too.  In fact, everything I’m saying is borderline rambling, a hypothesis that’s still pretty fresh in my brain but that refuses to go away.  However, I think it’s wrong of self-publishing writers just starting out to spend more time on social networks than writing, especially if they do this part-time.

That said, there are bills to pay and I, Amy, have to find the money for copy editing somehow.  How else will I pay for this?

I could try Kickstarter.  The problem is that, again, I’ll need either a name, or a really fantastic project that others can connect with.

In the “old days”, a writer would support him/herself through short stories.  One strategy I’ve read (and I can’t remember who said it so if it’s you, please say so) is to publish short stories through commercial/traditional e-zines, then self-publish them as soon as you legally/contractually can.  This approach shows you can write publishable fiction, builds a readerbase, and still allows for self-publishing on the “long tail”.

Now, obviously this isn’t ideal.  But it’s worth a thought.

With all that in mind, here’s my current plan:

* Write more.  First thing in the morning if I can do it, and at least three pages every day if I can.  (I’m a mom of many.  This has to be flexible.)

* Hang out with other writers more.  I’ve always liked this and it keeps me humble.

* Keep the social media presence, have fun with it, but don’t worry too much about building an enormous following, or getting a lot of likes.  Writing is the important thing.

* Write.  Send stories to magazines and e-zines, publish free shorts here on my blog, keep working on my novel, once I finish that, start another one, rinse, repeat.

* Focus less on social media to get the word out, and more on getting good reviewers in my genre to read my novels.

* Participate more on Goodreads, though I’d prefer to do this as a reader, not a writer.  Not sure how much I want to say though, since I tend to be a pretty opinionated reader and will probably come out sounding like a hypocrite.

So, there you have it.  I’ll be testing this hypothesis over the next year.  I’ll let you know how it works.

branding as spiritual journey

I looked at branding as a necessary evil.  Something marketers and salespeople do to get people to buy things of questionable value.  This meant I would read articles on branding, nod my head, and think, “I write all kinds of things.  There isn’t a single thread that ties them all together.  Well, I write a lot of fantasy.  With romance.  I guess that counts.”

Discovering your category, I’ve learned, is not branding.  It’s part of it.  But I was willing to leave all that alone.

However, a while back I got a book from Kindle. (“Got” is a little vague.  I purchased it.)  It’s a pretty good book and I’ll eventually post my thoughts on it at some future point.  One of the things it has you do is distill your brand.  Obviously, I skipped that part and kept reading.  But everything they suggested went back to that one exercise.  So, I rubbed my eyes, took a deep breath and started brainstorming what my writing actually is.

The more I wrote, examined, pondered, the more I realized I wasn’t examining my stories.  My writing is an extension of my thoughts, beliefs, essence.  My brand, I learned, is a distillation of who I am.  What had begun as a marketing technique, became a spiritual journey.

I learned why I read the books I read.

I learned why I find some plots more appealing than others.

I learned what I want to convey with my stories and how I want my readers to feel when they reach the end.

I learned more about who I am.

For those of you who are resisting examining your brand as another marketing trick, I strongly recommend viewing it as a look in the mirror.  There are amazing things to find if you do.

is he really going out with her?

You know that couple that used to hate each other and now can’t seem to keep their hands off each other?

No, I haven’t met them, either.  Every couple I know started out as either shy strangers or friends.  And yet, I find myself drawn to stories with that plot.

Maybe it’s the unlikeliness of the situation.  I mean, really, how believable would it be if two people hate each other the moment they meet and yet, days later, they’re having mad, passionate make-out sessions in between bouts of arguing?  I don’t find it in the least bit believable, and yet I’ll watch it.

Why?

I’m starting to wonder if it’s because we (me included) associate direct, even rude phrases and actions with honesty.  The guy who acts like he’s made of ice, or always has a smile for others no matter how he may feel, can’t “put on an act” around the heroine.  And the heroine, who “doesn’t usually let someone get to her like this” finds herself saying what she thinks when the hero ticks her off, or finds she can be softer/more aggressive/whatever trait she feels she wants to express but can’t.  (Of course, in the case of feeling softer, I guess nowadays that vulnerability would be something she’d fight against.)

Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara are a classic example of this.  One of the reasons their relationship works like it does is honesty:  around Rhett, Scarlett is no longer the perfect Southern belle the reader knows is just an act, and Rhett…well, he doesn’t exactly hide who he is, but he loses some of his nonchalance when he’s around her.  And, slowly, they become friends.  Then, after mutual respect (sort of) is established, they become something more.

In the (still unnamed) sequel to the novel I just finished (I promise I’ll reveal the name of the first book soon), the main couple isn’t going to be that lucky.  My heroine is out to kill my dragon hero and he has a hard time thinking of her as anything but an annoying human.  As I write the rough draft, I realize just how gifted those writers are who are able to take that kind of start and turn it into a believable love story.

It’s my first time writing this plot.  Looking forward to the challenge.

(BTW, if you’re wondering, yes, the title is a nod to Joe Jackson.)

“clean” does not equal good

Note: this is not a rant.  This is my expression of mild frustration and a chance to share some thoughts (and a very good link) on the subject.

So, I’ve been looking for fiction without explicit sex scenes.  I don’t necessarily have anything against sex in a novel.  I think it tends to be overused and can’t help thinking of stories like Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, or heck, any of Jane Austen’s books, none of which have sex scenes, all of which are passionate and romantic.  I’d like to write stories like that, stories with power.  I don’t pretend to write the Great American Novel, but aiming for something that might rock someone’s world, even just a little, is something I think I can do.

I found a group on Goodreads devoted to finding clean romances and I tell you I actually used the word, “Squee!” for the title of my introduction.  I was like a fangirl otaku suddenly confronted with the beautiful boy from her favorite shoujo manga.

I’m still beginning on this journey, but I have to say that so far I’ve been disappointed.  Not in the group.  The group is fantastic.  I love hearing the different views/opinions there.  It’s the stories I’ve been reading that are getting me.  I haven’t been impressed.

I know my writing could use improvement as well (I think every writer could say that) so I feel bad saying this.  I think my expectations were (and still are) a bit high.  So far,  most of the books I’ve found are…boring.  And those are the good ones.  The bad ones have half-baked characters, flimsy plots, and confusing metaphors.  One of those happened to be published by a major publisher.  I can count on one hand the number of clean romances I’ve found so far that have gotten under my skin.  I hope this will change in the near future.

That’s why, when I read this blog post by Moriah Jovan, I found myself nodding my head with great enthusiasm.  She makes the same points I’ve been thinking about but have never put into words.  Even though she’s discussing Mormon fiction specifically, I think this can apply to any “clean” fiction, especially romance.

The more I think about this, the more I think this points to a decline in publishing in general.  But that’s another post.

quality or quantity

I’ve been thinking over my posts for the past few days and what this blog means to my writing.

Wow, that sounds heavy.  Like when someone says, “We need to talk.”  It’s not that bad.  Trust me.

I’ve noticed that some of the things I’ve put on this blog would work better on Twitter.  If you can’t believe I just said that, neither can I.  The problem is that I think the quality of these posts could be better.  The only way I see to do that would be to slow down on my posting.

The problem is that I still need to connect in some form and in a format where time isn’t as big a deal.  Twitter–after the reading I’ve been doing ever since Aly Hughes pointed me to a couple of great articles about it (thank you Aly!)–seems like an updated form of IRC.  It’s not actually IRC but it’s very similar.  It also looks like a big time suck.  That’s why I’ve been avoiding it.

So I’ve told myself.  But then I began noticing the amount of time I spent blogging and realized it was about the same amount of time I’d been worried about giving to Tweeting.  And blogging was also cutting into my writing time and was feeling about as productive as I feared Twitter would.  Posting daily is just too much for me.  The quality goes down because I’m given to putting up whatever catches my eye instead of using a blog for what it does best:  showcasing writing.  That needs to be my focus for this blog, whether it’s through a well-written article/rambling or a story excerpt or the result of a writing challenge.  It’s what makes sense to me in attracting readers.  And that means less posting.

For those who follow my blog, it should be a bonus.  You’ll have fewer posts to catch up on, lol, and what you do get should be more interesting and worth your time.  I hope.

As for Twitter, I think I’ve figured out how to do it so that it won’t suck up my life.  I will be joining it later today and will provide a link at some point in the near future on the sidebar, probably below my contact link.

Oh, by the way, I have a Contact link.  It’s the link on the right that says “click here” in a large font.  If, for whatever reason, you want to use it to send me an email, please fill out the form, send, and I’ll reply as soon as I can.

As for visiting blogs and commenting, I’ll definitely keep doing that.  The people I’ve found share too much good stuff for me to stay away.

does publicity help sell books?

I hadn’t visited J.A. Konrath’s blog in a while, so I decided to check out his latest articles and maybe see how his beer diet is going.  I found this lovely gem of an article on the best way to boost sales of your ebook.  He specifically tears apart the idea that publicity sells books.  It’s worth reading, especially if you self-publish.  The part that jumped out at me is the importance of writing lots of books.  (May have mentioned this before but I don’t have time right now to search for the post.  Will try to add it later.)

Then I began thinking.  If that’s the new model, I wonder if that means that books like Gone With the Wind or To Kill a Mockingbird–books that are their author’s single shout in the crowd–will pass by unnoticed.  If the book is great enough, I want to believe that nothing else matters.

It has to be true, because there’s always been a system and that system has never been ideal.  Books get lost in the crowd, unread.  But great books manage to find an audience eventually.  They find it because people who read a great book want to tell their friends.  And those friends tell other friends and pretty soon, to use a modern phrase, it goes viral.  This has always been true.  It will continue to be true.

The trick is to write something great.  From what I’ve experienced, that’s quite a trick.  Still working on it.

ej (almost) has a rival

Eric Johnson (EJ) is still number one on my list of favorite musicians.  His music really resonates in a way I’ve never experienced (even with the guy I’m about to mention).  But I heard a song by Gotye the other morning and found myself hooked.  It’s the lyrics that get me.  And because I don’t think it’s fair to judge a person’s work by one song, I present three.

This isn’t my absolute favorite song by him.  Plus, the story in the animation is so sad.  But the lyrics are, I think, beautiful.

This also isn’t my favorite song by him. However, it’s the one that seems to be getting the most radio play and I love how the lyrics sound so natural, like they’re talking.

This is my favorite song by him. I love the story in the lyrics. What can I say? I’m a helpless romantic.  There is no video with this.  Just a picture.

Hearts a Mess is also excellent, but this is all the time I have.  I’ve finished the character sheets for the sequel and I’ve even got a working title that works.  I’m currently figuring out the scene list.  And these allergies are still acting up.  But I should be able to get to a comment or two before I crash tonight.

(Just so it’s said, I don’t get any compensation in any way, shape, or form, from mentioning Gotye’s music or linking to these videos.)

make sure you are true to you

I read this fantastic post about making sure you write the stories that fit you.  The article is a very good read and reminded me of when I first realized that my favorite stories to write–the ones that made me look forward to sitting in front of my computer each day–were the ones that had a strong romance in the plot.  It was a few years ago.  Before then, I fought it like crazy.  I was a serious speculative fiction writer, I told myself.  And yet, story after story I found myself wanting to create relationships and explore them.  Then, one day I looked over my “To Write” list for my next story and it hit me that every single one of them had a romance at its heart.  Some of them were rather gushy at that.  Once I accepted that sweet romance is my thing, writing became a lot more fun.  It still is.