New release announcement, and reflections on Detcon1

So, my new book is published! The Southern Dragon is available now through Amazon, Kobo, NOOK, Smashwords, and Google Play, both in print and ebook formats! You can find links to it in my Books and Stories page above. The price on Singer has dropped, as well, in celebration! Check it out, and if you like it, please leave a review in your preferred reviewing location. It’d be much appreciated!

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As I mentioned, I had some plans for this past weekend’s Detcon1 surrounding my promotion of the book. While my sweepstakes to win free copies of my books didn’t pan out, I did manage to pass out a number of my business cards. I’m hoping to see some results from that at some point, though we will just have to wait and see. The con itself was fun, with lots of interesting and useful panels surrounding aspects of the business. Of course, there were lots of whimsical panels as well, but I kept myself to the business oriented ones. I listened to Neil Clarke (the publisher/editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, to whom I have been furiously attempting to sell my short stories) speak on two panels, one about the state of Science Fiction magazines today, and one about what sorts of things editors and agents are looking for in stories and submissions. I heard another panel talk about the economics of self-publishing, though I can’t say that one was particularly useful to me, since I’ve been doing this for a little while now and have already experienced a number of the things they talked about. I also attended a panel discussing covers, which was interesting from an artistic standpoint.

It’s definitely interesting to listen to other people who are essentially trying to accomplish the same thing as you are talk about how they have been going about it, or what else they plan to try in the future. The debate on whether or not to go full indie publishing or to hold out for a traditional publisher’s notice still rages, with both sides giving good arguments. For now, I think I intend to remain an indie publishing author, but I am trying to keep my mind clear and unbiased as I go forward with this venture.

Anybody else have Detcon experiences to share? I’d love to hear about them!

Wearing the Publisher Hat

I’ve been working for the past week or so on things to get ready for publishing The Southern Dragon. It’s getting really close now! I’ve got the proof copy in my hands, and am pouring over it to make sure it’s up to snuff before hitting that ‘publish’ button. I’m hoping to publish in time for Detcon next weekend. I already have some tweaks I want to make to the cover, and we’ll see how the interior goes as I read through it. Hopefully there aren’t too many mistakes!

In the mean time, I’ve also been working on some other business-y things, such as getting more organized with my finance tracking and putting together some promotional plans. I’ve got these snazzy little business cards that I’ll be handing out at the convention. They have information on my two books and my publisher website, including a QR code to it. They’re meant to be easy hand-outs, and I’m hoping to get them printed up sometime early this week. I’ll also be running a sweepstakes, I guess? I’ll have a sign-up list and be giving away three free e-copies of Singer and The Southern Dragon to randomly selected participants. The hope there is that these lucky people will read and review my books, thus bringing me more publicity.

I’m considering doing something similar on twitter, once I can figure out how the logistics will work.

I also have plans in the works to set up a newsletter soonish. Still working on that, but would like to have it set up and the first issue out this week if possible.

I did manage to get some bits and pieces of writing in during this time, and actually finished the first draft of a short story yesterday, but to be honest, the publisher stuff can be distracting sometimes. It’s got its own sort of fun-ness to it, and it feels hella productive, but when it comes down to it, doing your publishing duties is necessary, but not a substitute for writing. I’m still learning how to balance my time between the two. I’m in a scramble to be all publisher, all the time right now due to the upcoming con, which I think is okay, but once it’s over, I’ll be returning to more focus on writing for a while. I had been hoping to start on my next novel earlier this month, but it will probably end up having to wait until after the con just because I’m so busy getting ready for it.

 

In other news, it’s the last game of the season for Detroit City FC today, unless we make it into the tournament… I dunno, I’m not the knowledgeable one on soccer in my family. But we’re going to the game and screaming and shouting to push them to a win today. I know a lot of people who aren’t ready for the season to be over yet.

 

Finishing

Today, I finished the first draft of The Fount of Magic.

Yay!

This one came with a five-week long hiatus, a segment of the “mid-book blues” as some call it. That time was painful, because I felt like I just wasn’t being a good human being. I wasn’t writing, so I felt like a failure in everything else I did, too. Like I was just wasting time.

But I got over it, and got back to the writing. Those first few days back at the keyboard were painful. I had pitiful word counts. I hated everything I wrote. But I did it.

Eventually, the pace picked up, and it became easier, because it was fun again.

And now, I’m finished with the first draft.

While I’m definitely glad to be finished (it means I can move on to all of the other projects I’ve got stacking up in my to-write list! Yay!!!) a part of me is not looking forward to NOT having the novel to come home to after work. It had gotten to the point that I would walk in the door, pet the kitty, and then sit down to say hello to the novel. Sure, there’s still editing to do, and that’s fun, too. But it’s not the same as when you’re sitting there, pushing yourself to just put thirty more words on the page. Only thirty, and you’ll break 3,000 today!

Obviously, since I’ve already stated I’ve got more projects, new novels will come along in the near future.

But now this one is done, and I will miss it.

We had our laughs and our hard times, and in the end we came out with a pretty good draft. But now it’s time to move on.

A New Challenge Approaches?

I’ve come up with an interesting idea for a writing challenge. It’s called the Hourly 500, and it is designed to drive word production and to help writers get their inner editors to shut up for a while. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I certainly intend to as soon as an appropriate day for it comes along.

Here’s how it works:

1. You pick a day that you can devote to writing, perhaps a weekend that you were going to spend sitting around watching TV or something equally unproductive.

2. You choose an hourly word count that is something under your normal writing pace and make that your hourly goal. I normally write about 1,000 words in an hour, so I’m choosing 500 as something sustainable that won’t burn me out over the course of the challenge day.

3. You hit that goal every hour of the day, for 24 hours.

 

Now for the best part.

Even though I’ve called it the Hourly 500, the challenge is really flexible. You can set your hourly word count to something as small as 10 words an hour if you want, and you can set your time goal to be every other hour, though of course you won’t get as much production benefit if you make your goals that small.  But if you’re in a rut and having trouble putting even a single sentence on the page, sometimes the small, easy goals are what you need to boost your confidence again.

The only rule that is solid, carved in stone, unchangeable, is that each hour (or whatever your chosen unit of time is) is separate from the others. In the noon hour, you must write your word count goal. When the time hits 1:00, you must write a whole new 500 words, and COMPLETELY IGNORE the previous ones. I mean don’t touch them. Don’t edit them, don’t delete them. The point is to end the day with a nice big chunk of wordage.

You can go back and edit it later, if you really must, but this is where the whole 24 hour part comes in. You’ll crash at the end of it, and therefore will have to sleep on your work. Letting your work settle in your brain is an important part of the creative process, after all, and if you immediately jump in and mess with your first draft right after finishing it you lose that important ‘pondering’ period. You might remove something that was really good just because your knee-jerk reaction was that it sucked!

Remember that it’s OKAY if you don’t hit your word goal every single hour. Don’t worry about dinner taking up a large piece of your 6:00 hour, or about the unexpected phone call from your mother. But do STRIVE to hit your goal, and definitely don’t look back on the work from the hours that have already passed. It’s also OKAY if you can’t quite make 24 hours. Not everyone is capable of staying awake that long. The purpose is to push production and to tell your inner editor to take a hike.

If you want to share your challenge with your friends and family, post your hourly word production on facebook, or tweet it with the hashtag #hourly500 or something like that. This is the sort of thing that people will get behind and cheer you on, I know it.

So if you think this sounds like a challenge you’d like to try, do it! Post about it! Just set your date, your unit of time, and your word count goal, and get writing!

How Soccer Hooligans are Bringing a Recluse Out of Her Shell

Okay, I suppose I’m not actually at the level of being a recluse, but I definitely have a hard time in social situations. I don’t do well conversing with people I don’t know well. The art of easy conversation is difficult and intimidating. What if I have long, awkward pauses, because I cannot think of a single thing to say to this person? And I will, without fail.

My husband and I are members of a soccer supporter group in Detroit, which means that we often go to games and other events, where I am by definition in close quarters with a very large number of people with whom I am not very well acquainted. We’ve been doing this for long enough now that I am actually, FINALLY, becoming more comfortable just hanging out in the same space as so many people. I know a lot of them well enough now that, while I may not be able to carry on conversation adeptly, I am aware that they don’t think I’m some strange, awkward person, or if they do, they mean it as a compliment.

When we go to events that are not soccer games, I often bring my computer or a notebook and at least attempt to get some writing done. It’s really very comforting to me, even if I don’t manage to get much work done, because I know that if the crowd ever does get too overwhelming for me, I can dial myself back into my own world for a while.

We went to a party to watch an away game at a bar today, and I used this tactic. I wasn’t actually feeling overwhelmed at all, and to be honest, it was probably the most comfortable I’ve been at one of these events so far. I set myself up at a table with my writing, put one earbud in so I could listen to my “writing music” (despite the noise of being in a bar), and did some writing. Did some people watching. Did some more writing. Actually conversed with people other than my husband.

Also made $25 selling the last five copies of the first edition of my novel ‘Singer’ to these guys.

They’re really a good bunch of people, and if you happen to be in the Detroit area and interested in soccer, you should look them up. The Northern Guard Supporters for Detroit City Football Club.

Even if you’re a shy introvert who likes to stay inside. They don’t bite, I promise.

Sometimes Writing is Not Easy

I seem to have finally managed to get myself back into the swing of writing regularly on book three of the Songbird River Chronicles, but it has been a chore, let me tell you.

I made a mistake, see, and took a break for a day. That day turned into a weekend, which turned into a week. Before I knew it, a month had gone by with no new words created.

It sucked. I felt awful, like I was being a waste of a human being because I just couldn’t get myself to do some productive work on a project that I enjoyed. I read back over my chapter outlines to reaffirm that, yes, I was still excited about the story and I wanted to tell it, but I still couldn’t make myself sit at the keyboard and put letters together. Every time I thought about doing it, all of my energy would just drain away, until I opened up Facebook or Imgur or some stupid browser game and wasted three or five hours of my time.

Ugh.

Finally, I managed to feel so loathsome and disgusted with myself at my lack of progress that I FORCED myself to sit in the chair and write a pitiful word count of what I’m sure will be seven or eight hundred of some of the most garbage words ever created. But I wrote them, I did not delete them, and I called myself successful for a day.

This week hasn’t been perfect. I’ve had a few days here and there where I couldn’t get anything done, either because I was genuinely busy or because the energy drained away again and I whiled away more of my life pissing about on the internet. My word counts for the first few days were much smaller than I generally like to report, but I refused to let myself feel defeated by them, instead focusing on the fact that I had generated infinitely more words than I had on the days that I scrolled through Imgur.

Seriously, I should probably block that site.

Anyway. Today, I’m sitting so far at a little over 2,000 words. I may write more this evening, but I’m not sure. I’ve hit a few good winds, sections where the words flow out nice and easy, and I’m not struggling to figure out what I’m trying to say. I’ve also hit some snags, where I DO have to sit back from the desk and stare at the ceiling for five or ten minutes and make my brain come back around to focus on the keyboard. Those are frustrating, and are the parts where I’m most likely to deviate back to the internet.

So I’m making slower progress on this book than I wanted to. It’s a horrible cycle, actually, because part of the problem comes from the fact that I have other books that I’m waiting to write, that I’m VERY excited to write, but I CAN’T write them until I finish this book. But because I’m excited to get to those other books, I lack the excitement for this one, making it drag on and on.

Basically, it’s hard. It’s very difficult  to do something creative when you’re not feeling inspired, when every word that you pull out of your brain digs its fingers in and claws and scratches to stay inside.

Sometimes, writing is easy, but not this week.

Talking About Writing to Non-Writers

I’ve mentioned on here that I do a lot of writing at work, using a notebook. This often prompts people to ask me what I’m doing. Usually, that is exactly the question.

“What are you doing?” I’m taking a short break from writing to ring up your groceries.

“What are you writing?” A plot outline of a novel or short story.

But I also get some other versions:

“Are you writing a story?” Yes.

“Are you writing a book?” Usually, though sometimes I’m working on a short story.

“Are you writing a journal?”

This one makes me shudder, because, to me, a journal is exactly the same as a diary. You know, that thing tweenage girls lock themselves in their bedrooms to write, pouring out their angst and the unfairness of the world. Dear Diary, today, the boy in geometry with whom I have never spoken but am totally in love picked up the pencil I dropped and was all like, “hey, you dropped this.” He totally likes me!

So my first reaction when someone asks me if I’m sitting in public, at work, writing a journal is “Um, no, I’m a grown woman. A mature, professional writer. I’m writing about magic and dragons and awesome shit.”

I say it a little more politely than that, of course. Usually I go with a “No. I’m working on a novel/short story.”

My regular customers, who know what I’m doing, will ask me “How’s the book going?”

And I’ll be like, “Which book have I been talking to you about? ‘Cuz I’m working on like three right now, and while my publishing schedule is only just about ready to churn out book two, I’m writing book three and plotting book 8.”

Again, I am more polite than this. My customers, who are non-writers, do not need to hear my whole complex, twisty writing schedule. “It’s going great!”

I do feel, weirdly, like I need to uphold this image of writers for the non-writers. The image of working on only one book from start to finish and not starting a new one until the first one is published. I know some writers probably do work that way, but I feel like it’s such a waste of time. I mean, I can write narrative manuscript at work if I want, but then I have to spend time when I get home typing all that up, time I’d rather be using to generate new words. I need to dedicate some time to plotting out new stories before I write them, so it’s ideal for me to use time at work for that ahead-of-time plot work. It’s just a setup that leads to my plotting being so far ahead of my narrative manuscripting, which I feel could be confusing for the uninitiated, shall we say.

I really started thinking about this today when I made my facebook status update of daily word count. I realized that I’ve been constantly referring to the project as “the novel” which really just confuses me. Well, not ME, I know which book I’m working on, but it FEELS like it should be confusing to everyone else. I’d like to be clearer with these updates, so I’ve decided to start including the title of the project. And, I’ll possibly try to do something like that with the customers? Although, the majority of them don’t really care, they’re just being polite and conversational.

I don’t know, but more clarity makes me feel better, so that’s reason enough to do it, I suppose.

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