Monthly Archives: March 2016

To Self-Publish, or Not To Self-Publish?

TBT: March 2013. It’s funny how little my thoughts on the pros and cons of each path have changed (though obviously I did make a decision, and it’s one I’m 100% sure was right for the Bound trilogy). As I consider whether to query a future project, I find the same hesitations popping up again… but that’s a post for another day. 🙂

disregard the prologue

It’s a serious question. Increasingly so, in fact. A few years ago you heard of the odd success story (and even that one was discovered “by chance” and then traditionally published), but that’s just what they were: odd. Self-publishing was the road you took when your book wasn’t good enough to be accepted by a traditional publisher– at least, that was the perception. Still is for most people I know.

And now? Well, now there are people publishing their own work to e-readers and/or print-on-demand companies like CreateSpace and selling hundreds of thousands of copies. Hardly what you’d expect from a book that’s “not good enough,” is it? People are turning down offers from “real” publishers because the benefits of going it alone are very real.

For some people.

This is a tough topic, and I’m working out the questions for myself in this post. Please offer advice in the…

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Passion Project

So… I thought I’d post a little update here. Not just a follow-up to what we talked about a few weeks ago (though I would like to thank everyone who jumped in with comments and your own stories, as it’s good to know that sharing was helpful to some of you), but to give you a peek into what’s happening in my wee story workshop right now.

My work has been fairly predictable for the past few years as I focused on getting the Bound Trilogy finished. It was narrow in focus, high-pressure, and a huge learning experience for me as a new author who never really expected anyone to read my first book. Things are changing, and I’m so excited to talk a little about what I’ve got on the go right now.

Into Elurien, my contribution to the very exciting Skeleton Key Book Series, is with a capable editor right now. The same one who edited At Any Cost for me, actually.* This project pushes the upper limit of suggested word count for the series, but keeping it small was still a big challenge for me. I wanted to satisfy my readers’ expectations for worldbuilding, character development, quality writing, and exciting plot while I satisfied the series’ demands of romance, length, and subject matter, and this one didn’t want to be a smaller story. But I did it, and I love it.

I finished post-critique edits for that about three weeks early, which means I’m expecting a bomb to go off during editing that will leave me with massive clean-up to do, but I’ve got time to deal with that. Into Elurien will be available for pre-order mid-May and release in June, along with a few dozen other books by amazing authors. Watch here for information on the cover reveal (though if you know where to look, you might be able to find it early!), and for more details on the story as pre-order day gets closer.

So that brings us to what I’m working on now.

It’s big. Not in word count (I’m aiming for under 100K words), but in the magnitude of the challenge. It’s a story that has its backstory roots hundreds of years before the main plot, told in third person POV–not my first choice, but necessary if I want to make the structure that I want work properly. It’s a little dystopian in mood and theme, basically utopian in practice (except for one wee, horrible detail), and involves a style of storytelling that people are either going to love or hate.

And right now, it’s a massive challenge. I started drafting, scrapped most of the 11,000 words I wrote in that first week, stepped back, and took another week to get to know my characters better through a questionnaire so deep that I don’t think I could answer all of the questions for myself. I am finding it difficult to find their voices when they’re not speaking onto the page (I really miss first person!), but I’m getting there. I’m back to the writing now, and it’s going a bit more smoothly.

This is one of those stories that’s so amazing in my head that there’s no way I’ll replicate it perfectly on the page. That’s been true of every story I’ve ever written, but it’s really staring me in the face this time. I expect this one will teach me a lot during the revision process, and more through edits. That’s always the goal, you know. I have a whole lot to learn about the art and craft of storytelling, and doing it (and getting professional feedback) is the best way to learn.

It’s definitely a passion project, and I’m writing it because I’m in love, not because it seems like it’s going to make me more money than anything else in the idea file. It’s not on a tight deadline. Not hotly anticipated like a sequel to something else would be. It’s something I can take my time with (within reason; edits are booked for February), experiment with, and release because it’s a story I think deserves to be told.

And it’s going to be amazing. In terms of the base idea of the story, it’s probably most exciting, high-concept one I’ve had. I just need to figure out how to make that promise a reality on the page.

(Side note to anyone who has The Best Story Idea Ever and thinks they could write a bestseller if they only had the time: The blockbuster idea is the easy part, and on its own means nothing. I know, I was sad to hear that, too. But great ideas really are a dime a dozen. A CANADIAN dime, even.)

But I can’t think about the end right now, about releasing it and how excited my regular readers will be about this thrilling, heartbreaking, twisty and turny, myth-topian thing. Right now it’s one day at a time, getting the words out. I’m on a bad cycle for headaches, which means my brain’s not working, and I’m still dealing with depression and anxiety (though I am getting them under control). My focus and attention are almost nonexistent. That means taking it slow when I need to, forgiving myself for not hitting my usual 5,000+ words a day (yesterday I only got 1800), and letting things develop at their own pace.

img_8262

Planners are 
fun 😀

It’s what I want, right? Less pressure. More time to let things stew and develop. More time for my subconscious to make connections within the story like it did when I was building the world that Bound took place in. But it’s scary, too. Momentum is considered such a desirable thing in this industry that taking time off or slowing down feels wrong.

But it’s necessary for me. I’m learning my limits. I’m learning that I recently pushed myself past them, and I’m still recovering from that. And I’m learning how to do this thing my way. It’s not the “here’s how to sell a million books on Kindle” way, but it’s mine.

Pushing harder isn’t always the answer. We’ll see how getting back to the place where writing was my playground works out for this one. 🙂

 

 

 

*And thank goodness for Sue Archer, because my regular editor is now booking a year in advance! Hence the February deadline for the new project…


COVER REVEAL: A More Complicated Fairytale by Emily Witt

Hey, everyone! Yes, it’s time again for a cover reveal–this time for Emily Witt, who you may remember as the current host of WIPpet Wednesday (and if you’re perusing the links for that weekly event, you’ve probably read a few snippets of her work). This is the book that Emily was posting snippets from way back when I joined WIPpet Wednesday, so it’s wonderful to see its release date approaching.

Take it away, Emily!

AMCFTsmall

Title: A More Complicated Fairytale
Author: Emily Witt

Release day: April 02, 2016

 Blurb:

Most of the young women in Nardowyn swoon over Crown Prince Felipe, but Caitlin has never seen the appeal. When she catches his eye during a royal festival, she has little choice but to begrudgingly go along with his attempts to form a friendship between them, and soon learns that there is more to him than meets the eye.

When Felipe goes to war to avenge the death of his brother, Cait enlists as a nurse to be nearer to him. Here, Cait’s connection to the prince will put her in more danger than she can imagine. But Cait’s never been one to take the easy way out, so if her life is going to turn into some sort of fairy tale, with a prince and a happily ever after, it’s no surprise it will be a more complicated one.

 

Author Bio:

Emily has been writing since the age of six, but only recently developed the skill of finishing the projects that she starts (and even then, only sometimes). She is currently studying for a Masters in Museum and Heritage Studies and works at the National Library of Australia. In her spare time she can be found watching Doctor Who or curled up on the couch with a hot chocolate and a good book.

author-photo

 

You can visit her blog for more information::

http://keysandopenmind.wordpress.com

And also her Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/keysandopenmind

 

Cover design:

Thanks to the very awesome K. L. Schwengel – http://klschwengel.com

 

Excerpt:

Towards the middle of the afternoon, they came across a wooden stage with a banner across the top bearing the words ‘Alfonso the Magnificent, Grand Illusionist’. On the stage, a man was describing the great feats of illusion that the crowds would witness when the show started in ten minutes. Neither Cait nor Ava had ever seen a magic show before, so they bought tickets and found themselves good seats.

 

For the next three-quarters of an hour, they witnessed mind-reading, card tricks and even a woman being sawn in half! Even Cait had been on the edge of her seat for that finale.

 

When Alfonso the Magnificent had taken his final bows and disappeared from the stage, Cait turned to Ava. “What did you think?” she asked.

 

“That was spectacular!” Ava replied. “How do you think he did that last one?”

 

“There were two women in the box,” said a hooded man who had been sitting on Cait’s other side. “That’s the only way it could be done.”

 

“Do you think so?” Ava leaned across Cait a little to speak to the man and in doing so, recognised the face under the hood. She sat back again, quickly. “Cait, it’s -”

 

The cloaked man held up a finger to quickly quiet her. “Please don’t give me away. I’m trying to avoid my guards at the moment.”

 

He lowered his hood and Cait realised why Ava had been so surprised. She looked at Ava. “Well, won’t Ginny and Bridget be jealous?” She looked back to Prince Felipe with a wry smile. “Our younger sisters are big fans of yours, your Highness. We tried telling them it was unlikely any of us would see you here, but they kept their hopes up. I’m sure they’re going to be frightfully upset about this.”

 

“Well, I suppose you were right to discourage them. I’m not supposed to be spending my time at magic shows designed to entertain the masses. In fact, I believe I should be dining with the Princess Royal of Brellalan at this very moment.”

 

“Then why aren’t you?”

 

Cait didn’t mean to ask such a direct – and perhaps slightly accusatory – question, not to the prince, but it was out of her mouth before she could remind herself who she was talking to.

 

The prince did not seem too perturbed, though. “Have you ever had to spend time with women who have been raised only to aspire to one day marry a prince?”

 

“I can’t say that I have, Your Highness.”

 

“Then count yourself lucky. I would much rather spend my time at magic shows in the company of such charming ladies as you and your friend, than dining with any of them.”

 

As he spoke the words, a yell was heard behind them, and the prince looked up with a start. Someone shouted “There!” and a group of red-uniformed men of the palace guard pointed towards Cait, Ava and Prince Felipe.

 

Glancing back at Cait and Ava, the prince quickly stood and replaced his hood over his head. “It’s been lovely,” he said with a nod, and then leapt across three benches and off in the opposite direction to the guards. They shouted again and ran after him, but Cait saw him quickly blend in with the crowds and silently wished the guards luck. They were probably going to need it.

 

 


Okay, Up Yours, WordPress

Sorry for the multiple posts, guys. Anyone who subscribes via email is probably ready to smack me.

I tried reblogging that post, but the reblog button was gone. So I tried “Press This,” and it gave me an error message and no post. THEN I tried just linking it, which worked, but of course the Press This thing suddenly was working.

My love-hate relationship with WordPress grows stronger every day.

*boop beep boop* SHUT UP AND GIVE ME MY GOOGLE SEARCH REFERRAL STATS BACK.

Okay. I feel better. Guess I’ll go delete one of those posts.

ETA: The reblog button is suddenly back. *headdesk*

 


TBT: Worst Character Description Ever

I’d like to just reblog this throwback post from March 2013, but I can’t. WordPress is no longer giving me the option. And that’s AWKWARD.

Ugh.

Anyway, here’s a very pretty link (eyeroll) to a post in which I wrote the worst character description I possibly could… and it came out sounding like only a small exaggeration of some that I’ve read since then. 😉

click on if you need more zombie capybaras in your life.

 

https://disregardtheprologue.com/2013/03/28/since-were-talking-about-character-descriptions/


Adjusting My Sails (part 2)

Okay. Last week, we talked a little about the depression I’ve been battling for a couple of months. Not a new thing for me, not the worst fight I’ve faced with it, but a seriously shit situation for a person to be in. We talked about some of the things that I, personally, have been doing to fight back, and I said we’d talk a bit about how I’m climbing out of the pit.

I made it clear that I think it’s important to talk about this stuff. If it’s in the dark, it feels shameful. And the stigma re: mental health issues is stupid. So we’re talking. I also made it clear that anything I say about my approach to feeling better is my approach, and is not intended to be advice. My hope is that sharing my experiences will help someone else feel okay about doing what he/she needs to do to get help and feel better.

/end blabbering

So, self-therapy… sort of.

I don’t have a psychiatrist here in town. I don’t have a psychologist or a therapist. But I do have a brain that knows how to be curious if I can catch its attention, and I remember how to ask questions. So a few weeks ago when I had the energy and a little break from the mental fog that I constantly find myself lost in, I sat myself down and asked hard questions.*

Step one was to name what I was feeling beyond depressed. Low and flat were a good place to start. So was anxious. But guys, I’m a writer. I knew I could do better than that. So defeated followed them onto the list. Overwhelmed. Pressured. Afraid. Ashamed. Not good enough.

Okay. But I can’t argue with feelings. I can’t just “be positive” to counteract the negative. I needed to dig deeper, to find the thoughts that were leading to those feelings. Those I can argue with. (BTW, I learned this while getting outpatient therapy during rounds one and two with depression. I highly recommend professional medical help. And I think they should teach this stuff in school).

It took me five pages (double-sided) of asking myself questions, each one digging deeper into the answer to the last, to get to the bottom of things. And it all came back to one issue.

My work as a writer.

Oof. That was tough for me, because writing is one of my top weapons in my everyday fight against depression. I feel good when I’m using my imagination, working through story problems, getting to know characters. But I couldn’t deny that the business side of writing (the publishing schedule, the pressure to get the next thing out, the very helpful advice at every turn on How To Be A Successful Indie Author, the numbers, the sales, the marketing)… those things were wearing me down. Enough so that when a trigger came in the form of a drug that screwed with my brain chemistry, I couldn’t pull out of that nosedive.

Chemistry, thought patterns, habits, attitudes… it all matters.

What I realized is that I’ve been feeling like I should follow a path that isn’t meant for me. I’ve been comparing myself to people who aren’t chasing the goals that I am, who have different opportunities and needs in their lives. I’ve known it felt wrong for me, but never questioned the assumption that I should want what’s held up as the ideal in this career. I was applying other people’s standards of success to my own journey, and I was falling short.

And it was seriously stressing me out.

^ That answer there is the rope I’ve been using to pull myself out of the pit. I’m adjusting my thoughts and my attitudes to point me toward daylight instead of deeper into the dark.

I’m working on figuring out what my journey should entail, and it’s not what I’ve been told success looks like. It’s not chasing sales and bestsellerdom. It’s not doing whatever it takes to get 20,000 newsletter subscribers. It’s not churning out a book a month and trying to be the #1 ranked author on Amazon. It’s not working 12 hours a day and neglecting my family so I can maintain my momentum.

Those might be wonderful choices for other people who have different goals. They’re not for me. I can’t do those things and maintain my mental health or be happy with the work I still rely on to keep me level.

While I’m still working out what is for me, it looks a lot more like this: Balance between home and work, even if that means I can’t produce books at a rate that’s considered effective for an indie author. It looks like my books getting as much time and work as they need to be the best they can be, not just good enough to publish and move on to the next thing. It’s fewer books than I’m technically capable of shooting out, but better ones than I’d create at top speed. Writing the stories that I want to read, not writing in a genre because it sells a lot of books. Leaving room in my schedule for opportunities that pop up, but choosing to say “yes” based on whether they further my creative goals rather than whether they might boost sales.

This is all scarier than it might look. Everything I read about being a successful author talks about tracking effectiveness of Facebook ads, A/B testing, giving away Kindles to get people onto your mailing list regardless of whether they want to read your books, blogging with a focus on SEO, figuring out Amazon’s algorithms, targeting popular genres, writing for the market.

And I’m turning my back on those things with the understanding that while they might be very good for other authors, they’re not good for me.

I have to define success on my own terms, but I still have to make a living while I do it. It’s  a scary tightrope to be standing on.

Now that I’m aware of that problem, I can spot the negative thoughts when they creep in, and I can answer them. Not with anger. I don’t need to be mad at any part of myself right now. But with reason and gentle reminders.

Other authors sell more books than me.

Other authors write in genres that sell more books, or have larger backlists, or are more marketing oriented (which is not even a little difficult). Sales are not a measure of quality, and they’re not how I’m measuring my success. Even if they were, I do very well, all things considered.

You have to put out a book every few months, or readers will forget about you.

It’s true that frequent releases help an author’s work stay visible on Amazon. There’s no getting around the fact that I lose momentum between books. But readers didn’t forget about me during the 8 months between Bound and Torn, or the 9 months between Torn and Sworn. Traditionally published authors who produce solid, well-crafted work might go a year between releases and not be forgotten. Give readers a little credit. They’ll remember quality.

Other authors spend way less on editing.

Other authors aren’t writing my books, and aren’t necessarily writing for the same audience. My first audience is me, and I require that this work be done to the highest possible standard before I’m satisfied.  Other authors and their approaches aren’t my business. My books and my readers are.

You could be writing right now.

I could. But I choose to do homework with the kids and walk the dog because having a life outside of work makes me a better writer and a healthier me, even when my obsessive mind wants to be working all the time. I do better work when my brain gets a break. And my family needs me.

Get the idea? It’s a constant struggle. Honestly, sometimes I don’t have the energy to stay on top of it. Negativity and comparisons are easy, just like junk food is easier than roasting a chicken and putting a salad together. But I’m trying. I’m fighting.

And I’m changing my attitudes, and pulling myself out of the pit a little at a time.

INTERESTING NOTE: After I’d figured all of this out and after I’d drafted this post, I listened to Self-Publishing Podcast episode 198, The Future of Publishing. At about 30 minutes in, they started talking about EXACTLY what I’d decided for myself: a focus on quality, competing on that instead of price, writing with the goal of producing work that will still hold up in ten or twenty years rather than whatever is selling this week. They even used the analogy I’d come up with for myself (the coffee one, if you’re listening), right down to the “there’s nothing wrong with cheap coffee, but it’s not what I’m working on” angle. It’s interesting, and worth a listen. And it was a really cool kind of confirmation that I’m not alone, and maybe I’m not crazy here.

 

 

*See, depression is a weird illness. It’s physical, a chemical imbalance that I inherited from one of my parents. But just like heart disease is both hereditary and affected by lifestyle choices, so is depression. Instead of watching my diet,** I have to examine what I’m feeding my brain: what I’m paying attention to, what attitudes and ideas I’m ruminating on that are turning my brain into a ticking time bomb.

And judging my the difficulty I was having dragging myself out of the pit after I got off of those pills, I guessed that I’d let my diet go bad. I just didn’t know exactly where.

**Okay, so I have to watch that as well


The Next Big Thing (and the Pain of Beginning)

I’m going to keep this short, because I have places to be. Things to do. People to create.

Yep. Starting a new project today. This one is a story concept that came to me as I was falling asleep one night back in the fall (summer? I dunno), and I somehow hung onto it until morning. I made notes and had to set it aside to get Sworn finished and then to participate in the Skeleton Key book series. No regrets about either of those things, obviously, but I’m SO glad to finally be getting to this one.

And yet… It’s always hard to start. No matter how much preparation I do, how solid my outline is, how well I think I know my characters, or how excited I am about this story, it’s hard. My brain wants to procrastinate.

One more cup of tea.

I should call the insurance company about the thing and probably make that optometrist appointment I’ve neglected for three years.

I should work on that character’s motivations more.

I could start tomorrow…

Nope. I’ve done this enough times to know that it won’t be easier tomorrow. That blank page is going to be intimidating no matter how prepared I am. My characters are going to surprise me and take the story places I didn’t expect, even if I plan every scene down to fill-in-the-blanks level.

It’s not going to come out the way I want it on the first draft if I start it today, tomorrow, or two weeks from now.

And the best way to get over this fear is to just start writing.

Wish me luck.

Screenshot 2016-03-07 08.51.12

 


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