family, health, writing

Hello from the Other Side…

So, this past week the Muffin and I were sick. Really sick. The sort of can’t-breathe-can’t-sleep-can’t-eat-for-coughing sick. BLEHHHHH.

It was a very, very hard week. There were times I literally could not get off the couch, or recliner, or floor. The snot was an uphill battle. The aches and chills made me fear for the safety of my joints. Sleep was a rare, precious gem.

I have not been that sick in quite some time.

Muffin did not make the process of getting better very easy. He was a massive pain in the rear. He wouldn’t nap, or blow his nose, or stop throwing a tantrum when we asked him to let us wipe up the snot. (At least he cooperated for the doctor.)

There was a lot of other crap going on, too. We were out of everything, at once. (Doesn’t that always happen, though?) The weather — thanks to recent hurricanes — was downright miserable until yesterday. Since Muffin and I weren’t sleeping well, tempers were short.

All of this combined meant that by Thursday, I was utterly exhausted.

I did manage to post a couple pre-scheduled blogs, and keep up on my social media, and even engage with others a little (in the form of comments), partly to keep my own sanity. But there was far too much else that I had to let slide.

I have packages to mail that won’t be going out until next week. Future blog posts are definitely up for debate.

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And my plan of completing the Volume 2 revisions this week went completely out the window.

And although I know there was a very good reason for it, I still feel bad.

After all, I have been trying to finish this particular story since April, and I really wanted to get all the plot holes filled up and the characters flushed out by October 1st. So that I can do NaNo if I want to. Also because there are people eagerly awaiting Volume 2. I know this for a fact, as they’ve told me. (And not to sound intensely selfish, but I am not made of a money-growing tree, and some sales would be nice.)

But after this week, I’ve begun to rethink a few things.

The concept of attempting NaNo this year feels equivalent to Frodo and Mount Doom and the One Ring. Or escaping Smaug without getting fried to a crisp. Or winning the Scorpio Races. You get the idea. I am quickly realizing that to spend my November on a brand new, timed-down-to-the-wire project would not be wise.

Last year, I was honestly really proud of myself for finishing NaNo (although my family was not supportive in the slightest after the end of week 2, and in fact became a major pain in the neck — #sorrynotsorry for saying that out loud). But this year — which I was originally expecting to be easier — is now seeming like an even greater monster.

However, I do have writing to accomplish. At least the bare bones of Volume 3 and the companion prequel to the series. And I know that having the deadline of NaNo helps inspire the discipline to create something and get it into some formation.

BUUUUT…

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When something happens like getting hit with an unexpected flu, something that is easily fixed in the grand scale of things, and yet in the moment completely throws off your whole schedule and leaves you scrambling to pick up the pieces those first few days, it makes you remember what you’re really trying to accomplish.

This isn’t a huge philosophical statement (it was just a week of upper respiratory misery). But seeing how my whole household nearly came crashing down just because I was out of commission (which is not a good thing in itself — don’t take your mothers/wives for granted, guys) made me feel that the burden is simply too heavy.

So, this fall, I will make sure Volume 2 becomes the best it can be. And I won’t guilt myself into entering a writing contest.

Or stress out about my blog stats.

Or sign up for any more ARCs. Or panic if I haven’t reviewed every single book I’ve ever finished on Goodreads.

Really. I swear.

You get the idea.

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community, writing

Indie Authors Do’s and Don’t’s

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Is there any one surefire way to get people to read your self-published work? Nope, sorry. Are there certain things that do seem to work better than other approaches, though? That’d be a yup.

Not that I’m a huge expert (only 5 months after printing my debut novel), but I’ve found that are particular methods to writing and marketing that will help set your publication apart from the masses, and encourage readers to spend their hard-earned money on it.

DO network and interact with other indie authors. Finding connections on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress or Blogspot, and all the online communities is very important. Word of mouth does sell books for us independents. A handful of detailed reviews on Goodreads or Amazon can really push people towards choosing our title over a bunch of other available options.

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DON’T spam people to read your book. Only Tweeting about your latest release, only subscribing to others whose messages include the “am writing” hashtag, so you can DM them with a very brash, “Hey, you exist, so buy my books!”, will tick people off. Building personal associations with potential readers first, then politely asking if they’re interested in reviewing your work, generally goes down very well.

DO write your story in a unique, unfamiliar way. Many readers are honestly tired of the usual tropes of genre fiction, and hungry for something different. They are more likely to try an unknown author advertising a tale or style that doesn’t sound like all the new novels released last year, than another same-old-same-old by a traditional publishing company playing to a worn-out formula.

DON’T worry about being the next JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman, or Maggie Stiefvater. Number one — none of these authors got to be who they are now overnight. Number two — their writing styles and stories are unique to who they are as authors and as people. So there’s no pressure to become an amazing literary master — or someone you simply aren’t. Your readers will appreciate your style and story if it’s coming from a real place.

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DO take the time to edit your manuscripts thoroughly. Are we all human, and going to make mistakes now and then? Of course. But when it comes to first impressions, let’s be realistic and understand that most people aren’t going to say, “Oh, well, they’re only human,” after they hit the 125th typo in your published book. A few (literally, under 10) scattered throughout a self-edited work (by someone who most likely is not a professional proofreader) won’t really irk most readers. But much more than that, and it can make following your story more (unnecessarily) difficult, and may cause people to wonder how important their satisfaction was to you — translating into lower sales (when it could be avoided).

DON’T ignore others’ feedback. No one wants to be told that somebody thought their work was about as interesting as watching paint dry. But when you’re going through the beta-reading process or ARC reviews, if several people regularly note the same thing as giving them trouble, you might want to pay attention. Not that you absolutely have to do what others suggest for your work. It can definitely help your sales, though, if you make some tweaks that reflect common critiques. (This is also why you ask for beta-readers prior to printing. It can be a massive help!)

DO have fun with the whole self-publishing thing. Since you’re not traditionally published, that means you’re not fulfilling a contract or getting paid a large sum of money to write, so that usually indicates you are undertaking this endeavor purely for the joy of completing your work and sharing it with others. And if it’s not fun, then, in this instance, what’s the point?

Yes, becoming a published author (even doing it by yourself) is a big deal, and a real rush (I won’t lie). But although we are after fame and fortune (at least a little!), we also are trying to tell a story, and if other people think it’s awesome sauce, that’s even better.

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blogging, community, writing

Two Tags in One (Be Impressed…)

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…because these will be the only tags I do this year. Remember, the thing about time not growing on trees.

But it has been suggested that my readers would be interested in my answers to the Strangest Browser Searches and Writing Rituals tags.

(And I could use an easy post. There are other things going on behind the scenes that are making my life a bit challenging.)

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Honestly, I don’t consider most of my browser searches (for writing) to be that strange. Usually it consists of topics like, “what do you call the daughter of a Countess?” and “depiction of faeries in art”. Once I looked up “which colors to wear if you’re blonde/brunette/redheaded” for a scene where Sophie and Gwen were getting ready for a party, and I was drawing a complete blank on how they would have been dressed.

Most of my searches include things like the correct spelling of Gallifrey (the Doctor’s home planet) and Minecraft stuff (to make sure I get those references right — and even then, I have to double check it with White Fang).

Once I did have to look up Coeur D’Alene, Idaho (because that’s Amelia’s last name, and while I had a general knowledge of the city’s history, I wanted to make sure of the facts.)

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Now the questions for the Writing Rituals tag:

When do you write? (time of day, day of week)

Whenever I can. Though I’ve found better ideas tend to happen earlier in the day.

How do you seclude yourself from the outside world?

Give me a moment to look at this question with the most sarcasm that can be put into an expression. There is no such thing.


How do you review what you wrote the previous day?

With extreme caution. No, it’s usually not that bad. Generally I read the last page or so of what I wrote last the day before, to remind myself where I was and what the plan is.


What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired?

Lately “Meet Me in the Woods” by Lord Huron and my guilty-pleasure-80s-classics (like Def Leppard and The Cure).

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What do you always do (i.e. listen to music, read, watch youtube, etc.) when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block?

Avoid writing, generally (ha, ha). Sometimes I’ll focus on reading or blogging more. Every once in a while, bingeing on a favorite movie or TV show gives me that spark of inspiration.


What tools do you use when you’re writing?

Only the software or the pen and paper, sometimes music, sometimes a movie. (Yes, those count, in big ways, trust me.)


What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session?

TEA.


How do you fuel yourself during your writing session?

See above. Also, the creative input part of music, etc. And taking breaks during the process is very important. Trying to force yourself to sit still and pour forth words when you’re just not feeling it won’t do any good. Taking 10 minutes to throw that laundry in the dryer and empty the dishwasher can make the difference between breaking writer’s block and staying stuck in it.


How do you know when you’re done writing?

I am never done writing, never, mwhahaha… Usually, it’s when the story seems to have reached a natural conclusion. At least for that installment (since I am apparently incapable of writing a stand-alone novel; maybe one day I’ll try).

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blogging, writing

Why I’m Minimizing My Online Presence

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No, I’m not announcing a hiatus or something like that. By this title, I’m strictly discussing my choice not to use certain types of social media and how much energy I expend on particular sorts of networking.

And there are very good reasons for this.

I am not starting an account on Instagram, Wattpad, Tumblr, or any additional websites on which I do not already exist in some capacity. There are simply not enough hours in the day, sir, ma’am, to throw more into my current schedule, shake it up, and hope that the result is not a hot mess of epic proportions.

While I am aware of the possible benefits to my advertising and marketing that expanding my social media platforms might produce, I am also painfully aware that doing so would require more effort and brainpower on my part. I am not a robot, I cannot come up with amazing content every single day. Hence I don’t want to put myself under that sort of pressure.

Not having my head explode is a bit more important than learning to use my son’s camera or push people to stalk websites hunting down my account.

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I’m not going to fret over the number of Tweets I post per week, how many Facebook things I liked last month, or panic because it’s been 23 minutes since my Goodreads update and no one seems to have noticed. Not freaking out over the fact that you’re not the next internet celebrity is important to maintaining a good self-image. Just because we don’t have 1500 subscribers does not mean we aren’t valuable or worthwhile beings that have beautiful contributions to make to the world.

In some ways, numbers matter. Like, when it comes to book sales. It matters at least a little. Especially when you’re trying to make money. #thestruggleisreal  But it truly is not the end of everything if you never make the NYTimes Bestseller List.

Building a community of readers, supporters, and minions makes life as a self-published author a lot easier. Though we need to keep the crux of the biscuit in main focus as we create our masterpieces — that our sales total cannot qualify the emotional effect our writing may have had on our fans. #drinkingthetearsofmyreaders

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Speaking of writing — I need to concentrate on that more than being on the internet. This is something that all indie authors have issues with: We’re honestly trying to make our word count or page goal for that day. We hit a slight wall (maybe it’s constructed of tin foil?), and decide to take a break. 10 minutes to check our notifications, we firmly proclaim. 35 minutes later…and we’re still on Pinterest.

Sometimes this is all right. Seriously, no one can work ALL the time. However, if this becomes a habit, then it turns bad. Eventually we’ll fall behind on our weekly plans, then we end up pushing back a whole project, and then we’re setting a precedent that could snowball into unfinished works, ignoring deadlines, and just turning our back on something we may regret not finishing.

Anyway, although I am honestly smacking the tin foil wall right now when it comes to completing Volume 2, I am not going to sit around feeling sorry for myself for an indeterminate amount of time. I’m developing a set deadline for being done with the revisions and moving on to the edits, and then to starting a new project.

Because, remember, I have a fear of dying without having written all of my series.

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Unfortunately, there is a lot of negativity around online, and too much of it in my personal space stresses me out. Luckily, I haven’t been the direct target of true nastiness. But some of us have, and we know how ugly it can get. And it makes us want to run and hide (and yes, we are adults). It reminds me of the whole reason I use a pen name and don’t tell anyone exactly where I’m from and indicate that I am actually a Warriors cat in disguise.

Even when I’m not the target, it worries me to see how terrible people can be with each other — when one of the great things about the internet is the chance to connect with one another. Connect, folks, not attack. Aren’t we supposed to be growing in tolerance and awareness? Hint: Yes, we are.

Anyway, I’m trying to avoid unnecessary stressors in my life, and this falls under that.

In short: I have enough on my plate. I should finish my current works in progress. I don’t accept that the haters are gonna hate, and I’d like to be nowhere near it.

Here’s to achieving at least some of this.

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books, writing

How to Write Your Book Like a Movie

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No, not literally like a movie — sorry, guys, if you want screenplay/script writing advice, this isn’t that post.

I mean: When you write your novel, it really helps to have ongoing visuals happening simultaneously in your mind’s eye. Description is important — but it’s also important to descript in a way that doesn’t overwhelm your readers.

As not just a writer but a reader myself, I’ve come across more than my fair share of novels that simply felt far too wordy. And as a writer, I try really hard to avoid typical problems that readers moan over.

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One of those is 17 paragraphs in a row that use 9-syllable adjectives to sum up: “The marketplace sat in the middle of the town square, lit by gas-fueled streetlights and filled with vendors selling baked goods and weapons.”

A method I employ to hopefully set the scene without releasing a plague of purple prose is imagining each chapter in my novel as the film version. I think about what the characters are doing (body language, facial expressions, physical actions), the tone of their voices, what they’re wearing (even if I don’t mention it in the text), what building/room/outside setting they’re in, how that looks (again, not necessarily telling the reader every tiny detail).

This really helps engage my effort and passion for the story. Writing is work, whether we want to admit it or not. And if we want others to read it and enjoy it (not simply to pay us, either), we should do our best to ensure our product is realistic.

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When you watch a movie, all the relevant information is straight there on the screen. The directors make sure that you get a sense of what’s happening in that moment by including not just the major stuff (like trees if the characters are in a forest), but little touches (like a child’s drawings on the refrigerator door of a grandmother’s kitchen).

Thinking about stuff like that when you’re writing can add a great deal to your story.

Remember, though, going overboard isn’t great. Finding the balance is key.

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Here’s an actual example from Masters and Beginners: “It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was a pleasant late summer’s evening, shortly after sunset, the sky a rich navy
blue, stars beginning to twinkle in the distance. In a pleasant subdivision, residents were settling in for the night. In a tent pitched on one of the well-mowed lawns was a group of
four teenage girls, in their pajamas and sleeping bags, currently finding out who could come up with the scariest scary story.”

I don’t need to go into which day of the week it is, exactly what hour and minute, the color of each girl’s pajamas, and the average square footage of the houses in the subdivision.

However, if I had only written, “There was a tent in a backyard and 4 girls were having a sleepover,” it might not be enough to give the reader a proper idea of what’s going on.

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Good movies rely on the “show don’t tell” guideline of entertainment. I don’t mean never revealing the vital plot points directly to the audience. But revealing small clues through the discreet look one character gives another, a letter that someone reads but doesn’t put in front of the camera, the shot that pans around to the vase that was supposedly broken after the owner has left the room. You get the idea.

This is an excellent tip for writers of any medium. Personally, I love it. And I love reading novels that use it, too.

Hope this helps some of you struggling with description and balance. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

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Fantasy fiction, The Invisible Moth, writing

The Re-release Is Now A Thing!

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Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee….

(Yes, this was my actual response. White Fang was not amused.)

I put this on Twitter and Goodreads right away (though I am still waiting for Goodreads to approve me wanting to make changes to Volume 1’s page). But this second edition — new cover, with blurb on the back, but all the same story — is now alive and well through Nook Press.

If you go to this link: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/masters-and-beginners-daley-downing/1126998956?ean=9781538033111 , you should be able to find instructions on how to obtain your copy!

If you already purchased a first edition from me, here are some things to note: 

As far as content goes, the only thing that’s changed is the cover. Nothing different with the story. (I know this is a concern for some readers of self-published works.)

If you would like to acquire this second edition, I’ve set the price at a very reasonable $7.95. Even with Barnes and Noble charging shipping, it should still come to about the same or less than the $15 I charge. (And B&N can take all sorts of credit and debit cards, and will send you a fancy receipt and professional packaging. #thechallengesofbeinganindieauthor)

I do still have copies available with the Toby cover. If you would like one of those, please contact me! (Check the sidebar and top menu of my homepage.)

Since this is a re-release, there will be no “ARCs” as such. But there will be a giveaway on this blog coming up in the near future.

And of course I am so tremendously grateful for all your help and support so far!!! Here’s to continued success and sharing the love!

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community, reading, writing

The Fear of Missing Out: The Bookdragon Edition

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“The Fear Of Missing Out” is apparently a real thing. Nah, come on! Don’t we have more self-esteem than that?! Who cares if we haven’t heard of this band, or that actor, missed that TV show, skipped this movie, didn’t read that book…

Er, hang on a minute there.

Here are some very valid things bookdragons are concerned with when it comes to being afraid of missing bookish stuff:

All your friends loved this novel/series, but you just can’t get into it. Yes, it is totally okay to have a different opinion, even from the people you’re close to. But when you seem to be the only person in your life that doesn’t appreciate a certain trilogy or author, it can be a bit…almost lonely.

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You come across titles written by your favorite author(s) that you had no idea existed. This can come as a real shock to the senses. How can you even claim to be a fan? How is it possible that this knowledge escaped your attention? And how quickly can you catch up?

There’s a genre that you try and try and it just doesn’t mesh with you, and it’s on fire right now, so it’s taking over all the sales this year. That makes it more complicated for those of us who would like to find new titles not belonging to this genre of the moment. I don’t know about you, but I’m not about to spend my meager book budget on releases that will simply test my patience and make me have buyers’ remorse.

You can’t afford merchandise based on your favorite series. Honestly, I don’t have to own throw pillows and tote bags and coffee mugs emblazoned with characters and dialog quotes and cover logos for every single novel I’ve ever enjoyed. But sometimes it would be nice to have just one or two.

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It’s really hard when you don’t like a book you were really, really hoping to like. Okay, compared to losing a job or finding out your car is totaled after that minor accident, it’s not that hard. But when you have a lot of emotional energy invested in a project — yes, even reading a novel — and it doesn’t pan out the way you had anticipated… Well, when you’re someone who thinks and analyzes and introspects a fair amount (hands up out there — be brave, only I can see you, I promise), this can be a big deal. (Trust me, it’s a big deal.)

Re-reading an old favorite can lead to the discovery that you no longer like it. This has actually happened to me in recent months. It was devastating. (You hush, yes, it was.) Now I don’t know what to do with those selections, their space on my shelves, how I might feel later if I actually got rid of them… The dilemma ensues.

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Sometimes publishers consider it necessary to release immediate sequels in a different size to the original, or to change the covers from country to country. This is very frustrating when you’re trying to get all the titles in a series to match because the universe will end if you do not. Or when you actually like the covers for a foreign nation better than the ones available in your own home town. Is it just me, or do we all agree that publishers need to take fans’ feelings more into account? Grrr…

Occasionally, an author that you love decides to write something that you just cannot stomach. Believe me, this is heartbreaking. Yeah, there are other types of tragedies in the world, like losing your phone or forgetting that coupon for Bath and Body Works until after you’ve left the mall. When you feel betrayed by one of your previously favorite authors, though, this ranks right up there.

(Has anybody seen the episode of “Spaced” where Simon Pegg burns all his Star Wars stuff after The Phantom Menace comes out? It’s like that.)

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