Many Projects vs One Project

For years, I’ve had multiple projects going on at once. When I’m working, I usually have a main project, a secondary project, and occasional short stories and poetry. Recently, I’ve been having trouble with my memory. On top of the “brain fog” already associated with the disease, I’ve attributed the short-term memory problems to my medication. Though the rheumatologist says no, the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center says it hasn’t been studied enough but there is a good bit of anecdotal evidence. Still, probably going to talk it over with my regular doctor next time I see her. And I was just bumped up to the max dose too. I’m finding that, with my new limits, I’m having to restructure my process. One project at a time.

It’s frustrating to me as I’m really accustomed to being able to flip back and forth at will except in November where I’m more interested in hammering out a solid zero draft in 30 days than I am in getting anything else done. I don’t feel like I’m getting as much done and I already feel like there’s no way to be able to tell all the stories in my head in this lifetime and new stories keep showing up in there! My actual productive word count is still down from my normal count, or what was my normal. But I’m definitely getting closer. Honestly, I’m just glad I can type right again! It’s still a little bit slower but it is what it is.

Yesterday I did a read through of the zero draft of Hunter’s Hell and the first portion of the first draft where I stopped everything to get Christmas in Bear Ridge written. I like where it’s at and I don’t think it’ll take me too terribly long to finish it. Maybe I’ll even get it done by November and get myself a new zero draft of something altogether different. I’ll just have to stay working one at a time for a while. Part of me is a little sad because I have so many shiny new ideas waiting but maybe, doing this, I’ll find I get more done. Here’s hoping anyway.

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Writer Wednesday: Genre

I’m an opportunistic writer. I write whatever is in my head or heart without a thought to how it fits in the designated categories until later. I read the same way. I don’t much care what genre it is if it looks interesting. That’s not to say I’m not drawn to specific things in both writing and reading, because I am, but unless I’m writing to a specific market or publisher, I’m not going to limit myself to just this one portion of the stories in my head for consistency’s sake.

It used to be that the advice was to pick a genre and stick to it for the sake of your “writer brand”. This always made me sad though because I have so many different stories to write. In the broadest sense of the word, I suppose I do stick to a category of genre in that I do tend toward fantasy, science fiction, horror, and several of the subgenres therein, but it’s actually a goal of mine to get a book published in nearly every genre. I don’t see myself doing a non-fiction book at this juncture in my life but that could change. I won’t ever say never.

Some authors do this very well and very successfully using multiple pen names. I’m pretty sure these authors have a marketing staff to run each name’s social media too 0r, when it gets to be too much, they arrange to out their pen name so everyone knows who it is anyway (Stephen King/Richard Bachman and Nora Roberts/JD Robb come to mind here).

Marketing and Branding are hard enough without the genre stuff, it’s something I’m certainly still learning and working on. I may discover, down the road, that I’ve shot myself in the foot but I suppose we’ll see. I’ve already written enough short fiction in multiple genres under my own name to really sort of preclude using a pseudonym (unless someone smarter than me – future agent, publisher, marketing guru whatever tells me I’m wrong).

If my stories have anything in common, it’s that these are the stories I want to read. That and most of my leads are orphans because they do have that in common too. Right now, my leads are people, of various genders and races and planets of origin, who are just figuring out just how strong they can be and that relationships aren’t weaknesses.

I think I’d rather be a multigenre author and tell all my stories. What do you think?

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A Bit of Good News

This month has been quite the roller coaster. The downs were really low but the ups are pretty darn high!

Christmas In Bear Ridge will be coming this holiday season from Boroughs Publishing Group! I really like this story but it is something a bit different for me. All the myth and magic and romance and, somehow, nobody gets themselves murdered. There are a lot of parts that I really love and I can’t wait for people to get a chance to read it! You should meet Death’s favorite psychopomp too.

Seriously, this book has everything (and it takes everything in me NOT to hear that in Stefan’s voice), so, watch this space for release dates and such!

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My Cas

In his Jar of Dirt

I had to say goodbye to my cat, Castiel today. My heart is a little bit more broken. When he showed up in my backyard 5 years ago, he wouldn’t let me get within 15 feet of him. Now, there’s an empty place on my porch where he should be. He hated being inside, being locked in small spaces. The one and only time I ever got him in a cat carrier prior to today was when it was going to be -50 with windchill a few winters ago. He cried nonstop until I let him out and didn’t come home but to eat, and only when I wasn’t there, for three days after that. Today, I put him in a carrier with barely a meow. Other people picked him up and prodded him and he didn’t even wiggle let alone try to get away. But truly, I knew on Wednesday what the outcome would be, even if I didn’t know why.

As it turns out, my beautiful boy was really really sick and has been for probably his whole life.

He’d lost a lot of weight too fast, he was pale, lethargic, not terribly interested in eating, and we’re pretty sure he was mostly deaf and blind at the end but we don’t know for sure. The vet did some blood work and instead of a nice round 29-48, my baby’s hematocrit was 3. It’s a miracle he made it home to me at all. I’m so glad he did. It’s so so much worse not knowing. It’s so much worse looking at every little furry body on the side of the road, every circle of buzzards or crows, and wondering. I’ve done that before too. I did what was best for him and held him as he passed.

My Cas

I don’t know how old he was or where he came from. I know he’d been through some horrible things, just given how he responded to people. I know he preferred eating the birds and giving me the mice and moles. I know he knew how much I love him. And I know how much he loved me too. I know he didn’t want to go but he was scared and hurting. He fought hard to get home. I’m just glad I was able to give him a home for as long as we did.

I’ll miss him a lot. ❤

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Writer Wednesday – Value

I don’t understand why but people seem to think a writer’s time is worth nothing. No one would walk into a department store and think they can walk out with a silk shirt for nothing but they see no problem at all ripping an ebook from whatever site has put them up and never once think about the writer they’re hurting. And they are absolutely hurting the writer, and not just that writer either. There are plenty of free books out there. They might not always be consistently good quality but they are absolutely available via authors, publishers, and booksellers. Most authors have giveaways and contests if you really can’t see your way to buying a book. Libraries have untold numbers of books available to borrow any time! There are perfectly legitimate ways to read for free!

Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. Using my own books and process as an example, let’s say I put 600 hours minimum writing and editing a single book (and I think that’s probably low), I don’t make minimum wage on a book until I reach 2175 books sold. Not a liveable wage, minimum wage. I’ve got two kids and college is on the horizon, looming large. Every single sale matters. Honestly, thank goodness my husband has a real job or I couldn’t afford to be doing this in the first place.

But some people don’t think a book is worth $5 (only a fraction of which actually goes to the writer). They don’t think a book is worth a dime. They don’t care about the ramifications of their actions, only that they get what they want when they want and offer it up to the next guy because why should anyone pay for the media they consume.

It breaks my heart to know that people who matter to me think so little of the work I do. It breaks my heart more that the people who matter most to me won’t even speak up when other people are talking about book piracy. The big names, maybe a missed sale or two doesn’t matter so much to them but if you’ll pirate the big names, you’ll pirate the not so big names, and you’ll definitely pirate the authors that no one has ever heard of.

My time matters. It’s worth something. Your time matters. It’s also worth something. Why should I, or any writer, be expected to put hundreds of hours into something only to give it away or at least not complain when other people steal it. It’s upsetting and, quite frankly, insulting. If you don’t want to buy a book – don’t buy it. Go to the library, wait for the promotional freebie, but quit stealing.

Authors who read this – if you’ve got experience on this, please share your story. Maybe if people come to realize that these names they see are actually people, maybe then they’ll stop. I know, probably not, but a girl can hope.

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A Breather!

Christmas in Bear Ridge is finished and I’m super happy about that. Hopefully, my readers will be too, when it’s ready. I’ll be getting back to my other books here soon enough but this weekend is crazy busy and I think I need a little brain flossing. So, I’ll read a book instead of writing one and paint the big blue can I bought at a yard sale for umbrellas and my canes. The problem is that I have no idea what I want to put on it. I can make it pretty or I can make it interesting or I can make it fit with the rest of my weird and cover it with comic book pages. Or I can do something sort of like my shoes. Or I can continue my pattern of late and slap a raven on it. The husband says to decorate it with famous people who used canes but I’m not good at people and the only people I can think of are fictitious and Scrooge, John Hammond, and Willie Wonka.

My father-in-law is having a bit of a thing this weekend and the family is coming in from all over. I come from a teeny tiny family and I married into an enormous one – it’s a bit unnerving sometimes for me. I always worry because I can’t keep names straight when my brain is working right let alone when I’m having short term memory problems. But, I’m going to at least try to make my house presentable just in case people show up here at the house. I’d rather sit here and write but, it is what it is! Maybe I’ll crank up the record player and see just how much I can get done before munchings and crunchings.

Monday is soon enough to get back on track to get three books finished this year. I’ve got one down, two to go and I’ve got a decent start.

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Writer Wednesday – Goldilocks Zone

In science, it’s that perfect place in space between the star and the planet to best offer a chance at life. For my purposes, it’s that perfect balance between descriptive and bogged down. This is one of those moments where it’s good to remember that you will never make every reader happy. I used to have one writer/critique partner who was never happy with my descriptions, she always wanted more whereas I would get slogged down in her descriptions and had to fight the urge to skim them. It is very much a personal preference in both reading and writing. And it is an element that goes a long way to define a writer’s style.

Pick up a couple of your favorite books and find the first description of their main characters. Compare them. Find a book you didn’t care for and do the same. I’d lay odds that there is a lot of similarities in how the authors of your favorite books describe things and a world of difference between them and the other book. Some people really need to be told every tiny detail and some writers need to tell it that way. For me, if it isn’t integral to the plot, I don’t think I need to take the detail down to a certain level. Does the reader really need to know what pattern of china it is? It probably doesn’t matter to the story if the china is Noritake or Wedgwood and, to be perfectly honest, a lot of people don’t know the difference anyway. I am a sparse writer in the description category but when I do describe something in detail, there’s a reason for it beyond the fact that it’s pretty, either to the plot or the character.

Just because I don’t like the every stitch and brick style of description doesn’t mean that other people don’t. I tend to skim when it gets to be too much for me. My inner movie likes to be able to infer some details anyway. I am a minimalist anyway but I also tend to write stores that move at a pretty fast clip where laying down a few paragraphs of description would feel like throwing down spikes to the pacing. Sure, when I read I’ll sometimes find a writer who I want to grow up to be more like and I’ll take note of what they did that I like so much. Not everything fits me and my own style but styles mature over time and with experience. The book I wrote in high school would be a very different thing if I tried writing it again now (I have no intention of doing that, the plot is full of logical problems).

There are people who will say that you have to make sure every scene touches all the senses. I don’t disagree but I don’t think you need to set the table so obviously. Touch on all the senses, sure, but maybe you don’t need to describe each dish on the table when only two or three of them matter to the story. For me, I strive to find the middle ground between what I want to read and what that old critique partner of mine wanted me to write. I figure my Goldilocks zone is somewhere between those places. Where does yours sit? If you take the time to figure that out, you’ll be a better writer for it.

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June Wrap Up, July Goals

Niagara Falls from the American side (image: Sarah Wagner)

Another month has come to an end… This year just keeps on moving along. June was pretty good overall. It’s been just about the busiest month I’ve had in a very long time and I managed to do almost all of the things. I got the beta draft of Christmas in Bear Ridge finished and off to two quick readers while I muscle through polishing edits and description fluffing. My only real goal is to get Bear Ridge sent off to the editor. Once that’s done, I’ll happily get back to Hunter’s Hell and Gods of the Fallen and Eldercynne Knight. All of them are needing to get themselves finished.

In June, I wrote 23,037 words, completed the beta draft of Christmas in Bear Ridge, went camping in New England, I sent 0 submissions out, got two rejections in, wrote up four Face Off Recaps for the four episodes that have run so far (still my favorite game show on TV), cleaned and organized the youngest child’s room, and somehow only lost 1.5 pounds. That last one makes me so stinking mad. I’ve been doing better on not eating a bunch of stupid stuff, moving more, walked SO much of the freedom trail my whole body is still hurting, and I only lost 1.5 pounds. ugh. I do know it was probably all the sitting during all the driving (1400+ miles) and things like crabcake blts (omg, seriously. Amazing!).

July should have a bigger word count, once I get my edits finished but I don’t know how long that is going to take. I’m going to hope for as many words as June and far less missed days but since I don’t think we’re headed to another campground this month, I should be ahead of the game on that. Mostly, I’ll be happy if I can manage that, a revamp of the etsy shop, AND actually lose 5 pounds.

Mid-month, I have an appointment with the rheumatologist. It’s looking like he’s probably going to end up messing with the medications. I’m in a much better place than I was last year at this time but my bloodwork isn’t showing it so much and I’m still struggling at the end of more days than I’d like. Hopefully, shifting that around will help eliminate my crazy short-term memory problems and maybe even get one with a side effect that’s beneficial, like weight loss (fingers crossed all the ways). If nothing changes at all, I’m still in a place that’s much more liveable than it could be so I’ll make the best of it.

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Camping in New England

Big Agnes Big House 6 Tent

The last few days, I’ve been away. I’ve been camping of all things. There’s a lot I want to unpack about that. Camping is not something I actively enjoy but it is something I will do if it means I get to see the ocean or go places that I love. It is one of the things my husband likes to do on purpose, just for camping. This year it was a bit different than it’s been in the past as there were more things to take into consideration, mostly my rheumatoid arthritis.

I struggle to get up off the floor so sleeping on the ground wasn’t really going to work for me which meant we had to get a cot. Getting a cot meant we needed a bigger tent. Thank goodness for REI’s garage sale! We got a great deal on the Big Agnes Big House 6 which fit the four of us with two cots (and two people over 6 foot tall) very comfortably. I slept in a sleeping bag, on a yoga mat, on a cot and when I had the right temperature bag, it wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t sleeping in my bed but it was definitely workable for a few nights.

The American side of Niagara Falls was interesting and beautiful and crowded. Our first campground was in New York. Mostly an RV park where people must come pretty regularly for the season. One RV was even getting a newspaper delivered if the post outside was any indication. It was really cute and well maintained though. After that, we headed off to Winter Island Park in Salem, Ma. If you’re reading this, I really need you to buy my books and have your friends do the same. I want to retire in Salem. Maybe open a bookstore or just write more books. I love it there. It feels like I could belong there. It’s marvelous up there. And I’ve never seen a more dog-friendly city in my life! There were bowls of water out on the sidewalks, every fourth person had a dog with them (and my oldest took pictures of ALL OF THEM).

Moray Eel at Boston Aquarium

We hopped down to Boston and did part of the Freedom Trail. I could not manage to do the whole thing. If you have mobility issues – do yourself a favor and get the trolley tour. Walking it is very hard and those cobbles are beautiful but hard on the feet and joints. We did the Aquarium first and then Faneuil Hall (both the market and the museum portion) before heading to the Old North Church. We finished off at the USS Constitution which was super neat. We had some great food – bacon wrapped scallops, fried calamari, crab cake BLTs (seriously!). We had some terrible coffee – instant Starbucks isn’t any better than regular Starbucks, somehow they make everything taste burnt to me! but the Alpine instant stuff from REI really wasn’t bad.

I bought less than I expected and certainly less of the sorts of things I expected. I did find a Funko Ludo and I love him so the marvelous husband bought him for me. And a silver raven skull necklace. I’m having a thing for corvids right now – especially ravens and crows. Perhaps I’m in transition, perhaps they’re being my muse. Whatever, it’s a thing in my life right now so it made it all the more special.

Winter island lighthouse

We also went through the House of Seven Gables. Let me tell you, there has never been a face so full of joy and wonder as my oldest son’s when they opened up that particular staircase. I live for moments like that. Oldest child had some preconceived notions of some things and was mostly using Fallout for his touchstone but it’s pretty interesting watching the kids learn stuff. The youngest child wasn’t really interested in that part but maybe someday he’ll figure it out. It’s not like he’s going to forget any time soon.

We drove through our old stomping grounds in part so the oldest boy could take a look at Wesleyan in Connecticut and in part because it’s quite the walk down memory lane for us. We even made it to our first apartment building. I definitely wouldn’t mind if the boy ended up in New England. It’d be a great excuse to visit.

 

 

 

Young Komodo Dragon at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland

Coming home, we stopped at Clyde Peeling’s Reptiland. It’s a really cute but very small zoo devoted to reptiles. They have two – TWO – young Komodo dragons which just so happen to be my husband’s favorite things ever. Pretty sure he feels about them the way I do about octopus and ravens. We had a good time until the birds (where my husband and oldest son proved that they might just be Disney Princesses). My youngest son is autistic and tends to be quite literal. People kept trying to hand him seed sticks to feed the birds and he’d get mad because he thought they were trying to feed him and he’s not a bird (he also doesn’t really like to touch animals that aren’t his critters so much). I’m used to explaining to him when he misunderstands. I’m used to explaining to other people when he misunderstands. I am not used to strange women grabbing me by the shoulders and explaining, very forcefully, that they understand. My brain completely blanked and all I could say was thank you. I appreciate the sentiment greatly (especially the day after) but really, I’m not a fan of people in my space bubble and I’m especially not happy when people are touching me. I don’t know how she wanted me to respond but I don’t think I did it right, I sort of fled. Ok, not sort of, I did flee. Youngest kid and I went out to the gift shop while the other two were playing with parakeets.

Winter Island Park

The most annoying part of the trip though is the fact that we did ALL that walking, none of the snacking, and I managed somehow to stay the exact same weight. That’s some real BS right there. Sure some of what we ate, especially on the way home, wasn’t maybe the best for weight loss but still, I really thought there’d be some drop. And I still have to do all the laundry.

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Writer Wednesday – Yog’s Law, Scammers, and Tricksy Hobbitses

Simply put, Yog’s Law states that money should always flow to the writer. When you’re first starting out and don’t know the ins and outs, this is an important lesson to learn. Over the last decade, scammers have gotten a bit more clever I think but if you follow the law, you’re not going to find yourself a victim of them.

This post started in my head after seeing yet another commercial for what can only be the world’s next Publish America (beware: if you start reading the threads and blogs, you could lose days.) I get that everyone wants the validation that publication offers and it’s an amazingly heady thing to receive an acceptance letter and it can be hard to come to terms with the fact that maybe that letter isn’t entirely on the up-and-up. It’s hard to get rejected and so easy to get sucked into the idea that everyone is out to keep new ideas and new writers from succeeding but, I promise you, they’re not. New and good writers are still and always sought after, even by those companies with stables full of superstars.

If a publisher offers you a contract and then asks for upfront fees, don’t sign. Agents and publishers and all the other people involved, they want you to succeed as they make more money when you make more money. Author mills make their money from their authors who are encouraged to buy so many books to peddle at wherever they choose (usually to family and friends).

Self-publishing doesn’t change the law, but it is a bit tricky because one person is both author and publisher. As a publisher, they do have to lay out funds for editors, covers, and various expenses. As an author, they should be banking their 15% (or whatever).

A few easy marks of a less than legit publisher or agent: 1. They email you entirely unsolicited, talking about the next big thing in publishing and how they’re just waiting for your book or whatever language they’re using now. 2. If you visit the website, it’s less about attracting readers to new books and more about attracting new writers. 3. Any mention of any big movie star just waiting to play the lead in your story. There are a lot of steps between submitting a book and landing any sort of movie deal, let alone with anyone like Julia Roberts.

There are a lot of good places to get information to avoid the scammers and less than upfront or ideal practices. My first Go-To to check on publications, publishers, and agents is the Absolute Write Bewares and Background Checks portion of their forum. My second check is over at Writer Beware. Preditors and Editors is a good one but it seems to be restructuring.

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