Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Beginnings, Endings, and Insecurities

For me, self-doubt as a writer is most likely to come at the beginnings and ends of projects. I’m a pantser, so even though I plan a few landmarks or key scenes before I start, laying a path of words between these scenes isn’t always easy. I need to spend most of my writing time figuring out what happens before I can even find the right words to type. The final stage of publishing a book, going through it yet again to find typos and missing punctuation, can be even worse. Rereading my stories makes me question everything about them. Do I really need this description? This sentence, paragraph, or scene? Will anyone want to read this? If they do, will they hate it?

I happen to be experiencing both types of insecurity at the same time. I’m finishing a fantasy series I started twenty years ago. It’s exciting, but I worry if it’s really ready for the world. I’ve also started the first book in an urban fantasy series. Although I did write out a rough outline first, the story is heading off in different directions from what I had envisioned.

I’ve written enough books by now to have faith in my process. The first draft may be a sprawling mess of inconsistencies, but I can revise it into something better. The final-stage doubt, when you’ve read the story so much you’re sick of it, is more insidious. After all, no matter how much you review your story or who you get to critique it, it will never be perfect, and it will never please everyone. When you’re still building an audience, you may have no idea if anyone is interested in your story, and it may feel as though that will never change. How do you cope with that?

My solution is to remind myself I’ve done the best I can on this story with the resources I have and my current craft level. While it may be true that the story can be improved, I’ll learn more as a writer if I work on many different projects than if I keep revising the same story constantly.

The steps in writing and publishing may not change much from story to story, but hopefully my confidence will improve with each project. Even if stretching my writing skills into new genres or types of stories makes me feel insecure, that might not be a bad thing. It’s better to be motivated to keep growing as a writer than to feel you know it all and let your stories suffer.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Summon the Seasons--Cover Reveal and Preorder Links

I haven't prepared the proof copy of Summon the Seasons yet, since I need to reread it to make sure I'm not going to change the page count. However, I do have the eBook cover Maria Zannini designed for me, so I'm going to reveal it to you now:

Kay looks very mysterious, doesn't she? 

Once I'm ready to order the paper proof, I'll show you the full cover. Maria did a great job incorporating story elements into the back cover. In the meantime, I have pre-orders available for the eBook at $2.99 on the following sites:

Barnes and Noble

There's still time to catch up with the series before the final book becomes available. You can find the previous books at your favorite eBook retailers using these universal book links:

Seasons' Beginnings
Young Seasons: A Season Avatars Short Story Collection 
Scattered Seasons
Chaos Season
Fifth Season

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Authors Against Hate

Although authors are commonly warned against discussing politics, as human beings, we have to condemn the alt-right rally and resulting violence and death that happened in Charlottesville last weekend. Therefore, I've decided to donate $25 or my September royalties (whichever is greater) to the Stop Hate Project. It's an organization that helps communities fight hate crimes. I've also started a Facebook group called Authors Against Hate to encourage other writers in all genres and all levels to do something. You can donate royalties or signed books or whatever you feel comfortable with. I just started this group yesterday, so there hasn't been time to plan a group activity yet. If you want to join us, either on or off Facebook, feel free to grab the graphic above to display on social media. We'll see how much interest we generate before going further.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Marketing Mondays

I've decided I need to be a better marketer (among many other things), so I'm setting aside some time each Monday evening to work on it. Part of that will be updating my newsletter subscriber list on Mailchimp. (I use Instafreebie to distribute a free copy of Scattered Seasons to new subscribers, but for some reason Instafreebie doesn't automatically send the e-mail addresses to Mailchimp, even though it's set up to. I'm going to try changing something to see if that helps.) It can also be time for writing blog posts, especially guest ones; planning sales; buying ads; and playing around with Adobe Spark. (This is a free online program that allows you to make images, videos, and other social graphics. I plan to make graphics with lines from my stories and share them.) More ideas will probably come to me with more experience.

Do you do marketing on a regular basis? If so, what do you do? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Tentative Release Date for Summon the Seasons

Although I'm writing a new book, I haven't been able to leave the publisher hat hanging. In the last week, I contacted Maria Zannini about cover art for Summon the Seasons (she's already drafted a gorgeous cover), revised the blurb I posted last week, assigned ISBNs to the paper and eBook versions, and added it to Goodreads. For Goodreads, I had to pick a tentative release date. After some thought, I chose October 9th in honor of John Lennon, my "patron muse." I've released two other books (Lyon's Legacy and Seasons' Beginnings) in October, and I thought at first releasing the latest book on one of their anniversaries. October 6th felt a little early, and October 21st is getting close to Halloween. John Lennon's birthday is still a bit early, but I should be able to prepare the paper edition on Createspace and proof it in that that time. Probably the hardest part of this release is deciding what kind of promotion to do, particularly since it's the series finale. A sale on the other books in the series? A blog tour? Giveaway? Facebook party? Or do I just go out to dinner with my family? Leave your thoughts in the comments, and keep coming back for updates.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Happy Birthday, Eugene!

My husband's birthday isn't until tomorrow, and it's hard to celebrate in the middle of the week, especially with our schedules. So I'd like to dedicate this blog post today to him, a hard-working, loving husband and father. Here he is at RenFaire last weekend after his annual fencing match with Alex. Happy Birthday, Eugene, and many more to come!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Pet Peeves

Every month, writers at all stages of their careers discuss an issue that affects them all. To learn more about the Insecure Writer's Support Group, visit them on their website, Facebook group, or Goodreads Book Club. The hosts for this month's discussion are Christine Rains (no website available), Dolarah, Ellen, Yvonne Ventresca,  and LG Keltner.

We've been posed the following question this month: What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

Reading: People talking to me when I'm trying to focus, seeing mixed-up homonyms like "phase" and "faze,"  inconsistencies with details, and inaccuracies.

Writing: Being interrupted when I'm writing or trying to write, having Microsoft Word (particularly on my netbook) be unresponsive when I'm trying to type and ending up with gibberish (uninstalling or inactivating programs I didn't want reduced the frequency of this annoyance), and having the cursor bounce around onscreen when I'm trying to write in a moving vehicle.

Editing--Finding mistakes after multiple rounds of editing. Double peeve points for mistakes that end up in the published story.

Feel free to share your own pet peeves in the comments below.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Measuring Writing Quality

Last week, I read the book  Marketing for Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind by James Scott Bell. It's the next book club read for the Insecure Writer's Support Group on Goodreads. Although it offers the usual advice about websites, mailing lists, ads, and other traditional marketing tools, Bell puts writing quality first. In fact, he not only suggests you focus on improving parts of your writing craft such as plot, character, dialogue, voice, and theme (there were a couple of others mentioned; I think setting was one, but description oddly wasn't), but he recommending setting goals of improving them by a set percentage every year. That was the part that really got my attention.

At my day job, we set Key Performance Indicators that are measurable--say, getting a certain score level on an audit, or updating/reviewing all documents in our quality system every year. I'm not sure how you would measure improving your plotting by 10% every year. Adding more plot twists? Spending more or less time on plotting? Getting feedback from beta readers, editors, and readers? Bell is supposed to answer question from the Goodreads group, so I should submit this question and to see what his answer is.

One of Bell's other suggestions is for something much easier to track--writing quantity. While many other people have recommended tracking your daily word count, this book finally pushed me into setting up a simple spreadsheet to track mine. My minimum is 500 new words every day, while targeting 1000. Tracking my word count does motivate me to maintain better focus during my writing sessions. It worked well until the weekend, as I was busy all day Saturday bringing Alex to and from a party, grocery shopping, baking three loaves of bread, making two pizzas, and cooking another dish for the week. By the time I had a chance to write, I was physically and mentally drained. Sunday we were at the Renaissance Faire until late, so the only writing I'll do is whatever I can manage after I finish this post.

Before I head off for another writing session, I'd like to ask what you think about measuring writing quality. Can it be done, or, as in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, must we leave quality undefined? Do you track your daily word count? If so, do you find it helpful? Feel free to answer in the comments.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Blurb for Summon the Seasons

Line edits are just about done for Summon the Seasons, though I'm still adding a few details to the text here and there. In the meantime, there are other parts to the publishing process that I need to take care of, like the blurb. Here's a rough draft; feel free to leave feedback in the comments:

Kay might be the youngest, smallest, and least confident Season Avatar, but she has the most powerful magic of all—weather magic. Only she can draw magic from Chaos Season, the magical weather storm that mixes up the seasons in Challen, and share it with the rest of her quartet. Now that she also has spirit magic and can contact the souls of dead Season Avatars, her quartet finally has a chance to unite all twelve Season Avatars and end Chaos Season permanently.

Achieving this goal will not be easy. Kay and her sister Avatars need three more bones from the dead Avatars. To obtain them, they must travel from one side of Challen to the other, evading the King’s Watch and Selathens who want to protect their patron demigoddess, Salth, creator of Chaos Season. On the journey, Kay’s deepest beliefs about her God and her longtime enemy, Dorian, will be challenged. If Kay loses her newfound courage, she will fall before Salth, and the rest of the Season Avatars and her country with her.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Three Squares for the Welcome Blanket

What you see on the left are three crocheted squares, about 10"x10". I was hoping to finish the fourth one for this picture, but I have to redo part of it. There will be sixteen squares in all, which will then be joined together to form a 40"x40" blanket for the Welcome Blanket Project. It takes me 3-4 evenings to complete a square, and the deadline for this project is September 5th. In order to make sure I finish the blanket in time, I've been crocheting during car trips, at restaurants, and wherever I can manage it. This crochet project may steal some of my drafting time for Dryads to Discover, but I'm nearly done with the line edits for Summon the Seasons. Perhaps Maria and I can work on the cover next month. In the meantime, I'll sure be busy during the final month of summer!

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