Two months, just like that

Wow, hey. Zips by, doesn’t it? I’ve been all too aware of the passing days, though not within the context of, “I haven’t blogged in two months”, and more the general sense of time whirling by, oblivious to the human experience. Time is a fascinating illusion; the measurement of movement and change, especially when one can imagine that nothing is changing at all, and still observe the all too obvious differences between “then” and “now”.

Life has been what it is. The down parts which we spend half our effort trying to avoid still come knocking. Upheaval is part of that change which I note, but also blurs together in the apparent sea of sameness. We still get up each day. Eat, shower, work, sleep. The little things in between. Seeing the same faces, having close approximations of the same conversation within each encounter. Our greetings are universal. Sometimes I answer differently just to see the expression on a person’s face register that they must think about my reply, rather than it being the expected generalisation. Sometimes, I see how glad they are for a variation, themselves. Sometimes, they are busy, and it was a cursory exchange, and they don’t really want to have to think about something new. Ah, but that’s people-watching for you.

And as a counter to the troughs, there are the bright points of laughter and friendship; the good news instead of bad; the moments of brilliant entertainment which enrich our lives. Going away for short trips to places I like with people I love. Seeing animals, walking in the rain, making children giggle. Spending hours talking, seeing the obvious fruits of your labour, and especially, the much-appreciated acknowledgement of others for what you do. Finding things worth reading, worth watching, worth playing. Even the quiet times of being alone where thoughts are free to bubble over faster than you can possibly record them, even though you’re certain they are important and need to be collected for future uses.

Two months. We saved a kitten from a storm, and said goodbye to some family members. I’ve read a whole lot of books, and written nearly a third of another. I have determined that I can probably do a lot more than I believe of myself, but it’s finding the time and effort that’s the real trouble. I like November and the positivity and companionship it brings out in so many of my writer friends (thanks to NaNoWriMo). I’m especially enjoying building some expertise on the “behind the scenes” aspects in releasing books.

Oh, yes. I’m still around. Two months in a long time, but really, it’s just the blink of an eye.

~A

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Are We There Yet?

I feel like the stereotypical child in the backseat of the car, whining incessantly at the people in control. Of course, when I actually was much younger and we drove around a lot, I didn’t have the same sense of impatience displayed by others. Driving places is neat, and I was capable of entertaining myself. For instance, counting as high as I could. With a tenacious child enthused about a challenge, that will pass the time on a long trip.

But now I’m older, and my proverbial car ride is the endless sense of completing a novel. I’m impatient. I look at the days flying by, I wonder how I can still possibly be working on the same project. The Damning Moths approaches a full year since beginning, June 22nd. Minor interruptions are both embraced and repelled. Something new! Something distracting! Oh, heavens, something to lengthen the time it’s already taken me to get this far.

I’m inspired by those who have been releasing books for a number of years and have the practice down to an art. They write fast, edit fast, move on, release another, start again. I know it’s an experience thing; I’ll get to that point some day. I’m looking forward to it like no one’s business. But I can’t help those feelings of wanting to already be at that stage, to be so sure-footed in my work.

I don’t really second-guess myself too much. There are some instances where I’m a victim of my own negativity, of course, but I still persevere. It’s just the length of time. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Why aren’t we there yet?

On one hand, it seems like the last few chapters shouldn’t take me much longer. I’m nearly at the end. I can almost reach out and brush my fingertips against the finish line. But then there’s the flipside, where it’s taken me this long to reach the point I have. I wonder if life will continue to be so busy that I only get stolen moments to focus on my story.

Of course, it won’t end there! The cover is coming along nicely, the ISBNs are organised, and I have a ready stack of resources at hand for all the other little in-between bits which come with releasing a novel. So, yes, I’m eager to be done, but it will just take on a whole new form once the book is out in the world. I guess, in that regard, we’re never really “there yet”, it’s all just another phase of being an author.

~A

Surviving the End is here!

My first ever fiction publication, the neat little story of “Harvest”. It’s a little surreal to be holding the book, reading the other pieces (which are AWESOME, by the way!) with mine wedged in between. The editor and Story Keeper has pulled everything together tightly with the interludes keeping momentum going from one tale to the next, even when they are as vastly different as the people telling them.

One of the best parts of being in this anthology has most certainly been the other contributors. Meeting these writers has been great fun, they’re awesome to interact with, and it’s always brilliant to be introduced to other great stories.

Those of you who have pre-ordered Surviving the End should see your copy very soon! If you didn’t pre-order and are interested in these stories of post apocalyptica, I direct you to the publishers website: Dark Prints Press – Surviving the End.

And of course, thank you all for your support and encouragement. Means the world to me!

~A

Truly happy

As I begin taking steps toward having a novel released, I start wondering about, you know, comparing myself. As I mentioned in a previous post, A little healthy comparison, an author cannot compare certain things. Sales, fans, popularity, success. Not only are these elements largely outside of a persons direct control, they are also subjective.

Sales depend on exposure and marketability (cover art, blurb, author presence), as well as content. Fans are a trickier thing again, but a small and rabid fanbase can do more for an author than a larger, lukewarm group. Popularity comes and goes, for the book, for the author, for the genre. And success, that’s all in the eye of the beholder. Success is determined by what you want, and reaching milestones and goals.

Will I be able to keep that mindset once my book is out there, competing with the rest? Will I stay Zen? I like to think I know myself pretty well. I am honestly, truly happy to support other writers and see them succeed. In terms of what others have achieved before me already; the stack of finished manuscripts, the publishing acceptance, their dream agent, or a roaring independent career, I can say that I only rejoice for them! I can assess what they’re doing, and make decisions about my own path in relation, but I don’t feel grumbly that I’m not there yet.

But it changes when you’re down in the dirt with them. It would be naïve to pretend otherwise. Looking from the outside in might have a twinge of longing beside it, but once you’re actually exposed and, really, once you’re vulnerable, something shifts.

Again, I’m pretty self-aware, as far as I can tell. I don’t believe there will ever come a time where my friendships and admiration for other people and their own writing success will become tainted with jealousy or resentment. I don’t work that way. Sure, I get down on myself when I think I’m not doing so well, but that has little to do with what others are getting out of their efforts. My little stabs of depression are almost universally because I haven’t reached a goal I set out for – even if that goal was a barely half-thought mad idea in the first place.

In the end, it’s not that someone else did – it’s that I thought I could, and I didn’t. Especially if I know I didn’t try hard enough. So here’s to ongoing happiness, even when the competition starts!

~A

One Hundred

According to my WordPress statistics, this is my 100th post! Hooray, happy one hundred!

I’ll admit, I’m pretty impressed with myself. Blogging and journaling really never struck me as something to do, but that was before I met so many awesome blogging buddies. No, really. It’s people like YOU who have convinced me to go ahead with this all the way back in May 2011. Wow, that also means I’m only three months away from a full year at this.

Thinking back over these hundred posts, I’ve shared with you my first publication acceptance, the death of my cat, Chichiri. Insights into writing and the industry surrounding it, as well as my own take on being an author. I’ve met amazing people and participated in their own blogs, sharing the ups and downs of their life-path. I’ve shown you my yarn crafts and new books from other writers. I’ve written a couple of guest blog posts for others, and followed links to fantastic new places around the internets. Truly, I wouldn’t take back my time blogging; I recognise all too clearly the amazing opportunities it’s presented and the people I’ve come into contact with who mean so much to me.

I know plenty of people blog solely for themselves; as some kind of expression or outlet. For me, this wouldn’t be the same without having people to share it with. I talk to myself enough over the course of writing books (they are character conversations! Honest!), so the part which makes this special is knowing that you’re here, you’re taking part in the journey.

Which is to say, of course, we’re moving forward! And what better blog to announce this than my 100th?

My debut novel, The Damning Moths will be published soon! Oh, yes. It’s happening. My giddiness is barely contained.

I’ve still got a ways to go with finalising the project, so I’m still on the journey. I don’t think you really get off this train unless you either quit writing or move onto the afterlife, so the statement is defeated by the sheer knowledge of work stretching ever onward. This book. Next book. The ones after. Nevertheless, you might recognise the title acronym, TDM, as something I’ve been working on (slaving over!) kind of obsessively. For this single project, there’s the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel to lure me through the final stretch. I’m on the right track. We’re coming up to the next stop. Other such railroad-related metaphors!

Thank you for sharing everything to this point. Thanks for reading, and commenting, and lurking. More than anything, thank you for your friendship and support.

~A

A little healthy comparison

As artists, there are a lot of reasons why we should never compare our work to everyone else’s. Every person has a unique take, and every creation we bring forth will reflect what is ultimately incomparable.

But I feel like some writers take that notion too far. Instead of holding up their work beside another and seeing where they could strive for improvement, many of them declare their piece finished with no greater judgement. They don’t assess what makes a story good, so they can’t apply that knowledge to their own creation.

We’ve all heard the stories. A writer who’s rejected by every agent and publishing house turns around and says they all missed out on something great. They drop a pile of money on self-publishing, only to prove they had been submitting an unpolished draft. No wonder it wasn’t picked up; the story wasn’t ready for publication.

Instead of being really honest and hard on themselves, these people abandoned reason in a glorious spray of egotism. They might’ve had a real chance at traditional publishing if they’d only been willing to compare and see why their story wasn’t up to snuff.

Criticisms of certain popular teen romance novels are only damaging this mentality more. “If that crap got published, I can too!” Simple fact is, most big books have a specific audience and appeal, and had a professional, experienced editor make it into a very readable piece. The writing is intentionally simpler for the younger market. Hate it all you like, there are no outrageous, book-breaking errors in the vast majority of traditionally published works in the YA range.

As with all “rules”, there needs clarification. Don’t compare yourself to others; they will have a different output, a different situation, a different career. They will sell more than you, or less than you. They will have a bigger fanbase than you, or a much smaller, yet more dedicated one than your own. They will have a larger marketing budget, or a smaller one. There will be differences, and you cannot compare yourself to those; they are outside of your control.

But you can compare your technical skill. What makes other books good? What makes you read your favourites? What stands out, what do they do, what don’t they do? Learn. Learn as much as you possibly can about the technical side, and compare your work in the most vicious, heartless way you can. Tear it down. See what emerges from the rubble. Start again, do it right.

There are also stories of people who were rejected by everyone, self-published a very good book, and are now international best sellers. Because they made sure their work could stand up against the other greats.

~A

The cost of creation

Natasha McNeely triggered a lengthy tangent in my mind; one I’ve been considering rather in-depth for a long time, and moreso in the last few days as I truly begin to weigh my options in publishing. Natasha talks about e-book prices, and her take on appropriate cost.

Firstly, you all get a disclaimer: this is just my thoughts, from a personally inexperienced perspective, yet with the backing of a whole lot of research and sense of pride in storytelling. There. Now, onto my rambling.

There’s nothing wrong with the $0.99 price point. There are valid reasons for using it, including drawing in new readers, and letting people get a relatively risk-free taste of your work. After all, isn’t it exceptionally easy to justify dropping a dollar on an e-book, just to see if you like the writer’s style? I know I’ve done it.

However, there is a catch. Many, in fact.

As I outlined to my husband when we were setting up his freelance illustrator rates, you need a wide scope for what the client, or consumer, is actually paying for. When you are an artist, whether through images or words, you have years of experience and learning behind you. The buyer is purchasing a quality product because you have a decade or more practice put into your craft. By asking for a fair price, you are giving value to the sheer amount of dedication necessary to perfect your art.

Then there are subtle overheads. The tools required to produce your product. A computer, with peripherals and software; a desk, pens, paper. Electricity, an internet connection, and a workspace. Even if you had all of these things before you started writing, using the home computer in your lounge room, they are still business costs. You could not offer an e-book without paying for those things at some point.

There are also literal costs in producing and marketing a finished e-book. You might get lucky and not have to pay for all of them, or you might go all-out and use most of the following (and more): cover art, editing, formatting, uploading/account fees, advertising including business cards or other little handouts like bookmarks (which require design and printing), a dedicated website, the list goes on.

After all that, the writing itself must have value. It must. You did not spend a year or longer writing this one specific book, to see no returns on your personal effort. Now, that’s not to say value is inherent in money (quite the opposite), but this is an important element to consider when offering your e-book for under a dollar.

I believe an e-book novella deserves to cost up to $5.00, with novel-length works going anything up to $15.00. I’ve been happy to pay $15.00 for an e-book I especially wanted, and will probably do so again. I also believe the lure of a cheap first book should come when you already have a backlog of work available; that way, readers can buy more of your writing while it’s still fresh in their mind. Will they remember to come back in a few months time, even if they liked their $0.99 purchase?

Just as a new author releasing a paperback will not sell their first book for less than its worth, as a book, as a complicated, dedicated creation, independent writers most certainly shouldn’t be expected to sell their e-books at a devaluing rate.

~A