Mon. July 31, 2017: Author, not “Author”, Women’s Memoir Cliches, and Unfair Expectations

Monday, July 31, 2017
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny and cool

It definitely smells like autumn. Tomorrow is the first harvest festival, so it makes sense.

The cats and I were up most of the night because a neighborhood dog was crying. We couldn’t figure out where it was, or I would have comforted it. Poor thing!

I gave myself the weekend off, mostly. I needed to recharge; I was mentally exhausted, even more than physically.

I did some yard work. I read a lot, which was hit and miss. I read a mystery that was set “backstage” in a “professional” theatre. Yeah, right. The performers went around quoting the Scottish play without comment or consequence. DOESN’T HAPPEN. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don’t be an “author”. Be an author or a writer.

I read another mystery, first book in the series, where the characters were okay, but the plot forced to fit into a tight formula that didn’t work for the premise, and the writing weak.

I read Val McDermid’s OUT OF BOUNDS, which was excellent.

At least it was nice enough to read outside most of the time. A little cool, but nice. I prefer cool weather to hot, anyway, which is why I live in a place with seasons.

I’m reading a stack of books and memoirs about the NEW YORKER magazine, as background for a piece. Hit and miss interesting. I’m looking more for the daily-ness of working at the publication set against the historical backdrop, and what made the people tick, not the navel-gazing.

I’m so tired of memoirs by women who spent the whole book “finding” their “independence”, only to get married (or get married again). Basically, they’re just circling back to where they started, but with a different guy. But people buy into all this “I’m now an independent woman” — um, no, you’re still acting like a 1950s college grad with her MRS degree. Leaving one guy, “travelling” mentally and physically, in order to wind up with another guy, doesn’t make you “independent”. It makes you a cliché.

Worked on notes for a couple of projects.

Finished the next book I have to review. I want to get the review out today, and then request the next book. Hopefully, it won’t take them two weeks to assign it this time. To me “steady work” means the next assignment arrives when I turn in the previous one. They still owe me for the last two reviews, too.

I have two essays and two short stories to finish, plus a couple of pitches to get out. I SHOULD have done them this weekend, but the quality would have been crap. I’m still within my deadline, so it was a better choice to give myself a break, and then be able to attack them with fresh eyes this morning.

I already did a pre-tourist grocery run, so I’m doing okay! 😉

Little annoyed with a friend. I didn’t hear from him for about six months; fine, no problem. But I received an email from him late Friday night, and another one early this morning, berating me for not instantly getting back to him. Um, no. This was a “hey, how are you?” email, not an emergency or a question that required immediate response, and taking the weekend off-line is something he KNOWS I do. Not answering until this morning (just over 48 hours later) is not too long, especially since the last contact was at Christmas. I don’t say “how high?” when someone says “Jump”. I’m more likely to tell that person to eff off. 😉

Tomorrow is the cover reveal for PLAYING THE ANGLES. I’m nervous!

July wrap-up is over on the GDR site.

Back to the page.

Fri. July 28, 2017: Progress, Prep, and Difficult Weekend Ahead

Friday, July 28, 2017
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Didn’t get a chance to post yesterday; apologies.

Some good work done on SPIRIT REPOSITORY. I’m reshaping the opening a bit — I want it more atmospheric, and I’m getting rid of some lazy language. That’s delayed sending the final edit of PLAYING THE ANGLES back to my editor and copy editor, since they have to edit and copy edit my back matter, and the first chapters of both SPIRIT REPOSITORY and SAVASANA AT SEA are included. I’m also working on a back matter piece about theatre ghosts, which I think readers will enjoy.

I have plenty to say about the health care issue, but it’s going into an article, not on the blog. Last night’s vote was a relief; I’m spending far too much time trying to sort things out for my mother’s upcoming surgery, and correct errors by both providers and the insurance company. (hint: double-dipping by some providers involved).

Sent off the contracted article Wednesday morning. Also wrote, polished, and sent off an essay for a new-to-me site with whom I’d had a discussion last week. The email kept bouncing back. When I went back to look at the site, turns out they’d gone out of business over the weekend. So why did they say they wanted to hire me? Frustrating.

Fortunately, I can re-slant the piece slightly for another, higher-paying market. That will go out early next week. I have another essay that also needs to go out next week, to another new-to-me market.

We’re reworked and simplified the cover for THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY. Much better now.

The cover reveal for PLAYING THE ANGLES will be August 1.

I finished the media kit for PLAYING THE ANGLES, and I’ve created a Facebook page for the Coventina Circle series. I hope you’ll hop over there and “like” it. I’m going to invite people to the page on the day of the cover reveal, and I’m going try to post interesting tidbits on theatre and healing circles between now and the release date.
I’m going to sit down and figure out the posts and schedule ahead of time, so as things get busy, it doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Had a good meeting in Harwich yesterday; should hear by early next week. It’s a situation that requires close proximity, so the client has to choose the person with whom she feels the most affinity and alignment with what she wants.

Got some good work done on the latest book sent for review. I will finish it today, and the review will be ready to go out on Monday.

This time of year is always a challenge. Tomorrow (the 29th) is the anniversary of my father’s death. Yes, it was a long time ago, but still reverberates. The 30th is the anniversary of my own serious surgery — again, a long time ago, but it’s amazing how the body captures sense memory. Then, we upswing to the 1st of August — a big, positive day on my own personal calendar.

Watching a documentary about some of the great houses in Scotland sparked an idea last night, so I took some notes. This morning, I’m also working on the flash fiction of the butcher and his vegetarian customer. I like these characters; they have a good sense of humor, along with common sense, even though they approach the world from very different places.

I’m going to try to get some rest this weekend. I overworked last weekend, and it set me back during the week, because I was mentally exhausted. I need to rest the mind as well as the body.

Have a great weekend!

Wed. July 26, 2017: Articles and Stories and Edits

Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny and cool

It smells like autumn this morning. The days are also noticeably shorter.

Yesterday’s post didn’t go live for some reason; apologies, it’s below this one.

Yesterday proved that if I don’t get going early in the morning, I lose the day. I overslept and never caught up.

I had a wonderful time with my friend, though. I love it when she’s back in town.

I tried to work at Mashpee Library, but people were too noisy, and the computer area was so open, I couldn’t really concentrate. Also, the computer didn’t have all the programs I needed.

Finished another proofread of PLAYING THE ANGLES. I have one more piece of back matter to draft and a couple of links to check, and then it goes off for a final edit/proofread pass.

Finishing the article that needs to go out today, and the press release for the PLAYING THE ANGLES media kit. I want to upload the media kit to the website by next week. We’re also going to do the cover release next week.

I have two more articles to finish this week, plus my next review assignment. After trying for two weeks to get another assignment, they finally gave me one.

Disgusted by the Senate Deathcare vote yesterday. John McCain has ruined a once-noble legacy. I expected the other corrupt Republican senators to dance on all our graves, but I thought McCain would at least retain a shred of decency, especially since his survival is thanks to my tax dollars paying for his health care.

Tomorrow is a project meeting in Harwich; hopefully we’ll like each other and can start working together soon.

Back to the page!

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Tues. July 25, 2017: Working In Multiple Directions

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Drizzily and cool

First and foremost, happy release day to Alyssa Maxwell for her newest book, MURDER AT CHATEAU SUR MER. I love this series, and that particular house is my favorite of the Newport mansions.

Sorry to post so late. I got a late start and have been running behind ever since. Today is proof that if I don’t get up around 5:30 or 6 AM and get to it, I lose the most creative part of my day and I’m disoriented.

Yesterday, I managed to get a play out to an interested producer. There are quite a few of us in contention — it’s a big deal. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, and the play stood up to re-reading better than I remembered it, so off it went.

Another producer was interested in the work I’ve done for 365 Women; unfortunately, she’s looking for non-naturalistic work, and all the plays I’ve done for them are naturalistic, inspired by real historical figures and events. I was recommended to her on the strength of the writing, which is always good; but my structure isn’t what she’s looking for, unfortunately. Still, if I ever decide to write something non-naturalistic, I know where to pitch it first!

Did one editing pass on the short story written yesterday morning; now I have to let it sit for a bit before doing another round. One can’t edit well right after finishing a piece; there needs to be time, so one can go back with fresh eyes, and look at it as though someone else wrote it. Whenever someone boasts about finishing a book or a story or whatever and immediately starting edits, I roll my eyes and know it’s a book I won’t be reading (unless one of the publications that pays me to review sends it to me).

I’m also getting tired of the bullying posts aimed at authors, some of them posing as “articles”. They spend the bulk of the article diminishing authors’ self-esteem, telling the authors they suck, and then, at the end, pretending to “rescue” the author — should the author buy whatever product they’re selling.

First of all, the content of most of these pieces is crap. They’re not well-written, many of them are “listicles” — a format I loathe as both a reader and a writer. They’re advertorials posing as articles.

Every author’s path is different. That’s a good thing; the level of conformity that’s being demanded, both by corporate-owned mega-publishers and by society in general is geared to kill creativity. It IS important to build a strong foundation in craft and to know how to tell a cracking good story. Craft is something that should grow with every book or story or article. Authors need the flexibility to try new things — even if not all of them work.

When it comes to marketing, it’s time for unique and creative campaigns, not following what “everyone” does. You need to target your audience; at the same time, you want to reach as wide an audience as possible. You want to be assertive and inclusive, not aggressive. It’s hard to find that balance. Also, people will respond differently on different days. All you can do is the best you can do.

If a certain type of marketing makes you miserable, don’t do it. Do what you enjoy. When the author has fun in the process of sharing the work, the reader picks up on it.

Listening to someone who makes a living taking money off of aspiring authors by berating them doesn’t help me, that’s for sure. I like to see what other people are doing, and then either use that to jump start my own marketing ideas, see if I can adapt what they’re doing to suit my particular project, or if it’s something that I don’t respond to positively, and then I move on.

Just because it doesn’t work for ME doesn’t mean someone else shouldn’t do it. All I can do is make the best, most informed decisions I can for my own work.

But bullying posts turn me off. I’ve decided to stop sharing them. I’m not going to troll them. I just scroll by and go on with my life.

Did some work on the various media kits. I need to finish the Q &A for “The Ramsey Chase” media kit. I find the non-fiction section of the Devon Ellington media kit much harder than the fiction. I have to write the press release for the PLAYING THE ANGLES media kit. That needs to be ready to go out at the beginning of August, even though the book doesn’t drop until October.

Working on the article that’s almost ready to go out, and then two more are stacked up behind in.

We worked on a new cover for “Plot Bunnies”, to tie it in more with the upcoming “Labor Intensive”, but it wound up looking more like a children’s book than a light-hearted mystery, so we’ll stick to the current cover for now.

I’ve had to scrap parts of the plot for “Labor Intensive”, because it went too dark for the tone of the series. I will probably use those plot elements in one of my darker books.

I’m meeting a friend for coffee this morning, which should be enormous fun. She lives in Amsterdam now, and I only get to see her once a year, although we’re in regular contact.

Never a dull moment, which is a good thing!

Mon. July 24, 2017: Time in Fictional Dimensions

Monday, July 24, 2017
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Rainy and cool

Intense weekend. Still dealing with personal issues.

Worked on the article; it should be ready to go out tomorrow. Roughed out two more articles and two flash fiction pieces I hope to get done this week.

Most of the weekend was spent working on the Coventina Circle series. I’ve got the edits done on PLAYING THE ANGLES. I have a bit more backmatter to add in over the next few days, and then it goes to my editor and copy editor.

Worked on the information for what will be the Coventina Circle Series Bible. I have most of the character information in there; now I need to do the place information.

We’ve roughed out the cover for THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY, the second book in the series, too. The central protagonists are Bonnie and Rufus, and it deals with both contemporary times and with New York City’s history as New Amsterdam. The first chapter of SPIRIT REPOSITORY will be included in the back of PLAYING THE ANGLES.

I re-read what I have on the book. I thought I was nearly finished with it, but it’s really only about a third. I have to get cracking, since we now have a May 2018 release date for it. But I got a good sense of it, and have to sit down and work out some plot complications. It will take a few days to finish outlining it and then I can get back to work on it. That book has to go into the regular, daily writing schedule.

I also spent time doing Writers Rough Outlines on other books in the series. I have basic notes on the Lesley/Sam book and the Diana/Greg book. I spent most of my time focusing on Book 3 in the series, which has the tentative title of RELICS & REQUIEM. That book focuses on Amanda and Phineas.

Because the lives of these characters are so entwined, and I’ve set up some strong relationships in ANGLES, I find I need to work on the outlines in tandem. Things that happen further down the line need seeds planted in the earlier books. Each book stands alone, and has a different central pair of protagonists, as paranormal romantic suspense does, but they feed on each other.

It’s an interesting process, and I understand so much more about structure than I did when I first wrote ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT. Growth in a writer is a good thing.

Started reading WORDS ON THE AIR, which is the collected letters of poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. It’s gotten me thinking about writing an epistolary novel. Supposedly, that’s out of fashion, but it’s a style I enjoy. Made some notes. I think I want it to cover several decades of history. The characters are talking to me, telling me about their lives and how they want it to work. It will take quite a bit of research, I think.

Getting back into writing THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY means re-visiting some of New York City’s earliest history. I ordered some books from the library, then looked up and realized I owned one of them. When I first percolated the novel, I used Washington Irving’s diaries. I also bought a good biography of him, but didn’t read it. It’s sitting on the shelf next to his diaries. Time to read it.

One of the late payments arrived; the smallest one (of course), and only part of it. But better than nothing. The other payment better arrive in the next few days. This is ridiculous. “Processing” means the check will be written and mailed, not that you’re deciding to maybe someday pay or not pay. Use the right language.

The actor John Heard died. I was sorry to hear it. We worked together off-Broadway at Manhattan Theatre Club on an Arthur Miller play quite a few year ago. He had a meticulous process approaching his work. He had the reputation for being difficult, but we got along well.

Watched PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES again this weekend. I liked it better this time around. My favorite scene is still the Bennett girls getting ready for the ball, hiding their weapons in their gowns. My 94 year-old mother, who doesn’t like paranormal movies, loved it. She’s re-reading Jane Austen right now, and we’re watching all the movies, and I wanted to see this one shortly after seeing the definitive PRIDE AND PREJUDICE with Colin Firth.

Lots to do today. I’d like to stay in the cocoon of the Coventina Circle books, but I have to deal with the real world in order to keep a roof over our heads. I have a project meeting on Thursday that I’m looking forward to.

I have to do some rearranging of front matter for a play that a producer is interested in; more to do with renumbering the pages than anything else. I gave it a proofread yesterday, and it holds up better than I remember, which is a good thing.

Already did a grocery run this morning (to avoid the tourists), and wrote two drafts on a flash fiction piece I’ve been turning around in my head for a few days. I hope to get it out the door soon. While I drove to the grocery store, I had another flash fiction idea about a butcher and his vegetarian customer who shops for her elderly neighbor. Will work on that when I’m done with the articles.

Because, you know, ideas come in batches.

Fri. July 21, 2017: Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Balancing Act

Friday, July 21, 2017
Day before Dark Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny, hot, humid

Back to our regularly scheduled balancing act.

Lori Widmer kindly referred to me in one of her posts on Words on the Page as an example of busting a freelance writing myth. I’m honored to be included. I’m in a rough patch now, and that mention makes me realize that I’m further along than I often feel.

I’m having trouble with the mower again, which is hurting my ability to get the meadow finished. That was one of the worst purchases I’ve ever made, certainly the worst house-related purchase. Poulan Pro not only has substandard equipment, they don’t honor the warranty. I spent far too much on this piece of garbage, and it’s never worked properly. Very frustrating. At least I won’t make the mistake of doing business with Poulan Pro again.

Worked on the article on deadline. I’m waiting for one more quote, will integrate it when it arrives, and then off it goes (probably on Monday).

I have to figure out where to pitch next. I’m feeling a little burned out, pitch-wise, and I need to get back on track with a couple of short stories that need to go out.

Pitched for a project out of San Francisco that sounds like great fun; I’d love to be part of that team, if they’re willing to work with someone remotely.

Working on the PLAYING THE ANGLES galleys. Still trying to figure out how I can get the right Facebook page up. The one for Delectable Digital Delights and Jain Lazarus work well; the Gwen Finnegan doesn’t. But I can’t find in the settings what page I chose when I set it up. All very frustrating.

Working on the adjusted outlines for the “between-the-books” novella MYTH & INTERPRETATION and then, BALTHAZAAR TREASURE.

Prepping for my project meeting next week. I hope we like each other and it works out. The company interests me.

I’ve been reading about web design, trying to figure out if I can create GOOD ftp files for subdomains and uphold them to my current website. I’m intimidated. What I need to do is take a course in all this. I need a structured environment to learn how to do it. It’s a different language; rather than just saying, ” I don’t get it”, I want to find a way to learn it.

The books on Hearst Castle came back, so hopefully, I can dig into them and get that section done on FIX IT GIRL in the next couple of weeks. I’m behind where I want to be on that.

I hope, this weekend, to do a big chunk of work on “Labor Intensive” as well.

Hopefully, the humidity will lessen; I don’t do well in this weather and neither does the computer. I’d like to be clear-headed and productive.

On author Trish Milburn’s recommendation, I’m reading THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin. I’m thinking about doing an essay on it for Biblio Paradise next week. There are things I really respond to in the book, and things I don’t. But then, the book is about HER happiness, not mine.

The day before the dark moon is always my lowest energy day of the month, so I’m dragging today. It’s an effort to dig down and focus. Layer on the life stress, and today is a challenge.

Back to juggling burning chainsaws.

Have a great weekend.

Thurs. July 20, 2017: Reinventing the Marketing Wheel — A Personal Journey

Thursday, July 20, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny, hot, humid

Yesterday, I promised some thoughts on marketing, so that is what this post focuses on today.

At this point, the bulk of marketing falls on the author. Traditional publishers get books in bookstores and to distributors, which is an enormous part of the equation. Some of the smaller publishers give as much support as their overextended staffs can. But the bulk is up to the author.

I just wrote an article for WOW-Women on Writing on how to track the results of where you put your marketing dollars to get the best return and to decide where to put the money for the next go-round. I was lucky enough to have several generous authors and promoters share their expertise. I will post the link when it goes live; it’s a piece of which I’m proud — there’s good research and work put into it, and I think writers across genre will find it useful.

This post, being on a personal blog, is more personal.

I’m preparing my backlist for re-release, and hoping to build on whatever momentum I create to move forward in my career.  Traditional publishers want something new; most of them are reluctant to take on a backlist, unless you’ve hit major traditional best-seller lists.  Many of my decisions are the result of sitting down with people I trust to discuss and figure out what I want and need from my career moving forward, and what was working and not working FOR ME. “This is what’s done” isn’t working FOR ME, and I need to create campaigns that work on both creative and financial levels. Sticking to someone else’s formula limits me. Therefore, I have to come up with my own.

It’s not that I have the ego to think I’m so brilliant that I can create an entirely new model. But I want to find a way to engage and expand my readership with my backlist that encourages them to continue on the journey with me for new releases, some of which will be released traditionally, and some of which will be released in channels that haven’t been invented yet. I have to find the best marriage for each individual project. I need to balance business and creativity.

If I’m only going to focus on sales, on the business aspect, I might as well work full time for a packager and only do for-hire work. Nothing wrong with for-hire work; it can be great fun and a way to build craft, especially if it pays fairly. But the reason I write is to make sense of the world, and to find a greater understanding of the people in it. That means I need to work on whatever interests/bothers/upsets/intrigues me. Which may not coincide with what is thought to “sell”. And yet, it may be what certain readers are looking for or yearning for.

Agents and publishers don’t know what WILL sell. They know what HAS sold. Every submission is a gamble, and they have to make their best guess.  They want the next big thing, but no one knows what that is until it’s there. They have to be careful where they invest their time and energy. Where are they willing to take chances?

I completely respect that. Some projects I write will resonate with them; some will not. It’s like dating — you’re unlikely to find your soul mate the first time out. You keep going. And there might be a few heartbreaks along the way. That doesn’t mean either party is “bad”; it means they’re not a good match. You learn and move on to a hopefully better one.

Far too much of the business is run on “everyone does this” and “that’s the way it’s done.” Not every channel works for every book and author. Readers want good deals; bookstores and libraries face ever-tightening budgets, and they have to be particular about where they spend their money. Amazon, for all its convenience, seems to be turning to a model to actively prevent authors from earning a fair return on their work, between the bots that manipulate rankings, arbitrary dismissal of legitimate reviews in favor of badly written, poorly spelled reviews by unqualified individuals with an axe to grind, and sabotaging publishers by pushing cheaper second-hand deals.

I have several re-releases I want to put back out into the world, with the hope that they’ll start earning their keep, continue to build an audience, and pave the way for the next books in their series, and help build a solid platform while I continue, with new work, to pursue more traditional outlets. The goal of each book is that the storytelling and craft improves from the previous book, which means every book becomes a better experience. For re-releases, I can apply what I’ve gained in craft to the release, and thereby position the next book even more strongly, because I’ve got a firmer foundation on which to build.

But the books still need to find their audience.

The plan and execution for each re-release is easier, at least on the emotional level. Far too often, working with some of the small publishers, I’ve taken the “partner” aspect seriously, working with them on ideas and campaigns, only to have the publisher not fulfill what was agreed, and simply shrug it all off. ARCS not sent to reviewers as promised, books that were ordered far in advance not showing up for special events, “forgetting” or “misplacing” information sent for multiple-author promotions. The most destructive, in my experience, is refusing to put a solid release date into the contract, refusing to commit to a date, and releasing a book when the publisher “gets around to it.” Even if the author is doing the bulk of promotional work, you can’t build a marketing campaign that will get a return without solid information.

Being responsible for all the aspects of the backlist releases myself takes much of that frustration away. That’s why many of the traditionally-published authors I know have decided to go indie or hybrid. It’s not because they “can’t” get published by a more traditional outlet. It’s because the publisher isn’t giving them the support that will actually give a reasonable return.  Granted, they start out with a major advantage over me — they had the support of the traditional publisher to build their audience in the first place.

I’m also tired of all the marketing campaigns being so similar. Far too often, I’m scrolling past book promotion posts, because it all sounds the same. Covers are too similar. Cover blurbs don’t hook me. If I see a review quote from a site I know charges authors for a review, I dismiss it.

How does one set oneself apart?

There’s argument that one shouldn’t. This is what readers are used to; this is what they want. I think that underestimates the reader. Yes, there are readers who read to escape, who want something safe and familiar. They want the category romance where the only thing that changes is the character name and location. They are happy with the ever-more-restrictive formula for certain cozies that is more intolerant, that dumbs down character and motivation, and reaffirms their own narrow view of the world.  They’re free to read whatever they want, and I believe there’s a need for every type of book and every type of reader.  We all have days were we want to escape, and not be forced to think too much, or have our views of the world challenged. If that’s ALL a particular group of readers craves, they’re not the readers for whom I’m writing, so I’m not targeting them.

I’m on the hunt for something different. I have three major releases coming up in the fall and early winter, and several short releases. I have to build the individual campaign for each, and I have to integrate and cross-promote where appropriate. Each campaign has to be unique to the release, while building momentum.

I’m going to experiment. Yes, I’ll use some tried-and-true techniques, but I’m also going to come up with some things that are different. I’ll be sharing them as I figure out what they are and how to use them.

I’m starting with the following questions:

–Who is my target audience?

–What elements have given me the best return in the past, and can I adapt any of them for this particular release?

–As a reader, what catches my attention? Can I adapt any of that?

–As a reader, what turns me off? Can I avoid that?

–What makes my book unique, and what tangible aspects of that uniqueness can I use in promotion?

The answers for most of those questions will be slightly different for each release. Since I write in different genres, the target audience for each of the big releases (paranormal romantic suspense, contemporary mystery, paranormal mystery) will be slightly different. There’s room for some crossover, which I hope to exploit. But there will also be differences.

Elements that have worked for me include good media kits and individual outreach (absolutely no generic email blasts). Radio is also always one of my strongest aspects.

What catches my attention? Hard to pin down, but I have to.

What turns me off? Constant demands that I buy the book; poorly written cover copy or excerpts; covers that I’ve either seen on other books or that are so similar to other books I think I’ve seen them.

Two of the biggest turn-offs tend to happen on Twitter: one is a series of identical promotional posts that are scheduled and keep turning up in my feed. The other is when a new-to-me author follows me, I follow back, and get an immediate direct message demanding I buy the book. For me, that’s an automatic unfollow.

Another thing I don’t do is author photographs. I get a lot of flack for that. I write under multiple names in multiple genres. What I look like has NOTHING to do with my writing. I’m not an actor. I’m a writer. My words are my instrument, my words are what I share with the world. My life (which includes my looks) are separate. Readers don’t need a photograph. I have icons that designate the different pseudonyms. It’s even in my contracts. I’ve lost contracts when I refused to supply a photograph instead of the icon that is recognizable for any specific name. Interestingly enough, the ONLY time that’s happened is when the venue didn’t pay, and they wanted to run a piece of mine for “exposure.” In other words, no loss there. Unfortunately, I lost paid contracts when a newspaper ran a photograph of me that it had agreed not to run (I explained my contract). I should have sued the paper. I didn’t, but I lost a series contract thanks to that, as well as a stand-alone contact.  Because it was specified in my contract that I do not do author photographs; I only agreed to the newspaper interview because they promised NOT to run a personal photograph (I provided professional photos of the topic of the interview, which wasn’t even writing-related).  They lied to me and cost me book contracts, which means income.

I’m sick and tired of fighting with people when I hang out and they want to take pictures to post on Facebook. No. I don’t do photographs. Period. I have personal photographs that are in frames or albums with people in my life who are important to me.  I am not part of the “selfie nation”.  I could go into a whole rant on it, but people would feel I judged THEIR choices, which I don’t.  They can take and post any photo they want — as long as it’s not of me.  I have no interest in posting a selfie of me in front of something. To prove I was there? I don’t need to prove anything. That is my choice. That is my right. People can share whatever THEY chose, and it’s not up to me. But I can also choose what NOT to share.

Social media has done a great deal to expand my work’s reach. At the same time, I’m not willing to stop being who I am for fear of offending readers. I’m politically active — in life and on social media. At this particular juncture in time, my very life and that of my family depends on my so being. I’m not going to stop. That may turn off readers. Chances are, they are readers who wouldn’t like my books anyway, because my characters stand up for social justice and tolerance, and fight against oppression, tyranny, racism, bigotry, misogyny. Readers who don’t believe in those issues aren’t going to like my books anyway. Nor will I let them bully me by threatening not to buy my books if I’m politically active. Then don’t buy my books — you are not my target audience. It is your choice where to put your money. I’m an advocate of conscientious consumerism, and means respecting the choice of those who’d rather put their money elsewhere. We’ll go our separate ways. YOU are not going to change what I write. I write what I write, and I endeavor to get it out to the widest audience possible, who then CHOOSES if it’s what they want or not. It’s fine to be “not”. There are plenty of books and authors that don’t work for me. I wish them well in their careers and move on.  I don’t argue with them or publicly trash them.  I move on.

In fact, an author whose work I used to read fairly regularly (although I feel she’s dumbed down her last few books) complained about authors being politically active and threatened to stop following or supporting any authors who remained active. Although I consider her a midlist author, she is traditionally published, and believes that her platform has strong influence. Fine. That’s her choice. But she’s now dropped from MY list. I wish her well; I hope she’s happy and successful. I didn’t argue with her or try to bully her into changing her views.  But I choose to spend my hard-earned money on other authors, and I choose to spend my time with people who respect my beliefs, even if they don’t always agree with them.

As a dedicated member of PEN, who used to work on behalf of incarcerated authors all over the world when I lived in New York, walking my talk is vital to who I am and what I write. I’m not going to dilute it because it threatens certain readers’ narrow frames of reference.

Again: they are not my target audience.

And the rule of marketing that works, after “write a good book” is “know your audience.”

My goal is to create interesting, engaging campaigns for books in which I believe. I want to expand my audience. I want to write books that interest, entertain, and maybe make readers look at the world a bit differently. I want to create marketing campaigns that are less of “Buy my book, damn you” and more “come play in this sandbox for awhile — you might enjoy yourself.”

I’m still working out the details. I know I’m going to pursue interviews (blogs, print, radio). Once print editions are available, I may start pitching for appearances again. My media kits are vital tools, and the Media Room on my website is the one of pages with the highest traffic.

I also spend time dissecting what is unique about each release. Themes, characters, leitmotifs that turn up in the books. I want to build aspects of each marketing campaign around that, to make the campaigns more unique. I’m not sure what all of those are yet, but I’m working on it.

Will any of this work? I won’t know until probably 2019. I’m going to try different elements. Some will work. Some will not. I’ll adjust.

One of the biggest challenges is handling of all this, keeping on schedule, and maintaining momentum while staying on track with new projects and with the freelance writing that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head, AND dealing with the difficult personal issues that I’m currently dealing with.

But, most important of all, I will keep writing.

I hope you continue on the journey with me. I hope you will learn from my experience. If my mistakes can prevent any of your own, that will be a positive, in my opinion.

Namaste!

Wed. July 19, 2017: Upward Tick

Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Waning Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Foggy, hot, humid

The post I planned to post today has vanished, so I’m creating a new one.

Things started looking up yesterday — a pitch I sent out was contracted wtihin the hour. Signed the contract this morning, questions are out, deadline is the end of the week. It’s a new-to-me publication, which is always excited.

Turned around the review notes, put in the next request.

We tried putting the Coventina Circle Logo on the front cover of PLAYING THE ANGLES — did not work at all, which we found out the hard way. So it will stay on the web and facebook pages and the promotional material for the series, but not be on the front cover of the digital releases. Instead, we’ll use it on the back cover of the print edition.

Working on the webpage and Facebook page for the series.

“Labor Intensive” is coming along, as is the YA. All this while I’m juggling articles and the galleys for PLAYING THE ANGLES, and trying to get back on track with SAVASANA.

Some good marketing discussions; I think tomorrow’s post will be devoted just to marketing.

Errands this morning and soon it will be back to the page. I’m roughing out the article, and will weave the quotes in when I get them; then it’s back to “Labor Intensive”, the YA, ANGLES, and SAVASANA.

At least it’s never dull! 😉

Published in: on July 19, 2017 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Tues. July 18, 2017: Trying to Tread Water

Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy, foggy, hot, humid

I wish I could say everything worked out yesterday and today is brilliant, but no such luck. The life stuff is still crushing me.

However, I got a review and two short stories out, along with a couple of pitches. I prepped some more pitches that will go out this morning.

The only thing left to do on the PLAYING THE ANGLES cover is to see if I want to add in the image I’m using to tie together the entire series, or if I’ll only use it on the website. I have to add some links into the media kit, and then that’s done. I did a few chapters on the galleys. Mostly, it’s tightening the writing, replacing some vague language with sharper, more specific. Unlike print galleys, where, by this stage it’s about correcting errors and maintaining consistency, because it’s being prepped for digital formatting, I have more room to fix problems. Then this will be used as the basis for the print edition galleys, which means I have to get it right NOW, and the print galleys are only about minor, final changes.

Polished the big article that’s going out today. Tried to set up some project appointments, but the other party was vague, which is frustrating, because I don’t have time for vague right now. I need definites.

Tried to read a mystery, but the protagonist was so annoying that I stopped. I sort of liked a book by this author in a different series, but this book turned me off completely.

Being on the second day of a migraine isn’t helping.

This morning, I did some trimming and pruning in the front yard. I have a lot of admin work to do today, and then more writing and edits. I also got notes from my editor on the review I sent in. I resent the fact that this is the third review I’ve done and I’ve yet to be paid for the first one.

I need something good to break my way.

Digging down and moving on.

Published in: on July 18, 2017 at 9:48 am  Comments Off on Tues. July 18, 2017: Trying to Tread Water  
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Monday, July 17, 2017: Breaking Points and New Covers

Monday, July 17, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy, humid, hot

Sometimes you go through a rough patch, which is what is happening right now.  It will cycle through, but it’s not fun while I’m in it.  This post is a bit on the downside; feel free to skip it.  Tomorrow, hopefully, will be a more upbeat day!  But it does deal with some of the more stressful and unpleasant realities of the freelance life.

Stressful weekend. The life stress has been very, very bad, ramped up to a height where I’m ready to break under it, and, added to that, the last few days were filled with creative stress (the wrong kind) as well.

Some creativity in there, too, but stressful.

Two of the interview subjects (with big name associations) who’d promised to have their information back to me by Friday for one of the articles didn’t. Which meant on Saturday, I had to nag — something I hate. Because let’s face it, it’s not “follow up”, it’s nagging, and if you say you’re going to do something by a certain date, do it. Don’t just not get in touch. One of them suddenly said she was too busy to take the TEN MINUTES to answer the questions. No, honey, you’re not “too busy”. You either don’t want to share your knowledge, or you suck at time management.  Either one is your choice, and I respect it; perhaps you’re trying to be polite with the “too busy”, but I read your subtext.  Moving on!

The other sent the answers, and they’re very good, so they go in to the article.

Three other interview subjects never bothered to get back to me. Two of them were businesses related to the topic of the article with whom I considered doing business in the next few months. I’ve changed my mind. If they can’t answer a few basic questions, they’re not getting any dollars from me.  The third non-response was rather expected; it was a stretch, and I had the feeling that organization wasn’t about to share information. It proved something I suspected.

I thought the cover for PLAYING THE ANGLES was all set, but now I’m having second thoughts. I’m afraid the cover is too bright and peppy for paranormal romantic suspense. The cover has to properly represent and support the story; the image was more appropriate for one of the pieces in development.

The designer and I worked up a new cover this morning, and I like it much better. So that’s a load off – it combines theatre, moonlight, and gives a sense of suspense.

I did some work on the galleys; I’m working on the series bible as I work through the galleys, so that I’ll have it ready when I go back to finish SPIRIT REPOSITORY.  Tracking details is so important.  This past weekend, I saw a post from a writer who asked her readers a consistency question because she couldn’t remember and didn’t feel like looking back through her own work.  I was shocked.  That’s the WRITER’S job — keep a Series Bible, for crying out loud.  I was further surprised because it’s the only series this particular writer works on; I’d understand more if she was juggling multiple series.

Worked on SAVASANA AT SEA. While the pace of the last draft is decent, I had to dumb down a bunch of stuff in the previous draft for the previous team, and I want to figure out a way to put back some of the more interesting items I was forced to cut. The new editor and I are working on that together. The manuscript, as it stood, was only 70K, so there’s room for a few thousand more words, as long as they don’t hurt the pace.

Did more Lavinia Fontana research. I’m getting an idea of the characters I want to include. So much of her life was handled by men; even though she is the central character, there will be a lot of male roles in the piece. I need to find at least one patron or wife of a patron so she’s got a good female character to play off of.

Outlined a new idea and wrote about twenty pages on it, so that the characters would shut up and let me think about other things. There’s potential in the piece, but I’m not sure when or how to fit it in. There are several pieces with potential that have to get back on the schedule and have to get finished, polished, and out.

“The Ramsey Chase” media kit is almost ready to go. PLAYING THE ANGLES media kit is almost finished. I updated the Q & A to reflect what’s changed in the re-release. I finished drafting the fiction section of the overall Devon Ellington media kit. I’m about to start work on the nonfiction section.

I have to figure out how to do subdomains for both the Coventina Circle series and the Nautical Namaste series. I have the right to the subdomains from my host, but I can’t use the website builder for any more projects without being charged extra — and they just raised my hosting fees AND told me that I have to pay every month, instead of quarterly. I’m out of available web pages to add on my main Devon Ellington site — unless I agree, again, to a higher monthly fee. Not that they’re giving me the services supposedly included in my package. But I can’t afford to switch hosts right now. I should be able to create pages and upload them as ftp files, except the host won’t give me the correct code to get into my ftp manager. Because 1and1.com is one of the worst hosts out there. I’ve been talking about moving hosts for years; as soon as I have enough money so to do, I have to do it, because they are costing me so much in lost revenue every single month and they REFUSE to provide customer service when something goes wrong. They are just awful. Unfortunately, right now I’m trapped. I have to stay, because I can’t afford to move, even though staying is costing me lost income. They know it, and they’re screwing me even worse than usual.

Sunday, I worked on the article and its sidebar, and worked on a couple of pitches that have to go out today. Most of Sunday was devoted to the article. The initial draft, with all the information waaaay above my allotted word count. I cut nearly 1000 words, and I was still over, by a good deal. I contacted my editor and asked if there was wiggle room — and got it. While I don’t want to take advantage, and will try to cut some more, I am grateful that she trusts me so much.

I think I found a new market for a rejected short story. I’m irritated that there’s been no response to a follow-up I sent on a couple of pitches, where I’ve worked for the publication before and the editor seemed to like me. I’m even more irritated that now I have one late payment that’s a month late and another going on two months. Not acceptable AT ALL. I have bills to pay; I need to be paid on time, PER CONTRACT, not if and when you happen to get around to it.

Did several loads of laundry on Sunday, too.  Carry wood, chop water.  It keeps things in perspective.  Managed to deadhead some of the tiger lilies, too.

This morning, I mowed, did a grocery store run, finished a review and submitted it, submitted two short stories and a pitch. I have to write some follow up letters that might negate my original pitch, but I can’t wait any longer for an answer. I can’t be in limbo any longer with vague, “yes, you’re hired and we’ll get back to you.” To top it all off, I have a migraine.

I’m supposed to do something for a pro-positivity site I was invited to join, but I’m not finding much that’s positive right now. I’m being run into the ground, without recompense.

I posted a couple of upbeat things on Facebook and Twitter in honor of the day’s theme, but that’s all I can do.

However, the new cover for PLAYING THE ANGLES has cheered me up.

I just have to dig deeper and find a way to make things work.  Maybe I’ll sing the “Cranky Pants” song and it will help me get over myself!

Tomorrow will be better!

Fri. July 14, 2017: Keeping it Up Under Pressure

Friday, July 14, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Rainy and cool
Bastille Day

For many years, I have looked upon Bastille Day as my own personal independence day. Back in the mid-1980s, it was the day I walked away from a toxic situation.

Yesterday, I got out some pitches, I worked on the YA story, I worked on SAVASANA AT SEA, I worked on some proposals. Worked on the article. I’m waiting for a few more responses, and I hope to have it all together and out to my editor by Monday.

I re-read Lilith St. Crow’s CLOUD WATCHER, a story I love. I want to read the whole series.

Some characters started yapping at me, so I took notes and wrote about a thousand words, trying to get them to shut up.

Submitted a pitch to a site that claims to pay writers properly; only they expect said writers to pay a fee to join their “club” before they’ll consider what you pitch. Um, no, that is not a professional outlet. I don’t pay to write; I am paid to write.

I want a weekend, although I know it will be all about writing. I need other pressures to back off for a couple of days, even as they intensify. I need some breathing space to think things through and make some decisions.

Tense day, but hopefully, it will be a useful weekend.

The MidMonth Check in is up on the GDR site here.

Have a good one!

Published in: on July 14, 2017 at 9:00 am  Comments Off on Fri. July 14, 2017: Keeping it Up Under Pressure  
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Thurs. July 13, 2017: Writing Despite Building Stress

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Rainy and muggy

Got a lot done yesterday. Worked on the YA story for the sick teen, spent a lot of time working on the article — thanks to all the sources who got back to me so fast!

Worked on three chapters of revisions of something I hadn’t planned on working on quite yet, but it pulled at me, so I did. I think I might collapse the second and third chapters together to get the first body drop in at the end of Chapter Two. But Chapter One is still one of my favorite chapters I’ve ever written. It’s important to setting up the character and situation, and it hurt the book when it was cut. There’s plenty of other unnecessary stuff that I think I can cut, but that chapter’s too important to who Sophie is and why. But right now the body drop is at the end of Chapter Three, and I’m worried that it’s too far in.

We’ve also gotten the cover for PLAYING THE ANGLES done! I’m happy with it. It doesn’t bow to genre tropes in that, although it’s paranormal romantic suspense, it’s bright colors instead of dark. But it clearly states that it’s a Coventina Circle Romantic Suspense, and the texture in the photo supports the story better than the more conventional cover images did. That’s a relief; now I can get back on track with the galleys. I’ve signed the digital contract, and we’re still in negotiating the print details.

I’m trying something new to me here; I’m doing the digital version with one company, and a traditional print run with another. Neither has a problem with it. It’s a risk, and there will be a lag between digital and print release, but, I think in terms of long-range vision, it will work better.

Today will mostly focus on article work, but I want to work on the YA story, the PLAYING THE ANGLES galleys, and maybe even get back to FIX IT GIRL.

I’m beginning to despair the late payments ever showing up, which puts me in deep trouble for July’s bills.

I’m scrambling to make it up with other freelance work, but even when I land something, the payment contract schedule doesn’t solve this immediate problem.

I’m also irritated that the doctor hasn’t bothered to call to schedule my mother’s surgery. Does he expect we can just show up the morning after the call? I am so sick of the lack of “care” in the healthcare system.

Back to the page.

Published in: on July 13, 2017 at 9:24 am  Comments Off on Thurs. July 13, 2017: Writing Despite Building Stress  
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Wed. July 12, 2017: Trying to Write Through Stress

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny and humid

Yesterday, I accepted the article offer and got out my interview questions to my interview subjects. All but one (a major publisher) responded immediately. I’m going to construct the article over the next few days, hone a few points, and get it to my editor early next week, I think. I’ll approach a different publisher today; I can’t wait around.

Submitted the essay somewhere else. Sent off a book query.

I read a paranormal mystery in the afternoon — some of it I liked, some I didn’t. I’d like to read another book in the series.

Worked on the story for the sick teen. Did some purging of boxes. I’m overwhelmed if I look at the big picture of what has to be cleaned out, but I can manage if I do a little at a time.

STILL waiting on those late payments.

Did some research for the Lavinia Fontana play.

As of today, I have the Sophie Batchelder rights back. Instead of being pushed into a formula that doesn’t work for the books and is far from my vision, I can go back to what I know is the right course for the books and make them even stronger. Title change, series title change, working on cover art, and will start work on the next draft as soon as FIX IT GIRL is done.

Still struggling to come up with the right cover for PLAYING THE ANGLES. I need to figure out a proof-reading schedule for it, so I don’t get too far behind.

There was a ghost writing gig that sounded fun, although I wasn’t sure what the pay rate was. They kept telling me it’s “flexible” — on whose end? Because there’s only so much flexibility in my rates. They also wanted a project-specific sample for free (that would be “no”) and want the bulk of the work to be done via phone — without paying for phone time. That is also “no”. If someone is going to waste my time rambling out loud, I will be compensated for that time. As I’ve said many times before, I have never had a so-called “business” call lasting more than 90 seconds that wasn’t a complete waste of time and entirely about the other party’s ego. No. I charge for phone time, in 15-minute increments. Like a lawyer.

I have two short stories that need my attention, and then I have to dig into “Labor Intensive”. I also need to get going on the Lavinia Fontana play. It’s not taking shape in my head, and I need it to do so before I can start writing it.

It’s difficult to write with life stress pushing down, but all I can do is put my head down, dig in and keep working.  The only way past the life stress is to write my way out of it.

Also, someone I’ve trusted for most of my life performed a major betrayal; that’s always disconcerting. But people will disappoint you, and you have to keep going on.

Published in: on July 12, 2017 at 9:18 am  Comments Off on Wed. July 12, 2017: Trying to Write Through Stress  
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