Tues. April 30, 2019: Conference Wrap-up and New Ideas

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and cool

Ever so much to talk about, and some things about which I’m not yet ready to talk about, because I’m still mulling them over.

Hop on over to the GDR site for the April wrap-up. It should be up within a half hour of this post.

This past weekend, I was a presenter at the #NECRWA conference in Burlington, MA. It’s one of my favorite conferences, because it’s relaxed and upbeat. It always gives me a lot to think about.

I re-connected with some people I knew from before, met new people, met some people I knew from online and this was the first time we’d met in person.

The weather was awful on Friday. I had the car packed early, and left a little before noon. Usually, it takes me about 3 hours to get there (and it’s only outside of Boston) because of traffic. I’d managed to time it so it only took two hours.

My room was ready; I checked in and it took 2 luggage cart trips from car to room to get everything up. Made me think maybe I brought too much stuff.

The hotel had a renovation. It’s very upscale business traveler with dark wood and shiny counters and a huge TV. My room had a kingsized bed AND a chaise longue, with which I immediately fell in love. The bathroom was all shiny counters and frosted glass.

I unpacked, tried to rest up a bit, looked through the conference materials. I also worked ona book I have to review.

Freshened up and went downstairs for the cocktail hour. They served us a buffet dinner, too, courtesy of Red Feather Romance. That definitely got our attention — feed us! 😉

I had some interesting conversations. One with a writers’ group who’d travelled here together to attend — their members were from Western MA and upstate NY. I had another conversation with some early career writers who didn’t even try to hide their contempt that I’m with a small publisher and that I talked about craft and the importance of a good editor, and how much I value both my editor and my copy editor. They plan to self publish, and, according to them, “craft doesn’t matter, because Kindle readers don’t care.”

I beg to differ.

I found that arrogance rather off-putting, and wondered if that would be the tone of the conference.

The Literacy signing was after the dinner. I prefer it when it’s at the end of the weekend, when I’ve gotten to know some of the authors and have an idea of their books. I felt like I “should” buy a lot of books, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted, and I felt guilty when I browsed a table without buying.

I went back upstairs to decompress a little and read more of the book for review.

I also set up my rolling rack for tomorrow, went over the presentation again. Second-guessed myself on every item I brought and every slide I chosen; wondered if I should revise the presentation. But that way madness lies.

Tried to watch television, but it was lousy. I’m not missing anything by giving up cable.

Got an email from that new-to-me editor who wanted yet more information about why the topic — an underused resource that can generate more income for freelancers — is relevant to his site, which is supposed to be about generating income for freelancers. I have now written more than twice the word count ABOUT what the actual article would run. For a publication for which I’ve written a half a dozen times, and where I never had to jump through all these hoops for the other editor.

Makes me think we are no longer a good fit, and perhaps it’s time to move on to another dance partner.

The bed had one of those pillow top or memory foam things. I felt like I sank so far down it would cover me and smother me. It was comfortable; I’m just used to a much firmer mattress.

I woke up once at 4 AM with a horrible headache, but got back to sleep, and got up just before 6. Yoga, meditation, a little writing. I like writing in hotel rooms. There aren’t many distractions.

On my way to the first session, I stepped outside for a few minutes — and the headache went away. I realized that I can’t open the windows in my room, and I always sleep with my window cracked. I’m not used to recycled air.

A few minutes outside, even in the rain, helped.

Before the first session, I talked to some people who live in Central MA about the benefits of living there. They love it, because one can get to anywhere from there. It was great to hear them talk about what they loved about the area, how it’s changing, what frustrated them. The arts community seems much more vibrant and able to earn a living than it is here.

The first session was great, about burnout. Emily Nagoski was the presenter. Her handouts and worksheets were great. The timing couldn’t be better, considering the crossroads I’m facing right now. I also want to get a quote from her for an article I’m writing.

Went outside for a few minutes in between sessions, then went to a panel discussion where the participants frankly discussed money. We all agreed not to share these authors’ actual financial details outside of the room. But some of their approaches and concepts were interesting.

I was surprised — at this panel and elsewhere in the conference — by how large a percentage of the incomes are via Amazon’s Kindle direct. I’ve always avoided them because I don’t like the contract. My small publisher distributes digitally through Amazon, but my contract is not directly with Amazon, but via my publisher.

Also, the volume at which some of these authors are turning out books. There’s one full-time author who has published 70 books in the last 11 years. She’s earning money, she’s winning awards. She’s turning out quality work. She’s got audio books and translations out.

I always thought I wrote reasonably fast, but I couldn’t keep up that pace, unless I had a full staff to run the rest of my life.

I’m wondering if I should run an experiment, and have something that is more typically genre run through KDP/Unlimited to see how the returns differ.

The downside to that (apart from the qualms I have about the KDP contract) is that having only one book in that pipeline isn’t going to do much. I’d need at least three.

Three books that are separate from anything I currently have on contract, when I’m already on a brutal contract schedule.

Of course, a new pseudonym and a new idea for a series, even its title, came bursting forth almost immediately.

Whether I choose to go KDP or not, I’m kind of in love with this idea. It fuses with a couple of other ideas I’ve been playing with, and mixes the mystery and romance genres in a beautiful location.

I even have the opening line, which is a kicker.

The problem is — when will I be able to write it? We’ve already rescheduled THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE and DAVY JONES DHARMA. I’m on track for GRAVE REACH, but I can’t let the other two fall by the wayside.

I have to get back into the Jain Lazarus Adventures later this year, revising CRAVE THE HUNT, and my editor and I have to go over the first two, seeing if we need to make any changes.

I have to get back on track with the JUSTICE BY HARPY books. The first book is in great shape; the second two, not so much. Since all three have to release close together, that’s a challenge.

I want to get THE FIX-IT GIRL out on traditional submission, and work on THE TIE-CUTTER.

And, of course, there’s always GAMBIT COLONY that pulls whenever I’m stressed to blow off steam.

I have a radio play going live in May. I have another radio play due in Florida in the next couple of weeks, and requests for more; I have ANOTHER radio play to send to MN as soon as I’m done with it.

I have a play due in NY at the end of May for a contest.

I have to get into the MFA to research Canaletto and the Bibiana families so I can start writing the play about Canaletto’s sisters that’s due at the end of the year.

I have to finish the anti-gun violence play (because it’s not like that issue will be solved any time soon).

I have to keep working on WOMEN WITH AN EDGE RESIST, and test the monologues.

I have to write the play about the two infamous women authors.

I have articles to pitch and write, and other marketing writing that keeps a roof over my head. I have contest entries to finish, books to review, a couple of speaking engagements coming up.

I have to come up with a new marketing strategy for my books.

How do I make it all work? Especially when, right now, I’m exhausted? And deal with the garden? And I probably have to face some major life changes in the upcoming months.

I’m not sure. I have to take some time to sit and think. To prioritize. To push myself to get it all done.

To do it without killing myself.

Hence why the burnout workshop was so relevant.

Outside, took a few breaths of fresh air, then back in for a seminar on ebook pricing. Some of which directly contradicted what worked for some of the authors in the last seminar.

One interesting thing that came up was to set the first book in a series perpetually at 99 cents. I’ve played with that idea. I don’t want the people who are excited by a new release to feel screwed if I lower the price of the first book to 99 cents and keep it there. My publisher is open to discussing pricing changes, but is more in favor of limited-time discounts than a permanent change.

A few months ago, I was advised that I should lower the price of ALL the earlier books whenever I have a new release out. I balked at that idea, as did the publisher. Because then why should people order the book when it first comes out? They know it’ll come down in price a year later when the next one comes out. In the interim, I might lose them anyway.

It was also brought up that $1.99 is an awful price. I put my Delectable Digital delight shorts at 99 cents (making sure people understand they are SHORT). My publisher usually has novellas or short novels at $1.99 or $2.99 if they’re almost up to category length. Now I’m wondering if we should go up to some funky price like $2.09 or $2.49?

Yeah, this is just what my publisher wants. Me to come back from a conference full of ideas that aren’t new books! 😉

The lunch buffet was fun. I got to catch up with a friend who has nine books out under one of her names, and is about to launch a cozy mystery series under another. Can’t wait to read all of them!

Met another author, Jillian David, whose presentation I missed (and I felt guilty for so doing, because I really liked her). I now can’t wait to read her books, either.

The lunchtime keynote was Penny Reid, who was funny and heartfelt, and now I have another new-to-me author to read. That’s one of my favorite things about conferences — finding new-to-me authors whose work I can gobble up.

I found Kilby Blades, who was presenting the two sessions before mine in the salon we would all share, to ask if she minded that I brought my rack down and stashed it before her session started. She was cool with it. I didn’t want to just show up with a bunch of stuff and presume I could take up space.

I attended both of her marketing sessions which was useful. She navigates how to use best business practices in marketing and then morph them for the weirdness that is the book business. It helped me rethink some strategies, and I will have a lot to discuss with my publisher’s new marketing director soon!

There were some elements that gave me a headache. Charting daily sales–I know it’s useful, but I’d much rather look at weekly or monthly breakdowns. But as we work on new marketing strategies, the daily fluctuations and the importance of serious testing matters. The same way it does when I do it for other people.

I wish it wasn’t so much easier to market for someone else than to market myself!

Then, it was my turn.

My audience was great, but I was not happy with my performance. I talked too quickly. I didn’t share enough anecdotes from the set (only two or three). I meant to talk about heirloom pieces that are passed down and how they have meaning, and didn’t. I meant to tie in to some of the other sessions, and it flew right out of my mind.

I was frustrated with myself because it wasn’t as good as it could have been, and the only one to blame was me.

I shouldn’t have cut reading the passage from a friend’s book about how a couple of characters cleaned up for a funeral. That would have been a good addition. But when I timed a rehearsal, it made the session run long without time for questions.

As I said, my audience was great. I could have been better. I did not live up to my own expectations.

I packed up, took everything back up to the room, and changed for dinner. I wore Cupcake International pieces all weekend — I was a walking advertisement for them. But the pieces were fun and comfortable and flattering.

Dinner was good. I sat with some people who’d been in my session, and another woman from NH who was lovely. We had a great talk about life in New Hampshire and a whole lot of other things.

Sonali Dev was our Keynote, and she was wonderful. She said something that resonated. “We write because we refuse to be silent.”

Again, gave me a lot to think about.

I was exhausted and my mind going a mile a minute after dinner. I didn’t join the debrief sessions; I went upstairs. I finished reading the book for review, and made notes.

I made some notes on some new ideas. I tried watching TV, but there was nothing I wanted to see. Packed everything up.

I pondered all the information I’d gathered. It will take me awhile to sort it all out and decide how best to put it to use.

Woke up at 1 AM and got back to sleep. Woke up a little after six. Yoga, meditation, a little writing. Breakfast.

Had the car loaded and was gone a little after 8. There wasn’t much traffic, so I was home by 10:30.

Unloaded. Put stuff away. Unpacked. Sorted laundry. Unpacked the handouts and bookmarks and other things I picked up at the conference. It will take me a few days to go through them.

I usually go through them the day of or the day after. But I was too tired.

I don’t get why — I hardly drank at all. I usually spend more time at the bar at conferences, and I didn’t this time around. But I feel more worn out than when I spend most of my free time in the bar. Here I tried to take good care of myself and be healthy, and I’m still wiped out.

Probably because this was at the end of a long, stressful month.

Tried to rest on Sunday. Wrote the review. Read some other books. I gave myself the day off from contest entries.

Monday was back to the normal routine, although I felt like I’d been hit by a truck.

Got some writing done in the morning, although it wasn’t very good. Played with my new idea. That world is coming into focus surprisingly clearly. Although I don’t want to be arrogant about it, so I ordered a bunch of research books from the library.

Returned what I’d borrowed for the conference. Spent time onsite with a client. Turned in my review.

Cancelled out of my mid-afternoon appointment because my brain was mush and I was making stupid mistakes.

I’d walked out of the house without my phone. Meant to pick it up after the session with my client and before leaving for meditation group. But, of course, I walked out without it — mostly because the cats caught a little, tiny mouse, and I felt horribly guilty about her demise. I mean, I don’t want mice in the house, and I’m glad the cats did their feline job — but I still felt awful about that poor little mouse, and buried her in the yard.

Meditation was good. I felt better and more focused after, although still tired.

Read a couple of Tracy Kiely’s Nic and Nigel Martini books over the past two days. They’re a lot of fun.

Went to bed early; overslept this morning.

Got some writing done, but not enough. Still mulling things over in my head.

Onsite with a client most of the day, then I have to get some work done at the library.

More contest entries to work on tonight, and I’m starting to enter the scores into the digital sheets.

Was assigned my next book for review.

I have to get going on the thank yous and follow ups from the conference today and tomorrow. I don’t want to let that slide.

And I have to get on a more productive writing schedule. I think I have to add a second writing session into the evening for the next few months. The morning at 1.5-2K is okay (although it makes me feel very slow). But if I can add in another 1K session in the evening, I should be able to get back on track. Maybe I can up it a little on weekends.

Mostly, though, I’m so, so tired. My body is tired and my brain is tired. I’m seriously thinking of taking a few days off this weekend, except for contest entries, and then starting up again with the new moon.

But the conference was great, and it gave me a lot to think about. Now, I have to sort through it, and, most importantly, APPLY WHAT I’VE LEARNED.

Because otherwise, it’s just time spent without gain.

Back to the page.

 

Mon. Aug. 27, 2018: Respect for Craft #UpbeatAuthors

Monday, August 27, 2018
Day After Full Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Mars Retrograde – as of today

The final post about respect is about respect for craft, which is vital to us as authors.

If you’re a professional, published writer, your craft matters. Making each book better than the one before it, on levels of story, character, structure, language, grammar, and style MATTERS.

It shows respect for yourself, your work, your readers, and writing in general.

It matters.

When I teach, students who don’t give a damn about grammar, spelling, the difference between a possessive, a plural, and a contraction don’t last long. Because it shows a lack of respect for the work.

This ties back into the post from a few weeks ago – if you don’t respect your own work, no one else has any reason to respect it, either.

More than one student has shrugged and claimed “they didn’t have” basic, third-grade grammar in school. Having been through the school system, there’s a difference between what the teacher presented and what the student CHOSE to learn.

If you CHOSE not to learn something vital in school, and you expect to be a professional, published writer, take the time now to do it.

Also, when you, as a writer, work with a professional editor, be it in a publishing situation, or a workshop situation, and you get a correction, APPLY IT MOVING FORWARD. There is little more frustrating, as a teacher, than explaining to a student why a contraction is not appropriate when context requires a possessive and the student CONTINUING to make the SAME mistake, because that individual can’t be bothered to pay attention and apply what is learned. It is a waste of all of our time.

When I worked for a publishing company, I supported their strict submission policy on errors in submission packages. If there were more than three errors in the submission (which was usually query letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters), it was an automatic rejection.

The company, which did high-end art books printed on gorgeous paper in Italy and Japan, expected the authors to give enough of a damn to take the time to proofread and understand the craft. Anyone who submitted a package filled with errors obviously didn’t, and wasn’t worth the time or the money it took to produce the beautiful books. Because there were ten thousand other talented writers lined up right behind that one who cared enough to learn the craft and submit error-free proposals.

Fortunately for all of us writers who appreciate our editors and copyeditors, we have more leeway in the actual book. It never fails to mortify me when my editor and copyeditor catch things I should have seen before I submitted. But when it’s a craft issue, and not just me not catching an error, I ask questions, and pay attention to the “why” of the answer. Is it house style? Have I mis-learned something along the way? And then I apply what I’ve learned moving forward.

I still remember what a former editor at Amber Quill Press taught me about the difference between “toward” and “towards.”

There are also certain stylistic choices that are non-negotiable for me. I get those into contract clauses, so there is no confusion down the line.

Editors are overworked and underpaid. They don’t have the time to teach you what was taught in third grade that you did not bother to learn. Nor should they have to. The days of Jack Kerouac walking into a publisher’s office with a mess of a roll of typing that was brilliant enough and that an editor had time enough to fix are over.

Not only that, when you know and understand your craft: grammar, structure, spelling, story, character – then YOU get to control when you break what are considered the rules.

There’s a HUGE difference between a writer who knows the rules and chooses to break them and the writer who can’t be bothered to learn the rules in the first place.

The writer who learns and makes a choice pushes the work into exciting new realms. Because the foundation is solid, and each rule-breaking is a CHOICE, it usually works. Those who don’t know/can’t be bothered – well, the work reads as careless.

I’m always up for something exciting and new in the work. But careless writing is a slap in the face to me as a reader.

My goal in each book, story, article, is for it to be better than the one before. I try to learn with each piece, and build on what I learned before. I’m the first to admit that I don’t always succeed. Not everything I write is going to work. Even when it goes through the entire publication process, with the support of other professionals, some pieces are going to miss the mark.

I learn from those, too. And what I learn is applied moving forward.

Because I love and respect the craft of writing, and I respect my readers. I try to do the best for all of us that I can. Which means always learning.

Published in: on August 27, 2018 at 6:23 am  Comments Off on Mon. Aug. 27, 2018: Respect for Craft #UpbeatAuthors  
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Mon. July 23, 2018: Dealing with Failure #UpbeatAuthors

pier-1467984_1920
Image courtesy of Cleverpics via pixabay.com

Monday, July 23, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde

As usual, this will focus on how failure affects us as authors, in our work and life. Some aspects can be applied to other parts of life, but the focus is on our art.

The first way to deal with it is to define it.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “failure” as:

Definition of failure

1a omission of occurrence or performance; specifically failing to perform a duty or expected action 

  • failure to pay the rent on time
(1) a state of inability to perform a normal function 

  • kidney failure

 — compare heart failure 

(2) an abrupt cessation of normal functioning 

  • a power failure
c a fracturing or giving way under stress 

  • structural failure
2a lack of success
b a failing in business bankruptcy 

  • He was trying to rescue the company from failure.
3a a falling short deficiency 

  • a crop failure
4one that has failed 

  • He felt like a failure when he wasn’t accepted into law school.

 

But do you?

I sometimes feel I fail if I let someone else down. If it’s because I was thoughtless or disorganized, then it’s on me and I damn well better find a way to make it right. But sometimes it’s because the other person put an unfair expectation on me and I wasn’t strong enough to say no right off.

Sometimes I feel that I failed if I don’t get an acceptance from a market or a publisher or a grant to which I applied. Yes, I failed to get that particular slot. Most of the time, though, another opportunity comes up that I wouldn’t have been able to accept if I had landed the previous one. Also, because I’ve worked on the publisher side of the table, I know that acceptance is more than just a well-written book: it’s about fitting the tone of a particular publisher, and fitting into the needs of a particular list. Most traditional publishers and some of the smaller publishers have to balance their list so it appeals to a spectrum of readers. If they have too many of one kind of book and none of another in any particular season, they will lose readers that season, and might never regain them. It’s about where your piece fits into the bigger picture, not just your piece.

Many organizations that give out grants expect you to apply (and fail to get an acceptance) over a period of years before they take the application seriously. This always angered me, even when I worked for such non-profits. But many organizations want to see that an artist can sustain work over a period of years before giving that individual money. They don’t want someone who will use a day job or another excuse not to work, or to accept the grant and not meet the requirements of the work that needs to be produced.

None of that knowledge takes the sting out of those refusals, or alleviates the sense of failure.

How do you deal with it?

Acknowledge that you feel angry, sad, whatever. Don’t get on social media and rant and rave against the publisher, agent, or organization. It’s fine to admit disappointment, but don’t attack. Save the venting to do in person, privately, with people you trust. Because there IS a need to vent; there’s just no need to do so publicly. Your feelings are your feelings; they are valid. How you choose to handle them has consequences.

If there’s any feedback, step away for a few days, and then re-visit it with a more objective sensibility. What can you learn from this? How can you apply it positively moving forward?

There are certain publishers and/or organizations that are not a right fit. Just “getting published” isn’t enough. It has to be a place where you have a positive working relationship and both the writer’s and the publisher’s needs and goals are met. Sometimes what starts out as a promising relationship deteriorates. It’s not that one side is “better” or “right” — it’s simply that the needs of both parties aren’t being met, and it’s time to part ways (hopefully amicably), so you can both move on to a better situation. That’s true in any job situation.

I think it’s often harder for artists to deal with failure because what we do is so personal, so much a part of ourselves. It’s difficult not to feel that it’s a rejection of us as human beings.

If something we wrote doesn’t sell well or sell at all, we feel we failed. After a period of time, we can look back. Could it have been structured better? Used stronger language? Have you learned something in the interim that makes it work now? If it’s a sales number, what can you learn from that book’s campaign that you can apply to future promotions? We are pushed to think in terms of immediate large sales numbers, instead of a steadily growing readership. There are plenty of books I’ve read with huge opening sales numbers — and I’ve never read anything by that author again either because I didn’t like the book or because the author never managed to get anything else done, feeling the pressure.

But there are a lot of competing needs and agendas out there, and we’re not all compatible.

When it comes to finding the right agent or publisher, I often compare it to dating — it’s unlikely you’ll find your soul mate the first time out. You need to meet a lot of people and date around. Finding the soul mate for your work is similar.

There’s no need to dramatize or villainize if something doesn’t work out (although, in the first flush of hurt and disappointment, we will). Happy yippy platitudes too soon to the hurt are counterproductive. But then, take a step back, look at the positives, and apply what you learn moving forward.

As a teacher, that’s the most infuriating aspect. When a student REFUSES to apply a correction moving forward. We all start somewhere. We all have things we need to learn. When something is explained (such as the difference between a possessive and a plural) — learn it. APPLY IT MOVING FORWARD. Don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again and expect someone else to fix it.

The only true failure is REFUSING to learn from something that didn’t work and refusing to apply it moving forward.

Most other situations are disappointments or setbacks that can be overcome.

–Acknowledge

–Create objectivity

–Learn

–Apply

And then go on to create something wonderful!

Published in: on July 23, 2018 at 4:50 am  Comments Off on Mon. July 23, 2018: Dealing with Failure #UpbeatAuthors  
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