Category Archives: insecurities

I, Antagonist, Part 2: The beatings will continue until morale improves

You know that story where there’s the hero who’s a decent guy, just trying to be decent. And there’s an antagonist who freaking HATES this guy. Because the hero did him wrong at some point. And it was totally an accident. Or it was when they were just kids, or something else we find excusable because this guy’s the hero and a decent guy.

But the antagonist, man, he can’t get over it. This dude is psycho. I mean, it’s obvious he should just get the fuck over it and not pick fights with this really decent, guy who helps old ladies and is finally about to win over that girl he’s been too shy to approach. Hey, we like this guy, he’s all right, don’t screw up his shit with your bullshit vendetta.

At the same time, we sometimes feel sorry for the antagonist, because this yahoo has legit screwed up his life because he can’t forgive and move on. He’s gone Dark Side. This hatred is who he is, hating the hero is his identity, and punishing the hero is his mission in life. He coulda been somebody. He coulda been a contender. But he’s let this obsessive hatred screw up his possibilities, burned bridges with it, and ignored opportunities to be something more. Instead, he’s  playing the part of the freaking psycho and it’s gonna end badly. (Unless this is horror, in which case he maybe wins…)

So I’m reading about procrastination, and over and over again I have to be confronted with this concept that many of us, band of brooders, have issues regarding self worth. We see our sense of self tied up in things outside ourselves, needing approval from others, needing accomplishments to make us feel worthy. And they say it not like that for everyone, but they don’t say where other people get it, this other way of being.

I have considered this issue before. But it’s like the motivation and organization stuff. I legit don’t get it. It’s not like I have it buried somewhere inside and just need to find it. To me that’s like saying the collective unconscious has buried the secrets of calculus within my mind, and I have only to pay attention in math class to awaken the knowledge. Oh hell no. I have no idea what you are talking about.

But okay, I accept that this is a serious problem that other people do not have. And if other people do not have it, it logically follows that I shouldn’t have to have it either. So back to Google to figure out how to get self worth.

Which leads me to effing Oprah who feeds me this blurb of an article in which the author basically has an epiphany that she should just forgive herself. So she starts doing that. And she lives happily ever after.

Which led me directly to this whole idea that I am not only my own antagonist, but I’m the absolute psycho antagonist who can’t forgive. Objectively, on the outside looking into the story, it is sometimes clear that the shero didn’t mean to be fuck-up. That she tried, that she has some decent qualities. And I’m like, damn, dude, give the kid a break. But then I go back into the antagonist character and have nothing but contempt. Meanwhile, settling into the shero character, I know I have my faults, I feel bad about the things I did wrong, guilty. But I’m bewildered by the antagonist. Why does she hate me so much? Why can’t she cut me some slack?

Is it supposed to be that easy? Are you supposed to be able to just flip the self worth switch and let the self esteem flow in and make you a happy, productive member of society?

That’d be a fine kettle of fish, wouldn’t it? Every single Talent I’ve got is dealing with some issue of not understanding how awesome they are. If we all got right in the head, what would we have to talk about?

 

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under insecurities

I, Antagonist, part 1: The Procrastination

Yesterday I said we were going to talk more about this procrastination issue.

Here’s how I got here. I can’t get anything done. I feel like I’m busy, but nothing gets done. I’m constantly stressed. I must be disorganized. I need to learn how to buckle down and get things down.

I’ve read Eat That Frog! Twice. Makes sense, I guess. But I can’t prioritize. I go to make a list and I can’t discern what the important things are. No matter what I decide to call the “important” things, I feel tremendous guilt over what was labeled “less important” thereby.

And yes, I know I think like a crackheaded idgit.

So I read Brian Tracy, David Allen, Julie Morgenstern, and somewhere in the quest to organize my shit to get it done, I realized–wait, I don’t think I’m really trying to get this done.

Because I’m not actually mentally impaired. If I had been trying to get stuff done, stuff would be a hell of a lot doner than it is. I’m flat not doing the stuff. I mean, I’m stressed out all the time like I was when I had jobs and was busy, I feel busy, I’m doing something, but I’m not really doing anything. If you follow. I’m doing a lot of purposely avoiding that which I mean to be doing.

So I go to Amazon and I put in “overcoming laziness.” And out pops “procrastination,” because Amazon loves me and doesn’t want to agree with me about the laziness to my face.

Now I don’t know why I keep wanting to reassure you that I’m not actually stupid, but it’s what I keep feeling like saying here. I’m not stupid. I know I procrastinate. I know it’s a problem. A big one. I lack discipline, I lack motivation, I lack organization.

I am the biggest lacker this side of Mississppi.

And I read and read about discipline, motivation, organization, and it’s like…I keep missing something. I don’t understand how to do what they’re telling me to do. I try, but I don’t get it. And, I repeat, not stupid. Pretty sure. Have test scores. But I feel stupid because I don’t get it. It’s like the books are written for people who somehow, somewhere, have discipline, motivation, and organization, and just need this book to bring it out. But I look and I don’t have it. Does. Not. Compute.

So on this particular day I grabbed the sample for Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It Now, and then I bought the book.

Ho-lee Shit. How fucked over am I by this procrastination crap?

Very.

You know, it’s like you think you’ve got a cold and you go to the doctor and find out you have some kind cancer that’s been there for freaking ever and it’s grown into all your parts. This avoidance crap is everywhere! I do it all the time!

Aaah! Make it stop! Well, the book just goes on and on and on. Lots of psychology. Very interesting. And lots of new stuff since I was in school.

And the reason the productivity books don’t work for me is apparently that if I’m disorganized, it’s at least partly on purpose. Because what I really am is afraid of failure, afraid of judgment, afraid of putting forth quality effort and having it not be enough, afraid of doing well and having that lead to more pressure and responsibility and losing my choices…and a whole host of other things that are much harder to ignore when someone spells them out at you for a couple hundred pages.

So I procrastinate to avoid all these things that I’m afraid of. And I’m afraid of a lot. It’s been my way of life. I hardly realize when I’m doing it. I stress about the things that are scary, so I don’t do them, and then I stress about how they’re not done. And I can’t think for all the stress-headedness.

In the writing, I’ve done a lot waiting for the inspiration. Waiting until I’m “in the right place” when I can really think. But honestly, that “right place” is usually just the state at which I can’t stand the pressure and guilt of not having done what I ought to be doing anymore and I have to do something so that my head doesn’t explode. And then I feel marginally better, having righteously accomplished something, and then start to stress about having moved forward toward judgment, and then have to avoid it again.

Anyway, it sucks. I’m working on the problem. If what I’ve said sounds familiar, check out the book’s sample, see if you want to read more.

5 Comments

Filed under insecurities, writing

The Joy of Being Indie

How long have you spent preparing for your life?

A big part of what I remember about school is being bored, doing work I wasn’t interested in and couldn’t care about, and wanting so much to get out and do and be. And so much of that time, I was being told to be something else. That the things that interested me were so competitive that it wasn’t likely I could ever be successful. Either that or just altogether not worthy of pursuing. What I should do is work harder, get better grades, get into a good college. Why, with my test scores, I could probably be a doctor or a lawyer if I applied myself.

Dudes, have you met me? Read the posts from the last few weeks. I think it takes a little more than brains to be doctor or a lawyer and I ain’t got it.

Outside of the college route, I was told that to be a writer I should go to NY and work for a publishing house. I’m a social phobic. I couldn’t even walk into a restaurant by myself. No way was that going to happen. What I wanted to do was stay where I was, continue in my fabric store job, marry my boyfriend, take in sewing on the side, work on my writing, and just see what-all happened.

And then that pesky National Merit Scholar thing came up, a college offered me four years of tuition, room and board, and a stipend for books, while my friends who actually seemed to want to go to college were scrambling and scraping for funds. Well damn.

I did 4 years of hard time in the frozen wasteland of Western NY. I got a Bachelor’s in Psychology. It didn’t help.

At some point during that time I found out that I was going to have to go to school for another EIGHT years, and God only knows what else before I could sit in a quiet, comfortable room for one-on-one, 50 minute chats, which is what I thought you did with a psych degree. It’s not. It’s what you do with a doctorate. How did I not know this? I don’t know, I was a kid. But that was so not happening.

I went to work in a sweatshop with 200 people who didn’t speak English. There were maybe 5 of us who did at any given time during the 5 years I worked there. We made polo style golf shirts. It’s the kind of thing where you learn one little piece of the process and you do that same bit hundreds of times a day for a few cents per piece. I loved the challenge of that. And then I loved the challenge of learning every operation that went into putting that product together. It was hard work in crappy conditions, but I was young and I was making money at the sewing machine, something I had been told was not a career option.

Yeah, ok, so that was part of it. I’m a rebel and I’ll never, ever, be any good. Sue me.

Besides that, I was alone all day. Alone in a room full of people, machines, and noise. But I didn’t have to interact with anyone for 95% of the day, all I had to do was sew. And my brain was my own. Finally. I could read audiobooks (remember that part where you got out of school and realized you could read anything you wanted to??) or I could just be and think about whatever crazy story I wanted to think about, for eight hours a day, and I got paid for that.

To keep this from being the story of my freakin’ life, I’ll fast forward over carpal tunnel, design school, more retail, and a lot of other crap. We’ll sail years into the future to the point where I’ve retired from my non-career and am at home with a baby, having now achieved a bunch of life goals, and feeling again that need to do and be.

I don’t know why it so often takes me 600 words or so to get into the meat of my posts. I found Etsy and I decided to try something I’d wanted to do for years: make and sell doll clothes. You know how crafting used to be? It wasn’t realistic to try to sell handmade Barbie clothes through traditional crafter venues. But I could sell some on Etsy. It was fun. Some people bought them. And they wrote to me and thanked me.

Would you believe that never happened to me in all the years I had ever worked my ass off for someone else?

I did what I loved to do, people gave me money, and then they said Thank You.

And then a friend said that my skills were worth more than what I could get for Barbie clothes, but people were paying at least three times that much for Blythe clothes. So she sent me a Blythe. And I made some clothes. The Blythe market was getting pretty competitive at the time, and I sold a few things, but no real success. Until I decided to smock.

My Smocked Valentine, the first smocked dress I sold on Etsy

It was an experiment. I sat down with 28 Days Later, because I was working on ideas for a zombie story of sorts, and this was in the days of baby napping time, and I smocked myself a tiny little dress. I was very proud of it. I had the audacity to price it at $23.50, so I was actually as afraid to put it out there as I had been when I first listed at Etsy. (Don’t ask me what I was afraid of. I really don’t know.) I called it My Smocked Valentine because it had hearts, it was the end of January, and I hoped the title would encourage someone to buy it before the end of February.

The freaking thing sold within 10 minutes.

One of my most elaborate designs, "The Spider" had to have its own video.

Every dress I smocked sold within minutes, even though I raised the prices and most of them were between $40-$50. People LOVED my work. They made special requests. They queued up in a seemingly endless special order line just to get one. I LOVED what I was doing. People gave me money. And they thanked me lavishly.

But you guys don’t care really care about dolls and their overpriced couture, so why am I telling you this?

Because it’s been the same thing with the book. Just like I found my niche in a fairly competitive market on Etsy, a lot of putting out a book is just about just getting the damned thing out and then waiting for your customers to find you. I put off, for so long, just freaking doing it and putting something out there. Because I was afraid of the process, because I was afraid of rejection, etc, etc, etc. Second verse, same as the first. And every day it’s out there, it just brings more awesome.

When I got out of high school, I wanted to create things. I wanted to write and I wanted to sew. It’s taken me twenty years to make this leap into finally doing what I really wanted to do in the first place. To get to this place where I know I can make money doing what I love, and where people go out of their way to thank me for it. And maybe I needed all that time to learn and to practice, and for technology come along to help me out. But maybe not. I’ll never know because I didn’t really try.

Part of the point of this post is that I’m finally in a good mood today, and those of you who have slogged through my whiny dramatic crap of the last few weeks really deserve some happy happy sunshine. It don’t happen that often, so soak it up, people.

If you read my blog because you’re thinking about getting back to writing, because you’re thinking about finally finishing that book, or you’re thinking about going indie, just freakin’ do it. If you have a dream, give it a chance. Don’t let being scared make you put off your life. Because there might be good things down that road, and awesome people who smile at you around every corner. That’s how it is in my world, and I appreciate you.

31 Comments

Filed under insecurities

Why the Talents Have Potty Mouths

Now, obviously, the simplest answer to that is: because I do. As you know, I’m back from a weekend up home, having seen some peeps I went to school with, and have been talking to people who use “f**kin’…” the way other people use “uh…”. This is the way we talked, from middle school on, much more gratuitously foul than the language that went into Hush Money.

Now, this isn’t confined to the place or people of my childhood. When I was a military wife, it was the same thing–only taller. And you’ll notice that while the girl Talents also cuss, it’s more often a matter of emphasis, while the boys tend to be more conversational about it.

Now, this post comes out of some of the reviews I’ve had that give me a bit of a wrist-slap and a 1-star demerit for the language. I want to say, up front, that these demerits are COMPLETELY VALID. One of these days, maybe I’ll write a post about reviews and the disconnect between writers and readers in that regard, but the short version is that writers (as I’ve read them around the ‘net) tend to think readers should be evaluating their book on some kind of objective criteria, while readers tend to rate a book based on how it affected them personally. So if my cussing kids diminished your enjoyment of the story, and assuming that a rating reflects a reader’s enjoyment of the story, then what do I expect them to do, lie? No. That would be dumb. So there you are.

Anyway, on with the behind-the-scenes stuff.

When I started to write Hush Money, I really put myself back in that time.  When I felt my way into these characters, the language just came out. Right away it gave me pause. I hadn’t really set out to write YA. When I started the book, I actually didn’t know that writing about teens would automatically make the book YA. I found this out soon after beginning the book, and I was very concerned. I’ve read YA that I consider far worse than mine in terms of adult content, but not a lot of it. Kait told me, “Don’t worry about it. Just get through the first draft and edit later.”

And, of course, that’s always excellent advice.

So why didn’t I tone down the language in the edit? I’m fairly good with words. I probably could have taken all those problem elements and re-worked them into something that still carried some strong emotion, without the actual cuss-words, right? It’s not like censoring a movie for TV and having Johnny say, “No, flip you, Dad!”

I kept the language because it’s not just words or emotion. For kids, forbidden language is part of posturing. And, as some of you may recall, posturing is very important in the wild. For those of you who went to schools where the threat of violence seemed pretty constant, maybe you’ve had that feeling that you needed to have a facade that was a little harsher and a little less vulnerable than who you really were. And maybe that’s not something all readers relate to. But I do.

The Talents live in that kind of fear state, under a constant threat, and they build walls. When I went to do the edits, I couldn’t see reworking the language as anything but removing bricks from those walls and weakening my characterization overall.

I’m not defending it like I want to change anyone’s mind. If a reader doesn’t see that, it’s probably because they either don’t relate to those feelings, or because they have personal values which override them. No book can be all things to all people, and while some people enjoyed the style of the book and have said the characters seemed very real to them, in part because of the language, others didn’t like that. I totally get that.

The point of this post was more just that it’s a thing I’ve struggled with, and I thought maybe you’d be interested in a little insight into my world.

I’m not defending it like I want to change your mind or anything. It’s more that you had mentioned being able to talk to authors about the books, and I thought you might be interested in how that particular element developed for me and why it remains.

29 Comments

Filed under author blog, characters, Hush Money, ideas, insecurities, Talent Chronicles, writing

Random Thoughts From My 20-yr High School Reunion

So here I am, back from that 20 year high school get-together thing. It wasn’t a formal reunion or anything, it was more like a small smattering of people from four different graduating classes, showing up at the same bar at the same time.

In a way, writing YA is like sentencing yourself to high school all over again. (Your crime is time and it’s 18 and life to go…) At least the way I work, I have to go back there. I have to be in that place. It’s not hard for me to embrace my inner teen. A big part of me never grew up and is stuck there. I guess I just didn’t realize how much.

Anyway, it made me think some more about what it’s like to be young. Remember how dumb that was, when just talking to a guy could start rumors, teasing, speculation, petty jealousies?

And then those same boys grow up to be men who kiss you on the cheek, just to say hello.

Isn’t that lovely?

And aren’t you glad to be a grown up.

The day after this thing, my husband and I went to visit a friend who wasn’t able to make it to the thing. And he’s sitting there asking us questions about it. Now, my husband has this excuse that he missed the last two years of high school with us because he moved away and didn’t move back until it was all over. But I…don’t have that. So we’re talking about who was at the thing, and I was like so-and-so, but I didn’t really talk to them, and so-and-so, but I never made it over to that side of the room. And the friend says, “Did you just sit in the corner all night?”

“Um, yeah, what are you, new?”

“Look who I’m talking to,” with eyeroll.

We had both spoken at once.

And, yeah, what I realized this weekend was that you can’t expect to spend your school career trying to avoid eye contact, and then the next couple decades trying to put the whole miserable experience behind you, and then expect to remember anyone or have them remember you.

So I guess what I really learned this weekend was that, while I thought I took elements of myself and really focused them into something more extreme that is Joss, well, probably myself that was was a bit more extreme than I like to remember.

10 Comments

Filed under characters, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, me me me, writing

Rantus Interruptus Continuous: In which the Universe has a lesson for me

Arg, I am an idiot.

I do things I know I shouldn’t do, because I know I’m just going to frustrated and pissed off, and that’s just going to make my whiny and depressed. And I have no right to be whiny and depressed.

But then, as I was writing this post about how I wasn’t going to rant about this, the world shifted again. And people, when the Universe gives you a sign, you need to work through what it means. Which is what I’ll be doing, should you choose to continue reading this.

And now that we’ve had THE most confusing beginning to a blog post EVAR, I’m going to go back to the beginning.

Last night, in my email, a Twitter notification of a new follow by @JamiGold. So because Twitter can’t just give me everything I need in the email, I have to actually go to Twitter to read her bio and follow her back. And what’s her latest tweet?

I know, I know! I should never have clicked that. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I should not be clicking that. But I’m just going to peek.

And then it’s scroll scroll scroll through a lot of opinions that are making ZERO sense to me, and I am taking it WAAAAAY too personally. And it wasn’t a mean, nasty angry thing AT ALL. It was just…insensible.

I mean, what I kept reading, over and over, is that because the books aren’t vetted, self-published books aren’t a good risk for these readers. They acknowledge that there might be great indie reads out there, but trad-pubbed books, while not a sure thing, are a safer bet. Ok, yeah, that’s totally logical, if you’re looking at a new trad book vs. a new indie book, all things being equal and no buzz, no reviews, etc. But here we have people saying I wouldn’t buy a book by an indie unless I met them first.

So you can see how this would make me sad. I just don’t get out much.

And the problem is that when I read this stuff I take it whack-job personally. In my head, I’m whining at these people going, what the hell? Compare my sales rank, compare my cover, compare my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, check out the page of links to blog reviews I have on my website, READ a few pages to see if I’m literate. Judge my book on the things that matter in a book. And then decide if you want to sink the whole 99cents and a few more hours of your time into it.

Maybe it just comes down to this: no one likes to be dismissed. And I think that part of the way these comments touch me is because that feeling of dismissal, that what I can do (write an entertaining book) doesn’t matter because of what I am (an indie author), feels so much like the frustration of being a powerless child.

Here’s what I came to when I decided I wasn’t going to harp on this– and I’m sorry to cuss because that makes me sound angry, but I’m trying to have a personal power moment over here, so indulge me: This shit does not apply to me. Not in some way of I put the awesome IN the mutha-fuckin’ sauce! and this shit don’t apply to me, but more in the way of this is not my readership right now, and their opinions are not relevant in my world right now.

I’m not going to win these readers over by arguing with them. (Oh don’t worry, I didn’t get involved.) There are so, so many literate people in the world today, you guys. Do you know what’s been the most surprising thing to me since publishing? How many non-writing readers are out there embracing indies, supporting indies they love, and how many more just aren’t aware that we’re even out here, that there’s really a difference. If a book looks crappy, they avoid it. If it looks good, they try it. So many readers out there judging books on the book stuff. I think you’ll find, overwhelmingly, that the people who are most negative about indie books are other writers, for whatever their reasons, which are not my business.

Part 2

So yeah, all set to just let this all go and write you this quickie post about how I wasn’t going to rant about what I was going to rant about. And then the Universe stepped in.

Last night, after reading a lot of those disheartening comments I got whiny and tweeted (is there a word for a whiny tweet, like twined?)

A few friends showed up to say cheering things to me, and remind me that I had nothing to be depressed about and I did feel better. And while I was worrying about this crap that I can’t fix, I sold my 3,000th copy of Hush Money and totally missed it. I mean, how far up your ass does you head have to be before you notice you’re being an asshat?

Nevertheless, this morning, I found myself still ticked off enough to be composing a ranty post in my head. Then I got hold of myself, decided to post the Rantus Interruptus instead, and move on with my life. And then, as I was writing this post, @JamiGold shows up. And she says,

And I’m like…Really? Seriously, I was rendered kind of panicked and speechless. Which, if you’re an introvert or social phobic, you might understand. Or if you can imagine Joss’s reaction to, Well heck, Joss, everyone knows who you are. [cue garbled choking sounds]

And also a little…Really? Like, I’m doing this right, this marketing/platform stuff that I was so sure I fail at and would be the ultimate reason for my bookfail?

Oh yeah, dude, it’s totally all dramarama like this in my brain all the time. You do not want to live here.

Ok, so now my brain is totally melted. There are people on Twitter I want to attempt light banter with, but everything’s scrolling by while my mouth is doing floppy fish thing. And @JamiGold says,

(There was one in between where she said she hasn’t read mine yet due to the scary TBR pile from Hell with which we are all familiar.) Wow, Jami, condense all my effort into 140 characters of pure validation. :sucker punch:

No, this is not hyperbole. I’m very emotional. Quit rolling your eyes and embrace this special moment we’re having together, dammit.

Because this is why I decided to tell you the whole story of my stupidity in reading that comment thread. Because we don’t ignore the things the Universe tries to tell us. Especially when the Universe talks via Twitter, because then you really know it means business. Maybe. Whatever. Fine. Have we learned anything?

1. I must not read comment threads about prejudices against self-pubbed books/authors. Evar.

2. Those are not my people. You are my people. Later on, some of those people will hear about my books, be intrigued. They’re NOT the unreasonable people I thought I saw last night. That’s silly. They’re people who love books. They’ll look at my books, at the fabulous cover art, at the reviews, and they’ll judge us on the book stuff. Someday.

3. Until they do that, I’ve got a lot of other things I need to put my energy into. Like getting you guys Heroes ‘Til Curfew. And, to that end, I’m leaving you with a link while I go work on finishing the shit that I started.

The above link is mandatory for all writers, although adult language and beverage warnings do apply.

27 Comments

Filed under book blogs, books, goals, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, me me me, rant, self-publishing, Signs, what not to do, writing

Wanna Nano Buddy?

Yeah, I did it. I went and signed up all fresh and new this morning. Here’s my profile, if you think you might like to buddy me. It’s a little slap-dash. I have no idea what years I’ve tried to do Nano before, but I can tell you that I’ve never finished. I think I’ve had two accounts, the second one because I couldn’t get back into the first one for my second year because of all the website problems. This year, though, I’ve put all the past behind me, all the hiding behind a handle, afraid to tell anyone that I write, and I’m there with my real name. So there. [self-directed “so there”]

I’m working on Heroes ‘Til Curfew. I know that, technically, it’s supposed to be something fresh and new. I had hoped to have HTC out in beta and be able to possibly start the rough of the third book for Nano. Well, there’s a dream that’s long behind me as I fall further and further behind. I really feel like I need something to get me going right now. And trust me, I’ve got at least 50, 000 new words left to write in this draft.

I’m not sure how I’ll do with the goal. I’ve never finished. Nano is a difficult concept for me. The idea of waiting to start something until a set date, setting that date around one of the busiest and most stressful parts of the year, and then all that just writing whatever to get words out, the frantic output to be fixed later–that’s not really how I work at all. So I may end up plodding along at my own pace and being behind, but I think it will be nice just to be part of Nano fever, because just the energy that surrounds it is sometimes helpful–if you don’t let it stress you out and drive you mad.

Anyway, if you’re doing Nano this year, feel free to add me.

I’m feeling really reflective today, and I was just thinking about what I said above, about how I had been hiding behind internet handles and how I avoided telling any one in real life that I was a writer. It’s been really interesting, and very nice, to be able to do this with a shiny book in my hands and my name on the cover. People in my life have been very kind, supportive, and downright enthusiastic. But I’m not sure what it would have been like without that shiny book, and I wonder if I ever would have done it.

A lot of Hush Money is about fear. I know I said this in an interview somewhere, that one of the movie lines that repeated in my head while I was writing, and continues to live there when I think about the story, is from Pump Up The Volume. It’s the part at the parent meeting when Paige Woodward, the girl who blew up her kitchen, takes the stage and passionately tells the crowd how she’s just been going through the motions of being perfect. “We are all really scared to be who we really are.”

And didn’t think too much, until I started to out myself as a writer, how much of Joss’s secrecy was actually mine.

I got another bit of fan mail this morning, from someone who hasn’t quite reached the end of the story, but wanted to tell me how much I made her feel like she was there, in school, living this life. (As a writer, I should have better words for what those messages mean to me.) Looking forward to her finishing the book, wondering how she would feel at the end of it, I started thinking about the ending of the book myself, and how I lived it.

Writing that ending was very exciting. There was a sense of Oh my God, this is finally over. That feeling of exhilaration was both Joss’s, having just come through the other side of this battle and solved this big problem that had been hanging over her, as well as mine, having come through it with her, and also having come to the end of a struggle of my own. I felt like I had conquered something too. As I was typing her thoughts, I was thinking, this is starting to sound like the end of an after school special.

And then I decided that was just fine.

13 Comments

Filed under books, characters, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, ideas, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, nano, NaNoWriMo, Signs, Talent Chronicles, writing

Increasing Your Kindle Rank: Friends and Cross-Promotion

Ok, for those of you just dropping in, I want to mention that this post is part of a little series where I’m talking about things I did that helped me make it from a complete unknown to the Kindle top 1000 within 8 weeks of self-releasing my first novel, Hush Money. The first post is…here.

You know, I think I mostly covered the “friends” angle yesterday when I talked about social media. So for review, we’re talking about sphere’s of influence. I’m not the most motivated blogger, nor am I great at developing a large following on social media sites. But I have friends who are good at these things, who maintain quality networks with followers who trust them. And because my friends believe in my work, they’ve mentioned my book to their friends, who sometimes even mention the book to their friends. So it doesn’t HAVE to be about who has the most followers. Sometimes you can just be yourself, a good writer and good person, and that will get things going.

Moving on to cross-promotion. This is largely for indie ebooks. While at the 70% rate on Amazon, there’s a little bit of fee involved in how long your book is, for the most part, you can put in as much extra material at the back of your ebook as you want. When someone finishes the ebook version of Hush Money, they can go on to read excerpts from two other indie authors in my genre whose work I recommend: Imogen Rose and Stacey Wallace Benefiel. In addition, I have promo for some other indie authors I like in a related genre. (I have promo, not excerpts, because these friends write adult PNR and I write YA. If it were the other way around, I’d excerpt away.) I also have informational blurbs for all these favorite authors at the back of my print version, and I have a line at the end of my Amazon product description, recommending these authors.

In exchange, I have the beginning of Hush Money at the end of Portal and Glimpse, and I have a line of pimpage in the product description of Glimpse and Forsaken By Shadow.

Does it work? Check out “Customers who bought this item also bought…” on those pages. And look at this category list that Portal and Hush Money hang out on. We’re often very close together, sometimes with no books between us.

A lot of the time, when you read a book, you want more of the same. Right freakin’ now. When a teen paranormal book junkie finishes Portal or Glimpse, they can go right on reading the beginning of Hush Money, without even getting up. Until they get to the end of the excerpt and are forced to buy it because they’re a junkie and they’re hooked on another book already. And yay!ebooks again for giving them instant gratification on that.

So how do you get yourself in someone’s back matter? Um, carefully? How did I ever get the nards to approach two authors I didn’t know about doing this is a better question, but maybe not as important and I still don’t know that anyway. While it’s cool to do this while you’re in the final stages of getting your stuff ready to go, you can do this at any time. Find those books that are most similar to yours. You’re looking for books that will be enjoyed by the same reader. Portal, Glimpse, and Hush Money all have teen characters, supernatural elements, and romance. (And they’re all vampire-free, but that’s more by coincidence than design.) They’re all books that could be enjoyed by the “Twilight crowd.”

I only chose books I had read all the way through, books I enjoyed and believe in. Books I feel good recommending to the people who are paying my author salary. And that’s in terms of quality, but also in terms of genre.

I cold-contacted both of these authors before Hush Money was released. I had put up an excerpt on my site, just for this purpose, and linked them to where they could start reading. That way, I wasn’t a stranger trying to send them an attachment, and they could check out the quality of my writing and decide if they wanted to spend more time on me. In the email, I was clear about what I wanted: I would include excerpts of their books at the back of my ebook, and they would do the same for me in exchange. I was polite, and business-like. I didn’t wheedle, pressure, or sales pitch. I left it open to them to contact me if they were interesting in reading the full manuscript, and I was clear that I would completely understand if this offer wasn’t for them.

And I meant that.

Both authors were completely gracious and enthusiastic about the idea, and I’m sure we’ve all benefitted.

When looking for books, beyond looking for books similar to yours, I would also recommend not looking at the top of the charts. Notice that, even though “Twilight fans” is in my head as an audience, I did not ask to trade with Amanda Hocking. Yes, I would love to ride that comet, but I also wouldn’t have asked Stephanie Meyer if she were an indie. That just seems a little too “poor relation,” if you see what I’m saying. Amanda was already so far ahead of me. (Imogen was farther ahead than uneducated me realized at the time, but lucky for me she’s awesome and nice to me!)

Once you find these authors, consider yourselves a team. You already believe in their work. Promote each other. Do not keep score as far as who’s got a line in their description and who doesn’t, whether you’re in both their Smashwords AND Kindle editions, etc. Do EVERYTHING you can to help your teammates succeed. Be a friend.

Steps for Cross-Promotion:

  • Find authors who write books like yours, those which will appeal to the same readers.
  • Read the books and make sure you can recommend them without reserve.
  • Approach authors in a no-pressure, business-like manner.
  • Do what you can to support your indie team, don’t keep score– bad karma
  • If you approach an author who is not interested, be cool. If you can’t, don’t do this.

I was going to talk about pricing in this post, but it went on longer than I thought it would, as things always do, and why am I surprised by this? We’ll do pricing next time. Thanks for stopping by.

6 Comments

Filed under books, Hush Money, ideas, Increasing Kindle Rank, insecurities, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, tips, writing

Self-Publish or Perish?

My random musing just now is that I have really awesome friends. I have managed to be the life-sucking force that received, due to the whining, two–count ’em two–pep talks yesterday.

In an ordinary world, this would go on to explain beginning with the phrase: as some of you know…

Except you don’t. (You don’t know anything about me! she shrieked, dissolving into a fit of hysterics.) And the reason for this is because I don’t tell you. Because I really don’t want to.

Not surprisingly, the reason for my current Angst Level Magenta has a lot to do with how close I am to finishing Hush Money which I will then (will, dammit!) self-release. Which will then languish, unsold except by the aforementioned friends and my mom, assuming she can’t figure out how to buy it. It will, no doubt, figure out how to gather dust and cobwebs, even having no physical form in this realm, being an ebook and all.

Why? No, it’ s not terrible. I mean, I’m hard on myself and even *I* know it’s not a bad book, and it will be an even better one by the time I’m finished with it.

No, it’s all platform platform platform, and the much dreaded marketing. You know that person who has trouble tooting their own horn? Yeah, I’m not much of a tooter. Nor, as it turns out, a Tweeter, FBer, blogger…

In a lot of ways, I am the last person who should consider self-publishing. Seriously. If I believe in the book, why don’t I just wrap it up, send it to NY, and let them deal with this crap?

Because they won’t.

Because they’ll still expect me to market myself anyway, to some extent. Then they’ll want me to plan this many books in the series (I know, series? Hey, we’re in my dream, so just shut it), but then the numbers won’t be good enough and I’ll have to write something else. They’ll want me to add extraneous crap to bring it up to the right number of pages or cut out development that makes it fall flat for the same reason. They’ll want this, they’ll want that. They’ll hold back my ebook releases, price them ridiculously high, and price-fix them so no one can get around it. As though the joy of getting a bargain isn’t an inalienable right.  And that’s after I let it sit for 2 years while I spend money shopping it all around to find out if anyone wants it at all during which time–

No. See how that’s not the least bit appealing? I don’t need all that hassle. I don’t need that particular brand of validation anymore. For some people, it’s still the dream and that’s cool, but I’m just over it.

And because it just seemed so much like some ridiculous circus act for which I did not want to take my years of practice to untold numbers of auditions, over untold years, to maybe get a slot in someone’s tent, to be told how many shows I was going to have to do, and where, and when, and what brand of clown shoes to wear… I gave up writing entirely.

Now there was just a collective gasp from the writers. All two of you who are actually reading this post because I know that you cannot BREATHE without writing. (Writers can be such hyperbole waiting to happen.) How did I live? you ask.

I worked on some of my creative endeavors that are not writing related. I got back into doll collecting. I built up a sewing-related business for a while. I smocked, knitted, cooked, watched a bunch of movies… I read. Fiction. I continued to read about the craft of writing because it’s interesting. I continued working on projects that were not mine with my writing friends. I participating in a lot of brainstorming sessions. Did beta reading and editing. And I never gave up the people who live in my head or stopped playing in their world. Why would I?

And then there was self-publishing. Which of course has been around in various forms…always. But you know what I’m talking about. It swooped into my understanding bringing the notion of freedom– to do just what I want, for those who want it, to be able to do it when I can, the way that only I can do it.  That it was possible. That suddenly I wanted to do it again…

That’s why. It’s not self-pub or trad pub for me. It’s self-pub or be satisfied writing for myself alone. Self-pub or give it up again.

Self-publish or perish?

Hi, I’m Susan Bischoff and I’ve got a thing for love stories and superheroes. I write about people with supernatural powers in a world that fears them. I like to explore how the things that make us different from each other sometimes make life difficult, and sometimes are the making of us. My first book is about a teenage girl who is learning to choose between being right and being safe–among other things. It’s called Hush Money, and it’s almost done.

I will try to be better about the talking thing.

7 Comments

Filed under Hush Money, insecurities, me me me, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Letters to Casey

Feb 28 to April 28. Shall I blog every other month, do you think?

Everything’s different. My dashboard’s all funky. I have no idea what’s happened.

My sewing stuff is just nuts. I’m stressed and busy and still loving it. I’ve had to close up shop and go to custom orders only. Oohlala, the exclusivity of my dolly couture. It’s all good.

But it hasn’t been good for my writing. When the dressmaking first started to take over, I took a firm step back away from the computer. In a few places where I was expected, I checked in to say good-bye and be back later to friends and I spent about a month trying to adjust to my new workload. And I find that now, after 2 months, not only has my fiction suffered, but I’ve forgotten how to blog. Wow.

If you’ve read me before, you might remember that I feel like blogging is an important element for me as far as maintaining my own voice and just being able to let words come as easily as ideas. It helps to keep things running more in sync, I suppose, though of course they rarely truly do that. And when I found that I was sitting in front of my screen, even at my personal blog where I have been for years and where I have felt very comfortable for a very long time, I didn’t know where to start or what to say, and I found myself way too concerned about whether the subjects I had to talk about were going to be of interest to those who would read.

So often Howard Roark whispers to me that I shouldn’t care about that. And so often I forget how useful it is to say that this is mine and if you don’t like it, you’re welcomed to go elsewhere.

I’m sure I’m quite off track as far as what I was going to talk about, but losing that comfort zone I had in blogging, I had no way to get myself back into the writing. And then I decided to write Letters to Casey.

Lame as it seems to say it, I made myself an imaginary friend. Someone I’d met who was just terribly interested in hearing about my current story. Someone who wanted to hear every little thing I had to say about my work. And seeing as how she has that handicap of being imaginary, it’s somewhat easier to accept that she does not express the proper amount of interest and doesn’t bestow the wanted amount of unearned praise. Real people you just have to be annoyed an how clueless and insensitive and wrapped up in their own stuff they are.

I enjoyed writing to Casey yesterday. So much so that after I wrote her once, I wrote her again. And again. Until I had written her 6 letters totaling close to 3800 words in one day. In doing so, I worked out details that I had been avoiding or just couldn’t pin down. And last night it seemed so much easier to settle myself for the descent into madness that is sitting down to write a scene. I opened up the file in which I had written a few hundred words of a scene and left off before the middle. And after some cautious steps forward, skittering back nervously, repeat as necessary, I finally put down some words on the screen.

And before I knew it I was through. I wrote 837 words. This morning I decided they were pretty good words, and I should try again tonight.

Thanks, Casey. Talk to you soon.

3 Comments

Filed under ideas, insecurities, me me me, writing