Category Archives: Talent Chronicles

Stock Up on eBooks

So here’s a friendly reminder that the semi-annual sale at Smashwords starts today and runs through the whole month of July. Not all authors participate in the sale (I didn’t participate in the last one because my head was up my butt and I forgot to enroll), but many do and you’ll find tons of indie ereads at discounts from 25%-100% off (for the remedial math crowd, 100% off = free). For my part, should you want to recommend these to your friends…

Impulse Control Cover

Always FREE

Hush Money Cover

FREE in July
Coupon SSWIN

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

50% off in July
Coupon SSW50

So get going and grab up books until your virtual TBR pile looks like the Buffy Tower of Crazy.

 

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FINALLY, a release date for Heroes ‘Til Curfew

Last night I wrote this really long, wordy post. Well, it was last night and into this morning. Now I’m thinking maybe I need to go a little simpler.

Heroes 'Til Curfew releases 9/2/11

Click to download this postcard

Those of you who know how the indie stuff works know there’s no planning an exact release date. You never know how long it will take a book to go live and be buyable once you upload it. But I’m hoping that Heroes ‘Til Curfew will be available in ebook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords a week from today, Friday, September 2nd. It’s also possible that the print version could be available that soon, but more than likely it will take a little more time for that.

Back cover of Heroes 'Til Curfew with blurb

Back Cover of the print version

It’s been a busy month for me. The book was in submission to the first round of editors in New York and the waiting was driving me mad. Last week I finally got on the phone, talked it all over with my agent, Jane Dystel (yes, the awesome Jane), and finally made the decision that putting this out on my own, right now, is really what I want most. Plan to see a post about my experience with the submission process, and about choosing indie, on Monday.

So we had to give the editors who had it a week to give an answer one way or the other, a deadline which expired yesterday afternoon. Meanwhile, I got to work, frantically proofreading, formatting, all that good stuff. So much has changed! There’s always more stuff to learn. I COMPLETELY resemble Clarie Legrand’s post today, which you absolutely MUST READ. The components of the paperback version are already uploaded and in review. I’m finishing up lose ends on the ebook formats and intend to start uploading those early next week.

What do you call this way that I am? Mercurial? Yeah, we’ll go with that. Owing to my mercurial nature and the last-minuteness of this decision, I am WOEFULLY unprepared to launch this book. Read: FULL OF WOE, not full of preparedness.

I’m going to need some serious help here.

A release date graphic suitable for a sidebar

Click to download image

I feel like there are thousands of people I need to invite to this party and I only have access to a handful of them. But the reason so many people tried Hush Money is because you guys checked it out and told other people about it. I would be so grateful if you’d mention that this is finally happening. <– Look, I made you this nifty graphic for your sidebar. The postcard at the top of the page would fit well at the bottom of a blog post, in an email to a friend, on Facebook, or shared in a tweet. And you can always use the sharing buttons located beneath the post.

No pressure. I hope I don’t even need to say that. But if you’re excited this is coming out and want to help spread the word, I want to make it easy. If anyone has any ideas about what I can do to get the word out, I’m happy to hear them.

I also hope it goes without saying, and yet I want to say it anyway: I am deeply grateful for everyone’s patience and sustained enthusiasm. Your support means everything to me. It’s the reason I finished the book, and ultimately it was the reason I chose this path. I wrote this book for us and I can hardly wait to share it with you.

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2010 in review: The story of Hush Money

So I need to do the look back at the year thing. I’ve kind of been waiting to see what the end of the year numbers were. When the month rolled over, it seemed like I lost some PubIt sales. They finally showed up again, and then they found a few more stragglers over the next few days. I mean, I realize the report itself is always 2 days behind and you have to add those separately, but mine kept changing after that. This makes me a little nervous about them…

But that’s neither here nor there. It’s been a really big year for me, so I thought I’d try to talk about where I started and where I ended up. Be warned, this post is incredibly long.

Prologue

Some of you know that, when I started Hush Money, it was after a period of not having seriously written for a lot time. The only thing in my idea file that really interested me was my Talents, but even though I worked some on their stories and new characters showed up all the time, I couldn’t really bring myself to get a real story going. Part of that was a matter of motivation. Even if I finished one book of the Talent Chronicles, the idea of shopping it didn’t appeal to me, for a lot of reasons. I thought about, maybe, just starting to write it myself and putting it up on a website somewhere. You know, for fun. But writing is pretty emotional for me. I love creating this stuff, but most days…it is not fun. That idea wasn’t motivation enough.

Act 1: The world before

But Kait, my writing buddy and best friend going on, what, four years now? kept after me. Because of her, part of my mind was always in the writing world. She’d send me articles, talk about writing and bookish topics, and of course we worked a lot on her various writing projects.

And then, of course, there were books. I’d run of out room for books, had to feel guilty about any new book I brought into the house, but ebooks bought me back to book-buying and collecting big-time. I found myself getting passionately pissed off about availability issues, format incompatibilities, and DRM, and did a lot of reading and research on ebooks. Part of that was reading some of the stuff that Konrath was saying about ebooks vs. paperback; ebooks, DRM, and piracy; and then he was talking about his ventures in self-publishing.

Which was really interesting because Kait’s friend Zoe was also self-publishing. I was one who thought self-publishing was great for niche-markets and how-to books, I’ve got a bunch of self-pubbed how-tos, but I had been less than impressed with some of the fiction I’d read, and my opinion had been pretty negative. However, the more I read about it from the writer’s perspective, the more I started to think about it the same way I thought about crafting.

I’d had a good run selling intricate and pricey items on Etsy, and I was burnt out on that. But for a while there, I’d been having a blast, being creative and having my work sought after and appreciated. (I really thrive on that shit, but who doesn’t?) Etsy took crafting for money to a whole different level. It no longer mattered if there was a market for what I wanted to make in the place I live. I wasn’t going to have to try to make a bunch of inventory to try to sell batches to local shops or try to do shows to reach more customers. I could just do what I wanted, at my own pace, in my own home, and reach that niche of customers around the world who were interested. Freakin’ awesome.

I started to see indie publishing as the exact same thing. And, for the first time in a long time, I started to get excited about the idea of writing a novel.

Kait decided she was going to go ahead and do it. I was totally encouraging because, hey, she’s good at learning all the stuff, and if it went well, I could totally benefit from her knowledge later. Kait published Foraken by Shadow at the end of March. And people bought it. With money! And it was freakin’ awesome.

I really wanted to do it too.

Act 2: Into the story world

I got my outline together. I’d been studying story structure via Larry Brooks’ Storyfix blog, and suddenly, planning a story from beginning to end seemed so much easier! In fact, all the writing books and articles I’d been reading over the last few years seemed to be coming together in my head, like everything was just there waiting for me to get started.

I had a startlingly positive attitude going into Hush Money, that if I would just sit down to do the work, of course the words would come. Words had never been a problem for me, unless it was having too many of them. I was going to start the book, I was going to finish it. I was going to make it good, and then I was going to see what I could do with it.

But I was up against a ticking clock. It was already May, after all, and there weren’t that many more days of school. Soon my daughter would be with me to destroy any hope of concentration or immersion in character and world. I had get moving.

I wrote the first draft of Hush Money in 30 days. That last week or so, school was out, but Vacation Bible School filled the gap. When I might have gotten scared of the end and stuck in a slump, I pushed forward, knowing I only had a few hours a day for one, more, week. I would drop her off at the church, rush home, write like a maniac. Then go pick her up, go to McDonald’s, wolf down a double cheeseburger and write at least another one or two thousand words while she played on the playland with other kids.

After that week, I was almost at the end. I wrote the last several scenes in one day. I asked my mom to have my daughter over to play so that I could work on getting my first draft finished before my upcoming visit to Kait’s house. I wrote thousands of words that day.

I’m still very happy with the way the book ends, but the biggest criticism of the story is that the ending is somewhat abrupt. Maybe I was just exhausted.

Act 3: In which the Wanderer becomes a Warrior

Well, I’m not sure Susan as a protag will ever be considered a warrior, but certainly there was a lot of self-doubt to be overcome. I had to get 11 beta readers with overwhelmingly positive responses on Hush Money, before I started to believe that it was good enough to put a price tag on it.

I was editing a manuscript, something I’d never really done before. I’d finished a few things, but nothing I’d ever loved enough to want to make it better. And I was learning about formatting and all the other stuff that goes into publishing an ebook.

During this time, I’d finally hooked up with Zoe Winters one-on-one instead of going through Kait. It was fun and exciting to talk to her. She was in the crazy period of having released Claimed and Mated and having incredible success with those. Kait was having record sales of Forsaken by Shadow. Evenings would go by, with both of them in separate chat windows, both of them giving me their stats, rankings by the hour, in stereo.

And I was waiting for Hush Money to return from 11 betas and feeling absolutely desperate to join this party. By the time I had to leave my original cover artist and hire a new one at the end of July, I was crazy obsessed with getting my work out there to see how it would do.

Act 4: The exciting climax sequence

Finally, at the beginning of August, I was finally ready to get this thing out there! I uploaded on August 2nd, and the book started to go live all that week. First on Smashwords on the 3rd, then I think the Amazon listing started show up on 4th, with a buy button by the 5th.

And then commenced the crazy. I had to start doing that which I had dreaded. Marketing. I had to go back to blogging. I had to active on Twitter. I had to try to learn Facebook. And it was hard to find the time for all that because I had to check my stats EVERY. FREAKIN’. HOUR.

The week after Hush Money was released, I went to Disney World. While I was there, Kait sent me a text to let me know I’d made my first Amazon bestseller chart.

I had to check out Goodreads. I did the ebook giveaway event there, got great response, and had people reading my book.

In August, I “sold” a total of 113 copies.

36 of those I gave away.

I was also very busy researching print-on-demand and trying to figure out the best method for doing that for my non-existent budget and attention span. I chose Createspace. The print version of Hush Money was released on September 24th.

Hush Money was finally finished, I was getting started on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, and by the time the second month was over, I’d sold four times what I’d sold in the first month.

Epilogue

Five months later, I still struggle with making this sequel happen. Just like I’d never liked anything enough to do serious edits (though at least I’d edited for others!), I’d also never tried to write a sequel.

Hush Money continues to do incredibly well. I went into this with no idea what to expect, hoping, perhaps, to reach 1000 copies by this time. I’m astounded to be able to tell you that I was able to reach well over 6000 copies by the end of this year.

I can’t begin to tell you the joy that sharing this story has brought me. I’ve met so many incredible people this year, made so many wonderful friends. At least a few times a week I experience the wonder of finding that someone has taken the time to contact me, by email, or by leaving a comment on my About Me or Talent Chronicles pages, or somewhere else, just to tell me how much they enjoyed Hush Money. I get fan mail! Internationally!! I have been thanked countless times for doing something that I loved doing. And I’ve been damned, numerous times, for the sins of keeping someone up past their bedtime or making them remember how it feels to be a teen.

This will probably be the last time I talk about numbers for a while. Certainly, for me, the subject will always inspire excitement and a measure of awe. In the beginning, I really did believe that sharing these numbers was helpful for those who might be considering indie publishing and might want some ideas what to expect. But sometimes more is just more, and I don’t want to invite negativity into my life by having anyone take my sharing of this information in a different spirit than it’s intended.

What I hope I have managed to express, in this post and in this year, is the profound sense of gratitude I feel for everyone who’s helped me. Toward everyone who has (in no particular order) reviewed the book at a retail site, left a review on Goodreads, talked about it in a forum, voted for it in a poll, tweeted about it, blogged about it, told a friend, written to me, asked me a question about it, longed for the sequel, encouraged me during the many times I get nervous and feel like I’m losing my mind, bought it for someone else, sent me interview questions, and, hey, bought it and read the freakin’ thing.

Thank you all for making 2010 an absolutely amazing year for me.

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My bad news confession: buried in here somewhere

There was a Konrath post in my inbox this morning. This always makes me happy as it’s a pretty sure bet my morning will be infused with some level of awesome.

So today I got to read the annual Resolutions for Writers post. I’m not going to go over it because there’s a whole lot there and you should just go read it. But I’m going to clip the little bit that really gave me a lift this morning:

DO NOT take any deal that’s less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you’re selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.

In a way, that might seem a bit irrelevant to me. I’m not in the position of being courted by a NY publisher, and don’t believe I’m in any danger of catching their attention at this time. But it’s the other part, the 1000 ebooks a month part. This harkens back to his recent post on ebook sales in which he implied 1000 ebooks a month was a good measure of a successful, up-and-coming indie.

And I’m doing that. I’ve passed 1K for this month, I more than doubled it last month, and I almost reached it the previous month. And this is my fifth month out.

I needed this today. I needed to feel like I’m good at this, and I needed to read that from someone I respect, and know that it’s not about friendship and petting me to make me feel better. And it’s so not because Mr. Konrath hasn’t even noticed me…yet.

I’ve been putting off telling you all that things continue to not go well. And it’s not so much with the book, but with me, personally. With me, personally, there are Serious Things that are making it hard for me to put my head and my heart into the work and give it what it needs.

As kind as everyone has been to me these last months, I’ve felt an awful lot of expectation. Not only to put out a book that’s on at least the same level with the first one, which I intend to do, but also to present myself as a professional. And I’ve worried that having to tell you that I’m going to miss my own projected release date is going to disappoint you and make you see me as less than professional for letting my life get in the way of my work.

But, you know, it just is what it is, and fretting about what people are going to think of me isn’t doing me any favors. And in his post today, Konrath says this:

I Will Stop Worrying. Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It’s also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn’t the way to get ahead.
You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.

Oh snap, I been told!

And you know what else?

But most of all, being a professional means you won’t inflict your shitty writing on the public.

Um, yeah. That I’m not going to do. And no amount of stressing myself about a release date, or worrying about angering the people who are awaiting the next book, or disappointing fellow indies with my inability to write on a schedule… It’s not going to help. Contrariwise.

And a huge irony here is that part of the reason I’ve embraced self-publishing over trying to go the traditional route is because I was concerned about my inability to write to an imposed schedule at this time in my life, with the things I’ve got going on.

And then I did it to myself. Which really shouldn’t surprise me or the people who know me well. I am my own worst enemy. (WP tells me, after that line, Word count: 666. The Universe is talking to me about my beastly qualities.)

So…this sort of segues awkwardly into last night’s radio show, which I also have to mention today, and on which I had to publicly acknowledge that the next book would probably not be out in January. No, not probably. It just won’t. OMFG, just admit it already. (This has to be harder for me than it is for you.)

A few quick lines about the show, while we’re here. I was really terrified to do it, and it was not so bad. I don’t have plans to listen to it, but I don’t think I performed so badly that I would actually have made anyone put me on their do not buy list. But I don’t think I did myself any favors or inspired anyone in the other direction either. I think it was probably a wash.

As you all know, being concise is not my strong suit. The ability to craft answers that really deliver all the relevant information, or might really direct or inspire someone toward my goal (read the book!) on the fly and at the pace of a short interview–this involves a skillset that I just don’t have and I knew that going into it. I’m a writer. If I’m going to talk about DRM, I’m going to want to set up that discussion making sure the people I’m talking to understand what we’re talking about before I get into my opinion. If I’m going to talk about marketing, it helps me to talk about that from a core goal/idea (visibility and credibility, for me) and then talk about the range of controllable factors and how they all affect each other and tie into that goal. That’s what I see of value in my understanding, and just trying to throw out some things that are important–that’s just the same information we hear over and over. In a brief interview, where the there’s a smattering of topics and no time to develop those thoughts, I don’t have the skill to express what I’d like to express.

I want to thank Andrew Mocete, though, for giving me the opportunity and making it as painless as possible. I try to challenge myself on some of my phobias, but still, there aren’t a whole lot of people who would have gotten a yes from me on a request for a live interview. Promo, schmomo. One thing that’s special about Andrew is that he’s one of those people who seems to have internalized, in a very genuine way, that notion of giving to others and trusting that’s going to come back to around somehow, someday. What Kristen Lamb (among others) refers to as having the heart of a servant. I could trust that Andrew wasn’t just out to fill a slot in his calendar, that he is genuinely concerned with my interests as well as his, and that he would do his best to help me.

There’s part of this post I’ve been putting off and fretting about writing for weeks now. I started out talking about Konrath’s measure of success and ended with some¬† bromance tale about Andrew. Buried in there somewhere is the confession I didn’t want to talk about. You see what I’m saying? You just can’t do that shit live. That’s what I love about writing.

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Search Term: download hush money susan bischoff for free

Hush Money free, hush money free torrent, hush money free torrent PDF…

When I look at my site stats, I find visitors have found their way here using such terms every now and again. So if you’ve come here from such a search, I thought I’d take a moment to redirect (and maybe even show up better in future searches).

About the first one third of Hush Money is available for free, and that’s a fairly sizable chunk, I think. You can see this a few places, but I think I’ll direct you to Smashwords. Because you can download the first third of the book for free there in a number of different formats, or you can view it online, and even if you don’t live in the US, it is available for you to purchase there. (If that’s not your preferred retailer, please check the list in the sidebar for others.)

Because, yeah, I haven’t actually authorized a free download of it anywhere. But once you read the first third of it, you should have a reasonable idea of whether or not you want to pony up the 99cents to read the rest of it. NINETY-NINE CENTS is all I’m asking for my work. I’ve provided it to you in multiple formats, at many different retailers, and even DRM-free in as many places as I can– because I don’t believe DRM protection will keep it from being pirated and that DRM is a disservice to my readers.

One third of the book as a sample, 99cents for the full book. That’s pretty damned fair. I realize that there are some pirates out there who like the feeling of uploading other people’s work. They feel like they’re sharing, helping out, I don’t know. And perhaps you have some reason why you feel it would be okay to take ownership of something I created without giving me any compensation at all. That would probably be an interesting thing to learn.

Because if you’re searching for the book, you must be a reader. You must have some appreciation for books and what goes into them. I’ve made my book easily available, I haven’t encumbered it with DRM to make your life hard, and I’ve made it really cheap. Maybe you just heard about it and didn’t realize it was so inexpensive. Now you know, and now you know where to go to sample it legally. I hope you’ll feel it’s worth the 99cents. And if you have some problem acquiring the book through legal means, I hope you’ll take the time to contact me.

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Lessons from the Universe Continue to Plague Me

Some days are just full of headaches and embarrassments.

The headache is mainly just that I’m sick with one of those nasty, painful colds. At least we didn’t have a snow day for the THIRD day in a row. I know I’m not supposed to consider school my babysitter, but come on.

Anyway, I feel terrible about this, like I just have total promo fail. I can’t believe my reach is still so small that I can’t even give away 10 copies of a book. And it may be partly that Imogen and I have been doing cross-promo and she’s already tapped as much of my small network as she’s gonna. And it’s probably also that I had to go our around 12:30 yesterday, didn’t get home until 8pm, and then just crawled into bed, so the PM world didn’t really know about the giveaway. So basically, everyone who commented yesterday wins, and I appreciate it. I’ve already sent those out.

So a friend of mine, who is somewhat down, has written to me with some questions about self-publishing. And like the indie fiend that I am, I’m responding with a long letter, attempting to take advantage of his frustration and bring him over to the Dark Side.

And while I’m doing this, an email I wrote a few weeks ago come back to haunt me.

While I was away for that reunion thing over Thanksgiving weekend, I got this email from the people at BookBuzzr, basically saying: hey, since you’ve been with us, your rank has gone from this to this. Do you know how that happened and have any marketing tips we could share with our readers?

Well, now, you guys know that I am always happy to babble about that stuff, so I did. With my husband tapping his foot, I furiously typed this really long email in which I brain-dumped everything I could think of, most of which you guys have already read. Only, you know, I thought I was just talking one-on-one, and I was pressed for time, and I left out the self-effacing humble stuff that I actual feel, but just didn’t have time for that morning.

So in the middle of what’s supposed to be a kick-ass, indie-rah email to my friend, I get a promo in my inbox that mentions my name in a link. And follow it to the reprint of this previous email.

Now, don’t get all mad on my account. I say I didn’t know it was coming out, but I’m sure it was a misunderstanding on my part and I’m not mad. You’d be AMAZED and frightened by the amount of stuff that goes over my head and that I just plain forget. If you’re one of those writers who goes about in a fog most of the time and makes the absent-minded professor look like Franklin Planner-Man, you know what I’m talking about. (I am, actually, the antithesis of Kait Nolan. And suddenly the Anti-Kait has a ring to it…) But it leaves me sort of nonplussed and kind of embarrassed, and concerned about whether, perhaps, I came off as a big no-it-all with a huge, bloated head. Plus I might have tried to sound more smarter than I do around here, talking with you friends.

The lesson here, for all of us, is to remember to be careful in our communications with others, to pay attention to whether or not we’re projecting what we intend, and that what we say electronically can live on for a long time in ways we didn’t originally expect.

Heroes ‘Til Curfew, for enquiring minds who want to know, is going fairly well this week. I enjoyed the 2500+ words I wrote yesterday from Dylan’s perspective, many of which were written in Burger King, with its wonderful indoor playground. You know, when I mention fast food playland, NO ONE takes their kids to unhealthy places like that. Oh well. Deal. I got words down and no one had to die, and if someone had to suck down some chicken and fries for the cause, so be it.

I have now exercised two days in a row, and three times within a week. Now, I will grant you, it hasn’t been a lot of exercise, but I have turned on the Wii and done something, and I demand at least partial credit for this. Plus, there was water consumed that was not even carbonated. I know, right? But I did it anyway.

That’s it! That’s all the babbling you get for now. I have things to do, tissues to destroy, and vulnerable writers to corrupt, and I must move on.

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Filed under Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Increasing Kindle Rank, Laws of the Universe, links, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, what not to do, word count, writing

For Indies: Get your print and ebooks linked

My rankings are really sliding the last few days. I hope that means some of my buddies are getting some traction and selling lots of books.

To that end, I come to you with a quick post of hopefully helpful indie info.

My print and Nook versions of Hush Money are finally linked on Barnes & Noble. Moreover, when they linked the two listings they also copied ratings and reviews from one edition to the other. This does give me a couple duplicates from a few people who were kind enough to find both listings and leave reviews for me, but it also means I now have 70 ratings and 17 reviews that people can see when they find the print version. Yay credibility.

Ok, so if the listing for your print version states that there’s no Nook version available, you’ll want to email BN at corrections@barnesandnoble.com and let them know that you do have both formats. Provide them with the links to both listings, and especially the ISBNs for each edition. When I did this, they took care of it VERY quickly (but if there’s a small flood of them they might slow down).

If you haven’t done this on Amazon, you’ll want to take care of that too. When your cheap Kindle version is climbing the charts, sometimes it gets onto “Books” charts, not just Kindle charts. So when those non-Kindle readers find your awesomeness, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy for them to see there’s an edition they can buy too. (Not that mine are flying out the door, mind you.)

When I wrote to Amazon, a very nice CSR told me that if your titles are exactly the same for both editions, this usually happens automatically. This may be the same for BN, I’ve no idea, as I think the format of my title is a little different (like one is Hush Money (Talent Chronicles) and one is Hush Money: Talent Chronicles #1, or something like that). When they’re not identical, you’ll need to email these guys and give them a heads up. I contacted DTP customer service for this at dtp-support@amazon.com, and it was taken care of within a few days. Make sure you send them the ISBN for the print, the ASIN for the Kindle edition, and send them links to both listings in case that makes it easier.

Don’t put it off. It’s Christmastime. Go and sell some books.

And hey, don’t forget that a shiny new copy of Hush Money would make a swell gift. If anyone’s interested in autographed copies for gift-giving, I’ve got some copies here and would be happy to send those out for you, though I’m not promising next-day order fulfillment. Email me with any personalization details you need and don’t forget to include your PayPal address so I can bill you. I think I can match Amazon’s $8.99 with no shipping fee and break even.

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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.

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

Random Peek at the Talent Chronicles Universe

Beyond the book… Ooh… I don’t usually tend to talk about stuff like this, for a lot of reasons. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, I don’t want to spoil anything I might want to use as a surprise for you later, who knows what might change as the story grows…

But let’s face it, there just aren’t that many of you who read my blog, you deserve some “insider” info, and I’m hard up for something to talk about this morning. So let’s talk about Haven.

The Chronicles didn’t start in Fairview for me. They started at Haven, which is a secret enclave, a community of Talents hiding in the woods in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Yes, not very far from the couch on which my butt is parked right now. In fact, before the Talents were called Talents, before the world expanded and people started popping up all over the place, the file the notes were kept in was called Haven Chronicles.

It is, as the name suggests, a safe place for Talents to be who they are, and to become what they can be. In that respect, maybe it’s what the State Schools would have been if the government were in the business of serving the people, rather than itself. (I speak of the government in the Chronicles. Obviously, right?)

Haven was founded by Elle, who led a group of Talents in a break-out from a NIAC facility when she was sixteen. In the days before Heroes arrived on TV, she was a painter of the future. When Issac Mendez showed up on TV with her Talent, I was bummed, and sort of dropped that idea. I might pick it up again, because I now realize that I’ll probably never come up with anything that hasn’t been done somewhere. But I don’t know. Elle’s Talent isn’t who she is for me. She’s a woman of amazing drive, strength of character, and hope.

Who else lives at Haven?

Marissa, an empath and scientist, who strives to help Talents deal with their abilities, while indulging her own need to learn more about the phenomenon. She can enter and navigate a world we aren’t even aware of, seek out and find people by their unique energy pattern. Sometimes they call her Scry.

Colby, a vivacious redhead, who can draw electricity and store it like a battery for later use. They call her Copper-Top. She hates that.

Rand, dark, brooding and tortured because he was trained as an assassin and used by NIAC to hunt other Talents. His martial arts training and gravity manipulation Talent make him a dangerous and graceful killer. They call him Dancer–but not to his face. This is a man seriously in need of redemption.

Justin is music. That’s how it feels to him. While he’s learned to play a lot of instruments, he would do nothing but sing, if he could. But every note he sings puts a spell on those around him. Siren’s Talent and talent remain silent until he can tame this inadvertent mind-control problem.

There are more. I hope you’ll get to start meeting them soon.

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Filed under characters, Haven, Talent Chronicles, writing

Heroes ‘Til Curfew: Cover Art and Latest Info on the Sequel to Hush Money

Ok, that was the longest title ever.

I’m sure that there are some of you out there who fondly remember a time when I had planned this book to be a fall release, with yet another book out before the end of the year. Let’s all get that laugh over with. Life just happened all over me this fall, and I’m still trying to recover.

Work on Heroes is back on in earnest now, in a way that makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back. At least enough to go to Robin and say: these are some things I know happen, these are some themes in story, etc. (Incidentally, I think the fact that I discuss themes with Robin, as well as characters, events, and set-pieces, might be why she’s able to come up with things that work so well. Or it could be just because she’s awesomesauce.)

So I have a cover. Here it is:

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

I’ll give you a moment.

Do you love it?

Ok, so when can we expect the rest of it? Right now I’m saying January 2011. I hope you’ll all run right out and start up some best of 2011 lists as soon as you read it. ETA Release info: Since this post gets a bunch of hits from people searching for release info, I wanted to say that Heroes ‘Til Curfew still isn’t finished (*cringe* sorry!), and I don’t have a release date right now. I’ve added a line at the top of the sidebar with it’s status for your quick reference, and recommend signing up for the newsletter. I so much want to thank everyone for your patience and support.

I know that’s a while yet, although, trust me, it doesn’t seem like so very long from my perspective. I do, however, have a beginning. Imogen Rose was kind enough to include the first scene of Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of her latest release, Quantum. That “sneak peek” excerpt is just under two thousand words.

One thing I’ll tell you about the new story: it does not pick up right after Hush Money. A little bit of time passes between the two stories. For those of you who may now be going–

But wait! What happened when Joss got home? What did her dad say?

Hey, no one wanted to know that more than I did. I’m currently working on a short story which will serve as a sort of epilogue to Hush Money. Right now, what I have is being told from Dylan’s perspective. And all I can say is, “Poor Dylan.” Heroes ‘Til Curfew is my number one priority, but I hope to get back to the epilogue while Heroes makes the rounds with the beta and proof readers. I think it would be lovely if I could have that out for you around Christmastime.

As of right now, I intend for that story to be a freebie, a gift to readers who enjoyed Hush Money enough to sign up for a newsletter that will alert them to new releases and events in the Talent Chronicles series. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter now will receive information on how to download the new story as soon as it becomes available. (And anyone who doesn’t want to receive emails about new releases will be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Did you know that Hush Money has now sold over 2500 copies, here in its fourth month of release? This blows my mind. That’s thanks to a lot of people who have written reviews, tweeted, and even hand-sold copies of the book to their friends, for which I am so grateful. And that’s a lot of people who will need to know about that sequel! If you’d like to offer help or ideas, please feel free.

Meanwhile, I gotta go write the damn thing.

ETA for PS: If any of you wants to borrow this cover image for the purpose of generating interest in the series and otherwise having something to blog about, please feel free.

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Filed under books, goals, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing