Tag Archives: choices

Thoughts on NOOK Color and Ereader shopping

So it’s Friday, the day when I like to talk about reading. I like reading ebooks. That’s probably an understatement. I’ve had an ereader for a few years now. I have hundreds of ebooks. I’ve finally parted with probably 400-500 of my paperbacks in the last year. (I donated most of them to a women’s prison through a woman who volunteers there.) I am one of those people who will pretty much always choose digital over paper, to the point where I’ll pass on a paper-only book now.

Shopping Considerations

This spring I upgraded from my Sony Reader to the NOOK Color. I had been wanting to do this, and I finally broke down when Barnes and Noble FINALLY opened up their app store. Unfortunately, their app store was pathetic and hugely disappointing, prompting me to root my new NOOK Color to function as an android tablet. Which is pretty freaking awesome.

See, first of all, I get pissy about the being told where to shop. I HATE proprietary formats. I don’t want to be bound to one shopping experience, one inventory, at the mercy of one store’s prices. I know that other places sell Kindle-compatible formats, but I’m very turned off by the fact that Kindle doesn’t read EPUB and when they decided to move forward with their exclusivity, I took them off my consideration list. I knew I wanted a device that would read EPUB.

I loved my Sony Reader, and when the cat knocked it off a table and busted the screen, I got a new (refurb) replacement device  for maybe 1/6th the cost of a new one at that time, with very quick turnaround. Kudos to Sony for that customer service experience. Demerits for the Sony ebookstore which has never been thrilling and, even before the agency pricing model, didn’t have impressive sales and pricing. Tech was getting far ahead of the device I had, and, let’s face it, I’m a serious ebook girl. It was time to start looking around.

One thing that I really looked into were digital comics. And let me tell you, those guys are still a mess. But they’re working on it. So far there’s an been an issue (with the WORLD) of forgetting that there’s life beyond Apple, and I’m not about to buy and iAnything, but there are plenty of Android peeps screaming at them and hopefully they’re going to get their acts together. But anyway, with reading that includes comics and magazines on my agenda, a color device was definitely a draw.

Great Things about the NOOK Color

It is beautiful. I am not one of those people who are bothered by looking at the screen. But then, I don’t always have the brightness turned all the way up and I change the text depending on the my environment. The NOOK Color even has a setting for reading in bed where the text is white against a dark background so there’s less light to keep your partner awake.

Basically what I tell people is that it’s bright and beautiful. Everything is very clear and crisp. I can read in any light and I can make the text as large as I need it. (I’m about to be 40 remember.) And the range of sizes is much about twice what I had on the Sony.

I really enjoy the touch screen and turning pages with swipe or just by tapping the edge of the screen. I like being able to highlight text and make notes, especially when proofreading my own work.

The size works for me. It’s a little tall, but not outside purse-carrying size. I don’t WANT anything bigger than this. It’s also a little heavier than my Sony Reader–it’s bigger and the screen is longer by probably 1.5 inches. I do get tired holding it in the same hand for extended periods. I’ve also had severe carpal tunnel and have lost a lot of muscle, so factor that in. I’ve got it in a third-party leather cover that latches and has pockets. I think the cover is actually made for e-ink NOOK and this one just barely fits. But it’s the size of a planner or trade paperback and easy to tote around, holdable with one hand, and not ungainly to whip out on the checkout line.

With basic NOOK you get Library, Shop, Apps, and Web.

Library and Reading

The library, the reading application on the NOOK Color, is very nice and I’m happy with the way it functions. It also uses real page numbers which I vastly prefer over the Kindle’s percentage/location system. It may take me 2-4 screens of text to read one page (depending on the size I’ve made the text), but it just makes more sense to me, personally.

The NOOK Color has this awesomely impressive kids function: read-aloud books. They’re basically enhanced picture ebooks with an option of having an audio track read on each page. The bummer is that it seems to be hard for kids to get the pages to turn, so you’re having to sit there and turn the pages and you may as well be reading the book yourself. And then some people don’t want a preschooler to touch their pricey ereader. (Not me, mine’s insured.) However, other people are putting out enhanced ebooks as individual apps, so NOOK Color hardly has a corner on this.

Shop

The NOOK book Shop is well integrated with the Library and buying a book or getting a sample is relatively quick and easy. Because the browser is a little slow, I’m not a good thumb-typist, and because I like to shop around, I do tend to do more shopping on the laptop, but the NOOK Color updates with my new purchases or samples right away.

Apps

Maybe the BN App Store has gotten better since I looked at it. When I first got my NOOK in the spring, the selection was pathetic. It was clear that BN would allow no apps that might compete with its own sales. So even though they don’t sell digital comics, no Comixology app, for example. (There were a few graphic novels available as apps. I think of individual book apps as just ebooks in a different format. Not quite the same thing and selection is poor.) And at the rate BN moves on anything, it was just damned depressing to think about having to wait for them to develop these things on their own.

Web

Web browsing is okay. Slow and I’m not good at the virtual keyboard, so putting in addresses and searching is annoying for me. I don’t use it much.

What’s on my rooted NOOK

I don’t actually know how to explain what rooting is and get it right. Basically, after @techsurgeons and my husband defined a few terms for me, I followed a set of instructions, downloaded some stuff, and now the NOOK is half what it was before and half Android tablet. So I have this whole other menu of stuff I can add whatever I want to.

Unfortunately, many apps are only “conventionally” available via the Android Market, and because I have a device that’s not supposed to be able to get this stuff, Android Market often tells me my device is incompatible and won’t let me download stuff. I use the Amazon App Store a lot, and I look other places to find work-arounds.

Reading

Kindle app– If I want to buy something specifically to increase someone’s Kindle rank, I can buy it on Kindle. Or if it’s only available in ebook on Kindle. Or if the price is less on Kindle. And I have to say that I do enjoy just the mischief value of it.

Interweave Knits Magazine– Interweave has had digital back issues for a while now, but when they finally made new issues available by subscription and said it was available for Android, I jumped. Unfortunately I then found that Zinio, the company actually handling the digital version, did not provide their Android app directly and it was one of those Android Market said was incompatible with my device. After I had already bought the subscription and customer service wouldn’t let me have the app to even try it on my device and had no solution for me at this time, I went around them and got it myself. Incompatible my ass. Interweave Knits looks BEAUTIFUL on the NOOK Color, and I can refer to those patterns when I’m actually in the yarn shop now.

Comixology– I finally got the Comixology app. Again it’s one that I had to track down because Android Market hates my device. I haven’t done a lot of reading with it yet, but, again, it looks beautiful.

Organization-

Cozi– I think I’ve mentioned before that I use the Cozi Family Planner to remind me about stuff. It reminds primarily through texts to my phone (my not a smartphone yet), which is good. But having the app in the NOOK allows me to use it as a date book. I can pull it out and add things offline, and then sync later.

SpringpadSpringpad is something I find hand for making notes for myself on the go. I thumb-typed most of the structure of Heroes Under Siege in the car one day when a song particularly inspired me. (No, I wasn’t driving.) I can never find a working pen in those moments, so had it not been for the NOOK in my bag, I probably would have forgotten half of that by the time I got home. Again, the kind of thing you can work offline and sync later, which is great for wi-fi only devices.

Dropbox-I was already a Dropbox user because of Kait. We trade manuscripts and stuff like that through Dropbox often. She uses it heavily for transferring between work and home computers. Taking my cue from her, I’m finding it’s great for transferring things easily from laptop to tablet. It’s also all but essential for installing some apps. (I need to point out, btw, that nearly all the apps I use are free. I never go looking elsewhere for an app to avoid paying for it, and don’t install apps without paying for them if there’s a charge. There’s no reason to, and honestly it’s too much trouble to go hunting something down if I can just pay a few dollars and install right there.)

Fun and Useful Stuff and Things

Chuzzle– Yes, we’ve covered that I’m Pop Cap’s bitch. I try not to put too many games on NOOK, but this is my fav.

Pandora– I think Pandora might have been part of the original NOOK Color setup. But whatever. Who doesn’t love Pandora? Speaker on the device isn’t great, but whatever. I’m not picky. (about that)

Stopwatch and timer– because sometimes that’s damned useful.

Netflix– !!! Is finally here. Another one I had to go hunt down because it’s incompatible, and another one that seems to work just fine.

Final thoughts

Battery life is an issue. I don’t know how well it works as just the basic reader. Running apps drains a battery and the fact that some of them are running when you don’t it can be problematic. A task manager app with a kill function is a must. I rarely have a problem, but when I was reading The Tipping Point like a mad woman over the weekend, I did have to read with it plugged in for a while.

There are some apps it would be cool to have that will never be compatible with the NOOK Color. No camera, no GPS, etc. I often think that, for the way I’m using it, as a date book through which I can also read books from anywhere, magazines, comics, proofreading and annotate my documents, IM my bestie from the McDonald’s playland… for all that stuff a genuine tablet might have been a better choice for me, especially if it meant that the Android Market would play nicer, though there’s certainly no guarantee of that–rooted NOOKs aren’t the only tablets tohave these issues, I believe.

I would have paid less for an e-ink device, but I’ve had one of those. I like this better and I’m getting a ton more use out of it. I paid less for this than an actual tablet. I’m getting a lot of use of out it, but also a lot of hassle.

I’d say that if you’re just going to use it for reading, you should consider your reading needs. Do you like e-ink? Is color a big part of your reading?

If you’re more like me and have the shop-anywhere issue, or the I want one device to rule them all issue, then it’s partly a matter of cost and what you can afford to put into it. The NOOK Color is definitely an less expensive alternative at this time.

But it’s also a matter of tech savvy, confidence, and tolerance for frustration. Rooting the NOOK Color isn’t hard, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s pretty freakin’ intimidating. I’m the kind of person who likes to learn stuff, and the kind who finds it rewarding to make things work that weren’t supposed to. So after the hair-pulling frustration, I get a lot of lasting satisfaction out of having made the world bend to my will. I’ll enjoy Interweave Knits more because Zinio’s customer service wouldn’t help me. (Which is very wrong.) However, if you don’t have that thing that I have, then it might not be worth it.

This is a pretty non-standard ereader device review. If you have any questions about the device, please feel free to ask me. I’m sorry that I’m able to provide info on everything I’ve read or a clear understanding of what I did. But perhaps knowing that understanding it all is not required may be helpful. I can no longer find the exact link(s) I used (I’ve changed computers since then), but I believe that everything you’d need can be found here.

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On Choosing Indie…Again: An Epic Journey

How can I possibly break this down to be a single post? The decision is part of a journey, and I can’t figure out how to yank out the reasons and present them out of context. I’m not a bullet-points kinda girl; I’m a novelist, for Heaven’s sake. So I’m hoping that if you’re interested enough to know the whys, the what I’ve been through, the what I’ve learned, that you’ll be willing to sit through the tale, backstory and all. I’ll provide you some headings if you want to skim and maybe someone could write up the bullet points for me later.

Backstory beginnings

About 13 months ago, I released my first novel, Hush Money, independently. It’s a short, YA novel of about 50,000 words, the first in a planned series called the Talent Chronicles. The series is about people with supernatural abilities who are trying to hide what they are amidst governmental abuses of their kind, and yet they keep finding themselves in situations in which they have to embrace and be what they are in order to win the day.

Why Indie The First Time

The negativity on the internet surrounding traditional publishing had become so prevalent and so disheartening, that I had actually given up writing. Every article I read about why your query letter will suck, why you will never make it out of the slush pile, why your chances of being struck by lightning are better than your chances of ever selling your book were personally directed at me, and I took them to heart. That’s  just how I am. I’m working on it. The point is that I became certain that Bill, sitting there on Capitol Hill, should stop his whining, because he had about a million times better chance of becoming a law than I did of becoming a published author.

Long story shorter, I decided that I needed to stop torturing myself and find other avenues for my creativity. I wrote for other purposes, I continued to do critique and editing, but I quit the novel-writing thing. When I started to learn about indie publishing, that’s when I got excited again. At the time I had had a successful run with an Etsy shop, but I got in over my head with a popular design and I was just burnt out. Everything I learned about indie publishing seemed so analogous to everything I loved about my Etsy business, and I became crazy eager to dive back into writing and catch up with my friends who were building audiences of readers.

Releasing the First Book and Living Indie

When I released Hush Money, I had no expectations. I mean, I didn’t know what to expect, so I tried very hard to keep my wishes and dreams in check. By the time the book was six months old it had sold 10,000 copies. People were writing to me to thank me for doing something that I loved. People were commenting on instructive articles I wrote and asking me for advice, like… Well, I don’t know if I’d ever in my life felt like I’d earned anyone’s respect before.

Living within that indie publishing community, I began to identify very strongly with being indie. There was certainly a component at the outset in which I would introduce myself as an “indie author” or “self-published author,” simply as a disclaimer. I’ll be clear up front about what I am so you don’t think I was trying to style myself as “published author” when I’m not publisher-vetted. Or whatever notion. I was happy to be indie, and proud of my accomplishments, of my work, and all I’d learned and done. But my view was still that others would see it as less, even though I, myself, came to a point where I truly didn’t. I was truly, deeply, passionately, devotedly indie.

It wasn’t all perfect. There’s a lot to keep up with. And there’s a lot I was keeping up with that I should have just let go so I could write more books. I got very caught up in being indie, and that was part of what was keeping me from writing. (Lots of stuff was going on that was keeping me from writing, and most all of it was me.) I’m not a multi-tasker. I focus passionately on one thing at a time and my focus was not on writing my book. Anyway, I don’t beat myself up for this. I watch it happen to other people, and I think it’s a phase a lot of us go through.

The Case of the Mysterious Foreign Agent

Also relevant to mention is an incident in which I had a foreign agent contact me about the translation rights to the book. This freaked me the f out, as anything legal does. I didn’t even know how to respond to the email I received, and I found next to nothing on the internet to help me. Which is rare. You know, usually you can find the answer to anything on the internet, and usually when you’re indie you don’t even have to go that far. You can just ask someone. So that was my next thing. I wrote to the two people I knew to be indie, with whom I had had some kind of brief contact in the past, and asked their advice. Both of them were unable to tell me what to do. Their agents handled that stuff. Their advice: get an agent.

But a) I didn’t have time to query an agent, so I just continued to freak out about the foreign thing. I ended up having to find an intellectual property attorney. Which means I had to TALK ON THE PHONE, which you know terrifies me, especially when I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. And then I went in and talked to a VERY nice man who was interested in my story, seemed genuinely excited to learn about my successes, gave me good advice on how to respond and how I might go on if anything came about, and sent me on my way with the suggestion that maybe I should really think about getting an agent.

Well b) as indies we’d been practically beaten over the head by others with the notion that no reputable agent would ever touch us. Kind of amazing how things have changed over the course of one year, but my impression was that most might just be insulted that I wasted their time with a query. I did spend some time researching agents, but I found practically none who stated that they had any interest in representing self-published authors. So I threw up my hands and walked away, very unsettled by the whole incident.

Representation

Jane came to me in the spring. In my inbox was a message with the subject Representation. I could not have been more blase about this. Seriously. Months after the foreign rights incident, after finding no help with that, after having given up on the notion of any agent ever coming to me (Kait Nolan had already accepted representation, as had indies well ahead of me like Amanda Hocking and HP Mallory and who knew who else), I was probably a little bitter and had set this firmly aside.

It didn’t take long for me to get excited about Jane’s offer to talk. And by “get excited” I mean “totally freak out and spin up into a whirl of dramarama,” because that’s what I do. I was in IM with Kait, had told her about the email. I think then I got up to get a drink or make a snack or something and she had to demand I open the email.

When I did, Jane was complimenting me on my Amazon success, mentioning her interest in the possibilities of electronic publishing, inviting me to call her to discuss print publication. She also mentioned that her agency represents Joe Konrath, of whom I may have heard. Um, yeah, just been hanging on his every word for the last year. So already there’s a certain amount of Wow-factor. I go to her website to look at the client list. James Dashner, Richelle Mead, Carrie Ryan…NYT bestseller this, NYT bestseller that…

Holy shit, why is this woman writing to me?

Talking to Jane spun me up to drama-level magenta. I was still working on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, deeply, hopelessly mired in Second Book Syndrome and absolutely consumed by doubt that I could produce a second book that wouldn’t disappoint. I was creatively paralyzed by fear, with a million brain-eating voices in my head, from every review of Hush Money I had ever read, every time I opened my file. Jane was offering to help me make the best book I could make. And when Heroes ‘Til Curfew was the best book I could make, she would take it and Hush Money and try to sell the rights to a traditional publisher.

In a way, Jane was an answer to prayers. I didn’t want to go unrepresented. I didn’t EVER want to go through again what I went through with the foreign rights thing. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but trying to seem like a grown-up professional and handle my own shit when I’m just a clueless kid (inside) who has no fucking idea what she’s doing or how to get the answers she needs to act how she’s supposed to act on the outside was very affecting to me. And as a writer who wants to make a living and help my family, I’d be a special kind of idiot not to jump to say yes to Jane.

Temptations Toward Trad

And yet I hesitated. What Jane was talking about was taking my two books and selling both the print and the ebook rights. While I could do something else on my own, the Talents would belong to someone else. I would no longer be free to do whatever I wanted with them. I might have restrictions on length, content, language, who knows. I might not be free to give stuff away when I wanted to. I would be giving up my carefully chosen cover art that was really working for me. I would be pulling Hush Money off the market and putting the building of my readership on hold for the next 1-3 years, while postponing the release of my already delayed second book for years.

Lots of stuff to consider. And on the other side of the coin: opportunity. Indies have done a lot on our own and will continue to do more. Opportunities will continue to open for us. But they’re not all there yet. One very real thing I had to consider was the possibility of a sizable advance. Konrath talks about not taking a contract unless the advance is “life changing money.” Well, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of money to change my life. That’s my reality. If I thumbed my nose at the opportunity to bring my family security, wouldn’t that just be plain wrong?

And look at all the stuff I could learn? Haven’t you wondered about all the stuff that goes on between the time a writer finishes the manuscript and the time it comes back as a bound book? Haven’t you ever wanted to be on the inside of that? And the possibilities for mentoring. I will always be a work in progress. I hope that I will always be a work in progress. My writing improved exponentially when I started getting critical feedback from peers at my own level. They pointed out weaknesses for me that I couldn’t see on my own. How much could my writing be improved with feedback from the kinds of professionals I’d be exposed to under contract? I know there have been a lot of negative things said about this, and I get that. But that’s not all of it, and I could choose to see the possibility as exciting.

Then the extras. Yes, it is possible that indies are making movie deals and I don’t know what else. But right now at this moment, cool stuff like that is a lot more likely (though perhaps still quite unlikely), with the backing of a traditional publisher. If those opportunities were possible for the Talents, I did want them to have that chance.

Paperback and Bookstore Relevancy

Finally, and most obviously, distribution. I mean, forget vetted validity. I believe that in the numbers game, that’s practically a non-issue. If a few people on the internet are still saying they won’t read a self-published book, if they’re actually checking for the publisher imprint to make sure they’re not getting indie when it looks like every other good book on the surface, I don’t think those people represent enough “lost readers” to get upset over. Non-issue. Distribution: still an issue. Right now, at this moment, paper books and book stores are still entirely relevant.

Yes, ebooks are becoming more and more popular, as are ereader devices, as has shopping online every day for the last 15 years. Big pluses for us indies, for sure. These are things which make it possible for us to succeed financially on our own.

But what I’m talking about here is another level. Kristen Lamb, social media expert for writers, tells us that writers are often marketing to the wrong crowd. We love fellow writers and other avid readers. Of course we want to sell our books to those people. But the books that break out and become the ones that “everybody’s reading” are the books that…everybody reads. That person who picks up just a few books a year. Each of that person who picks up a certain book because they keep hearing about it over and over again. And where do those people go to buy a book? Often it’s the bookstore. Even if they buy it online, they buy print. And a mass market paperback is probably going to be a more attractive price point than what you can do with POD.

(Note: In spite of the price of POD trade paperbacks, the point is that print is still relevant and it’s not expensive for authors. 1% of my sales are print. But if I’d only ever sold 5 copies, I still believe it would be worth it to have it out there to offer.)

Anyway, there are so many higher levels that seem at lot more likely with publisher backing, and I wanted that opportunity.

Submission

I finished Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of June, got a couple beta reads to make sure it made sense, and then I sent it off to Jane. After the holiday she was able to start reading it. Ironically, she had no editorial suggestions. She and her partner, Miriam, approved the book as written. So score one point for the side that says Susan’s self-doubt may be overblown. After getting in touch with some editors to check on their vacation schedules, the book was submitted to the first round of her picks toward the end of July.

I’ve no idea how Jane goes about deciding whom to contact first. That’s her job and I never asked. I figure it’s some combination of what imprint and what editor she thinks are the best match based on what they’ve put out before, her contacts and personal relationships in the industry, who might be in a position to give us the most both in terms of money but also marketing and distribution and stuff like that.

Waiting and Rejection

The waiting wasn’t difficult for the first maybe two weeks. And then I’ll admit that I started to get antsy. Finally I asked Jane how things were going and she sent me the few rejections she had received.

They were awesome! I really got a charge out of reading them. By now there’s something you understand about me: I’m not full of self-confidence. I will probably always be surprised to find that someone else enjoyed my work. I got responses in which editors at this big label imprints that publish all kinds of really awesome books tell Jane things about me and my work like “engaging and compulsively readable,” “great, commercial writing,” “able to completely suspend disbelief and become immersed.” And these from people who have read everything!

Still, what we kept hearing was that the concept was not quite original enough for them to get behind. There’s that thing we keep reading where we’re told that you can have a swell, well-written book that people might love to read. But you might not be able to sell it, and it may never see the light of day because NY might not find it marketable. That phenomenon? Yeah, I haz it.

Wavering

Signing with Jane was hard. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. Because I had spent the last year of my life so excited about independent publishing, and the last several months embracing it and enjoying my success. It had become part of my identity.

It took a lot of soul-searching to become open to traditional publishing again. But when I made that decision, I embraced that too. All the stuff I said about the opportunities it offers are things I believe, continue to believe. They’re things I wanted and continue to want.

But I missed being indie. I missed having a current book out there. Hush Money sales began to fall at the beginning of the summer. I know that lots of people have experienced a dry summer, but this book’s rank plummeted. Because it was time for that. It had been out for nearly a year with no sequel. I had put out a free short story, but that’s hardly the same as putting out a new novel 2-3 times a year which is what we tend to see when we talk about big number indies. With one book out, it was pretty much a miracle that I saw 20,000 sales for Hush Money before it was a year old.

I felt out place. I felt like I never knew what to say. I continued to have to stall on the question of a release date for the second book because I didn’t know if I’d be releasing that myself or breaking the news that I had sold it and the release would be further postponed. I was carrying a lot of guilt about that, even though some rational part of me knows that my readers are both supportive of me and what I need to do for my family, my career, and the series; as well as people with full lives who are not actually suffering from the delay.

But beyond the guilt, I began to recognize what I was feeling as longing. I longed to share this book. That’s why I wrote it. Friends kept asking, “Well, what do you really want?” And I couldn’t figure it out. It was a big mess of what I want, what I need, what I dream, what I think I can have, what I should want, what I should be doing—aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!

Why do I write? A hundred thousand reasons, intertwined with stunning complexity. But maybe, at the heart of it, because I have something share. And while I was tied up in submission and it had been over a month and there were still people we hadn’t heard from, and if it got sold and all kinds of stuff had to be done with it by a staff of people before it sat in queue waiting to be released for who knows how long–while all of that goes on, it’s not being shared. And I’m unhappy.

I Want It All, And I Want It Now

I wanted all the opportunities of traditional publication and I wanted the control and immediacy of going indie. And by this time, the dramarama has reached EPIC proportions. I’ve gone to Jane and I’ve dumped all this on her, told her maybe don’t want to go into the next round of submission with another handful of editors. I now get to be in the middle of the

epic guilt deathmatch of DOOM

as I contemplate that I can either

a) stay unhappy with what’s going on and what will probably be the result if I continue this path, ie, delaying the book for the current readers who say they’re waiting for it while we wait for a publisher to buy and then release it, or

b) be equally selfish by pulling the books from submission to release on my own, deny my family the potential for the security of an advance and career opportunities I might have with a publisher, and, AND, take Jane’s opportunity to earn a commission for this such that I have just asked my agent to work for me for free.

Oh awesome. Fuck. Me. Running.

YA novel, Gone, the third book in Lisa McMann’s Wake trilogy, talks about Morton’s Fork: a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives. Morton’s Fork, I haz it.

OMG, Susan, snap the hell out it. You call that a Morton’s Fork? Did you learn nothing from the reading? You have a choice between two potentials for AWESOME in your life. And YOU’re the one who makes it about guilt. NO ONE puts that on you except you. So get your head on straight and figure it out.

“What do you want?”

I want both.

And somewhere in the muddle of feeling like everything was so absolute, that times are what they are and I’m looking at two mutually exclusive things, I came across this little thread of sanity that I followed to an understanding.

I can have both.

I can’t have both right now.

Nothing is forever. This is not my one and only shot. Part of this was finally accepting that Jane does want to work with me. That she’s not going to up and abandon me because I’m difficult. Because she thinks I have potential. Maybe things will come up, like that foreign rights thing, as the series progresses. And maybe that won’t be anything big enough for her to get excited about, but she’s got a whole staff of people to deal with stuff and a whole bunch of money-making clients and me needing to do this right now is hardly putting her on the food stamp line. (Not all agents will be able to be this understanding.)

Meanwhile, I’m going to be working to come up with a new idea. Something that’s not the Talents. Something to do on the side. I will get better at this. I will get better at writing and better able to handle the other stuff, and I will be able to do that. And Jane is going to work with me on starting from a marketable concept. But I’ll still have the Talents for my own. I’ll still have control over that to see what I can make of them on my own. Because that’s interesting, and another kind of opportunity. And I’ll have this other thing that Jane can be more involved in, that will allow me to learn more of what she knows, and I can have another shot at this trad thing and learning all the things that those guys know.

And certainly, if anyone wanted to go to Jane with an offer at this point, I’d be willing to hear it. I’m not closing this door because I want it closed. Right now I just really want to share this book so that I move on to other things. Jane just got John Locke a print deal where he keeps his erights. I’m no John Locke but things are changing and maybe something like that will open up for me someday with the Talents.

The Possibility of Failure

The possibility of seeming like an epic failure here is two-fold.

It is no small thing for me to be worried that a lot of people are going to see it as me having failed in NY and crawling back to indie. I don’t see it that way. A) Indie is not something you crawl back to. It’s a choice with its own awesomeness that I’m embracing after a lot of soul-searching. B) Yeah, I got a few rejections, but every one I read said positive things about my books, about the quality of my work. I got no indication that I suck. What I understand is that I do NY quality work, but that the concept is “too familiar” and therefore not marketable enough for any of these editors to take on. And while that’s surprising (I have no proper word for the amount of surprising) to me, it’s okay. I truly believe that Jane would have found a buyer for this, both because I believe in the series and because I believe that Jane is a BAMF of an agent who would not stop until she found the right editor.

The second possibility is that I sold over 20,000 copies of Hush Money merely because it was 99cents, most of those people didn’t read it, a lot of the people who gushed about it are over it now and will not rush to buy the second book. At $2.99 it might not make the charts to get the visibility it needs to really sell. Heroes ‘Til Curfew is a different kind of book from Hush Money. I have no doubt that some readers will embrace what it is, while I also know as a certainty that there will be people who won’t like it. And who will tell their friends and strangers how very much they don’t like it..

I doubt there are many people who don’t experience performance anxiety over a release. I’m trying not to make this too important. I’m trying not to attach to the numbers. I will try not to watch them. And I will try very, very hard not to put even more pressure on myself for things I can’t control in some effort to convince myself that I haven’t just made a horrible decision.

And yes, I’m not even close to being so big a person that I don’t want this book and this series to sell like MAD to prove that it was marketable. As an indie I want to be able to point to it and say “Look, here’s a series that was rejected in NY and look what’s done. So don’t give up.”

But as an author, ever so slightly, politely, complimentarily scorned, I would not mind hearing “I wish I had grabbed the opportunity to buy this when it was offered, would you consider…?”

As I come to the end of this epic post, I realize that this still isn’t everything I’ve learned. How is that possible? If you read all the way through, bless you. I hope you got something out of my long-winded share-a-thon of spew. I, of course, feel better for having written a story and shared it with you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some publishing to do.

Heroes 'Til Curfew Release Postcard

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My Husband Says I Can’t Spell Discipline or How I Have Been Failure’s Bitch

This is a running joke at our house, and the joke’s on me because I did just reference a tab along the top of my screen to check my spelling as I typed this post’s title. Every time the word discipline comes out of my mouth in his presence, he puts on his best Marine Corps voice and says, “Discipline? You can’t even spell discipline.”

Maybe the problem here is that I’ve learned to laugh at myself in this respect and it’s really not funny. Maybe it’s really fucking up my shit.

So it’s GIT Tuesday and my Goddess in Training stuff has been about changing my thoughts and creating better habits. That’s why Kristen Lamb’s post: Self-Discipline- The Key to Success really got me thinking. If you haven’t read it, you should, and if you do it now then this post will make more sense.

Kristen proves her point about self-discipline being necessary by showing us a list of highly successful authors who went to top schools, were highly successful in other fields– were in freaking Congress. Immediately I feel hopeless. Well crap. Let’s hope you can be moderately successful if you’re just moderately intelligent and far less awesome. That would be one of those thinking habits I need to work on. Kristen says,

“Successful people are willing to get up earlier, stay up later, work harder and never stop. They will outpace their competition every time. Why? Because self-discipline isn’t a once in a while thing, “Oh, I was so good today.” Self-discipline is the foundation of the successful life….not an accessory worn when we feel particularly inspired.”

Know who embodies that? Kait Nolan. And now I get why Kait and Kristen click so well together. So I read on.

The post goes on to give some do’s and don’ts for this, and they’re a lot like the weight loss stuff. Don’t jump into some crazy exercise thing and hurt yourself, start small and build. Don’t set goals that set you up for failure.

And then she talks about failure, about changing your relationship with failure. Man, I am failure’s bitch. I wrote a book last year I actually let other people read. HUGE step. You get that. I’m almost forty years old and I’m just getting to this point in my life where I’m actually finishing things. Because for most of my life I’ve been caught up in this perfectionism where I don’t finish anything. Because once something’s finished, it’s time to put it out there for other people to judge. But if you never finish anything, you never have to face having it rejected.

Tangent: Remember Pitfall for Atari 2600? With twenty minutes on the clock, you’re moving this guy across the screen, trying to pick up treasure. And when you fail to clear an obstacle, it loses you a little bit of time (and points). There were only a few different kinds of screens and obstacles that would keep repeating and every once in a while there’d be a treasure. I thought (and I’ve no idea if it’s true, probly not), that you could have a perfect game where you’d go to the right at full speed, never hit an obstacle, and eventually circle back to the start of the game–come out on the left side of the first screen.

I started playing the game to have a perfect game. And any time I hit an obstacle, I’d reset and start over. I never got very far and I don’t think I got any better at the game. And I started playing other games that way, too. Lose a man too early? Well, I’ll never make high score now. Reset.

Reset. Reset. Reset. How many unfinished games? How many unfinished stories?

Yeah, I was failure’s bitch. I’ve got a degree in Psychology, never looked at grad schools or applied for a job in that field. I’ve got a degree in Fashion Design. Completed my course work for that and went RIGHT BACK to full time at the sweat shop I’d been sewing in. But you know, I think that might be changing. The last few years I’ve forced myself into a willingness to try, to expose myself to the possibility of failure. And a lot of good things have happened.

Some of the habits that worked in conjunction with the perfectionism thing and never finishing anything are things Kristen brings up in her post under the heading: Don’t Let The Feelings Vote. I’m reading:

Guilty…

Guilty…

Guilty…

Okay, so I can see the problem. Now what? Once I started gaining weight, 20 years of resets of the next week I’m going to start this awesome diet and exercise program variety didn’t work for me. I weighed in the other day saw and have been at the same healthy weight for the last few months.

Kristen says not to wait until your feelings change to change your actions. I’m not disagreeing with her at all. I’m just looking at me and I’m thinking maybe the reason this stuff never seems to work for me is just because I need to change my thinking before I can change my actions consistently. When I changed my thoughts about a lot of the eating stuff, I started refusing some of the overeating and bad foods more consistently, and started shedding weight.

So maybe this is why that thing of just saying I’m going to write X words every day (even just 250), or sit down for X amount of time doesn’t seem to work for me. Because discipline? I no haz it.

Only I do. Yesterday I knew I was going out to dinner and I told Kait I was going to go eat a whole burger. Calorie-wise I was probably within my rights. So I went out and ordered a burger with a side of apples. Burger came and I cut it in half–a great habit which also makes it easier for my little mouth and little hands. Picked up the second half of the burger, actually said, “I’m going to eat the second half of this burger,” and then stopped. Thought, I’m not hungry right now. Why am I doing this? and asked the waiter for a box.

So I do have self-discipline, like Kristen said I do. I am capable of that. I can now do many reps of curls with 1/3lb cheeseburgers without pain. I just have to figure out what works for me for the rest of it. All this stuff that I read, all these “secrets of motivation,” it all seems to skip a step. They all say, “if you want it badly enough.” Well, I don’t know about that. I at least want to want to be better.

I can’t seem to just say to myself, “I’m going to do the dishes every day.” Because myself says, “Fuck you. I’m tired. I’m going to watch TV and see if Andrew’s on IM.” (Even though, please note, I know Andrew does his dishes because he says this on IM and yet I’m not inspired by his example.) I can’t seem to say to myself, “I’m going to work on my outline every day this week,” because myself says, “Eh, I can’t really think of anything that would be good today. I’ll make it up on a day I’m really on. I have a lot of other things I need to do anyway.” And then I’m all, “But we said were gonna–” “Um, fuck you I said not right now, okay?”

Okay, geez. Bite my head off, myself. Damn, she’s bitchy.

So anyway, this can’t be just me. Anyone else have this missing link thing going on? I’m going to cogitate on where my thought process is going wrong while I go wash some dishes.

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GIT Tuesday

I decided to move Goddess in Training to Tuesday since I’m often running around on Thursday. Of course, it shouldn’t matter. One of my many GIT goals is to write blog posts at least one day in advance and schedule them. That’s a baby step as my original plan was to have things scheduled a week in advance. So I’m writing to you from Monday, I wrote today’s post yesterday, and Sunday’s post on Saturday. So far, so good, on that one, anyway.

Other than trying to keep up with the blog, Kait made me make massive lists this weekend. I’m having company in about six weeks. Very important company. I’m having multiple houseguests over multiple nights. I NEVER have anyone over at my house, so this is a Big Deal. I’m not freaking out because the people coming know who I am and it probably won’t a surprise to them if everything’s a shambles, and they’ll still love me. Still, I’d like to make an effort to not have my guests live in squalor. So I’ve got this massive list of housekeeping tasks that need to be done anyway and would get me solidly on track if I could maintain it.

Other lists are maintenance tasks, some health and fitness stuff (like going back to meal planning and doing yoga every day), and the steps I need to take to get back into the social media stuff like I’m supposed to.

I’m actually kind of excited about it. Maybe that’s a strong word. But I put a bunch of stuff in Cozi yesterday, and it’s looking doable.

Already I hit a snag where my husband called and got my out of bed, sending me on a series of errands that took up the whole morning. During the errands I ran into another mom and since we’re supposed to have a heat index of 110 today, we made tentative plans to meet up at the pool this afternoon. So I haven’t done anything on my list today, except laundry and this post I’m typing. But I think that’s okay.

Weight Loss Tip

Big heading! Rather than just babble at you about how I’m trying to get my shit together, I thought I’d try to come up with some of the things that helped me lose weight this year.

My tip of the week is a thought process. Recurring thoughts are habits. Habits don’t automatically start happening just because we decide we should do something differently. Once you start something, it takes time to catch on. But once you’ve repeated the behavior enough times, it becomes something you do rather naturally.

I mean, you all know that right? And that the concept works with things you say to yourself in the same way it works with making you bed when you get out of it or putting your keys in the same place when you walk in the door. (I marvel that there are people in the world with made beds who always know where they keys are. Baby steps.)

So here’s the concept: Extra crap you put into your body becomes extra crap that lives on your body. Yeah, it takes a lot of extra calories to make a whole pound, but a) a pound is nothing to sneeze at, and b) it’s not like it only happens if you eat that many calories in one sitting–it’s cumulative. So when you walk by the cookie jar and grab one–or three–cookies just because they look good, not because you’re even hungry…how much extra you does that add up to in a whole year? Everything that goes in counts.

What I learned to ask myself is: Do I really want to carry that around?

I mean, seriously. If I’m looking at dessert, knowing I’ve already hit the limit of what I need to eat, that stuff is going right to my butt. And forget what it looks like, I have to carry that. Maybe for years! Yeah, maybe it’s looks delicious, but delicious enough to carry for years? On my ass where it no longer looks quite so enticing?

No. Way. I am way too lazy for that.

Yeah, it’s not always easy, but this habit of stopping to think about whether or not I want to make a lifetime commitment with this brownie is sort of a cold shower for me.

I’m not on a diet. I don’t write down what I eat and I only sort of generally estimate calorie intake. It’s not a horrible, regimented thing. This habit is part of a change I went through that means I don’t HAVE to do the hardcore diet thing.

So that’s my tip. Hope it helps.

PS. Today’s my brother’s birthday. If you happen to read, Happy Birthday, Dave!

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Zelda, Dragon Age, and the power of choice

So you know how lots of us are into the motivational prizes? Just get your work done and you’ll win the right to buy this thing you want or some free time to do that thing you’ve been wanting to do. I’m sort of meh on whether or not this kind of self-denial really works for me. After all, if I deny myself one thing, I can keep from doing it, but I’ll often just do something else instead, defeating the purpose.

I realize that, while I used the excuse of entertaining my girl who likes to watch video games and play vicariously, I kind of substituted playing Zelda Twilight Princess on the Wii while denying myself Sims Medieval. And as I said in a recent post, I’m interested in seeing how Link’s story turns out. I want to know more. But I don’t love the game.

In the comments to that post, Lisey suggested I check out Bioware’s offerings. And as I was not feelin’ the love for Sims Medieval, I did. So I went out and got Dragon Age: Origins.

Oh. My. God.

Thank GOODNESS this was after I had finished the draft because, dude, it became my full time job to save Ferelden from the coming Darkspawn. Like, seriously, I was in that game at least 40 hours in the first week I had it. I could hardly stop playing it and I could not stop thinking about it. After that full-time week of work as a Gray Warden, I went down to Florida (where I managed to play it some more even though Disney is exhausting). In the car on the ride down, when my brain should have been working on book 3 of the Talent Chronicles, all I could do was daydream game fic.

I haven’t even come close to finishing the game, but now that my world’s opened up to this new genre for which I obviously need a 12-step, I’m already shopping around for “more like this.” And I’m also trying to figure out what it is about this game that makes me love it so much. Of course nothing ever comes down to just one thing, but here’s one I’ve been thinking about. (And you might want to take into account that I’m not an experienced gamer, so I may get stuff wrong or express ideas in some non-standard way. The console I had before the Wii was Atari 2600.)

There’s only one way for Link to go about saving Hyrule. You go the way you need to go, you fulfill the tasks you need to do, you slay the boss that needs slaying, and you move through the game in a very linear fashion. You do something else, you’re no longer moving forward and it’s obvious you’re not moving forward.

My Hero in Dragon Age has a lot more choice. And the choices matter. At one point, early on in the game, we came to a town that was having a lot of problems and the Darkspawn (the vicious hoard of underground monsters that are coming above ground to take over) were getting closer. I had a certain direction, something that needed to get done, and not being familiar with the game, I moved through the town fairly quickly and on to complete my task. I never stopped in the tavern, so I never met an important character in the story. That decision changes my story. The town was overrun by the Darkspawn after that and is closed to me. I’ll probably never meet that character. Parts of the game will never open to me (unless I play it again) because of that decision.

Now on one level, hey, that kind of sucks. But on another, how much importance do I now feel in my decisions? What I choose to do matters in a way that’s different from other games, because certain choices by me can radically alter the story I’m experiencing. And that’s actually pretty cool.

So today is Monday, and on Mondays I talk about writing. Do I have a writing point to make? Well, other than to confess how much I really want to write Choose Your Own Adventure right now, I think the lesson I get from this is that choice matters. Or it should.

Know what’s hard sometimes? Allowing a character to make the wrong choice. And then punishing them. But that’s where some of the best story stuff comes from, allowing a character to dig themselves into an ever-deepening hole until she learns enough from her mistakes to start climbing out of it.

Imagine two different stories.  In one story, the character makes a series of decisions that work out rather well in getting that character from the beginning to the end. And there’s good characterization and enough going on that it makes for a nice read and we all follow along happily to The End.

In another story, the character struggles with two different alternatives. Chooses one and ends up going backward or dealing with harsh consequences. The next time that character comes to a crossroads, how much more invested might we be in that character’s next decision? How emotional will we get when she makes the same mistake again, getting even more off track? And how much more invested will we ultimately be in the story?

Something to think about, anyway.

Assuming what I just babbled made any sense at all.

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#ROW80 Susan, what the hell are you doing?

Hell, I don’t know.

I think maybe I’m a recovering stats junkie. I used to right on top of all my stuff. Checking my sales everywhere and recording that in a spreadsheet used to be the first thing I did every morning. It used to be a bit of hobby for me to watch changes in rank and to get a sense of about how many sales per day meant about what rank and how that changed with the changes in the market as a whole. (For example, at one point getting into the top 100 might have meant selling at least 100 books in 24 hours. And then at another point 100 books in 24 hours might have gotten you into the top 700 as more books and customers entered the marketplace.)

But anyway, I pretty much walked away from all that. I learned a lot. I think I needed to learn stuff, and I don’t feel like it was totally time wasted, but… I can’t control things like rank and sales. When you see those things taking even a natural downturn, even when everyone around you is reporting decreased sales, still, just looking at something makes you want to affect it. And you can’t. Not really. Not directly, I guess.

So anyway, had to stop obsessing over that stuff, and I think that’s been good for me. I just realized that Hush Money is a year old. Like, today. A year ago today it went up on Smashwords. In a few days it will be a whole year it’s been up on Amazon. I’ve sold over 20,000 copies. I’ve gotten so much love and support from readers and other writers. It’s been awesome.

You know the question I get asked most? When are we going to get Heroes ‘Til Curfew? You have no idea how I’ve struggled with this question. Because the simple answer is: I don’t know. And the rest of the answer is complicated.

Books one and two of the Talent Chronicles are currently being shopped by my agent. We’re looking for a contract for both of them. To take this step, to even seriously consider selling the rights to these to someone else and put this much control of my world into someone else hands…it’s huge.

I often wonder what the hell I’m doing.

Every other week we hear about another known author self-publishing. This week it was Holly Lisle. People I respect and admire turning away from what I’m approaching and moving toward where I’ve been.

As though I’m moving backward.

But maybe it’s not linear. Maybe there is no backward. (Maybe there is no spoon.) I understand my own reasons for seeking this out. I know what I want out of it.

But the waiting is nerve-wracking. There’s wondering. There’s dreams I’m afraid of dreaming. There’s worrying. There’s this feeling of life on hold.

And if I would just give up this whole idea I could go back to what I know. To where I’ve been successful before and hope I can do half as well with Heroes ‘Til Curfew as I did with Hush Money. And then when people asked me when book 2 is coming out I have a better answer for them!

I just feel like Hush Money and I have done so well on our own, but does that mean we should just sit back and be satisfied with that or should we see if there’s more than can be done? Now that I’ve already had thousands of readers, what might happen if I had a publisher behind me who could get me wider distribution? Where I’m, like, a new author, but not quite brand new. Maybe it could be awesomer.

Look, I may never get a TV series or a comic or a video game. Okay, yeah, I probably won’t. I get that. But I think that even if a lot of readers no longer need a publishers’ stamp on book for them to give it a try, I think the world might still be at a point where that would make it slightly less impossible to be considered for the next level. The Talent Chronicles graphic novel level.

Do you get this sense that I’m deeply conflicted? I want this. I want to try this. I want to have these opportunities if I can. I want to learn shit. New shit. And I don’t want to wait. I feel so friggin’ guilty about the waiting to release this book that it’s eating me up. And I’m so worried about not having new material to release and having readers forget about me. And I’m so worried about not releasing and thence not having an income and thence not having a Christmas.

Do you know what I’ve done in this year since I released Hush Money? I’ve traded my size 14 pants for size 4. Sometimes I think it’s all from worrying.

This should be a happy birthday post. It should be chock full of awesome, and I’m sorry that it’s not. This is why I’m not around a lot. I’m just in this holding pattern that makes me crazy and crazy-angsty, and I feel like I don’t know what to say because I don’t KNOW anything anymore.

So, I don’t know what you think of that from a ROW80 standpoint. I guess it means that I’m still trying to get myself settled back in and back on track.

What the hell is up with Susan? To be continued…

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#ROW80 and Stories in Video Games

For the ROW80ers, well, look, here’s another post. Which is to say that I’m doing well with my blogging goal. ETA: Plus I just did my sponsorly duty, went back to Sunday’s linky, and visited and commented on my assigned peeps (except on one Blogger blog that just wouldn’t let me comment, as Blogger blogs are wont to do). Don’t know when I’ll get around to commenting on the Wednesday blogs. There sure are a lot of people participating this round. It’s exciting!

For those who showed up just for my random Wednesday musings…

Mostly I like casual games. I try to avoid it, but I can spend serious time on things like Bejeweled and Chuzzle. And I’ll have to admit that when I got my hands on Plants vs. Zombies, it totally owned me for at least a weekend.

The Sims franchise is a problem. Of course it all started with Sim City, each successive version allowing more control, more building instead of just trying to, I don’t know, win the game? And then…then…The Sims. Virtual dolls. With dollhouses and furniture and decorations! And a money cheat to make it all possible. Expansion after expansion, new toys to play with. Sims 2, Sims 3… There are things to achieve if you want, but if you just want to make a house with roommates Bingley and Darcy, and another house with roommates Jane and Elizabeth and just play out a neighborhood romance, that works too.

I’m terribly attracted to the games with trailers that promise a story. That seem to promise to put you into a story. Now that the book’s out of my hands for a bit, I’m playing Zelda Twilight Princess. I don’t feel like I’m in the story, but I’m interested in the story and I enjoy playing the game to a certain point. I suppose it’s the point at which it just gets so hard it’s not so much like playing anymore. I don’t so much mind playing a boss battle a number of times until I get it right. Honestly I’m just glad games don’t make you start all over from the beginning like they used to. But I like figuring it out, you know? Lots of things to puzzle out. Then it gets to a point where it seems like I can’t figure out anything.

And then I’m in Zork land. I feel like I standing in the dark, words across the abyss tell me that I’m standing next to a tree. And nothing I do seems to be getting me anywhere. Then I have to go online and find a walkthrough to get me past where I’m stuck. And eventually I’m doing that every scene and then it’s hard to see the point. I’ve lost that feeling of accomplishment I had at figuring it out myself.

Yet I’m still thinking about it and still going back to it because I want to know the rest of the story. And sometimes wishing I could just read the novelized version.

At some point during the winter, I found Surviving High School while browsing DSiWare, immediately wanted it, and knew it was the kind of thing that would suck me in. So I decided that it would have to be a prize for finishing Heroes ‘Til Curfew. Well, I was right about the sucking me in part.

I love this game. It’s basically a choose your own adventure book, set in high school. In the main story you’re the new boy at school whose name and appearance you get to choose. You get to decide if you’re going to go after the cheerleader or the goth girl, and go through a story that has a lot to do with joining the football team and keeping up your GPA enough to get your dad to buy you a new car. After you get through the main story, you unlock shorter episodes that feature other characters at the school.

This game pulled me into the story in a way that no other game has. And I suppose it’s somewhat ironic that it’s so much like reading a choose your own adventure book in a why don’t you turn off the screen for a while and go read a good book or something? way.

Anyway, just wish I could find more like that.

Games, anyone? What do you like?

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My Second Book Syndrome: Change of Process

So I was trying to think of something to write about today that has to do with the writing life. I should have a ton of stuff. I feel like I learned a ton of stuff as I worked my way through Heroes ‘Til Curfew. There were a lot of times I said to someone, one thing I learned while writing this book is that… And right now I’m having trouble remembering what any of those things actually were.

Okay, here’s one: Be willing to change your “process.”

Once upon a time, I met a fellow amateur writer online and we exchanged work. I immediately saw potential in what I was reading, but I could also see reasons why it wasn’t ready yet. Some feedback I gave her was that there were scenes that didn’t seem to advance the plot. (I don’t think that’s how I put it because I didn’t always know the right terms to explain what I meant back then–still don’t.) Or there were scenes with a bunch of details that didn’t seem to matter. There was an “and then…and then…and then…” quality to these portions of the story that slowed it down and made me wonder why the author was spending my time this way.

My new writer friend took this very well, which, to me, was another flashing neon sign of great writer potential. And after a bit of back and forth she explained to me that this was just “her process.” This sticking with the character, recording her every action as she went along, this was how this writer found her way through the story. (Because, yes, she was a pantster.)

As we moved along, this writer was ever willing to cut things that didn’t seem relevant, but she was spending a lot of time writing things that got cut while complaining that she needed more time to write. Eventually, I started a campaign against her process, in the name of efficiency.

Today you know Kait Nolan as a kick-ass writer of tight, fast-paced, action-packed fiction, as well as a staunch supporter of plotting and, yes, even outlining! But this is not actually a post to tell you how she owes all her success to me (joke!); it’s about how part of being professional is about seeing what’s holding you back and being will to change it.

I wrote the draft of Hush Money in 30 days. Of course I did a lot of prep work. I had a strong structure in place and an outline that gave me most of the basics while allowing me to discover the details in the writing. I was writing a series that had been on my mind for years, characters who had been living in my head for a while. I had months and months of not writing bottled up, words just waiting to spew out, and two close indie friends with actual sales and readers making me excited, envious, and chomping at the bit to get something out there.

No wonder it came out so fast.

In contrast, I think that once the outline was really in place, it must have taken at least nine months to write the draft of Heroes ‘Til Curfew. People, my daughter was seven weeks early. I don’t even put in nine months baking a baby let alone a book! What the hell??

The hell was my damned process. This idea I have that it should always be easy. If it’s not easy, if it’s not freakin’ inspired, it’s just not ready to come out of my head and it’s just not going to be good. Of course I didn’t say these things to myself. I didn’t realize that this was in my head. If I had, hopefully I would have bitch-slapped myself a long time ago. But in retrospect, I’m sure this was part of the problem.

But things were so different setting out to write this book. I now had something established. I had places I wanted to go, and this book had to fit where I’d been as well as where I wanted to take the series. I had readers. Readers who liked the voice, the characters…readers with expectations. Expectations absolutely kicked my ass on this thing. The pressure I put on myself was ridiculous, and the fear of living up to something I built up in my head was a big issue.

Anyway, the point of THIS post was that I was not in the same place for this manuscript as I was with the last one. Of course it wasn’t going to come out the same way. But if it wasn’t just going to come out, then what was I going to do?

I was going to have to change my process. I was going to have to accept that there might be serious rewriting involved. I was going to have to push through and put something on the page, even if there didn’t seem to be any words on my fingertips that day. If there was just a big blank spot in my head where the scene was supposed to be, I was going to have to make it be there–because I couldn’t keep sitting around and waiting for it to appear by magic like it has in the past.

Imagine that.

And the end of the story is that it was still good. I dragged my way through that book knowing that when I got through I’d have this horrific pile of uninspired schlock and have to start all over again.

But I didn’t. Did I make changes? Yeah, I did. I’m still pretty new at this actually finishing work, getting to and getting through the editing phase. This was probably the first manuscript that I made radical changes in, went back and added in whole scenes, or cut most of a scene and rewrote it in a different context.

And when I finally read it, I loved it. In the final product, I’m not sure if you can tell the difference between what parts were inspiration and what were perspiration. Would I say I’ve got it down now? That I’m good at this business of just pushing through and doing the work, inspiration or no? No. No I wouldn’t.

But at the same time, I’ve seen this problem for what it is. In psychology there’s this thing called “reality testing.” When you have an irrational fear of something, like pushing through a story when you’re not inspired, you have to go out and do it anyway. This is in order to prove to yourself that whatever horror you think will befall–like coming out with a nicely formatted file of pure crap–won’t actually happen. So I’ve been through the reality testing phase of treating the syndrome on this manuscript. Now I just have to continue to practice the new behaviors, the new thoughts, the new process.

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To-Do List: PO Box

You’re writing your book, you’re all over Twitter and Facebook making friends, you’re trying to build a readership for your blog to build a readership for you book. You’re reading all kinds of articles on what you’ll need to do to get your work formatted and uploaded and converted for ebooks sales, you’re trying to figure out what you can DIY and what you’ll hire out, and you’re asking yourself the question: to print or not to print or to just put it off until later. Or you’ve done all that and now you’re just trying to keep up with what you’ve made and make more.

Since you obviously don’t have enough to do, let me just also suggest you add “get a PO Box” to your list.

I finally got around to doing this about a month ago. I think it cost me like $40 for the year for a little box. Added expenses are never happy-making, but here are my reasons:

1. Unless you make your information private, the contact information you are required to submit for your domain name is public. The company I use (GoDaddy) charges a fee of $9/yr per domain name (I have 2 other domains from my other buisness) to make it private. This pisses me off and I don’t want to pay it.

2. You will probably have to give out your address to people you don’t know. Sometimes I mail out books as review copies or prizes and while I’m sure they’re going to lovely people, basically every time I write my return address on a package, I’m telling people where I live. And guys, that whole Google satellite photo thing just creeps me the hell out.

3. Even though email is the shit, it’s nice to be able to list a snail mail address on your website in case anyone wants to send you a handmade card, or ship you a box of chocolates to enable faster writing.

4. Now while #1 had been my primary reason for having it on the to-do list, I didn’t get around to it until this one. I use Vertical Response to do my newsletter, and I’d assume this is the same for any company you deal with when sending out professional mailings. When I went to send out my first mailing, I found out that anti-spam laws require you enter a postal address. And that postal address is included in the mailing. Are you comfortable with that?

5. ETA: Thanks to Angeline Kace for reminding me about this in the comments. Much like #1, when you register for copyright you have to provide an address and that becomes public info.

So I’m just saying, there’s more than one reason you’ll probably need to do this. If you’re serious about what you’re doing, stuff is going to come up. So just add it to your to-do list now and get it done next to you’re at the PO. Then you won’t have to interrupt your day with a newsletter half finished to go and take care of it.

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Now with representation…

We interrupt Friday’s regularly scheduled hero fiction appreciation (which I wasn’t even able to come up with this week anyway, as I’ve had my nose in my own book and haven’t gotten a whole lot of fiction myself, except for Dean, and we just talked about him the other day and I’m sure SOME of you [cough]Kait, Cher[cough] could deal with a weekly Dean segment, but…I digress) to bring you the following update on the writing life of me.

I’m now represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

So, yeah, it’s been one of those exciting yet surreal weeks for me. A lot of this post is going to be about why I wanted an agent because I know there’s some sentiment that we don’t need them. Personal choice. You know that my friend and crit partner Kait is indie an has an agent. She’ll eventually have work both traditionally and self-published. The plans that she and her agent are making for her career make absolute sense for what she wants and it seems to be a beautiful arrangement. My friend Zoe is fiercely independent. She loves the business aspects of this job at least as much as she loves the writing. She thrives on it and doesn’t want to give any of that over to someone else. Totally valid and I totally get where she’s coming from. There’s no right answer.

I have been very interested in representation for last few months, ever since I had that incident of interest in the translation rights that I didn’t know how to deal with. Advice I got from those ahead of me was to get an agent, but of course I had no idea whom to approach. I think there’s been this clear feeling in the indie community that the industry sees us as damaged goods and no one wants to pick up a used commodity. (Actually, I read that, with nicer words, on an agent’s blog once.) Weird, huh? Clearly that’s changing, and like the rest of the changes that are going on around us, it’s changing fast.

But I couldn’t tell who was interested in representing self-published authors, and couldn’t find help to figure it out. So it’s one of the many things I just let go as too complicated for the moment, even though I have very much felt that I’m at a point where I could use the guidance of people with more experience than I have.

Honestly you guys, we’re all monumentally busy, and it just keeps going. What did Amanda say recently? “I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full-time corporation.” Bless her heart, I can only imagine. But really, isn’t being you a full-time job already? A huge part of my trouble this year has been in trying to take my already inefficiently-run life and suddenly trying to shove a full-time author/publisher/book-marketer/manager career into that.

My daughter made a calendar in school last year. It was one of those Home Depot kid projects they do on Saturdays, but they do a lot of those in the class my daughter was in last year. Anyway, it’s a perpetual calendar with blocks you turn to show the date. It sits on my stove. One day this winter I looked at that calendar and it said August 2, 2010.

The date I first uploaded Hush Money.

The date that time stopped.

Or at least that I stopped being able to focus on stuff in my home. Susan, you just signed with an awesome literary agent, what are you going to do next? Scrub my bathroom. That’s what I did this week. I gave my bathroom some quality time. I washed the walls and the baseboards. I’m going to have to re-caulk. And I’m going to have to figure out a way to do everything I need to do. And unlike a lot of you guys, I don’t even have a 9-5 job I have to do 40 hours a week. (Really, did I mention I’m inefficient?)

I’ve wanted someone who could be there when questions like this foreign rights stuff come up, so I wouldn’t have to waste a couple days with Google and then another day with an attorney–only to have nothing come of it! I’m going to want sound editorial advice on this book I’m working on, and I don’t want to waste time trying to figure out whom to hire for that. I think we’ll [indies will] get to a point where we have reputable editors for hire, but I don’t know who they are now. It seems like so many of the writers I know are so monumentally busy they’ve hardly got a brain cell to spare these days to answer questions for me, let alone read a scene and tell me why it sucks. I love the idea of having someone to go to with this stuff, and someone who has an interest such that I don’t have to feel like I’m just sucking their time.

So anyway, last week Jane sent me an email and then we spoke on the phone. I have to tell you that “the call” was kind of a series of brain mines, followed by an aftermath of disbelief and the certainty that there would be a phone call from a receptionist informing me of some unfortunate error. I mean, guys, I’m just now getting to the point where I can start paying my credit card bill with my royalties instead of hoarding the royalties in the bank in case someone calls to tell me about an unfortunate accounting error and demands them back.

My serious issues aside, a huge thrill in all this is that I love to learn, and I am so excited about the opportunity to learn from someone with this much experience in the industry. That’s freakin’ awesome! Some people are pretty negative about different editorial perspectives, you know? They feel like they’re being told what to do and forced into this and that. I know that my own perspective is very narrow and that I don’t see everything. I love it when a fresh opinion opens me up to thinking about something in a way it wouldn’t have occurred to me to think before. At the end of the day I may not change the work, but I’ll know that I covered another angle in terms of looking at it and that that was an informed decision.

The opportunity to discuss my work with experienced people who actually have time and give a shit about it? That’s an opportunity I absolutely want and am very excited about.

I love that Jane contacted me. I understand how the query process came to be how it is, but eep, it’s rough. Being thrown out of the running for a novel on the basis of not being able to write a stand-out letter is something I think a lot of us are uncomfortable with regarding things as they stand now. I’m hoping that we’ll continue see more agents willing to scout.

Anyway, sorry this is long, but as far as my thoughts on the whole business, you guys really got short version. Trust me.

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