Tag Archives: superhero romance

#ROW80 Goal/Update Combo

I have a lot to catch you up on, I know.

I was supposed to write this over the weekend, but, being a holiday, it’s been busy. So considering that a lot of my ROW80 goals have to do with blogging and getting back into the swing of things here and on Twitter, I’m sort of starting off in a fail state. But rather than call it fail, we’ll just say it’s perfectly acceptable to wait until the first update day to state my goals.

But first I should answer the question some of you are asking and some of you have already heard. If I’d participated in round 2, my goal would have been to finish my draft of Heroes ‘Til Curfew. That did get done. Finally. The manuscript has been through a very quick round of crit with a few peeps and is now with Agent Jane for her to read. Once it was finally done and I was able to read it over, I really came to love what I’ve done with this story. Still, I’m really nervous about how it will be received. That’s just the way of things.

So here we are in round 3 and Kait came ’round a-hinting that she needed another sponsor. I didn’t think I did too well with round 1, didn’t participate in round 2, and really hadn’t given much thought to round 3 at all. But impulsively volunteered in the hopes that it would help me back into things with you guys.

So I guess my primary ROW80 goals have to do with blogging, Twitter, and perhaps even [cue evil music] Facebook. During the school year, I usually have the computer open all day and am sitting in front of it more often than not. During the summer, this is really not the case. My daughter requires a lot of attention and there are days I don’t open it at all or don’t do more than check my email. I’m here on my new laptop and still haven’t set up my email client so I’m still hardly checking that at all. (There are so many things I told myself I couldn’t do until AFTER the draft was finished that I now have a to-do list as long as my arm).

Social Media Goals

  • Do the ROW80 updates twice a week.
  • Do my sponsor duty and visit some ROW80 bloggers.
  • Check in to Twitter at least once a day to reply to mentions.

That’s it for now. Baby steps. Later I want to get back to my blogging schedule, actually get back to interacting with my friends on Twitter, and make a habit of updating on my Facebook page at least a few times a week. But I’m not ready to jump right back in even though I feel kind of guilty about that.

Writing Goals

  • Continue to work the blueprint for book 3, working title Heroes Under Siege

This should have some kind of definite, measurable thing attached to it, but…not yet.

As I was finishing the draft, I started getting up at 5:30am when my husband leaves for work and getting at least a couple hours done before my daughter woke up. After finishing up the draft and the initial edits, I gave myself a little vacation. I need to readjust my sleep schedule and go back to doing that, but until I do, claiming I’m going to get up at that hour to get the work done is just setting myself up for badness. And if I don’t work while motor-mouth is unconscious, I can’t possibly claim I’ll get anything done that makes any sense. If I push it there will likely be some yelling and bad feelings all around. Yes, discipline is a problem for me in all areas.

However, the blueprint is going well and it’s the kind of thing that my brain works on while I’m not physically writing it down. The basics are there. I know what the plot is. I know what each act is basically about. I know my character arcs. I know, generally, how it ends. I am excited about this story.

So later I’d like to tweak my goals to be more measurable. I’d like to be working every a few hours every day. This round I’d like to finish up the blueprint, have a scene list ready to go, and deal with whatever edits come my way regarding Heroes ‘Til Curfew. I also haven’t given up the idea of writing that short piece that takes place at the end of Hush Money and I’ve got at least one other short I’d like to work on as well. And I need to do some work on my long-range plans for the series.

I know I’ve been away a long time and I’ve probably got a million things to tell you about. Likely I won’t remember what they are. If anyone wants to give me blog fodder by asking stuff in the comments (stuff that’s not about a release date for HTC because I can’t answer that now), do feel free.

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Writing to a Niche

So again this morning I find myself clicking from an Etsy newsletter to an article, and in that article finding so much that seems to pertain to us indie authors. I should probably have some kind of Etsyish Publishing category or tag on the blog.

Anyway, 4 Ways to Make Your Products More Niche on the Crafting an MBA blog is a great article for indie authors to read because it carries some of those same messages we read all the time: you can’t be all things to all readers, write the book you want to write and you’ll find the readers like you who have been waiting for just that… So click on that title and give it a read-through. Will just take a couple minutes, and as you read, think of parallels to what you’re trying to do as an indie author.

My early designs were average and unimaginative.

How are we going to stand out and get found? That’s a big thing with us, and it’s part of the reason I continue to click on these Etsy articles, because I know from

Everyday jeans and tees for an everyday doll earned me low wages and only a few very kind fans.

experience that it’s a big thing there too. When I started on Etsy, I really had no direction, except that I was going to make doll clothes, starting with Barbie. I knew they would be better quality than most of what was out there–because that’s part of what handmade is–and that they would fit well, but in terms of design I was very much average in my thinking.

My Blythe doll

When a friend pointed me at Blythe, showed me the doll’s increasing popularity, the higher price points for the indie clothing that was coming into the market, and finally sent me a doll to get me started, she was sending me into a niche. After all, I’d wager that most domiciles in this country have

I moved into the Blythe niche, but my designs were still nothing to get excited about.

seen at least one Barbie doll within their walls at one time or another, while most people still don’t know what a Blythe is.

My early designs for Blythe were boring, just like what I’d done for Barbie. I made more money per piece, because of the niche. A dress for Barbie could get $3. A similar dress for Blythe could get $10, and was more likely to sell (eventually). This was due to the increasing popularity of the doll (or genre, if you will), the demographic (adult collectors vs. children), and the lack of Blythe-sized clothing on the market.

So already I’m hoping that you’re seeing similarities. When you’re selling just another epic fantasy or just another apocalyptic thriller, it may be hard for you to get found. And this is true even if you move into a hot, trendy niche, as I did with Blythe or you might do with vampire romance.

Since Blythe was a growing trend, my friend wasn’t the only one who noticed the premium prices people were paying for her clothing. Soon, more and more Blythe-centric clothing shops opened up on Etsy. And this is very much like with indie publishing: anyone can try to do it. So we saw people who knew how to sew (write) who had been sewing completely different items like baby quilts and children’s clothing (writing in a completely different genre), buy dolls and start turning out Blythe clothes. We also saw Blythe enthusiasts who were just learning to sew opening up shops and trying to sell work that just wasn’t ready for a pricetag (and we’ve all seen those indie writers too).

All those listings flooded the Blythe market on Etsy. Literally thousands of items tagged Blythe or coming up in a search. Even if you were doing quality work,  putting out nice items at a reasonable price, how were you going to get seen in the deluge?

I was enjoying creating for Blythe, but I wasn’t making any real money at it. It was worth doing because I love to sew and play with my dolls, and even if I made $20 a month, it was $20 more than I had before. And then, and I know I’ve talked about this before, so just bear with me, I wanted to do

My first commissioned order.

something different. Something kind of crazy. I wanted to see if I could smock in miniature and make a smocked dress for Blythe. This was taking an embroidery technique that is usually done for babies and very young children on an area say 12″ x 4-6″ and reducing it to an area of about 2″ x 1″, and then crafting that finished embroidery piece into a garment that was somewhat more complicated in construction compared to most of the handmade Blythe garments being sold at that time.

I was really nervous about this. This won’t be much of a surprise to my regular readers as I seem to be nervous about every damned thing, but really, I was actually scared to put out something so different. In retrospect, I see what a ninny I was, but there’s a certain level of comfort in doing what everyone else is doing.

Overindulgence was my most expensive design ever.

Next thing you know, I had more interest in my work than I knew what to do with. My inbox was flooded with compliments and special requests. I had a waiting list of at least 20 special order clients for months, even though I was asking more than twice as much for these dresses as I did for the original smocked design.  I had started out making quality yet boring dresses for Barbie for $3, and these dresses were earning me an average of $45-$50. The most expensive dress I ever did went for

The design had 6 of these detailed floral spray embroideries

$120, and making the second one of that ridiculously detailed dress just about killed me. Let’s retire that design!

Why did this dress and all the others command such high prices, and why was there so much interest in my work? These were doll dresses for Heaven’s sake. Because I was in a popular niche, yes, but doing something that no one else was doing (people started referring to me as “the crazy smocking lady”) and doing it well because it was something that I loved.

I’ve wanted to write the Talent Chronicles because for years I’ve been loving the superheroes and having to sit back and say: That would have been awesome if they hadn’t screwed it up. The kinds of stories that I really wanted just weren’t part of the genre. Hell, the format that I wanted to work in–novels–really hasn’t been part of the genre. The book category is NOT Comic books, Graphic Novels, and Superhero Novels. There’s no place for me there. Which I’ve decided is fine. I don’t think I really belong there.

Your niche doesn’t have to be something that no one’s ever done before. I certainly didn’t create meta-humans. I want to come to be known for superhero romance, but I didn’t come up with that idea either. Superheroes have had all kinds of love stories, just mostly the kind where someone ends up dead or abandoned. And I’m certainly not the only one working on this. So you don’t have to re-invent the wheel here.

But there are tons of books out there and there are going to be more and more–because anyone can do it now. So now, more than ever before, I think we really need to think about what makes our concept different from everything else that’s out there, and we need to think about how we’re going to use that difference to market our fiction. And if you can’t come up with a difference, maybe you’ll want to take a harder look at what you’re working on. (Maybe not. Your call.)

Same sh!t, different doll. Oh no, wait, that's the same doll too.

Your story is so very special to you. Even my boring dresses and t-shirts were special to me because they were lovingly crafted and I spent a lot of time on them. But I look back at these photos and I can totally see how uninspiring they are. Part of why a lot of indies get angry with traditional publishers is because the publisher says they just can’t see how this is going to stand out and sell. And they know that it’s not enough to have a good book, you’ve got to get some people to read that thing. It’s not enough for us either. We have

My special sh!t for a special doll

to have some sense of what we can say about this book, about what makes it different and better than the sea of books already out there, in order to get people to look at it.

Maybe the hardest thing to accept about a niche is that it’s often small, and that often means small growth. It also means that we’re not always going to be able to make reasonable comparisons between our successes and those of our peers, when our peers are writing for a different audience.

I honestly think I’m writing for the same people who read Twilight (whether they loved it or not), and are still talking about Buffy. But I write vampire-free (I’m thinking of starting a tagging trend on that, btw), so I’m never going to get seen on the Vampire Romance Bestseller List on Amazon, and I’m never going to get found in vampy tag searches. I don’t even have any kind of normal demon/angel/shifter/witchy paranormal anything in my books, and how many people are out there searching “superhero romance”?

Not a lot.

Yet.

Hey, I’m just sayin’.

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Runaways: Teen Superheroes? I’m so there!

Yesterday (the day before this post was written, not actual yesterday…as though you care) I got and read Runaways vol 1: Pride and Joy*. This was a fantastic recommendation from my comics guru Andrew Mocete.

Tag of note: Teen superheroes! Come on, had you at Hello, didn’t it?

Premise: So here’s this group of teens who see each other once a year when they’re forced to hang out together while their parents have their annual meeting for some charity they secretly run. The kids don’t seem to have a lot in common and they don’t really like each other, so obviously they’re thrilled. This naturally leads to spying on the parents and realizing that they’re…da da dummmm…super-villains!

Ouch.

A bit more of the plot: The first volume in trade paperback collects issues 1-6. After that initial setup, with the zealous morality of rebellious teens, the kids decide they need to have their parents brought to justice. But shockingly, reporting your parents as super-villains to the police does not have the desired effect. Our heroes now have to find some kind of evidence in order for the police to take them seriously, while trying to stay under the radar of their ruthless parents. And yeah, they pretty much suck at that.

Characterization: Friggin’ awesome. Seriously, this book was a delight. The writing is absolutely fantastic with dialogue that just pops. I loved it. After a brief introductory skit on the first kid that sets up his character and the idea of the meeting, we meet the other kids and their parents in a series of 1-2 page character sketches that are just brilliant in their ability to deliver a real taste of these kids and their families in such a small space. As a novelist who can’t say 2 words when 10 would certainly make it better, I stand in awe.

Romance: Oh heck yeah! It’s there! New, awkward and sweet, and ever so promising that I had to order the next two volumes and I’m telling you that I paid to get them express. Dude, I never do that. Now I’m not saying it’s a romance. For the most part the boy/girl stuff is subtle and besides the point. I’m just a maniac for that shit.

Style/Readability: As a comic book newb I can tell you that I had no problems with this one. Some I find hard to follow but everything in here really flowed for me. I always knew where we were, it was easy to determine when a scene ended and we shifted into another one, I didn’t have any problem following the order as far as whose speech bubble to read first.

Suitability for younger readers: There’s a T+ on this one, so I set it aside from the mail I was going to share with my six year old daughter and read it alone. In retrospect, I think it would have been fine to let her have at it and to read it to her if it interested her. I don’t remember any foul language, there was no gore, no sex, not even a whole lot violence. If you let your kids stay in the room while you watch the evening news or they channel surf network TV such that they might catch one of those really questionable promos they put on way early or 5 minutes of banter from a show like How I Met Your Mother, honestly, this book is tame. I’m not sure it would hold the interest of a young child, but I don’t think it would damage them.

Note about shopping: If you go hunt these down, the term “volume” may be confusing. The single issues seemed to have been written as three volumes. It would easier to think of them as “seasons.” Then there were two side trips that might be considered mini-series. So what happens in the retailer descriptions is that more than one book called Runaways is said to collect volumes 1-7, etc, because they’re not labeled Runaways Season 1, etc. Add to that the fact that retailers are taking pre-orders for a new printing, so yet more listings, and retailers don’t always provide complete information. The trade paperback “volumes” are all numbered sequentially, such that volumes 1, 4, and 9 are all said to contain issues 1-6, but volume 4 has 1-6 of volume season 2. I found this Wikipedia article helpful. Comics people just seem to know all this stuff, but all the different printings, special issues, and I don’t know what just make me a little crazy.

 

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My Goals for A Round of Words in 80 Days

ROW80: the writing challenge that knows you have a life.

Kait Nolan, author of Forsaken by Shadow and the newly released Devil’s Eye, who also happens to be my CP and BFF, wanted something like NaNoWriMo that could give that sense of community and we’re all in this together, without the constraints on time and project specificity that can make NaNo unattainable and crazy-making for some. Something like 70 Days of Sweat which we so enjoyed when we were much newer CPs. (But actually, I kind of think the whole thing is partly Kait’s way of trying to get more discipline in my life.)

So the deal is: set your own, measurable goal(s) and work for it 80 days, 1/3-3/24. It doesn’t have to be a new project. It doesn’t have to be a novel. You can work on editing, multiple projects, a short story anthology…

So what am I going to do. Word count goals are popular and encouraged, but they don’t really work for me. When I’m in the right frame of mind, I can scrawl a few thousand words easily and they’re good. And when I’m not, I can usually force out words, but that becomes stuff that isn’t right for the story and puts me further off track. What I think I need to work on is spending time in my world, every day, without the distraction of…the real world. During the week, whether I write on the manuscript or not, I need to spend at least 30 minutes, alone and internet-free, working in the world of the Talent Chronicles. And I need to spend a total of an hour a day on the writing stuff. ETA: (editing goals already?) I’d like to get back to writing at least one scene per day, but I think that in order to avoid setting myself up for fail, I should go for 3 scenes a week and maybe save the 1-2 scenes a day goal for the next round. Because I think an actual output goal is important so I wind up with some manuscript progress and not just noteful blathering, but word count has never been a sensible measure for me to go by.

The doesn’t seem like much, and likely I’ll spend more time most days, but I think the fact that I skip days when the work gets to hard or when real life gets in the way hasn’t been doing me any favors as far as keeping my head in the place it needs to be to write.

So that’s my measurable goal for the challenge. My other goals are to finish Heroes ‘Til Curfew and release it, to write and release the short story about what happened when Joss got home at the end of Hush Money, and to write the outline for book 3, all of which I should be able to do within 80 days. I’m looking forward to really getting my head on straight and getting back to my Talent kids this year with the focus they deserve.

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