Tag Archives: writing

Passion: now with #Buffy clips

Trying to get into the writing today. I know this is an issue of mine, but I just have so much trouble throwing words down on the page that I don’t feel. And I’m just not feelin’ it today.

I know there’s good stuff coming and I need to write my way through this stuff to get there. But my Internal Editor says that it should all be good stuff and if I can’t be passionate about it, I shouldn’t expect anyone else to wade through it. I need to figure out how to make it all good stuff.

Trying To Be Professional Me says I just need to put something down. Can’t edit a blank page, blah blah, maybe something awesome will just come out.

Generally, Internal Editor and I ignore Trying To Be Professional Me. Sometimes we also taunt her and slap her around. What can I tell you? Sometimes it gets ugly up here in my head. Sometimes we’re like the hyena possession episode.*

Anyway, what the subject of passion got me thinking about today was actually what Angel has to say in the unfortunate episode: Passion. Let’s review his thoughts…

More of my thoughts about putting passion into your art can be found in Write Hard, a post I did for the ROW80 community.

So anyone have thoughts about how to make passion happen? Is there a little blue pill for writing? Some kind of scriptodisiac? Do you have the secret of pushing past le suck?

*no pigs were harmed
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Some Musings on Motivation and #ROW80

And when I say musings, I mean that I’m looking at some things that I’ve done right, and trying to figure out how the hell that happened.

There are three big things I’ve done in the last several years that I can easily point to and say: these are things which required a lot of motivation and I made them happen.

  1. Got my house together– When my daughter was finally done nursing and I was once again free to move about the cabin, I really did a lot of work to get my home in order. It was the first time in our marriage (about 15 years at that time, I guess) that we lived without any cardboard boxes in view. I decluttered, I cleaned up, I got routines together, and when disasters happened (as they did daily as I had a toddler around) I was able to take care of them and get things back to order.
  2. Wrote a book– Meaning I finished it. I started at the beginning and I wrote until the end. And it was even good. I made an outline, I had a list of scenes, and I tried to write at least one every day. I didn’t write every day, but I averaged more than one and I finished 30 days after I started. No putting it aside 2/3 in and starting something else, no putting writing aside to pick up another activity.
  3. Lost weight– I got married while I was still in college. Between the weight everyone gains in college and the weight everyone gains when first married, I was kinda screwed. My senior year I made a big effort at diet and exercise and lost half of what I’d gained those four years. But after that it was a slow but steady increase until I got pregnant almost a decade later. After losing enough of the baby weight to get out of maternity clothes and back to a size 14, I pretty much maintained 160-165 for a number of years. Today I weighed in at 127.5, a weight I haven’t seen this century.

So if I went through this period where I was good a keeping up my house, why is my house a wreck? Why am I always struggling with this? What am I doing wrong?

Why did it take me a month to write the first draft of Hush Money and close to ten months for Heroes ‘Til Curfew?

If I have the self-discipline to just say no to binges, over-eating, stress-eating, etc., why can’t I seem to apply that in other areas?

This is stuff I’ve been thinking. Reading about motivation can be confusing. A lot of it seems to come down to this concept: You just have to really want it. I can’t make you want it.

Well, um, I think I do want it. That’s why I’m here. I don’t know how to make myself want it anymore than this. I’m not even sure I’m comfortable with the notion of a greater level of want. That doesn’t seem like it’s going to help with my crazy level.

I mean, did I not want to write Heroes ‘Til Curfew? Of course I did. Did I want it enough? I think so.

It’s hard to talk about this stuff because nothing happens in a vacuum. I was better at housekeeping when I wasn’t also trying to run an Etsy shop or a writing career. I was better and just writing when I wasn’t in the throes of second book syndrome. There are definitely other factors at work.

But other people manage do more than one thing at a time, and I’d like to as well, so I’m looking at these three successes and trying to figure out what they had in common.

  1. When I was good at housekeeping, my goal was not to have a perfect or even beautiful home. I did not own the house I lived in, I knew I couldn’t afford to make the improvements it needed. It was never going to beautiful, but I was going maintain it and keep it as clean and comfortable as I could. The goal was not on the end result, it was on the process of making it better and maintaining the progress.
  2. When I was good at getting a book written, my goal was not to produce the greatest book ever. I had no standard I was going for, except for it to be finished and as good as I could make it. The goal was not on the end result, it was on the process of writing a book from beginning to end.
  3. When I was good at losing weight, I never had a goal weight. I might have said, I’d like to lose x amount, or I’d like to be x by the end of the summer, but those were just things I would throw out in conversation, like wishes. They were never subgoals of some greater endgame I was trying to achieve. In fact, when I did really start to lose weight, it wasn’t about losing weight, it was about changing my eating habit. The goal was not on the end result, it was on the process of learning to be mindful about eating and making better choices.

The goal was not on the end result, it was on the process.

That’s what I’ve pulled out of this. I’m not sure what it means, what to do with it, how to apply it. Not yet. Plenty of people do great by focusing on an end result and breaking that down into smaller tasks. I don’t think I’m that person. Some people make the decision to change their actions and they follow through. I don’t. When I tell myself to do stuff, most of the time I just don’t.

Maybe because it’s always easier to just stay where I am.

I’ve already determined that I need to change my thoughts before I can change my actions. Now I’ve determined that thinking about my goals as big end result things, or even smaller, successive results, doesn’t really work for me either.

What is going to work for me? Still don’t know. But if I figure it out, I’ll pass it on.

#ROW80: I have 10 threads for Heroes Under Siege. My goal for the week is to make sure I understand what happens in each one from beginning to end and how they interweave. That’s going well so far as I’m at 7/10 mostly done. I’d like to start brainstorming specific events and jotting down scenes next week.

Meanwhile, I should have a guest post up over at Book Lovers, Inc. today. The post is about taking something often considered boyish–superheroes–and taking it for Team Girl. And there’s a giveaway. Go, read, comment, make it look like people like me.

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#ROW80, Write Hard

It’s my turn to make the inspiration post of the week for the ROW80 crowd, so you’ll find me over there today, talking about writing with passion in a post titled Write Hard.

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Remarkable Amounts of Productivity, Heroes ‘Til Curfew Available, #ROW80

Partly because Heroes ‘Til Curfew went live on Amazon, and partly just because, I went out today with my IRL friend, Kristy. Had celebratory lunch and avoided refreshing Amazon to check rank, KDP to check sales, etc. Very attractive waiter who made us totally forget what we were talking about every time he came to the table. Good times.

The initial uploads are done. I’m still waiting for a buy link for the NOOK peeps, and then I can be more announce-y and send out my newsletter to the email list.

I’m having some problems with the print version, so that’s going to take a while longer.

So the ROW80 update is that I’ve been working on all this STUFF. I’m still getting new ideas for the next book and the series and jotting those done, but nothing like actual writing right now. But that’s okay. I know that I’m a one thing at a time person and didn’t put that kind of pressure/goal on myself. I hope to be able to put this stuff behind me by the end of the week.

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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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Respect For The Gifts

There’s something that goes on in the writing community that makes me peevish.

This comes up for me again because when Kait read Kristen’s post on POV Prostitution, she came to me and said, “I don’t understand how anyone doesn’t just intuitively get POV.”

Now it’s not that Kait thinks she’s perfect in this regard. I’ve gone POV police on her, Pink Hammer’s put “Objection: calls for speculation on the part of the POV character” in her work more than once. But they’re just slip-ups. She does have that sound grasp of the mechanics of POV that Kristen goes over in her post. To Kait it’s very simple, “One head at a time,” she IMs me, “first, third, or God.”

What I thought was kind of adorable about her, as she IMs me with the picture of her in this dorky penguin hat, was the part about understanding and intuition. Honey, of course you don’t understand how other people don’t get what you get. That’s what intuitively means. You don’t even understand how you get it, you just do.

So I say that I think it doesn’t help at all that we’re given so much omniscient POV stuff in school as young readers. Which leads to this whole mutual bitch session about all the stuff we have to read in school that’s not all about producing good modern, commercial novelists. Which is another thing Kristen touches on in her post.

So I’m saying that the thing of it is, not all of us are on the same path and not all of us have been reading and writing constantly since young childhood. I think that there are a number of people who pick up writing as adults who don’t necessarily have the history of reading that other writers do. So what’s in their toolbox is largely story and character arc stuff they’ve absorbed off screen, and writing mechanics leftover from those school assignments. When you read, even before you learn to analyze everything in writerly fashion, on some level you’re studying the writing stuff, you’re immersed in language. Eventually you reach the point where it’s just there for you when you need it. Intuitively.

So I yammered all that to Kait and she said, “I think there’s a blog post in there.”

And I said, “It actually goes along with this whole grrr thing I have, so yeah, maybe.”

And the grrr thing is this: It makes me sad and a little angry when I see authors rag on people in public because they don’t write well. And there’s one occasion of this that really sticks in my head, an incident where an author I really respect published an email they had received which asked for advice on publishing. And this author’s answer to masses was that if your basic grammar skills are this bad, if you’re not even going to bother to proofread a request for advice, then you don’t even need to worry about taking that next step.

And yeah, okay, the person who sent the email will probably never be published. But damn, you know? Look, it’s not the first time I’ve seen this kind of thing on the internet and it reads like disgust. It feels dismissive. To me it feels ugly and makes me sad.

Do you know why I’m a decent writer? Do you know why I can put words and sentences together and they just come out in mostly correct English as I think them? Because I was blessed to grow up in home where people spoke English correctly. Because I have a mother who read to me every night until I was old enough to read to myself. And a thousand other advantages that cropped up in my life that made it easy for me to be able to put words together. A thousand things that were not conscious effort on my part, they were just luck.

The other day I had this conversation with @AMhairi_Simpson on Twitter. I was trying to proofread something and I complained on #MyWANA that I wished I had a better handle on subjunctive mood. Now if I said that out loud in my house, my husband would say, “You hurt yer what?” Because what the hell, who even knows what that is? Anne-Mhari said that they didn’t teach the finer points of grammar like that in her school, she got it from extensive study of foreign languages. And I agreed. I said, “Everything I know about “whom” I learned in German.” Which is sad.

But where I went to school we struggled with things like “we had went.” And when I say “we” I mean that the teacher struggled with most of the class and the rest of us just sat and waited and wondered why this was so hard and we couldn’t move on. As I child I found this frustrating and it made me angry.

As an adult I understand the tremendous advantages I was given, having come from a home where English was spoken and spoken well. When we were very little, my mother once conjugated the verb “to stink” in the car for our amusement. One summer day, when I was very bored, she taught me how to diagram sentences–just for fun. When I arrived at my first day in kindergarten, having been read to practically every day of my life, how much farther along was I than those kids who didn’t have a single book in their homes?

So any ability that I have in this regard I don’t view as entirely God-given brain wiring, nor entirely from the sweat of my own brow. There’s a lot of luck that went into who I am, too. And for me to look down on someone who didn’t have that luck, as though the luck didn’t matter, seems to me like discounting the blessings I’ve been given. I don’t want to do that, and it bums me out when I watch other people do it.

I’m a YA author. When someone writes to me about writing, I’ve got to find a way to be positive, no matter what kind of grammar I’m looking at. That’s part of my job. And no matter how bad the mechanics are in the letter, the most important part to me is that someone wanted to be a writer enough to write and ask for advice. I respect that. And I will thank them for thinking enough of my work to ask me, I’ll let them know about the critical importance of reading LOTS of books, and also of getting a handle on basic mechanics with recommendations for a few books on grammar and punctuation.

I’ve had to teach my baby and all my pets not to crap on my carpet. They weren’t born knowing that. And when they put their business where it didn’t belong, it wasn’t because they “couldn’t be bothered” to learn what was appropriate. They just hadn’t learned it yet. I think language can be like that. It’s something that comes so naturally to us, that’s so much a part of us, we can’t remember a time when we didn’t know how to use it. We sort of don’t get why someone else is behaving inappropriately. So I’m just sayin’, maybe we could give them a break. Maybe we could appreciate that there were things just handed to us that maybe they’ve never been exposed to. Maybe we could be grateful for our ability to kick ass at learning the things we’ve worked to learn. Maybe we could avoid deriding others for what they lack because we respect our gifts for the blessings they are.

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FINALLY, a release date for Heroes ‘Til Curfew

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

Heroes 'Til Curfew releases 9/2/11

Click to download this postcard

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

Back cover of Heroes 'Til Curfew with blurb

Back Cover of the print version

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

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

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

I’m going to need some serious help here.

A release date graphic suitable for a sidebar

Click to download image

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

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

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

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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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Are you a loner or team player writer?

There’s no question that, for most of us, most of writing is going to be done alone. Alone, alone, alone. With our thoughts, the voices, and the quiet time it takes to figure out just the write word.

I’ve been catching up on some housework and having me some Joss Whedon time. (Firefly, specifically.) So many great lines and great ideas in this show. And you think, “How the hell do they keep coming up with this stuff?”

I don’t know much, or anything, about television writing but I kind of assume it’s a team effort. And I envy that sometimes. I find I’m often more awesome when I’m kicking ideas around with others. Which is why you’ll often find me kicking around with Kait, Andrew, Claire and anyone else on Team Susan who gives me the least bit of encouragement.

Didn’t used to be that way. I mean, partly because I didn’t have writer friends to talk to. But also because I used to be a lot more protective of ideas. And I’m not talking so much about someone “stealing” an idea. I mean that I guess I used to be concerned that there would only be so many, so I couldn’t just be giving them away. I had to save all the good stuff, not only for my own work, but also I had to put away the best of those for when I was a better writer so I didn’t waste them on when I wasn’t such a good writer. (The other day I pulled up a character sketch kind of piece I wrote for the Talent Chronicles. It was awesome. It was dated October 2007.)

What I learned, hokey as it sounds, is that not only will there always be more ideas, but there will always be even more ideas when they’re shared. Because that’s what helps my brain work, and making those ideas and then giving them away to make room for more exercises that part of my brain to make it even better at coming up with ideas.

There’s no finite number of ways to describe a kiss. It may seem that way when you’re struggling with it, but a kiss… Are any two kisses the same? Any two people coming together, everything that led to that moment and anything this act is going to change going forward, every nuance of feeling these people are trying to communicate in this amazingly human way–

And suddenly you all realize why HEROES ‘TIL CURFEW took me a year and is twice as long as HUSH MONEY.

But I give you this example because it comes up a lot as Miss Kait occasionally gets pissy over the kissy. Helping her out with that is part of what taught me this lesson. No matter how many kisses I’ve helped her write over the years, I’ve always got more. (I feel obliged to tell you that my student has become a master and the first kiss moment she wrote for RED knocked my socks off with no help from me at all!)

So now I’ve got this very Doritos crunch all you want, we’ll make more feeling about giving words and ideas away. And it’s good because I’m pretty much addicted to brainstorming with others.

How about you? Do you play it close to the vest until you have a finished project to show, or do you prefer to make some parts of your work more of a team effort?

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#ROW80 and Recommended Reading

Things are going well for me. In my measurable goals, I’ve managed to participate a little on Twitter and to post to my FB page every day this week, and I’ve kept up with my blog schedule, including scheduling posts at least a day in advance to be sure I don’t forget.

In writing, I’m continuing to work on my blueprint for HEROES UNDER SIEGE. I’m at the stage now where I’m gathering up the list of things that need to happen, things that need to be planted and shown along the way, and trying to come up with a list of specific scenes to write. Kind of the real getting down to outlining business part of the process. But next is actually writing.

I took a day off from that yesterday to map out something completely different. I don’t usually think of anything else except the Talents, but sometimes your brain needs to do something else just to remember that it can. I came up with a world, problem, and character list for a new YA trilogy. I also came up with general ideas for all three books and a plot skeleton for the first one. I have a lot of Talent work to do and I don’t know when I’d ever get to such a thing, but I wrote it all up and sent it to Jane to see what she thinks of the idea. Now so I got that out of my system for a bit and it’s back to work on the Talents.

Speaking of Jane, I think I might be interrupting Friday’s regularly scheduled post to bring you some news about HEROES ‘TIL CURFEW. Maybe. Ack.

While you’re waiting you can check out this week’s

Recommended Reading

Superman, like Shrek, has layers
I know, as soon as I said that we all started thinking of parfait. Or maybe that’s just those of us with a sweet tooth who didn’t have breakfast. Well anyway, I found What Does Superman Stand For? to be a very thought-provoking article on Superman’s motto Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Recommended for Superman fans and general malcontents. (via Twitter @slackerheroes)

Writing: a force for good in the world
No matter what your level in the writing thing, you need to read every word of Holly Lisle’s Money From Nothing: The Economic Value of Writing Original Fiction. It will explain to you how, even if you kinda suck right now, you’re adding awesome to the world. And as you improve, your contribution of awesome seems to increase exponentially. A joyful read for all of us who scribble. (via subscription to Holly’s newsletter which should be mandatory)

Don’t make me send you back to the kids’ table
This is a bit old and has probably made the rounds because it’s pretty awesome. But if you haven’t read Self-publishers Need To Start Minding Their Manners, I suggest you check it out. Catherine Ryan Howard reminds us of just how good we have it–so don’t screw it up. (via Twitter @Belinda_Pollard #MyWANA)

This is neat
That was just my reaction to seeing this blog by the awesome Vicki Lieske. If you’re wondering “Why is my book not selling?” you can submit it to this blog and she’ll go through your listing, give her reactions to the cover, blurb, writing, etc., and make some suggestions. She’s not tearing these listings apart. I found the posts to be very polite and professional, and very much in the spirit of being helpful. No surprise there. (via Twitter @VictorineLieske)

She’s 94 years old!
Piper Bayard runs a regular feature on her blog called “The End Is Near–and we deserve it!” It’s a spotlight on…the foibles of humanity? Okay, really, on people who must be smoking crack. This week’s clip is a crack up. It’s just over a minute so get over there and click it. She’s also got a list of recommendations for you. The apocalypse is freaking nigh, people. Nigh! Get a move on. (via subscription)

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