Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Expert Overnight

Writers are undoubtedly jacks of all trades. Some have a more narrow focus either with specific genres or particular fields of study that they use for their work while others like myself must learn as much as possible about anything and everything as the need arises. Being an author is sort of like going back to school but you only need to learn about the subjects that interest you at the moment.

When I began working on my book Sharing Strength which is finally nearing completion after more than two years I realized there were several things I would need to learn more about. One of the main ones was the overall theme of the book Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. It may sound strange to those that have read some of my previous posts and know I was diagnosed with PTSD over ten years ago. The problem I encountered is that I have a number of characters and they all different reasons for being in the support group. I had to find out more about what could cause each of their reactions as well as how they may deal with the symptoms.

That research alone was difficult because I was able to see myself in a number of them. I had a few issues when I was first diagnosed and it took several sessions with a good therapist for me to even be able to work on writing the story and then medication to write Survivor which is my own personal story, fictionalized of course. When it came to Jasmine, the main character of Survivor as well as one of the main characters for Sharing Strength I had even more to learn about. She is an amateur photographer. I knew nothing about photography.

I only needed a small amount of information which helped when working on such a painful story. Now I am researching much more in-depth stories. One book involves the famed serial killer Jack The Ripper so I need to know the area of London as it stood during that time as well as speech patterns, society demographics and victim information. For my Syn series I must be intimately aware of Victorian America to truly capture the setting during the Salem Witch Trials. I have two books set in the 1800s in Pioche, NV and will not only be reading about but will be traveling to the city in order to get a feel for my characters and the place they lived. I have so many books I am researching but I must remember that in order to do them justice I cannot simply gather all the information at once then try to remember what goes where. I am instead outlining the plots and making research lists then as I come to each project in turn I will be focusing on the information needed so I can readily apply it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Being a Commodity

Recently I spoke with a friend that is also submitting her work to agents and publishers. She complained that it seemed like everyone she spoke with at a conference she had attended was only interested in the money she could make for them if they signed her. She was dumbfounded that the world would look at the story she created purely from a financial standpoint. I was shocked that it surprised her.

She has considered and rejected, at least for the time being, the self-publishing route. She wants the book deal. She believed in the advances and contracts as well as the theoretical notoriety that would come along with getting an agent. When she finished her rant momentarily to take a long sip of her coffee I asked why she was so upset by the fact they saw her in such a light. She said she was an artist and should be appreciated as such. It wasn't about the money she would make for them it was about them believing in her talent and helping her cash in on it instead.

Sighing I set aside my own coffee and looked her in the eyes. I told her that currently she was an unknown commodity in a market flooded with those attempting to break out and become a brand. Writing was a business and while, yes we all think of ourselves as artists in some respect I can imagine, we are first and foremost a market potential. These agents take a chance with us but we bring very little to the table other than the words on the pages. One could argue that the book is a tremendous asset or bargaining tool but truthfully it isn't as big of a deal as we want to think. There are hundreds of thousands of submissions across the world. We put our stories down, send them out and hope while we wait to hear of any interest.

Unless you are an expert in the field you wrote about, a celebrity with status already established or have a following from some previous venture you are practically a nobody at the beginning. It takes several projects with good results and a consistent consumer response to build you into a brand. That is what you need to focus on to become that household name that can demand to be appreciated for your art instead of being seen as potential dollar signs. Even agents for writers like Stephen King, Iris Johansen or James Patterson most likely still focus on the business while assisting in the art. We as beginners can either develop into brands or liabilities and an agent must assess which they believe more likely then proceed from there.

I have not found one that sees me as a potential brand yet but I haven't given up hope. I still submit and will continue to learn as I go but the one thing I have established already is that I am a commodity working to earn some market share in a cutthroat world. I know it is a business with a bottom line and that is a huge determining factor. I am hoping one day I will be a brand helping earn that bottom line but for now I am just taking it one lesson at a time.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Putting Off the Inevitable

There is a fine line between researching a project and looking for an excuse not to work on it. I can honestly say that I do a larger part procrastination than preparation. I have been working on researching several books that I am planning to write, telling myself that if I have all the information ahead of time then I will be able to jump from one completed project to the beginning of the next. The theory is there but the reasoning is a little iffy.

One could argue that by learning about the books as I begin them it could help put me in the right mindset for the story and that would allow me to focus more fully on the book as I go along. There are pros and cons to doing it either way. By taking the time to look things up and become a fast expert with the start of each new book there is a delay in writing it. However that delay allows me to more fully immerse myself in what I am working on.

By gathering the information ahead of time I only need to skim everything and can start more quickly on new books but there isn't much time to decompress from one book before heading into another. This can cause an overlap styles or even a lack of focus in the story. Because of the conflict I am attempting a compromise of outlining and basic information with a list of further research for each story and then I can finish the list as I take on that book.

This morning I noticed a new level of my professional avoidance however. I have taken to working to improve my writing and editing skills at the expense of actually writing or editing. I am getting ready to order several books on writing a better story which I will delve into, take notes and then (I tell myself) I will put the new information into practice. I do question somewhat if my fear of rejection and constant struggle with self esteem will ever allow me to do more than dream about putting what I learn into practice but I do believe that part of me really does want to try.

The battle is real and I know learning is important, I am still finding the balance but I know with work I will get there. For those like me out there walking the fine line, have faith. We will find our balance someday. Even if you fall off the wire just remember you are further along than when you started. There is no shame in climbing up to start again.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Overthinking Things

I have always ben chastised for being too serious, not knowing how to laugh at myself or overanalyzing things. Even as a teenager I was picked on for taking myself too seriously. Part of that is the fact that I have and still continue to struggle with that epic amount of self doubt and insecurity of not being good enough. Many creative types fight that battle everyday. We do what we can and with any luck have someone standing by our side that can help wage the war when we are feeling too weak to keep fighting.

I had a small moment yesterday where I saw first hand what can happen when you relax and just let your real personality shine through. It was the simplest thing, a tweet, that proved it to me. I rarely send out tweets other than links to my books or blog posts. My author page on Facebook does automatically link to Twitter or I wouldn't even have half the tweets I do post. When I think about sending out a tweet I go into a panic over what I should say, how it will be received and what if any hashtags I could use to help it be more visible.

More often than not I will choose to not send the tweet instead of reworking it for the fifth or sixth time. It is just 140 characters but it makes me sweat. Last night I was feeling goofy after spending some time working on various writing-related activities and sent out "Working hard on #editing #blogging #promotions you know being a #writer lol #writerslife" It is not like me to send out something like that, especially without thinking too much but within minutes I started getting likes on it. At a mere eight likes it is the highest response I have ever gotten on a tweet.

It made me happy to see that when I am just being myself people will engage with me but at the same time it immediately made me start trying to come up with ways to post more things like that so my followers would like what I post more. That is the problem, I overthink and then lose that whimsical style of just being me. It is like my heart and my brain are arguing and my fingers are caught in the middle trying to write things to please them both. Perhaps part of it is that I have woken up several characters in several projects for the writing side but my internal editor has been working overtime to get the macro edits of a book done for a beta reader so they are battling in my brain as well. oh well, off to the writing studio to see who will win this round!

Getting Ready For Nanowrimo

For the past few years I have eagerly awaited the start of November because it is the month when I participate in Nanowrimo or NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. We as writers come together both online and in person to write, sharing our struggles and victories while we push toward the goal of writing fifty thousand word in just thirty days. I began participating because I thought that the approaching deadline would force me to simply sit down and finish a book I had been fighting with for over eight years.

Never Give Up waited patiently in the back of my mind and when I finally sat down and let it come out I began to learn so much. I learned about my characters, the setting and my true love of creating the story. I learned that I really did have the ability to do it if I was motivated and made myself stay determined. I also learned that my fear of only having one story inside and never being able to come up with anything else to share was completely unfounded.

I took the year following Never Give Up off but in 2013 I decided to try again. I was already on November 9th when I searched my files for anything to inspire me and I came across a short story I had written the previous year and decided to see if I could expand it into a full length novel. I made my word count and sent it in for verification a day before the deadline making it my second attempt and successful win. It sparked the desire to keep writing every year.

In 2013 I wrote Breathe which was another tremendous learning experience. It demonstrated to me that I may be the writer but the characters will do what they want and I will eventually bend to their will if I want the book to flow correctly. It taught me how to really listen to those in the story in order to share it properly. It was the skill I gained in listening that led to the 2014 writing of Welcome to Syn. That project started in June when I was driving home from a camping trip and a character possessed my mind telling me her entire story with such graphic and determined tone I had no choice but to sit down and write down the outline the moment I got home.

Last year in 2015 I had two different ideas I was tossing around for Nano but I settled on book one of a trilogy instead of writing the second book in the Syn series. I figured that this year I would just write book two of one series during the year and the other book two for Nano but as I sat down to look through my isn of projects I realized how much I needed to research for either choice and that there was a great deal of research that needed to be done on a dozen others. I separated those files and made lists of what I needed to look up for each book which is when it happened. All of the characters from all of those stories began speaking to me and presenting their case as to why I should tell their story this year. At the moment I have eight books speaking louder than the others and I must decide between all of them. This should be fun!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Positive Reinforcement

This morning I went to a meeting with a few other women from the Indies in Las Vegas group on Facebook. There are thousands of groups out there and I can honestly say I am a member of more then two hundred between hobbies, support and educational desires but I am truly active with a few dozen. This group formed recently and I wanted to check it out because it is made up of people close to me that were going through the same trials and experiences that I am. I have seen a couple of posts by members talking about getting together for drinks or dinner but for one reason or another I was unable to attend. This morning was different, I am off today so I had the availability to go.

When I arrived at Starbucks I was later than I had planned to be and I knew from online comments that at least one person had already arrived. I get severe anxiety in attending these types of meetings as a symptom of my PTSD and so I sat in my car shaking from nerves while simultaneously thinking of excuses as to why I couldn't show up and then just drive away. After fifteen minutes of arguing with myself I got out of my car with my computer bag and walked inside. I had decided that if I was unable to talk to these women I could at least try to get some writing work done.

I saw them sitting at a table as I entered but I made a beeline for the counter to get some coffee instead of going right over to them. As I was waiting I watched a third member join the group and decided to announce myself, online. I went to the chat on Facebook where we had all posted our interest in attending and simply said I had arrived. I must have stood out like a sore thumb because they picked me out right away but said I and made me feel welcome. From the moment I sat down the conversation was inclusive and helpful.

We all shared stories, both writing related and not, discussing what had ben going on recently and different aspects of our work. We quickly discovered that we had all been at a signing together a few months back but for the most part didn't know each other. I had been sitting next to two of them and across the aisle from the third but I had no clue who they were or that they were Las Vegans like me. It was so wonderful to talk about all the things we have been going through, cry about bad reviews and share victories together that I forgot all about my previous apprehensions. It was like a little author support group and something I truly needed. After struggling recently I can honestly say they helped put the wind back in my sails and restored my confidence to keep pushing on, thank you ladies!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Writer's Groups

I belong to two different types of writer's groups, online and in person. There are a far greater number  of the online ones though I am truly active in only a handful at most. It is easier to get a wide variety of people online because we can come together from anywhere in the world to share our ideas, suggestions and questions. There is a good chance someone will know how to answer almost anything you ask there because there are numerous skill levels, backgrounds and areas of interest within any particular group.

While my groups I attend locally do have the varying skill levels and backgrounds I have noticed that a large number of the members tend to be of a certain age group and because we all reside in one area, many for decades now, it can color the answers to the questions with a particular bias. I do enjoy getting to go and listen to a speaker, learn from others and the things they have been working on as well as share my own victories and struggles.

Either type of group can be a tremendous help when it comes to learning to promote yourself and your work. I tend to use each group as a place to ask questions pertaining to the type of promotion they are already a part of, i.e. online groups for online promotions, live groups for in person events. There are a couple cross over groups I am a member of as well including the Indies of Las Vegas group that I lurk around in online but also, when possible, will go get coffee and discuss local events or get suggestions.

It can be very intimidating to actively participate in groups especially when you are just starting out. I have been a member of many of these groups for over two years and I still struggle to come up with things to say or ways to become better known. I watch from a distance, commenting occasionally and when I am feeling particularly daring, posting something of my own. The important thing to know is that while there are a few members here and there that are not as helpful, most of us in these groups want to help each other and see as many people succeed as possible. We are all learning, practicing and together as a team we can make many writers successful.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


I speak with people at all of the shows I attend as well as anytime I mention I am an author about different aspects of the writing process. There are a range if types that come to me from readers (possibly one of my favorite groups), indie publishers, editors and of course other writers. Just like when I was beginning, though I am still a novice in most respects, I have had several writers ask me about ways to get my work out there for people to read.

There are far more ways to get your work in front of readers than I even know about but I would like to share a few of the ones I have been able to take advantage of; giveaways, sales, social media teasers and ads, writers groups, attending shows and cross-promotions with other authors. I am going to share one or two in each of the next few posts in order to look a little more in depth at what I have learned. This one is all about cross-promoting with a focus on the first way I was shown to join additional writers, anthologies.

Anthologies are a collection of stories contributed by a number of different authors. I am the founder of Rescue Me - Animal Anthology which is a gathering of poems and short stories that follow the theme of animal rescue and adoption. I have already published volume one and am preparing to publish the second book, our feline edition, later this year. All of the contributing authors have the option to receive a free ebook copy or a paperback for a nominal fee while also getting credit as a contributing author. It is not how I began but I have taken part in many and continue to do so in attempts to widen my audience.

You can find out about different anthologies looking for submissions by simply googling them or by using some of the other suggestions like writers groups or social media writing organizations. There are books that will accept anyone that submits as long as the submission fits the theme like Rescue Me or Rock & Roll Saved My Soul as well as ones that you submit to but then you may or may not be accepted into. One of my local writers groups has an anthology that has a group of judges that goes through all of the submissions picking out the ones they feel are best to be published under their name. Then there are anthologies like Chicken Soup for the Soul that only accepts select contributions but pays the authors for the ones they use.

Once your work has been accepted and gets published in an anthology you can help share the book and promoted yourself as a contributing author while also having the other writers push the books as well. By combining the reach of every person that has a piece in the book your work can be seen by a significantly larger group than if you were to just publish a short story yourself. It can be a great deal of work to write, edit and submit to all of the anthologies that interest you but the learning experiences and promotional opportunities can far exceed the efforts to be included. What are some anthologies you have participated in if any?

Working On A Convention

Several months ago a good friend of mine stopped by while on a trip to visit her children in California. She stayed overnight in my guest room and we had the chance to catch up and talk for hours about all things writing as well as just the goings on in our lives. After chatting for awhile about her wedding I had attended about a year prior we turned our attention to writing events we wanted to attend.

She has a start-up company called Indimagination and as the representative of her company she has the desire to go to different conferences and conventions. There are a number of book festivals, writers conferences and conventions all around the world but as we have discovered, there are significantly fewer that are either Indie Author friendly or focused. We decided that it would be great to have one here on the west coast and if we couldn't find one then we would just have to put one on ourselves.

Following the moderate success of the Survivor launch last year and the fact that I live in one of the biggest convention cities in the world we settled on the idea of doing at least the first one right here in Las Vegas. I took a chance and traveled up to Washington to see her and meet some of my other writer friends, most of whom I hope will be able to attend the Con here, earlier this year. It was fun as well as an eye opening experience.

I am undeniably new to the con scene and have a lot to learn but as the "boots on the ground" role for the group I feel comfortable in my role. I will be the main local contact and will handle the media most likely, partially because I have connections with them already as well as being the local planner. I will also hopefully be helping with welcoming any special guests, doing announcements and working to coordinate some of our charity efforts.

I am also a member of a number of local writer groups and will be attending as many meetings as possible with them and our independent book stores and libraries, perhaps even the schools here in Clark County to help drum up support and awareness. This is a dream for me to be a part of an event that could help create exposure for so many talented authors as well as continue to grow as an author and event coordinator myself. I am very excited!