Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nerves of Steel

My father thinks writing is easy.  In some ways he's right (don't tell him I said that)--I don't have to haul garbage in the heat of the summer, or dig ditches, or spread asphalt.  All of those are much more physically demanding jobs than writing, and I don't hesitate to admit that I couldn't do them.  Simply couldn't.  But the thing is...  lots of people who do those jobs couldn't write for a living.  It takes a special kind of person to be able to dedicate their life to something that is only real inside their head.

If we're good at what we do we can make it real in other peoples' heads, too, but that's a big "if." Every day that we invest ourselves in writing and rewriting, we're gambling that someone, somewhere, is going to be interested in what we have to say. And then, at the end of the day, we have to turn off the concern that we didn't make enough contacts, or we didn't sell enough copies and sit back down at that empty screen and write another story, because damn it, that's what a writer does. It takes nerves of steel to face down that blank screen, listen to the voices in your head, and tell the story, and sometimes I wonder if I wouldn't be better off getting a copy of the Daily News and looking for a job selling spatulas.*

Then the Universe smacks me upside the head and says stop your whining and write.

Today a very nice woman named Joan Reeves took time out of her busy schedule to help the rest of us who are trying to get our stories out in front of everyone we can, in the hopes that someone will love our characters as much as we do.  She is a writer and she runs the fabulous SlingWords (you should definitely go check it out) and she posted a guide to publishing a story at one of the new ebook vendors, All Romance (also a great place to check out) that even the most technologically challenged of us could follow.  She didn't have to, but she saw a need and stepped up to help.  This is a person who understands how hard it is to be a writer, and who still thinks it's worth doing.

So, today I'm knocking the rust off my nerves of steel and saying hello again to the voices in my head.

I have to admit--it's nice to be back.

*Points if you get the reference.  Hudson Hawk may have won Razzies, but it's still a favorite. :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fall is Coming--Thank Heavens

Most of you have experienced the crazy heat this summer.  Indiana has seen the hottest and driest June and July in memory, and I can tell you--I don't love it. It's hard for me to write in a house full of distractions--the constantly running AC, the fans whirring, the chaos caused by my children running around the house because it's just too hot to play outside--they all eat at my brain.  I can't hear the voices in my head when they are drowned out by the noise in real life. *sigh* I can't wait until the season changes and I can get my writing mojo back.

You see, I'm a cool weather girl.  I like turtlenecks and flannel jumpers, or shawls and long swingy skirts with boots.  I like hockey and football.  I burn in too much sun, and get sunstroke at least once a summer.  You'd think I'd learn, but... no. Unfortunately.  So, every year when my birthday comes around in August I think one thing,  (Okay, two things, but I don't think "chocolate cake" works with today's theme.)  Fall is coming.

Now, this isn't like "Winter is coming." No, for me Fall is a welcome and ephemeral thing. It brings shorter days, where the sun cants at a crazy angle through the trees--the same trees that have decided it's their turn to put on a show for the botanical world and so use the slanting light as their own personal spotlights. It brings longer nights to cuddle with your special someone, or your babies, or your iguana.  (He gets awfully cold you know.) The drone of the air conditioner is replaced with the smell of woodsmoke, and the monotonous buzz of Summer's cicadas is replaced by lucky crickets singing to attract a mate.

In Appalachia there's an old wise woman's tale:  6 weeks after you hear the first crickets you'll get the first frost.  And last night?  Lying in bed with the windows open, sweltering in the heat that still hadn't dissipated from the day?  I heard a cricket singing.

Fall is coming!

Six weeks from today is September 18th.  It would be an early frost, hopefully just a light dusting that looks like fairy paint.  The farmers in my area have had a terrible time this year, and they're hoping to make up lost time with a growing season that stretches out until November.  For their sake I hope the real cold holds off, but for me? It certainly will be welcome.  I just hope that the extremes of this summer don't follow us into the colder months.  "Winter is coming," just doesn't hold the same appeal.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Say Screw It!

My first indie pubbed short story went live on July first.  I had NO idea what I was doing. (Honestly, some might say I still don't. LOL.)  I knew, though, that if I waited until I satisfied all the little nit-picky obsessions floating around in my head I'd never do it.

I call it Paralysis of Perfection.

Perfect is a terrible word.  When Martha Stewart looks at a cupcake and then at the camera, smiles and says, "Perfect.  It's a good thing." she's screwing each and every one of us.  Why, do you say?  What's so bad about being perfect?  It's bad because it isn't real.  Perfect is an illusion and the implication that it's real can really mess you up if you let it.

This isn't a Christian post about how we're all flawed copies of a perfect God. No.  I'm not qualified for something like that.  This is about math, and particle physics, and biology, and all those messy things that make up the REAL WORLD.  In real world terms there is no such thing as perfection.  If you've ever been in a class where you work with theoretical mathematics you know that once you apply it to real world functions you have to add that +/- X% factor of error because no matter how perfectly it works on paper--real world applications are a totally different animal.

So, Martha waves this cupcake around and says "Perfect." and everyone listening hears, "Perfection is achievable."  Because, if HER cupcake is perfect, well then by damn, MY cupcake should be perfect, too!  *I* want to be a "good thing."  *I* want to fulfill the societal stereo-type of feminine/masculine perfection.  I want ALL THE PERFECT THINGS.  (<--see that? I stole that.  It's a meme.  You can find the original at But, since there is no real perfect in the world I, by definition, can't have perfect things.  Thus, I am less than perfect.  I am imperfect.  I am flawed.  I am not a "good thing."  I am a "bad thing."

You see where this is going?

So, in a Asperger's fueled rebuttal of "perfect" I went out on a limb and indie pubbed another short story.  It isn't perfect. :)  It IS however a really, REALLY hot piece of erotica.  It's about three (yes, three) imperfect people who still manage to experience a really good thing.

It's called Screw Single and it's live all over the place.  Because sometimes you just have to say...  screw it!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Why "Winning" Can Be a Bad Thing

Lately I've been noticing that the world is dominated by Us and Them.  Every group you're a member of can look at itself and say, "We are a cohesive unit.  X connects us."   It doesn't matter if X is the fact that you all work for the same company, you're the same sex, you share political ideas, or religious views--you SHARE something that makes you feel connected to the people around you.  You understand them better, because they are more like YOU in some limited fashion.  And, since no one likes to be an outsider, we're perpetually trying to find that group--that community--that makes us feel like we belong, like we're connected.

Connection sounds like a good thing, doesn't it?  Identifying with others is also good, right?  Well...  maybe.

This isn't a political blog, or a lactation support blog, an autism awareness blog, or a homeschooling blog. It isn't even strictly a writing blog. It's a ME blog.  If I wanted to address my political views or my homeschooling plans or my problems being a non-neurotypical mom of non-neurotypical children, it would make sense because all of those things make up part of who *I* am, but with each of those subjects it is really easy to open a can of worms.  As soon as I say "I believe *blah*" then I've offended someone, or upset someone, or pushed someone away because they don't identify with whatever I'm supporting. This is because we, as a society, have been taught that we cannot accept anything that is not US.

So, just stop for a minute and think about that.  Think about how many major problems in the world are at their most fundamental an argument of "you're not like me so you either have to change on your own or you'll be bullied until you do change."  It happens in politics.  It happens with breast/bottle discussions.  It happens with public school/homeschool discussions.  And right now, this is where we are with indie publishing/traditional publishing.  The minute someone identifies with one "side" of an argument, suddenly it becomes a battle.  Because our society revolves around the idea of "winning" we have by default criminalized "losing." We are invested in the concept of VERSUS, and in the flawed assumption of limited supply.

In publishing there is an assumptive truth that there is a known, limited number of book purchases that will take place in a defined period of time.  If that is true, then every author must compete with every other author for their share of that limited market.  If one person gains a sale, then ipso facto someone else has lost their chance at that sale.  (Notice, I don't say they've lost that sale because there's no guarantee that they would have gotten that sale, regardless of outside influence.)  People who are invested in the publishing industry as it has stood for generations are comfortable with this.  They've bonded with their cohort.  They've been through the same trials and tribulations and are competing on what they believe to be an objectively even playing field, earning their fraction of the limited whole.

Enter indie publishing.  Chaos ensues.  Blood sprays and there is much frothing and gnashing of teeth.  (We indies are intense and we love to froth ;)  Suddenly the limited market (that flawed paradigm) is now assumed to be being divided into much smaller pieces due to the greater number of books being released, but those books are being released by people who are OTHER.  They haven't been vetted.  They've bypassed the "gateway keepers" of the industry.  They haven't paid their dues with marketing fiascos, or slogged through book signing after book signing.  Yes, technically they're writers, but they're not US.  They are...  THEM. Their threat looms large, and when threatened even the most placid of people find themselves responding negatively.

I'm sure most of you have heard of Joe Konrath.  He's a fascinating fellow who pulls no punches and says exactly what he thinks.  Sometimes he's harsh. (He even swears!)  He has had a set of experiences that make him worth listening to, but he isn't the be-all and end-all, and his word isn't law.  Strangely, he's the first to say that.  After saying "do it this way" of course, but still...  he admits that there's more out there than his little slice of existence. He sees the industry as constantly changing, and says that if you're going to be part of that industry YOU have to change or be left behind. I think this is why people either love him or hate him. It is hard to change. By changing you're redefining who you are, and if your definition isn't the same then your idea of US has to change as well because you no longer necessarily fit the parameters of your old US.

 If you get any five writers together you're going to get seven different opinions about what Konrath has to say, his business model, his attitude, and hell, probably his facial hair. The truth is, though, he cannot force anyone to do anything.  He can't change the market willy-nilly.  What he has done is become the face of change. He's a lightning rod in a stormy time.  He is the epitome of OTHER for many writers, and as such the target for as much venom as he is the recipient of praise and support from people who "get him."  You can't get that much anger unless there's an equal or greater amount of fear, though.  People are *afraid* of Konrath because he is a threat to their idea of US.

It is this fear that I don't understand.  It comes from both sides.  It is indiscriminate and illogical. There is no limited market.  For as long as there has been a publishing industry, book sales have been increasing.  Whether the books are paper or pixel makes no difference.  Books are books and people are going to buy them.  When paper limitations are factored out of things and the majority of books are sold in electronic form (I can't imagine a future in which that isn't the case--paper will exist, but it won't dominate the market.) sales will increase even further. Advertising will adapt.  Marketing gurus will learn new tricks to make books visible. The market will expand.  The truth is that it already IS expanding.  BookStats released a study in 2011 that showed that book sales INCREASED between 2008 and 2010, with e-book revenues increasing by a staggering 1274%. When a book takes off people who were never expected to be purchasers end up adding to the market pool.  It is fluid, dynamic, and growing. This does NOT indicate a shrinking market that we writers will have to claw through, tooth and nail, to survive.

Whether traditional publishing or independent publishing is the RIGHT methodology is not what we should be focused on.  We should be focused on the individual writer. Yes, independent publishing is putting a financial squeeze on the PUBLISHERS of traditional print, and thereby limiting what those publishers can do.  It is the publishers who are then passing along their concerns about financial viability to their writers, because the writers are still dealing with substantially the same contract environment they have always had.  To increase dynamism there is fear-mongering--this is true in any business that has fierce competition--and then that fear-mongering creates an even stronger sense of US versus THEM.  The intention is to create artificial and unnecessary conflict between writers, to divide and conquer, because increased conflicts increase pressure thereby reducing efficacy in the marketplace.

As writers it is our responsibility--dare I say our obligation--to stop the irrational lashing-out that is happening in our industry.  We are all worthy.  We all have goals.  We all have wants and needs and desires.  What we don't have, and should, is a respect of the OTHER.  Until we stop poking THEM with sharp sticks, we can never reasonably take offense when someone stabs US in the back.

Support your US.  Be an active member of your community.  Believe things with all your heart.  BUT... have the dignity and humility to admit that you don't know everything and that YOUR truth is not always going to be everyone else's truth.  You can find your success without "winning" and people who choose a different path than yours are not "losers."  We must all "win" together--even if through different methods--or we will all truly end up losing.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

OCD and Me

As you can probably tell from the description of this blog, I'm a little OCD.  It isn't at Monk level, but it isn't your garden variety "did I turn the oven off?" either.  On good days I can ignore it and get on with everyday business, but on bad days...  well, let's just say I don't like bad days.

Writing every day is a goal that sounds really reasonable.  At some point you sit down, open the word processor and start tapping away.  The problem is that some days it doesn't happen like that, and when it doesn't my OCD starts to freak out.  For the record, my OCD sounds like a Jewish fishwife. (No offense to Jewish fishwives, it's just unusual to hear that kind of thing in the middle of landlocked Indiana.)  It starts out small, "You didn't write."  Then it progresses, "I know you probably meant to. You probably didn't realize how you were messing everything up when you didn't do what you were supposed to do." And then it goes into full wail mode, "But it all boils down to you didn't do what you were supposed to do and now *I* have to suffer for it!"

The hardest part is that it's usually the OCD that keeps me from getting to other things I'm supposed to do.  Do you have any idea how many times you can refresh an Amazon KDP page to see if you've sold anything in a day?  I do.  While I may have broken a land speed record for mouse clicking, I didn't manage to get the laundry done, or the floor swept, or my daughter's curtains made, or my minimum five hundred words written.  

So, my goal tonight is to get my blog post written and to NOT beat myself up over the things that didn't get done today. Hopefully that will satisfy the fishwife and I can get back to more enjoyable things.

Where You Need to Be

Douglas Adams once said, "I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I needed to be."

I don't believe in coincidence.  Everything that happens--from the instinct that tells you to take a different route to work, to the song on the radio that makes you remember an old friend--guides us to places, to jumping off points, where we are supposed to be.

This blog is one of those places.

When I was eight I wrote an article for a magazine called Literary Cavalcade.  I don't even remember what it was about, just that I was SO excited that I was in a real magazine.  High school brought a string of acceptances and rejections from other magazines--Redbook and Reader's Digest and American Poet--but I wasn't writing as often, or enjoying it as much.  Writing was turning into work, and that, my friends, was a damn shame.

College was the worst.  Every day I crammed more of other people's ideas into my head to the detriment of my own. My voice became fainter.  The "Girls in the Basement" stopped talking to me because I stopped listening.  And then, one day, I discovered fan fiction.

Now this isn't another 50 Shades of Grey story.  My foray into fanfic was years ago, and except for the fact that I discovered a love of writing really steamy sex scenes it has very little to do with what I'm writing now. I used it like the shallow end of a swimming pool, wading back into writing a little at a time, until the shock of the transition wore off. It gave me the confidence I needed to sit down and write again, and after a while I gave up the safety net of using someone else's characters.

If you'd asked me five years ago if I'd ever blog I'd have laughed in your face. I was married.  I had kids.  Who had time to blog?  If you'd asked if I'd ever self-publish--especially erotica--I'd have raised my eyebrows so high I'd have herniated myself.  And yet... here I am. Making Mina: The Best Revenge is out, indie-style on Amazon (with a sequel in the wings!), and I'm tackling the blogosphere.  It isn't necessarily where I wanted to go, but it is definitely where I needed to be.

So, I hope you'll come along with me as I dive into the deep end.  Remember--you're here because you need to be.  Hopefully you'll enjoy it.