Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Which Socials Work for This Lurker?

This Week's Topic: The Socials

Besides this blog, on which social media platform am I most active as an author? Why that one? What makes it work better for me than others? How often am I there?

{clears throat}
{stares at ground}
{rubs one foot with the other}
Hello, my name is KAK, and I'm a lurker.

I'm on Twitter and Facebook. I check them three to four times a day. It won't look like it if you review my feeds because I read way more than I interact. I "like" lots of stuff, but I rarely engage because--much like the real world--I don't feel the need to insert myself into a monologue or conversation when I have nothing meaningful to contribute. Also, I have a sense of humor that doesn't translate well in social spaces where context is limited and assholes abound. Once upon narrowband connectivity, I worked in online community, which left me with the scars of having zero tolerance for drama and noping my way out of engagement at the first keystroke of batshittery. For these reasons, I err on the side of reticence in public exchanges.

That's not to say I don't respond when someone @'s me. I do (as long as it doesn't trigger my self-preservation sirens). Readers sharing what they like/love about my work? That sort of stuff makes my day/week/month/decade. I'm saving/screenshotting/bookmarking those feel-good interactions. Sliding into my DMs or my Messenger and I don't know you? No. That's akin to you climbing into the backseat of my car without an invitation. AITA? Probably. Unrepentant, though.

My Twitter account is both me and me-the-author, while FB's policies necessitate a split personality. Alas, I neglect the hell out of my author page on FB; yea though, I keep promising myself to provide regular content. My FB personal account's "friends" are mostly folks I know IRL, while those who follow my author page are readers. I'm much more accessible on Twitter. There, I often retweet artists whose work moves me or experts whose threads are enlightening. The majority of accounts I follow on Twitter are strangers whose content intrigued me. I've curated my Twitter feed so the nutbuckets are screaming in their own echo chambers and not on my screen, which keeps it a pleasurable experience.  

As for the overlords of either service, I find their ethics appalling and await the day the services implode. Yes, I'm aware there are many, many other services out there. I have accounts on some, but that's mostly to occupy the namespace. 

If you're looking for me on Twitter, I'm @KAKrantz, or if you want to find me on FB, I'm @AuthorKAKrantz.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Secret Identity

I adore my pen name and the identity I have created. Truth be told, I like my pen name way more than my birth name. I have often thought of changing my name ever since I was a pre-teen when I was thoroughly convinced I had been adopted (those angsty teen years, amirite?). Having a pen name has allowed me to create a completely new persona, embracing a more outgoing part of myself that I hadn’t realized I was hiding. 

Having a secret identity has allowed me to fully pursue my writing career in the most uninhibited and organic way that I can. It also really helps me with marketing because I am not marketing myself, I am marketing a client. 

Speaking of, I cultivated a marketing career, writing non-fiction articles for magazines and websites long before I dove into fiction writing. I had kids in 2018 and then in the middle of 2020 my marketing career took a nosedive. I lost my clients due to everything being shut down, but I was extremely fortunate in that my husband has a steady job and we live frugally enough for me to stay at home with our children. I thought I was good with this being my lot in life - a stay-at-home mom maybe picking up part-time work once the kids were in school. Turns out, it wasn’t enough. My brain finally had it and it started screaming at me to write again. The stories I want to write now are a little too steamy for the small town I live in, so the next obvious choice was to create an entirely new persona. Now, it’s the only way I feel comfortable continuing my writing career. Publishing under a pen name helps me keep my private life and personal life separate. 

A secret identity can also be so liberating for us introverts. Marketing is easier, asking for features and newsletter swaps is easier, going live on social media is easier because I can so quickly slip on a mask and become Ophelia. Becoming Ophelia (ha! that sounds like a memoir in the works) helps me go live on social media more than if I was presenting as myself. There’s something that shifts and I am immediately more extroverted, friendlier, less socially anxious with the mask of my secret identity in place. Though there’s a separation between my personal life and Ophelia, in some ways, you see a more “raw” version of me when I am in front of the camera. The introverted stay-at-home mom who constantly asks if her kids need to pee is gone. The extroverted Ophelia is here, and she is ready to partaaaaay. 

As a stay-at-home mom, I am so reluctant to go back into the workforce. I wanted a job that allowed me to be flexible, home with my kids on sick days (because, let’s be honest, there are a lot of sick days lately), available for pickups and drop-offs, after-school activities and more. My children are only four- and two-years old so I wanted to get started on my writing early enough so that when they reach full-time school age, I have a decent idea of what our schedules will look like and what I can realistically get done in a day. As a former entrepreneur, the idea of being an indie author was appealing on so many levels. I could be fully in charge of my process, write the stories I want to write (and how steamy), as well as on the production schedule that fit me and my family’s lifestyle. But writing under a pen name was one of the few ways I figured I could tackle this adventure.

Creating this secret identity has been one of the most freeing things I have done for my creativity and my future. I can shift into “work mode” quicker when I’m Ophelia than when I’m me/‘mom’. It gives me the space I need to focus and hustle. It lets me be the author I want to be, connect with my audience, and pursue the projects I want to do.

Ophelia Wells Langley is the pen name of a mother to two boys. She loves reading, writing, and knitting, and you can almost always find her chasing after her high-energy children pretending to be a dragon or a dinosaur. Her debut novel, The Borderlands Princess, released November 28th, 2022. You can find her works here: www.opheliawlangley.com and you can join her late night writing sprints on TikTok @opheliawellsauthor


Friday, December 2, 2022

Leaving the Day Job - Don't Forget the Barbed Wire

A week ago I snickered to myself about how I didn't know how to write about what it's like not having a day job because I still had a day job. 

Now I don't. 

I guess this will be a learn-as-I-go adventure. I'm not raking in the sweet, sweet book cash. Not yet. The only reason I'm not running around like my hair's on fire is because there's a fall back position. I'm privileged to have a partner who does have steady employment. Let's not talk about how close he came to a layoff three days ago while we believed my position was secure. He got word he was safe and two days later my super-safe job evaporated. God, I love recession fears in the tech world. Sigh. 

This does bring me to the easiest way to cushion the slings and arrows and uncertainty of working for yourself. Have a cushion. That cushion could be someone else's steady income that your writing income supplements. That cushion could also be that you budget and plan to build a financial safety net that buys you time. If you want a year free and clear before you have to hit the bricks for another job, you better have done the math and have the cash stowed. Add up your burn rate - the amount of money per month you need to survive. Don't forget medical insurance in those costs. Factor in an emergency or two - car, veterinary, a rush airline ticket - whatever suits your circumstance. While you are gainfully employed in something that reliably hands you cash, start saving. If you make a sale or three while you are working a day job, put part of that advance into the 'writing full time' fund. Plan your exit date from the day job. Don't burn bridges! You may need that network one day. Keep writing. Keep publishing - either via a trad house or via self publishing. The money books bring in replenishes the financial cushion. The more you bring in, the longer you can stretch out the fund to support you through dry spells. Because those happen to the best and the worst of us alike.

What's it like not working a day job, though? It's randomizing. It's a little like living in a castle or a
walled city that is constantly under siege. The moment you aren't working a day job, people come out of the woodwork wanting your time and your energy because - well - you aren't 'working' working. Without really clear, strong boundaries, you'll find your entire day vanishes into a haze of doing things that serve everyone but you. 

Plan to put up barbed wire around your writing time and space. It helps to have a door that closes, maybe locks. Create the structure around writing that makes sense to you. It is the biggest piece writers miss when thinking about leaving a day job to write full time - the structure. With a day job sucking all the air out of the room, you had to fit fiction into the cracks and corners. The limits and structure around those times likely lent a sense of urgency to your word count  because you didn't have much time. Now, without a day job, the day stretches long like a highway across the desert. It's a mirage. Without planned structure in place, you'll blink and realize you haven't written a word or thought about your story for a week. Or more. It's a hard lesson to learn to say no to people, but it is necessary. It's a lesson I still struggle to learn. Just like I'm unexpectedly having to learn how to exist again without a day job defining my time. So as much is it unsettles me, check this space. There may be further developments in the 'what's it like to leave the day job' world.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Quitting the Day Job - What's It Really Like?

THE LONG NIGHT OF THE RADIANT STAR - a midwinter holiday fantasy romance in the Heirs of Magic world - is out in the world!


This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking Secret Identities! As in, the work we do on the side to make ends meet, partners helping to support us, and quitting the day job.

I'm fortunate that I was able to quit the day job - 18 years of a career as an environmental consultant - about 7 years ago. It was one of those things where the day job quit me: my team was downsized, I got laid off with affection and good severance pay, and I decided to try making a go of it writing for a living and NOT getting another day job. In truth, I was more than ready for that moment. At the same time, I kept waiting to make as much money from writing as I did from the day job (including the value of benefits), which was never quite happening. If I hadn't been kicked from the nest, I might never have voluntarily left it. 

That said, it's the best thing that ever happened to me. My husband has Parkinson's Disease and is no longer able to work, so apart from a small retirement income and his social security payment, keeping us afloat is up to me. That reality has made me really hustle with my writing. Between self-publishing and traditional publishing, I'm now making what I was with the day job.

And I'm ever so much happier. Seriously, after having essentially two careers for over 20 years, it was such a relief to focus on just one. Plus, all the meetings and phone calls I have are about books and writing. It's the best life!

I don't do much work on the side. I do some author coaching and teach the occasional workshop - I'm considering doing more classes - but it's important to me for the happiness quotient. I want writing and making books to be the priority. That's what I quit the day job to have. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

FT Writer and The Fluctuating Monies

This Week's Topic: 
Secret Identity: Do I work on the side to make ends meet? 
Do I have a partner in crime? 
How long was I at it as a writer before I could successfully quit the day job, or have I quit yet?

My partner in crime after having cancerous masses removed

It's that last question that many authors use to gauge their success, which...isn't a reliable metric. Being a creative means there are seasons of feast and famine, and famine is more prevalent. You may have one six-figure year followed by a year in the low five-figures followed by a year in the upper fives chased by a year where you don't make 4 figures. Revenue from sales is, by its nature, unstable income. Even if you drop a new book like clockwork, there's no guarantee that Book 3 will sell even a fourth of Book 1. Some series tank for no reason while others rise like a phoenix from a backlist. Gods forbid you're depending on a publisher to pay your royalties as part of your annual income...Sure, royalty checks are more attainable than winning the lottery, but even lottery payouts occur at a fixed amount and on schedule.

You need to be a master of budgeting and a hard-core realist (even a pessimist) when forecasting writing-derived revenue. There's a reason finance companies don't like to give creatives loans. There's a reason a lot of full-time authors have spouses who own the burdens of reliable income (and health insurance) or they have investments that supply livable income. There's no shame in being part of the hustle of having a job that pays your bills while also having a job that feeds your soul. 

As in all things, balance is necessary.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Offering a Hand Up

Mentors come in a lot of shapes and sizes in my life. I can't point to a single person or one single piece of insightful advice. When I look back, I see the long line of people who dropped tidbits of encouragement, advice, and tutoring. I look back across the vast sea of books I'd read that taught me how stories come together. I had RWA teaching me everything I needed to know about writing an about the business. I also had Jeffe trying to mentor me in networking - I was not her brightest pupil. Eventually, it was the people willing to critique my work and talk me through what was right, what was wrong, and how to fix it. I needed someone to take me by the hand and say this is wrong, do you see it? Here's how you fix it. I learned so much that way and I was so grateful for that education.

As for reaching back to help those coming up, I critique for others. Usually it's within my own critique groups, but the real fun is critiquing for contests. I want to help newer, younger writers learn what I learned from critique. 

I needed direct 'this is wrong, see? Do this. Or this.' I have come to understand, however, that I'm in the minority and most people do not want me approaching their fiction in that fashion. So I've had to adapt. I've learned to say things like, what's the goal of the scene? What does this character want right here and why? I guess I've had to learn to lead people to see their own issues themselves rather than have me come right out and say hey this doesn't work here's why and here's how to fix it. It's a running joke with my critique groups that you'll always here me say 'I feel like you have an opportunity here to do xy or z' which is my way of saying hey you missed a potentially potent story thread. I hope it helps.

As for me, I still need a mentor. I need someone who can mentor me in cloning myself so that one of me can do the day job and care for the elderly parents and the other one of me can write and take care of cats and the rest of the household. I'm not sure that kind of mad science is in anyone else's best interests, though. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

We're Thankful

wooden table with a variety of yellow and green, fall squashes and round loaves of sourdough bread all surrounding the word Thankful

Today is a reminder to be thankful—for those who have reached out to lend a helpful hand, for those who lift us up, and for those who inspire us. 

Here at the SFF Seven, we’re thankful for all of you readers and we hope that our words help you on your writing journey! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Mentored by a Community

This Week's Topic: Paying It Forward:
Did anyone give me sound advice? Did I have a mentor?
How do I pay it (mentorship) forward without getting buried by requests?

Once upon a time, in the days of snail-mailing hardcopies of queries and manuscripts, I had the good sense to join a writing guild that was both local, virtual, and national. I could attend a monthly in-person meeting and make social connections as well as learn from experts in writing and specific trades that heroes and heroines often occupied. The person in charge of our local special programs was brilliant and well-connected and we had an absolute blast. The virtual guild gave me access to free classes taught by agents and editors. It also kept us up-to-date with the latest scuttlebutt in our niche market.  Alas, the local guild was forced to disband by the national organization, the virtual guild crumbled to infighting, then the national guild imploded. 

I'll be forever grateful to the organization in its many aspects because it was one of the few that accepted total n00bs and taught us everything from story structure, to how to query, to what the hell a synopsis is (long and short), and it gave us access to the gatekeepers of publishing--who were 97% inaccessible to anyone outside NYC back then. 

So, to answer this week's question: Did I have a mentor? No, not as a specific individual. I had a community. It was through that community that I met the founder and original bloggers of this very blog. Back then, we were known as the Word Whores. 11 years later, we're still sharing our experiences with readers.

How do I pay it forward without getting buried by requests? I'm not connected to any particular community anymore, so requests aren't often made of me. I'm akin to a crow sitting in the branches watching the goings on. When a cry for help catches my attention--if I'm suited to fulfill the ask--then I offer.