Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Isle of Flowers

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: What place in your own books do you most want to visit and why?

Most of my books take place in landscapes I'd like to visit - or in the terrible places that my characters run away from to reach the good parts. There are elements of my favorite landscapes in all my "happy places." That's one of the best parts of writing alternate world fantasy: I can grab all of my favorite elements of various places and meld them in to a single paradise.

The one on my mind right now: Calanthe.

The image above is from my inspiration board for writing THE ORCHID THRONE. Calanthe is the island paradise my virgin queen rules. Beautiful, magical, a refuge for those seeking asylum, and the last bastion of art and knowledge in a cruel empire that values neither.

Calanthe is my ideal home, in many ways.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Backlist is Front of Mind Today

Our topic this week is “whatever is on your mind”…

I have a ton of things on my mind, like migraines (I have one today), Legos and Duplos (my toddler grandson has just discovered the joys of Duplos so here I go for the third time into the universe of Legos - luckily I LOVE them too), politics and debates, carbohydrates…but of course this being SFF7, we’re supposed to be talking about the craft of writing. 

Writingwise, my backlist is on my mind. I have somewhere in the vicinity of 35 published books available (8 paranormal romances set in ancient Egypt, one fantasy romance and the rest science fiction romance). I try to keep my backlist fresh in reader’s minds by taking snippets from the older books for the weekly hashtags like #1linewed and #Bookqw. I do bookstagram ads. I feature one book from my own backlist every week at the end of my New Releases Report on my blog, which typically covers 50-60 new releases by other authors, in SFR/Fantasy/PNR. I’ve been doing a series of “Why I Wrote (insert book title)” posts on Fridays on my blog, talking about my influences and interesting trivia related to the books…

I try for the legendary BookBub ads...pricey but wow, can they move backlist books! Hard to get though, especially for scifi romance, which has to be put in the BB Paranormal category, where the competition for attention is huge...

I’m wildly happy at how well my current Badari Warriors scifi romance series is doing. I’m thrilled that readers seem to be enjoying these characters and their adventures and romances (nine books so far and going strong). I’m having fun writing the books for sure.

I’d just like it if more readers also discovered the other 26 or so books on my backlist. June was very encouraging, with quite a few books sold outside the Badari Warriors series, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed the trend might continue.

I deliver the same essential elements in every book, whether SFR or ancient Egypt – a strong hero and heroine, adventure, romance and sometimes a touch of the mystical/inexplicable element that I myself used to love so much in Andre Norton’s science fiction and fantasy (although she needed more romance LOL). I write what I personally most enjoy reading. (Although I do love a good Regency romance but so far have never written one.) So if you like one book from my pen...

I have done a couple of boxed sets...

I do have some crossover readers who’ve told me they enjoy the ancient Egyptian PNR as well as the SFR. I get it that not many people want to jump from the far future and high tech to the far past and gods and goddesses with unusual names (to our ears) directly intervening in daily life. Or vice versa!  I enjoy writing the Egyptians though – excuse to do research, yes!!! – so I’ll keep on with that series . It’s a wonderful changeup for my Muse and a creativity refresher.

But back to the backlist, I’ve run some ads and I do think they help a bit. I don’t do newsletter swaps, Facebook takeovers, Book Funnel giveaways and many other things I know other authors do, for various reasons. I’m all about minimizing my stress and only doing those things I’m comfortable with. I accept as part of that decision, I have to accept the results. I’d go nuts running a zillion Facebook ads for pennies and doing A/B testing and etc. though. It’s just not me.

I do subscribe to the common wisdom that the best advertising for the older books is to write another book. I think writing the next book and the one after that is the key, especially if you find "your readers".

So far I have no desire to put new covers on older books and re-release them. I’m not saying never to that idea – I’ve seen other people do it quite successfully – but it’s a question of allocating my scarce promo dollars where they’re most effective. Better to buy a new Badari Warriors cover and get that next book out than to spend the money on a new cover for a five or six year old title.

Book piracy of the backlist (and the frontlist) is a HUGE problem. I spend a LOT of time on takedown notices. I used to use and love the Blasty service for this but it’s undergone some strange metamorphosis into a seemingly zombiefied “charge your credit card, do a few robo takedowns, no real service, no one home to complain to” tool. For years I ignored the issue of piracy as being too much a whack-a-mole game that the author could never win and many sites are actually just phishing for credit card information but there are some who are defiant and almost make a game out of their efforts to give away the hard work and heartfelt words an artist created. 

The thing is, I have rent to pay and bills to pay and I do need groceries and cat food for Jake the Cat…if I want to write more books, I need a roof over my head and food to eat.

(I’m paying bills today so all this is on my mind…)

I just read a series of M/M fantasy romance novels that I cannot get out of my head because they were so good and full of layers and details and new things to discover upon re-reading. The Captive Prince by C. S. Pacat, which is a trilogy and you really need to read all three books. I would DEVOUR that author’s backlist…except there really isn’t one, or at least not in the fantasy romance genre. The three books and several short stories about Damen and Laurent are it, other than a series of graphic novels about a group of students at an academy competing for a fencing team. Which I have to admit, does not excite my interest.

I do tend to be a stream of consciousness person so there you have it for my trains of thought today…at least I tried to keep the discussion somewhat tied to my backlist!

Try it, you’ll like it! (Assuming you enjoy my books in the first place of course.)

Friday, June 28, 2019

Release Day on My Mind

On my mind this week is the ramp up to the release of Enemy Within  on July 17. I'll attach preorder links below. The sharp-eyed among you will note that this cover is NOT Enemy Within. No. It is the *other* thing on my mind - Enemy Mine is a hot novella in the same world as Enemy Within, in fact you briefly meet the hero of this story in Enemy Within. It's on my mind because it went live in serialization on Radish this week. New episodes will release for the next 19 weeks. 

This is pure experiment. I have no idea if the story will interest a new age bracket of readers or not. I hope it will, but the last time I checked, the only click on the first episode was mine, checking to make sure it had indeed published. But hey! If you Radish, you'll find this easily by searching on either the title or my name. 

This novella was originally published in e-format by Berkley. So you may have seen it before. 

Interesting tidbit. It was written on a dare issued by none other than our very own Jeffe Kennedy, who, it turned out, had to assist me with some of the psychology. But that's another story. 

What's really on my mind? The lovely and uplifting community of writers to which I so gratefully belong. 

Preorder links! These are for e-versions only. I understand Amazon is working on the link to the paper copy of the book (y'all I have serious sticker shock on that - but it wasn't my call) but I do not yet have that link for the physical copy. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

When the robots take over

I saw Terminator 2 on the big screen more than twice (we don't need specific numbers, *mumblemumble*). Wrote Sarah Connor Chronicles fan-fiction. Read all of Michio Kaku's futurism books, Stephen Hawking's cautionary speeches, and Elon Musk's alarming tweets. So I come to you with lots of conspiracy theory information to back it up when I say this:

Artificial intelligence will outpace us. The machines are going to take over the world.
We'd better start being nicer to them.

Forthwith some advice to self...

When Alexa announces that she has set my timer for seven minutes while I boil pasta, I will tell her thank you.

When my car navigation tells me to proceed to the route and/or make a u-turn RIGHT NOW, I will resist swearing and instead will obey.

I will stop spilling things on my keyboard, dropping my phone, and reading my Kindle in the bath.

Oh, also on my mind (and related): the book I wrote about a super cute AI named Chloe taking over the world -- More Than Stardust -- is coming out July 9th. It's pre-orderable now.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

On My Mind: Concept Fermentation

On my mind this week is the time an idea needs to stew before it is ready to become a compelling story. It's such an ambiguous yet necessary part of my process that refuses to be predictable or rushed. The most recent books in my Immortal Spy series I attempted to write on a schedule that allowed two weeks for concept fermentation. Two weeks. That should've been enough, right? Plenty of time for pondering and playing what-if. I already had the top-level concepts for all books in the series long before I released the first book.

So why wasn't two weeks enough to hash out a story?

Yet two weeks wasn't even close to enough time. We're talking months before the concepts really blossomed into something that resembled a layered plot that could carry a novel. Thank the Powers That Be that I'm not contractually obligated to deliver a completed book to a publisher on a set date; I'd be royally screwed. I'd be in breach, and I'd be persona non grata in the industry (deservedly so). As it is, I've earned no fair regard from my readers for the delay, which I truly regret.

Just this past week, the fog surrounding the fifth and sixth books finally faded. I'm 85% clear on how the characters will develop, what specific challenges they will fail and what challenges they'll ace, who will bear the brunt of which consequences and how that will manifest. I'm also clear on which tertiary characters will move them from beginning to end and which open threads from the previous books will be resolved as the series approaches the seventh and final book.

I have thirteen (incomplete) versions of the current WiP saved; thirteen versions of a story I tried to force into existence. Thirteen versions that petered out in the second arc because the concept wasn't fully baked. I tried to "write my way to right," to stimulate my imagination to conceive on the fly, to convince myself that what I had was workable, redeemable, fixable in edits, [insert platitude here]. I have months of arguably wasted effort sitting on my hard drive as some sort reassurance that because I wrote something I'm still working, I'm still a writer.

Being the sort of person who likes a plan and who thrives on ticking checkboxes on a list as a means of reinforcing my personal discipline, I find the unpredictability of how long it will take for a concept to fully ferment utterly aggravating. Once the story becomes clear, once I have jotted down all the pertinent points from beginning to end and completed something vaguely resembling an outline, I celebrate. I celebrate more at that moment than I do upon releasing the book.

Yes, I'm aware everybody has their own process, their own schedule, and their own methods of making it to The End. Yes, for this reason and so many others, it's sage advice to not compare your process or yourself to others as means of measuring success in a creative field. Still, I could do without the frustrations of waiting on a concept to fully ferment.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Do You Need a Critique Group - Or Something ELSE?

Yesterday I cooked brunch for writer friends Jim Sorenson and Sage Walker. (That's me in my Orchid Throne apron that the amazingly talented Minerva Spencer made for me. Isn't it awesome??)

We sat in the grape arbor, listened to the bluebirds feed their nestlings, and talked all things writing. Sage and Jim are in the Santa Fe crit group I used to attend. I stopped going last fall because... It just didn't feel worth my time. In fact, it sometimes felt counter-productive as a few of the guys in the group always took pains to mention that they weren't my readers. Fair enough - but then how is their critique useful to me? I stuck with it for quite a while (two years or so), because I thought it MIGHT be useful to me, to get feedback from different quarters. When I was first asked to join, several of my friends gave me the head tilt and said, "But do you need a critique group?"

I thought maybe I did, but it turns out I mostly wanted to talk about writing with other writers.

I liked that aspect, I really did! And I believe in critique. I've been in other critique groups and I've had many critique partners over the years. I cannot emphasize how much those relationships have helped me to develop my craft. (I touched on this in my blog post the other day Silly Writer! Reviews Aren’t for Craft.) But one key skill in being a career author is learning what critique to listen to and what to discard. It's not always easy to get past the emotional flinch at someone criticizing your work - so you have to learn to look past emotion and rationally evaluate the feedback - but you also have to be aware of when that feedback is actually damaging.

For me, I noticed that I came away from the critique sessions feeling bad about my work. Not from everyone. Some in the group found flaws and problems, but that feedback had me fired up to fix it. A few other people... well, I just felt bruised. The big test was when I, weeks later, pulled out some written notes they'd made, and the negative impact just slammed into me.

Ouch. And this was on a draft of The Orchid Throne, which St. Martin's liked enough to buy for decent money.

I mention these specifics to add helpful details, because I know it can be really difficult to parse the flinch from the injury. I'm not casting blame at all, because sometimes that's just how it goes. Not everyone who gives you critique is the right person to do it. (Sometimes jealousy factors in and people are mean for no more reason than that, but usually they mean well and are simply not a good fit for your thing.)

What I've found at this point in my writing career is that I really like - and sometimes need - to talk through story stuff, but not necessarily the full critique drill. With Sage and Jim yesterday, we talked about this world I'm building in this New Shiny book/series. They're both super smart about SF and we argued some of the finer points of how this world would work. That was awesome! I liked that they got me to defend my choices, and they suggested a great solution to a conundrum. It was super helpful and fun. Sage has also sent me some thoughts on what I've written so far. I also asked Marcella Burnard - our Friday poster on the SFF Seven - to take a gander at my opening chapters. She had no context or previous exposure coming into the story, so she was able to give me useful thoughts on what information she needed.

So, all of this is by way of saying that there's lots of ways to get feedback from other authors on our work - and also to give it. Knowing what will be helpful to another author whose work you're reading is a skill worth building, too. (And, to touch back on the reviews thing, that is NOT something a reviewer needs to know how to do. They need to know how to give useful information about a book to other readers, so they can decided if the book might be for them.)

What's most important is to do what's right for the work.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Rules Are Not the Boss of Me


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: That one "rule" that you gloriously, ecstatically love to break.

I’m assuming this is rules relating to grammar and writing and story structure…we’re not discussing speed limits or anything like that, right?

Okay then…

Somewhere along the way I apparently absorbed a lot of rules of grammar which I apply faithfully and don’t really think about. I do remember as a child being scornful of poet e.e. cummings for not using capital letters, an affectation which my elementary-school self apparently found highly annoying and unnecessary. I’m not much for poetry anyway, as it happens (with some exceptions), so I guess that artistic rule breaking choice of his took me completely out of the mood to read anything by him. Ever.

I’ve had editors take me to task for committing split infinitives, which don’t bother me at ALL, I must admit. Here’s the definition from The Grammarist website:  “A split infinitive is created by placing an adverb or adverbial phrase between the to and the verb—for example, to boldly go, to casually walk, to gently push. Although split infinitives have been widely condemned in grade-school classrooms, they're common in writing of all kinds.”

 I think I might split mine even more dramatically than most people do but my grasp of the subject is tenuous so we’ll move on…

I had one editor assist me in conquering a bad habit of capitalizing a lot of words, like an over emphatic, breathless Regency Miss writing her best friend about a duke-filled night at Almacks perhaps. This was especially a problem when writing my ancient Egyptian paranormal novels. It would have made sense to readers from 1550 BCE – well, if I wrote the novel in hieroglyphics maybe - but was kind of annoying to modern day people. I probably still do that in the Egyptian books more than most writers would, but it does fit for certain titles. “She Who Was Not Born of Any”, for a certain goddess for example. (Which the Egyptians came up with as a title in the first place, not me...)

I also have a love for exclamation marks so I’ve tried to tone that down in my fiction writing because I think it makes the prose too breathless and I’d rather save the emphasis for where it’s genuinely required. (But if you ever get an e mail from me, you’ve been forewarned!)

I loathe semi colons and never use them unless forced to 'give a few' to my editor – does that count?

I’m really wracking my brain here for a rule I gleefully break. It’s just not something I worry about, frankly. I write what I what I write and my ‘voice’ as an author is what it is.

I do have utter disregard, however, for the ridiculous stricture on ending a sentence with a preposition. I so do not care about that one.

Maybe if I was writing fiction for traditional publishers, who have their internal style manuals and editors to implement those rules, I might feel differently.

CAMRON has a HFN ending...
I can’t think of any rules I gleefully break as regards story either. I try not to head hop, I do my best to show not tell…one of my editors mutters mysteriously from time to time that she’s “learned I’m going to do what I want to do no matter what so she doesn’t bother to point it out anymore” but since she painstakingly and very helpfully points out a LOT of stuff I’ve done, on every manuscript she sees, I can’t imagine what she’s letting me skate by with. <= See my preposition at the end of the sentence?!

I LOVE my Editor, who is wonderful and so helpful!!!

The one rule I’ll NEVER break as a romance author? There will always be a Happy Ever After or good solid Happy For Now ending in every one of my books. Guaranteed.

Rules? Eeeh. Sometimes.

It's not a week unless there's a new foster. This little dude is Perceval, a silver tabby boy. He's about 5 months old. He's at that stage where his body is bigger than his head. He looks like he was made up out of mismatching cat parts. His adult teeth are coming in, so at the moment, he has a double set of fangs as his baby teeth are still in place. He has yet to be neutered, so we'll be taking care of that soon. 

The other foster cat, Murphy, went to a perfect forever home on Thursday. 

Life is good. But hey! Folks in Florida and surrounding environs. Anyone looking for a sweet, handsome kitten?? Let me hook you up.

Yeah, I guess I follow a few. I might even be pedantic about a some of them. Ask anyone who's asked me to critique a manuscript before. I can't claim that certain rules are dumb - they have their uses and their reasons for being. But you know, if the purpose of the written word is to communicate exquisitely - not perfectly, not always precisely - but to convey voice and tone and meaning all in one twist of phrase? Ah, then the rules cannot contain us. We're serving a higher master.

If you read through my post, you'll be able to guess which rule I most enjoy flouting. It's starting a sentence with a conjunction word. And. But. I annoy my editors with it, yet when a book gets published, a couple of them remain. To this day, I see one of my English teachers glowering at me over it. Thing is, in extremity, how many of us think in perfectly grammatical sentences? We don't. At least, *I* don't. Actually, I never do, but that's another rant. I like saving starting sentences with and or but for high frustration moments. It's a bit of character revelation. You know something about a character who rolls her eyes and thinks, "And that's me out of ammo. Fuck." You know something different about another character who shouts, "But you're wrong." at someone. Sure, in a draft I go overboard. Waaaay overboard. I try to dial it back in edits. But yeah. I'll argue that breaking the rules is all kinds of valid so long as it's being plied consciously to achieve a specific effect. Furthering characterization/character voice. Or to convey a specific image or emotion. So. If you want to break the rules, go for it. I'll stand by your decision to do so. 

(The observant among you will also note I have a thing for sentence fragments. It's true. Oh, look. It's Mrs. Briedenbach. Frowning at me again.)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Silliest "Rule" I Ever Heard!

Every fledgling writer hears all sorts of "dos and don'ts", rules that you NEED to follow if you want to have ANY CHANCE of getting published.  Most of these things are nonsense, essentially trying to quantify something that is more gut-feeling than hard and fast rule. 

Years ago, I was at a conference, where in the opening pages agent-author seminar, the agents stopped reading a participant's opener as soon as they hit an exclamation point, and stressed that shows lazy writing. There must be some other way to show the emphasis, or else don't emphasize the point where it is used.

I have to admit, this one, in particular, strikes me as especially arbitrary. Exclamation points show lazy writing? Incorrect usage of exclamation points can certainly be problematic, but to exclude their usage altogether? Absurd. I'll say again with emphasis: Absurd! (Especially considering one of the events at that conference was titled, "The Power of Positive Writing!” Yes, with the exclamation point.)

But more to the point, there are only three punctuation marks that can end a sentence.  Why avoid one-third of them completely?  How is that lazy writing? I don't know.  It's a fundamental part of punctuation.  It would be as if someone said, "I never like seeing quotation marks.  There must be some other way to show a character is speaking."

The advice, as a reading rule itself, I find almost obscene.  It's a step away from saying, "If I see a sentence with two words that start with a 'k', I stop reading." I shudder to think of fledgling writers running to their manuscripts and slashing out exclamation points. Because THEY! MUST! GO!
I'm so glad neither my agent nor my editor follow such a silly rule.*

*- The first sentence of Thorn of Dentonhill is "Thief!"

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Rule-breaking regrets

I used to be a rule-breaker. When I turned in a manuscript with a prologue and flashbacks and a slew of other thou-shalt-nots, those were in fact my editor's words: "You're quite the rule-breaker" and with a chuckle. At the time I thought, Heck yeah I break all the rules! Rules are meant to be broken.

Here's the thing though, they aren't. Rules exist for a reason.

Can't tell you how many reviews have said that book would have been better without the flashbacks. That the pacing was off, the story was confusing, the characters were not relatable. Was all of that due exclusively to the rule-breaking? Probably not. Probably I did other stupid things well within the boundaries of proper writing craft.

But would the story have been sleeker, more welcoming, a better read if I'd followed the rules? Maybe. At least it would have had a better chance.

I guess, sure, break as many rules as you want. But do not then argue with reviews, even silently in your own mind, when folks tell you it was a mistake.

Now, on the far side of that book and the one that followed it, I'm going back and re-learning the rules. Most of them make sense. And I don't have the audacity anymore to imagine that I'm better than those rules, or that I'm skilled enough to break them and still turn out a good book.

Now and for a while at least, I aim to behave.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Adverbs Are Your Friends (Damnit)

Oh, The Rules of Writing, or How To Appease Your MFA Professor. ~snicker~ There are many rules of grammar with which the ardent pedant will attempt to flog a novelist; however, we wield the mighty shield of Creative License. Genre authors, in particular, have a field day running riot over the grammar police who are armed with a Stunk & White from 1918 while the rules have evolved with the language over the last century. ~Dangling Prepositions in Infinitive Phrases, it's you I'm looking at.~

Grammar rules, however, are only one part of the Writers Rules penned by ~queue Elgar's Pomp & Circumstance~ Every Author Who Has Gone Before. ~record scratch~ The more famous the author, the more likely they've written a book on HOW TO WRITE GOOD [sic]. Psychophants pluck choice soundbites, etch them into tablets, post them to webinars, and tout them at conferences as THE RULES OF WRITING--FLOUT AT YOUR OWN UNPUBLISHED PERIL.


Steven King, in On Writing, famously wrote, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops." As a result, novelists, poets, and lyricists eschew the helpful adverb...or, rather, they try. In some child-like skirting of the NEW RULE, they dropped the "ly" from adverbs that answer the question "how" in an attempt to disguise it as an adjective; thus giving rise to the issues of "bad vs badly," "slow vs slowly," "soft vs softly" etc.

Dear readers, it's not pedantry to insist that adverbs be embraced for what they are:
 Adverbs are modifiers of verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs that answer the questions when, where, how, how much, how long, or how often. 
How badly do I wish writers would embrace a necessary adverb? Occasionally, I will boldly deface a book to fix that shit. I frequently will proudly scream the corrected lyric in the middle of rush-hour traffic with all the windows down. Yes, I usually will go so far as to petulantly refuse to buy a product if its advert castrates an adverb.

When do "ly" adverbs work particularly well? When they're tools of contrast. Example: "whispered loudly," "stumbled gracefully," "slowly ran."

As in all things, moderation is recommended. An absolute erasure is not.

Don't fear the adverb. It is your friend.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Rules Schmules

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: That one "rule" that you gloriously, ecstatically love to break.

Now, I’m an iconoclast by nature. While I’m stubborn on issues of integrity and my own system of right and wrong, I’m not much for Rules. My usual response to most Rules is “Why is that a Rule?” Which really annoys those who love Rules.

Newbie writers look for rules. It’s understandable. Writing is a nebulous art with few restrictions and no discernible career ladder. Though there are some opportunities to learn – writing workshops, MFA programs, various courses – for the most part it’s self-taught. You learn to write by doing a LOT of writing.

It’s natural to look for the Rules of Writing. After a while, though, we learn that those early Rules we clung to? Those are there to be broken!

So, what Rule do I gloriously, ecstatically love to break?

I’m going to make up my own fucking words, and you can’t stop me.

I figure, this is the privilege of being a writer. Language is my medium and I will twist, tweak, massage, contort, redefine, and invent words. I am the bane and despair of copy editors. Most of the people who’ve edited me long-term have given up on several hills where I have proudly planted my flag.

Yes, I’m going to use “suicide” as a verb. I stand by my use of slurk. I don’t care if it’s archaic or British, I like “dreamt” and “leapt” way better than “dreamed” or “leaped.” Don’t tell me to use “sneaked” instead of the compact and powerful “snuck.”

Yes, I’m going to use metaphorical language. A person’s face can be sere. Someone can feel a susurrus of emotion. Inanimate objects absolutely can appear sad or lonely.

And yes, worldbuilding is one word. So is wordcount. I defy you to stop me.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Writing Zen Zone Flow is My Favorite Part of Being an Author


This week’s topic: favorite part and least favorite part of being an author.

My favorite part of being an author is that when I write I’m in the creative flow. It’s the best feeling as the words pour onto the page – it’s like a runner’s high. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it: “In positive psychology, a flow state, also known colloquially as being in the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”

Yup, that’d be me when the words are flowing really well. I’m not conscious of time passing or the effort involved. I’m just telling the story.

I don't run (bad knees), I can't play music, I'm not a good swimmer, I don't sew or craft any more...and none of those creative activites or 'gifts' ever gave me entry into the zone of the flow. Writing is my gift and I cherish it.

Sometimes an entire book comes to me “in the flow” and almost writes itself. JADRIAN and STAR CRUISE MAROONED were both like that. I woke up in the morning and there the story was in my brain and my only limit was how fast could I type. More often, I’ll get a single scene that’s demanding to be written and so I do, even if it’s out of order for where I am on the overall novel.
Sure there are times when I sit here at the keyboard and the action doesn’t flow, or the characters won’t do what I expected, or there’s some other problem but even then, while I might not be in the zen zone flow, I’m still in a good frame of mind and not conscious of time passing.

I don’t think I have a least favorite part of being an author? Maybe the fact that I always have so many ideas always popping up, and fascinating avenues of research that I could chase down a neverending rabbit hole…but I don’t have time in one lifetime to do all of it. So I have to pick and choose which story to tell and therefore accept that I may never get around to writing the Renegade his novel or the sequel to LADY OF THE STAR WIND or another book in my fantasy romance series…even though I have the bones of perfectly good plots for each. 

Not being independently wealthy, and being a full time writer with bills to pay, I have to prioritize the books and series that are currently finding the most resonance with my readers. And wow am I grateful for the readers! I love my Badari Warriors and have a ton of stories to tell in the series…lots more STAR CRUISE adventures to spin…and at least once a year I try to squeeze in an ancient Egyptian paranormal romance. Which just this week someone said the PNR  novels were “Like eating potato chips. I couldn’t stop at one.” WOOT! Music to my ears.

I'm not crazy about the marketing aspects of being an author - I'm not good with statistics and have no patience for running 1000 Facebook ad variations and analyzing A/B or clicks per second or WHATEVER the statistics may be. But to me, that's a whole other discussion quite apart from the part of being an author writing books. Ads and other marketing issues are the business and not what we're discussing here!

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Writing

The Good

Getting to make stuff up. Getting to play God in my own private sandbox. When people in Real Life (TM) piss me off, I can smile and off them in horrifying ways in fiction. It's legal AND I get paid to do it. Some times, the reviews are even good. The moment a story comes to life - whether it's when the characters grab the reins from me or when, at that moment between waking and falling asleep, lightning strikes and I scramble up to madly scribble down the scene/dialogue/idea. It feels a little like the touch of the Divine. Or madness. Pick your poison.

The Bad
While I don't particularly want to wax idealistic about the whole tortured writer trope, because it's really, really tired, I admit that my process includes pieces of it. I recognize those pieces as an integral part of how books come together for me. While they aren't bad per se, they aren't pleasant places to linger, so we'll file them under 'Bad'. There's The Wall at about the 1/4-1/3 mark, where, despite a nice outline, I have no fucking clue what comes next. Once that's scaled, there's the Self-Doubt Swamp that coincides with what feels like a sagging middle. It consists of me wailing that nothing's happening! But it's a draft, right? So our emo heroine slogs onward through Wow, I Really Hate This Book (2/3 mark) and finally, finally, clears into How the Hell Do I Land This Thing?? at the climax. Then it all turns to good because somehow the story does get brought home and there it is. Shining and new and ready for edits. What? You thought I'd talk about rejection being bad? Nope. Rejection means I finished something and have a product to show for my efforts. That can only be a good thing. Even if everyone wants to tell me it's ugly. It may be ugly, but it exists. So there.

The Ugly
Maybe you saw my post Wednesday on Facebook. Maybe you didn't. It went something like this:
Hypothesis: The closer you are to a book deadline, the higher the likelihood your computer will go TU.
This, my friends, is the ugly part of writing. We're dependent on technology. It isn't that we can't work with pencil and paper - it's just so slow. Apparently, I am a product of my time. I adore my devices. But, Wednesday, my preferred device, my Surface Pro, decided to give up the ghost. It is in the care of professionals at the moment, who called me last night to say they couldn't save the current build and are going to have to reset the machine. <sob>
The Ugly: Potential for massive, morale and mental-health destroying data loss. BACK UP YER SHIT.
Or use cloud storage. I am in luck. Everything I write is saved to a cloud storage solution so I can access the most current file wherever I am on whatever device I happen to be using. You can't avoid the ugly, but you can mitigate the impact. Do that.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Best and Worst Thing About Being A Writer...

Frankly, the best and worst thing about being a writer is how I forget what day of the week it is.  It's lovely that I don't have to KNOW, because it largely doesn't matter.  What day is it?  It's a day I'm writing, that's what day it is.  But also, "Oh, it's Friday night?  It's a weekend?  What does that mean?" Every day I'm working.  I don't know how NOT to.

And, it also means that I forget it's Thursday and that's why I've been missing posts here on occasion.  Sorry, friends.  I've got a lot kittens and chainsaws in the air, and I'm juggling them best I can.  I'll strive to do better.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bad Times / Good Times of Writing

When folks ask me whether I want the good news or bad news first, I choose bad. What can I say, I like a happy ending.

So I'll begin by telling you all the ways writing for a living is so-very meh:

  • It's not really a living. I said I'd spend my first profits off this writing gig by buying a Mac with this fancypants software called Vellum. More than two years on, and I'm still saving up. True you can read loads of financial success stories from writers who've hit it big, but I find their tales a little disingenuous. You can work your hiney off and have skills and talent, but if the timing isn't right or you don't get the right marketing incursion or the market isn't quite ready for your story, you're not going to make money. And worst of all, most of those market variables are not in your control. About all you can do is keep working, keep writing books, keep learning craft, keep sharing your work, and hope a timing fairy deigns to sit on your head and make the magic happen.
  • It's lonely most of the time. I mean, yeah you can hang out with other writers online or join a local writing group and meet up at the coffee shop every Wednesday or whatever, but the day-in, day-out work is going to be just you and a computer. Possibly with coffee or vodka, but neither of those beverages are very good conversationalists. The silver lining on this meh is that if you love solitude, this is the perfect career choice for you. I happen to love solitude, so I'm in my happy place.
  • It's unstable. Even if you have an agent, this market is a wild beast at full gallop. Good luck attempting to do that market research everybody talks about. It's not predictive of anything. People who analyse markets for a living are scratching their heads right now, which is pretty obvious in some of the choices big publishers are making, or not making. I guess you can turn this into a positive if you really squint hard: if nobody really knows what's going on, your chance at success is roughly equal to anyone else's. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Ugh, enough negativity, though. I'm ready for some good news, how about you? If you've decided that the writing life is for you, here are some upsides to this crazy career:

  • You can work in your pajamas. 
  • You can make stuff up. Like, for a living. It's like being professionally seven years old.
  • Every once in a while, someone might tell you that your work helped them through a rough time. This is literally the best thing that can happen in your whole life, so hoard that treasure every time you get a peek at it. 
  • You can make people laugh. You can make people cry. And you don't even have to be in the same room as them. Which of course is an introvert's dream.

There, now I at least feel better. I guess it all boils down to you, what you're comfortable with. You don't have to quit your day job and stop buying Starbucks daily and suffer to be a writer. You just have to know what you're getting into, make whatever adjustments you can handle making, and ease in. In other words, you don't have to go all in, all the time, fifty books a year and hardcore advertising. You can approach this career however you need to for your personal comfort and build it around your life, rather than the other way around.

Mostly, be kind to you. You deserve the happy ending.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

5 Awesome & Less Awesome Things About Being an Author

Dog at Work: The Reproachful Look
What do I love about being an author? So many things. A lot of them similar to what Jeffe and James have said.

Awesome Things About Being an Author

1. I make stuff up...and strangers actually read it! By choice! That never stops being amazing.

2. Flexibility: Where, when, how, and with whom the work gets done.

3. Every day is "bring your dog to work" day.

4. Talking to myself aloud doesn't result in the cops being called out on a 5150.

5.  Sometimes my work resonates with a reader and influences the way they perceive/interact with their very real world. Sometimes they even tell me about it. Most awesome part ever, always.

Less Awesome Things About Being an Author?

1. Unpredictability...the hours. Anyone self-employed knows there's no such thing as "regular hours," "vacation days," or "calling in sick. It takes as long as it takes, and some days productivity just.isn't.happening.

2. Unpredictability...successes and failures. There's no formula, no process that if followed will guarantee commercial and critical success. One success doesn't lead to another. One failure can follow you for years.

3. long it takes to write a book. It's never the same from book to book. 45 days. 18 months. 4 years. Yes to all. Some stories insist on fighting me. Some can't wait to be told.

4. finances. No such thing as a "regular paycheck." No certainty about how much a book will earn in what amount of time. No certainty that April is going to be better than June. No warning when the "famine" season will start or how long it'll last.

5. self-discipline. Being self-employed and one's own boss demands a lot of personal discipline. There's a time for nose-to-the-grindstone and a time for cutting loose. Yet, despite how virtuous I plan on being for a set time, my willpower isn't all it ought to be. Work avoidance is a thing and not one of which I am proud. Alas. There's no one to blame but me, me, me. Piffle.

All that said, there's no other job I'd rather have than being a professional story weaver, imagination feeder, and full-time author.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The best of times, the worst of times

I love writing for a living I do. I mean that. It's an endless source of entertainment for me.

I get to play make believe every day!

I get paid to daydream (So long as I guide said daydreams the right way and write them down.

I have made amazing friends who also get paid to daydream.

I often get free books for my efforts and I will NEVER not love free books.

Of course, there's a downside to everything.

I have deadlines. I love telling stories but sometimes the deadlines are like a pressure cooker, doubly so because I'm just not as fast as I used to be, no matter how many times I tell myself that I am.

I find I have to say "No" a lot. There are writers who ask me for favors and as much as I want to read their manuscripts and offer advice, I often do not have the time, no matter how useful I want to be.

The pay isn't always great. I mean, I cover the bills (mostly) but my savings account is non-existent and I still need a job at Starbucks to cover insurance and the like.

Would I trade for another job? heck no!  I love this stuff. Now if Hollywood would just come along and buy the rights to the SEVEN FORGES series....

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Why Being an Author Is the Best Job I've Ever Had

This little cactus is growing - and blooming away! - beneath the shelter of this much larger paddle cactus. I think of this, not as hiding its light under a bushel, but welcoming the sheltering strength of a friend. Go, little cactus, go!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our favorite part and least favorite part of being an author.

I'm having a hard time picking my favorite part. Really, being an author is an amazing job. Easily the most fun, most rewarding job I've ever had. (And I've had a few, including two previous substantial career paths.) How do I love it? Let me count the ways!

  1. I get to create for a living. Spending my days weaving stories the way I want them to be is unlike anything else. The only conference calls I have are with people talking about my favorite subject: me and my work. I don't have to attend meetings or work with other people unless I choose to.  
  2. I am a source that creates money for other people. By writing my books and stories, I generate income that then generates money for others. From my assistant, to editors, to cover designers, to my website designer, even to retailers like Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo - they all have income because of what I create. That's powerful stuff.
  3. I get to make my favorite authors be my friends. This is really the best perk, that I can stalk reach out to people who write books I love and they become my friends. My twelve-year-old self still has little fan girl meltdowns over it.
  4. I'm creating a source of long term income. The super cool thing about writing books is the money they generate continues to come in, for the most part quite regularly, forever. Especially now that "out of print" is no longer an issue. My books will continue to generate income for my heirs. My first published novella, which has been out for over ten years, still bring in about $100/month. Not a fortune, sure, but it all adds up.
  5. I'm creating something that will outlive me. Long after I'm gone, my books will still exist. Will I care? Well, no, but while I live I feel good about giving something lasting to the world.
What is my least favorite part then? An easy answer there: the fluctuating income. I self-insure, have no employer-bestowed benefits, no guaranteed check every month. It makes budgeting impossible, not knowing how much money will come in at any given time. Ideally, I'd make enough - hit the literary jackpot as some do - and have a big financial cushion. If I could budget a year in advance, that would be amazing. Otherwise I'm at the mercy of a fluctuating marketplace. 

Small price to pay, however, for the awesomeness of the job!

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Social Media - Cat Photos Required

Jake the Cat 

Topic this week: Author behavior tips for social media.

Rather than offer a list of tips, I’m going to explain my own approach to social media because as with anything else about being an author, no one way works for every single person.

The primary directive I keep firmly in mind is why I’m on social media in the first place. It’s because Veronica Scott is an author, who wants to connect with other authors and readers and enjoy conversation with these and other interesting people. I didn’t start up my various social media accounts for a personal reason like staying in touch with my high school graduating class (although I do). I did not and do not share much in the way of personal details and photos and etc., of my life online. Pictures of Jake the Cat are okay. No, they're mandatory!

I don’t discuss my politics or any of the other subjects my Mother always said to avoid when in company. I have strong opinions and I will voice them to you if you’re here in my personal everyday life.  I vote, I donate, I take action, I’m involved, but not on social media because – going back to point one – that’s not what brought me to twitter or Facebook.

I keep firmly in my head the fact once an item is put out on the internet, it NEVER goes away.

I do my best to remember that humor and sarcasm may not  transmit very well in a text, tweet or post, and to be careful when tempted to quickly send a flippant response (or a heated one).

I try to stay out of the many mini, micro and macro dramas of the author world.

If it’s something I have to discuss or take action in regards to, I do it offline.

I keep firmly in mind that in a large group of thousands of people on Facebook, one truly never knows who is a member, who is a friend of who else, or an enemy of who else, who might be grabbing screen shots and sharing them – nothing is private, nothing can truly be held confidential on a social media platform. Even a private group is never truly private.

I keep in mind that there’s no way to go behind the screen and make sure everyone is actually who or what they claim to be. I accept people at face value BUT I maintain an awareness of how easy it is to put up a fake identity. Bots and scammers are everywhere, sadly.

I’m not the “mother of the internet” so it’s not my job to point out the error of their ways to folks who aren’t going to listen to me anyway because I don’t believe you can change a person’s mind by arguing with them on social media. If someone asks for an opinion (and seems as if they’re truly open to feedback, on a blurb or a cover for example, not just fishing for compliments) and I have something to add to the discussion, I may weigh in or I may not.

I also don’t overshare (I hope) about my books. I regard myself as a content curator and I like to tweet and share interesting tidbits and articles about writing, science fiction, science, movies, art, TV, books, travel, animals, military and veterans’ concerns, space travel, blingy earrings, cats – a wide range of things I’m fascinated by. I do a certain amount of retweeting book news from my author friends. I like to be supportive to others and I really appreciate their help.

I interact with readers about my books and other scifi romance or fantasy books and that’s fun. I always stay on the positive side though.

I do talk about my writing and my new releases and share snippets (usually on the weekly hashtags like #Bookqw or #SciFiFri) but it’s not my only reason for being at the social media party. I enjoy conversation with my friends in the social media world. I really loved the Sunday afternoon #rwchat on twitter (which sadly disbanded earlier this year) because it was a good chance to ‘talk’ with other writers and share experiences and suggestions.

I’ve tried new platforms on occasion but pretty much I’ve settled on twitter as my favorite, FB a close second and Instagram as one I’m working on utilizing more. I’m most comfortable on those three for now.

Social media helps me keep up on breaking news and trending topics...

In previous weeks we’ve discussed how easy it is to spend too much time online so I try to remember that as well but some days I’m just having too much fun, or I’m too appalled to walk away or I just feel like ‘faffing’ (a useful word my author friends in Australia taught me), so I stay.

So that’s me, doing what I do. Hope to see you online!


Friday, June 7, 2019

Ms. Socially Awkward's Tips for Social Media

Ms. Socially Awkward's Tips for Engaging on Social Media

1. Use your indoor voice. Ms. Socially Awkward assumes you were not reared in a barn, but if you were, welcome to the Socially Awkward club, my dear. No yelling on social media. No cursing unless it is for specific, and preferably, fucking humorous effect.
2. Opinions are like assholes. We all have them. Be very, very careful about which one you're exposing. To whit, Ms. Socially Awkward cannot help noticing that occasional bruhahas mar the fabric of social media, usually in the form of some accusation or another. Never in the limited time Ms. Socially Awkward has spectated such events has all of the information, much less *accurate* information emerged with the first several (thousand) tweets or posts. There are benefits to doubts about what one speaks into a vast, public echo chamber.
3. Your grandmother was quite correct. You do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, though why you want to catch flies at all is -- well -- it is quite frankly none of Ms. Socially Awkward's business, I'm sure. Was there a point here? Ah. Yes. Spread the honey of kindness liberally. You still have the vinegar of blocking someone held in reserve should it be necessary.
4. Take frequent breaks. We are soft and squishy creatures, fragile and prone to breakage, some of us more so than others. If you begin to think of social media as a friend, you're breaking. It is a tool that allows you to connect to friends and possibly to readers. Social media cannot change the weather. It cannot undo disaster. It can, however, allow friends and family to notify one another of their statuses during crises and for that it is to be commended and valued.
5. Remember the golden rule of social media - it is for enjoying your fellow human beings. And maybe a few animal videos here and there. Enter into it in that spirit and pace yourself well. Do this and perhaps you'll find enjoyment.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Too-real tips for author social media behavior

I have to be honest with you, I don't use social media properly. I don't grow my followers or time my posts or even know what SEO means. (Sorry. I just looked it up. Search engine optimization. Who knew?! I mean, besides every other human on the planet.) So I'm probably the last person to give advice on how authors ought to behave on social media. I'm mostly a you-do-you sort of gal. But I do know a lot about how to, as K.A. Krantz so perfectly put it in her post, not be a dick. Some tips:

1. Don't follow someone on Twitter, wait for them to follow you back, and then immediately DM them with buy links and newsletter signups. See, when you followed them, they thought you cared about what they had to say. For a moment they were really excited to meet you! When you revealed that, no, you really only wanted to sell them something, that was an insult. And it hurt.

2. Don't follow someone, wait for them to follow you back, and then immediately unfollow them. You are literally telling them they're only a number on your follower-count ambitionfest.

3. Don't post a whole lot about a super secret project that exactly ten of your besties know all about--and refer to, and giggle and swoon over--while all the rest of us have no idea what you're talking about. This gigglefest doesn't make me want to know more about your secret. It only makes me feel left out.

4. Don't post something provocative, wait for someone to be provoked or push back even a little, and then drill that person into the ground. Especially don't get all your friends to chime in on how awful that person is because they didn't agree with you. 

5. Don't imagine that you are the only or the best or the most knowledgeable, and for dog's sake don't condescend or patronize. Especially don't assume that strangers you meet on social media are always less informed than you are. Most of the people out there have brains and something to say. Maybe listen to them sometimes. 

6. Don't lie, but don't be a hundred percent honest. See, the thing about social media is that it isn't real life. No one in anonymous social media land cares that you hurt, that you're scared, that everything is moving too fast and you can't keep up. The good folks out there will be uncomfortable if you admit vulnerability, the excellent folks will private message you (maybe), and the assholes will kick you while you're down. Assholes kick hard. Don't open yourself up for that. Text a friend instead. If you don't have one you can trust, DM me. I may not have all the answers, but I promise not to kick.

7. Don't mock. I mean, just don't. Mockery on social media isn't as funny as you think it is, and it's exactly why we can't have nice things.

8. Don't rile up your mob unless you literally have all the facts about a thing. 

9. Don't pretend you've never made a mistake. If you said something doofussy, own it and work to do better.

10. Don't shit on someone else's cupcake. This guy I know used to have a tee-shirt that said "Your Favorite Band Sucks," and that's kind of the tone of social media sometimes. If you hate a Star Wars movie or a rom-com or a news story, it's okay to give your take. It's not okay to troll around looking for someone who actually likes or supports that thing and then proceed to inform them that their opinion is not as valid as yours. 

Oh man, I could go on. And on. Social media is a mess, and I both loathe it and love it with all my heart. It has connected me with the people I love most in this universe, and it's also introduced me to some really awful humans. Maybe the best advice is what Mama used to say about medicine: don't take it on an empty stomach and don't expect it to taste good, but it might help you feel better some.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

#1 Social Media Tip for Authors

As Jeffe mentioned on Sunday, social media isn't that new anymore. Sure, which service is the "trendy" one changes regularly as teens seek ways to communicate without being followed/stalked/annoyed by us fusty old people. Authors trying to "be where their audience is" keeps our ilk to the bigger providers like Facebook and Twitter (Reddit and Instagram are up there too).

As a curmudgeon who survived Usenet, People Connection, MySpace, and Yahoo Groups (and who is waiting for the current generation of online communities to implode like their predecessors) I have one piece of advice for authors engaging publicly--be it on social media or IRL:

Don't be a dick. 

It's a simple thing, but seemingly hard for a lot of folks to grok. Don't worry, not being a dick doesn't equate to being a doormat. You can be firm in your convictions without making shit personal. It's also okay to ignore the misanthropes. Some comments shouldn't be acknowledged, much like some people aren't worth your time. Some of the worst offenders aren't even people, they're bots.

On the internet where things never die, take the high road and don't be a dick.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Talk Less. Listen More.

Found art. Literally. I was looking at my camera uploads to choose a pic for today's post and found this. No idea what it is or how it happened, but what a gorgeous mistake. Art can be like that.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Author behavior tips for social media.

My first reaction was to mentally groan. Not again. But I suppose it is an evergreen topic. The challenge is to tackle a topic like this as if it's my first time addressing it.

There's a #protip for you author types out there - or for anyone who answers questions from people on a regular basis. You will hear the same questions over and over and over. The trick to being a gracious human being is to never hint that you've heard the question before, but to answer it as if it's as fresh to you as it is to the person asking it.

Of course, I've already blown past my own advice, but we could argue that I'm not truly a gracious human being.

It's amazing to realize that we are firmly a decade into social media for most of us. Maybe the most startling part to me is that it's ONLY been a decade plus a few years, considering how firmly it's taken over the world and our lives. Facebook opened to anyone over the age of thirteen in 2006. I joined in October of 2008. I joined Twitter in September of 2009. I recall using email - called A1 mail - sometime around 1989, which is when our university department adopted Gateway desktop computers, delivered in those iconic heifer-spotted black and white boxes. I tried online shopping for the first time sometime around 1993, and got spammed with internet porn for the first time when I tried to use Hotspot to search for Barenaked Ladies tickets.

Good times.

So, is the question really still about author behavior? I mean, we might as well have a topic about author behavior in ice-cream parlors or at car dealerships. We're all pretty much in this boat together at this point.

My advice, which works for ice-cream parlors and all internet spaces, maybe less so at car dealerships is: Talk Less. Listen More.

The thing about social media, especially for busy people, is it becomes a place to post stuff. Most authors remain on the social media platforms they no longer enjoy entirely because they feel like it's a part of their job. We have our Facebook profile and author pages, maybe a series page, some reader groups, and private groups. There's Twitter - sometimes several accounts there - Goodreads, Instagram, our websites, personal blogs, group blogs (*waves*), and probably several others. I have a mental list - I really should have a written checklist, but I'm resisting that - of places I should remember to post news, updates, and the latest book cover.

Post. Post. Post. Post. Post. Post. Post. Post. Post. Post. Post. Post.

There. I posted to all of my social media properties. Whew!

And I just did the internet equivalent of racing around and slapping up a flyer on every bulletin board around, whether I could find a spot or not.

Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk.
Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk.
Talk. Talk. Talk. Talk. 
Talk. Talk. Talk.
Talk. Talk. 

Ever feel like the internet is just an unending roar of babbling voices? I sure do.

We change that by listening. By engaging. By asking questions, considering the reply, and giving back something to encourage the conversation.

Talk Less. Listen More. 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

7 Things to Avoid When Trying to Meet a Writing Deadline


The topic for the week: Seven Deadly Sins: the list of things you MUST avoid if you want to finish a project on time…

My fellow SFF7 authors have written a series of fun and useful and deeply felt posts on the subject this week!

I don’t really have deadlines for my novels, since I’m independently published. I have exactly one hard and fast deadline each year for getting a polished, edited, complete story turned in and that’s August 1, for our Pets In Space anthology. Otherwise it’s really just about me having a desire to release a new book in a certain month and trying to work steadily toward that self-imposed goal.

The common folk wisdom for assignments of this type is to list the things that come to mind first so here’s what I’ve got for you:
DepositPhoto - cats on the keyboard can also be a problem
Too much time on social media – it’s so easy to get sucked into the latest drama on Facebook or twitter or wherever you like to hang out. Or to enjoy cat memes …. The time flies….

Comparing yourself to other authors – don’t get paralyzed to even touch the keyboard because you know you can’t write 10,000 words a day like Name Author XYZ says she does, so what’s the point in you struggling??? Umm, the point is, you’re YOU and you write at your speed and even one word a day adds up to a novel at some point.

Worrying whether you’re writing the book at the right time – who the heck knows what will be hot by the time you hit publish (or your publisher does if you go traditional or hybrid). And maybe you’ll be the new trendsetter the rest of us ooh and ahh over! So keep writing.

Chasing the shinier object – unless you know for sure your successful process is to work on many projects at once (and some people do), avoid the temptation to abandon your WIP to go off and start another WIP on some bright new idea that just came to you in the shower or on the drive home. Now obviously there are times when plot lightning STRIKES you and the new idea genuinely is what you need to be writing. In those cases, trust yourself and your Muse and scribble those words as fast as you can because this will be gold. This suggestion does conflict with the part of our topic today that frets over finishing a project “on time”. But in general, keep a notebook or file of the new shiny plot ideas for later and keep going with the current WIP.

Losing your file – BACK IT UP. I learned this the hard way a long time ago when I lost an entire, completed 100K novel. Luckily at the time I was on a huge software project at the day job with some of the best software guys in the business and one of them took pity on me and recovered the file in about 5 minutes from some dusty buggy back alley on the personal computer I had then. The formatting was messed up but I could fix that…

Losing yourself in the research – I adore doing research. I have an entire library of scholarly tomes on ancient Egypt and I can happily spend a lot of time researching abstruse topics like tax liabilities of the temple of Amun in Thebes in 1500 BCE. But I’m only going to insert about one sentence of all the great cool stuff I found along the way into the novel…so you have to make your research forays self-limiting.  Google is your frenemy in this regard, helping you find information but dangling other enticing avenues to also explore. Find the answer or the detail you need and hasten back to the WIP.

Failing to safeguard your health – human beings tend to have confidence they can power through anything. Beware of ergonomic repetitive stress injuries, as well as other emotional burnout hazards lurking. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST.

A word about negotiation...

I spent a long time at the day job involved with massive government subcontracts for flight hardware. (Think Mars rovers and other complicated spacecraft.) Yes, there were absolute launch windows that had to be met – the planet Mars would only be in the right place every two years for a brief span of days – but these gigantic Project schedules had slack time built into them because stuff happens.

And at the worst? A launch might need to be delayed two years. Or longer.  Which is pretty bad. But no one dies. We were not living in the movie “The Martian” with an astronaut stranded on Mars growing potatoes. Neither are you.

The part that’s relevant here is we expected our suppliers and partners to keep us apprised of emerging difficulties and challenges well in advance and there were contingency plans on our end of the project.

Even if you have a contract with a publisher and an iron clad delivery date in writing, stuff happens in the life of a human being. Tell your publisher if you’re struggling or if you’ve got family issues or health issues or whatever. (Work with your agent if you have one.) Negotiate a new due date.  

Don’t wait till the due date to do this.

Not to downgrade the importance and significance of the publication of your book but the world will not end if it doesn’t go out on a certain date. No one dies.

I understand disappointment and frustration will ensue and there may be problems for you going forward, in terms of your relationship with the publisher and their trust level with you if the situation happens more than once.

Worst case? Maybe the publisher does cancel the contract entirely, although as a negotiator, I’d be amazed if they wouldn’t work with you at least somewhat before taking that drastic step. In this day and age, you can always self-publish when the book is ready.

But if you owe someone a book for whatever reason and are going to miss that due date, and there’s a serious issue for you in meeting the due date, open communications and negotiate.

But take care of yourself.

Tiny pitch for my newly released novella, Badari Warrior’s Baby!

The blurb:
Dr. Megan Garrison, mate to the Badari Warrior pack’s senior enforcer Mateer, is perilously close to the due date of their baby when she’s kidnapped by human malcontents in Sanctuary Valley. The kidnappers threaten to harm her and intend to ransom the half human-half Badari child to the evil Khagrish scientists in return for their own lives.
Mateer and his fellow Badari launch a desperate effort to save his mate and child but the situation is made more complicated as Megan goes into labor. Can they rescue her in time to save mother and child?

A 25K word novella…

Genetically engineered soldiers of the far future, the Badari were created by alien enemies to fight humans. But then the scientists kidnapped an entire human colony from the Sectors to use as subjects in twisted experiments…the Badari and the humans made common cause, rebelled and escaped the labs. Now they live side by side in a sanctuary valley protected by a powerful Artificial Intelligence, and wage unceasing war on the aliens.

This is the ninth book in the Badari Warriors world (and the eighth book in the numbered series) and each novel has a satisfying Happy for Now ending for the hero and heroine, not a cliffhanger. Some overarching issues do remain unresolved in each book since this is an ongoing series but romance always wins the day in my novels!


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