Monday, January 18, 2021

Guide to discovering New To You Authors

Um, yeah.

Find an author you have not read before. Read them. Read a lot o new authors. It's how we grow as readers and growth as a reader helps us grow s writers. Also, read outside of your genre.  a lot. 

Really, that's all I've got. 

Okay, back to writing. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A Guide to Discovering New-To-You Authors

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is Discovering New-To-You Authors: Where would you direct someone wanting to read more from emerging authors in your subgenre?

I'm going to cheat a bit today and point you to an article I wrote for the SFWA Blog: A Guide for Authors on Recommending Books. I'm not cheating for my usual reasons - too busy, running behind, general laziness - but because I really like this article and I think it's useful for this topic. 

Despite the title, it's useful for readers, too!

That's because we can all make an effort to diversify our reading, and this article talks about ways to do that - including resources for finding new-to-us authors who aren't from the usual walks. 

Go forth and find cool new stuff!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Leveling Goals

 Goal: Leveling up. How to get there? For me, writing classes. It's not enough to just want more words - that state is eternal. You can always assume I'm looking for a way to make stories happen faster and more efficiently. Over and above that, though, I'm interested in taking skills up a notch. I want to look at words differently. I want to think not just about what makes a story, but what makes a tale compelling. How do I get more emotion from characters into readers - if words are my only tools - I need to experiment with how they evoke a response in someone who isn't me. 

It's that old acting chestnut of Sir Lawrence Olivier supposedly saying, "It isn't my job to feel anything. It's my job to make the audience feel everything."

I'd started writing on the theory that if what I wrote made me feel something, then surely reads must, too. T'ain't necessarily so. Without getting into the showing versus telling diatribe, let's just say there are multiple ways to approach reaching out to touch a reader via nothing more than flat words printed on a page. 

That's my current work on leveling up. Concentrating on skills. While spurring for more words faster than they are currently being produced.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Career Goal: MOAR WORDS

One aspect of my publishing career that I want to improve this year? An aspect over which I have control? 

Finish writing three books.

Longtime readers of this blog know I'm not a fast writer. This year, I'll release books 6 & 7 in my UF Immortal Spy series, wrapping up the story of Bix and the Berserkers. Then, I have to decide: do I return to my HF Blood Born series and spend the next four years completing that series, or do I write the first book in a new HF trilogy and try to sell it (and the series) to the Big Houses? My HF books are twice as long as my UF books, 175k vs 85k, which means finishing that third book this year is a stretch goal that'll require me to spend less time fighting with a blank page. Can I do it? I have no idea, but I'd sure like to improve my record of days with net-positive word counts.

After all, getting the movie in my mind to show up as words on a page is HARD.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Career Leveling Up: What Jeffe Is Doing

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Room for Growth." We're discussing one aspect of our writing or publishing careers - that we can control! - that we'd like to improve this year.

This topic is apropos for me right now because I'm in the midst of a push to boost (wedge, shove, or squeeze) my career to a new level. I should caveat that I know I'm doing relatively well. I'm grateful for the success I've realized in my writing career and I never want to lose sight of the fact that many excellent and deserving authors haven't seen the same success. 

But I've reached a real sticking point.

For those who don't know, my husband has early onset Parkinson's Disease. He's over ten years into diagnosis, so while his progression has thankfully been quite slow, he's reached the point where he really can't hold down a job. That leaves supporting our household up to me and my books. I'm stubbornly resisting getting a day job again, so this year will really be the make or break on whether I can make enough money to pay the bills and have a cushion for the future.

So, what have I been doing?

Since I can't bottle lightning - which, I admit, I've kind of been hoping to do as getting a book or series that takes off into the stratosphere would be super nice - I've been learning to *shudder* market and advertise.

I attended Romance Author Mastermind in December. Something I'd been leery of before for many reasons. My bestie and sister author Grace Draven talked me into it and I'm so glad she did! I learned so much from it! Mostly I came to the realization that it would behoove me to treat my business like an actual business. 

The other thing that happened is I completed my contract with St. Martin's Press (all but for page proofs on book 3) and they passed on my option book, which is one I've mentioned, DARK WIZARD. They passed on it - even though my editor loved it and the house loves me - because they feel like they can't move fantasy romance in the print numbers that they'd like to. (They don't care about ebook sales. They want what they can sell at Walmart, which is Cowboy Romance and sweet contemporaries these days - so a tidbit for those of you who write that!) 

Once I got over the initial sad, because I loved working with St. Martin's, I took this as a Sign. While my writing income had been pretty close to 50/50 between Indie and Trad for the last few years, in 2020 that changed to 65% Indie - and my Trad income was only 75% of what it was in 2019. That's not a good trend. At Romance Author Mastermind there were many former Trad authors who been where I am and said they'd made their money switching to Indie. Yes, I've heard this before, too. These people showed the numbers. 

I decided that, instead of taking DARK WIZARD on submission to other Trad houses on submission, I'd self publish it. So, DARK WIZARD, book one in my new series, Bonds of Magic, will come out on February 25, 2021. (I loved writing this freaking book so much that I'd already written the whole thing!) 

(If you want a sneak peek of the cover of DARK WIZARD and what it's about, it will be in my newsletter going out Monday. Sign up here.)

Then, because I'd already planned a new series, Heirs of Magic (unrelated, I didn't realize the series title echoes until too late, ah well), with book one THE GOLDEN GRYPHON AND THE BEAR PRINCE releasing on January 25, 2021. You can preorder it here, or here are some handy buttons.

That means in 2021, I'll be taking advantage of the fact that I'm a relatively prolific writer - not writing anything for Trad - and releasing two Indie series. My release schedule will look like this. 

The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince (Heirs of Magic 1) 1/25/2021
Dark Wizard (Bonds of Magic 1)                                                 2/25/2021
The Sorceress Queen and the Pirate Rogue (Heirs of Magic 2) 4/19/2021
The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires 3)                                  5/25/2021
Bright Familiar (Bonds of Magic 2)                                         6/26/2021
The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon (Heirs of Magic 0.5) 7/15/2021
The Dragon's Daughter and the Winter Mage (Heirs of Magic 3) 8/25/2021
Bonds of Magic 3 (Bonds of Magic 3)                                     11/1/2021
The Storm Princess and the Raven King (Heirs of Magic 4)         12/31/2021

Of those, three are already written, so it's not as intense as it looks. Also, because I track my productivity so intensely (something I always recommend all writers do, so we know exactly what we can and can't do), this is a doable writing schedule for me. (Hopefully. I'm pretty sure I can do this, but light a candle for me.)

I'm also doing things like reading books on marketing and advertising! I very much recommend David Gaughran's AMAZON DECODED: A MARKETING GUIDE TO THE KINDLE STORE. It's easy to digest and full of excellent, practical advice, absent the ickier kinds of self-publishing shouting. I bought the Publisher Rocket app and have been taking the online classes on maximizing keywords. 

I'm going all in, people. Wish me luck! (And buy my books :D) 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Exercise Envy


Sitting. Not ideal. You've seen the data earlier this week. But you know, when all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail. All I have are sitting desks. So far. I lust after a treadmill desk like Jeffe has. With four adults and too many cats in the house, that ain't happenin' any time soon. Space concerns and all.

Still. In the middle of the raging hellhole that was 2020 (and that 2021 is still flirting with, the hussy) doing something - anything - to look after our health made my family feel a little more in control. Working out at home became THE thing.

Yes. Yoga. Weightlifting - we have free weights and a bench and training in the Weider method. We take 2-3 mile walks (with masks - this is Florida and well - the FL man memes, they do not lie). The dh and I bike. 

These are lovely. They boost mental and physical health. But they're time delimited. There are only so many hours in a day and only an hour a day I can devote to motion for motion's sake. Yet our brains evolved in very different circumstances - when motion WAS the day. Our brains were designed to operate at peak efficiency while we walk. Stroll, really. Take a look at the book The Brain Rules

Read this and see if you don't join me in lusting after a treadmill desk like Jeffe's. 

The spoiler is this: Our brains were designed for us to walk up to twelve miles per day. It keeps our brains oxygenated, boosts connections, etc, etc, it's really good for you, so there. 

All I know is that if I stop moving, I start hurting. Maybe I'll start saving for that treadmill desk.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

You Can't Stay Sedentary With A Husky At Your Side

Ullr the husky pup stretched out on his back on the floor, his blue and white rope bone resting beside him as he snoozes.
(Ullr the husky pup)

This is a Siberian husky. This sled dog is in a rare form….tired. And the only way to tire out a husky is to hike/mush/run/skijor them ‘till their energy drops to a manageable level. 

That’s it. My annoyingly, adorable pup is the one tool I have to battle the sedentary job of being an author. I’d love to have a walking treadmill like Jeffe’s to write at. But like she mentions in her post, it’s a monetary commitment. Though I also agree that prevention is the way to go, so I’ll keep it on my to-be-purchased list. 

The more practical, maybe feasible is a better word, option would be a standing desk. For me, being able to stay in the scene and not be pulled out by distractions is huge. If I had the ability to stand I could do squats or stretches without having to step away from my keys. But I’ve never worked with one before.

Anyone out there use a standing desk? And do you actually use it? 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Couch potato? I prefer couch crumpet.

Yes, I'm a writer. Yes, I live a fairly sedentary life. Yes, I dislike exercise for the purpose of exercise. Yes, the width of my behind bears testimony to these facts. But also? I see a therapist and work pretty damn hard to become better at taking care of myself and valuing my own health -- physical as well as mental. 

I'm also a really healthy person, physically. I eat good stuff, limit my carbs, do my mammograms, and get a check-up every year. So although, yes, I could use more exercise and do have some soft-priority plans to up my going-for-a-walk game, the priority here, for me, is not becoming a gym rat. 

Writing is what eases my brain, makes me happy, soothes my insomnia, battles my depression, and enables me to be a better mother, wife, daughter, and human in general. So if the choice is between an hour on the elliptical and an hour writing, and that's all the free time I have, I will always choose the keyboard. I have to.

You can call me a couch potato if you want. You can fat shame me if you must. I don't really care. This is a choice I have to make, for myself and those I love.  

Be good to you, people.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Before The Cushion Molds to My Butt...

Apparently, sitting too much is horrible for your health. According to the Mayo Clinic,

"...those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking."

Well, that's craptastic. To battle the numerous bad things that will happen from molding your seat cushion to your butt, health professionals recommend:

  1. Getting up and moving every 30 mins.
  2. Standing instead of sitting. 
  3. Using a Treadmill desk. (Be like Jeffe!)
I, uh, no. If I have to stop what I'm doing every 30mins, then I'm not existing in my fictitious alternate world and writing the damn book. I'm eyeballing a timer that's keeping me grounded in reality. The health sages say too much sitting leads to back pain. For me, it's too much standing. Also, I'm one of those who can't stand still. Seems like a treadmill desk would be the perfect solution! Alas, no. I cannot walk and chew gum. I'm not that graceful.

Am I doomed to die at a ripe old middle age from a brain aneurism? I...I hope not. I do have a secret weapon in the fight against total sloth. 

My Dog Pi in the Snow
My dog Pi. 

Trained to fetch me every two hours from the time we awaken, Pi ensures I get up and take her outside for 10-15mins per pesting. Every day. Every kind of weather. Healthy or sickly, we go. While I won't win any fitness awards, and yes, the crepuscular creatures are less than amused by our appearances, I haven't completely become one with my couch. There are still two more cushions that need molding. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Kicking That Sitting Habit

Happy 2021 everyone!! 

First things first: If you haven't yet read Book One in my Forgotten Empires trilogy, THE ORCHID THRONE ebook is on sale for only $2.99 all month. This is a great opportunity to start the series, as Book Three, THE PROMISED QUEEN, comes out in May!

We're kicking off a new year here at the SFF Seven and we're talking writer fitness. If sitting is the new smoking, what are the perils of a sedentary art and how do you counteract it?

That means it's time for my regular evangelistic sermon on the many virtues of my walking desk!! 

Yes, I have one - a hydraulically height-adjustable desk with a treadmill beneath - and have had for eight years now. Wow. Amazing even to me! You can read about my grand opening (with pics) here, from February 2013. I also have a post from one-year later here - which includes video of my cat Jackson walking on the belt! 

Do I love my walking desk? 

Yes, yes I do!

In 2020, I walked over 2,000 miles on the thing. On working days (5 days/week) I walk 6-10 miles, depending on the day. I absolutely walk while I write, and I believe the trance-induction of walking helps me enter that ideal state of concentrated creative flow. 

CW: weight loss.

While I'm relatively slender, I'm also someone who struggles with weight gain. I'm post-menopausal and my daddy's side of the family tends toward obesity and type II diabetes. I also really love wine. Prior to 2013, I was facing steady, incremental weight gain and increasing blood pressure. Between writing and my then day job, I sat all day long/

Eight years later, my blood pressure is down, I'm holding the body fat and weight reasonably steady, and it's gotten so I'm restless if I sit for too long. This is why I'm a total evangelist for the walking desk. It's seriously the BEST investment in my health that I've ever made. It's become especially pointed for me in the last year, because I have two writer friends who developed blood clots in their legs from sitting too much, both of which turned septic and required expensive surgeries and months of recovery to correct.

So, I know it's a major financial investment. I have a Geek Desk Standing Adjustable Desk and a LifeSpan Under-Desk Treadmill. I know it's not cheap. BELIEVE ME - eight years later I'm on my fourth treadmill and I KNOW it's not cheap! But, I am also a firm believer in paying for prevention. I'd rather invest in my pricey set-up than pay hundreds of thousands in surgery or medications.