Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The In-Between

I just recently turned in a manuscript to my agent for what I hope is her approval, and then for what I hope is soon to be a submission. I have a few ideas on the side that I could tinker around with, but I kind so stink at the in-between.

You know, that time period when you've completed one project, but may still need to tweak it, so you're not sure if you should start a new project or just "enjoy" the downtime. I say "enjoy" because I never really do enjoy it. I'm always waffling back and forth, trying to decide what would be best to do with my time. I usually read a few books, first. That part I actually do enjoy, but after that,  after I get that urge to write again, I often end up talking myself out of it.


Well, mostly because I'm sure that the moment I really get into the new project I'm going to receive the old one back from my agent and then I'll have to drop it and somehow get myself back into my old character's heads again. That's not always easy for me. Or, at least, I tell myself it won't be. See what I mean about talking myself out of it?

So, tonight, that's where I find myself. I (not so) patiently wait for feedback, and I know at some point I'll give in and begin the writing process on the new idea. I always do, and yes, once I do begin, it's almost like clockwork that I'll hear back about the old one. Such is life. :-)

What do you do in the "in-between?"

      photo bccb4dac-09ff-4edb-810b-0be0f8b11e82_zps9302c42b.jpg   

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's March 4th, Have You Purchased This Book Yet?

I'm supposed to be posting an interview this month (all of us Tangled girls agreed), but I did my interview last month (scope it out here if you missed it) and think that you guys deserve to know that the book-baby is born.

(Isn't that a beautiful cover? Check out Jeremy West. He's pretty awesome.)

Erica Cameron has taken a wonderful journey to birthing this book. And she's included a crap ton of extras. As of today here are all the wonderful things that you can do: buy the book! view all the "extras" here! review the book online after you've read it! So many options. 

Personally, going on my editor's binge, I will be reading SSN again in bed. Before I sleep. Which could be the worst place to read it. 

Is it safe to go to sleep?

Happy reading :)

 photo e8d67f1c-5ab9-4926-9f0c-ce51cda1783f_zpsb4748010.jpg

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Effects of Piracy

*deep breath* As the last one to post in the month of free topics, I’m going to blog about a topic that is a pretty sensitive subject for me: ebook piracy. As a reader and writer, I feel it’s a pretty important topic. And it does have an effect on the industry.

For those who don’t know, ebook piracy is “the illegal uploading of digital copies of copyrighted works to a website, or the illegal downloading of such material.” So why is this bad? Well, skipping over the ‘illegal’ part as it pertains to copyrights, let’s look at some of the negative effects of piracy.

To start with, authors work tirelessly to write, rewrite, revise, edit, and publish these books. A lot of them are working full-time jobs on top of this because, well, let’s face it, writing books doesn’t make nearly as much money as some people think it does. Not everyone ends up being the next Stephen King or JK Rowling. Their time and effort is just as important as, say, that chef in the restaurant you’re eating dinner at. Would you think to just walk out without paying the tab? No, not usually. So why would an author be any different?

When a book is pirated, it isn’t a one person, one download situation. It is done by the (tens of) thousands, as people keep passing it along. For every book that is pirated, that is a sale the author will never see royalties for. That is someone else reaping the benefits of an author’s hard work. For free.

Along with stealing sales, piracy also impacts an author’s future. If book sales are weak, it is less likely an author will continue getting contracts with publishers. And you know what else? It is less likely for books to show up in bookstores, as bookstores look at previous book sales for that author when ordering their new books. Some authors have even had to discontinue series because of this. So not only are authors not getting paid, their writing careers are at risk.

We all know an author’s time is precious. With ebook piracy on the rise, more authors are spending countless hours hunting out piracy sites offering illegal downloading of their books, reporting said sites, and sending cease and desist notices. This, of course, takes away from the task at hand: writing new books.

And here’s one for the readers- ebook piracy contributes to the rise in ebook pricing as publishers attempt to recover losses due to piracy. For all those people who are reading for ‘free’, they are screwing things up for those of us who do to support authors by buying their works.

I could go on and on. But because I am known to go off on tangents when it comes to such a sensitive subject, I’m going to link to a few other posts that have covered the topic from various angles.

Have you come across a great stand against piracy? I’d love to read it!

 photo a66a1aa4-a08e-48a2-bfcd-efc2d4fd1687_zpse4db374f.jpg 

Monday, February 24, 2014

"So I accidentally wrote a book..."

I can’t start writing a book on purpose. I only realised recently that every single book I’ve written (twelve, counting my current WIP) I never actually intended to start when I did – it just sneaked up on me. The idea of actually sitting down at a blank page and starting a book terrifies me. Starting’s the hardest part for me, because I spend so long planning and gathering notes together on world-building that the idea of typing the first words completely defeats me. It gets to the point where I have a fully detailed outline just waiting for me to turn it into a book, but I still can’t do it! That is, until I stop trying...

Then, usually when I’m knee-deep in editing or something equally time-consuming, I’m woken up at night by a scene demanding to be written. Or sometimes it happens when I’m on the train. Whenever I least expect it. The strange thing is, once I have that first scene – even if it doesn’t end up being the first scene in the book, I’m fine. It’s the actually starting part that makes me draw a blank.

Another part of it’s a fear of running out of ideas, which is completely irrational, but we writers are an insecure bunch. ;) I manage to convince myself I’ll never think of a good novel idea again…and next thing I know, I have another five clamouring for attention! So I write notes down, which sometimes turns into a scene. Now I have so many projects on the go that new ones have started invading mid-draft. I never really got struck by the curse of the Shiny New Idea before last year, but I’ve actually written two whole books based on ideas that came to me when I was working on a totally unrelated project, and refused to let me go. Funny how the idea of starting can be so daunting, yet as soon as I stop thinking about it, that’s when it happens!

So now I try to write all my books that way – I do all the planning and then just let it go (*resists urge to sing the Frozen soundtrack*) until the first scene comes into my head and I just have to write it.

Am I the only one with this (rather strange) problem? How do you start a book?

 photo 50565a9b-bd0f-4ae6-a77d-7aa0d3ec3cca_zps58c64d47.jpg

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

You've been Con'd: Author & Reader Cons 2014

Last month, I wrote a blog post about 2014 writer conferences worth checking out. This month, I decided to set my sights on some fun 2014 reader and author conventions. Many authors and fans know about the large conventions such as Comic-Con and Book Expo America, but there might be some smaller conventions that are perfect choices because of their location and cheaper registration fees. After all, what could be better than meeting your favorite author or your number one fan?

UtopYA Con: Held in Nashville, TN from June 20th-22nd, UtopYA celebrates women writers of supernatural YA and NA, and their fans. There will be book signings, parties and write-ins. Tickets start at $75.

RomCon: Held in Denver, CO from June 20th-22nd, RomCon is a big convention for fans and authors of romance. According to the convention website, RomCon is large enough to draw plenty of NYT bestselling romance authors and intimate enough for fans to engage with their favorite authors one-on-one. Registration costs $199. Indie authors might be interested in attending RomCon University on the 19th and 20th.

RT Booklovers Convention: Held in New Orleans from May 13th-18th, the Romantic Times Convention is a large romance convention celebrating all genres of romance and age groups. There are a ton of unique workshops for readers and bloggers such as the YA Spooky Sleepover and author chats, as well as craft workshops for writers. Although convention hotels are currently sold out, anyone interested can plan ahead for next year's convention in Dallas. Day passes for teens cost $30. A full convention pass costs $484.

Malice Domestic: Held in Bethesda, MD from May 2nd-4th, Malice Domestic (the name is enticing enough) is a fan-favorite convention celebrating the authors of traditional mysteries (in the spirit of Agatha Christie). Basic registration starts at $270.

Wild Wild West Convention: Held in Tucson, AZ from March 7th-9th, WWW3 celebrates Steampunk. This year, the convention and festival will be held in a western-themed town. A three-day pass starts at $59.

YA Fest: Held in Easton, PA on April 19th, YA Fest is a FREE event held at the Palmer Branch of the Easton Area Public Library. Books will be available to purchase and there's a long list of impressive YA authors in attendance including Jennifer L. Armentrout and Cyn Balog.

Authors After Dark: Held in Charlotte, NC from August 6th-10th, AAD is a convention that celebrates the reader-author relationship and focuses on romance, fantasy and horror genres. There will be a 100 featured authors. This is an adult only convention for fans 18 and older. Registration costs $240 and includes some meals at the convention.

This little list doesn't even scrape the surface of the number of conventions available to attend in 2014. If you know of a fun reader/author cons, please comment with the information. You never know which convention will be near you.

 photo 2c30eb61-8fa4-4bea-9fa9-ce06e0491553_zps3dd1863c.jpg

Monday, February 17, 2014

Life Lessons from Geometry and Cookies!

I was trying to figure out what I wanted to post today, and then I remembered this post. It's from a few years ago on my personal blog, but it really spoke to me. So I edited it (slightly) and reposted it here. It's funny how, even years later, you can be dealing with the same thing in a new way.

And that thing right now is shapes.

Things are "simple" with shapes. Square. Triangle. Circle. Rectangle. Pentagon. What you see is what you get. Count the sides and there's no room for question. A square is a square is a square is a matter the size or color or location.

But when you think about it--really think about it--it does matter. 

If you flip a rectangle over a few degrees, you get a diamond. If you make that loop in the circle a little too long, you get an oval. There are other types of triangles: obtuse, acute, right. I think math-people would say all those are very different things, even if they are essentially the same.

That's the whole point of this post: everyone is different. Every blog, every book, every writer is different. Even if they are essentially the same.

Why am I talking about this? A few reasons. (stick with me)

1) I overheard a customer talking about books. She said that all books are a formula in certain genres, so she was going to read that genre anymore. It stuck with me because even if there are similarities in the way things unfold, each story is different. The words and rhythm of Author A are different than Author B. The character has a unique story to tell.

2) I stumbled in a conversation that someone only needed to read one blog--because they were all the same anyway. This, of course, isn't true. Every blog is different. Sure, they may share meme's and review the same books, but the opinions, ideas and voices of each person are so incredibly different and the experience and connection with each blogger will be unique.

3) I'm an author now (ha, still weird to say) and that means people get to read my books. There are people who will love SALT, people who will like it, and others who will hate it. This is the nature of the beast. And I'm okay with that, because reading is subjective, but just because a reader hated SALT doesn't mean a reader who loved it was wrong. Or vice verse. We all have different tastes.

4) With NoVa TEEN Book Festival just weeks away, I'm getting down to all the nitty details. All the small moments that build into the big event. I'm not the best at the small details. I know them all, I see them, but I'm not always the best at implementing them. I'm a dreamer. In life, in writing, in editing, I like the big picture. But I have to do the small things, to be detailed, even if it makes me occasionally feel like a square peg that's trying to fit in a round hole. Does that mean I shouldn't do them? No, it just means I should know my weaknesses and find people who have those qualities in excess. (Which is what I've done in life, in editing, in writing and in event planning.)

I was thinking about ALL that. About how we put ourselves in these boxes. About how we make life this checklist and force all the things around us to fit into it. And it doesn't fit. But we shove anyway. We twist. We pull. We push. We trim. We shape. We want it to fit. And then we wonder why, in the end, we're tired and broken.
Here's why:  a square cannot be a circle.

Well, &%^#! What now? What do we do when we can't be the fill the kind of need that exists? When we can't be the type of blogger who brings in 15 bazillion unique visits in a day? When we aren't the kind of writer that makes words flow and dance and hearts stop beating and tears fall because the lines are so good?

You're right. We quit. We don't try to find a place to fit. We don't create something new. We stop existing and disappear.

I bet that's what Augustine Rodin did he got the idea for The Thinker--he laughed and threw away the design because it was too different.

I bet that's what Oatmeal Raisin cookies did when they couldn't be Chocolate Chip--just stopped existing because they weren't good enough.

And when JK Rowling had an idea about a little magical boy named Harry with black hair, a scar and glasses, she completely scrapped that idea because it was too hard and too scary.

Oh wait. They didn't? You mean, The Thinker is one of the most famous sculptures of all time? And people actually eat Oatmeal Raisin cookies? And--what??--JK Rowling is like the twelfth richest woman and one of the most influential women in Britain?

Fine. But what does all this have to do with shapes and blogging and writing and event planning-- I'm so confused?!

It has to do with this: BE YOURSELF.

We're taught that in elementary school, but somewhere along the way we forget. We become so obsessed with fitting into the mold, we forget that we are supposed to be different! We are different. Every person has something about them that's unlike anyone else, even if sometimes it seems essentially the same. No two people are alike. And you know that saying, "Opinions are like noses. Everyone has one." And they are all uniquely different.

So what if your blog only has 200 followers--that's awesome! Remember when it was you and your best friend and some random kid who entered a contest? You've come far! And no one comments on your reviews? Oh well. The four people that are reading them are listening to you. And that post you wrote last week really affected someone. Don't stop speaking out.

SO WHAT if the words in your novel don't make you want to cry at every line. Who wants to cry at every line? Just write the book! Just tell the story. Let it suck...and then fix it. And take criticism. And then fix it. And fix it some more. And make the words flow. EVEN IF it doesn't sound like author A & B. I'd say that's good! I don't want all my books to sound the same. I don't all my characters to have a dead mother or a dead sister or a crazy boyfriend. I want different. That crazy aunt who talks to the flowers in her closet--I'd read that. Write it. Find your voice---YOURS.

And so what if those ten people hated your book. Remember that email and that tweet from that girl who LOVED it? It matters. This story matters and the next one matters. Every story you write matters to someone so keep writing.

No one else can tell your story or fill your role. Only you. And if you don't do it--if you don't step up and be yourself and take a chance--then no one else will do it for you.

Not me because I can barely do it for myself.

Not that whole team of people who are helping you accomplish this big dream. They wouldn't even have a dream without you.

Not that girl who doesn't know there's an entire world of blogs out there and she's missing out and people who could be her friends for life because she won't even look around.

Not that girl who thinks all books are the same.

Not that agent who's waiting for a story just like yours. Or that editor who's been dreaming of your book and didn't even know it.

Only you.

Everything has a place it belongs. And eventually, even the square finds a place to fit.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Confession: I Never Wanted to Be a Writer

I love reading other people's path to publication stories. I love seeing how there are so many different paths and so many different types of writers out there. But I have a confession: sometimes, these stories make me feel like an interloper. Sometimes they make me wonder what I'm doing.

You've probably all read them, the I've Always Known I've Wanted to Be a Writer Since FOR-EVER stories.

Mine isn't one of those.

The I've Always Been a Creative Type/Artist/Marcher to the Beat of My Own Drummer stories.

Mine isn't one of those either.

Here's the thing--I never thought about being a writer. Even back when people learned that I'd decided to drop the poli-sci/pre-law major and only go with English, I'd get the question, "Oh, so you want to be a writer?" My answer was the same. "No," I'd tell them. Just no.

Because I was reading writers and didn't have enough self-confidence or ego or Chutzpah to even think "Yes, maybe."

Maybe once, back in eighth grade when I learned that S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was a teenager, maybe then I thought about being a writer...for like five minutes.

I started writing fiction out of desperation. I'd spent 7 years getting a PhD that didn't net me a job. I'd spent 10 years reading literature and writing criticism. I'd always written. I loved the essay, never understood how someone could not finish a seminar paper in grad school. I was good at it. And never once did I think of myself as a writer. Not even knowing that to get tenure I'd eventually write a book.

But there I was, 7 years later, unemployed in a new city and I needed something to do with my brain, because singing to my 9 month old wasn't cutting it for me. So I tried writing. I'd been reading a lot of romance and YA and thought, I could do *that*. (Cue derisive laughter.) So I did it. I wrote a meh contemporary romance that got a couple of hits from publishers and then a YA that got me an agent.

And still, I didn't feel like a writer. Definitely not an author. I felt like an interloper. I felt like at any moment someone would discover that I had not slaved since I was 6 toward this one dream and call me out on it. Poser. Fake. Lucky Break.

I always thought once I've finished a manuscript. And then, once I have an agent. And then well, maybe if my agent can sell the stupid thing. And then...

Partially, this goes back to my own fear of owning up to what I can do well. I'm horrible at accepting a compliment. I'm horrible at admitting that I kick ass at something.

It is not false modesty. It is not fishing for compliments. It's fear.

Because it's beaten out of us, isn't it? You're not supposed to brag (especially if you're a girl). If you stand out in middle school and high school because you're smart, you get pushed down pretty quickly and often pretty ruthlessly. So little by little you learn not to have any ego about what you're doing. You fly under the radar. Do your work. Gather your successes like secrets. Keep going. Keep your head down.

Or maybe that's just me.

Because even two agents later and one sold book later, I still don't feel like I'm really there yet. Once I accept I'm a writer, I listen to these narratives of artistry. "We artists...."  "We creative types..."

That doesn't feel like me either.

I think of myself as a worker. A laborer. Writing is a joy, yes, but it is also labor. I work at it, I whittle it away, I craft it. I don't feel like an artist. I feel like a craftsman. Some days, I feel like we should all start a union.

Craftsman. Laborer. These are not labels that bother me. These are labels that feel more real, more true to what I do for myself, for the craft.

There are words, and I know how to shape them. There are stories and I struggle to tell them. And little by little, I'm learning how to own that. Little by little, I'm learning that maybe that's enough.

I'm happy for those writers and authors who have known since the beginning of time, who have dreamed of the moment when their name is on a book-shaped thing since they were babes. But I'm equally happy for those of us who work because we don't know how not to work, who write because we're compelled to--even when we didn't know what we were working toward. Even when we don't know where that work will lead.

And I'm learning that's okay, too.

 photo 798ccdd4-c462-416c-b26d-f68f0f8e09d5_zpsd01d8713.jpg