Sunday, August 05, 2012

A social media scaleback

I've been looking at my blog for awhile, and I couldn't really decide what I want to do with it. Some writers turn their blogs into awesome reads, and some people have very interesting lives they can talk about. I'm not one of those people, and I feel that my writing blog has no focus.

I would much rather spend my time crafting stories instead of writing blog posts and random tweets about what my thoughts are. In a few days, that information can become outdated. And In most cases, nobody cares. I can't really sit and give people writing advice, either, because I'm figuring out a lot of things as I go along.

I'll still keep my blog open for updates on new releases, but if I see some really amazing thing that relates to writing, I'll probably just tweet about it. I'll leave up the guest author slots on my blog, and can host guest posts in the future, but it's not a huge priority for me at the moment.

Instead, I'm going to channel my blogging energy into Paisley Sound, an indie music blog, and try to make something out of that.  A Writer's Notes will become more of a landing page, with a bio and information about my books. Trust me: you won't be missing much.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What I've been up to

I thought I'd update everyone on what I've been up to, since I last updated my blog in May, but in the past few months, I've published more than I have in my entire life. And this blog is titled A Writer's Notes, so I think we need to be on the same page.

Have I been churning out novels? Well ... not exactly. I am rewriting Saturnine from a new outline, and I've been eyeing my paranormal series. They're on the back burner, simmering but not quite ready. When they are, I'll shout it from the rooftops and you'll be the first to know.

No, I've been having Adventures Under a Pen Name.

You must understand, for about eight years now I've been convinced by numerous nonfiction books and magazines that the only way to make money through fiction is to write a novel, craft a perfect query, send it to 100 agents and then sip tea until the inevitable book deal rolls around, and then happily write my second book on my small advance while waiting 18 months until the book hits shelves and Oprah comes calling.

How many people does that happen to?

I was inspired to start writing under a pen name by Rebecca Knight and many, many other indie writers who have success stories. I've discovered that readers love short stories. They absolutely love them, in certain genres, and I can't blame them. When I'm running around all day, sometimes the last thing I want to do is pick up a hefty tome and read 15 more pages where nothing happens. But a self-contained, exciting, well-edited 5,000 word short story I can read in a sitting? Sign me up.

I'm not against eventually getting a publisher (I've seen some amazing things done by editing/publicity departments from both Big Six houses and small presses alike), but that isn't my goal right now. Instead, I've been writing in several popular genres, churning out short stories or novellas under a pen name.

I have full creative control over the editing, cover, and price, and my stuff has been selling. I didn't hit any bestseller lists, but it's reasonable, sustainable income.

The blogosphere is full of people who will tell you what to do, and many of them have shiny books on how best to sell or write or whatever. They say you need a Twitter account and a Facebook account and a brand and a platform. I think those things are all right from a marketing perspective, but don't get too wound up in them.

We forget that readers are constantly looking for new material, in bookshelves both in stores and online. If you put out enough well-written fiction, readers will find you. They know what they want, they know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, and they're doing it every day with their money and their e-readers.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Great Gatsby

Someone linked me to the trailer for The Great Gatsby (coming in December), and I was pretty thoroughly blown away. Like most people, I read the book in high school, but I think it's one of those works you can't quite appreciate until you're older. It doesn't walk you through the plot--you simply see events unfold through Nick's eyes, and have to connect them. Nonetheless, it's powerful, and at the end Nick's derision and sense of disgust is one of the most palpable feelings in modern literature.

The trailer is bold and beautiful, and makes some clear points (We're quoting lines from the book! See, we're being true to the source material. But here's some modern music, because this movie parallels modern fast living and self-destructive behavior!).

But I wonder how a movie can pull off the plot, because the appeal of the book isn't the love triangles, it's the pure narrative power. It's in the disillusionment of realizing how people behave, and that some people can never get what they truly want in life. All the high-octane living in the world can't buy you love.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Flyday is free this weekend!

Yes, I finally got around to making Flyday a Kindle select, so I'm testing out the program. You can download it free on Amazon this weekend.

Afterwards it'll still be available to borrow for free if you have a Prime account and a Kindle, or back to the $2.99 purchase price.

I am still working on Saturnine, trying to make it the best it can possibly be before I release it. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Sunset on Mars - update!

I finally released Sunset on Mars and Other Stories on Amazon. If you downloaded the Smashwords version last year, there's a new story I just added. It's about zombies!

I'm trying to get this little collection released for free on Amazon, but if you happen to download it at 99 cents, I will donate my author proceeds to Doctors Without Borders (as requested by the cover artist, K. B. Wittke). It's free here on Smashwords.

And now I shall go back to editing Saturnine and working on a paranormal YA romance about pixies battling vampires. Or as I call it, Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The invisible business: how do you work hard when your work is at home?

I haven't blogged in a little while (and right now I'm squinting at the screen because Blogger has a new layout) but I've been hard at work writing and editing. I've been working on two novels simultaneously.

Now that I have actual writing income coming in every month, even if it is a small amount, I have to start re-evaluating things. It's more important than ever to keep my finances in order, to track my expenses come tax time. And I have to budget my working hours around a family.

"Are you working today?" people might ask, meaning, am I supposed to be at my regular job? At my regular job, it's absolutely essential that I be there for my shifts. But my writing-business time is more flexible. I could write from 9 am to 5 pm, with a lunch break. (That doesn't happen.) I could write in the evenings in between making dinner and taking various kids to and from sports and theater practice. (That happens.)

But it's hard to keep to a writing schedule when my job is not a physical thing--it's just me typing away at a laptop. Sure, I can go to a cafe, but even then people I know will stop me and want to chat. And at home, it's even worse. There seems to be 24/7 construction going on in my neighborhood except in the winter. The doorbell rings, the phone rings. Family members expect me to drop what I'm doing to run errands or watch one of their kids. If I decline, citing my writing, people start prodding me. "So?" they say. "You aren't really working."

Yes, my hours are flexible, but it's still a business I run and I still need to tend to it. Short of renting an office, though, I'm going to have to deal with distractions. So I have (mostly) solved this with the following measures:

  • Set up days in advance when you tell people you'll be unavailable. You're busy, end of story.
  • Shut off your cell phone when you're working, let the answering machine pick up landline calls, and don't check your e-mail or Facebook.
  • Set up 3-4 hour "bursts" when you can be productive, scheduled around dinner--or, on weekends, lunch. For me at least, after about 4 straight hours of writing, I need to take a break anyway, and that's a good time to eat.
  • If you have younger kids this won't work, but for older kids, set them up with activities they can do on their own. For me this usually means handing them a bucket of chalk and saying "It's a nice day! Go play outside!"
  • Accept imperfection. Maybe a daily word count goal is unrealistic, but you can set a weekly goal--say, a short story completed every week (that means about 1,000 words on average written for five days, which is doable), or a certain amount of pages edited. 

  • How do you balance work, a family, and writing?

    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Guest post by K.M. Parr

    Writing: Behind the Scenes

    By K.M. Parr

    Writing is serious business. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy or comparable to a life of lounging by a pool, pen in hand.  As a matter of fact, writing is a lot less glamorous than people think.  It’s difficult.  Time consuming.  Frustrating.  Words don’t always come when you want them.  And even then, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can ever have. 

    Someone once said, “Why do you do it, then? If you think writing is such a difficult endeavor, then how can you even call yourself an author?”

    One thing this person didn’t understand is that this is the nature of writing.  It’s meant to be an adventure with unexpected twists, turns, and wonders beyond one’s imagination.  That’s what attracted me to the craft.  That’s why it is such an integral part of my life.  

    The beauty of the written word is much like being in the middle of a life-sized maze: you’ve been placed into an unknown situation and now you need to write your way to the end.  Sometimes, you don’t remember how you got from one point to the other, but it works.  And if you go at it repeatedly, the way becomes familiar; you gain your bearings faster.  

    I tell anyone and everyone that will listen to not be afraid to express themselves creatively.  There may be times when you are discouraged, but that’s all a part of the ride.  If it’s what you enjoy doing, do not give up.  

    My advice to anyone who wants to make writing more than just a passing fancy: 

    ·         Write. Write a lot.  Write about your life, fictional characters, hypothetical situations, anything to get your mind moving.  

    ·         Don’t be afraid to ask friends to critique it.  Get used to having others look over your work and help you perfect it. 

    ·         Carry a notebook with you at all times.  Creativity comes at the oddest times. 

    ·         Have a plan of action.  Type it out for yourself if you have to.  Why are you writing? Do you want to self-publish? Submit to agents or publishers?  

    ·         Never let anyone tell you to stop.  If writing is what you enjoy doing, don’t listen to those trying to bring you down. 

    K.M. Parr is the author of the newly released Alex in Wunderstrande: The Clairvoyance Clock.  Connect with her online at:


    Sunday, February 05, 2012

    On Esme Weijun Wang's "Things I Have Done Alone"

    A few days ago, the feminist blog Jezebel ran a piece by writer Esme Weijun Wang, called "Things I Have Done Alone." It's since had several comments calling it indulgent or dense. At first, I had no idea. When I finished it I was stunned, and thought Oh my God, I know exactly how she feels.

    Okay, maybe not exactly. No people can feel 100% alike. But that piece really resonated with me, like each sentence was my own heartbeats. I've gone to parties where you go in expecting one thing but leave with quite another. I've read a phenomenal book that changed the way I write. I've gone to live concerts and been swept away by the music ... hasn't everybody?

    I suppose not. The piece is gorgeous and incredibly honest, but it's something I think mainly writers can appreciate. For instance, take this line:

    "Triumphantly went to the printing room to print the 400+ paged draft. Stood with my hand on the hot pages, warm."

    A non-writer might say "Huh?" and scratch her head, but I instantly recognized that moment. When you finish a book, and you have that first draft in your hands, still hot from the printer, it's an incredible moment. All the work of months, years ... it's right there, in something you created. That's something you, and no one else, accomplished.

    I just hope the writer doesn't get discouraged, because her work is lovely and I want to read that 400-page manuscript.

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Why I'm putting my book on Kindle Select

    When I heard about Amazon's new deal to give authors an incentive to let Kindle owners "borrow" their book, I was initially against it. I didn't (and still don't) want Amazon to create a monopoly for books.

    However, after reading several people's positive accounts of the service, I relented. Since the program was announced, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords haven't done anything to make me keep my book up there, and the benefits seem to outweigh the negatives.

    I get money if someone "borrows" my book. I can set my book as free for a few days.

    If you want to read Flyday but you only have a Nook, Kindle for PC is a free download, and the book is available in paperback, either straight from me, or from Amazon or I'll try this out for three months, and if I decide it's not worth it, it will be back up everywhere on April 19th.

    Saturnine is currently undergoing edits, and I still plan to give it a wide release (Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and eventually paperback) as soon as it's finished. Keep checking back for more updates

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Fear - and how it affects writers

    First off, I did a guest post on my friend Jeff van Booven's blog on atheism. Ooh, ahh.

    I am outlining a new book (one of the many I need to finish) and right now I'm in the infatuation stage, where everything reminds me of the book, and I keep thinking of great new ideas.

    Who cares if it's a mess of notes, character design, and bits and pieces of scenes? It's my creative mess, and I like it.

    But is that really why I'm working on the new book? I could go back and finish editing my last book, if I wasn't so worried over some of the edits.

    Fear leads to stagnation.

    Stagnation leads nowhere.

    Don't get me wrong: lot of writers' fears are certainly right. "Does my book suck?" It's possible. "Will it hit bestseller lists?" Unless you're John Grisham--in your dreams.

    Fear can often be grounded in reality. But fear also leads to writers closing Word documents and saying "Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week." Months like November, when people rush to write 50,000 words, are a kick in the pants. Most of the novels--heck, I would say almost all of them--are terrible.

    And then there was Water for Elephants, which started as a NaNo book. What if fear kept the author from writing it?

    So let me list my fears...
    What if people don't like this book?
    What if I can't pull off a thriller/YA novel/etiquette guide for zombies? What then?

    Normal enough. But why do we, as writers, edit and re-edit and re-edit and worry that our work won't be perfect? Nothing is perfect. Your favorite book will be the next person's novel-thrown-across-the-room. The novel you throw across the room today could be the novel you fall in love with next year.

    So take that fear and put it into your work. Don't let it paralyze you. View it as something positive--something to help you improve. You are, essentially, playing around on a computer until you come up with something entertaining. So go do it.

    What are your biggest fears as a writer?

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Saturnine cover design

    Thanks to everyone who entered my contest on S.M. Boyce's blog to win a copy of Flyday. The winner was chosen and I shipped out a signed copy. The contest is still going on for many other books, so go enter!

    And as for Saturnine's cover art ... it's here!

    Huge thanks to Robin Ludwig, who designed it. I'll keep you all posted about the release when the ebook is ready--won't be long now.

    Monday, January 09, 2012

    Recommendations for new writers

    Awhile back I wrote something up for new writers, but I can't find it so I'm retyping it. I found these books/resources really, really helpful when I started writing.

    Things to read when you are learning to write:

    • Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. Buy this book now. You can try to wheedle a copy out of another writer, but I guarantee they won't give it up.
    • On Writing, by Stephen King. Most of it is autobiographical, but several people swear by it so I stuck it on this list.
    • In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet's Portable Workshop, by Steve Kowitt. Read this if you're into poetry.
    • The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. & E. B. White. Classic. Goes without saying.
    • Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. This saved my latest novel.

    Things to read if you want to go indie:
    • Becoming an Indie Author, by Zoe Winters.