We’re gonna teach ’em how to say goodbye … to 2015

TL;DR 2015 was a year and now it’s gone… Long live 2015!

This Year in Writing

TimeAndMagicClockThis year I published my first book. (As well as my second, third and fourth). It was the turning point in a journey that started when I was five years old and wrote my first “novel.” Titled Time and the Magic Clock, the story was about a boy who was late for dinner.)

What does a girl so shy that she can barely answer the phone in her own home for fear of talking to strangers do to engage with the world? Read. I read everything from horror to classics to poetry and biographies. Sometimes when I was bored and I’d read everything I had, I would open up the encyclopedia.

I had a typewriter with green ink, which I used to write stories back then. This was before we had a computer in the house (and I’m old enough to have lived in a such a time and to remember the exact day that AOL first got the “World Wide Web”). Pages and pages of stories piled up and the dream grew. Could I really do this one day, for real? Would people want to read the things I write?

Well a surprising number of you did want to read what I wrote, and for that I am endlessly grateful. When I published Song of Blood & Stone in January, I set a goal to sell 500 copies by the end of the year. By April, I had well exceeded that, which was an amazing birthday surprise.

That month, I also dropped the novella Angelborn. I just uploaded it one day and hit publish and didn’t go through all the hoopla I had with the first book. I’d written the first draft in two weeks right before NaNoWriMo 2014 and spent some time cleaning it up while Song of Blood & Stone was with the editor.

It was a story that had come from a dream I had of a girl who falls in love with an invisible boy who only she can see. I’d started writing a very different version of that premise years ago, in a book some of you who know me may remember called Girl Electric. Anyway, Angelborn found an audience as well, without much promotion, and once again I was blown away by the fact that people were reading my stories and enjoying them, for the most part.

Whispers of Shadow & Flame was the next book released in October. A surprising number of people asked if it was me on the cover of Song (it’s not — are there authors that put themselves on the covers of their fiction books? Because my ego is not that big, I promise) but that gave me the idea to put someone I knew on the cover of the next book. I thought my brother Paul would make a pretty good Darvyn. He’s reasonably photogenic and was up for the challenge.

I gave him super helpful notes like “look realistically hopeful” and “you need to look like you’re balanced on the precipice of change.” Somehow he and photographer Bryony Shearmur took this and translated into some awesome pictures. And James Egan worked his magic on it once again and the cover kicked all kinds of ass.

I don’t know when I decided that I should publish four books this year, but once it got into my head, it wouldn’t leave. I made it under the deadline with Angelfall in December. It’s a book I drafted really fast and agonized over during the editing process. Not that that’s different than any of the other books (actually, with Whispers I agonized over the whole thing).

I really wanted to write a straightforward “angel falls in love with a half-angel” story, but, as these things often happen, the narrative took on a life of its own and went somewhere that I couldn’t talk it out of. I love the story—I love all the stories, I wouldn’t let them out into the world unless I adored them—even when they’re not quite the tales I’d intended to tell.

So there you have it, my first year as a published author. It’s been hard, much harder than I thought. It reminds me of before I got married, when people would always tell us that marriage is hard. We believed them, but didn’t know exactly what they meant. What’s so hard about it? What can you do to make it less hard? Knowing and experiencing are different things and as much preparation as you do beforehand, it’s never really enough. But that’s okay. The best things in life are hard. That doesn’t mean you love them any less.

Balancing running a business full-time and being an author, publisher, and marketer (another business) is hard—but I love it. I also love that I’m running towards a goal I never thought I’d be able to reach. Being a published author always seemed like a far-off dream that I wasn’t in control of. Taking control and making it happen is one of the things I’m most proud of in my life.

And if you’ve made it this far in the mega-long-ramble-post, I’d like to thank you. Yes, you. Readers rule! You’re the reason for all of this, and that’s the truly amazing thing.

Next Year in Writing

Six books (six books?). Well, that’s the goal.

Cry of Metal & Bone (Earthsinger Chronicles, book 3) is coming, tentatively in late spring. Plus a bonus Earthsinger novella! Woohoo! And at the end of the year, book 4. (Whew.) Then, of course, there will be Angelrise, the next in the Angelborn cycle. So that’s four.

And then something new. Or two something news to round out the number. Or something old and something new (prequel anyone?). Basically, I haven’t decided yet. I’ll have to see how it goes.

This Year in Other Stuff
  • My city burned in a riot/uprising, depending on your perspective.
  • We tried to persuade the world that black lives matter, but so far they seem unconvinced.
  • I saw Audra McDonald play Billie Holiday on Broadway and it changed my life.
  • I went to North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Virginia, San Francisco.
  • I saw Hamilton on Broadway and it changed my life.
  • I saw Book of Mormon at the Kennedy Center and it did not change my life. It was actually kind of meh. Though this may be because of the Hamilton effect where nothing is quite the same afterward.
  • My favorite band Sleater-Kinney came out with a new album (yay!), but I didn’t get to see them on tour 🙁
  • I cut off my hair. It weighed a pound and without it I felt one hundred pounds lighter.
  • I hit a personal record of 95 lbs on my bench press. (Still 40 away from my goal)
  • I spoke on some panels and did some author events (conquering my introversion one day at a time).
  • I got a new sister-in-law when my brother-in-law got married.
  • I celebrated my seventh wedding anniversary.

So yeah, 2015 was pretty epic. Here’s to 2016 … let’s get some shit done!

What do you have in store for the new year?

Anatomy of a Release Day

Today is book launch day for my first release, Song of Blood & StoneIt’s been on preorder for several weeks, but there’s nothing like getting it out into the world for real!

Last Week

I’d thought everything was ready — I had uploaded the ebook to Amazon two days before the deadline (a full  12 days before release day!). I’d carefully tested the file on my Kindle, the Kindle Previewer, my iPad, iPhone and the desktop app. Regardless, I fully expected the cover to show up upside down or something when it actually hit peoples’ Kindles. Then I realized that I hadn’t finalized the Createspace version for the print edition. I’d meant to order a second proof just to check and make sure my last minute formatting tweaks didn’t cause some kind of catastrophe. Of course, that didn’t happen so I had to go on faith that things would look largely the way they had before.

The Amazon site says it takes 3-5 days for a book published on Createspace to link up with its Kindle version. Since I was doing this last Wednesday, that was cutting it close. Unfortunately, there’s no way to make sure it happens on exactly the same day. Still, I submitted, waited for the review process from Createspace and then published.

I happened to check on Sunday and found that it was displaying alongside the Kindle pre-order, and there was already a review posted!

Today

I got up at 6:45am, my usual 45 minutes late for my 6am writing time. At this point, it’s more of a goal than an actual schedule, but I keep trying. I had a long list of release day tasks to complete. Things like updating my Twitter and Facebook headers, sending my newsletter, writing this blog post. Not all of those things happened, I had to give up on much of it by 7:30 so I could actually get some writing in.

I managed to post to Facebook and Twitter and not check the KDP dashboard obsessively (I’ve heard of people checking every few minutes. Honestly, I just didn’t have time to obsess, I had a rush job to complete for work.)

Then there was that moment when I was about to tweet the graphic I’d created when I had a freak out that my tagline — the one I’d been using for nearly two months — was grammatically incorrect. Yes, a copyeditor looked at it and gave her blessing, but that didn’t stop me from spending ten minutes on grammar websites reacquainting myself with subject-verb agreement.

The day went something like this: Work. Check Twitter. Check Facebook. Work. Check email. Check Goodreads. Check KDP dashboard. Work. Rinse. Repeat.

To anyone who’s purchased the book, THANK YOU! YES, I’M SHOUTING, THAT’S HOW GRATEFUL I AM!

I’ve been blown away by the early reviews and all the feedback I’ve received. It’s awesome to have crossed this milestone, something I’ve thought about for virtually my entire life.

And now, I must get back to work so I can wrestle with the draft of the sequel, which is refusing to play nice. I realize that this is really just the first step of a long journey. I want to publish 3 more books this year… Eek!

My Creative Process

The lovely and talented Emily P. DeLoach (author of the fantastic book Escaping the Mirror, which everyone should read) invited me to participate in a blog hop on the creative process. Here is my take:

What am I working on?

Probably way too many projects 🙂 I’m working on the revision of my fantasy romance novel, codename: Earthsinger. I received amazing feedback from my developmental editor, Danielle at Double Vision Editorial, and am busy pulling it all together. I’m also co-writing a paranormal romance serial with my partner-in-crime Nakeesha. We’re sending part one to beta readers today and are digging in to the draft of part two. In the midst of this, last week, I finished the first draft of a story that was nowhere on my writing schedule. It’s called Angelborn, and those 30,000 words just demanded to be written. I actually woke up at reeeally early one Saturday and crawled over my husband to find a pen and paper to start scrawling out ideas. When inspiration strikes, you have to follow!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My fantasy romance doesn’t take place in medieval times, but in a 1920’s-esque world where two races are separated by skin color, magical abilities and five hundred years of war.

I came up with the pseudo-tagline “romance for the head and the heart” because as much as I love fluffy, light stories, I can’t seem to write them. My characters tend to be tortured in some way: societal outcasts, refugees fleeing a brutal dictator, teens coping with a false diagnosis of mental illness, a daughter seeking closure from her dying, abusive father. I don’t see a romantic comedy in my future, though I won’t rule anything out.

Still, at the end of the day, I want my stories to make people feel good. Life is too real for too much realism in your fiction, in my opinion. Hence the magic and the happily ever afters.

Why do I write/create what I do?

I believe you should write the stories you want to read. I write characters of color because I want to read about them, and I believe others out there do as well. I write fantasy and paranormal stories because I want magic to be real, and believe that sometimes it is. Falling in love is the most magical thing of all, and I write love stories so I can experience the wonder over and over again.

How does my creative process work?

Occasionally the lightning bolt will strike and the words will magically flow from my fingers, but most of the time it isn’t like that. These days I get up at 6am every day to write for at least an hour and a half.

I keep a notebook of story ideas like most writers, but I take it one step further. When I have an idea, many times I’ll log in to 750words.com and just start writing a small section of it. Start in the middle and write for ten or fifteen minutes, sometimes longer, just to get it out of my system. I could use Scrivener or Word, but I don’t want to have to worry about filenames and where to put it on my computer, the website saves it and I can go back through all my idea snippets later on and choose one to expand on.

I talked a bit about fast drafting before – dumping out a first draft as quickly as possible helps me coalesce the idea in my mind. Then the second draft is all about fleshing it out, making sure there’s a plot and conflict, goals and motivations, and then a third draft to polish before anyone else looks at it. Critique partners are key to let me know when I’ve gone off the rails and to encourage and motivate me.

 

Tag, you’re it! Up Next on the Blog Hop: Angela D’Ambrosio & Nakeesha Seneb

Angela grew up in a small mountain town in Idaho and graduated at the top of her class of seven. She was born in Boise, Idaho in 1977, the second of four children and the only girl. She still lives in Boise, where she raises three small kids and blogs at http://angelad.me about reading, writing and the human condition. She has been featured in Go Read Your Lunch and IDAHO Magazine.

By trade, Nakeesha is a screenwriter. She wrote and produced for the kids’ programming block of the Black Family Channel. Currently, she teaches screenwriting and digital media production at an art college Washington, DC. She loves being immersed in a story whether it’s on a page or on the screen. Having success with the small screen, she’s turned her attention to the small press. She will be self-pubbing a collaborative shifter paranormal romance in the fall of 2014.

Do you want to play, too? Answer the four questions above and post a link here in the comments!

The Magic of Writing Faster

This past weekend I attended a great workshop given by two publishing luminaries, Candace Havens and Liz Pelletier. Candace is known, at least in the romance writing community, for her online and in-person Fast Draft workshops.

For an indie author, writing fast is key. With some exceptions, indie publishing is a numbers game. We hear it all the time, write a series, release them as fast as you can. Four books a year is my goal, but there are plenty of authors who release far more frequently than that.

I want to write fast mostly to be able to tell all the stories inside of me within my lifetime. So many ideas, so little time. Banging out a book in a couple of weeks (or at least the first draft of a book) would go a long way towards meeting my goals and getting all these people out of my head.

According to Candace, there’s a zone you get into when writing fast where your subconscious takes over. I’ve definitely felt this. When inspiration hits, it’s like my fingers can’t write fast enough. Last summer, I wrote the first draft of my novel Earthsinger, 21,000 words in two days. (It’s since grown to 66,000.) The story flew from my fingertips and when I read it again, I didn’t even remember writing much of it.

Your subconscious is so powerful. Even though I haven’t yet matched that kind of speed, I can feel the wheels churning on my stories when I’m away from my computer. It’s a wonderful feeling to have that spark that comes when a problem you’ve been mulling over is solved. Things just click into place inside your head. Sometimes it feels like magic.

Here are some things that help me write faster:

  • Write, don’t edit. The writing/creative part of your brain and the editing/analytical part of your brain are incompatible. They compliment each other, but from a distance. Turn off your editor. Don’t read what you’ve written before. I use an Alphasmart Neo – with only 4 lines of text, and no annoying red lines indicating misspellings and errors.
  • Keep track of your daily word count. Use a notebook, a spreadsheet or an app. Keep track of time and number of words. It helps to know.
  • Know what you’re going to write before you sit down. Read this article if you haven’t. It changed my life. Even a pantser can visualize one scene at a time beforehand.
  • Don’t judge yourself. Writing fast can and will lead to a lot of crap, but there will be jewels in there as well. Clean it up later, at least you’ll have something to clean up!

If you’re interested in writing faster, I’d suggest taking Candace’s workshop either online or in-person at your first opportunity. The online version comes with a community for accountability where you post your daily page count to universal applause or nagging.

Other options for community include Camp Nanowrimo, which is starting again in July. You can choose “cabin mates” or have some chosen automatically for you – these are the folks that will keep you accountable on your mission for more words.

Maybe you won’t get to 5,000 words a day, but any increase in your daily word count gets you one step closer to that goal of a finished novel.

Do you have any tips for increasing your word count? Let me know in the comments.

photo credit: Éole via photopin cc