My week of travel for work turned out to give me just enough breaks to eat (while working) and sleep (no more than seven hours). The net result, I seem to have brought home a cold. I still had to go into the office Friday because we moved locations on Saturday, so my optimistic hope last week that I would be able to squeeze in story time went unrealized. I’m really glad I didn’t try to commit to NaNoWriMo this year, even though there’s apparently a badge for managing 50K words even if they’re not all on one story.
A week off means my goal of finishing Fire to Dragon this month is likely a pipe dream–though I got back to it yesterday and closed out dealing with another two chapters of beta reader feedback. I’m now 3/5ths the way through that process. I’m not sure if my betas got worn out or my writing got stronger, but there are fewer big things to fix as I proceed through those files. If I could at least finish that process by the end of the month, that will have been one major undertaking completed.
Naturally, having been apart from me for the week, hubs sent me more emails, too. One encouraged me to imagine some lovely vacation options, specially geared for people like us who like to stay away from the crowds. Another was a more thoughtful take on the article from Cracked I linked to several weeks ago. This one spoke of the perennial class divide that drives some of the worst political divisions. That said, it is eerie to me that November 9 turns out to have been the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht AND the day the Berlin Wall came down… in 1989. (I was a freshman in college without access to a TV. When my mom called to tell me the news, I honestly thought she was pranking me.) The nature of fear, indoctrination, and persistent denigration of “the others” ought to have been object lessons from several historical angles on that day. Apparently, we still have some learning to do on that score.
I’ve already written in one “therapeutic cussing session” into one of my books. This may be happening more regularly.
If it means that one day, we finally enjoy mutual understanding and respect because we trust in each other’s honesty, I will have contributed something good to the world. In the meantime, it’s back to word-herding for me. And checking in with my fellow ROW80ers. Until next week, for those of you in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving.
As the observant among you might have noticed, I’ve been operating under radio silence for two weeks. Despite the increasingly insane levels of rhetoric before and after the U.S. election, I was able to finish my novella and get it to my editor.
Given how draining it’s been to be surrounded by reports of hate crimes and despicable policies we can now look forward to being implemented, finishing that story came as a bit of a shock to me. But then I read excellent posts from Kristine Wyllys and Leslie Knope that talked about the power of storytelling to reshape our capacity to deal with existential crises. And I saw reporting this weekend that the Hollywood box office had done better than anticipated this week, because, according to one analyst: “Two hours of moviegoing is like a massive, immersive group therapy session.”
As a side note: We went to see Dr. Strange to contribute to that higher-than-anticipated box office take. It was fantastic. The power of a singular event to reshape a person was told compellingly and movingly. And I will continue to NOT text while driving–a wholly avoidable kind of peril.
I thought a lot about why I write and the importance of standing for something. Especially after a friend shared an in-depth article about Derek Black, once the heir to the white nationalist movement, who framed the arguments about “racial realism” and “white genocide”, who’s now spent several years trying to distance himself from those beliefs. Because he had friends who were willing to talk to him gently, model peace, and share truth. It’s a different kind of powerful transformation story. From yet another perspective, Hannah Brencher gave a TED talk on the power of a personalized, hand-written letter to overcome depression and even suicide.
I had pondered my shift toward more overt romance in my stories in February, and I know I’ve talked before about the need for some kind of model for positivity, if not optimism despite the peril my characters face, but my need for a happy ending is being crystallized by the realization that in this election, our society has been dragged into the morass of darkness and despair epitomized by the hate speech our new president-elect regularly bandied about in his campaign.
So I see the stakes in our world as being impossibly high: Overcoming tyranny and oppression. But Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi and many other activists–including Derek Black’s humble college classmates–have proven in a multitude of ways that this is only possible by modeling the peace, love, and understanding we wish to see around us. And finding a healthy relationship with another person is the best microcosm I know of for radiating peace, love, and understanding toward a being who is equally as complicated as you.
Of course, there are scientifically validated tricks to help us along, too. And there are some really useful tips on overcoming gender bias while we’re raising our kids. And there’s my writer friend A.K. Anderson, who’s written a series of posts this week unpacking the nature of man, cultural shadow work, and feeling complicated, as an excellent meta-analysis of how we grow through national ego-death (from a Jungian perspective). None of it will be easy, but it’s important that we face all the things we purport to hate, to understand how this reflects on ourselves.
So I’ve kept on writing. I hadn’t left myself any kind of notes on where I’d left off with Fire to Dragon, which meant it took me several days to find my way back into the story. Yesterday, I started writing again and gave myself a new deadline of the end of November to finish this novel, which has languished in my to-do list for many more years than I ever want to force readers to face again. And I talked to the editor who’s working on the novella about getting it on her calendar for editing, too.
We’ve been busy recently again, so my phone says my daily average step count is stubbornly under 3K last week.
I have work travel to Florida for this week, as well as helping our office move across town, so my days are going to be long and busy for my day job again, but I’m more committed than ever to the idea that a story can help shift a society’s perspective in real and useful ways. I’ll be writing in whatever spare minutes I can find. And spending time reading what my fellow ROW80 writers have been going through.
I’ve been trying to remember the things that took up my time this week (aside from the obvious day job duties), and have mostly been drawing a blank. I had to get up quite a bit earlier than normal, which meant most of my days were spent in some level of tiredness haze. So the office got what focus and attention I had to give.
Which made it interesting when a colleague sent me an article about how the company Patagonia handles work-life balance. Sounds near idyllic to me, and makes me wonder how it is one U.S.-based company can manage this enlightened self-interest when no others I know of do. It’s an odd reflection of Plato’s allegory of the cave, for which hubs found an awesome Orson Welles narration this week.
I also read an interesting set of blog posts I’m keeping open in separate windows as I write to remind me of ways to increase conflict and tension in my story. The ever-insightful Jami Gold had a post about plot obstacles, while Janice Hardy guest posted on Jody Hedlund’s site about why your plot has stalled.
For a story that needs no additional tension or conflict, watch this clip of Inuit mussels gatherers:
I’ve been lucky my plot hasn’t stalled, and I’ve hit the midpoint of the novella. But that means I only wrote 2,868 words this week. I have two weeks to finish this before my editor gets it, so there can’t be any more “I’m too tired” nights. Luckily, I should be back to my regular sleeping/waking schedule this week.
My phone says I averaged 3,463 steps per day this week. Slowly creeping back up toward goal, but not there yet. (Though I also forgot my phone at home for one of our walks this week, so maybe I’m closer than I think.)
Other than that, Gayla is hard at work on her latest book, and expects to be finished with her drafting by tomorrow. So I’ve been editing for her, and am very excited to see how this first in a new series ends. She’s planning a set of related series based on humans escaping Earth, and tracking the mysteries their descendants face thousands of years later. The blurb for the one she’s finishing is:
As the first human to be infected by a Lykanos in thousands of years, Tilly is an anomaly. Being cast out from the village of her birth makes her an Outsider. Learning to be a researcher is her refuge.
Until there’s a murder at her old home. She accepts a place on the team investigating the crime armed with the knowledge that everything she was brought up to believe is a lie—but even that doesn’t make her return any easier.
Faced with the past, she must come to terms with her future while helping to hunt the murderer before more die.
It’s shaping up to be a good murder mystery with New Adult themes, and I’m on pins and needles waiting to read how it ends. 😀
I had a lot of catching up to do at the office this week, so my days were mostly much longer than normal, and didn’t leave much energy for writing. Neither did the descent into madness that the U.S. political process has become. I’m worried for our nation when our “main stream” candidates contribute to the polarization of our population rather than debate real solutions for the real problems so many of us face–crumbling infrastructure, stagnant economy, environmental disaster, structural redistribution, and political corruption. And when a candidate uses language that is triggering for both men and women, it begs the question of how we repair civility enough that we can hear the real reasons there is support for for such a toxic individual. (And: How tragic is it that lucid reporting on those reasons comes from a satire site as opposed to a news site?!)
And that’s as close to a political statement as I’ll ever make on this blog. (Though… I’m seeing some of these bits of news making their ways into my characterizations and I’m laughing at myself for edging toward the dystopian and post-apocalyptic in my writing as being realistic projections of the future. With current trends what they are, it would take one of Miracle Max’s Pills to turn them around.)
Something else I read this week speaks more to the image at the top of this post than I expected. The New York City public library system has apartments built in to the buildings for the obsolete position of caretaker. It would be amazing (as a bibliophile) to live in a space that is naturally quiet and so close to the source of so much knowledge. And for non-readers… well… they just need not apply.
On the business end of my writing world, The Builders is holding on to being listed in the top-selling LGBT scifi titles, making it officially one of my best-performing releases. Not that that bar was ever very high, but it is an encouraging result, especially in the face of news from the Author Earnings team that market share for indies shrunk for the first time in two and a half years of tracking that data. It’s impossible to know whether I might have done better a year ago, or whether this improvement over my previous performance is related to my participation in the Kindle Scout program, but if this reality continues, it will make my long-term goal of a sustainable income from writing that much more challenging to achieve.
It’s a good thing I like to write, regardless. And it is interesting to live in the worlds my fantasies create.
So my imagination generated another 3,136 words among all the other activity last week–a little less than half as productive as the week prior, and some cause for concern with my deadlines. I’ll need to step it up again this week to catch up with my plan. That should be possible since I don’t have to travel, nor do I have any social obligations.
My exercise picked up slightly, so my phone says I averaged 3,234 steps per day last week. Not quite to goal, but much closer than last week.
I’ll be back next week again, and encourage any fellow writers looking for public accountability to check out the ROW80 Facebook group. (For those of you who are avoiding Facebook, we can also be found under #ROW80 on Twitter.)
I lost a week. I lost a filling Monday night and was able to make an emergency appointment with a dentist in our new city on Tuesday. I thought I was going in for a new filling. I ended up staying for a tooth extraction. Apparently, I waited too long between dental visits, and there was more rot than tooth after all the other fillings already in that tooth were taken into account. It was then a several-hour-long odyssey to make sure the entire tooth left its life-long home. I’m not sure if it’s a fiction author thing, or just a crazy me thing, but I was having conversations with that tooth as the dentist paused to try to let enough numbing agent settle into the nerves so I wasn’t actually crying while he was digging, tugging, scraping, and yanking, thanking it for its service and pleading with it to let go easily so I didn’t have to suffer much more of this torture.
In the end, the torture continued over the course of days. I popped a suture and was back in the dentist’s chair on Thursday. I don’t handle any of the strongest pain relievers well, so I don’t take them, which meant I didn’t sleep for several days either.
Finally, enough time has passed that I’m mostly back to the land of the living, but it’s odd to have missed out on a week’s worth of reading think-pieces. Or much reading at all, though Refused to Reign came out as the latest in The Hotel Paranormal series. I finally read that today and enjoyed the different take on wolf pack politics, as well as further insight into how the other authors in the series are treating The Hotel as a character.
The week wasn’t a completely lost cause, though. For those who’ve been tracking my progress bar widget, I wrote 7,496 words on my novella for the Hotel Paranormal series. I’m so glad to be getting back into the flow of quick drafting, and actually have some hope that with this exercise I will have knocked loose any remaining cobwebs for how to finish the trilogy that is supposed to end before this book comes out. We’ll see.
Given my convalescence, there wasn’t much walking either; my phone shows an average of 1,767 steps for the week, probably because of the long walk I got to take on Monday.
I hope getting back into the swing of things at work–and especially since I’ll be in Maryland on Wednesday for a very long day–won’t derail my writing jag, but I’ll be back next week to report on my progress either way.
It’s been an odd week of feeling under the weather and yet accomplishing one of my major goals of the year. Releasing The Builders–and watching it become the first of my books to hit a hot and trending list!–was more than a little exciting, and I’m sure helped the cold/flu symptoms I battled most of the week not completely tow me under.
Taking care of all the little details that go with a new release–updating my Goodreads page, my AUTHORSdb page, my authorgraph page, seeking out reviewers–it always takes more time than you expect. This weekend, then, we slid into the month of October, too, making me realize… I have three months before my next hard deadline. If I want to be absolutely sure to make that one, I need to put the third Red Slaves book on hold again, and at least get the draft of the new novella done. I don’t know what it is about Fire to Dragon, but the book has been stubbornly slow to reveal itself to me. On the other hand, when I started Dragon’s Pursuit yesterday… the words just flowed. I’m already over 2,000 words into the story. If I can just keep up the pace with 1,000 words per day, it will be done before the end of the month.
I’ll admit that releasing the novella before the novel may mean series readers face a spoiler or two in it, but really, telling Maxim’s story is helping me find my excitement about the Red Slaves universe again. Setting it in 2046 makes this story part scifi, projecting the kinds of tech my dragons might have to face and deal with. I even spent some time projecting population growth and socio-economic realities 30 years in the future. It’s odd to imagine I might be alive and an old woman to check my own prognostications at that point. I can see the draw of being a futurist. In fact, I was looking at an article from last year in which several of them prognosticate just ten years into the future, and their thoughts are helping push mine. As the author of that last piece points out:
And when culture does change, the precipitating events can be surprisingly random and small.
In fact, The Atlantic had a fascinating article about female futurists last year, which explored not only the impact of sexism in that field, but also the types of things traditionally old, white men like to prognosticate about–that leave out the changing social implications that impact women and minorities, and that push the boundaries on things people who are comfortable with their lives might speculate about (like living longer) as opposed to real resource issues that might come up should a city like Moscow actually hit 20 million inhabitants. The most interesting perspective is that people who are generally happy with the station they have achieved in life are more likely to project a positive future, while those who have seen the struggles inherent in our society are more likely to project dystopian futures.
It explains rather more than I’d considered.
And puts a different point on even the small cultural perspective shifts that come from moving around. Last week I read an on-point critique about living in Milwaukee that made me once again grateful that we’ve been able to shift our base of operations. Without opportunities, even the most talented can find the future bleak. Which brings me back around to the the quote that kicked off this post: I suspect my optimism has as much to do with my stubbornness as with any other characteristic or luck.
So, for goals for this round of the ROW80 challenge (which ends December 22), I’m considering the following:
- Complete draft of Dragon’s Pursuit, send it through edits, and have the final version ready to go for the January 4 publication date I’ve committed to.
- Complete draft of Fire to Dragon and send it for edits.
- If I’m really good, my stretch goal will be to publish this before the end of the year as well.
- Average at least 4,000 steps per day.
- Blog at least once per week.
- Begin to consider next year’s production schedule so I don’t end up with this kind of crush at the end of next year. 😀
For now, that’s more than plenty to be getting on with. For fellow authors who are interested in a supportive community pursuing public accountibility for goals, I highly recommend the ROW80 group, which has now moved its base of operations over to an open Facebook group. For the rest of you, I’ll be back next week with my progress update.
As promised, today is the official release day for The Builders. At 61,211 words, it’s my longest novel yet and branches me out into the niche romance market of lesbian romances. I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go there, but the characters were stubbornly female and stubbornly attracted to each other.
Amazingly, in the few hours it’s been available to the public, demand has been strong enough to propel it to #5 in Amazon’s “Hot New Releases in LGBT Science Fiction” list and #15 in Amazon’s top 100 paid “Best Sellers in LGBT Science Fiction” list. I’m unbelievably excited to have my book listed on the same page as one of Gail Carriger’s latest:
Thank you to all the readers who have made this possible! I hope the story is as entertaining and thought-provoking for you to read as it was for me to research and write.
To whet your appetite, here’s the blurb:
Earth’s alien progenitors have returned. For Tara Shifflet, abuse survivor and meeting planner, that wouldn’t be as big a deal as getting home to her therapy cat, except that getting anywhere in the U.S. is dicey in the wake of public uproar about first contact. For Navenah, a short-term assignment with vague directions to find generators to save her dying race leads to frustration and misunderstanding. The two women find unexpected pleasure together, but will that solve the galactic die-off?
I’m excited to see audience response to this story, even while I work on formatting the print version.
Friday’s notification from the Kindle Scout people that my nomination period had come to an end, and The Builders had now entered its review period came with a healthy dose of relief. Tonight’s notification that it had not been selected means I’ll be starting the publication process through KKP this week. Watch for the purchase links here on Wednesday.
One thing I’ve seen repeatedly with authors who are able to build writing careers that earn them a living is that the best advertising for their books is releasing a new book. Since my most recent previous release was in January of 2014, I’ve lost any momentum I might have built up from my first seven publishing efforts, and I’m anxious to get back on the horse. My five-year plan is to aim for three releases per year. This year I’ll have two (if I’m super-industrious in the next couple months), and I still have to meet my deadline for my January 4 release of the follow-on to the book I’m currently working on.
So I’m feeling more than a little under the gun.
Naturally, that meant we had birthdays to celebrate and social obligations to meet. Last week our oldest girl turned six; this week our youngest girl turned two. Luckily for us, that means they’re beyond the worst of their puppy shenanigans, so when we went to the family dinner on my niece’s birthday in between times, they were relaxed about it. Yesterday, when we went to the bigger party to celebrate my niece’s thirteen years, we were a little too relaxed about it. An hour into the cook-out and we had voicemails from our neighbor to let us know he’d put KouKi inside after she’d howled at our back door for 45 minutes. Apparently, in our rush to get to the cupcakery before it closed, we didn’t check to make sure everyone was inside. We’re still wondering how that happened. I suppose there really is a first time for everything.
It’s possible too little sleep was a contributing factor.
I’m also in shock that my niece could already have reached her thirteenth birthday. I’m still trying to reconcile the little girl I knew with the young woman who is. She’s smart, accomplished, kind, and bombarded with so many options, I wonder which path she’ll eventually choose to follow. For her sake, I hope she helps make a lie of the current numbers of women in STEM careers. While my path has had its successes, its unconventional nature has meant that as I’ve grown older I’ve sought out opportunities that offer more stability than a writer’s inclination normally affords. Which meant that reading about an author who quit her (admittedly misfitted) job without a more serious plan to follow up on her first novel than to let inspiration strike, led to quite a few facepalm and headdesk moments for me. Being a writer has its own list of pros and cons–as do all careers–and ignoring the aspects that are inconvenient or hard is a sure path to being stymied and stuck–and broke.
My Hotel Paranormal cohorts certainly aren’t in that camp. Siren’s Curse came out last week, and I finally got a chance to read Unveiled. I’m really enjoying the way these authors are playing with ancient legends, bringing them forward into modern times with some unexpected twists. My own crypto-historical story as a follow-on to my Red Slaves trilogy should fit right in. And The Hotel is a fabulous character in its own right.
As for my fitness goals, all our other activities have meant we didn’t walk quite as much as last week. My phone says the places I took it with me amounted to an average of 3,807 steps per day. Not quite two miles a day. Not bad, but definitely room for improvement. I’m grateful that Spa World exists, nonetheless, to help get my head in the proper framework for being productive for another week–regardless of how many or few steps I’ve taken. If I can sweat in a sauna, that’s almost as good as sweating on a walk, right?
For as many hard knocks I’ve endured this round, I’m happy to have met at least one of my big goals. I’ll be back again next week to continue reporting on my ongoing progress. My ROW80 group is moving to Facebook starting next round, so there won’t be any more links to those group members’ posts, but for writers looking for a community of supportive authors, this is a good one.
I am by nature an optimist. There are days, though, when I wonder if that is my insidious license to a certain kind of laziness. I haven’t gone all out to find ways to spam people with “nominate me” links, even though my Kindle Scout campaign for The Builders comes to an end in four days. I had read about an author whose book spent 98% of its time in the program in “hot and trending” and still didn’t get an offer. And on a different board, that there does not seem to be a correlation between crowd-based interest and whether the author gets an offer. Then there was the article in Slate speculating that what Kindle Scout was really going for were all those gloriously BAD guilty pleasures. At the opposite extreme was an interview with an author who was signed, who found the experience thrilling in all the right ways. I suspect there’s some reality to all of these stories, so I have a hard time getting wrapped around the axle at this point.
You can bet I’ll do a happy dance when the book is finally published, though–regardless of whether it’s through Kindle or KKP–since I’m quite proud of the story.
One of the promo efforts I had wanted to be part of was this week’s Science Fiction Romance Sale. It includes a bunch of authors from the Science Fiction Romance Brigade group I’m part of. Unfortunately, being a Kindle Scout sort-of freebie didn’t fit the mold, so I’ll have to test that option later. In the meantime, for those of you who like that genre, there are lots of other interesting choices on offer.
On the writing front… I’ve managed a pitiful 751 words on Fire to Dragon this week. I’m incorporating writers’ workshop feedback into the early chapters that now constitues a verifiable pattern: I write the broad bones of a story in my first draft, missing out on characterization and setting details that help ground a reader in what I’m trying to convey. Going back to add those in during the editing process is more time-consuming than the fast-drafting I’m used to, so this feels like working in super-slow-mo to me.
Enough so that I got bitten by a plotbunny that has been playing out in my dreams: What happens in 75 years when the fascists are in power, we’re all connected via the Internet of Things, and it becomes criminal not to upgrade to the latest OS? I downloaded my iOS10 upgrade the day after it came out (neatly avoiding some of the “early glitches”), and noticed the same kind of breathless coverage tracking OS adoption that is the norm for Apple’s releases. Given that there are still computers out there running IE6 (I know, because sites I’ve built have had to be backward compatible that far based on visitor data), this seems some kind of unusual deviation. But from a corporate perspective, being able to enforce a lock-step upgrade pattern offers some enticing ways of controlling their narrative of progress. There’s a lot of meat to that kind of story–even though I’m not a particular fan of dystopian worlds. Even though those are evidently currently in style, considering all of tonight’s Emmy wins for Game of Thrones, Mr. Robot, and Orphan Black…
We’ll see whether my story ever makes it onto my production calendar.
As for exercising, we’re doing pretty well. My phone says I averaged 5,225 steps a day this week. For all those shorter excursions when I forgot my phone, that means I’m guessing I have been walking a total of about 3 miles a day. Not shabby considering we still have some pretty heavy heat and humidity in the area.
We’re down to the final week of this ROW80 round, and I am pretty sure I won’t be completing Fire to Dragon as planned. I’m glad I at least got The Builders as far as I did, but I need to speed up significantly to keep up with my publication plan. I’ll be thinking about how to manage that realistically as we enter the final round of the year. I’ll be back next week to let you know my conclusions.
It ended up being a long short week. My five-day weekend included lots of rest, reading, yard work, and even a trip to Spa World to recover from the yard work. I thought I was ready to face the office, rejuvenated. Instead, I got a string of 10-plus-hour days. Apparently, I need to do a better job helping people to not rely on me so much.
My reward for all that work was a concert Friday night that introduced me to Blackberry Smoke, a southern rock band a friend of ours discovered on YouTube doing a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. This isn’t my usual genre of music, but the band is tight and knows how to give a live show that will rock your socks off. My favorite song of theirs is The Whipporwill, which strikes me as a kissing cousin to some of the work I love from The Slambovians.
Strangely, for as long and challenging as my days were, I managed to get back into working on Fire to Dragon. I was especially inspired after I saw that the National Geographic had an article reviewing a new book mapping Soviet architecture in Moscow. I’ve only added a couple hundred words since I’ve picked it up again, but I’m starting back at the beginning and incorporating beta reader feedback that is a strange echo of things I’ve heard from my editor: more needed! I seem to draft in spare prose that leaves out setting and emotional details readers need to stay grounded in the story. Knowing this makes it easier to go back and insert what’s necessary, and also has the side benefit of getting me back in the groove with the story. Still, I have a long way to go to finish it, and I’m not sure I’ll be done in two weeks. I’m grateful to at least be making progress.
I’m also tracking how The Builders is doing in its KindleScout campaign. It’s only spent two hours in “hot and trending” and is down to the final eleven days of its public review period. I think it might take a miracle to get it past this step at this rate, but I’m glad the program is out there. (Also: If you haven’t nominated me yet, I’d very much appreciate your vote!) This process is pointing out to me some of the weaknesses I have in reaching readers to promote my work, as well as the hazard of having waited so long since my most recent release (which was in January of 2014). So it’s back to work for me.
In related news, the next The Hotel Paranormal book came out on the 7th: Unveiled by Lynda Haviland. I’m looking forward to reading it since even just the blurb has me intrigued. I love fractured fairytales, and if she’s figured out how to incorporate the Veils of Salome the way she hints, I’m going to be a very happy camper.
On the personal front, we’ve been doing a lot better with fitness. My phone informs me that for the week just finished, I’ve averaged over 2 miles of walking per day. This makes the furbabies happy and gives me a break from the desk and keyboard so my back doesn’t go completely wonky on me.
This week shouldn’t be as intense, though with the kickoff of the football season we have more of a social life again, making time available for quiet solitude even more at a premium. I’ll still keep plugging away, and encourage you to visit my ROW80 cohorts to see how they’re doing with their progress.