The Indie Journey: Elsewhere and Otherwhen

There's an extraordinary number of excellent resources out there to help you on your personal publishing path, but after my own recent experience, I thought I'd share my own tips.

First, I wish I'd made more time for the publication process on a consistent basis. Not just because I could have accomplished things earlier in the calendar, but because often when I came back I had to learn concepts all over again. Worse, I wasted some people's time. (It's amazing Quincy J. Allen still puts up with me - what a great indie guide and book formatter!) 

I also foolishly allowed myself to get disorganized, which is quite unlike me. Challenging as it is, in the future, I'm going to make sure I have time set aside on a very regular basis for the month of publication to ensure I don't get bogged down for months repeating processes. I'm also organizing my notes to provide myself a more coherent set of guidelines. So don't fall into the rinse-later-repeat cycle like me - keep moving forward!

While "know more" may not sound particularly helpful, along the lines of the earlier notes, I didn't stay on top of information the way I should have. When people share information, put it where it's safe (and keep reviewing it). Again, organization: it's critical.

Finally, set a calendar. It's easy to suddenly lose a month - family emergencies, other writing deadlines, you name it. Remind yourself of what you're planning to accomplish each month. Overly ambitious deadlines are just as detrimental as none at all, so plan it out, but also make your deadlines reasonable. 

On a more technical publication basis, I also offer this bullet point list for folks new to this path:

  • Don't underestimate the importance of beta readers.
  • Your first chapter is almost as important as the whole rest of the book. The first page most important of all. Get it right.
  • Always, ALWAYS hire a great, professional editor. Do not stint.
  • Get to know Amazon's options: Kindle, Kindle Unlimited, and the advantages thereof
  • Research artists for your cover design early. Really, really early. Finding the right fit for you might take longer than it did to write the book! And fitting in their schedule? Well, that could be even tougher. And when you do book your artist, make sure you have ALL the information regarding cover size.
  • Research Draft2Digital and Kobo for other excellent publishing platform options (and use them!)
  • Learn about ACX for your audible book options
  • Don't underestimate the importance of proof copies! Make sure it looks in paper the way you planned it digitally. And remember, making even one minor corrections in CreateSpace means waiting for the file to be approved again before you can order the proof, which will take time to arrive. Build in time for at least two proofing cycles; better to have and not need them than need and not have it.
  • Make sure your have a dedicated bank account for your book sales correctly linked to your digital platforms. You may wish to also set up a linked savings account so you can automatically transfer out your self-employment tax from all deposits for ease of end-of-year payments.
  • Follow great indie authors like Katie Cross, Alex P. Berg, and Terry Odell, who post fantastic self-examinations of their indie pursuits, tactics, and successes to help you plan out your promotional tactics, from BookBub to Goodreads giveaways and more.

Got your own tips? Please feel free to comment and share!

SquareSpace

I know a lot of authors who understand the need for a fabulous website, but struggle to develop one, or dread redeveloping theirs. I've been around the block over the years. I had a wonderful designer who developed both the first and second iterations of the (since hacked) Reflection's Edge, and though I loved them, the maintenance was more than a little time-intensive, and I had to learn a lot of (basic, but challenging for me) coding. I also certainly learned the lesson of un-updated Word Press installations, which allowed for the security vulnerabilities that ultimately destroyed that website. (I was able to retrieve almost every story in late 2016 in a thrilling recovery after well over a year's worth of work attempting to recover the website, and plan to up a small revised website in the future with a simple archive.)

But that was a whole other era - one when you had to understand at last basic html and a lot of database management. No more. The availability of modern templates and simple interfaces has made it possible for pretty much everyone, and many of these websites take care of you security-wise by constantly updating. For that using I'm using SquareSpace, and honestly, I can't recommend it enough. It's simple, beautiful, and easy to update, with a plethora of options from templates to design. My life is pretty busy right now, so I'm keeping it simple, but as I have time, it's easy to build it out. 

If you haven't already built your website and are shopping around, I highly recommend it. But I'm also interested in hearing what others have used successfully. What worked for you (or didn't)?

Superstars Writing Seminar 2017

I've gone to the Superstars Writing Seminar for some years now. It's a unique seminar, as it focuses not on craft (for the most part), but the business of writing: the state of the industry, what techniques and price points work best, how to best promote yourself, and the technical procedures of getting published (both indie and traditional routes). 

As I type up my final notes from the seminar today and plan out my calendar for the next year - project deadlines, wishful thinking, etc. - I've been acknowledging some things. The shortest version is that while I'm sure I would have always pursued publication in some form or another, there's no question that without this seminar, I'd be doing it with far less confidence and expertise. Many thanks, folks. Many thanks. #SWS17

 

 

That Utopian Burger Place

A few weeks back, I went hiking with my family. As the kiddo blissfully napped in her post-hike exhaustion, we stopped at a small burger joint to pick up a quick bite since it'd be over an hour before we'd make it home. I popped in by myself, leaving her father with her.

I was a little disappointed to find myself behind an enormous extended family ready to make their Sunday night order - but before I could manage a sigh, they practically escorted me to the front of the line. Go on ahead, honey, you know we'll be forever, mixed in with gentle Spanish reminders to their kids to let me pass.

I made my order and moved to the side, where I was soon treated to a remarkably tender scene: an elderly, and clearly somewhat confused, woman ambled around the room. At the front a very young man, fifteen if he was a day, called out a ticket number fruitlessly several times. Another middle-aged woman and I were just making the connection and about to speak up when the woman at the register gently got his attention. 

"That's for Mrs. X, of course," she said. (I confess I can't actually remember her name.) "Now, come on over here, Mrs. X, I've got your dinner all ready." And she walked her over to her place, where she sat down her meal, spoke with her a moment, and smiled before returning to her register. Everyone there smiled just as brightly as Mrs. X.

Another young teenager, a young woman this time, studiously concentrated on my husband's shake behind the corner, her mouth twisted in effort, then breaking into an enormous smile as she handed it to me. We both beamed over it, pleased as punch with its final presentation - commercial-worthy, that shake.

Troubling as recent weeks have been, I've held that memory closely of a little place where everyone was happy, and everyone got along. 

Heck, maybe we should all visit.

Hike!

I'm currently in the process, to my great relief, of working on final edits for Doors, book two in my Elspeth Romero series. In making the final tweaks to a final showdown in the book, I've had to review my notes from my brief foray into the Great Trinity Forest in Dallas, Texas. It's a preserve on the edge of the city, one the majority of Dallas natives have never even heard of it. Although it's become more of a topic in recent years due to development efforts, a quick Google will find you very little, unless you know exactly where to dig; the Wikipedia page is downright pathetic.

Honestly, it's such a strange, marvelous place that when I try to tell people about it, half of them think it's another bit of fiction. If it weren't for Ben Sandifer's documentation in his Trinity Trails blog, I'd probably agree, but thankfully I stumbled onto his website years ago and have been fascinated ever since. (Though he hasn't posted in a while. I may have to shoot him an inquiry.) 

So yes, there are alligators, herons, and roseate spoonbills in Dallas as well as deer, coyote, and feral hogs - and that's not even bringing into consideration the charming variety of invertebrates that keep it loudly busy. Marvelously, last I read, there's even one lone resident who has stuck it out in the preserve, a remnant of an attempt to civilize the forest and develop a town named Roosevelt Heights, which failed disastrously in the early seventies due to the inescapably flood-prone nature of the area.

I went on a brief hike on one of the forgotten (but well-made) trails about a year ago as research with my sister. While I didn't see much on the fringes as we were (we weren't going to wade hip-deep in alligator territory; we've got kids), I did manage to get closer than most people get. If anyone thinks of the GTF at all, chances are they think of the Audobon Center, but I'd visited once long ago found the experience lacking, hence my secondary adventure. (It's possible I'm being unfair in thinking of the center as uninspiring, as I haven't visited the Audobon since it opened in 2008; the website looks like they've expanded some.)

Even just looking over the photos it's easy to slip back in memory: the oppressive heat, the roaring cicadas, the distant squawks of birds, and the rushing water underneath it, close to the river as we were. It's a magical place, a real-life one. I highly recommend you visit - before the magic is gone. Romantic that I am, I can't help but view future plans for the area ("...future addition of equestrian facilities, and the addition of whitewater, nature trails and multipurpose trails to be used for recreation and transportation, boat launches, and trailhead improvements...") with great sadness. 

Swamp balance

I'll never forget the moment when a coworker teased me about my post-birth life. I commented I realized I'd have to give up some things - notably, I'd closed down my beloved literary magazine - but I still intended to be active. After all, I currently was a volunteer ESL teacher, attended church regularly, was writing my third book, worked full time, hiked weekends, blazed through video games, cooked daily, and kept a Martha Stewart-organized house. She laughed and basically said I wouldn't have time for anything but work and family.

I was annoyed, certainly, but it was more than that: I was hurt. I expected her, as a fellow mother and writer, to be different than the teaming hordes who mercilessly teased me about my soon-to-be overwhelmed life. It seemed like a betrayal - to throw your hands up and say "Ah, I'm done, time for art is past." The fact that I knew so many mothers who'd done the same didn't help the tickling, awful monster at the back of my mind that wondered: was she my future?

It wasn't, but to say I underestimated the challenges to come was like - well, saying I had expected the shark wrestling to go more easily, I guess. Church went out the window, along with ESL; so did sleep for a very long time. (My daughter started sleeping through the night a few months ago. She is turning four in a few weeks. Years, not months.) Writing and editing slowed heavily, though it didn't vanish. And I learned to work faster, harder, and smarter than ever before.

Fellow geeks know what I'm saying when I say my life is less linear and more of a wibbly wobbly, timey wimey experience, where a day disappears in a blink and then I try to cram a week's worth of work into an hour of scrambled writing/editing/dental appointment making over yet another cup of coffee.

But the problem with cram sessions, however well intentioned, is that when you're working in fractured, broken moments, it often leads to fractured, broken results - and at the very least something less than ideal productivity.

Who knew writing the book was the easiest part? 

I'm a practical sort of person, and I tend to quickly recognize issues and tackle them with the feistiness of a bulldog (sometimes the elegance, too). But there's something almost unbearably bittersweet about my position. I can't change it, but even if I could, I wouldn't know where to begin. I wouldn't sacrifice a minute with my daughter; I wouldn't drop my art. Fiscal constraints require me to work a day job, but I'm not delusional enough to ignore the fact that I enjoy it, too. Where is the balance in my wibbly-wobbly life? Is the complete absence of any a balance of its own?

On good days, I feel like I'm dancing and juggling too, a cirque du soleil of authorial proportions. On bad days, it's a swamp I feel myself sinking into, without Falkor in sight. (It's a heavy geek reference day, I guess.) 

For the time being, I suppose, I must simply clutch my book cover, set an early alarm, and remember the Oracle's just a luck dragon away. And set the kettle to boil.

Amazon profile page!

I don't know why I didn't do this back when One Horn to Rule Them All published, but I finally set up my basic Amazon author page, to be expanded. Seldom have I done anything so satisfying. (I'm flashing back to writing my first "magazines" in second or third grade with Tiffany S.) 

Now on to do the same with Goodreads!

Phew!

I just finished copying over all my old blog entries from my old Tumblr account. Here's to the new in-progress website!

Other People's Books

A couple of weeks ago, I went to see a reading by Anne Hillerman. I wanted to go partly out of curiosity - I like meeting authors - but also because I very much wanted to get a signed copy for the upcoming father’s day. Despite having read plenty of Tony Hillerman, I realized as I settled in how incredibly unaware I was of Anne Hillerman herself. I didn’t know if she’d ever co-written with her father, or how these two latest books of hers, continuation of her father’s saga, came to be. (By way of excuse, I’ve been living mostly under a toddler-sized rock the past few years.)

But I do know mysteries. Both my parents are ardent readers of most every genre, but my mother in particular favors mysteries, and my father loves them second only to science fiction. I grew up reading Hillerman along with a diet of many other mysteries long before I moved to New Mexico, and it felt suddenly strange realizing the author I was about to meet in a crowded back-room gathering at a local bookstores was effectively my neighbor, writing about my home.

I also began to realize, not ten minutes into her presentation, how tremendously brave Anne Hillerman is. It’s never easy working in the same empire as a successful relative, perhaps most especially the empire of your parent. She began the gathering forthrightly addressing what she assumed our first question was - why she had dared to write a sequel to her father’s works. She also discussed what exactly she thought she could bring to it, and as she shared those thoughts, I felt a sudden tremendous sympathy. How exhausting, to have the first thing on your agenda at every reading - I can’t help but assume - to be to address why you had the right to write your books. She also spent a fair amount of time sharing memories of her father, and I could almost feel people literally drinking those stories in with their thirsty minds, their eagerness visible. I was embarrassed that I hadn’t read her first book; I wished I could say that I was there just for her.

There was nuance in all that she said, I should note, but generally, it seemed her reasoning for writing was that a) she missed the characters b) she missed her father and c) he had never listened to her and let the female characters be anything more than girlfriends. And with all those factors, out came a book, and with her mother’s permission, pursuit of publication.

I hadn’t realized Bernie was the focus of Hillerman’s books, having bought but not yet read them: a female character from her father’s cast of characters, finally getting her own show. When I went up to get my copies signed at the end, I wanted more than anything to say I was an writer, too, and a mother of a daughter, and I was so glad that she was bringing women to the fore of these books, and that she shouldn’t have to apologize, and that I was glad she was doing what she was doing.

Instead, of course, I mumbled a request to put Happy Father’s Day on the copy I planned to give my father, and just to sign my mother’s copy, and scampered away like a nervous kitten. If economy of words were literal, I probably hadn’t spent more than a quarter.

For what it’s worth, I’m rooting for you, Anne.

Drabblecast posted "The Lonely Child"!

So, around my Thanksgiving blur of cold-stomach flu-cold (both the kiddo and I were sick while the husband was out of the country; thank goodness for my sister!), I GOT PUBLISHED AGAIN! I even got this FABULOUS illustration by Melissa McClanahan, and I didn’t even realize it!!!

I also may have slightly scared my father-in-law as I cooed over my disturbing horror story art with all the loving tenderness of a mother over her baby. Look at my pretty illustration!

(Oh, and just to clarify, I knew it was coming, but didn’t know it had already been published!) 

So yeah, this is old news, but it’s new old news to me! Please come and enjoy this fabulous story at the fabulous Drabblecast, fabulous people!

Quite So

A nice little blog on why authors might not be at their best at a con, even if they’re trying.

 

Popcorn, by Monique Buchegar

I have been very grieved to hear of author Monique Bucheger’s recent loss of her son in a tragic accident. On top of such a cruel loss, she now faces some serious bills. 

Monique is a wonderful author. Everyone knows some little ones, so if you have a minute, I hope you’ll consider buying one of her wonderful books, which will ultimately help pay for the medical bills and funeral she now faces. Even better, buy a copy, read it to a child you love, and leave a review, which boosts the book’s ranking in Amazon and gives it greater visibility so even more people will have the opportunity to find it, buy it, love it, and share it.

Popcorn, her children’s book, is currently my daughter’s favorite book, and I highly recommend it.  If you’re on the fence, check out my honest review of Popcorn

Pseudopod publishes "The Godsmaid Clara and Her Many Smiles"

Hoorah! My horror short story, “The Godsmaid Clara and Her Many Smiles,” has been published by the fabulous horror podcost Pseudopod! It’s been out a few days, but during my hectic Superstars Conference I got a bit behind (and sicker! argh). Now that I’m chock full of science’s modern medicinal marvels, I’m getting back on my game. 

If you like many-legged monsters, steampunk, Victorian horror, or plain dry wit and a cup of tea, you’re going to love it. Check it out!

The Walking Dead

I love this show prodigiously - it does a great job with most of its women, esp. Carol, has a pretty diverse cast, and has great emotional arcs -  but I find I really struggle with the fact that it’s a horror program, when I want it to be sci-fi. Basically, everything always goes to worst-case scenario, which I find annoying, and even worse,I keep fact-checking them. It’s just not working.

Them: Zombies everywhere instant plague!

Me: Really? This “disease” makes no sense. And like rabies, v. hard to spread. Even with the new “herding” concept where zombies seem to work together en masse and target areas/person so that you can’t escape, it’s hard to see them as a threat. This isn’t even going into the biology of rotting bodies. I know you mutated the virus later, but still. You should have stolen the “it’s a spore/spreads in the air” concept from The Last of Us, where the infected are still alive and simply just like the ants who get the very real fungal infection, and go around trying to spread the spores like the diligent fungal slaves they are until they die and explode spores everywhere, infecting a nice radius. Oh, well. Pretending not to see.

Them: Modern military could not defeat them!

Me: [sighs] You are defeating them with sticks, people. Our military has a wee bit more. Fine. We’ll stick with the mystery of how this somehow took hold, which was not shown to us. We’re pretending we don’t see this plot hole. Very hard. *tries not to see*

Them: It’s like half the population is dead!

Me: Really? Because you’re showing like 4 people surviving in a whole town. It’s looking like a 99.99% death rate. Maybe add another 9 in there.

Them: Oh the horror! They are massing together and will break down the fence!

Me: There’s like 50 of them. Bring 10 people out and start poking them with sharp sticks through the fence. Then proactively dig some pits and put up more of those wooden stake preventatives you’ve used before and occasionally drop by to dispose of caught zombies, or even dig a nice grid of prairie dog holes around the perimeter with a post-hole maker to break their legs and leave them stranded - again, you can drop by occasionally to put them out of their misery. Or make flame throwers out of hair spray and a lighter, although that will take a bit more work to avoid it spreading. But hey, in a pinch. Seriously, you people have veterans around and you can’t figure this out? Or make the zombies more threatening. Please. I’m having trouble focusing on the story.

Them: the CDC is incompetent and self-destructing!

Me: Have some respect.

Them: There are no antibiotics anywhere 18 months into the outbreak ahhh! And they’re expiring!

Me: Really? Cause you keep showing deserted towns and no survivors. Every CVS is emptied? Every clinic, hospital, veterinary locale, urgent care, medical warehouse, pharmacy…? Also,expiration dates are pretty flexible with many antibiotics except for a handful of exceptions. Your doctors on the show would know this, esp. the field combat vets.

Them: Bare shoulders are an apocalyptic fashion statement!

Me: Dude, raid a mall or an REI. A leather jacket, neck wrap, and some gaters would save you from like 80% of your casualties. Human teeth not that good at biting through multiple layers of protection.

Them: Such a diverse cast of survivors! But only one of whom is gay and arrives in season 4!

Me: Really?

Them: All survivors lack medical conditions except for that guy with stage 4 lung cancer and that one kid with asthma, each of whom we saw for two seconds! 

Me: Because allergies are automatically a death sentence…? I mean, really, I’d expect that early on all kinds of folks with all kinds of medical problems are alive.

Them: Doctors! We need doctors!

Me: Dentists! You need dentists! (And vitamins and iodized salt and tampons and floss! LOTS OF FLOSS!)

We are at such odds.

OH YEAH

Just finished the first draft of my sequel!