Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Witch Hunt

Today brought with it the most shameful piece of pseudo-journalism I've seen in a long time.

A mild mannered (and from all accounts excellent) English teacher named Judy Buranich has been "outed" as an erotic romance novelist. Apparently this means she should be burned at the stake. Let the witch hunt begin.

Keep in mind, the poor woman has done NOTHING wrong or illegal. She has kept her private life and her writing life separate from her work life. She writes under a pseudonym (Judy Mays) and doesn't talk about her books in class. It's not like she's running down the halls stripping her clothes off.

Sarah over at SmartBitches has done an excellent post on the shamefulness of it all. Shiloh Walker talks about her Twitter campaign to point out the sheer stupidity of WNEP and their "journalists".

It's like we've stepped into a time warp and it's the Inquisition all over again. As one commenter pointed out, if she had been writing slasher books, she'd probably get kudos and her name on a plaque. But, no, she's writing about sex and romance.

Oh, the shock!

The horror!

To show my support for a fellow author (And to show just how stupid I think this whole witch hunt is.), I went straight over to Amazon and bought one of her books.

Monday, 25 April 2011

JA Konrath Outline Post

For any of you interested in the Konrath post Chris mentioned on my blog post about my process, I found it. Huzzah! You can read it here. It's a great post about writer's block, outlines and motivation.

I Am A Dork

I signed into my Google account so I could comment to another commenter about my blog post. After making the comment I realized I had ten whole followers. How exciting!

Except that one of my followers is me.

Now I am a follower. Of my own blog. Which sounds ridiculously egotistically.

Who on Google thought this was a good idea?

Being the dork that I am, I can't figure out how to UN-follow my own blog. So now I look like a prat. Don't you love that word?

Carrying On

Today I'm writing.

Since it's the first of two four day weekends in a row, it's a perfect opportunity to really get some words down on the page. 2000 words so far. It's not much, but I'm feeling GREAT about it. It's not often I get the chance to sit down and write uninterrupted for the entire day.

Did I say uninterrupted?

Um, yeah, so let's pretend I haven't been tweeting and posting to the Kindle Boards, OK? :-)

In any case, I'm focusing on finishing Kissed by Fire before returning to my other two WIPs. My goal is to get it done by the end of June when KbD goes live so that my editor can get going on it. I figure if I time it write, KbF can go live about two months after the first book.

I'm not sure if that's realistic. I'm not sure if it's optimal. What I am sure of is that if you don't set goals, you'll never have anything to aim for. So, aim high.

Friday, 22 April 2011

My Process Is A Hot Mess

Seriously. It is.

I imagine with time and practice and experience and all that I'll eventually settle down into a "proper" creative process, but I doubt it. That's just not the way my mind works.

I've always been able to see the beginning and the end of a story quite clearly in my head. So, that's what I start with. I write t
he first chapter and the last chapter.


But there's about 250 pages MISSING in the middle. Oy vey. What's a girl to do?

I've always seen my stories rather like a movie trailer; little flashes of events that aren't necessarily in order but look really cool.
My first attempt at a "process" was to simply write down those little flashes as I "saw" them. It made sense at the time.

The problem with that was that I had to wait for the flashes to come. I couldn't MAKE them come. It took me seven years just to get the first draft together. And we're talking ROUGH draft. Like somewhere between and outline and a synopsis.

Hot mess, indeed.

I shoved the thing in the drawer and tried again. And tried. And tried. Nothing worked. I couldn't get past the 250 blank pages right in the middle of my super cool beginning and my even cooler ending. Urgh.

And then I had an idea for an urban fantasy series starring a private detective (who wasn't really a private detective, but a monster hunter) called Bailey Morgan. As usual, I had the beginning and I had the end, but I had nothing in between.

Then I read about author Garth Nix and his writing process. Honesty, I can't remember how I stumbled across this nifty bit of info, but it totally changed my process. Well, to be honest, it GAVE me a process. Or rather, part of my process.

I headed straight out to WH Smith and bought a stack of wire bound sketch books that were on sale. They have nice solid backs so I can haul them around anywhere and write really easily in them. The blank paper means I can sketch (badly) my ideas or paste in pictures I've printed (stolen) from the internet that inspire me. I can also write in circle and to other weird creative author things that normal people don't do in notebooks.

I spent the first few pages of my brand new notebook nailing down my main characters and their backgrounds as well as the backstory for the series. Granted these things have change about a hundred times over, but it gave me a starting point. Also, I can go back and refer to them so I don't forget Jack's eyes are ocean blue or that Inigo is 200 years old or the names of Kabita's three brothers. I still wrote my beginning and my end, but then I started outlining what happened next.

I managed three chapters.

I wrote those three chapters and managed to completely deviate from my outline. Fortunately, that gave me more ideas for the book, so I outlined the next couple of chapters and so on until I was about halfway through the story. Then I bogged down.

It had taken me something like eight months or so to write half a novel and I was stalled. I still knew where I wanted to go, but I had no idea how to get there. I had a few things I wanted to happen, but I wasn't sure how to make them happen in a way that made sense.

Fortunately, I know some really clever people. And I have Skype. So I called my cousin in the US and spent countless hours brainstorming with her. I don't know that I kept many of her ideas, a couple maybe, but the point was that our brainstorming sessions totally cracked open my creativity. Being able to talk everything over with someone who I trust and respect who is, when you come right down to it, just as crazy and insane as I am (Not to mention has the exact same sense of humor.) helped free my mind of stagnation and get the old creative juices flowing again.

I finished the rest of the novel in a month.

The same is true of book two of the series. I had a beginning. I had an end. I was able to outline the first three or four chapters. I wrote those (completely deviating from said outline) and continued into the next two chapters. But at chapter 6, I'm stalled. I know what happens in the first 6 chapters. I know what happens in the last 4 chapters. But the ten chapters in the middle, it's kind of a crap shoot.

This time instead of waiting for months, I pounded out an overall outline indicating random things I wanted to happen in the "missing chapters" and shot it off to my cousin for brainstorming. I expect to be back on track in no time.

So I guess my "process" is this:

Dream, Write, Outline, Write, Deviate From Outline, Freak Out, Brain Storm, Outline, Write, Deviate from Outline, Write Some More, Brainstorm Some More, Dream Some More, Freak Out Again, Write.

Do you have a process that works for you?

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Suzanne Adair Contest. Win a book! Win a Kindle!

There's another contest going on over at Suzanne Adair's blog. Follow the directions and win a copy of her historical mystery Paper Woman.

Also, you can win a Kindle. I'm all over that! lol

Plus there's other cool historical prizes.

So, head on over and check out Suzanne's blog.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Why Writers Are Way Cool

Thanks to Philip Chen over on Kindle Boards for this hilarious list of reasons Why Writers Are Way Cool:

1. We tell tall tales and are not sent to the corner;

2. Writers are chick magnets (at least that is what they tell me); (My Note: In the case of female writers... hot guy magnets. Heh.)

3. People will buy drinks for us;

4. We can dress like slobs and people will think we are just quaint.

5. When we get drunk and start quoting Proust incorrectly, people think we know something they don't know;

6. It's better than digging graves for a living;

7. We get to scribble our names in someone else's book and they don't get mad;

8. We can smoke a pipe and not look stupid;

9. I have a corduroy jacket, pants, and shirt (true);

10. (more?)

Yeah, Philip, I've got more!

10. We get to choose our own uniforms (aka pajamas - or naked, if we want).

11. We can sleep until noon and call it our "process".

12. People think we can live glamorous lives and know lots of celebrities.

13. No one can tell us we're "wasting time" by daydreaming.

14. Chocolate is brain food. So is wine.

15. Reading is "research" so you can write off things like books.

So, how about you? What's your reason writers are way cool?

And while you're at it, check out Philip's novel Falling Star over on Amazon.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Adding to My Collection

So, a couple weeks ago I found a cover artist in Belgium (Dontcha just love the interwebs!). She's a really cool lady and is going to maketh unto me an uber awesome cover for Kissed by Darkness. I have absolutely no artistic talent whatsoever so I figured I'd better let a pro do it and save myself (and my readers) some grief.

I was originally going to use a couple beta readers for editing. It works for Joe Konrath. But the thing is, Joe Konrath has been writing for a bajillion years (Sorry, Joe.). He knows what works, what doesn't and how to make it all come together. It's called experience. Me? Not so much.

This is my first novel. I don't want to screw it up. I want it to be the best it can be. I know I have a certain amount of talent when it comes to playing with the written word, but talent only gets a girl so far.

Well, I found myself a lovely editor. I'm really excited to be working with her and can't wait to get started on the process.

I was also intending to do my own formatting. I'm reasonably intelligent, so I figured I could learn. Unfortunately more those more experience suggested that for a newbie like me, it would take quite a chunk of time. Fortunately, I don't have to! Through a recommendation I found another lady (Girl power!) who will do my formatting for a very reasonable price. I would rather pay her to do it so that I can spend the time writing.

So, everything's coming together. Unfortunately it means the release date is going to be pushed back a bit, but I'd rather have a polished, profession book than a dodgy mess. It's worth the very reasonable fees I'm paying.

In other news, David Gaughran has a really excellent post about ebooks, ereaders and the European markets. Since I'm living in the UK, this stuff is really important to me. Heck, it should be important to all authors. With ebooks, the whole world is your audience and the wise author stays on top of what is happening with this industry throughout the world.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Soft Sell vs. Hard Sell: A Rant

I am by no means an expert in marketing. In fact, if someone were to accuse me of being the worst saleswoman ever, I wouldn't argue the point. I tried to sell Mary Kay once. It was a disaster.

It remains to be seen just how well I market my books. Let's hope I do a heck of a lot better flogging my novels than I did flogging eyeshadow. :-)

I do, however, know what works for me as a READER. Granted, each reader is different. Some may be swayed by a swanky video (Check out this book trailer for Ann Aguirre's Enclave. Sheer awesome!). Others may only buy based of word of mouth or what they find on library shelves. Still others may be sucked in by a really b
eautiful cover. For me what works is a combination of recommendation and soft sell.

As far as I'm concerned there's nothing more annoying than a hard sell. Well, maybe one thing: an author who claims on his blog he DOESN'T hard sell, then turns around and tries to hard sell on Twitter.

No names, but there is an author I follow who does this very thing. It drives me nuts to sign onto my Twitter account and find 6 tweets on one day telling me Book X is on sale for 99 cents.

Ugh! I don't care! I heard you the first time! And unle
ss you're an uber fan of said author, it's doubtful you're going to rush over to Amazon and buy his eBook for 99 cents. Maybe I'd bite if he said "Book X, a tale of murder, mayhem and monkeys. At Amazon for 99 cents." But he doesn't. He just throws his price point in my face a dozen times a day hoping it will stick. It doesn't. It just annoys me and chances are I will never buy a single book of his because every time I see his name I get annoyed all over again.

It's kind of like when the local furniture store puts up giant sale signs in all the windows. NOBODY CARES! Why? Because the local fur
niture store ALWAYS has giant sale signs in the windows.

Cry wolf, anyone?

So, the soft sell, how does that work?

For me, as a reader, it works REALLY well. And if it works on me, the reader, it will work on other readers, as well.

I think back to some of my very favorite authors. A couple of years ago I'd never even heard of these people. So, how'd I discover them?

One word: SmartBitches.

I honestly don't remember how I found in the first place. I think I read an article or saw something on telly about their book Beyond Heaving Bosoms. I know I thought it was hilarious so I checked out their website and am now a regular reader. I am not a fan of romance, per say, but I love paranormal romance, scifi romance, urban fantasy, steampunk with romance elements, and so on, etc., etc.

All of these genres or sub-genres are covered over at SBTB and I found loads of new books and authors to try. Some of them are my new best friends, figuratively speaking.

I discovered Nalini Sing, MelJean Brook, Gayle Ann Williams, Ann Aguirre, Joss Ware, Jesse Petersen and Gail Carriger directly because of this website. Someone either mentioned their books, reviewed their books, or their books were advertised on the website, and these are only a handful of the authors I've found. I've found many others either on the SBTB site, or through the blogs of members of the site.

Recently I started following JA Konrath. His site A Newbie's Guide to Publishing is A-Ma-Zing! But it isn't only knowledge I've found there, I've found a plethora of thriller, mystery and scifi writers whose works I'm dying to try. Not to mention the paranormal romance and urban fantasy writers who covers are so sexy they make me drool. My Amazon wishlist is growing by the day.

But I digress. What I'm saying is that THIS is how readers find authors. Through blogs and websites and so forth. And I don't believe they buy a book because they have a big
flashing neon sign thrust in front of their nose screaming "BUY ME! BUY ME! I'M 99CENTS!"

I believe readers buy because something piques their interest. For me it's a cool cover or a short blurb that makes me want to find out more about the book. Or it's an author interview or blog post where the author's sense of humor shines and I realize I like his or her style. It's a tweet that makes me snort coffee, or a recommendation from a friend or fellow writer.

So, please, fellow authors, do yourselves and your readers a favor and avoid the hard sell at all costs. And if you find me falling off the wagon, smack me upside the head, won't you?


Saturday, 16 April 2011

Food For Thought

If you're still thinking about going the traditional or "legacy" publishing route, you MIGHT want to think again.

Apparently some traditional publishers are severely underreporting eBook sales to their authors. By as much as 90%! Thus the authors never see royalties for those books.

That's downright shameful, in my opinion.

Kristine Rusch tells the story much better than I, so check out her post. It's an eye opener.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Ebooks Are Taking Over The World!

Ebooks now make up 29.5% of the US book market.

Ebooks are the #1 selling book format in the US.

Don't take my word for it. Check out these posts by publicist and publisher Robin Sullivan and writer David Gaughran.

We live in interesting times, people.

Personally I can't wait to see what happens over the next few months, let alone the next few years. And I'm going to be right there where it's all happening.

My editor has promised to send me her questions, comments and screams of moral outrage this weekend. My cover artist is going to have my cover done mid-May. My aunt, the IT guru, has sent me links for sites on how to format the manuscript myself. Everything's set for Kissed by Darkness to be available on Kindle sometime at the end of May, early June at the latest.

Hang on to your seats, boys and girls. It's going to be one heck of a ride!

Books That Rock My World

Every once in awhile I stumble across a book that sinks into my very core, moves me to the point of obsession. Not because it’s some fantastic masterwork of literary fiction, but because something about it draws me in until I get so lost I can barely find my way back again.

These are the books I dream about. The books I revisit time and again. The stories that make other stories look dull and unimaginative by comparison.

My first such book was John Christopher’s Tripod trilogy. For months I could think of nothing else. I even tried to write my own version. It's such a simple story, too. Planet gets invaded by aliens, world gets destroyed, kids kill off aliens and save world. Awesome.

The White Mountains (Book 1 of the Tripods) was my first exposure to post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction. I was eleven. This probably explains a lot about how my taste as a reader (and writer) developed. It’s still one of my favorite genres to this day.

I ended up obsessing about the Tripod Trilogy for years, until one day I hunted the whole series down on Amazon, bought them, and reread them, including the prequel. I still love them today just as much as I did at eleven.

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise that the next novel that so

profoundly affected me was Stephen King’s The Stand. In this case, I actually saw the four hour film with Gary Sinese first. I loved it so much, I bought the book. The unabridged author’s version of all things. I couldn’t put the darn thing down. To this day, I obsess over that book. I don't know what it is about post-apocalyptic tales that get my juices going. Perhaps it's the hope for a better future?

Last year there was one book that seriously blew my mind. I resisted reading it for months because the critics said it was good. As far as I’m concerned the critics are usually full of hot air. Fortunately a friend of mine recommended it to me. And she was right. The Passage by Justin Cronin rocked my world. The fact that part two doesn’t come out until 2012 irks me beyond belief.

Lest you think the only books that have the power to move me are those where the world ends, consider Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells. I honestly can’t remember why I decided to read it. I think someone over at SmartBitches mentioned it (A good example of how marketing works and word of mouth works better.). It’s so not my usual trope, being more of a vampires from outer space kind of girl, but I fell into her North Carolina town and could barely find my way out. I’ve read every book since, and can’t get enough of her delightful blend of magic, love and baking.

Then there’s Grimspace by Ann Aguirre. It reminded me so much of Firefly. I loved the dark humor, the action, the sex, and, of course, spaceships. Who doesn’t love spaceships?

There are, of course, many other books I’ve adored over the years. Dara Joy’s Ritual of Proof was pretty groundbreaking in its time. Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code, Nalini Singh’s Angel’s Blood amazed me, MelJean Brook’s Iron Duke. And the list could go on….

I only hope one day I can write a book that enthralls my readers like these books have me.

What books rock your socks?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Contest Alert!

Author Ann Aguirre (Whose books totally rock the casbah, by the way.) is running a contest over on her blog. She's giving away copies of The Hollow, The Hidden and The Haunting by Jessica Verday.

Go on, check it out, sign up. And while you're there, check out Ann's books too. I'm totally in love with her Sirantha Jax series.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

I'm A Tweeter

God help me, I drank the Kool Aid.

I finally gave in and joined the 21st century. Which means joining Twitter. More than likely it's going to drive me crazy, but here goes nothin'....

Follow SMacLeod_Author on Twitter

Do The Math

JA Konrath isn't the only successful writing touting the benefits of self publishing.

I was chatting to a friend of mine and she recommended I read a blog cleverly titled The Well Fed Black Writer. You gotta love a title like that! :-)

Today I was reading his blog post on The Advance. While he doesn't completely discount Traditional Publishing (particularly in regards to their ability to distribute to wide audiences), he does encourage authors to do the math when it comes to a traditional publishing contract versus self publishing.

He really breaks down the math for you, so I highly encourage you to go read the post now.
Don't worry, I'll wait...

Fantastic! Now you've read the post, you know what I'm talking about. Personally I think he's left some things out. Like the fact that if you get a multi-book deal, you often have to earn the WHOLE advance before you get royalties, not just the advance for each book. Also the fact that, in many cases and particularly in the case of e-rights, the traditional publisher can end up holding your rights FOREVER.

As one of my writing "heroes" is wont to say: "Forever is a long time."

Time you, as a writer, can be making money on your art.

Does that mean that if a traditional publisher suddenly popped up and offered me an advance of $100,000 for Kissed by Darkness that I wouldn't take it? Hells no. But believe me, it wouldn't be as easy a choice as it would have been a month ago. I'm not exactly rolling in dough, so trust me $100,000 looks REALLY good, but after all my research, I'm starting to believe I could very well be getting the short end of the stick on a deal like that.

Of course, the likelihood of me, a newbie, getting a deal like that is slim to none. Unless you're Amanda Hocking, newbies just don't get those kinds of deals. If I did get an offer, the advance would be more likely to be something like $20,000, if I'm lucky. More likely $5000. And there's a very real possibility with the way the publishing industry is going, that unless I marketed my butt off, I'd never even make back that advance and my rights would be gone.

With those odds, self pubbing is looking REALLY good.

Besides, it's not like traditional publishers will even look at my novel without an agent, and agents aren't exactly beating down my door. I'm a nobody with one little finished novel and a growing pile of form rejections.

So, I'm going my own way, doing my own thing. I've got a fabulous editor, someone (possibly) to do my cover, and I'm going to learn to format the thing on my own (Oy vey!). I'm going to learn to market myself and I'm going to keep learning and practicing my craft every single day. It just makes good, solid business sense to me.

Does it make sense to you?

Do the math....

Friday, 8 April 2011


I've been trying to figure out an affordable way to get a fabulous cover for Kissed by Darkness. I'd do it myself except I know my photoshop skills are less than, um, average. Egads.

Some of the big name indie authors like JA Konrath highly recommend their cover artists. Which is great, but I don't have $500 floating around. I wish.

Some authors do it themselves with varying degrees of success. I've seen some that are downright tragic. We do judge books by their covers and it's important to have a cover that not only looks like what it is (A scifi book should LOOK like a scifi book.), but is eye catching and professional.

So instead of doing my own and ending up with a Hot Mess, I hit deviantART which is a fantastic site to find great art. I did a quick search for "urban fantasy" and found some beautiful artwork by a girl over in Belgium who has done over 300 ebook covers for both indie authors and established epub houses. She's good and she only charges $75 for an ebook cover.

Rock on, Betty Lou.

Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll have an official cover for my first novel. Oh, baby!