Monday, 29 June 2015

Weekly Update: June 21 to 27 (Preliminary Cover: Whispers in the Dark)

Weekly word count: 4300

I'm still focusing on finishing Metamorphosis but I've also begun the final preparations to release Whispers In the Dark, a short story set in the lalassu universe. 

As part of those preparations, I've asked my friend, Samianne, to do the cover.  She did the snake interstitials for Revelations and does gorgeous artwork.  She's come back with a preliminary concept design and I'm quite excited about it.

And now back to work.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Economics of Book Signings

This isn't exactly a widespread survey, but a friend of mine in London invited me to come down and visit for a few days.  As part of the visit, she suggested I contact some local bookstores and see if they'd be interested in doing a reading or signing.  This sounded like a good idea to me and so I pulled up Google and took a look.

I found two nearby bookstores, a local independent bookstore called the Oxford Book Shop and a local Chapters.  Both were very pleasant and prompt in replying to my awkward inquiry but I was due for a lesson in math and economics.

Oxford said they would be happy to host but I would be required to supply the books (that was expected).  They would carry them on consignment and take a percentage of the retail price for every book sold.  Unfortunately, the percentage meant I would end up losing money on each book, assuming I didn't raise the price (which struck me as a little unfair to do since I would then be charging more than the cost of a book on Amazon).

Chapters politely told me they would not host a reading for a self-published author, although the manager did do me the courtesy of telling me that she clicked through the link to my book and it sounded interesting.

I'm disappointed but I still feel that I've learned something.  And I'm proud of myself for trying.  I am not an adventurous person by nature and I'm finding the self-promotion side of publishing to be a challenge.  I guess I'm still clinging to an outmoded idea that if a book is good enough, it will automatically find its audience.  But I'm putting myself out there and even if I'm slower than I probably should be, I'll get there.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Weekly Update: June 14 to 20

Weekly word count: 5150

I am definitely getting within sight of the end of Metamorphosis.  My outline has another 4 chapters (though it may split into 5).  I've been averaging a chapter a week, so that puts me another month from having a finished draft.  Then will come my final revision to make everything consistent, get rid of overused words and deepen my point of view.  Not quite the ready for beta readers by July 1st which I was hoping for, but still not bad.

Once I have my final revision done, then I will send it off to my beta readers and schedule my editing stuff with Red Adept Editing.  I'll also contact Streetlight Graphics again to get the cover designed.  Last time the editing process took 5 months, with a six week wait to get started.  I'm hoping the timing will be similar.

While I'm in my downtime, I will start work on the sequel.  (I've already done a few character sketches and trial scenelets.)  I will also work on the sequel to my ghost hunter short story.  That should certainly keep me busy through the summer and the editing process.  I'm going to try and mix writing with editing this time, rather than focusing solely on the editing.  I want to try and keep my writing momentum going.

I'm also going to try and push myself to write 2000 words a session, rather than 1000, over the summer.  Since I have fewer writing sessions, I need to make them more productive.  I'm still aiming at a minimum of 4000 words per week.

Friday, 19 June 2015

It's All About Perception

The idea of different points of view catching different facets of a person or situation has always fascinated me.  Everyone perceives things a little differently and changes in information can make radical shifts in how we view things.

A classic contemporary example is Bill Cosby.  As information came out that he may have drugged young women and then done things to them without their consent (I say may as there has been no trial to settle the matter), his reputation underwent a dramatic shift.  A few years ago, very few people would have thought twice about leaving a young female relative with him.  Now I doubt many people would be willing to take the chance.

The part that interests me is that the truth of Cosby himself and his personality have not changed.  If he was a predator, he was always a predator.  He just hid it well.  The other parts of his personality, the humour and charm, those are still real and true facets of who he is.  He is not a complete monster.  Indeed, if he had been, he would never have risen to a position to be able to take advantage.  It's the blend of the monstrous with the attractive which I find fascinating.

We rarely know all the facets of those around us.  It can actually be a little scary to realize how little we truly know.  When my eldest son first went to school, I realized I was entrusting him for three hours a day with a perfect stranger, someone I had met only once and only knew very basic details about: her last name and that she was employed by the school board.  Even our friends don't know everything about us, there are incidents and aspects which we dismiss as trivial or hide as embarrassing.

I suspect this is a trend which will pop up often in my work: peeling back the layers of preconception and ignorance to gain a better understanding of the people we meet.  It was certainly a theme in Revelations, as Michael must overcome his preconceptions of Dani as a burlesque dancer and Dani must overcome her prejudices about the Huntress and the outside world.  I've also noticed it is a strong thread in Metamorphosis, with Lily and Ron actively hiding secrets from one another.

Our minds are designed to make quick judgments.  After all, in the relatively isolated Paleolithic times, if we saw a stranger, we needed to decide quickly if they were a threat or could be trusted.  Those instinctive judgments have their place and use.  Many people have reported uneasy feelings around human predators when they first met, feelings which they could not justify and ended up ignoring, to their regret.

But those judgments are almost always not telling us the whole story about a person.  We never know the history behind their current mask.  It could be tragic, funny, endearing, comforting or infuriating. 

We'll never know how many fascinating and meaningful stories are passing within inches of us.  Just like we can't appreciate how unique and powerful our own stories could be if we were brave enough to share them.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Weekly Update: June 7 to 13: ORWA's 30th Anniversary (Photos)

Weekly word count: 5100

Aside from being a really productive week, writing wise, I also got to become an official award-winning author at ORWA's 30th anniversary.  I joined Ottawa Romance Writers four years ago and they've been an incredibly supportive group of people.  Each year, they honour those who have made the jump from non-published to published. 

We had a wonderful turnout with plenty of current and former ORWA members.

 My first book award.
My friend, Lucy Farago's, first book award.  She taught me about deep point of view.  I'm looking forward to the release of Sin on the Strip.
Our guest speaker, Kristan Higgins, with some more of my ORWA friends, and me.  I got to spend a fair amount of time with Kristan and she was delightful and funny.  A classy lady by any definition.
As part of accepting the award, I had to give a speech explaining about my publishing journey.  I talked about how I was proud to be a member of ORWA and to be a romance writer in general.  Romance covers a huge variety of genres, but there's a common link holding us all together: hope.  Every romance is based on the promise of hope: whether it's surviving werewolf assassins or getting the cute guy to notice you.  We always hope things will improve and deliver on a promise of happily ever after.
And that's worth taking some pride in.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Sweet vs Spicy

I started thinking about sweet vs spicy romance last week when I came up with my informal poll for Prose in the Park.  Mostly, I'll admit, I thought it was a nice way to tie in romance to giving away cookies (chocolate for sweet and ginger for spicy).  But since then, there's been a lot more going on for the topic, like a pair of articles in this month's Romance Writers' Report.

Sweet romance is typically defined as non-explicit.  The love scenes fade to black, there's no cursing, no dark and gritty mature themes.  They can still be extremely passionate and intense, there are just certain areas which are minimized.  Fans of sweet romance like being able to use their imaginations and share their favourite works without embarrassment.

Spicy romance is a little harder to pin down.  Some people use the term for erotica and erotic romance (although I personally prefer to use the term "scorching" for that level).  Others use it for romance with explicit love scenes and a definite adult take on language and themes.  This is where I personally am comfortable.  I like being able to tackle serious issues (and see them tackled by other authors) while still having the enjoyment of a promise of happily ever after.

This month's Romance Writers' Report featured a pair of articles, one on whether or not the market for erotic romance had become saturated after the Fifty Shades of Grey burst.  The other was on the challenges and appeal of writing sweet romance. 

There has certainly been an upswing of interest in BDSM and stories with strong erotic content since the release of Fifty Shades.  I know a number of authors who are making quite a lucrative living, releasing several stories each month.  I think it's great that people are talking about different facets of sexuality and learning that they don't need to feel guilty about what makes them excited.  It breaks the cycle of isolation which leaves people vulnerable to depression and predators.  The article suggests that the market may be reaching a saturation point and encourages new authors to concentrate on quality writing.

The authors interviewed for the sweet romance article talked about the challenge of keeping their writing passionate and intense without crossing their self-imposed lines of what they will and will not depict.  They concentrate on the emotional impact and growth of their characters and their relationships, which allows them to go more in depth. 

This is one of the things I love about the romance genre.  No matter where a person is or where their comfort zone is, there is something for them.  There is such a wide range of options available that everyone can find something which works for them.  In the end, readers don't have to choose between sweet, spicy or scorching.  We can sample as much or as little as we want until we find the perfect mixture.  And then, we can find out we're not alone.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Weekly update: May 31 to June 6: Prose in the Park review

Weekly word count: 4200

I've been told I should use the word "excited" instead of "nervous" when describing what's going on, so last week was very exciting as I prepared for my first public promotional event: Prose in the Park, Ottawa's new literary festival.  I had a lot of things to be excited about: how many books do I bring, will I have enough swag, will this be a good audience for my kind of writing (what I write is good, but it's not high-brow literature).  I knew it was the first year for the festival so I was expecting the usual growing pain glitches.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly everything came together.  There were some glitches but they had people working to handle them and everyone was very pleasant and professional.  I was with the Ottawa Romance Writer's booth, and we realized we'd forgotten table covers after we arrived.  So we ran down the street to a Giant Tiger and picked up a set of pink bedsheets which we then duct taped to the tables.  (I threw a roll of tape in my bag at the last minute because you'd be surprised how many problems you can temporarily fix with duct tape.)  I also had to pick up a new pair of sunglasses since I lost mine in the store somewhere. 

I was feeling a little worried that we wouldn't be set up in time but we got it all together smoothly.  I set up my swag buttons and my own informal romance poll: what flavour of romance are you?  Team Sweet (with heart shaped chocolate snaps) or Team Spicy (ginger snaps)?  It was quite popular, getting a lot of smiles even when people didn't want a cookie.
Team Spicy ended up taking the day by a slight margin but Team Sweet was adequately represented.  Perhaps not the most scientific poll ever done but it was lots of fun.  More voting should be done with cookies.
I ended up selling 6 books, which I think was a fairly good turnout.  (Speaking with other authors, the average was 3-4.)  It was a nice day with lots of opportunities to speak with people.  The weather cooperated, staying sunny but not too hot.  (I had Ziplock freezer bags in my backpack, just in case it started to rain.)  I'll definitely be back next year.  One of my friends will be celebrating her first book and I'll have my second one out, so perhaps two or three of us will get our own table and tent next year.
It's made me really look forward to my table at Can-Con in the fall and given me renewed enthusiasm for working on Metamorphosis.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Making the Most of Your Time

One of the most common questions I get asked is about finding time to write.  Lots of people have stories in their heads, stories they'd like to develop.  But they don't because they can't find the time.

I've heard a lot of derogatory things about writer's block and people who would like to write but don't.  Mercedes Lackey described writer's block as reluctance to sit down and do the work in one of her novels.  (Not sure if that's her actual view.)  And I've heard a number of people say that if you're not passionate enough to overcome obstacles, then you're not really willing to write.

I think there's a certain amount of truth in those statements, but they both miss the point.  I know my own experience of writer's block is at least equal parts fear and self-doubt.  I start having trouble and then I become afraid that I won't be able to find my way out, I doubt that I have the skills to make the story work.  (Incidentally, this is where a writing group or a good critique/brainstorming partner can be worth their weight in gold.  Their suggestions and ideas have helped me past any number of blockages.)  Intellectually, I know both the fear and the self-doubt are illusions, but when you're in the middle of it, it can be hard to work through.

Overcoming obstacles is a whole different ball game.  If someone would rather watch TV than write when given the opportunity, then there is a certain fairness in saying they don't really want to write.  However, when the opposing activities are things like earning a salary so that you have a home and food and raising a family, those are both fairly time-consuming activities.  Beginning a writing career is difficult.  It's a business, requiring a great deal of time and money to get established, aside from the actual time to write. 

I've managed to work out a fairly good schedule for myself while my kids are in school.  But in a few weeks, I'll be facing summer vacation with camps and playdates and all sorts of other disruptive events.  I'll still have my regular day job to contend with but the raising a family part is about to become more time consuming than it has been.

Some writers I know effectively take the summer off to focus on their kids.  Some hire nannies or send their kids to daycare so that they still have time to write.  I'm going for a combination where I've hired a sitter to take care of them twice a week while I escape to do some writing.  It will be slower than it has been, but won't stop progress entirely.

I've become good at juggling priorities and finding compromises but it took me a long time to find the balance points.  I learned some tricks to help speed things along, like having detailed plot notes laid out for the next scenes, using music to cue my inspiration and training myself to write in small bursts of time.

My point is that obstacles aren't as impenetrable as they first seem.  Nor are they as easy as the inspirational posters would like us to believe.  It takes hard work, but can be done.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Weekly Update: May 23 to 30 (Birthday/Book Celebration Pictures)

Weekly word count: 4050

I didn't quite get all the time I would have liked for writing but when I was able to get to the keyboard, the words just flowed.  After a few weeks of dry thought-beds, it was a welcome change.

The big highlight of the week was my birthday party/book celebration party.  In the spirit of brag, I celebrated the fact that I am doing the work to make my dream come true.  My friend, Erin, did all of the decorations and food, which was wonderful because I am also going a little crazy with end of the school year and preparing for Prose in the Park and ORWA's 30th.

She made me my favourite: peach cobbler, as well as a bunch of themed foods based on Revelations.  She also got beautiful arm length gloves and feather boas to decorate the tables.

The piece de resistance was the heart and bear-shaped watermelon slices.

 But as you all can see, there was plenty of selection.  Donuts in honour of Joe, gummi snakes for the Huntress, red peppers to spice it up.
She even found a bear for Bernie.

I got to sign books for my friends and family.  And show off my giant poster that I got done of Revelations' cover and my buttons.

It was a great night full of karaoke and dancing, which I will not be showing pictures of because I prefer to bask in my delusional memories of being fabulous rather than explore photographic or video evidence.  Everyone had a lot of fun being sassy and silly and I'm so glad we all got a chance to get together.  It finished like every party should, with sore-footed people grinning like madmen.