Monday, December 19, 2016

Quiet Time

I've reached the quiet part of my holiday season. Christmas Eve will be busy, but otherwise, I don't have a lot of obligations. I think I'm going to consider this a week off, other than writing, since I'll be busy in the week between Christmas and the New Year.

I saw Rogue One on Friday, and I really liked it. But it was a very different kind of Star Wars movie, definitely not suitable for kids. The regular Star Wars movies are basically fantasy in a space setting. This was a World War II movie in a Star Wars setting. It reminded me of The Dirty Dozen or Guns of Navarone, with maybe a dash or two of Saving Private Ryan. I thought that grittiness made the universe more real, and we saw more of it away from the main action of the series. This movie essentially hands over to the original movie, and I feel like it added a new layer of meaning to that movie because we now know what was involved in getting to that point.

I want to see it again, but it is rather draining. I was even a bit sore after the movie from being so tense for so long.

Now I want to spend this week reading and writing. It's bitterly cold (for this region), and I think it's a good day to spend under the electric blanket with the laptop.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ready for Rogue One

I now have a deadline for the next Rebels book, since I lined that up with the copyeditor yesterday, and we have a tentative release date of April 4. Which means I really need to buckle down to work now. No more "eh, whenever I get to it because there's no actual deadline."

Not that I expect to get much done today because I'm seeing Rogue One this afternoon, and I'm more excited about that than I am about Christmas gifts (I already got my big Christmas gift in the new bed, so gifts are a minor part of the season). That may make it hard to concentrate in the time I have before I have to get ready to go. I should probably do something else that's useful but that requires less concentration, like housework. That will make the house more pleasant for my planned hibernation next week. I'm really going to try to get some writing done while things are relatively quiet, but I'll also allow some time for reading and watching all those holiday movies I've got stocked up on my DVR.

This year's bunch hasn't been that good. My favorite so far was one on ION, A Cinderella Christmas, but I think that's mostly because I'm a sucker for Cinderella stories, and I liked the cast. This was an updating involving a woman who worked for the family event planning company and whose cousin/stepsister (after her uncle took her in when her parents died) took all the credit for her work. She meets the "prince" when she caters his holiday masquerade ball. It was rather cute. Though set design/prop people should know better than to use obvious Pepperidge Farms cookies when spreading out store-bought cookies on cookie sheets for the caterer heroine to be taking out of the oven. Tip: Milanos don't come out of the oven that way.

And, of course, I've come up with another idea for one I want to write. Maybe I'll squeeze that in among other projects. But then I'll have more than one script, which might make it worthwhile to look into pursuing.

But now I think I'll try to take my kitchen from "disaster area" to "a human being lives here."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Other News This Week

In addition to getting a book and short story launched this week, other stuff has happened.

I forgot to mention last week that I was named one of the Spirit of Texas Reading Program authors by the Texas Library Association. Here's what they describe this as being about: "The purpose of the list is to encourage youths in grades 9-12 to explore a variety of current, quality books from Texas authors and illustrators, develop critical reading skills, and to encourage greater interaction between Texas authors and illustrators, Texas librarians, and Texas youth." There are only six authors on the list, so it's a huge honor. I hope this is something that will matter to publishers in trying to shop around another YA book. I will also admit to a little internal "Ha!" when thinking that the publisher didn't consider that book successful enough to warrant a sequel -- you know, maybe it wasn't the book. Maybe it was that they didn't bother promoting it at all, since it keeps getting honored by librarians. Makes you wonder what would have happened if they'd done more than send out one tweet.

I have my Christmas shopping more or less done now, unless I find something fun that I just have to get. I just have one more big party before things quiet down a bit. That one's going to require some creativity in dressing because a front is coming through that afternoon, and at the time I leave for the party it will be in the 60s, but around the time the party ends, it could be close to freezing. So I guess I'll carry all the winter stuff in with me so I won't freeze on my way back to the car. Meanwhile, today is cold enough that I'm probably going to work from the bed office with the electric blanket. Tomorrow will be warm enough that I may just need a sweater or light jacket for Star Wars and walking around looking at Christmas lights. Sunday will be freezing, and I think that's going to be an afternoon snuggled in bed and watching Hogfather.

We had our "travelers" Christmas service last night, a Christmas Eve service for people who will be out of town, and then we had a quick rehearsal afterward in that auditorium. One of my friends recorded us singing the benediction we do at the end of every rehearsal, and since we could all use a bit of peace and blessing, I thought I'd share (also, it'll be handy to have a link to this for when I need it).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Your Novel Writing Resolution

This will be the last writing post of the year. I'll take a break during the holidays and be back in the new year.

A lot of people may try to write a novel during National Novel Writing Month in November, but I suspect a lot of people also make a new year's resolution to write a novel. If you're planning to make 2017 the year you finally write that book you've always wanted to write, here are a few tips to get it done.

You can start working on it now -- maybe not writing, but this is a good time to start thinking. What story do you want to write? Who are the characters? What are the conflicts? What is the setting? Is there any research you need to do? The more you think about it, the more ready you'll be to start writing, and the less likely you are to fizzle out after the part that came with the initial idea is done. If you aren't sure what you need to figure out, try writing down everything you know about this idea. You'll soon see what parts need to be better developed before you can start writing.

When making your writing plans, set realistic goals based on your writing pace and the time you have available to write. If all you want is to finish a novel by the end of the year, just writing a page a day will get you there. It's better to set an easy goal you're sure to achieve (and even top) than an overly ambitious goal that you're likely to miss on a regular basis. If your goal is to write five pages and you write two, you feel like you've failed and are running behind. If your goal is to write one page and you write two, you feel a sense of accomplishment and triumph that will give you some momentum into the next day. You can always up your goal after you've established a habit and can see what your pace really is.

But you don't have to write every day to succeed. I keep seeing that advice from writers who claim that if you don't write every day, you're not a real writer, and it's nonsense. You're a writer if you write, period. You can get that book done in a year whether you write one page a day, seven pages on a Saturday, or three and a half pages on Saturday and three and a half pages on Sunday. Unless you're a full-time writer, you have to fit your writing around your existing life, which probably includes things like work, family, and taking care of your home, maybe even a social life. However, that doesn't mean you can use life as an excuse. You just need to take it into consideration when you schedule writing time like it's an appointment. When I was working full-time, I designated writing days and life days on weeknights -- I tried to cram all after-work errands, appointments and weekday activities into certain nights, leaving other nights entirely free. I didn't expect much from myself on weeknight writing sessions, just enough to keep the momentum going, and then I tried to get serious amounts of work done in marathon sessions on Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Other people have great success fitting in small bits of writing in every little bit of free time -- a page at lunch, a paragraph or two every time they pass the computer. Some people are most productive if they get up and get their writing done first thing in the morning, before work and life. Others do best at the end of the day, after taking care of everything else. There's no one right answer. You just need to figure out what works for you.

Don't give up if you falter. Just get started again. No one will know when they read the finished product whether you stuck to your schedule or had to catch up. The point is to get it done. If you don't have a contracted deadline, you're not even obligated to finish the book this year.

Try to get a good way into the book before you let yourself give up on that story. Sometimes you do figure out that a story idea isn't viable, but if you've never written a whole book before, it's hard to tell whether you're dealing with a non-viable story or whether you're just stuck and need to work through it. You may need more brainstorming or research. Don't ditch the book you're working on if you get a brilliant new idea. The more you write, the more creative you get, so the ideas will start flowing. Don't let them distract you. Write them down and keep going. You need to finish something if you're ever going to go anywhere. A half dozen partial novels won't do you any good. You can do something with a completed novel.

Have a reward in mind for finishing your project. Visualize that reward when you want to give up (and it's not fair to cheat and reward yourself without reaching your goal).

Good luck, and have fun!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New Book Day!

It's book release day! The new book seems to be live at all the major sellers, though Amazon hasn't yet merged the listing for the paperback and e-book, and when I did a search on my name, the paperback is the first result and the e-book is on the second page of results.

The short story is live, too. I'm hearing that people are able to get it for free at Amazon, but when I just searched, it came up for 99 cents still. They're supposed to price match it to free, since it's free elsewhere. I've nagged on that, and I'm not sure how it works to get that to drop.

Anyway, they're out there, and I hope you enjoy them!

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Post-Weekend Weekend

I had one of those "I need a weekend to recover from the weekend" kind of weekends. I had a luncheon with a book club I frequently meet with on Saturday, and then a club meeting (it's a social club, which means that a "meeting" is a potluck at someone's house, where we hang out with friends and plan the stuff we'll do). I also had to bake a couple of batches of cookies for something to bring to the meeting and for the church's cookie sale. Sunday, my children's choir was singing in the early service, so I had to get up early, but wouldn't you know, I had one of those 4 a.m. insomnia bouts where I was awake enough to know I was conscious but not awake enough to do anything, and I finally fell back asleep about half an hour before my alarm went off.

The kids did a great job, and were mostly well-behaved. My biggest problem was replaced with a pod person, which was wonderful. He's usually the one getting hauled out into the hallway for throwing things, hitting other people, and generally being out of control, but he was a proper little gentleman who was telling me I needed to get the others to be quiet and was demonstrating how to stand in a straight line. He stood perfectly still and sang out beautifully. Maybe it was the tie. I should require him to come wearing a tie on Wednesday nights. But then there was the children's sermon right after they sang, with the children's minister talking about the Advent wreath and asking what symbols on it there were. One of our kids shouted out "Fire!" So, yeah, that was more normal. I'd been worried about how fascinated a couple of the kids were with the candles while they sang. They were edging in that direction.

Then I had to sing with the choir for the late service. I had a few hours to eat lunch, read the newspaper, and make soup before going back for rehearsals, then a choir potluck soup supper (thus the soup), then the Christmas concert, and then I rushed home to refrigerate the soup leftovers (on the downside, my veggie soup wasn't really popular, but on the upside, I won't have to cook lunch this week!) before heading out to go to a friend's birthday party. There was some rather epic karaoke, and I will admit to showing off a wee bit. I hit a rather abrupt wall around 10 and came home, but then it took me a long time to wind down and actually get to sleep.

I let myself sleep very late today, and I normally would give myself the day off, but I have a book releasing tomorrow, so I need to do some promo work today. I may not try to get any writing done unless I feel very inspired. I also have a lot of cleaning to do, since my kitchen looks like I was only home long enough over the weekend to bake cookies and make soup.

But it gets easier from here. I'm done with children's choir until after the holidays. We have the travelers' Christmas Eve service Wednesday (an early Christmas Eve service for those who'll be out of town) and a short choir rehearsal, then Friday is Star Wars day, and then I have a party Saturday night. I suspect Sunday after church I will crawl into a cave for a little while and do some serious writing.

Friday, December 09, 2016

In Praise of Escapist Fantasy

I finished the Magicians trilogy, and now I see why people liked it. The second half of the first book was awfully grim, but the second two books have a real sense of wonder and fun. We got to see those cynical characters from the first book becoming good, strong (but still snarky) people, living up to their potential after everything they'd been through.

Now I'm in the mood for something else that's fun and escapist, and that's been a bit of a challenge. Of all the books I have on my shelf from convention freebies and the Nebula goody bag, most of the ones I haven't read yet sound so bleak and grim. Just reading the plot descriptions on the covers makes me want to crawl in bed and pull the blanket over my head.

And, you know, right now, the world needs some hope and escapism. It's been a rough year, and there's some scary and nasty stuff happening. We don't need to read about dystopias. What we need is hope and joy. It's hard to build a better world when you can't envision what that looks like, when all you're seeing is something dark and grim. That's why I'm glad that I do what I do. The kinds of things I write might not be taken seriously by the kind of people who use "escapist" or "fluff" as a criticism, but I think it can be just as important as all the grim, serious, message-laden stuff (not saying that there's anything wrong with the more serious stuff, just that it's not the only kind of fiction that has merit).

Why is escapism so important? Part of it might get called "self care." It's hard to take on the world all the time. Sometimes you need to take a step back and refresh, and a moment of fun and happiness may be what you need to recharge enough to go back out into the world and make a difference.

Then there's what I mentioned before about needing an image of a better world so you know how to make it happen. Sometimes we need a glimpse of a world where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, and the good guys prevail because they're good. We need a reminder that being good can be rewarding when we live in a world where good doesn't always win. That's why I don't really like the grimdark stuff or dystopias. I get enough about that from watching the news.

I get e-mails from people who've read my books while going through chemo, while on bedrest with a difficult pregnancy, who've read them to people recovering from strokes. They wanted something fun and light to take their minds off their current woes. I like to think that reading about good people doing good things and winning might encourage people that it's okay to be good, brave, and kind. And if enough people get that kind of encouragement, maybe they can change the world.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Another New Thing

One problem I'm having with all the different social media platforms is remembering what I've posted where. I get annoyed with people who post the same thing everywhere, but then there are people who only follow on one platform, so it kind of needs to be posted everywhere. The trick is mixing it up so that the post fits that platform rather than just doing a one-size fits all. But then I need to remember to put the info everywhere.

Something I forgot to post here (I think):
In addition to the new book on December 13, I'll be releasing a free short story set in the Enchanted, Inc. universe. This one is about Sam the gargoyle on a case. I originally wrote it for the FenCon program book in 2009, and I've read it at a few conventions, but this is the first time it's been published beyond that. I'm including a short excerpt from Enchanted, Inc. in it, so it should serve two purposes. It's a fun little bonus for existing fans and maybe a free sample for people who haven't tried the series yet. Here's what the cover looks like:

I should have pre-order links for everything soon, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Enjoying Winter

I got my synopsis more or less written yesterday, and Mom gave me the thumbs up on the opening chapters, so I may be good to go. Except I came up with something else I want to fit in the opening chapters, so I may do some tweaking on that today before my last children's choir session of the semester (wheeeee! Ahem.).

It's also time to get ready for our first real cold snap of the season -- not only our first freeze, but colder temperatures than we had all of last winter. I'm feeling somewhat responsible because I bought a new can of mosquito spray for the patio last week, and then right after that we had a rainy spell, and now a cold spell, so I haven't been able to sit outside, and then the freeze should take care of the mosquitoes.

In a way, I'm actually looking forward to the cold. I found my electric blanket, and I have ingredients for soup and hot cocoa. Thursday night may be my first good Hallmark movie binge. I've been letting them pile up on the DVR.

Some of this fondness for cold weather may be genetic. I found this article on Norwegian winters, and although I've never actually been to Norway, I think this sounds wonderful. I like that they have a special word for a sense of coziness, a way of taking a lot of the things we associate with Christmas, like candles, warm beverages, and blankets, and applying to winter in general, like Christmas without the stress. I think that may be my goal for January. I may buy up some candles and LED lights in the post-Christmas clearance and have a kind of personal winter-fest that's mostly celebrated with books, writing, and binge viewing of romantic comedies and fantasy movies.

I also now want to visit Norway in winter. I even have a real Norwegian sweater. I'm the weird person who doesn't get winter depression. I like the short days (again, might be genetic). A big key seems to be to celebrate the season you're in rather than wishing to be in a different season.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Next Year's Plans

My office in the bedroom plan worked out pretty well yesterday. I got a solid afternoon of work done, though there was the minor problem of not doing much of anything else because I was so comfortable where I was. My reading and working in bed has had the added benefit of breaking in the new mattress. They told me when I bought it that it would take a little while before it felt like the one in the store. In fact, although they have a very liberal return policy if you get a mattress and realize it doesn't work for you, they won't take it back until you've had it for 60 days because it takes that long to break it in and get used to it enough to know you really don't like it. When I first got mine, it was stiff enough that when the head was raised, the mattress just tilted instead of bending unless I was sitting on it. Just sleeping on it with it relatively flat wasn't doing a lot to break it in, but spending more time with the base in more extreme positions has really helped, and now it's more comfortable to sleep on, as well.

I may have finished the proposal part of this book, but it's still writing itself in my head as I wake up in the morning. I at least know what happens next. My view of what's really going on has changed since I started. I found where I'd written out a short blurb of the sort that would go in a query letter or cover, and it didn't fit anymore. Today I plan to write a synopsis, and that will likely lead to revisions on the shorter blurb. The real trick will be to force myself to switch gears and get back to writing another Rebels book while I wait for feedback on this idea from my agent.

I've been doing some business planning for next year, looking at everything I want to write. I'm definitely planning at least one more Rebels book for the year, likely another Enchanted, Inc. I want to do more Fairy Tale books, but what I think I may do is try writing shorter books -- in the 50,000-60,000 word range, about the length of a short mystery -- and do more of them more frequently.

I'm also looking at probably doing fewer conventions. They really don't pay off, and it's hard to make a business case for them. I'm planning to travel to two events that are more about professional development and networking than about publicity, but I won't be going out of town to any other events where I have to foot the travel expenses. Instead, I want to invest that time in writing and some of that money in promotion, maybe do some advertising. A BookBub listing could be paid for with the travel costs for a weekend convention, and it will more than pay for itself, while there's no way that a weekend convention that I've been to several times before will pay for itself, even in indirect word-of-mouth sales. Last year, I tried going to every event that invited me, and I saw no benefit at all. If anything, my sales numbers went down. Not that the conventions caused that to happen, but they certainly didn't raise my sales. I don't really find them that fun, not enough to warrant that kind of investment. I'd rather travel to see my friends away from an event like that so that we have time to spend together and a change to explore and tour. The only downside is not being able to write a trip like that off my taxes.

So, while last year was the year of conventions, next year will be the year of putting my head down and writing like crazy, to test the theory that the key to maintaining steady sales in self publishing is to get work out more frequently. I'm not sure I've yet hit critical mass in the number of books that are available or in the frequency of releases to keep everything visible.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Getting Seasonal

I got my Christmas stuff up over the weekend, and I got wacky and put the Christmas tree in my bedroom. That way, I didn't have to rearrange living room furniture for it, and I could put it in front of a window. It's situated so I can look at it from my bed, and I got one of those remote control outlet thingies, where there's a gizmo you plug into an outlet, and then you can control the things plugged into that outlet with a remote control. That way, I can lie in bed and look at the tree, and then turn off the tree lights without getting out of bed. I think after the holidays, I'm going to move that gizmo to the living room and put a lamp on it. The switch to the living room lights is in the back of the room, so when I come home at night, I have to turn on the entry light, cross the room to the living room switch, turn on that light, then go back to turn off the entryway. I'll be able to leave the remote in the entry and turn on a living room light when I enter the house, and then since I go through the entry to get to the bedroom, I won't have to do the back-and-forth to go to bed -- to the bedroom to turn on a light, back to the living room to turn off the lights. Just turn off everything but the lamp, go to bedroom, turn on light, click the remote to turn off lamp.

We finally have semi-seasonal weather, and it's about to get worse. I had to do the closet switch-out this morning in order to get dressed because I still had all my summer clothes in the closet, and I'd worn the only sweatshirt that was still handy. I had to bring the rest of my sweaters and sweatshirts downstairs. I've pulled out the summer clothes, and now I need to put away the winter stuff to get it off the bed. This should be an opportunity to do a closet purge, since I keep looking at things and realizing I never wore them all year, but instead of thinking, "I never wore that, so I should probably donate it," my thoughts are more like, "I never wore that, so it'll be like having something new next summer!"

But my real priority today is finishing up a book proposal and then doing some marketing stuff. It's kind of gray and chilly, and I like to switch around the places I write and the places I edit, so I may be officing in the bedroom today. That way, I can look at my tree and sit cradled in comfort on the fancy adjustable bed. But first, I need to put away all those sweatshirts and sweaters.

Friday, December 02, 2016

New Book Cover!

Busy day today. I've already run errands and done grocery shopping. I need to finish a proposal. And the weather is supposed to be so nasty tomorrow that they're already canceling all the outdoor Saturday holiday events, so I need to bring in all the Christmas stuff from the garage today so I can put it up over the weekend. And then I need to take care of some business stuff and do some baking. Whew!

So this will be short, but likely contains the thing you really want to see anyway. Ta da, the cover for the new book, coming December 13:

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Creative Overdrive

I have declared today to be my last non-holiday season day, in which I'm going to try to get everything pre-holiday taken care of. Tomorrow, I will load the Christmas music onto my phone, put up my decorations, possibly do my first round of baking, and let myself start watching the holiday movies that have been stacking up on the DVR. Then Saturday the Death March of fun begins with a vengeance, with several busy weekends in a row. This weekend isn't so bad (just a get-together, a party, and then chorale singing in two services), but next weekend will be the kind of weekend that requires a weekend to recover from. I have overlapping events Saturday, children singing Sunday morning, a concert Sunday evening, and a party after that. Sometime on either Friday or Saturday I have to bake for the church cookie swap. Everything should calm down the week before Christmas, and that may be my reading and watching Hallmark movies time, as I recover from all the socializing.

The sense of feeling busy isn't helped by the fact that my brain is in creative overdrive. It's not a bad thing necessarily, since it's awfully convenient that my brain is playing out the movie for the next scenes I need to write. There's no writer's block at all. I mostly just sit and transcribe, and sometimes try to put what I've seen into words. The downside is that all this is happening right when I wake up in the morning, when I'm in that twilight phase of being conscious but not really awake enough to want to get out of bed. I wake up with scenes playing out in my head, so I lie there and watch it all, taking mental notes, and then I lose all track of time. What seems to be five minutes turns out to have been half an hour. Sometimes I fall back asleep. As a result, I'm really oversleeping, and I lose most of the morning, which is when I do all the business and non-writing tasks I need to do, and there are a lot of those. I feel stressed when I'm feeling behind on the day.

Since I've got a book coming out, I really need to be focusing on promotion. I'd planned to get a new web site by now, but I got sidetracked by decision paralysis on finding a web designer and graphic designer to do a logo and possibly other work for the site. I'm in this bind where the people who know about me seem to really love my books, but most people don't know about me, and I don't know how to reach more people to break out of that loop. Nothing I do seems to go viral enough to really spread, and it doesn't help that a rather non-social person isn't very effective on social media. I'm writing books now because I hated doing PR. I'd be happiest hiding in a cave and writing, being the mysterious reclusive author, but it's hard to do that these days. But it's also hard to force myself to get out there with a book that's already done when I've got a book in my head that's trying to burst out, Alien-like, and all I really want to do is write it.

So I guess I'd better go either promote or write.