Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Marketing for Introverts

Hi! I'm Samantha, and I'm an introvert. In fact, I'm really happy that we're having this little talk here on the Internet, where I don't have to actually talk to you.

It's not that I'm not friendly. I bet I'd even like you. It's that I'm still recuperating after participating in a fan convention this weekend for my writing life.

Being a writer might seem like a natural job choice for an introvert. In some ways, it's an excellent fit.

Doing the work requires spending copious amounts of time alone.

The work itself is usually pretty quiet (just some keyboard clicking or pen scritching noises).

You can do the work wherever you are most comfortable.

On the other hand, if you want to make a career of writing, you can't *just* write. You have to put your work out there for others to read.

Then, there's the marketing, that second job of garnering attention for your work and being discoverable. That can be pretty painful for a introverted person, but I'm here to tell you that it can be done.

At Illogicon last weekend, I participated in a wonderful panel on this very topic with some talented introverts: Gray Rinehart, Claire Wrenwood, Patrick Dugan, and Fraser Sherman. We all agreed that you can make a career as a writer without undergoing some kind of alchemy and becoming an extrovert, and that in some ways, introverts might be especially well suited to it.

So, here are a few things to consider if you're an introvert and trying to promote yourself and your work.

1. Take it slow: A lot of people seem to think that building a writing career and support network is a sudden quick movement, like sweeping the legs in a kickboxing match.

It's not.

Not even for extroverts.

Building contacts and relationships is the work of years, and luckily, it's the kind of work introverts are good at! We may not be comfortable standing behind the megaphone and calling for the attention of everyone in the room, but we're great one-on-one and when we get to know someone, we usually get to know them well. Our relationships are deep and strong and lasting.

When you are meeting new people, be reasonable in your expectations for yourself. I'm happy if I make one or two new initial contacts at any given event. I'm not trying to go home with my pockets bursting with business cards. I'm trying to make a few meaningful connections.

2. Pick your poison:  There are a lot of ways to put yourself out there as a writer. You can give readings, participate in discussion panels, teach workshops or classes, hand sell books from a table or booth at an event, make videos about your work, tweet cleverly, blog, etc.

Some of these things will scare the heck out of you, and some may only make you nervous. Pick something you feel like you can do and try it. You can push yourself a little at a time, and you don't have to put yourself out there on every possible platform.

Look at events carefully, think about your comfort levels, and plan accordingly. I enjoy doing fan conventions, for example, but I tend to stick to small and medium sized ones relatively near my home base.

I take my sister with me whenever I can because it's good to have someone more outgoing with you and someone who will help you take care of yourself when you need it. Even better if that someone loves you and understands your needs and limits.

I like panel discussions because they have a clear structure and don't require me to "make the first move" like approaching someone at a booth or table does. Someone will call on me when it's my turn to talk.

I ask convention organizers not to schedule me for late night programming because it's harder for me to be entertaining and clever and "on" when I get tired.

Over time, this has gotten more comfortable for me because I've gotten to know more and more people, so often attending an event means I'll be among as many friends as strangers. I find that VERY comforting.

Though Dragon Con is the BIG con near me, I have yet to apply, because I know how stressful I would find it to navigate the halls of such a large free-for-all event. Maybe I'll get there someday, or maybe I won't. We'll see.

For now, I'm feeling good about how much more comfortable I feel with what I'm doing now.

3. Self-Care! Everyone needs self care, but introverts may need to tend to themselves a little sooner and more specifically than other folks (I wouldn't know; I've never been one of those other folks).

For me, that means being as careful as I can be with my schedule: making sure there are adequate meal breaks and quiet time, packing some good snacks.

That might mean that I skip some networking opportunities and don't go to the bar with the other writers after an event, or decide to spend time alone in my hotel room instead of sitting at my table or booth for two more hours (even if I miss a chance to sell a book that way).

If I don't give myself space to recoup my energies, I'm not going to make a good impression or make good use of those opportunities anyway.

It also means that I try to give myself decompress time after an event.

I'm writing this on Monday night and I got home from a convention on Sunday night. I had three different social invitations this evening, but I turned them all down in favor of sitting here quietly at my laptop. It was the right choice, especially since I'll have to be "on" again next weekend for the college class I'm teaching.

So there are my thoughts on how to make a go of this if you're an introvert. By the way, that panel? It was the most laid back and polite panel I've ever been on. I don't think anyone talked over someone else or interrupted even once. And we left plenty of wait time for questions from our audience. :-)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Illogicon 2019!

I'm so excited about my first convention of 2019. Illogicon is my backyard con, so chock full of all my writing and fandom peoples from the area. Though it's growing, it's still small enough to feel intimate and friendly. It's panel driven and has been home to some of the best panel discussions I've ever participated in. So, if you live near Brier Creek, Raleigh, NC, you should totally come and have fun with us.

In case you can't make it, here's what I'll be up to. Looks like I'm in for a busy and exciting weekend.

4:00 Friday, 11 of January: Office Hours

This is something new the convention is doing and I like it. You could rent a table by the hour, rather than by the day, to have a temporary home from which to sell and sign books and talk to readers. I'll be there selling the remaining print copies of the Menopausal Superheroes series before my new editions are released by Falstaff Books as well as copies of anthologies. I'm also happy just to talk about writing life, so come by and say hello.

6:00 Friday, 11 of January: The Author Dating Game with hostess Joey Starnes, and authors Michael G Williams, William C Tracy, and Fraser Sherman

I've been a part of this panel at other conventions and it's always such fun! Authors role play as their characters, appearing on an old fashioned dating show. A lucky audience member gets to interview us and decide which character to take on a date, winning a free copy of the book in question. I haven't decided yet upon this writing, which of the Menopausal Superheroes to roleplay, but anyone would be lucky to take any of these heroes out!

9:00 p.m. Friday 11 of January: Writing Romance for People Who Can't Say Panties with Alexandra Christian, Emily Wolf, Michael G Williams, and Gail Z Martin

Love and romance come up when you're writing, even when you're not writing romance or erotica. But for some of us, it's not so easy to write.

Looking forward to talking about this with this group of witty and supportive people. I expect I'll giggle and blush a bit, but that's kind of the point, isn't it?

10:00 p.m. Friday 11 of January: Solo Reading

This is going to sound weird coming from an introvert like me, but I love doing readings. Even when only a couple of people come, it feels like a celebration, a moment to say "Look what I did!" Here's a short one from Conapalooza last year.

11:00 a.m. Saturday 12 of January: GrimDark Knight: Rises, with Alexander G. R. Gideon, Patrick Dugan, Jason Gilbert, and Darin Kennedy

We'll be discussing how the popularity of Urban Fantasy and Grimdark might have affected and influenced the rise in popularity of Comic Books and Superheroes movies.

1:00 p.m. Saturday 12 of January: Networking for Introverts with Michelle Iannantuono, Patrick Dugan, Fraser Sherman, Gray Rinehart

I'm moderating this panel and we'll talk about how to build your network when you would rather build a blanket fort.

5:00 p.m. Saturday 12 of January: Have you Gone Mad? with James P. McDonald, Samantha Bryant, JD Jordan, Bill Mulligan

We'll be talking about some of the most fascinating mad scientists in fact and fiction. Come, rule the world with us!

6:00 p.m. Saturday 12 of January: Office Hours: my second hour of table time. Come talk books, writing, and all things superhero with me.

1:00 p.m. Sunday 13 of January: When Strangers Attack: with Emily Wolf (RamenWitch), Alexander Gideon, Chris Shrewsbury, Jason Gilbert

In this "Defense Against the Dark Arts" seminar come learn some tips on how to deal with trolls and other social media monsters.

2:00 p.m. Sunday 13 of January: Prospective Press Authors Round Table with Jason Graves,  Gail Z. Martin, Jason Gilbert

Prospective Press published one of my stories this past year, and I'm writing a new Menopausal Superheroes short story for an upcoming anthology for them. Come here about these and all the other great new projects from this up and coming small press.

And that will bring my Illogicon to a close. Along the way, I hope to laugh a lot, have a few drinks and some food with friends, and remember what's great about hanging out with all the best geeks. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Beginnings and Endings: My Curiosity Quills Story

Four and a half years ago, I signed my first book contract. I was so happy! The first step in the fulfillment of a dream. Validation of my work. Lisa Gus, the head of the company, was flattering about my work and seemed really enthusiastic about the possibilities for it.

The company was Curiosity Quills Press.

I'd done my due diligence with research. Always a good idea to google anyone you're considering working with, and for presses, definitely look at writer protecting information sites like Writer Beware.

I also knew one person (an online writer friend) who had worked with them and he had a good experience. The contract was clear and, based on my limited knowledge at the time, I thought it was fair. So, I wasn't duped or stupid. I did my best to make a good decision.

Things were good for a couple of years. My first book came out timely. The editing was decent. I liked my cover. Sales were steady if not quit-your-job fabulous. Royalties were paid in a timely manner. Communication was prompt and responsive. I received support for marketing with things like graphics creation and special pricing for events.

There was talk of some film rights. I was led to believe an audiobook was in the works.

I saw my second book in the series into print with the same company, wrote a between-the-books novella for a multi-author collection, a side story collection, and then the third novel. All this between 2014 (contract signed) and 2017 (third novel released).

As early as 2016, I started to see signs of trouble. 

Because of delays on the cover art, I had a book launch party for book number 2 at which I had no actual copies of the book to sell. Those same delays kept me from being able to get pre-publication reviews and guest posts on bigger name sites because I couldn't send the information and copies required in time. 

Everyone at CQ was super apologetic, and I rolled with it, taking it as a one-time fluke. 

It wasn't. 

With the release of the second novel, we had agreed to make some changes to the first, correcting some surface errors that weren't found before publication, adding an indication on the cover that it was a book one, now that there clearly was more to the series, and changing the end matter to advertise other books in the series. 

We went through the whole process and I went merrily on my way, assuming they'd done as they said they would. 

They didn't. 

I didn't find out for months because I order my print copies in large quantities, so it was a long time before I ran out of copies of book one and ordered more. I was heartbroken when I opened my new box of books and saw that NONE of the promised changes had been made. 

When I called them on it, the changes were made, but no satisfactory explanation was ever given for why it hadn't happened months earlier, when it was promised and agreed upon. 

After that, I moved more cautiously. 

Communication was slowing. I'd ask questions and wait more than a month for an answer, sometimes having to nudge again to get it. (Earlier all responses had come within a week). 

The editing process for the third book was protracted and difficult, and resulted in copy that didn't satisfy my own standards. I asked for and was granted additional passes by other eyes, which meant more delays. 

When I saw the cover for the third book, I had to send it back and remind them that the character that was portrayed on it was Hispanic, not white, so the skin tone was inappropriate. Seems like my publishers ought to have known that already, and conveyed that information to the artist. CQ had always prided itself on diversity in its catalogue. 

I didn't have a book launch party for the third book at all, worried that I'd have no paper books in
hand again. Turned out to be a legit worry, as the paper copies were delayed, and, when they finally arrived, they looked terrible. The colors were muted and it didn't jump off the shelf at all. Very different than the vibrancy of the digital edition or the previous two books.

It took months and months to get anything better. No offer was made to compensate me for author copies I'd purchased that looked terrible. No, "let us make this good" like I had expected. The explanation I was offered was that it was technical issues related to CMYK printing.

I stayed civil, but I was livid. Why was this my problem? Shouldn't the publisher have communicated that kind of information with the artist and gotten a cover that would print well? The final version was improved, but still doesn't look nearly as vibrant as the first two covers. I did my part. They didn't do theirs.

In the Facebook group for authors and other members of the CQ team, I started to see more and more problems of this sort. People not getting paper copies months and months after their digital release. Covers with errors, including even a misspelled title! Conversations with other CQ writers I knew were full of worry and consternation. 

Communication got slower and slower. By 2018, there was one woman in the office who actually responded when you sent a message. She'd say, "I'll ask Eugene," and then you'd listen to the crickets chirp until you sent another nudge and another and another. Getting any kind of answer to any kind of question was now taking multiple months. 

There was all this vague and confusing talk about a new endeavor called WishKnish that sounded entirely fishy to me. 

2018 was also the first time I didn't get paid when I was expecting to. It was happening to others as well. When I wrote and called them on it, I got paid, but it happened a couple of more times before the year ended. Some folks still haven't been paid for work they've already done and sales that were already made.

I had a bad feeling in the base of my stomach every time I thought about Curiosity Quills by this point. 

Another writer friend who runs in the same circuit of conventions I do and was also published by Curiosity Quills had taken his rights back. Everyone in the business I talked to said that these were some very bad signs and I should do the same to get out while the getting was good. Other writers shared their horror stories about having rights caught in limbo when companies folded. 

I hesitated. Curiosity Quills had given me a break when I had no readership, with my debut novel. I'm a loyal person. I didn't want to jump ship if this was a rough patch and things were going to get better. But I began to talk quietly with other small publishers I'd gotten to know over the last few years. I knew I had at least one publisher who was interested in taking on my work if I left. I held onto that thought as a life raft. 

Things continued to go downhill, not for me personally since I didn't publish anything with them in 2018, but for many others. I stopped writing the series and spent 2018 writing something else entirely. I worried this would hurt the momentum of my sales and my series, but I didn't want to give Curiosity Quills any more of my work until they showed they'd do well by it. 

They didn't show me that. In fact, things looked sketchier and sketchier by the day.

So, in October, I did it. I asked for my rights back. 

I was expecting a struggle over it, which was probably part of why I hesitated all those months. The contract asked for kill fees and I was worried I'd have to get a lawyer involved to show how they had breached the contract already and shouldn't gain from my work. My other job is teaching, which doesn't pay well enough to make legal fees a casual consideration. 

To my great relief, my rights were granted painlessly with pleasant words wishing me well in my publishing journey. To my even greater relief, Falstaff Books signed me right away, and agreed to get my books re-released in early 2019. 

In December, I learned that the company had not paid that nice woman who still responded to messages since October and that she had left the company. I began to feel like I'd jumped ship just in time. (click here for the Writer Beware article). Author after author, including their biggest names and most prolific writers are leaving. I'd be surprised if the company doesn't entirely fold here quite soon. 

The worst part about the ending of this story is what feels like unprofessional and disrespectful behavior of the company towards me and the other writers. They've been ghosting the entire group. They stopped responding to emails, private group messages, DMs, and even public social media callouts.

Failure happens. Companies fold. Endeavors fail. Partnerships end. But there are good ways and bad ways to handle that. Curiosity Quills did not show well in the end. 

I'm so sad that what started as a grand adventure has ended with me feeling like I have an especially lousy ex-boyfriend who didn't have the balls to end it properly and let us both move on. 

I'm so glad I got out when the getting was good. I hope my fellow Literary Marauders all find safe havens for their work, too, as this continues to fall out. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

IWSG: Questions I've Been Asked

It's the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 2, 2019 posting of the IWSG are Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue Be sure to check out what they have to say, too.

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question:What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

Honestly, I'm still thrilled when anyone expresses interest in my writing at all. I'm happy to answer the same questions about where my ideas come from and what my writing process is like and who my characters are over and over and over again. It doesn't get old.

I'm feel fortunate to have the chance to be on panels, teach classes, and give interviews to talk about my writing life and my books.

Repetition doesn't faze me. I take the same attitude I do in my middle school classroom when I'm teaching how to conjugate the verb SER for the hundredth time: it's okay to reinvent the wheel; that's how people learn to invent.

The experience is new for each learner/listener/reader even when it is no longer new for the teacher/writer/presenter.
My favorite questions are the sort that come from readers who really "get" my work. When they ask something insightful or express curiosity that stems from having read some of my work.

Early on, when the first book came out, I remember a reader who noticed that there's a bit of symbolism going on in some of the powers my Menopausal Superheroes develop, like the woman whose life was weighing her down being the one to take flight, or the woman who prided herself on her thick skin developing skin so thick it was bulletproof.

When she asked me about my intentions in doing that and how Linda/Leonel's gender change fit in, I just about exploded from within with light. If it's possible to fangirl over a fan, that's what I was feeling.

On the other side, some questions are meant to hurt and I've run into a few.

They're less fun.

Digs and put-downs disguised as questions are the worst, especially when you're in public and have to find a way to deflect without making yourself look bad with something you say, responding from hurt or anger. (This is why we never write back or argue with bad reviews, too, BTW: just don't!)

I run into a fair number of people who pull faces of disgust over the word "menopause" and say something like, "Why would you do that?" as if I just suggested we sauté a nice chihuahua for dinner.

I don't waste a lot of emotional energy on people who are not coming from a good place and have a few pat responses akin to, "I'm bored by all the muscle bound bohunks in the genre and wanted to write about interesting people." It probably doesn't win me any converts, but I wasn't going to sell to folks like that anyway.

On better days, I do a little better and say, "Why not?"

But really, you can ask me (almost) anything. I'm not that shy, and after 23 years in the classroom, I'm nigh-impossible to embarrass. And if you ask me about my life of words? You're gonna make my day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My Year in Words

2018 was the first year since I launched my author life in earnest in which I did not publish a novel. I think that's why, here at year's end, I feel like I'm waiting for something. That could also be because I'm also literally waiting for something though. :-) (See November for what we're waiting for).

Here's a look back at 2018 in Samantha's Writing Life: the author events, the words written and revised, the works released, and the books read and reviewed. Given that it was also a year in which my daughter graduated high school, my husband changed jobs, my other daughter started middle school, two people I cared about died, and I took on a new course in my already jam-packed teaching day…I feel pretty good about these stats.

Events: Illogicon, Taught "Write Your Novel, Part I" for Central Carolina Community College.
Wrote: 35,410 words
Revised: 34,099 words
Read and Reviewed: 2 books

January feels so long ago now that it's a dim memory. I do know though, that I had picked back up in earnest on my WIP: Thursday's Children, a young adult near-future dystopian. That New Year's rush of enthusiasm and commitment kept me going at a good pace for a while.

This book has taken me longer to write than I expected (I'm still working on it in December, which means it's been about 18 months). I'd been spoiled by how much quicker it can be to continue with an established world in a series rather than creating a whole new one, but I'm still happy to be creating something new. Staying on one project too long can be stultifying.

Events: First Monday Classics discussion of War and Peace, Mysticon
Wrote:  27,266 words
Revised:  24,733 words
Read and Reviewed:  3 books

Mid-way through February I lost momentum on the novel. I still wrote every day, but I was cheating on my novel with short stories and blog posts and things that I could complete with a slightly scattered focus.

Conventions are great fun, and a great way to get the word out there about your work, but they do also take a fair bit of time: prepping for your panels and events, social media promotion, and the three days of the convention itself are a pull from whatever else you might have used that time for.

This could also have something to do with the fact that I was the cookie mom for my daughter's Girl Scout troop and February is the height of cookie season…

Events: First Monday Classics discussion of A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Wrote:  28,475 words
Revised:  17,834 words
Read and Reviewed:  5 books

I read a lot in March. It was a "filling the well" sort of month. My momentum on the novel was low. Really, I only tinkered with it, revising a few thousand words and only adding 274 new ones across the entire month.

My publisher was imploding and I was worried about what this meant for my Menopausal Superhero series. I was dreading the confrontation that was coming about breach of contract and rights. I got the flu and part of me wonders if I got it in part because of the emotional stress weakening my reserves.

My support groups were so important in March! They kept me moving forward because I had commitments to uphold: promised chapters, stories, critiques, reviews, or blog posts. When you hit a rough patch, it's good to have friends and colleagues to keep you going.

Events: First Monday Classics discussion of Catch-22, Ravencon
Wrote:  25,791words
Revised:  20,856 words
Read and Reviewed:  8 books

Another month where I started strong on the novel, but fizzled on momentum halfway through the month.  The month included a convention (see above: TIME) and there was a lot of personal life to balance with my writing life: one of my daughters and I both have April birthdays.

When I look back on what I got done in April, I see that my structures served me well. I had planning meetings, networking events, and critique sessions booked in advance and there's nothing like "But I promised" to get me working even when I don't feel like it. I'm very much a "keep your commitments" girl (Thanks, Mom and Dad), so I still wrote every day. It's obvious I was still hiding from the work though when you look at how many books I read.

Ravencon was a highlight. It's a well organized convention and I've enjoyed both my sojourns there as an author guest. This year, Chuck Wendig was there as a the author guest of honor. I managed to introduce myself without making a total ass of myself and we even had a nice conversation about parenting. His munchkin is still quite little, whereas I was preparing to send one to college, so we talked about how weird that is.

Releases: Pen and Cape Society's The Good Fight 4: The Homefront
Events: First Monday Classics discussion of  True Grit,  Free Comic Book Day at Atomic Empire
Wrote:  29,955 words
Revised: 11,139  words
Read and Reviewed:  7 books

May is always hard on schoolteachers. Testing begins and all the work of the past year is called into account. Everyone is exhausted and a little mean, especially the other adults. (see my thoughts on why May should be optional)

Add to that a daughter taking four AP classes and two Honors classes who is about to graduate high school and is managing college and scholarship paperwork alongside a part time job and you have an idea of the tenor of our home life in May. My poor husband! (He's still here in December, so he must really love us).

The new release helped. "Coming Out as Leonel" is one of my favorite Menopausal Superhero shorts that I have written and I was happy to have a chance to get it out to a new audience. (You can get it for free by signing up for my newsletter, BTW). Leonel is a crowd favorite character. Seeing your work in print is always validating and motivating, too.

I made NO HEADWAY on the novel at all in May. 300 words revised one afternoon. I guess so I could still tell myself I was working on it?

I did, however, write a new short story that had been on my backburner for a good long while, and was really pleased with how it came out. "Late Bloomer" is one of my Shadow Hill stories (a series I work on between larger projects, weird stories that all take place in the same suburban neighborhood, suspiciously like the one I live in). The story is out on submission right now, so we'll see if it finds a good home.

I also did a fair amount of journal writing, which is useful to me when I'm going through rougher times. Getting it on paper (on into a document) seems to let me set it aside and focus where I want to.

Events: First Monday Classics discussion of A Wrinkle in TimeConCarolinas
Wrote:  24,485 words
Revised:  29,360 words
Read and Reviewed:  4 books

So, I survived and made it to summer break. The girl graduated. The other girl became a middle schooler.

I enjoyed that side step into short stories in May, so I stayed there all of June as well, revising old stories and writing new ones. By the end of the month, I had written 7,128 new words of fiction in short stories and revised another 29,360. That feeling of finishing things is addictive, I think. It's definitely one of the appeals of writing shorter things.

Working with a friend, I built a database of what was available for submission with the intention of getting my work back out there in submission. After all, no one will publish stories that just sit on my hard drive. You've got to submit work to see it published!

That meant that I still stayed stuck on the novel though. I didn't check in on it at all during June. Not even a token afternoon of editing like I'd done in May.

ConCarolinas was contentious in 2018, and I waffled until the last minute about whether or not to keep my commitment to go after some controversy surrounding one of the scheduled guests and his behavior towards other panelists and con go-ers. He ended up not attending, and I ended up having a great con, both in terms of sales and networking, and the controversy remained low-key, at least in my presence.

I was on several panels with Seanan McGuire, the author guest of honor, an experience which only deepened my admiration of her work. I gifted her the last print copy of Going Through the Change I had with me when she expressed interest, and I'm hopeful that she might even read it someday :-)

Events: First Monday Classics discussion of The Good Earth, Con-Gregate, my yearly Writers Retreat
Wrote:  34,832 words
Revised:  15,303 words
Read and Reviewed:  2 books

Thank goodness for writer's retreats! My critique group has, for the past few years, scheduled a few days away from home in July for writing. We rent a house together, share meal planning and prep, and write and talk about writing, enjoying the respite from our other responsibilities.

This year, we went to Pelican House at the Trinity Center in Morehead City, NC, a place where I have taken writing retreats solo before. I love it because the meals are prepared for me and there's a lot of lovely setting to explore when you need to clear your head.

This is where I found my footing in my novel again. I'd been reading Gabiela Pereira's DIY MFA, which is a great collection and analysis of a variety of advice surrounding writing process and productivity. There's a technique she suggests called scene cards. I've never been an outliner, but I thought it couldn't hurt and might help, so I gave it a go. I wrote about it more detail in this blog post. But the TL;DR is: it worked! I started moving forward in the story again.

Events: First Monday Classics discussion of The Grifters
Wrote:  21,201 words
Revised:  16,286 words
Read and Reviewed:  2 books

So, 21,201 might not look that impressive when I just said that I found my footing in the novel again, but 3,225 new words and 16,186 revised words on a project that had all but stalled felt wonderful! I worked on it steadily, too. A little each day, with real progress on over half the days of the month. Thursday's Children was back on the road to becoming a completed novel.

August also came with a bit of an ego bump, just when I needed it. A magazine found me and sought me out for an author interview. That "out of the blue" stuff is the best! I definitely appreciate it when friends and colleagues notice and promote my work, but part of me thinks they only do it because they like me, as a person. So, it's personal rather than professional recognition. When it's a stranger, it's easier to believe that they honestly admire the work.

Events: Ravencon 13.5
Wrote:  26,512 words
Revised:  13,355 words
Read and Reviewed: 6 books

Spring 2018 had been rough in terms of time management and I decided that going forward, I would do fewer spring events and show a little respect for the demands of my day job and family as well as my own physical and emotional limits. So, I was thrilled when Ravencon added a .5 event, a smaller convention in September. I signed up right away and had a wonderful time! 

Since some of the bigger name authors who travel the same convention circuit I do weren't there, I got to feel like a bigger fish in the pond than is typical. The whole convention had an intimate feel that was right for my comfort levels as an introvert faking comfort with public events.

September was also good for forward momentum on Thursday's Children, with another 2,378 in new words added and 13,355 in revisions. Revisions in my case often means serious expansion of a skeletal scene or structural re-arrangement, so those 13K words are not to be sneezed at as window dressing or surface edits. They are real progress.

Releases: "The Girl in the Pool" a daylight ghost story in Off the Beaten Path 3; "Ashes" a southern gothic demon lover tale in Beyond the Pane
Events: First Monday Classics discussion of Les Misérables, Conapalooza, Real Life Ghost Stories
Wrote:  36,444 words
Revised:  0 words
Read and Reviewed:  3 books

I didn't work on my novel in October.

The difference was that it was intentional.

A friend of mine does a flash fiction challenge each October called Nightmare Fuel. She provides visual prompts and the participants write flash fiction to go with each. I've participated for a couple of years now and I find that the story-a-day format is a great refresher, a sort of vacation from the work of writing to remember that it's fun by playing with work that I'm not applying as much pressure on. (You can view the stories I wrote for the challenge here).

More than once, these play-pieces I've begun for Nightmare Fuel have grown into something I saw published, which goes to show that leaving yourself space to play can be good for your work.

I also wrote 31 blog posts here at Balancing Act in October, each celebrating an aspect of Halloween. Once in a while, it's nice to just let my inner fan girl squee about the things she loves, you know.

Conapalooza was fun, if light on sales. They're new, in an area of the country where there aren't that many conventions and geek-centric events, so I think they'll continue to see growth in upcoming years. A highlight was hearing my sister do her first public reading of her work. Yep, writing is contagious y'all. Watch out, or you might catch it, too!

The big news was that the tension with my publisher resolved. I asked for and received my rights back without struggle or animosity. I'm so relieved!

Events: First Monday Classics discussion of To the Lighthouse, Local Authors Book Fair
Wrote:  27,828 words
Revised:  28,723 words
Read and Reviewed: 2 books

I jumped back into Thursday's Children with both feet on November first and made steady progress all month, adding 7,162 new words and revising 20,723.

I also made a big push on submitting all those short stories I worked on earlier in the year, which including a bit of revision time on those as well. All in all, I made 17 submissions in the month of November. For comparison, I submitted 0-1 pieces all the other months in 2018.

The Local Authors Book Fair held by my local Friends of the Public Library was a great success. I sold a fair number of books, made some new writer friends, and had a great day.

I signed with a new publisher! The Menopausal Superhero series will soon be re-released and carried by Falstaff Books, of Charlotte, NC. I'm so pleased to have signed with Falstaff. Everything I know of them is positive, and I expect to be treated fairly and expand my readership under their auspices. I'll share publication dates and information as soon as I have it!

Knowing that my books are in a stable home has me excited about the series again and I expect to get back to that long-stalled fourth book in the series in 2019.

December: (numbers as of December 21)
Releases: Tracing the Trails: A Constant Reader's Reflections on the Work of Stephen King
Events: First Monday Classics discussion of Little House in the Big Woods
Wrote:  23,172 words
Revised:  8,756 words
Read and Reviewed:  4 books

December has continued the positive trends started in November, with steady progress on the novel and continuing to get my work out there on submission. A few rejections came back and I just immediately turned those puppies around and sent them seeking a home somewhere else. 

A writing partner, Nicole Givens Kurtz, and I have sent out proposals for our nonfiction teaching book On Teaching Speculative Fiction and I'm feeling hopeful that we'll find a good home for our work. 

A nonfiction essay I wrote about Stephen King's collection of short stories, Nightmares and Dreamscapes (especially Dolan's Cadillac) was published in Tracing the Trails a labor of love from a long-time writing friend and my nemesis on the Magic Spreadsheet, Chad A. Clark

I feel as though I'm ending 2018 on a positive and productive note that will carry me into 2019 full of hope and energy. So despite the rollercoaster feeling of the year, I'm glad I got on the ride!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

What I Read in 2018

A lot of the things I read in 2018 weren't written in 2018 or even in the 2000s or 1900s at all. I help facilitate the First Monday Classics Book Club at my library with another author-friend, James Maxey, so some of the older reads on this list stem from that group, though not all of them. We read a lot of good stuff this year. The one that will probably linger with me longest is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, though I also loved reading A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and revisiting A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle.

My neighborhood book club seems to select a lot of nonfiction, which I really appreciate because, while I usually find I enjoy nonfiction, I seldom choose it for myself. Our most recent read was Educated by Tara Westover, which I found fascinating for its insight into a world I usually only see in the aftermath on the news. My favorite, though, was Isaac's Storm: A Man, A Time, and the Deadliest Storm in History by Erik Larson. It was especially apropos in a year when two hurricanes swept my home state of North Carolina.

There are a few things here I read to support other authors, friends and colleagues or just people I agreed to help out with reviews for whatever reason. My favorite of these was Transference by Kate Jonuska. It's a superhero novel, similar to my own in that acquiring superpowers is not necessarily regarded as a boon, but more as something the character now has to deal with.

Others are just things I've been meaning to read for a long time. I spent a bit of reading time this year on gothic romance and horror because the next book tapping on my shoulder to write is a gothic romance and I wanted to steep myself in that lovely dark brew in preparation.

 The Woman in Black by Susan Hill was FABULOUS. It was amazing how the tropes were turned on their ears simply by casting our ghost-seeing-character as a Victorian man rather than a woman.

Among general fiction, things I picked up just because I wanted to, I enjoyed Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series 1 and 2 the best. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has been described by some as "rainbows and unicorns space opera", which I think they mean as an insult.  The series definitely has a very positive outlook rather than the usual angsty grimdark we see in space opera, so it's different, which I think is the best thing about it. I enjoyed it for the exploration of cultural dissonances that would naturally arise when different kinds of aliens live and work together. The sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, is an exploration of what constitutes life, through the eyes of an AI character. Thought provoking, and still, in the end, about love and friendship.

Goodreads says I've read 59 as of today (I'm writing this in the first half of December), but it's looks like they are counting Kill the Farm Boy, which was a DNF (did not finish) for me (it felt like it was trying too hard to me, and I didn't find it funny as I had hoped), so we'll say 58. I've got one in progress I'll finish soon, and two more I expect to finish in December. So, I'll probably finish my year at 61 books read. I set my goal at 52, one per week, and usually can exceed it, without having to pile up on short reads at the last minute, thanks to the magic of audiobooks that let me read while I handle the mindless minutiae of domestic life.

So, the count:

Classics: 17 
(I count classics of speculative fiction as well as literary fiction here)

Nonfiction/Memoir: 12 
(Frederick Douglass, I counted as classic memoir, so counts twice)

Fiction: 30

Not bad for the crazy-busy year I've had. How was your year in books? What did you read that I should? Did we read anything in common this year? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Slowing Down for Snow Days

Time, it seems, has sped faster with each year of my life. Most days are so stuffed that at the end, I fall onto the sofa feeling like I've been run over. It gets to me after a while, even when the things my day is stuffed with are all pleasant and fun. 

I get frazzled and grumpy if I don't get to slow down, appreciate, and reflect often enough. 

Writing is good for that. It's a quiet, solo activity, reflective and thoughtful. But there are times when even that is not enough to reset my equilibrium. 

But, as I write this, I'm on my second snow day, with the possibility of yet another one coming. The timing couldn't be better. Thank you, Mother Nature! 

My house was well stocked with yummy things thanks to our Chanukah preparations. Our power
stayed on, so we could enjoy the full gamut of entertainment options we've gathered over the years. We had enough wood for fires and all four Bryants were already at home when the weather hit. 

As a group, the Bryants finished some lingering projects for school, cleaned up, caught up on laundry, baked, slept extra, played games, read, played in the snow, petted the dog and told him he's pretty, and just sat and talked beside a fire with cocoa. 

Even the husband who still had to work, because his work can be done from home, got to sleep later, avoid driving, eat warm food prepared with love, and enjoy better breaks during his day. 

We didn't run any errands, do any shopping (except maybe the clicky kind: online), visit anyone outside of walking distance, or attend any events. 

I'm glad the weather forced us into a little quiet time just as we needed it. All of us are the better for the lull.