Monday, May 27, 2024

Reading for enjoyment, as a writer, an open book blog hop post

  

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

How do you turn off your internal editor when you are reading for enjoyment?

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It can be difficult, once you "know how the sausage is made" to gloss over errors, inconsistencies, and less-than-stellar stylistic choices in someone else's work like you might have done when you were "just a reader." This is especially difficult in sloppy work, where you start to wonder if the author tried anything at all, like spell check or Grammarly? 

Honestly, I've always been a fairly judgey reader in that regard: I expect good writing in published books. It has gotten worse since I started doing it myself, though. 

I get super annoyed by poor craftsmanship, because author life is hard enough without people half-assing self-publishing and making it that much harder for everyone to get readers to give indie-published work a fair shake. Readers who have been burned by poor quality work with minimal editing are less likely to reach for indie work in the future, so it hurts us all. 

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But, I can usually achieve a state of immersion and become "just a reader" again, and if I can't…well, I don't have to finish every book I start. 

I do a lot of my reading these days as audiobooks, so that helps a little. I can't see the words on the page and a good narrator can smooth out rough patches. Sometimes a good narrator can take a merely good book and make it great, or take a mediocre book and make it good.  So, that's part of it, for sure. 

Sometimes, it's an act of will, reminding myself I'm not providing a critique or a beta read, but just reading. If the story is working, it'll pull me in and my inner critic will quiet down and let me enjoy. 

If I can't achieve that feeling of immersion, then I usually set the book aside and figure it's not for me, or at least not for me right now. Sometimes the reason I can't immerse into a story has nothing to do with quality, but about my own state of mind and stage of life, or even just that I've read too much of the same sort of thing in a row. 

How about you? If you write, do you find it harder to lose yourself in reading now? What pulls you out of that feeling of immersion? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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DNF: did not finish, an open book blog hop post

  

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

What determines whether or not you finish a book you're reading? Do you review books you didn't finish?

 ______________________

The short answer to this one is "the first few pages." 

For most of my reading, if a book doesn't have my interest by thirty or so pages in, I figure it's not a book for me, and I just let it go. That said, it doesn't happen to me very often because I know me pretty well by this point, and I seldom pick up a book that isn't for me. 

Most of the reads I don't finish weren't just personal picks, but something I was reading for a class, or for a book club, or because someone gifted it to me. Sometimes those are worth finishing, even if I don't enjoy them, for the social bit: talking about books with other people is one of my great joys in life, probably right under writing book and reading books!

One book I've made multiple attempts at and never finished is Ulysses by James Joyce. That book might be my personal reading nemesis. I've made it through plenty of dense classic novels in my time, but this one I couldn't handle. 

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Generally, I don't review books I didn't finish. That doesn't seem fair. Maybe whatever was frustrating or annoying me in that opening made sense later and, had I continued, I would have come to appreciate what the author was doing. 

How about you? Do you finish what you started in your reading life? 

Monday, May 6, 2024

Selling your books in person, an open book blog hop post

 

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you attend book selling events? What is your best tip to sell books at one? 

 ______________________

I do indeed, several times a year, attend events where I sell my books. In fact, I attended one just this past weekend, Ravencon in Richmond, Virgina, and had a lovely time! I've got Galaxycon upcoming in July, and Bookmarks Book Festival on my calendar for September, too. 

Display is key at these things, in my observation. It's one of those cases where investing in a few eye-catching items can make a lot of difference. In my case, I've invested in a table runner, a standing banner, printed bookmarks, and a couple of different types of bookracks for table display. 

Me with my table runner and upright book rack at Concarolinas in 2021

All of these help a reader make a good guess from across the room whether or not my books would be of interest to them. 

Of course, I didn't buy these all at once, but a piece at a time, with different events in mind. In fact, I had another banner before this one that became outdated when my Menopausal Superhero books got a rebrand in 2019. I expect that, in the future, I may want other banners as my catalogue expands. So, I balance that when I'm deciding how much I'm willing to spend on these display items. 

My standing banner behind my Galaxycon table in 2023, with my new spinner rack.

The logo and imprint name "Dangerous When Bored" on my table runner will often elicit a smile from someone walking past my table at an event, and that might make them slow down and look at my covers. The "half hero/half horror" with book covers gives a reader a hint even at a distance what my most common genres are. 

Once a potential reader stops by my table, I introduce myself, asking a question or making a comment when possible to try and get a conversation started. (It took me some time to build comfort with this bit, BTW, since I'm a hardcore introvert). I'm convinced more than one person has bought a book from me because I complimented their clothing or understood the reference on their tee-shirt. 

I try to gage if a reader is drawn in by any particular cover and offer a little more information about that particular book. Saying nothing at all can be bad, because you seem disinterested and the reader might need you to start the conversation, but saying too much can be overwhelming, too. I've got a very short, pithy pitch for each book at the ready and only go into more depth if that seems wanted. 

If they seem like they're going to walk away without buying, I thank them for their time and try to get them to take a bookmark, so they can check out my work online at their leisure. I often see a spike in online sales in the days following an in-person event, too. Some folks want to support you, but have burned through their budget, or have limited luggage space to consider. 

So, there you go. My best advice is to make as easy as possible for the potential reader to ascertain what kinds of books you're selling through well chosen display items and swag. 

How about you fellow Open Book bloggers? What works for you? For readers stopping by my blog today, what kinds of things will get you to buy a book from someone at in-person events? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Driven to Distraction, an IWSG post

      


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that 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, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the May 1 posting of the IWSG are Victoria Marie Lees, Kim Lajevardi, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

May 1 question - How do you deal with distractions when you are writing? Do they derail you?
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So, I'm one of those middle-aged women who found out she was ADD when her children were diagnosed and the waves of recognition splashed me in the face and left me sputtering. 

As a GenX woman who isn't hyperactive, I was always told that I was "right-brained" and encouraged to "develop discipline" or I'd never succeed in this world. 

And, so, I kind of did. 

Not that I recommend this approach for others--it was often painful along the way. My need for quiet was regarded as antisocial, rather than introversion or overstimulation and I spent a lot of time trying to be "normal." 

Now, I'm the list-making, calendar and alarm dependent sort of ADDer. And I just turned 53, so I've had a minute to understand my brain weasels and make peace with them, developing patterns that support me and help me get done what I need and want to get done. 


cartoon of several colorful weasels bunched up together into a brain shape with the words "brain weasels" at the bottom.
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At this point, I'm pretty good at self-regulation and using external support tools to ensure adequate productivity. My brain weasels aren't completely tamed, but they are mostly cooperative. 
My super power as a neuro-spicy gal, is that when I concentrate, I can really really concentrate. Once I'm "in the zone," I can fail to notice almost anything else, from big external things (like thunderstorms) to smaller internal things (like hunger) for as long as my focus period lasts. 

On the downside, it can be hard to settle into those deep concentration moments, and to make sure that, when I do, my focus is on the "right" thing. 

In my writing life, that means staying focused on the project at hand until I've finished it and not running madly down the street after the "new shiny" idea that wants to jump the line. 

So, I have two techniques that help me: 

1. Bribery: I promise myself that I can play with the new shiny, but only AFTER I work on the current project for a certain amount of time. (Oddly, promising myself different work motivates me to do work). Work first, then play, you silly little brain weasels. 

2. Ritual: I've tried to Pavlov myself, training myself to associate certain things with "writing time" so I can elicit that concentration regularly. I have a cup of Tension Tamer tea (smells like writing!), and I sit in my writing oasis on the green sofa (feels like writing!). So, the setting and the smell tell my brain, "It's writing time!" 
Distractions do still derail me sometimes…and sometimes, they absolutely should, because the health and wellbeing of my household is more important than my word count and my imaginary friends. 

It's always this balance of when to fight and when to give in to distraction. All work and no play does make a Jacqueline a dull girl, so sometimes a break in discipline is just the right thing and will feed future productivity, but too much distraction just builds disquiet and leaves me frustrated. 

While I do have to be disciplined about which project I keep my focus on and about just sitting down to write each day, I'm a complete pantser in the writing itself. I think this is the compromise with my brain weasels: we will be organized and focused about what we're doing, but have a lot of freedom to play once the parameters are set. 

How about you? When you struggle with distraction what works for you? 

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Changes in the blog-o-sphere

    


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that 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, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the April 3 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, T. Powell Coltrin, Natalie Aguirre, and Pat Garcia!!

April 3: How long have you been blogging? (Or on Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram?) What do you like about it and how has it changed? 
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I hardly remember a time when blogging and social media weren't part of my life, but a quick check tells me that I started this blog in June 2009, apparently when I was feeling sad because my eldest was away visiting the bio-dad (AKA my ex-husband): https://samanthadunawaybryant.blogspot.com/2009/06/funny-things-make-me-sad-when-shes-away.html



That seems like an odd one to kick off a blog with, no "Hi! I'm Samantha and I'm a writer" confession? No big pronouncements about what I intended to do with the space? So maybe I had something before this and I've forgotten. 

If so, well, I've forgotten. 

From the look of it, I took off in fits and starts. 14 posts in all of 2009, only 3 in all of 2010…and there it is! 2014, the year I committed more fully to my writing life and wrote 112 blog posts apparently. 

That makes sense. I committed in a daily writing habit that year, starting a chain that remains unbroken a decade later. I had a goal of posting once a week, I remember, and it looks like I blew that out of the water! Go past me!

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Blogging has definitely changed for me over time. At first, it was just a way to make myself put some words out there into the world more often. Sort of a public diary about whatever was on my mind. It was about building a habit of writing and sharing it.

These days, I don't need my blog for those same reasons--I write every day and publish regularly enough to keep up some semblance of a writing career. But I still value having my own little piece of the web. It's a sort of record of my journey, at least for this section of my life, and since I'm bad at record-keeping in general, it's nice to have. 

Even though Blogger isn't well supported anymore and that gives me technical trouble from time to time, and even though I have need of a more robust and navigable website, I haven't moved it over. That's part nostalgia and part inertia probably. Plus I've got books to write! I don't really want to spend too much time and energy on my website. 

Sometimes "keeping up with the blog" feels like too big a chore alongside finishing the latest novel, promoting my published work, attending conventions, etc. I never let it go entirely, but I don't stress too much about whether I put something out once a week anymore, or spend too much time obsessing over metrics and numbers. 

Some of my posts have found a broad audience. Others were visited by twenty or so folks who probably all know me in real life (Hi, Mom!). 

That's okay. These posts are still ripples in the stream and have the chance to build into career-building waves. 

My posting these days is more about networking with other writers and bloggers (like you guys!), a bit of self-promotion for my writing life, and just making sure that SEO crawlers find a LOT of content with my name on it out there. Discoverability, baby!

We all do what we can, right? 



Monday, April 1, 2024

Too old or young for writing? An open book blog hop post

 

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

How old is too old to be a writer? Too young? 

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One of the great things about writing is that it's something a person can do at any age. 

Once you're literate in at least one language, at whatever age that is, you can start writing. 

And even at the other end of the spectrum, when some of us start to struggle with things like fine motor control, vision, and mental endurance (if we weren't already), writing is still a possibility, even if you have to change the tools you use to do it. 

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Since I'm a writer who didn't start taking this seriously until I was 42, I'm probably a little biased towards older writers, but I've met some very talented very young ones, too (and I only get a little jealous that they've gotten it together sooner than I did). 

Each stage of life comes with its own insights and wisdom, so a writer isn't necessarily more or less prepared to take on a story or a topic based on their age. Experience isn't age-specific. Neither is imagination. I'd argue more that skill comes with practice and effort, things that a person of any age can invest in. 

Personally, I feel like I'm about 35, and I've felt like I was about 35 since I was about 15. (In reality, I'm soon to be 53). 

My writing life is going well. I'm pleased with what I create and happy to be finding an audience. I've got the confidence to say no to opportunities that aren't going to be good for me, and not eat myself up with worry about whether I've made the right decision afterwards. 

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I'm good with how it worked out for me, and only occasionally mad at myself for "wasting" time in my younger years. After all, the things I did then made me who I am now and brought the people I love into my life. Travel, home-making, reading stories to my children, and walking in the woods may not have earned me any publishing credits at the time, but all those experiences feed what I write now. So, they were worth it, both intrinsically and extrinsically. 

But you know what? People are judgy, especially on the internet. No matter what you do and when you do it, someone will disapprove and try to make you feel inadequate. 

Don't let them! 

Art is for all ages and stages. 

Do it for you!

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Monday, March 25, 2024

I Can't Wait to Read… (an open book blog hop post)

Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Is there a book in your TBR pile that you're more excited about than the others? 

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My TBR isn't exactly a pile, since I read digitally (ebooks and audiobooks) more than I read on paper these days. 

And, while I do intend to read every book I put in those libraries, I don't have them ranked for urgency for the most part. I'm more of a mood reader, picking my next read based on what I feel like reading at the moment. 

So, I'm excited about all of them, or I wouldn't have purchased them, but which one I'll read in what order is more of a choice in the moment. 

There are exceptions, like book club reads, where I agreed to have read a certain book by a certain date, or review copies from colleagues, where I agreed to read it and provide a review by a certain date, or research reads for something I'm trying to write. 

I just finished The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, a choice for my First Monday Classics book club, which I read as an audiobook/ebook combination and I really enjoyed it, so I immediately bought the sequel, Ripley Underground and plan to read it soon. 

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I've been binging books by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). In fact, I'm reading The Hollow Places by her right now, as I write this, as an audiobook. I've read several of her darker books and her Paladin romance series as well as her humorous fantasy A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Magic. She write quirky interesting characters, and intermixes a kind heartedness with an appreciation for the weird and creepy and I'm really loving that vibe right now. 

When I find a series or a writer whose work I really enjoy, I tend to just gobble up the whole catalogue until I've read everything I can easily get my eyeballs (or ears) on. 

On my 10th T. Kingfisher this year!

I just bought Lyz Lenz's This American Ex-Wife since I read and enjoy her posts on Substack and that piqued my curiosity about her book, so that will probably float to the top of the pool soon, too. 

A long time writing friend, Nolah Reed just brought out Becoming the Cat, which I read early drafts of back when we shared a critique group, so I'm excited to read that, too.  

But, honestly, I'm excited about them all, and at this point, I'll have to live several hundred years to have time to read them all!

How about you? What are you excited about reading? 

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Writing Seasons, an open book blog hop post

   


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Is there a specific time of year when your ideas flow better and you find you're writing more? What do you think contributes to that? 

 ______________________

When I was still teaching for a living, my writing life was very cyclical--in direct opposition to my teaching life. During school holidays, I wrote a lot; the rest of the time I struggled to hold onto enough energy to be able to write even a little. In some ways it was nice to be able to compartmentalize like that and focus more on my writing during the off-seasons for work. 

Now that I have more of a traditional 9 to 5 work schedule, without things like Spring Break, Winter Holiday Break, or summers without classes, I've really had to adjust how I do things. 

On the up-side, the new work is less emotionally and physically exhausting and much more flexible for getting a little time off during business hours from time to time. On the down-side, I don't get long stretches of being temporarily full-time in my writing anymore. 

Now, if we mean something more like Mother Nature's seasons, I get more done on my writing when the weather is unpleasant. If it's raining, or bleak, or too cold and I'm not really all that tempted to go outside, it's easier to hole up in my cozy little office with a cup of tea and my imaginary friends. 

My cozy little office, now with new rug!

The ebb and flow of my writing life currently doesn't seem to be influenced by the calendar or the weather patterns though as much as by how demanding all the other aspects of my life are being at the moment. 

Big deadline at work? 
Kid sick? 
Home project going on? 
Travel happening? 
Someone I love needing extra support?

Any of these things will slow my word count, but no matter what I'm still an every day writer. My chain of writing days is over a decade long now, and I don't go to bed without writing something, even if it's a struggle. 

How about you? Does your creative flow come in seasons? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

No AI for me, thanks

      


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that 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, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Kristina Kelly, Miffie Seideman, Jean Davis, and Liza @ Middle Passages!

March 6: Have you "played" with AI to write those nasty synopses, or do you refuse to go that route? How do you feel about AI's impact on creative writing?

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I have not played with AI at all so far, and I don't really have any interest in it. I've got processes in place that are working for me right now. 

For one thing, I've got doubts about the ethical implications and I think I'll wait for all that to settle. 

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For another, I'm tired--I don't feel like learning new systems just now. 

Other writers I know are developing whole new skill sets surrounding prompt writing to get the system to give them something they can use…and, well, I don't want to. At least not right now. 

I don't have the spoons. I have plenty of other things to deal with right now. 

For a third thing, I haven't seen anything yet to convince me that the end product is up to my standards. 

I suppose I could take it as a draft and revise it to my liking, but I could also do that with my own crappy first draft instead of one written by a machine. 

But the most important thing is that I enjoy writing--even the parts I complain about, like synopsis writing. Passing parts of it off just wouldn't bring me the same feelings of accomplishment as doing it myself. 

There are things I take on, at least in part, because they are difficult and not just anyone can do them. One could argue that was some portion of my "why" in teaching. Sure, I had a heart to help, but I also got a bit of a charge out of doing something that many people could not. (Of course, too many years of that = burnout, so there's a balance). 

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If I just glom off the bits I think are hard and ask a machine to do my work for me? That feels like cheating, and if the end result is successful, I get no share in the credit. I wouldn't feel like I owned it anymore.

I want to be proud of myself, to feel like I really accomplished something in my writing life. So that means I'll have to do it myself. No shade meant at those who find that using AI feeds their practice--gets them past blank page paralysis, or whatever else they need. There are ethical ways to use these tools, the same as any others. But it's not for me. 

It's just a line in the sand, which means you can smooth it out with your foot and step over any time you want. But I'm okay on this side of the line for now. How about you? 

Monday, February 19, 2024

The elevator pitch, an open book blog hop post

  


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you have an elevator pitch (a brief 30 second or so introduction) for your books?

 ______________________

The idea of an elevator pitch, I believe, came about from publishing, where an author steps into the same elevator as a muckety-muck and might have the space between two or three floors to catch the interest of a potential publisher and get them to want to read the whole thing. 

I'd never do that. Talking to someone I don't already know? In an elevator and under high pressure to sell them something? Now *that's* a horror story! No thank you.

That said, I do have to pitch my work from time to time, to convey to potential readers what it's all about and why they might want to read it. 

The Menopausal Superhero series is pretty easy to pitch. When I'm doing events, often I don't have to do much more than say the name of the series. Sometimes I don't even have to say it at all, since it's right there on the covers. The concept often makes people smile and they pick one up to read the back cover, and then the sales game is on! (or they make a face like they smell something bad and back away from me--some people can be put off by the mere word "menopause")

The Menopausal Superhero series

Easy pitching is great news for me, because I'm an introvert, so I'm not at all comfortable with the "carnival barker" method of getting readers to stop and talk with me. I rely on good displays and looking approachable. After all, folks who are attending a book fair or science fiction and fantasy convention don't need a hard sell--they came specifically to look at this kind of thing. 

Me at Bookmarks Festival of Books in Winston-Salem, NC

If someone stops and talks with me a bit, I usually first try to see if they're more likely to be interested in my hero or horror stories, usually just by introducing myself: Hi! I'm Samantha and these are my books. I write the Menopausal Superhero series and short form horror, which ones depends on whether I want to save the world today, or watch it burn." 

If they lean horror, I talk a little about the range of types of stories I've written, and wait to see what book they're eye-balling, then mention what my story in that anthology is about. 

"Stories We Tell After Midnight? That's a great collection! It's been described as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for grown-ups. My story in there is called 'The Cleaning Lady.' That might not sound like horror, but it's all in who you work for, isn't it?"

or 

"Crone Girls Press is one of my favorite publishers to work with. They're a feminist horror press and I love the types of stories Rachel finds for their anthologies!" 

If they lean superhero, I drop in tidbits like, "My menopausal superhero series is dram-edy in tone, intermixing superhero action with comedy about aging, with themes of female friendship." 

Or, 

"This is my more optimistic work, where heroines who are not 'spring chickens' save the day." 

I'm not a hard sell person. I hate it when people press me too hard, so I don't do that to others. I'd rather have a conversation, even if it doesn't end in a sale. 

If someone seems at least a little interested, I'll try one last push, giving them a bookmark with the link to my Amazon page on it and encouraging them to go check out the reviews and the "look inside" to see if my work is for them. 

I always thank people for stopping to talk with me, and I mean it, too. I'm grateful each time someone expresses interest in my work. 

Plus, you never know, even if you don't sell to that person in that moment, you may have put a ripple in the stream that will come back to you later. Your table guest might invite you to an event, or tell a friend about you. 

After nearly a decade of attending events and selling my books, I'm more comfortable with pitching my work, but I'm never going to accost some poor soul in an elevator. Let's all just get to the lobby in peace, please. 

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Monday, February 12, 2024

Still writing, after all these years, an open book blog hop post

  


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you ever ask yourself if you are still a writer?

 ______________________

Though I have plenty of moments of doubt in the pursuit of my creative life, my identity as a writer is never in question. I have always written (since I first learned how!), and will always write. 

Writing is how I process the world, my feelings, events…all of it. Like the quote from EM Forster: "How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?"

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Publishing is another kettle of fish though. It can really feel like there's no return-on-investment in seeking publication and audience for your work. If you let your identity as a writer get tied to your financial or critical success in publishing, losing heart is almost inevitable. 

There's going to be rejection. There are going to be poor reviews and unkindness and judgmental behavior. It's a risk you take, when you put your art out there, hoping for connection, hoping to find someone who "gets" what you're doing. 

Not everyone will. 

When it's been a long time since I've seen anything into print, I can have some doubts about my publishing career, start to feel that imposter syndrome pulling down on my soul. 

But, no, I never have to ask if I'm a writer. I write, therefore I am. Or, maybe I am, and therefore I write. Either way, it's not possible for me to give that up. 

Do you have to fight off doubting demons in your creative endeavors? How do you pull yourself out? I'd love to hear about in the comments! 

(the earworm from my title: 




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Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Author website pet peeves

     


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that 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, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the February 7 posting of the IWSG are Janet Alcorn, SE White, Victoria Marie Lees, and Cathrina Constantine!
February 7 question: What turns you off when visiting an author's website/blog? Lack of information? A drone of negativity? Little mention of the author's books? Constant mention of books? 
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I'm pretty forgiving when it comes to author websites and blogs. People in glass houses and all that.

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This site, for example, started out as a mommy blog back in the day (like, 2009), and has slowly morphed into a blog + pages for my author life as I started to build something you might call an actual author life.

It's a bit of a Frankenstein's monster now, made out of pieces of other things, put together by someone who's not particularly skilled at that. 

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I'm well aware of the flaws in my own site. 

I have great plans for migrating to another platform because Blogger has been falling apart for years, but there's a lot of decisions to make and tons of actual work to that, so it keeps getting bumped down the to-do list. That constant balance of time-energy-money. Migration takes a lot of resources…even just figuring out what to pack and take with you versus what to let go. 

So, I definitely bear all that in mind when I am tempted to pass judgment on what someone else has managed to do in this crazy endeavor we call building a writing life. 

So, with all that as caveat, here are my three main pet peeves on author websites:
  1. Pop-ups: Modals demanding that I subscribe to a newsletter or click over to the latest publication. Especially if those cover the thing I came there to read and are difficult to get back out of. If I like what I see, I'll seek out your newsletter--put the link at the side or in an obvious menu, but don't pop it up on me just because I scroll down or try to navigate away--that feels scammy and pushy and guarantees I will not subscribe. 
  2. No contact information: that's a basic on any website. People might want to reach out to you! Maybe invite you to be a part of an event. I've had it happen. I understand the desire for privacy, but it can cost you opportunities to be difficult to reach out to. You can use a form if you don't want to post an email address. 
  3. Flashing or moving displays that can't be turned off: I don't see this so much anymore, but for a little while, it was quite the fashion to have a video play, or a carousel display on a website and I hate it. An interactive element for a purpose has its place, but on an author's website? Nope. I came here for the words, read with my eyeballs, at the pace I choose. 
So there ya go, Samantha's two cents on author websites. How about you? What puts you off or pulls you in? What do you do for your own site, if you maintain one? I'd love to hear about in the comments! 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Naming my imaginary friends, an open book blog hop post

  


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

How do you choose your characters' names?

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For my main body of work, the Menopausal Superheroes series, I wanted an every-woman feel for my main characters. 

So, to pick the first names of Jessica, Patricia, Cindy, Linda, and Helen, I went to the internet and looked at census information for the birth year of each of them, and chose from the top ten most popular names that year. 

The Menopausal Superheroes as drawn by Charles C. Dowd. 

Their last names came about for a few different reasons. Jessica Roark AKA Flygirl took her last name from an old friend. Patricia O'Neill AKA The Lizard Woman borrowed her surname from my beloved dog. Cindy Liu, my mad scientist, took on her moniker after some research into common Chinese surnames that English speakers would find relatively easy to pronounce. Linda Álvarez, later Leonel, AKA Fuerte adopted their last name from one of my former students. Helen Braeburn's last name was a bit of a pun to entertain myself, based on her apple-shaped figure and her powers of fire wielding.

When it came time to name all the past lives of Cindy Liu's father, one of the villains of the series, I named them for actors from old horror movies, recombining names like Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, and Peter Lorre to make all his aliases. This was partly because of his story line--he literally has transferred his brain from body to body after killing the men whose body he wants to take over--and partly just because I love those old movies and the actors who starred in them. 

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Thoughout the series, minor characters have often been named after people in my life, just a little Easter egg to myself and them, a thank you for love and support. So all the members of my critique group have made appearances in their somewhere, with one or both of their names. So have several other folks from my broader writing community. One of my kids made an appearance as a child with a healing ability. 

In other pieces I've written, my naming practices have varied. 

Sometimes it's about researching the time frame, class, and ethnicity of my character to choose an appropriate name. Dienihatiri, the main character in "His Destroyer" published in Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire, lived in Egypt during the time of the ten plagues. I ran across the name of a real historical person in my research about the nature of what the lives of enslaved people were like, and kept it for my story.

The woman architect in one of my upcoming projects, a Gothic romance called The Architect and the Heir, came to me with her name already in place, Devon Brook. I loved it because it allowed for the gender misunderstanding I'd need for the plot, and played on her discomfort with water. 

So, I guess I don't have any one way that I get there, but I find the right name for my imaginary friends one way or another. Know any good stories about character names? Tell me about it in the comments! And don't forget to check out what my colleagues have to say about how they handle this in their work at the link below. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Monday, January 29, 2024

Pen Name or Not?

 


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.

Do you use or have you considered using different pen names for different genres of your writing?

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Pen names always seem like fun to me. Choosing a new version of yourself to go with your writing, so you have a tough guy name for that noir you're writing and something soft and flowery for the romance. Maybe my Gothic romance (when I finish it) could come from someone like Violet Nightshade, instead of the more mundane Samantha Bryant. It's a fun kind of branding. 

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But in this day and age, marketing means keeping up with social media for your work, and I find that overwhelming enough without managing several different version of myself. I can't imagine keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Bluesky, etc. for more than one of me. When would I actually write? 

I know some writers get around this by having their pen names be an open secret, like Gail Z. Martin writing as Morgan Brice or Ursula Vernon writing as T. Kingfisher (just to name couple from my circles), but I'm probably not a big enough fish for that, and I don't want to make it any harder for someone who enjoyed something I wrote to find the rest of it!

So, I've thought about it, but I think I'll stick to just being Samantha Bryant, regardless of what I'm writing. I'm plenty to handle. 

Do you use pen names in your work? Do you follow writers who do? 


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Monday, January 22, 2024

Every Novel is a Puzzle

 


Welcome to Open Book Blog Hop. You can find us every Monday talking about the writing life. I hope you'll check out all the posts: you'll find the links at the bottom of this post.
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Now this was fun! Are you a puzzle fan? Well, here's the first of the novels in the Menopausal Superhero series made into a jigsaw puzzle! (If you need some hints, the title is Going Through the Change, and my name is Samantha Bryant--those bits will get you a goodly portion of the puzzle). And like any jigsaw puzzle aficionado will tell you--establish the edges first. It helps. 


I enjoyed this quite a bit, and it's a nice analogy for writing as well. Writing a new book does feel like solving a puzzle. I get it in pieces and as I work the overall vision becomes clearer and hangs together better until: voilá! 

Hope you enjoy it! And be sure to check out the other puzzles in this week's blog hop at the link below. 

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

BookBub or Bust, an IWSG post

    


Welcome to the first Wednesday of the month. You know what that 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, ideas, and networking. If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. The awesome co-hosts for the January 3 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Olga Godim, Diedre Knight, and Natalie Aguirre!

January 3 question: Do you follow back your readers on BookBub or do you only follow back other authors?
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Happy New Year! Here's hoping that 2024 bring you joy, on and off the page. I like the feeling of fresh start that comes with a flip of the calendar. 

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Maybe this will be the year that I make proper use of BookBub as an author. Because up till now, it's stayed pretty low on my priority list.

It's not that I don't see the value; it's more that I struggle to find the time. I write alongside a demanding day job and maintaining a family and household. So, mostly, my entire writing life fits into about two hours a day. Sometimes less. A few times a year, more. 

So, writing new work, promoting previously published work, networking, blogging, and keeping up a presence in the ever-changing landscape of social media keep me pretty darn busy. 

I probably visit BookBub quarterly at best. When I do, I look to see who has followed me. Whether they are readers or authors doesn't make any difference to me so far as the likelihood that I'll follow back. I just click on their link and look at what they're up to and if I spot anything of interest, I'll give them a follow. 

Then I recommend a book or two and wander off for another three months. 

I do still appreciate the newsletter offerings as a reader, though, and I know that the BookBub feature that my ex-publisher got for me at the outset really gave a boost to my number of reviews, so it's a worthwhile venture. Just not one I've really made time for yet. 

How about you? Do you make use of BookBub as a reader or writer? If so, what do you like to do with it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.