Author: shawnee

How many times can you read it?

It’s a Friday, my normal blog day. I still haven’t posted my bit about editors and while it is certainly apt for what I’ve been doing over the last couple of days, I still find myself compelled to write about what’s going on in my life right now. And what that is is reading Watcher *again* for like the 12th time.

And it made me start to wonder how many times could you re-read your own work before you got sick of it.

I think I’m getting there. And it makes me wish I had more author friends that I could bitch to.

I should preempt the rest of my post by saying that I’m not getting down on my book. In fact, as I re-read Watcher in actual book form, my mind boggles at the fact that I actually wrote it. I got to some passages and thought, “Holy crap. That’s pretty damn good. I can’t believe I wrote that!” So I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved so far. Being an author is a hard job.

I guess where I am is in the land of frustration right now. I suspect this is normal. I want to move on in the story, but I’m afraid of a) not living up to the expectations of all those fans who are bugging me to death for the next book and b) not being a fast enough writer to get these things out every six months.

I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I see indie authors all around me who are churning out books every 3-6 months. How on earth is that possible? I could get the first draft written in 3 months, but actually get it edited and into a good final state – no way. It’s never going to happen.

This must be what performance anxiety is like.

And so these sort of thoughts plague me on a day like today where I look outside at the pretty Spring weather and wonder why I’m stuck in a chair on my computer.

But it is what it is. Maybe I do need that writers group after all.

For the love of romance fans

I’m sitting down yet again to write about the need for editors and how they are worth their weight in gold and instead, I find myself drawn to romance. I can’t stop thinking about it.

It kinda goes like this:

This last weekend was the Virginia Festival of the Book. I’ve gone every year since I’ve moved back to Virginia. Some years have been better than others. This year was definitely packed. I met some great authors including Jenny Gardiner, who has the type of humor that the cynical part of me can really appreciate. I got crushed in crowds and rained on. It wasn’t entirely pleasant and to be honest, I wasn’t really feeling the vibe. I wanted to, but it just seemed pointless right up until I went to the romance panel at Barnes and Noble.

I have a confession to make. I have a soft place in my heart for romance novels, the steamier the better. I don’t know if it was from the sneaky reading of all those large-print “bodice rippers” that my great grandmother used to have stashed by the side of her bed at the age of 9 or being in college stuck up on a lifeguard’s chair with nothing better to do (no one drowned on my watch). I have read hundreds of so-horrible-they’re-good trashy romances.

But and this is a big but, I haven’t read one in years. Why? Because I didn’t want to be associated with Jackie Collins or the saucy Barbara Cartland or any other old lady reclining on a chaise longue with a yippy little dog, soft rose filter, and a box of chocolates. I know, how judgmental right? Sorry, it happens, I can’t help it.

Anyhow, so it was my dirty little secret that I sneaked off to the romance panel on Saturday at B&N. I was curious, in a car crash sort of way. After all, I knew a little something of sexual tension and libido as I was dealing with my own characters’ love situation in Watcher. And I’m not afraid to say that I was hoping to get the inside track on writing, ahem, sex scenes. (It’s kinda hard to write a steamy scene knowing that your father is reading your book thinking, “Oh God, my daughter is talking about sex.” You think I’m joking. My dad called me every day that he read through Watcher and reminded me every single time about that.)

So off to B&N I went. I almost didn’t go because I was tired and over it by that point, but I went anyhow. And you know what? I’m super glad I did because

ROMANCE FANS ARE AWESOME 

Seriously. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. Firstly, it was crammed full of people and I mean every chair was taken and when I say people, I really should say women cause let’s face it, that was like 99.9% of the audience. Secondly, their excitement was infectious like a case of herpes. They chattered, squealed, whispered amongst themselves, carried their well-worn copies of this or that romance like a badge of honor. And when the authors were introduced you would’ve thought I was at a rock n’ roll show. They whistled and clapped and even rushed the table with stuffed animals for their favorite authors.

I was gobsmacked.

And then I thought to myself, “Holy crap! These authors are rock stars to these ladies. I have entered the realm of the superfan, but I’m not at a MUSE show, I’m in the middle of Barnes and Noble. WTF?”

I have to tell you right here and now, it was surreal. They knew all the characters names, followed their stories religiously, asked questions like “Will X marry Y in the end?” and all that crazy stuff that you read about when a moviestar gets a stalker. I mean no disrespect when I say this. This was more like cute and cuddly stalker not like bat-shit-crazy-going-through-your-trash-stalker. It was fabulous. I was truly shocked and excited by their loyalty and power and their unabashed love of their genre. It made me want fans just like that. Where were my pink teddy bears and who was asking me compelling questions like was Adam truly that sexy? Or where does Poesy get her hair cut?

So hat’s off to all you romance writers out there. I may soon be joining you.

 

 

2011- The year of the Ebook

I just got emailed this article about trends in ebooks for the Kindle in 2011:

Top Self-Published Kindle Ebooks of 2011

It’s not often that I come across a blog with good ebook analysis. Let’s face it. It’s still early days in the realm of self-pubbed indie titles so getting good data isn’t always easy. However, Piotr has either awed me or scared me with some of his insight. As a newly annointed indie author who has teetered on the fence several times over getting a traditional deal, his analysis does make my heart lurch a little.

The gist is

  • The days of making headline news for indies getting deals are over. No more Amanda Hockings. This is partly down to the exceptional indie author getting a pub deal before it becomes news (ed. – does that mean publishers are scavenging on Amazon?), but mostly it’s because self-publishing isn’t exciting news anymore. I tend to agree with this.
  • It is likely that published authors will leave publishers to self-publish and in essence swamp the indie pool.Who could blame them? Wouldn’t you want more than 15%?
  • Indie authors will need to charge more than $.99 if they want to make a living. Again, I agree with this. At $.99 it’s hard to compete with an established author when it comes to KDP select, Kindle ebook lending, KDD, etc. I experienced this first hand when I found myself buying Maggie Stiefvater’s Lament for $2.99 through a KDD because I didn’t want to pay $10 for it. Why buy a $.99 book when I can get an established author’s book for just a little bit more?
  • Established, profitable indie authors may become indie publishers. How surreal will that be?
  • To compete going forward, indie authors need to step up to the plate and get the professionals in. Editors, cover artists, publicists, etc. if they are to truly be successful, full-time authors. Absolutely preaching to the choir here. I’m about to write a big, whiny blog post about how I should’ve hired an editor shortly just to highlight this point.

Okay so I’m kinda dying inside right now.

It feels a little depressing after looking at the stats, but for me, there is one glimmer of hope that no one seems to be picking up on. And the reason why I might even be looking at it this way is through my own indie experience in the games industry (ed. – God bless you Fiendish Games, Small Rockets, and all you boys who gave me some of the best times of my life). It doesn’t matter if you’re John Locke, John Grisham, or any other John for that matter, as long as you are YOU. It’s times like this when the quirkiness that made you the loser kid in high school is going to make you the rising star in the indie field.

Be yourself even if you have to work at it. Actually, scratch that, you absolutely HAVE TO work at it. Every day. Figure out who you are, what you stand for, and search out those like-minded souls who are going to love your stuff. And this is the key – write for THEM not just yourself.

One of my favorite authors is Neil Gaiman. Oddly enough, he’s not my favorite because of his work (sorry, but Anansi Boys and American Gods just didn’t do it for me) but because he embodies the sort of cool and hipness that is so cool that I’m just not worthy. I mean British, wears black, created Sandman, wrote a book with Terry Pratchett, friends with the late Douglas Adams, married to Amanda Palmer. Do I need to say more? The man is God as far as I can tell.

My point before I digress is that yes, Neil does have a natural zest for coolness, but he also works at it. Anyone who follows him knows he’s tapped into his fan base and they love him for it. He is a twitter/blog/name-your-social-media hero. He’s everywhere, blogging/tweeting all the time (how he gets any real writing time in is beyond me). He goes to this event and that event. He road trips with Amanda. He does some wacky shit and the more he does, the more the fans love him. Hell, I’m one of those fans.

To survive in this time of weird digital indie madness you have to be true to your vision and not only should you not be afraid to embrace who you are, but you have to actively put yourself out there. I don’t want to use words like brand, platform, niche, community because I think it’s all just a bunch of wanky terms that some marketing fanboy made up on the back of a cocktail napkin while out pulling one night. Don’t be afraid to broadcast your vision to your fans. You need them. They love you and you should love them back. In fact, love them like they were your children. They are the key to your success far more than your writing is.

 

This week I turned 40.

On Wednesday this week I turned 40. Yes, I have entered a new decade and yes, it’s still painful to say out loud. Wow. The big 4 – 0. I look back at my 30s and I think to myself, “Back then, forty seemed so far away. Like one of those cringe worthy moments that you knew would come like when your friend made it plainly obvious to everyone that she expected you to catch the bouquet at her wedding because she really felt that you need to find a man or at least get laid.”

Yeah, that kind of cringe worthy moment. But here I am and here it is. And yet I feel no different.

Well, mostly.

What does feel different is my attitude. In some ways good and some ways bad. On the positive side, I think my outlook on life has been altered.

I was one of those pushy, ambitious types who was happy to slog away in a man’s world. I worked in the games industry when there weren’t very many women actually in development. I was ready to take over the world in my 20s. I still find it amazing to think of the crazy, ballsy things we did back then. Man, we thought we were invincible and we kinda were. But it’s funny, really. All of that stuff doesn’t mean a lot anymore and that’s what I mean about the change in outlook. I’ve watched some of those same people who I worked with back then turn into absolute industry stars and I’m happy for them, but here’s the key, I don’t envy them. No, I don’t envy the late nights or the big pushes to get to beta or a gold master. Or the caffeine highs,the whopping helpings of carbs and sugar just to get through it or the £50 cab fares to get home or better yet just sleep in the office. Nope I wouldn’t willingly go back into that.

I prefer the simple life myself. It may not be the guts and the glory, but I get the time to stop, watch, and observe. I mean really see things for what they are. I can sit for hours and watch my bees loop lazily around their hives, take my dogs for a walk, plant some seeds, write some stories. I get to see the sun. I get to appreciate the way that the buds swell on our apple trees and then burst into blooms or leaves. I know it sounds like a lot of hippie crap, but it does make sense if you stop and really *feel* it. I’m out of the rat race and I’m loving it.

On the negative side, being forty means getting old. I know some people are like, “That’s not old. You’re just getting started. The best years of your life are coming up.” I hope those people are right because what I’ve noticed over the last two years is how much my body really has changed coming up to this major milestone. I get the creaks and aches sometimes in the morning when I get out of bed. I hate to say it, but yes, I’m starting to find gray hairs (thank God for highlights), and my health is definitely not what it used to be. A couple of years battling an autoimmune disease or two has made me humble.

But you know what, it’s okay. It really is. Life is a journey after all, and you have to accept the good with the bad. And no matter what way you slice it, you get just one go at it so take the time to enjoy it. And live it.

So hello 40. It’s nice to meet you.