Discipline, Distraction and Hairy Legs

Being a writer takes a fair amount of discipline. No, I don’t mean the fun kind with whips and restraints (that’s a totally different kind of post) but the kind of discipline required in order to reach your writing goals, whether you do this full-time or part-time.

Not the correct kind of writer's discipline.

Not only are there plenty of shiny things to distract you from meeting your word quota or deadline, there are classic tricks your psyche will pull on you and the next thing you know, it’s well into the day and you’ve got nothing accomplished. Yikes! How did it get to be 5pm already? Wasn’t it just 10am? Where did the day go?

Shiny. Avoid at all costs.

Oh yes, there is much to divert you from your tasks, and some of it is disguised under perfectly logical and reasonable activities. Beware! There are the obvious traps to avoid, but the tricksy ones present as perfectly acceptable, nay, even necessary chores you must complete as soon as possible, even if they are jobs which could wait another day, week or even month.

We’ll tackle the most obvious first.

1. Social networking. I am the first in line to preach strong social networking skills. It’s a vital part of the job, after all. You can’t “build a platform” without social networking. However, it’s difficult to justify 12 hours on Twitter or Facebook when your writing output for the day is at zero. My solution is to set aside specific and scheduled times to interact, and to utilize tools such as Hootsuite to schedule important updates. I make sure to participate in addition to scheduling certain updates lest I be perceived as a spammer.

2. Tweaking out the website. It’s like decorating a room — you can do it forever, splashing new paint on the walls, shopping for a new, fresh template, introducing those cute little widgets and getting the latest plugin. While website maintenance is important, at some point you have to stop. Again, scheduling can help here. Set aside a specific day on a regular basis to take care of business, and then walk away.

3. Reading blogs and commenting. Boy, that internet is something, isn’t it? Very important to be active with other people, but you need to choose carefully because your time is precious. Think of time as a checking account, and try not to bounce any checks.

4. Research. Oh, the places you go in the name of research! Hint: if you are writing an article about scar revision, it’s not going to help you if you’re neck deep in the newest photos from Jupiter or reading the biography of Nelly. Clicking here will lead you here and the next thing you know, it’s four hours later. Try to put a rein on it.

Special note: Stay away from YouTube.

Resist the siren call!

Now, on to the unexpected derailments.

1. Food. Yes, you have to eat regularly. However, this doesn’t mean spending three hours researching crock pot recipes or how to create a meal from three mushrooms, a slice of leftover pork, the withered baby carrots in the bottom drawer of your vegetable crisper and a half a bottle of teriyaki sauce.

2. Dirty windows. This one caught me. One minute I was writing, and the next, I’m washing curtains, windows, and cleaning blinds. Yes, they were filthy. Yes, they are now clean. Could it have waited until I finished my word count for the day? Definitely.

Windows before. Now you see why I couldn't wait.

3. Phone calls. If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know my deep aversion and hatred for the phone. However, I have this stupid urge every time it rings to pick the damned thing up. WHY? WHY? WHY? I’m not obligated, but when it rings I feel as if I am! And there goes 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes of my day that I can’t get back. It’s okay to say NO! And whomever calls will leave a message. If they don’t, then evidently it wasn’t that important.

4. Miscellaneous annoyances. It’s too cold in here. It’s too hot in here. I’m thirsty. I need a nap. The cat is hungry. The news is on. The sun is shining. It’s snowing. It’s raining. I have a headache. My ass itches. The hair on my legs is too long. A movie I haven’t seen in 20 years is on TV for the first time in a decade.

Oh, yeah. There’s a million reasons. HOWEVER. If I were working outside the home, and punching a clock, none of these excuses would fly. My boss would punch ME. Therefore, none of those things matter.

Your legs may be this hairy, but they can wait another day. Maybe. If you don't go out in public.

You need discipline; you need good organizational skills; you need to prioritize in order to meet your word goals.

Good luck. And maybe you should shave your legs. Dang. 😉

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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Showing Love For The Writer

This is a mountain. It takes up a lot of room on a fork.

Self-publishing your own work is rough. Actually, any publishing is a difficult road — even “traditional” publishers expect an author to shoulder the majority of the marketing it takes to get a book up and running. (The advantage of being picked up by a “big house” today is still their distribution channels, which is why many authors elect to explore this route.) While it looks like at this point a combination of self-publishing and big publishing is probably the best way to approach launching your career in writing novels or non-fiction tomes, it is still a writer’s responsibility to get the word out.

And you can’t do it alone. It’s a huge endeavor, like trying to eat a mountain. Or an elephant. Most of us are working a day job, have families and homes to care for, so that mountain or elephant is humongous. And there’s only one way to eat it — one bite at a time. Still, with the help of friends, family and like-minded writers with the same dilemma, there are things that others, like you, can do to assist in the process.

Too big for any fork most people own.

I read this article and learned a lot about what I can do to help myself, and even more about what you can do to help me, if you’re so inclined. With author John Kremer’s permission, I’m going to list three of the ones I feel most apply to my particular situation, but I encourage you to read his post and see what else is there that may appeal to you, little things you can do to help the writers you love to read, not just me. This applies to all writers, no matter their publishing route.

#4. Recommend your friend’s book. If you like the book, recommend it to friends. Blog about it. Tweet a review or mention. Share a note on Facebook. Recommend the book to your book group. Review her book on Amazon.com, BN.com, GoodReads, Library Thing, and other reader social networks.

The reviews are a Very Big Deal, because in the self-publishing universe, there are a ton of fishes swimming in the sea that are not vetted — meaning, they haven’t gone through an agent, an editor, a committee — and your review is how others often make a decision on whether or not to buy the book. Even if all you do is rate it and leave a short comment about the book, that little bit counts for a lot.

#23. Seed your friend’s book. If you can afford to buy a few extra copies, start leaving them around town. Leave a copy on the bus. Donate a copy to the library. Leave a copy in a waiting room. Every additional book out in the world helps to generate exposure for your friend’s book while also increasing the word-of-mouth about the book.

I really like this idea, of books flying free on their own and ending up who-knows-where. You may be able to contact your writer friend and score a discount for purchasing a few copies, or s/he may even donate them. Hey, you never know unless you ask, right?

#25. Recommend your friend’s book to your reading group. If you belong to a reading group, suggest your friend’s book as part of your reading program. Or at least tell your reading group about the book.

Creating a buzz is what it’s all about. If you think your friend’s book is a good fit, you’re doing both the group and the writer a favor by introducing the two. You may be able to work out an arrangement where the writer supplies coupons through Smashwords for a discount for the group. I know I’m sure open to this — I would love to have a book club feature “Not Nice”. I’d be fascinated to know what they think.

There are lots of things you can do to help a writer promote their work, little things that don’t take a lot of time and help out so much. Even if all you do is offer a word of encouragement here and there, it helps more than you realize. Writing can be a lonely profession, and often writers can feel like they’re banging their head against a brick wall or that they just can’t take one more bite of the mountain. One kind word about their work can give an extra encouragement that all that eating is not in vain.

Have you read a book lately that’s been entertaining, enlightening or has touched you in some way? Pay a little of that forward, if you would. It makes a difference, it really does.

Many thanks to John Kremer for his generosity.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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Conquering The Day Without Losing Your Pants

One of the more difficult things to do when working for yourself, in my opinion, is structuring your day for Maximum Achievement. When you work outside the home or for someone else, expectations are laid out according to the parameters of the job. In other words, you have someone telling you what to do. It is clearly spelled out — you must be at your job by this time; you are allowed a break at this time, and you can quit by this time. In between, you must do this, this, and that. Sometimes, a little of the other. For your reward, you are paid regularly and if you’re very lucky in this day and age, there are benefits such as health insurance, bonuses, paid time off…generally speaking, of course. I know how it is out there.

When you are self-employed, you have none of that. No structure, no benefits, no one telling you where to sit and squat. It’s heady, this type of freedom — but it also has its downside. It’s too easy to be distracted by shiny things, to wander off into the playground of Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube (all in the name of “networking”, an essential part of the job) or to get caught up in that Black Abyss of Research. Worse yet, you can easily get lost in one of the “-ville” games (which I have since blocked, oh, they are so evil!) or endless hands of Spider Solitaire. Or, reruns of “The Twilight Zone” that just so happen to be running on SyFy, or just one episode of “The View” to keep up on current events. Maybe you need a snack, even though you just ate breakfast ten minutes ago. The lawd knows you need a nap, since you didn’t sleep well the night before, right?

You tell yourself things like, “I’m just not productive in the morning, I’ll get to all that other stuff later today,” or “That’s why I went into business for myself, I want an open schedule,” or “I probably have ADHD.” Yarite.

I’m guilty of all of it.

The Strategy of Battle

One of the best ways to combat a bad case of the Wandering Attention (which is just a way to procrastinate) is to set achievable goals throughout the day. I know myself enough to know if I don’t set some kind of goal, achievement level, stepping stones, road markers — whatever you want to call them, I’ll get to the end of my day and ask myself, “Just exactly what did you do today?”

(Hint: A 25% winning percentage at Spider Solitaire doesn’t count. It’s not all that impressive anyway.)

Now, coming from a “pantser” in almost all areas of life, this really goes against my nature. I want to be free! I want to go with the flow! I want to dance naked in a meadow full of flowers underneath the balmy summer sun! (Oh, wait…never mind that last statement. That’s private. Heh.) And that’s great — you can still do that and be productive. The trick is to break your goals down into smaller pieces and remain flexible. (No, not like one of those crazy acrobats that can get their feet behind your head, although that’s a talent that would probably make you very popular at parties. But I digress. Of course. Heh.)

Keep in mind that although I have been a freelancer for years and I have very rarely missed a deadline (as a matter of fact, I can’t remember one I’ve missed) and would rather stick a coat hanger in my eye than miss one, this setting goals thing is relatively new for me. However, since both sides of my writing life, fiction and non-fiction, have picked up steam, I’ve had to do a reboot in order to accomplish everything I want and need to get done.

The Weapons of Choice

The first thing I did was invest in a hefty daily planner with lots of room in it for notes. I already know there’s no way I’m scheduling something for every fifteen minutes — I just can’t work that way, and why I left the dreaded Day Jobbery. But, I do note what I want to accomplish in that day, plus I note when I’m getting close to deadlines, what I need to check out and even if I can “afford” to devote time to the social networking sites above and beyond the “social” aspect. I might hit all my marks and I might not — I always aim high, because I’m an overachiever, but better to aim high and land amongst the cow pies…or something like that.

In addition to my day planner, I also have a calendar. (Okay, it might be overkill. I may have an obsession with calendars. I could have time issues. We all have our quirks.) This gives me a longer-range view of the month. Yes, I could do this from my day planner but then I’d have to *TURN THE PAGES* and I seem to do better with having it up on the wall in front of my face so I can’t ignore it.

Shuffling the Deck

Of course, situations come up that will require me to adjust my daily goals, such as a cry for help from a friend, an idea that occurs to me or a time-sensitive opportunity I can’t pass up. This is where the “pantser” skillz come in handy. I’m in tune with the most productive times of the day for me, and I don’t fight this (unless something of Great Importance crops up) and this is a great advantage to not having to answer to anyone but myself.

The Long Term

I’m not good at long-term strategy, but I’m getting better. For instance, I’ve joined in on the ABC Indie Fiction Reading Challenge so I know I have to read and review two books per month, and I have a page set up to keep me accountable. I have set a goal to read 40 books this year, and I’ve got that set up on Goodreads. I am determined to write two short stories per month, and I’ll get a ticker up somewhere at some point to keep me on track for that.

I’m committed to updating this here blog three times a week. I’ve already got “Fabulous Fiction Friday” to help with that, and I’m considering options for other days of the week to aid in this endeavor.

I’ve hooked up with Hootsuite, trying to coordinate my posting habits for FB and Twitter.

I already know my non-fiction commitments, and since they pay the bills at this point they are non-negotiable.

That’s about as organized as I’m willing to get. What kind of weapons do you use to keep you on track? Share with me in the comments, because I’m always on the lookout for what can help in conquering the day without losing my pants. Heh.

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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Fabulous Fiction Friday – “Living With the Dead”

*Please note: after this entry was posted, I received word that Josh has run into technical difficulties with Amazon because of their revamping of their digital platform, therefore “Living With the Dead” had to be re-published. It should be available soon, and I will update the links for purchase as soon as that happens. In the meantime, you can find it on the Nook or still keep up with him on his Living With the Dead blog. Thanks for your patience — it’s definitely worth the wait, I promise.*

*ADDENDUM*

Good news! All of Josh’s data has been reinstated and the links are good to go. YAY!

I have very eclectic reading tastes, and I’m quite picky. Part of this is because I’ve been reading for almost 50 years. Yes, you heard that correctly. I know I’m giving away my age here, but I’ve been reading voraciously since the age of three, and when you’ve read that many books, friends and neighbors, you become real picky about what you read.

Part of the reason I’m such a book snob is because I don’t have a whole lot of time, and although I’m a really fast reader, I have a lot of stuffs to do. When a book isn’t worth it, it really irritates me. To be frank, it pisses me off. Not to mention the economic impact, which further stokes the Irritation Fires. If I’m not happy with the story, and I don’t think I’ve spent my time or my money well, I’m really annoyed.

I downloaded “Living With the Dead” for the Kindle on a recommendation from a Very Good Friend. I resisted reading it because I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. She told me it was a “zombie” book, and although I enjoyed “World War Z” by Max Brooks and I’m totally hooked by “The Walking Dead” on AMC, I’m not really a zombie reader. Plus, it’s written in a blog format, and I have found that can be a boring way to read a book.

I was more than pleasantly surprised by Joshua Guess’s book. From the very first “entry”, I was HOOKED. Once I started, I couldn’t wait to read the next one, and the next one, and so on until it was 2am and I finished the entire thing in one sitting. It. Is. Fab.

The story starts with an ordinary geek in Kentucky watching the news and noticing reports of a disturbance in Ohio. Right away he sees the seeds of a Zombie Apocalypse, and springs into action. He starts right away preparing for the worst, trying to warn his family and friends, laying in supplies and shoring up his defenses. He blogs every day, documenting exactly what he’s doing and the important preparations he’s making — but more than that, Josh documents how he’s feeling and the emotional, physical and spiritual toll the entire experience is taking on him and everyone around him.

Most zombie fiction I’ve read (and I admit, it’s not a lot) seem to focus on the brain-eating, rotting horror that are zombies and the military or defensive actions that the characters are taking. “Living With the Dead” is unique to me in that it involves the lives and the emotions of not only dealing with the undead intent on eating the living, but with the complicated and difficult decisions the remaining survivors have to make in the wake of destruction of society as they have always known it. Since the blog was (and still continues to be) written in “real time”, you can follow the day-to-day changes in the characters and sympathize with what they’re up against. You question whether or not you could make these decisions yourself, how you would deal with the apocalypse, what you would do in their stead.

You won’t agree with everything that’s done. You won’t like everything that happens. You won’t like all the people you meet — you may not even like the narrator. But that’s what makes all of this seem so terrifyingly real. When I finished the last page of the first six months (you can either follow along in “real time” on the blog or wait for a compilation of the entire year, due out in March) I was afraid to watch the news — because the situation seemed just that real.

(On a side note, there’s some really great information on what to do to prepare for a Zombie Apocalypse. I took notes, you know, just in case.)

Another thing I’ve noticed about zombies is although the basic precepts stay the same (they die, they reanimate, can only be killed forever through some kind of brain trauma, they eat the living, they never…ever…stop) different writers add a little something different to their zombies. Guess has added some horrifying and frightening aspects to his zombies that really freaked me, and yet still made sense in his zombie-world. The suspension of disbelief is easy because Guess’s world is logical even in the midst of madness.

The price is right, and the story is worth every penny and then some. This ranks up there as one of my top reads for 2011, and I can’t wait for the next installment in March.

You can find “Living With the Dead” for the Kindle here, or you can follow along for free on the Living With the Dead blog. Joshua has a compilation planned for March with the entire year, plus extra bonuses. You can find him on Facebook and on Goodreads. He is currently at work on several projects, including a “campy vampy” novel. He has recently released his novel, Bound to Silence, also on Amazon.

While you’re on Amazon, check out Not Nice and Other Understatements – A Journal of Flash Fiction!

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People On A Page

Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

Well, we all talk about “writer’s platforms” and such-like, amassing “followers” and utilizing social media in order to tell people about us and what we do. Ultimately, however, the goal is to sell our product, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, print, electronic…well, you get the idea. Not saying that’s the main motivation or the only motivation, but let’s be honest here — we all want to make a living from what we love to do. There’s no shame in that, no blame in the game.

But what I do want to talk about is sometimes when we set ourselves up as “experts” or “gurus” (I know, I hate that word too) sometimes we forget we’re just like everyone else out there — trying to wrangle a living and we don’t know everything. I read a lot of blogs, and I’ve seen people become so impressed with themselves they can’t take constructive criticism, they get very defensive when someone disagrees with their viewpoint, instead of embracing the concept of intelligent discourse. Instead of keeping an open mind and taking a step back, right away it’s a flame war, sometimes subtle and sometimes right in the face. It distresses me, and those blogs are ones I do not return to read. Who needs that crap?

Words are so powerful. I think as writers working with them every day, we lose sight of that fact. We lose sight of the fact these are not merely words on a page, but there are people behind those words. People with feelings, people who have opinions that are valid, people who are different with different viewpoints that deserve to be heard. If all you want are people who agree with every pearl of wisdom that drops from your lips, more power to you, but you’re missing out. And you’ve lost a reader, because I was never one to refrain from speaking my mind if the situation warrants. However, I have learned to walk away and not to sow pearls before swine, so-to-speak.

****

It has been 202 years since the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, bless his twisted and demented heart. Unfortunately, the “toaster” who has for the last 60 years left roses and cognac on the grave, has been absent for the second year in a row. I suppose one could speculate about the reason for the absence — which sounds like a good prompt for a story. Hmmm.

****

And just because I think we all need a reminder (and it applies to everyone, not just “Big Girls”):

Big Girl

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Mondays That Only a Mother Could Love

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil

Poor Mondays. They get a bad rap, because they’re the start of a work week and that sucks. Not only that, but it seems that every problem from the week before comes home to roost on Monday, after building up their strength during a weekend of partying it up and sleeping in. Yes, Mondays don’t have it easy as the eldest child of the week — they’re the first ones to be assigned the chores, the first ones to be yelled at and the first ones to be disciplined when things go wrong. Often, Mondays are the day of the week that only a mother could love.

Not this Monday. At least, not for me.

Maybe it’s the switch in astrology, maybe my sacrifice of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and the naked bonfire dance helped, but so far this has been an AWESOME Monday and it’s barely 9am.

First, Fantasy Book Critic has chosen MeiLin Miranda’s debut novel, Lovers and Beloveds as one of the SIX BEST INDIE NOVELS of 2010! How cool is THAT? I am so proud and excited for her — she’s worked her fingers to the bone, and I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to see it pay off. She’s currently working on Book II of the series, and I can’t wait to get my editing fingers on that. Once of the best perks of editing is being the first to see the finished product. As well as “Lovers and Beloveds” went, this is going to be nothing but fun.

Second, Joshua Guess, author of the novel Living With the Dead (review forthcoming, have no fear, but if you want to know now what I think and what it’s about, read my review on Goodreads) has asked me to contribute a short story to the March release of “Living With the Dead: Year One”. I am so stoked about this, I can’t even tell you. I’m going to have so much fun with this!

The gracious Eden Baylee (aka Helen Yee) has invited me to interview on her site, which will appear April 8, and I’m really looking forward to that.

My Fabulous Fiction Fridays are starting to fill up, with more ABC Indie Reading Challenge reviews, an interview with the fascinating Joseph Paul Haines (and if you haven’t read Ten With a Flag and Other Playthings you are MISSING OUT) and several other projects in the works.

So, this Monday certainly has brought it, and it’s a great way to start off the week. In the meantime, I’ve got work to do…but Monday has certainly achieved “Favorite Child” status…at least, this week.

Hope your Monday is going just as well!!

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Fabulous Fiction Friday – “Curiosities, Inc.”

For my first entry in the ABC Indie Fiction Challenge, I decided to kill a few birds with one stone. Since I just inherited a 2nd Gen Kindle (nicknamed “George Senior”) from a dear friend who moved to a Gen 3 (nicknamed “George Junior”, which is cracking me up on more levels than I can explain) and since I just published my own book on Smashwords, I figured I’d start there for my book choice.

The second consideration was being aware a new (and fabulous, let’s just get that out of the way now, she’s totally fab) friend of mine had just published HER new book. Not that this was a quid pro quo – I don’t play that way. But, I was very curious (heh) about her work and intrigued by the premise.

Third, I want to open myself up to different genres and not read just the same thing I’m used to. That’s a really bad habit of mine, as I’ve probably mentioned before, and although there will always be my “comfort food” books, I need to get my head out of my ass here.

Initial thoughts on Curiosities, Inc.:

Keep in mind I am unfamiliar with this genre, and I’ll be reviewing as a reader/writer and I’m sure that bitch, the editor, will make an appearance.

The genre is YA, paranormal. It is tagged as not suitable for people under 17, and that puzzles me because I don’t remember reading anything that would shock or horrify a teen under 17, but as I said, I am not familiar with this genre so there could be something I’m missing.

The cover looks great, to my eyes. In fact, it’s part of the reason I chose this book to begin with. Spooky and weird and very compelling to me, in spite of the fact I’m a real weenie when it comes to scary books. I read them; I love them; I even write scary stories sometimes. (What is it about us that we love to scare the crap out of ourselves?)

Premise:

Danica Harper is dumped on her weird grandmother when her parents take off to Kenya as wildlife veterinarians tending to rhinos. Originally, she’s supposed to stay with her Aunt Shirley, but Aunt Shirley has other plans. We find out that Danica’s mom, Carmen, and her mom, Viviana, have had a falling out and don’t speak, so when mom finds out Danica is at grandmom’s instead of Aunt Shirley’s, she’s going to have a cow.

Danica has no idea why mom/daughter don’t speak.

In the meantime, poor Danny is dealing with a weird grandmother she doesn’t know who feed peanuts to a crow named Henry in the kitchen, being the new kid in school and encountering some really weird types, and having a really bad time with her English teacher. On top of all this…well, I don’t want to give too much away, but she’s got her hands full, trust me.

Review:

Danica is a likable heroine and I’m sure a lot of teens will relate to her and the problems with moving and being the new kid in town. I know I did, because even though I’m old and withered I still remember what it was like being the new kid. Viviana is a vivid character with a unique skill set, although the rift between mother/daughter isn’t explored until very late in the game.

The book opens with a bang-on scene that hooks you right away, and you get a good idea of the situation in which Danny finds herself without an info dump, which is a huge relief because I hate that. I felt like her friends were a little too one-dimensional, and Danny does a lot of teen angsting which is to be expected in a YA. You know, ’cause teens do that stuff. I didn’t really feel a strong connection between Danny and her new friends.

The end felt rushed, although it simultaneously tied up some loose ends yet left enough for another adventure.

It was a fun, romping read and I enjoyed it enough to definitely pick up another book by Patti Larsen.

Now, to the juicy stuff.

Viviana, in my opinion, Danny’s grandmother, is the star of this show even though I’m a bit confused about what exactly she does. At the end of the book, the author includes a bonus story that fills in some backstory about Henry, the crow, and Viviana. It’s dark, creepy, and I loved it. *shiver* Oooo, it’s really good. Like, really really good and I could have read a whole book about Viviana’s adventures. She is one creepy broad, and Henry’s story was heartbreaking. To be perfectly honest, I loved this story much better than the book. It seems geared toward an older audience, and more to my taste.

This indie book is a pleasant surprise in the sea of muck out there. As an editor, there are some tweaks I would suggest, but nothing so big as to take away from the story. All-in-all, it was well done, and very much worth the modest $1.99 price tag and as good as anything off the shelf in a brick-and-mortar store.

“Curiosities, Inc.” is available at Smashwords in a plethora of formats for only $1.99, and available from Lulu in print at the same link. Check out Patti Larsen’s blog, and keep your eye on her. She’s got it going on!

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Forging New Threads – And New Connections

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil

Thanks to the efforts of Patti Larsen, today’s post is part of a writer’s bloghop. Similar to a sock hop, but without the physical exertion and sweat. It has been titled “Second Tuesday”, and will appear here…well, every second Tuesday of the month. The objective is to present a topic for conversation, then link together a group of blogs that will provide you, the reader, the opportunity to read the different interpretations of the topic. Pretty cool, right? I think so, too. We all have a unique perspective, and I look forward to getting to know other bloggers and forging new connections. Which, coincidentally….

This month’s topic is “New Connections”. For both new and established writers, this is an important topic, especially if you’re a self-published or indie author. We don’t have the advantage of traditionally published products — we don’t have the distribution channels, the exposure, or the support of a big house behind us. Moreover, we don’t have gatekeepers to vet the material that’s being produced. This can be a problem, as we slog away in obscurity, writing our little fingers to the bone and presenting our best, then waving our arms in the air, jumping up and down with pom poms, to little or no avail. We’re a hardy bunch; we celebrate every book or piece sold, one by one, but it can be a long, frustrating process.

You don’t have to tell us to not give up. For most of us, that’s not even a consideration. We love what we do and wouldn’t quit if you tied us to a chair and let loose the zombies. (Okay, maybe then.) But, what are our options if we want to make our endeavors successful? New connections, of course! How do you do that?

Join groups that interest you, don’t just join a group to join. That’s not to say you can’t join a group then drop out if it doesn’t work for you, and time can be a factor, but at least try something different from time to time. Participation is key — without it, you’re just a name on a board and that’s not really going to do you any good. While I am really starting to despise the term “writer’s platform”, there is no mystery to the process. Just like in “real life”, you have to put yourself out there, interact with people from a SINCERE place, and keep on building, once block at a time.

Here are some suggestions for writers:

#Amwriting: this is a group of writers who have met on Twitter, and this site is the brainchild of novelist Johanna Harness. Here is a directory of members and their works, a discussion forum, and other nifty ways to get your name out and about and a way to form new connections.

ABC Indie Reading Challenge: I can’t remember where I first saw this link, but I was totally hooked when I did. I firmly believe in putting my money where my mouth is, and not only is this a good way to expose yourself to new indie fiction, it’s also a fabulous way to pay it forward and to present honest reviews on those read to the public.

Sometimes, you’re looking for something closer to your heart. Your very own peeps, people who write in the same genre and are aware of the challenges and torture chambers that await the unwary. Check out the brand-new collective at Indie Horror for those who write horror. Although in the early stages, it looks like a good way to hook up with others who write about the dark, bitey things that lurk in the shadows of your closet. (Ooo! *shiver* I just freaked myself out!)

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Of course, joining a group and hanging out from time to time can reap a number of benefits you’re not expecting. You might find a Trek buddy, a new critique partner, or someone who just so happens to have a talent you need that may be willing to barter for a talent you have that they need. Again, because we don’t have a big house behind us, it’s a little more difficult to retain the same level of services they do such as editing and graphic design. However, you’re not the only independent out there — there are many others in many other disciplines looking for the same big break you are who are just as talented, if not more so, that the pool NYC has to work with.

My main message here is — help a brother or a sister out, if you can. Even if it’s something as small as a vote for an award, a helping hand with copy, exchanging services, re-posting a Tweet or a link on FB, joining a group and making friendly (and legal!) advances — be a doer, not a wallflower in the corner. Not only will you advance your own interests, you’ll be helping others out, and that type of good karma can only come back in the best of ways.

Be open. Be friendly. Be honest. Be kind. Above all, be kind. There’s too much of the other bullshit floating around out there.

You can find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” here for purchase, or you can find it on Amazon in print or for the Kindle. It is also available on Smashwords in a plethora of formats for your reading pleasure. For an autographed copy, please visit this post. Thanks for your support!

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Holy Smokes

Photo courtesy of Kim Newberg

A former boss of mine used to say, “Busy is good.” I’d roll my eyes, ears deep in paperwork and phone calls and wish him to the bottom of the ocean with an anchor tied around his neck. However, he’s right, as I sit here after one o’clock in the afternoon in my jammies, hair a mess, and missing not only breakfast, but lunch as well and having no clue what’s on the menu for dinner.

What day is it, anyway??

So yes, very busy, and it is a good thing (as I snatch chunks of hair from my head and wish there were just four more hours in the day). In true New Year fashion, I loaded up the Franklin Covey and started filling it up with all the stuff I need to get done, because the Universe knows if I don’t write it down I could possibly forget, and I’m hoping it cuts down on the hamsters running inside my head at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping. Too early to tell if this is going to be success or not. I’m trying to be optimistic.

My Writing News

In new news, I finally got Not Nice and Other Understatements formatted for Smashwords. HUGE YAY! Well, I didn’t format it — I got me a Go-To Guy who did it for me. I had to face the fact that this kind of stuff is just beyond my patience. I could figure it out, but honestly, formatting is on my top ten list of “I’d Rather Poke My Eye Out With A Coat Hanger”, so I invested in the superior Mad Skillz of Todd Macy and he did a fabulous job. If you are in the same boat I am — not enough time or patience to fark around with this shiz-niz — he’s your man. Reasonably priced, very professional and easy to work with, and a great turn-around time. He’s taking new clients, so check him out for your formatting needs. He’s also moving into creating cover art. YAY!

This isn’t really writing news, per se, but the father of my Chinese student of last summer called me to ask me to keep this coming July open for a repeat. I am so happy about this. It really was the highlight of my summer, and I’m honored that he wants me back.

The non-fiction stuff is rolling right along. And as packed as my schedule is, I have also set a goal of writing one flash piece a week, and of course, Pallas is still circling my brain like a shark. I don’t know what to say about that, other than it’s percolating. So, get off my back.

I am also thinking of working on the material I wrote as a back story to “The Blood Is Not Enough”, if that ends up being a favorite story from NN and posting it for free. I also have an ebook I’m working on about the process of self-publishing.

Yeah, I know. It’s a big plate.

Reading News

I have also set myself a goal of reading more this year, because I’m ashamed to say I didn’t read last year near as much as I should and I tended to stick with the old and familiar. This year I aim to branch out, and with my new old Kindle, named George Senior, I think that will be one goal I have a great chance of meeting. To that end, I have joined up with the ABC Indie Reading Challenge. Since there are no gatekeepers in the indie/self-publishing world, I think this is a great way to find new authors and you will see honest reviews here. You can check updates here as they happen.

It’s normal for me to be reading more than one book at a time, and at the moment I’m reading “Dragonriders of Pern” on the Kindle (my comfort reading food. Oh, how I love this book, and it was the inspiration for the one and only tattoo I have), “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving and “Full Dark No Stars” by Stephen King in hardcover. I’ve also just cracked open book one in the Soul Rider series by Jack Chalker.

On deck is “NLP – The New Technology of Achievement” and then whatever catches me fancy. I just finished “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead – The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon”. You can find my review here at Goodreads and all I can say is if you only read one biography-type book this year, this is the one. What a story.

Not My Writing News

Okay, here I’m not going to pre-chew your food, to quote Joseph Paul Haines. What I am going to do is throw out a few really interesting links to blogs you should be following if you’re in this business. The publishing business is changing at a rate that makes my loins quiver. Keeping up is imperative. Here are the places I make a point to visit:

Terrible Minds is not only informative, but funnier than hell. Plus, he cusses better than I do.

Ryne Douglas Pearson has some very thought-provoking posts, plus he gives away free fiction, plus THERE’S BACON.

Patti Larsen is not only a Very Interesting Person, she’s so prolific she makes me sick. I read her blog to try to figure out how she does it. She’s an inspiration, and a candidate for the Voodoo Club. Heh.

She doesn’t post near often enough, but at Fermented Fur you will get a dose of teh funneh that will make you wet your pants. She’s crazy and I love her more than ice cream.

Speaking of the funneh — cheezuncrumpets, Hyperbole and a Half is in a class all her own. The post about how Kenny Loggins ruined Christmas had me absolutely screaming with laughter. Brilliant.

Well, that’s enough of my rambling. It’s friggin’ 6pm and I’m still in my jammies, the hair is still unbrushed, and I need food. Can ya help me. O.O

Find “Not Nice and Other Understatements” at Amazon and now at Smashwords in any format you desire! Autographed copies are still available through the link on this page. Spread the word! And thanks for all of your support!

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