Wednesday, March 1, 2023

IWSG: Balance

 

Happy IWSG Day!

This is the day we all dust off our blogs, fears, and insecurities and chat!

Come join us!





Today I wanted to talk about how to know if you’re taking it too easy on yourself, or going too hard. (No, I don’t have solid answers—that’s why I’m insecure about it. šŸ˜‰)

Background on me. I started self-publishing in March 2015 (Yay—just realized this is year eight! Still confused šŸ˜‰). Up until Dec 2020, I was also working full-time in a soul-sucking job.

I’m telling you this so you don’t think that I’m living a magic life being a full-time writer—I am now, but got 14 books out while working full-time (to be fair a few were either done, or close to being—they all needed edits).  I fought for my writing time then.

In Dec 2020, the university I worked at offered a buyout for some of us who were within retirement time for them. Not a great deal, but I found I liked my sanity and peace of mind, so getting out was the best option.

Switching to full-time isn’t as easy as folks think. When you’re used to fighting for writing time, and now you don’t need to, it can leave you fumbling around.  I also think that my evil day job’s evilness motivated me to write those books!

Plus, while I hated the job, I enjoyed many of my coworkers and guess what you don’t have as a full-time writer? Yeah—co-workers. No cheery chats as you come in, no lunch time complaining sessions. I still miss it and them.

Then there is the 'how am I going to be a full-time writer' question? So many options!  Once I got over leaving the EDJ (Evil Day Job), I started looking at how to work my writing business.

I’ve been in the work force a long time, so having two days off a week is normal for me.  I know some writers write every day, but I need those two days off. I now have one business day as I realized that I get thrown off way too easily by business stuff and having those issues on a writing day doesn’t work.

I have my schedule. I’m giving myself time off, a full business day, annnnnnnnnnnnd I still feel squished.  I think there’s an issue of pushing hard as a full-time writer to show folks (even if only in your head) that you are WORKING. And I think that’s what’s happening.

I was with a fellow author last week and we were talking about what we were doing. I told her my general year plan. Then said, or not. But laughed, indicating I was planning on pushing myself regardless.

She looked at me and said, “Or you could take a few things off your plate.”

I brushed her off with a “I’m fine.”  But those words hit me. I think I’m pushing so hard because I need to prove I can do it (and money, never forget money—it’s crass, but my retirement is far too small to live on).

Now I’m not sure what to do to balance things.

I have a few days off coming up, so I’ll do some thinking.  Like my adding my business day, I need to find a way to adjust my mindset and working habits. Without compromising my goals too much.

How about you? Full or part time—what do you do when you think your goals might be overwhelming you?

 

Have a great IWSG day!


 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

#IWSG--Covers, art, and being Indie

 Welcome to the monthly jog around the writing world, known as the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop! 



Each month a question is offered (optionally) for folks to contemplate. Today's was asking about covers.  As an indie author, specifically do I make my own?

NO. 

That's it. Thank you for coming to my Ted talk.


Kidding. As usual, I have things to say ;).

I was an art major for three years, and while I can have a decent eye for layout, I know my limitations (and they are massive-LOL). I have always gone to the pros for my covers. (The exception is my Quarterly Planner--that's all me with a photo I took of Tintern Abbey last year ;).


A good cover artist understands your genre, and hopefully has examples of other covers they've done in it. Some cover artists do only photo manipulation, some paint over photo manipulation, and some are doing either digital or old school illustrations. 

They also understand text, placement, good fonts/bad fonts, kernelling, etc.

It's more than just good art.  I have seen some authors who are also artists do amazing work on their own covers. I've also seen train wrecks that made me want to wash my eyes out.

My goal with my covers is to get across the genre (fantasy/SF/steampunk), to indicate it's female led, and to show it's character focused. (On the whole, people on covers indicate character focus, huge landscapes, spaceships, etc usually indicate more plot focused--not true all the time, but often.)

I have worked with some amazing cover artists: Aleta Rafton, Julie Nicholls, Joolz & Jarling, Deranged Doctor Designs. All of them have worked with me to make the cover eye grabbing. 

People DO judge a book by its cover. For me as a reader, unless it's one of my auto-buy authors, my first level of interest in a new book is their cover. Then I read the copy, then a peak inside. Doesn't matter if it's online or in a bookstore.

I tell new indie authors to save for a great cover and a great editor!

My current covers are all on the bar to the right, but here's one I got done a while ago, that I'm still working on the book for. But I love the cover!  This was done by Deranged Doctor Designs (photo manipulation only). 


Have a great IWSG day and if you have questions about which artists did which of my covers, just ask :).  

One of the reasons that I LOVE being indie is control over what my work looks like :).




Wednesday, January 4, 2023

#IWSG Planning world domination!

 I'm BACK!

Welcome to the wonderful and amazing world of insecure writers everywhere!



And the start of a new year ;).

Today I wanted to talk about planning...for world domination. Or at least just to keep things on track. 

I have a confession, I love calendars. Planners too. It feels good to see my goals mapped out and ready to go. BUT, it also means the goals need to be workable and have a good chance for success.  Saying, "I will write ten massive books this year!" is great, but there needs to be a method behind it.

First-- is the goal feasible? If you didn't get out 9 books in 2022, probably not. 

Secondly--are there steps in place to make it work?  I make an Estimated Word Count for each month in my planners (have two ;)).

It's based on my average word count per hour/day. I actually work in 2 hour blocks, and can hit 2k in two hours (not really 1k an hour, as I re-read the prior day's work in that time too).  I do two blocks on each writing day (five days a week)...therefore a week with no other tasks (like editing, etc) can give me 20,000 words.

I use that EWC, subtracting editing days, travel days, etc, and figure out the EWC each month.

Then each quarter. I've found the quarterly system works best for me, so I'm now ONLY planning one quarter at a time. More room for pivots if something veers off course.

Knowing my EWC, allows me to estimate how many projects I can complete in that quarter.

Thirdly--how dedicated are you to this?  Not everyone has to be "ALL the words, ALL the time!" Understand your long term goals and your own personality.

Lastly-- make sure you PIVOT. Making huge goals and missing them can be devastating. Unless you have a plan in place to see where you jumped the rails. Tracking your mood, health, other issues next to your word count can help see that.

Aim for the stars, but allow for some bounces.

How do you plan? Goal set?

It's nice to be back-- Happy IWSG Day!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

#IWSG: what is success?

 Welcome to another round of "as the writer turns" a monthly blog hop where writers from all over the land explore our scary world of writing- 


JOIN US!




https://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html



Each month there is an optional question posted. Folks can answer it or not. For me it hit home big time, so I'll be answering it ;)


How do you define success as a writer?

 

Such a loaded question and so many answers from different writers. 

When I first started writing, waaaaay back in the olden days, when slate tablets and sharp sticks were used, I wanted to finish a darn book. That would be my success.

I remember the first time I typed out something that I was making up--I was 13 ;)--but that page was like the books I read!  I was raised a serious book junkie and our family went to get piles of books each month from the library. So, making something, even just a page, that was like those books was amazing!

As I moved forward, setting aside my writing for long periods of life, I still had the "I want to finish a book" as my goal to measure writing success.

Things have changed, many books finished, that first book (not connected to that page when I was 13) was never finished, but many others were.

As I struggled my way through looking for an agent, then finally deciding I was tired of too many, "I love it--but...(I can't sell humorous fantasy, I have too many kickass women space opera books, etc) I went Indie. 

Getting my worlds and books out there, where other people might actually enjoy them, became my goal. Having total strangers contact me to say my books helped them escape reality for a bit, that they laughed out loud, or held their breath, while reading became my measure of success.

Book eighteen just came out a few days ago. And yesterday I received a message from a total stranger saying they loved one of my series, that I'd helped get them back to their love of reading.

Getting more books out there and having total strangers enjoy them, is my mark of success.

What's your goal? Has it changed?


Happy IWSG day!


Friday, August 27, 2021

Snippet time! The Dangerous Lady.

 I wanted to share a snippet from my upcoming "Drunken Faery Adventure" (aka The Lost Ancients world) novella coming out next week! The faeries aren't in this snippet-- these are the first pages, but trust me, they are there! And sadly being covered in fish is not going to be the worst thing Jadiera has to deal with. (sorry about the funky formatting--it looks normal in the book ;))

The anthology can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B092R7VQ83/



My short story is The Dangerous Lady.


      Jadiera tossed aside the fish that had landed on her head. And the ones that covered most of her body. The short rat bastards who’d tossed her out in the bin of fish and then threw more on her, would get what was coming. At some point. Might be years down the line, but they would get it. Their laughter as they walked away made it easier for her to judge when she was ready to climb out of the bin. After a few minutes of complete silence she stuck her head up and peered around.

The alley was empty, or mostly so. Zulc was still there. His bulky shadow as he leaned against the building blocked most of the light from the closest sputtering lamp. Of course, he’d have an excellent reason as to why he hadn’t helped her, then come with her hoping to get some of her meager food funds. Never mind that she’d shared what she had when they started this ill-fated trip.

Zulc was a minotaur, but sadly not one of the brightest of his kind. He was big and brawny, but also one of the biggest cowards she knew.

Jadiera walked over to him slowly, patting herself down to make sure all the fish were gone. If they were going to dump her in fish, the bastards could have at least done so in fish that was edible. The smollens were bait fish; only thing that ate them were bigger fish.

“Sorry, ‘diera. There were a lot of them.” He didn’t even look sorry. The least he could do would be to fake it.

Jadiera shook her head. “They were gnomes, Zulc. Gnomes. There could have been a hundred of them and you could have stopped them.”

Gnomes ruled the town of Liverport and most of them were fishermen. Still, Jadiera had acted on a tip and taken Zulc, herself, and her ship the Sea Queen to Liverport for a courier job. One that was a trap for someone else entirely and ended with her in the fish dumpster when they realized she wasn’t their target.

Jadiera supported herself by traveling between the islands that made up the Sendai kingdom. Usually she was fine alone, this time the job sounded larger so she brought on Zulc. The job was a fake and now she was stuck with him, no money, and nothing to carry off this wretched island.

Zulc wandered ahead of her as they made their way out of the alley. She was more focused on the damage done to her dress than anything else. The two thugs who jumped in front of her were not expected, but she should have realized this trip was only going one direction. Down.

“Hey, Marco, look at this fine lady. How much for a tumble?” The front male wasn’t much taller than her, most likely human mixed with gnome. His friend was about the same, only skinnier.

“I’m not the kind of woman you’re looking for.” She pulled out her dagger from its hidden sheath. It was almost long enough to be a short sword, but whatever it was called, it was pointed, sharp, and she knew how to use it.

“Aye, we’ll be the judge of that.” The closer one lunged forward, sniffed, and scurried backward so quickly that he bowled over his companion and they both fell in a heap.

Jadiera would like to think it was because they got a good look at her blade. But most likely they got a good whiff of her. The aroma was bad and getting worse. She stepped forward waving her dagger anyway. “I’d run if I were you, the curse of the fish hag will follow you everywhere!” She raised her arms high above her head and chanted a few harmless words she’d gathered from her last courier trip to the Othierian Islands. Lots of sorcerers there, but nice people. The words she shouted were from a menu of foods available at a pub there. But they sounded scary.

The words, dagger, and her smell got them to flee. All of that and still no Zulc in sight.

She finally found him in the pub of the inn they’d taken rooms at. He nodded to her from his seat. She sighed, nodded back, and kept going to the outside stairs. The smell of her clothes was making her eyes water and the people in the pub would probably lynch her if she stepped inside. The room she’d taken was small and shabby, but it had solid walls, and an uncommon and most welcome private bath. She’d paid for water to have been drawn and it was there. A check revealed they’d drawn it long ago and it was ice cold, but right now, she didn’t care. She used some of her precious soap supply to lather herself a few times, then got out and dumped her clothing in and scrubbed it as best she could. The room had a tiny fireplace with a single pathetic log in it, but after she put on something warm and dry, she got the fire going and hung out her damp clothing. Hopefully, she’d gotten enough of the smell out, but her nose had become numb to it, so she couldn’t be certain.

She dug through her pack to bring out some hardtack and a withered apple. She’d been looking forward to a hot meal in the pub, but the way this evening had gone so far, it was safer to stay in here. Not to mention, no job meant no more funds coming in.

She warmed some water for tea in her battered travel kettle, ate her meal, and climbed into bed. Hopefully, a good night’s sleep would make things seem better in the morning.

She’d just dozed off and was dreaming of a successful haul; carrying a single chest from one island to the next and getting paid riches each time she landed, when the world shook apart.

Jadiera always slept with her dagger under her pillow. It was in her hand and she was on her feet before the rumbling stopped. Fast reflexes were the only thing that had kept her alive this long.

The wall opposite her tiny fireplace had been hit so hard that cracks now ran through it.

“Crap.” Not only did it ruin her sleep, but that was the room Zulc took. He wasn’t really her employee, more like he felt she might help him earn money and she felt the same. Still, she should check on him. Maybe he just got too drunk and misjudged his bed. She kept her dagger out just in case anyway as she crept into the corridor.

“Zulc?” She lightly called his name before she knocked on the door. No answer but the door swung open at her touch. The bits of frame that flaked off as it moved told her someone had let themselves in before her. The room was dark, but there was no movement. Keeping her dagger up, she reached into her pocket for a small glow; a magically charged ball of light that could be used by non-magic users, or in her case, very low-level magic users. On her own, she could use small spells, nothing powerful. But wasting her little bit of magic on a glow was something she hadn’t had to do yet.

She held the glow up then started swearing and raised her dagger as well.

Zulc was dead. It had been his massive, broken body being flung against the wall that caused the rumble in her room. And there was no being she knew of that could survive with a neck bent at that angle. From her quick glance, someone had searched his room, possibly they were doing it when he came back up from the pub. Zulc might be a coward when it came to defending her, but if someone was after his things he would have fought with cocky surety. Which normally would have been well placed. Few people could beat a minotaur in a hand-to-hand fight. She shuddered at the fact someone had beat him, broken his neck, and managed to throw him across the room.

The smart thing would be to grab her stuff, get on the Sea Queen, and flee. But sailing in unknown waters at night was a bad idea. Her being alone would only make it worse. And she’d really like to find a courier job before she left. She darkened the glow and with a quick look down the hallway, got back to her room and bolted the door.

The few things she’d taken out of her bag were piled back in; she just left the drying clothes out. If need be, she’d leave them behind, but she only had three changes of clothes, so she’d rather not. Although, if whoever killed Zulc had done so because of some connection to her, she’d burn the clothes herself.

She moved the small table and even the chair with her damp clothes in front of the door to at least slow anyone down who tried to get in. Then sat propped up on the bed with her dagger out and waited.

She had no idea when she dozed off, but a pounding on the door made her realize that she had and that crumbled sideways while sitting on a bed wasn’t the best way to sleep. Luckily, she’d dropped her dagger and hadn’t stabbed herself with it. There were five-hundred-year-olds who felt less stiff than she did right now.

Light from the predawn stabbed its way through the thin curtain and the pounding on the door continued. She tucked her dagger into the sheath she had hidden in her skirts and opened the door an inch. “Yes? I paid through the day after next.” She seriously doubted that she was going to stay anywhere near that long, but they already had her money.

“You came in with a minotaur.” It wasn’t a question. This was the owner of the inn and pub, an old fighter, but still enough muscle that he could have been the one who beat up Zulc—if Zulc had been drunk.

“Yes? We traveled to Liverport together, I thought it safer to have someone his size travel with me.” She gave him her best winsome smile and blinked innocently. She had no idea what had happened to Zulc to leave him in the state she found him. But she did know that she didn’t want to be connected with it, or him. She was grateful that he hadn’t tried to help her with the gnomes who dumped her in the bait. Fewer people to connect them.

He scowled back. “You two weren’t together?”

“No…is he in trouble? He helped me on my ship, for a few coins, but if he needs something, maybe I can help?” She tried to put some sweetness into her voice. She really should have taken those acting lessons her father offered when she was a kid.

He leaned down to stare into her eyes. Then finally pulled back with a grunt. “He got himself killed. Last night. In the room next to yours.” He folded his arms and glared down at her.

“What happened? I wasn’t feeling well. Ship travel makes me dizzy sometimes, so a healer gave me some dolithia to sleep. I took it right when I got in here and only just woke up when you knocked.” Dolithia was a ground herb used by some outer islanders as a sleep potion. Usually on the other end of a dart or arrow and against their enemies, but it also could be used in a medicinal sense. Jadiera might not be a good actress, but she gathered knowledge like a miser gathered gold.

“Hmmm, heard of that. Dangerous. You might not have woken at all.” He rubbed his gray beard and stepped back. “I’m thinkin’ that minotaur got his nose into something he shouldn’t of. Nothing to do about you. Come on down when you’re ready, the missus will make you some breakfast.” He looked her up and down. “Get some meat on those bones.” He nodded and walked to the next room.

Jadiera shut the door and leaned against it. That was close. Hopefully if the local pub owner felt she wasn’t involved, that news would get spread around town. She wasn’t involved, but she did know Zulc better than she let on. She’d have to watch what she said around town.

A glance down at her now extremely wrinkled dress told her she was now down two outfits. She changed into leather pants with a loose tunic and shirt. Her dagger would be more noticeable in this outfit, which was one reason she preferred the skirts. But from what she’d briefly seen of the locals before her side trip into the fish bin, weapons were common.  Who knew a small gnome fishing village needed to be well armed?

She made sure her few items of value: a long chain with a single leaf pendant, her glow, a few other pre-made spell packs of various forms, and her remaining funds were all with her in various hidden compartments. Better to have them with her than leave them here for the taking.

Cracking open the door and taking quick glances down each side of the hall revealed no one was out. When they’d checked in, the inn had been mostly empty, but many times these places made money off booking rooms to extremely drunk persons late at night. With or without their knowledge.


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

#IWSG How much is too much?

 Hello and welcome to another round of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! A place where folks can explore what makes up being a writer.


Join ushttps://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html


Today's gnashing of teeth is the too much or not enough issue? For those of you new to my blog--hello! I was bought out by my former day job, so am writing full time now. It's been since Dec 31 2020 and what a weird trip it's been. Now you're caught up :)

I started my full-time writer gig ready to go, certain I could get out a ton of books, market them, get social media up and running, etc. I am a faster writer, not the fastest, but I can get a good speed. Having all of my time open meant I could get EVERYTHING done, right?

Yeah, not as much as you would think.

I have gotten some good work done, a short story--which is in an anthology that's out now, two novellas--both in anthologies out at the end of August, and two books (both started last year ;)).  I have the third book for this year (started this year) that should be out by the end of August--might have cut it a bit tight on that one.

I have my plan: I work 5 days a week on writing--currently aiming for 4,000 words a day. I do them in two-hour and a half blocks of FOCUSED writing. Business is mostly for one of my non-writing days but creeps into the writing days too. I know that I work best when I have multiple projects--when one stalls, I jump to the next. 

I have good days and not-so-good days. Yesterday was an example of not so good. Couldn't get my focus and limped in at 2400 words--and it took way more than a few hours.

I feel like I'm trying to put together a puzzle, I have all of the pieces, but no idea what it's supposed to look like. I go back and forth between feeling I'm doing too much (rushing along at top speed) and that I'm not doing enough.

Once I get this current book off on its own, I plan on having a serious talk with myself and figure out what the balance is.

Any suggestions, ideas, thoughts on establishing that balance are very welcome!

Have a great IWSG day!


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Upcoming anthology!

 It's summer, reading should be fun--sometimes scary, sometimes heartwarming, but fun. What's a better way to have a variety of fun stories, than an anthology or two?

I'm in a few this summer ;) -all priced great and with a wide selection of stories!


First up-- Summer Solstice Shenanigans- An Urban Fantasy collection

Longest day of the year, shortest night. This collection of 26 short stories range from scary to funny.  My story, Solstice of Darkness, is a bit on the darker side (for me ;)). It's a tale of what happened to Aisling (from the Broken Veil series-- The Girl with the Iron Wing and An Uncommon Truth of Dying), on a summer solstice a few years ago.

https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Solstice-Shenanigans-Fantasy-Anthology-ebook/dp/B0958X177N



If you like Urban Fantasy-- check this set out!