Monday, December 8, 2014

Back to the Beginning

It's that time of year for me again. Happens every year, the time when I find myself thinking about what I've accomplished, and conversely what goals have not been reached. I've been writing since 2007, which I realize is, relative to many other writers, not a long time. And in that short time I've managed a certain level of success. Many short stories published in magazines and anthologies ranging from very small-time online-only indies to internationally-in-print like Chicken Soup for the Soul. Two novels published through a small press. Two self-published novelettes. I've been invited to speak and teach at several conferences and local workshops, as well as present at multiple writers' and artists' groups. Finding Angel made finalist in three contests, and now has 64 reviews on Amazon.

But I've also hit some major bumps in the road:

Being an "indie" author has meant I can't get books into bookstores. The only one that was willing to take my books on straight consignment was a small used curriculum store in our local homeschool resource center, and that bookstore has since closed. My area has exactly one independent bookstore that sells new books rather than used, and I had to pay a fee to have my books on consignment there. They did nothing to bring attention to the books, placing them spine-out amongst large-press YA novels, so I sold none and had to pick up my copies after six months.

I've tried making contact with local schools in order to speak, and for the most part have hit a wall. While I did manage to get invited to speak twice for the Great American Teach-in, I've yet to be able to go to a school for a true author visit.

I've participated in every author event I could get into locally, as well as renting space at craft fairs in order to sell books, and found that author events are generally not attended well, and those who attend usually want writing advice and are not there to buy books. Craft fair attendees all but run in the opposite direction when faced with a table of books for the most part.

I still find online marketing to be frustrating and impossible to figure out. I've taken classes on it, picked the brains of fellow authors, read innumerable articles...and am more confused than ever.

So, what is my point?

The fact is, all of the above negative issues have been sucking the joy of writing right out of me, and I need to decide what to keep going with, and what to let go.

The first to go will be craft fairs. They're too expensive to participate in, too time-consuming, and have been completely un-profitable.

Next, I will stop stressing over the places I can't get into right now. Bookstores are closing left and right, and the ones that are still around are so filled with non-book junk. Also, the authors I know locally, both small press and large, who have done signings all say they're not worth the time. The latest story I heard was from a friend who wrote the most awesome children's book. She had a signing at B&N, where they'd advertised and set up a beautiful area for her to sell books in the children's section. She sold not one single book because all the moms and little kids were in the TOY section. As for schools--if they don't want me, then fine. I'll do what I should have been doing all along and focus on my fellow homeschoolers. I intend to find homeschool conferences to participate in, and teach creative writing locally.

Speaking of teaching--I've found that I really enjoy teaching about writing at writers groups, conferences and workshops. More of that in the future.

Ah, but that's all book-selling and marketing, or at least platform building. What about my writing?

Well, yes, that's the point. If I can get rid of all the distractions and stresses, maybe I can get back to my roots and spend more time with my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. The thing is, my focus there will be different too...

I know that indie authorship is on the rise. And there are some benefits to it. But it's simply not working for me. I need help with marketing, but no, I can't just run out and hire someone. I'm finding that all the stuff indies keep telling me about how publishers never help with this...totally bogus. The authors I know who have bigger publishers have people who set up events for them. They also have the creds to get into more places as speakers. Unless an indie is a HUGE self-made success, we're simply not taken seriously. Sorry, that's been my experience, and I simply want more.

So, I"m starting over. I'm going back to the beginning, working on manuscripts that can be shopped to agents. Yes, this means that Toch Island 3 and all related stories will be put on the back burner. Of course Toch Island is the most precious thing to my heart, but to add more to an already nearly unknown series seems fruitless to me. Harsh? Maybe. But you're not the one taking time from MY kids and husband in order to make NO money. HUGE gratitude goes out to all the fans of Toch Island--more than you can possibly know--but until sales increase I have to put my family first.

I also want to get back into short story writing so I can get work out there in the meantime. I loved writing short stories, and frankly loved selling them to markets, and I think I need more of that again to stoke the writing fire for me.

Overall, I need to go back to the way things were at the beginning, back when I was writing and loving it, back when I had hope of someday being a success at this, back when I wasn't distracted and dismayed by all the weight carried by an indie author. Back to the beginning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sewing and Sharing

Ah, my once-monthly blog post, which I keep promising will come more frequently. Sorry yet again. Busy-busy. Homeschooling, camping, and other this cloak I sewed:

Which took LOTS of fabric and many days to make.

Anyway, since I have little news to share about myself despite my hectic schedule, I'll share about some fellow authors:

Mike Duran's newest just hit Amazon yesterday. I got to beta-read The Ghost Box and totally adored it. It's urban fantasy and had great characters and a cool plot with lots of weirdness. 

Jeff Chapman's latest short story Last Request: A Victorian Gothic is now available as an audiobook. I simply love his writing. Dark, atmospheric. And this story does not disappoint.

Lastly, the faculty for the 2015 REALM MAKERS conference has been announced! A great line-up. I won't teaching this year, but I do plan to attend, and there are some sessions I'm very much looking forward to! Check it out, and make sure you follow the Faith and Fantasy Alliance blog so you can stay updated about the conference.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Christian Horror Blog Radio Interview

This week I got to chat with Carla Hoch on Blog Talk Radio. We discussed the Horror genre in Christian Fiction. I had a blast. This is my third interview on here, with Carla, and I always have such fun talking with her.

Check it out, share the link!

Check Out Books Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Red River Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Month of Busy

An entire month since I've posted. Yep. But I've been ridiculously busy. Want proof? Just visit my Facebook page and check out my photo albums (links below).

In September, the family went to the new Diagon Alley section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Well, we didn't go just to that section--we went to the whole theme park (both theme parks, technically)--but our main motivation for the trip was to see Diagon Alley.

A couple of teaser pics:

Anyway, CLICK HERE for the full photo album.

And then just a couple of weeks later, I attended the Necronomicon in Tampa.

I was there, as I have been for the past few years, as a guest author:

And of course there were costumes....

This one was my favorite (and apparently everyone else's, as he won the costume contest):

For more pics of the Necro, CLICK HERE

So, yes, busy. And that doesn't count all the homeschooling I've had to squeeze in-between!

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'll Be At the Necronomicon in a Few Weeks!

The Necronomicon is a sci-fi/fantasy/horror/gaming convention that has been going on for over 30 years in the Tampa Bay area. I’ve been there every year for about the past seven years. This year, I’ll be doing several writing panels, and you’ll find me wandering about the whole rest of the weekend. I’ll have books for sale (although I won’t have a table because they sold out in about two minutes this year). 
Here is the info on the con, and a list of the panels I’ll be on. This will be a new experience for me--I've never hosted panels before and it looks like this year I'm hosting two! 
If you're in the Tampa, FL, area, come visit me! Registration is $35 (includes all three days) through Sept. 24, then jumps to $50. They can only hit 900 this year due to space limitations, so register now online--link below:
Necronomicon 2014
October 3-5, 2014

Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay
2900 Bayport Drive
Tampa, Florida, USA, 33607

Guest of honor: Eric Flint

Check out the NEW Necronomicon site for information and registration! 

My Panel Schedule:

Friday 3:00 PM --  Using Real History as a Basis for Your Fiction
Friday 5:00 PM --  What You Need to Know about Writing YA Fiction
Saturday 10:00 AM  -- Making Words Work for You
Saturday 1:00 PM --  How to Handle Those Pesky Adjectives (Host)
Saturday 4:00 PM --  The Scoop on Small Presses: for Writers (Host)
Saturday 7:00 PM --  Getting Your Book from Print to Audio

Anyway, I can't believe this is LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY!!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

Last week I was tagged by Jill Domschot (author of the literary fantasy novel, Anna and the Dragon) to do this Writing Process Blog Hop. I actually kinda volunteered to be tagged, and yet I completely dropped the ball on getting the post ready on time. Starting back homeschooling full-force and preparing for a speaking engagement pretty much took all my free time last week and weekend. Well, except for the several hours I spent writing on Saturday thanks to my wonderful husband getting the Beasties out of the house. So yeah, quiet house and Work in Progress won over blog post. Deal.

Anyway, now to the post, which I've finally written :).

1. What am I working on?

This seems like it should be an easy question. It's not. I'm technically working on four different projects:

The first is, of course, Book 3 of the Toch Island Chronicles (that's my YA fantasy series that includes Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen if you are new to my blog).

The second is a prequel, sorta, for the series. It's the story of the mystery villain in Finding Angel and how he became a baddie. If you've read Finding Angel, you know why I'm not saying any more than that. If you haven't, well, sorry sweetie, but spoilers.

Project three, sticking with YA, is a ghost story. A young girl, Amelia, is staying in a small town with her father, a land developer with some big plans. The town locals are...scared. They don't like what Amelia's dad is doing. Mainly because they don't want to tick off the ghost that supposedly haunts the bridge on the edge of town.

Project four is my first full-length non-YA work. I've written some short stories that aren't YA, but never a full novel. However....I did discover, thanks to the awesome comments of one of my critique partners, that the book is not as far into the adult genre as I thought. I guess I can't help but write younger characters, so this one would likely fall into the New Adult category. In lieu of writing a summary, I'll give you a sneak peek at the query letter in progress that goes with this manuscript:

Simone found out at the age of 19 that she was half angel. And of course he had to be the one who told her—the demon, Wraith. The only one who was ever truthful enough with her to admit his words were mostly lies. 
She trusted him when he told her about her mother, the angel, who had selfishly given up Simone to return to Heaven.  She trusted him when he advised her to give up her own daughter out of selflessness—“They will grow old and die while you remain young.” And after years of searching for her daughter, she trusted him again when he claimed to have found her. 
Now the balance between angel and human in her has shifted. Can she trust Wraith one more time to lead her to the salvation he has been keeping from her for years?

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hm. For my Toch Island Chronicles series I'd say it's because my magic is very science-based, and my novels are in that spot right on the edge of YA (young adult) and middle grade. Most YA out there these days is paranormal fiction. Mine is more about the fantasy and magic. The books, at least the two so far, are also mysteries.

My ghost story isn't close enough to being finished for me to really know how it differs from others. Again, though, it's right on that edge between middle grade and YA. Again, more mystery. And all I can really say other than that is, I've read a lot--a lot-- of YA and middle grade books and haven't come across one like this one.

The fourth project is different because most books in this genre--New Adult, paranormal--are completely romance-based. And while this one is, as much as I hate to admit it, a romance, that's not the heart of the story. At all. I really don't know how to explain the difference. Let's just say, I'm writing it the way I, a non-romance reader, would want the story told.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because it is what I read. What I have always read. Books about ordinary (but usually a little nerdy) kids who discover they are magic. Books about other worlds. Magical creatures. Mysteries. Scary stories. Books that struggle with dark themes. Those are what draw me to reading, so they are naturally what I write.

4. How does my writing process work?

That question assumes that it does work! :P Seriously, I have no real process. Every book I've written so far has been different. With Finding Angel, I spent nearly every waking hour writing, or plotting, typing, typing, typing, over the course of only three months. I wrote the scenes way out of order. I went through so many layers of editing for many, many months years after that. . But Seeking Unseen came out mostly in order, with the writing coming in slow bits and pieces, then the editing all slammed in at the end. I'd learned so much from writing Finding Angel and all the short stories I'd written, so the initial draft, while it took longer, came out much cleaner.

The rest of the projects are coming out differently still. Working on them essentially simultaneously means going back and forth. This one for a while (so many pages or words until I run out of motivation), then that one for a while...all squeezing it into an already busy schedule of homeschooling and, well, just being a wife and mom. Marketing has to be added to the mix, too, and teaching at conferences and such. I don't feel like I have a "process" these days. More like, take what I can get when I can get it--whether that be time to write or brainstorming for ideas--and take it in whatever order I get it.

OK, soooo......there it is. I've finally kept my promise. Only two days late--not so bad, really. However, because I was such a slacker I didn't find anyone to tag to keep the blog hop going. So, if you're a writer, and want to participate, feel free. Just make sure you list me and my website in the intro!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tampa Bay Comic Con 2014

Just a quick post to share a few pics from our adventure at the 2014 Tampa Bay Comic Con! This was our first year attending, and we had a BLAST.

It started off with a ridiculously long line:

That was only a tiny taste of the number of people on the sidewalk...way, way down from where the actual event was....

But even standing in line can be fun with friends:

That's Beastie 2 and her buddy. Notice the waters--those were SO necessary. It was freaking hot outside! I was blown away by how many people stood in this line in this heat in full costume. At least Beastie's was cool. BTW, notice that it is classic Wonder Woman. A vendor actually gave her a free WW flashlight because he thought that was so cool of her :).

Beastie 1 wore just the basics in line, then when we got inside we finished suiting him up:

He was so worried about that costume. Would it be good enough? Would anyone know who he was? Well, judging by the number of people who asked for his picture, I'd say those questions got answered.

Speaking of pictures, this is one of Beastie 1's friends who couldn't take five steps without being asked for photos:

His dad worked about 5-6 hours every day, for over a month on this costume. It was awesome. The front opened up with the push of a button, and there was a voice box inside, and fans to keep him cool.

Here's the whole group of boys we went with:

From left to right, that would be Pit from Kid Icarus, Soundwave, Megaman, and Link from Legend of Zelda.

Yes, there were actually other people there and I did take pics--if you want to see them all, check out my Facebook album. (It's public, so if you're not on FB or we're not friends there, you can still see it.)

So, now....time to figure out what we're going to be next time!