Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SNOW LIKE ASHES Tour!

One of my oldest writing friends has a really awesome book coming out today. Maybe you've heard of it? SNOW LIKE ASHES!

If you love fantasy and are interested in a world I call "Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Disney," then you should pick up SNOW LIKE ASHES and read it. Sara is a fabulous writer, and it has been such a pleasure to know her and read her work for the last five years. This day is long overdue, and I can't wait to celebrate with her. Because she will be here on tour! And I will be signing with her (along with J.R. Johansson, Michelle Argyle, and Bree Despain)!

If you want to celebrate with us as well, please check out the following events in Salt Lake City and Denver. Sara will also be traveling much of country, so check out the graphic and see if she's coming to a city near you!



Monday, October 13, 2014

When You Just Don't Know What's Next

NOTE: I have emailed the winner of my exclusive newsletter contest—thanks to all who entered to win a copy of Relax or Trust me! And if you want access more exclusive contests, please sign up for my newsletter here.

Okay, business out of the way, on to the post!

I went to an indie publishing conference this weekend called IndieRecon Live! I decided a few months back to go, though I was a little on the fence as to if I could handle it mentally with how burned out I've been.

Well, I'm super glad I went.

Not only did I learn a lot about my weaknesses in indie publishing (marketing, oh, marketing, how badly I fail at you), but it was surprisingly comforting and exciting to be around other authors who indie publish and other writers who are choosing this as their path. Sometimes at traditional-oriented writing conferences, it's felt like indie publishing is shoved into the corner and people don't take it seriously. But here? Oh, it was serious and it was awesome. It helped me, as a hybrid author, connect with the indie side of my career in a new way and feel even better about it.

I got to listen to people who do this and have seen amazing success with it. While I still don't know if I can attain that kind of success, I do feel like I have tools now that I can maybe implement and see improvement. I also just feel happy I made the choice to share my work, and know it's okay to try stuff and fail at it and try something else.

But through all of this, I found I'm still a little broken, too. In one class, the presenter asked, "What is your dream right now?" I thought and thought, and I was concerned to find that I did not have an answer.

I've had an answer to that question since I was a little girl. There was always something I wanted and something I was reaching for. So as I sat in that class with a complete blank—and even now I still have no answer—I wondered what this all meant for me.

What happens when a dreamer stops having a dream?

Well, it's a little sad. And a lot confusing. And very much worrying. I don't really know what to make of it. All I can think to do is wait, and hope something comes in the quiet moments I'm trying to give myself. When it does, I also hope I have the courage to try when trying is just so dang hard.

For now, I guess I'll focus on the few things I do know—that FISH OUT OF WATER is coming out in February and I need to finish the I'm A Ninja series. Maybe the rest will just work itself out and I'll have some kind of answer by the time those two books are published? I hope so. Otherwise I really don't know what I'll do with myself.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Spacey Squared

Ever since I decided I was on a break, it's like my brain completely shut down. It packed its bags, put up the "On Vacation Do Not Disturb" sign, and has drifted off into a blissful state of refusing to work properly.

I have forgotten to answer emails from important people. I keep forgetting I have to fix something on a certain book and must review the PDF. The books I'm supposed to read for blurb completely slip my mind. Today I realized it was NOT the 13th but the 6th. Last week I forgot to pick up my kids from early out day. It's really quite hilarious just how much my brain is throwing out.

I'm not sure what this is. Maybe it's stemming from my extreme desire to not work right now. Like, I think of working and there is only gnashing of teeth and wailing. So maybe my mind is blocking stuff out so I can keep pretending I have zero to do, when in reality I still have a couple things on the plate but a lot less than before.

Hopefully it'll wane quickly, because I do need to find some kind of balance. I've so loved being a not writer, but I know at some point it'll be time to get back to work. Not just the writing part but all the business parts of it as well. Might need my brain for all that stuff.

This is a lesson for me, though, as embarrassing as some of my forgetfulness flubs have been (like today when I thought my friend's book was coming out tomorrow but it's next week). Or maybe it's a re-learned concept.

I can't do this to myself, this insane pushing I've done this year. I wanted to say I gave this author thing my 100% effort—I think so I could be sure it wasn't my fault if my books failed. Authors get a lot of the blame, you know, even though the vast majority of what makes a book successful is entirely out of an author's hands. Publishers make it feel like your fault. Reviews do, too. You keep hearing that if you, as an author, could just SELL MORE BOOKS—then you wouldn't be rejected, you'd get more books deals, you'd get more marketing, whatever. (This might actually be true, but I have not yet achieved the quota that qualifies me as "selling more books.")

While you try to tell yourself it's not true, I think we all internalize that a little. We think it's our fault for not selling more books. Even after I came to realize that it's a publisher's responsibility to use the rights they purchased to the best they can—and not at all on me—I still felt like it was maybe my fault. So I tried very hard with the means I had. I attended the conference I could and traveled on my tiny budget. I published many books and tried to get them out there to build a backlist. I held giveaways and did the social media thing. All the doing, because maybe just maybe it was my fault and that would all change it.

…but it didn't, not really. I still sell at the same steady, slow pace. I have lovely readers who are kind but I'm still an author people don't know well. None of my effort has earned me favor with, well, anyone in publishing. It's still just hard. I'm bummed that' it's been three years since I sold in the US and sometimes wish I had the money to move to the UK where they kinda like me a little more.

But sad story aside, all that trying at least taught me once again that I can try myself into the ground and it won't make it so I'm in control of how my books are received. That is still true past querying, alas. I'm super good at trying—I think a lot of writers are—and I see other authors who are even better at trying, and sometimes it frustrates me that all the trying doesn't get the equivalent results. I'm really glad that I still tried though, oddly enough, because now I can let go again and be okay with my lack of control. I know it's not my fault. It's been out of my hands all along no matter how much it feels like people tell me differently. Really all I can do now, as every writer should know, is write another story and another. That's the only thing we can control, and it's probably why we like the writing part so much.

So I will continue to be my spacey-on-vacation-brain self for now. Without writing but still thinking of stories and dreaming and remembering how to hope. When I come back, I hope my brain will come too! We'll have lots of worlds to explore together.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Power Of Saying Yes To Yourself

You will hear everywhere that you have to be tough to be a writer, and I've talked many times about how that's not quite true. I am not a tough person. I still cry at rejections and I can't handle reading negative reviews. Not because I'm a wuss, but because I'm a human being with feelings and junk.

But I have found that there's something you have to stay strong on—you have to keep saying YES to yourself.

It's really easy to stop doing that when the whole industry seems to be saying no all the time. Before you know it, your mind starts rejecting ideas before you can even make them into stories and then books.

I've seen this happen to me over the years. I get an idea, I start to kinda like it, and then instead of holding on to that excitement/love/passion I begin to ask questions like:

Well, is it marketable?
Is it hooky? Is it like other things out there?
Is it on trend or not trendy enough? Should I make it more on trend?

Usually I will then start rejecting myself. No, it's not marketable enough. It probably won't sell because it's not "high concept." People say they want "new and different" but really they just want "the same thing but with a tiny twist," so this idea is too weird.

The story, in my head, is bound to fail before I even start developing the plot sometimes! It's so sad, but I don't think it's uncommon. It's a side effect of being told NO so much—we just forget that we can still say YES regardless of all the rejection we've faced up to that point.

It's like that relationship advice: Don't bring your past relationship's problems to your current relationship.

Books work a lot like that. It's super easy to take past baggage into the next project, but really there should be a reset button. Every book is a fresh start. Every story has unknown potential. You can't base a project's possible success or failure on your past works, and yet we seem to do this constantly. You can't keep saying no to yourself and expect to get a positive result. You have to say YES. You have to believe in yourself even though it feels impossible or even down right silly at times.

I'm mostly saying all this to remind myself, because for a long while I've been telling myself my books won't sell because of this or that. I've been telling myself I probably won't ever sell a novel again in the US just because it hasn't happened for three years. I think perhaps as a defense mechanism so I won't be disappointed and so I don't try to control something I can't.

But there's a fine line between being realistic and being a downer in publishing. I think I've been more on the downer side than I thought. And maybe believing in myself won't change how things go for me, but I think it will change my attitude about my career and publishing if I stop being so negative and let myself believe in the things I used to hope for.

I'm trying to say YES to my imagination and creativity more. I think it's helping me be less afraid, to be stronger in a way, to be happier. I'll deal with the rejections when they come, but I've decided my mind needs to be a place where "YES, you can do/write/dream that" is the default reply.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Week Without Social Media

As you know, I've decided to severely limit my access to social media for the remainder of the year. It seems like a silly, small thing, but it's a big deal to me. I spend a lot of time on it. It's something I kinda do as part of my writing career—it's how I interact with a lot of the online writing community. So cutting it out of my life for the most part has been…interesting.

The first day, I was a bit horrified to note how often I felt the impulse to CHECK. I checked so much before. I checked in the morning, all morning, in the afternoon, evening, middle of the night if I couldn't sleep. Okay, basically I was CHECKING all day long.

Did anyone reply to my tweet/FB status/Instagram picture/Tumblr post?

Did any of my friends announce something important I need to reply to or talk about?

Did anything of note happen in the writing community?

I have three spare seconds so I'm a little bored and maybe I should check JUST BECAUSE.

Check. Check. Check.

What I've learned so far is that checking actually takes up a lot of time and brain power. A half hour in the morning, ten minutes here and there, a few minutes while a commercial is playing during my Kdrama. I have been surprised to find how much time I've actually been on social media—I didn't think it was as much as it was.

But more than that, I was shocked to discover how much brain space it was taking up. The best I can do is equate it to waiting for something to bake. You know something's in the oven, and it cannot burn because you want to eat it, so you keep it in your mind while you go and do something. But you can't do something TOO engrossing because you cannot forget that the oven is on, so you do something to pass the time while also thinking about the freaking oven and don't forget the oven CHECK ON THE OVEN.

So I was distracted all the time. Checking the oven to see if my tweets had turned into…something, I guess. Meaningful social interaction? Validation that I'm not just shouting to the void? I have no idea, at least not yet. Maybe I'll figure out in time what I was checking for.

Without the ability to check—because I've had the websites blocked from my network so I can't even cheat easily—my life has been…quiet. And nice, actually. All the outside voices in publishing have vanished, and all that's left is my close writing friends, agent, editors, and the few people who feel like emailing me. It's really hard to compare myself when I'm missing all the deals, reveals, tour announcements, etc. I just feel a lot better about myself as a writer in general. I didn't think it would happen so quickly, but I'm glad for it.

The most surprising (which shouldn't be surprising but I'm pretty slow) is how my brain now has room to THINK. And in thinking comes STORIES. And REVISIONS. And PLOT FIXES. I didn't realize how much social media was muting my ability to work, purely because I was a bit distracted waiting for the oven and not able to focus my full thoughts on my own work. I wasn't abiding the ever-useful advice of "Keep your eyes on your own paper."

I still often want to check. I kinda want to check right now because this will be the first blog post I write without linking it to social media outlets in a long time, and I am scared no one will see it and pat me on the head for writing something. I suppose that is my next hurdle—remembering how to write and be okay with no one seeing it.

I think I'll get there.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Being Not A Writer

I used to want to be a writer more than anything else in the whole wide world. In many ways, I think this is still true. But lately I've been finding myself not daydreaming of imaginary worlds and publishing success—instead my mind is filled with quite the opposite.

I want to be in my real world.

I want to play video games for a whole day straight with my husband and not feel guilty about looming deadlines. I want to hang out with my kids at the park without my mind spinning on a plot arc. I want to go several days without sharing a single thing on social media because my life is mine and I want to keep it to myself. And I want to not read about everyone else's lives online. And I want to draw and paint. I want to run and move and remember that I am more than the words I put on a page.

This is an odd feeling for me. For the majority of my life I've vastly preferred the world in my own head to that of reality. I've had this goal to make a living by sharing those worlds with others. Now that I've shared a lot of words with others, I find myself wanting to greedily hoard all my words and keep them to myself.

Now, please don't start freaking out on me. I'm not depressed or feeling like I'm a horrible writer or something. That's not where any of this is coming from. Oddly enough, I am in a very good place with my writing mentality. I feel capable and experienced. I know I have developed this skill and grown. I love what I create.

I'm just…tired. Burnt out. I mean, it's to be expected after publishing five novels in a 15 month period. That is insane. I do not recommend it. Hindsight, people.

I was so eager to be this thing called an author, and like most debuts was frantic to do all the things all the time for all the people. I knew I would do this to myself, but at the same time I wanted to give it my all. I had to TRY. I am proud of how much I tried. I wouldn't take it back.

But it is time for a break. A BIG break.

Like, until the end of the year.

I'm writing this because part of that break comes in pulling back from social media, and I don't want people to get confused when I'm not interacting with them on certain platforms. I will actually be blocking Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook from being used on my network. I've already removed the apps from my phone.

I will, oddly enough, be keeping my blog and Instagram. When I was thinking about my social media usage and where I feel the best, I discovered I still enjoyed blogging, and Instagram pictures always make me smile and I get no stress from that site. So if you want to interact with me online, check in here, on Instagram, or email me. I will still be around, just not in a big way.

Why am I doing this? Mostly because I need to cleanse my palate, so to speak. I've finished a big run of work, and before I move to the next things I need to be not a writer for a bit. I'm really looking forward to it, and I'm sure I'll be dying to get back to writing by the New Year. I am desperate to feel that passion again. I hope my creative well is overflowing after I take this time to deliberately fill it up. I will keep you all posted on my little non-writing journey this fall/winter, here on my blog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Year Of Trying (Or An Introvert's Feeble Attempts At Marketing)

After my debut year, I have to admit I was a bit down on the, er, seemingly downward trajectory of my writing career. My publisher wasn't interested in anything else I was proposing to them. My book just wasn't selling well enough to convince them to want more from me. I have a novel that's been on sub almost a year in the US without any signs of a sale (Can I be done with year long failed subs? Because seriously, been there, done that.). Luckily my UK publisher still liked me enough to buy two more books from me, because that's been a bright spot in an otherwise "meh" debut scenario. Add in my adventures in indie publishing and it's all turned out pretty okay.

Despite difficulties and feeling like an overall failure, I decided to keep trying. In January of this year, that's what I resolved to do, I guess. Not officially with a New Year's resolution, but I determined I needed to at least TRY. I wanted to give up so badly. It felt like everything I tried just didn't help anyone see my books or care about them. So why keep screaming to the void, you know?

I was clearly bad at marketing so I wanted to throw in the towel. Marketing is uncomfortable for me—it always has been because I don't like standing in spotlights let alone shining one on myself. That was a big part of why I tried so hard to get published traditionally: I hoped they would market for me. And they have done some, but not nearly what I imagined in my newbie head. So much of it is still on me.

I am still pretty miserable at marketing (I might always be), but I have tried new things this year and some old things, and because I'm a hybrid author I can see more easily what makes a difference in my sales and what doesn't. I'm glad for this because it helps me know where to put my effort, and as the anxious person I am I can better plan what I can handle.

First, I've found doing conferences is pretty beneficial for me. While they take a toll on my mental health and I have to be careful to avoid things that trigger my panic attacks, I always see a bump in sales when I do a conference. Not like I am suddenly selling like gangbusters, but it does HELP. Especially in finding new readers. Signing events also help, though not quite in the same way because most signings are attended by people who already know you. But it's a good chance to meet readers and see their excitement and connect with them.

Another note on events: I've been surprised at the impact of non-writing-specific events. While I may not have as many book sales as at a writing conference, I see a lot of new faces and some of those faces stick around and become readers. It's also been fun because I get to share my other interests, like anime/esports/video games/art, at these other events. It's refreshing.

I've also seen how promotional sales can be a huge help in breathing life into a book. When TRANSPARENT went on sale for $1.99 this last April, it saw a higher rank on Kindle than it did when the book debuted. Not like I became a bestseller, but the book has had a new pair of legs and sold a little better than it would have if that sale hadn't happened—it was all but dead before that.

What has surprised me is the impact giveaways seem to have. While sales seem to TANK a bit during a giveaway (I think because people may hold off buying should they happen to win), there is a bump in "visibility." I usually gain more followers and have more people talking about the giveaway online. So it's a matter of possibly sacrificing some sales in exchange for expanding visibility.

Sadly, I'm seeing less and less impact from my blog and longer posts like these. I've jumped on Instagram and Tumblr this year for the first time and seen some new life on those sites in comparison to the blog scene and even Twitter. I've been surprised to see my covers and other images about me and my books on Pinterest, even. It seems like many writers and readers I know are experiencing social media fatigue, and it feels like promotion online is reflecting that. It's almost like white noise, and I don't see a ton of impact from my daily social media pursuits. At least not like it used to be several years back in the height of blogging.

I'm not really saying you need to do any of this as a writer, but I guess I'm just telling you what I've found because I've been kind of surprised that my TRYING has actually yielded some RESULTS. It's been nice to discover that, to see those bumps in sales through my indie books and knowing that likely applies to my traditionally published books as well. It's so easy as an author to feel like all the effort you put in does nothing, but that's not true. Maybe your marketing attempts won't do as much as you hope, but this year I've learned that your marketing will do more than if you had done nothing at all. That's an important lesson for me, and maybe it'll be one for you, too.

So if you are tired of trying, if you think it makes no difference, I'm here to tell you that it DOES make a difference. So keep going. Even if it's hard sometimes.