Monday Mayhem – Accomplishment vs Ambition

Good morning! This blog post is brought to you today once again by the letter D. Hi! I’m here with Desdemona, my Dragon software, and I’m talking to myself again. After last week’s post, a few people have asked how it’s going, so here’s an update:

I’ve been working with it all week, I’m not sure that I’m getting any better, but I’m doing it. I’ve been dictating during my approximately twelve minute drive to work each morning. That time has netted me about 900 words on average each day this week. I’m only dictating basic punctuation, and not using the dialogue marks as of yet, but, yeah, progress. When I come home, I have Desdemona transcribe what I’ve dictated into my phone, I edit it, and add it to my work in progress. So far, so good. I’m finding that dictation allows me to get the bones of the scene in, and when I go back to edit it, I’m adding the color, character, and voice to the story.

In other news, at a great time the ladies from the Diamond State Romance Authors yesterday. it had been a couple of months since I’ve been to a meeting, and I really needed this one. Being around other writers helps to recharge the batteries.

We had an interesting discussion at lunch about ambition, expectations, reality and our accomplishments.

When you’re waist-deep in the publishing industry the disparity between an author’s ambition, expectations, and reality, can be…disheartening. And in those moments of despair, we have a tendency to downplay our accomplishments.

So if you are in one of those funks where you feel like a failure, ask yourself these simple questions:

1. Did I try?
2. Did I finish?
3. Did I dare to show my work, even if only to one person.

If you answered yes, to any of these, then you are an accomplished person.

It’s easy to lose sight of our accomplishments when we hold them up next to our ambitions. Most of the time, our ambition and expectations are waaaaaay up here, and our reality looks something like a royalty check barely big enough to cover lunch. But that doesn’t mean we still haven’t accomplished something spectacular.

I’m speaking directly to my novelist friends now, but I believe this applies to any creative endeavor:

Look at what you have done. You are amazing. Literally, one in millions. A percentage so minute, most people don’t even count it on a chart. The year I signed with my literary agent, Sara, she tweeted her 2015 query statistics in December. The numbers were so staggering I broke out the calculator, and did the math.

I know! I voluntarily did math.

You know what? I am one of the .003%

One-percenters may think they are something because their checks cover more than lunch, but you, me, and a handful of others? We’re in an even more exclusive club.

As writers, we build a career one word at a time, one book at a time, one series at a time. What we need to do is stop using yardsticks to measure a game played in millimeters. It doesn’t covert properly.

It’s not wrong to have ambition or expectations. Reality can sometimes be better than we expected. But please, oh please, don’t sweep your accomplishments under the rug because they didn’t jibe with the rest of that jive.

Feed your ambition.

Temper your expectations.

Plot what you can do to enhance your reality.

And celebrate your accomplishments every damn day. Because, wow! Who knew you had this in you?

You did. That’s who.

So, yeah… *steps off soapbox*

Right now I’m working on revisions for novel number thirty-seven and adding words to number thirty-eight. See what I did there?

I’m totally high-fiving myself as I eat the peanut butter sandwich I brought from home.

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Monday Mayhem – Dictatorial Behavior

About a year ago, I purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking software for my computer. I messed with the little that first week I had it, then I walked away because it seemed too complicated.

A number of friends also purchased the software at the same time since there was a deal going on, so over the course of the year we’ve had many, many discussions about our different hangups about using dictation software. The biggest one being that you have to speak your punctuation. Every mark you’re seeing in this post, has been verbalized.

Awkward!

I get particularly mush mouthed when trying to dictate dialogue, which is a bit ironic if you think about it. The commands are  just so unwieldy.  I’m sad to report that a number of us gave up on training our dragons pretty quickly.

Did I tell you that my Dragon’s name is Desdemona?

Desdemona wasn’t cheap, so it’s been hard for me to walk away from her entirely. Over the course of the past few months  A few of us have tried different things to try to make dictation work for us.

Why bother, you ask?

First, I type all day, then I go home and type all night. That takes a pretty hard toll on your wrists and fingers and I’m starting to feel a little bit of arthritis in my hands. Nothing I can’t deal with, and I actually do yoga stretching for my wrists and hands that has helped quite a bit with keeping them limber, but I can see the proverbial writing on the…page.

Then, there’s the oh-so-tempting productivity aspect of it.

It’s amazing how many words you can speak faster than type. And, I’m a fast typist. With hands on keyboard I can usually put up about a thousand words in an hour. With my headset on, and just free-flowing speech, I can dictate that same thousand words in about ten minutes.

Now, I won’t pretend that the storytelling part of writing a novel comes as naturally as speaking. At this point, it’s easier for me to make the story come out of my fingertips than it is to make it come from my lips.

But, the increase in productivity keeps drawing me back to Desdemona.

One of my goals for this summer was to get better at dictation. I started last week with a voice recording application on my phone. Each day, I have a ten minute ride commute to work. I’ve been using that ten minutes to do what some writers call morning pages. Morning pages or were you pretty much info dump everything your thinking about your writing onto the page. The point is to clear your head so that you can move forward with the work.

I then would have Desdemona transcribe the mornings babblings into a document. The results were sometimes hilarious. And not on purpose.

Still, practice makes perfect. Or, at least a 90% accuracy rate.

I’ll probably be using dictation to write this blog posts each week, because, like anything, the more you practice the better you become.

So this blog post is brought to you by the D: Desdemona, and dictation, and discipline.

A couple weeks ago, I spoke about the inspiration I found in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book called BIG MAGIC. One of the bits in her book referred to her attempts at eschewing perfection as ‘the song of the disciplined half-ass.’

I totally ganked that one.

So, here I am, a disciplined half-ass stumbling my way around using this new tool. I can tell you that I am better at it than I was last week. I also have new toys – a swanky headset and a fantastic adapter that will allow me to speak into my phone or iPad if I want to use transcription.

I have everything I need to really rock this disciplined half-assed effort of mine.

Tell me, what dragons will you be taming this week?

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Monday Mayhem – Nothin’ doin’

I did nothing this weekend.

Those of you who know me well, know that this is kind of a shocker, because even when I say I’m being lazy, I’m usually still producing something. Not this weekend. This weekend was Margaret Ethridge’s day(s) off.

I didn’t really plan on being such a layabout, but circumstances were ideal, so I went with it.

If you need excuses (as I do), there have been 2 novels revised and returned to two different editors in the last 3 weeks. And I do have a day job that keeps me hopping. On Friday, we served lunch to over 150 hungry teenagers in support of a community outreach program.

Oh, and a sick hubby…and a bit of insomnia.

So, yeah, I didn’t even play an Author on TV this weekend, but that’s okay. I needed to rest and recharge. So sayeth, Dr. Sally.

 

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Monday Mayhem – Big Magic

I’m not much of a non-fiction reader. I prefer the world of make-believe most of the time. Unlike most writers, I’m not much of a ‘craft’ book reader, either. I don’t like being told what to do or how to do it, so I tend to rebel. But sometimes, I do go looking for inspiration when I feel my creative well running dry.

This week, I started reading the book BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. I admit I never read EAT, PRAY, LOVE, nor did I see the movie, but I am in love with BIG MAGIC.

Not because she has some nuggets of magical writer voodoo to impart, but more because she reminds us that it’s okay for people engaged in creative pursuits to be burned out, worked up, disillusioned, or even madly in love with their own work.

I needed this right now.

So go out there. Be brave. Be bold. Live a life filled with Big Magic. No one can tell you you’re wrong.

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Monday Mayhem – Hunkered down on the doghouse

I plan to spend most of my summer doing revisions. I know that doesn’t sound like fun to many people, but it’s very exciting for me. With some fabulously constructive input from my editors, I have a chance to make this book (and every book I release) better than I originally believed it could be.

But I wouldn’t say revisions are easy for me. My first responses to almost any editorial feedback usually start with the words, “But…”, “I wanted…”, and “You don’t understand…” Then, I stuff my overinflated ego into a strongbox and set the revisions aside for a day or two.

When I read through the comments again, I often find they are right 99.9% of the time. That’s when I get to work.

I’ve been steadily wading through these revisions all week. I have a couple additions to write, then I’ll take another pass through the whole thing to be sure it works. Then, I send it back to my editors for round two.

Did I mention there are two more completed manuscripts awaiting revisions behind this one? Yep. Going to be a busy summer, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Ripples Needed, Apply Here

The Diamond State Romance Authors met this weekend. As usual, spending time with my writer friends recharged me.

This month, we talked about every author’s worst nightmare – PR and publicity.

Most people don’t realize that almost all book promotion falls on the author. My publisher will promote the book through their existing networks (which are admittedly much larger than mine), but there’s no campaign to speak of, and almost no advertising beyond the occasional boosted post on social media. Once, I was lucky enough to have my book included as part of a print ad in a trade publication, but that was mainly a matter of lucky timing.

But mostly, it’s up to us to flaunt our work. Not an easy thing to do for people who prefer to spend their time writing the next story.

So, yeah, promotion a vital skill for an author to master. And one that stymies me every time. You see, there is no magic formula. What works for one book may fall flat on the next. A catchy cover can help, but that only goes so far.

Word of mouth is everything.

Kelli Reep of FlyWrite Communications talked to us about how to maximize the ripple effect needed for marketing success. We’re so inundated with information and images that it takes a minimum of seven impressions for something to register with most people. Which means I am tempted to do this and go back to my keyboard:

   

   

I threw an extra in there for symmetry and good measure… But that probably isn’t going to do the trick, huh?

I have a new series starting this fall and my first mass market paperback release coming in 2018. Man, do I want them to be a success. I mean, I want all of my books to connect with readers, but the Love, Unexpectedly series from Sourcebooks will be my first shot at being on shelves in major retailers. This a pretty big deal for me. I confess, I occasionally go to visit my spot in our local Barnes & Noble:

So, yeah, I’m going to have to get better at this marketing and publicity bit. I’m hoping I can count on you to help me. To be my ripples. And I’m asking you in advance to forgive me, as I blab all over the place about these books.

After all, an author has to do what an author has to do, right?

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Monday Mayhem – A trickle to a stream

There.

I typed it.

At last.

On the piece of…book that’s been giving me fits since November.

And how did I get there? By dialing back my ego, essentially shredding large parts of what I have already written for book three, and basically saying enough is enough.

Is it done? Not even close. But now I get to hand it off to Jewels so she can point out all the things that really need to be fixed, and those I just imagined were pure ca-ca.

There was a song back in the 80s called “A Whisper to a Scream“. Not one of my favorites because it was subtitled (Birds Fly), but I always think about it when I wrap a project like this.

I find writing books fall into two categories – trickle or stream.

Some books must be pried out with pliers and tears. Others gush out like water water burbling down a stream. Every once in a while, you get one that flows steady, but those seem to be even more rare than the gushers.

Now, I start dismantling book 3 and rebuilding. Wish me luck!

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Typecasting

Do you have a type?

I’m working on Easy Bake Lovin’ (Play Dates #2), and one of the plot points is that the heroine is about as opposite the hero’s usual type. Their attraction stirs some not-so-subtle commentary, which, in turn, leads to hurt feelings and confusion.

“Type” seems a shallow plot point on first glance, but when you think about it, most of us DO have some characteristics we gravitate toward. Types can be based on appearance, common interests and passions, and our attraction can be conscious, or sub-conscious.

Weird example: Most of my celebrity crushes were born within a year or so of the man I eventually married.

1960 was a magical year.

Obviously, this was not an intentional thing. I didn’t go looking for a man who was born within months of Colin Firth or John Taylor from Duran Duran. It just happened that way.

And upon noticing that, I realized that they all share similar physical attributes – each just a shade over six feet tall, dark not-quite wavy hair, dark eyes, squarish jaw. Check this out:

Colin plays it a little bit stuffy

John’s still rock ‘n roll

 

My combo deal

Fodder scoffs at this, of course, but that’s okay. It works for me, and that’s all that matters. And when I really want to bug him, I tell him I’m going to frame this:

How about you? Do you have a type?

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Birthing a book

Two weeks ago, A BOLT FROM THE BLUE released into the wild. This was a super quick labor – only about thirteen months from conception to birth. Since I am traditionally published (meaning I sell my work to a publishing house, and their team then takes over the editorial timeline and production), this can be a relatively long process.

It’s always fun to see non-writers reactions when I talk a little about the behind the scenes. It’s shocking to discover how many people think you just write a book and put it out there. With the advent of self-publishing, that is certainly possible, but if you’ve read one book that has been released without benefit of an external editor you’ll most likely agree that it isn’t preferable.

With BOLT, I was dealing with a publisher and editing team I have worked with on 5 previous publications, so it was easy for us to press the accelerator.

Here’s pretty much how the timeline played out:

I sent a synopsis to my editor on March 6, 2016, and she submitted it to the team at Lyrical Press.

On April 26, 2016, my editor said, “Yes!” Contract talks began, and I hunkered down at my keyboard to magically transform the synopsis to an actual 60k+ word manuscript.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

May 9th – I was informed that expected delivery date on BOLT was July 1, 2017 for an April 2017 release.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

May 23rd – sent the first chapter to the fabulous Julie Evelyn Joyce for critiquing.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Also on May 23rd – Publisher requests completion of Cover Art and Publication Information forms. Because I have sold the rights to this book, these forms are my last and only chance to give input on the look of the book and the message conveyed in the cover copy. Most people are surprised to find out I do not have the final say in any of that kind of stuff.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

On June 13, I received the official contract and signed it. Wooot!

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Sent the full manuscript for to Julie Evelyn Joyce for wizardry June 15th – she sent it back June 26.

Spent days eradicating excess instances of ‘just’, ‘that’, ‘it,’ and other favorite words from what was a 67k word manuscript.

Delete, delete, delete, delete….

July 1, 2016 – Sent 66k word manuscript to marvelous Marci, my editor at Lyrical Press.

July 5, 2016 A WILL AND A WAY releases – promo ensues.

Received the first round of edits August 7, 2016. She requested an added scene toward the end of the story.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….Send to Julie…Back from Julie…delete, delete, delete, delete….send back to Marci August 14th.

Second round of edits arrived on the 16th. Back to her the 18th.

Another round of edits from the line editor on September 2, 2016. I returned them on the 4th with some notes and questions. Marci shot them right back, and I went at it again.

Manuscript sent to my esteemed editor again on September 7th. She repaid me by sending the whole enchilada back in galley form (proofing for minor corrections only) on the 8th. I passed the hot potato on the 9th, and we put the book to bed.

Then, I ran away to the beach.

September 15th, the cover art fairy visited with this:

I squealed, then got down to writing the first book in the Play Dates series.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

NaNoWriMo starts – more typing, typing, typing, typing….

November 22, 2016 – LOVE & ROCKETS releases. Promo madness ensues.

Typing, typing, typing, typing….

December 1, 2016 – Final formatted digital copies of BOLT landed in my inbox. I cooed over them, checked for any hiccups in the front/back matter. And then, the wait for April 4, 2017 began.

In the weeks around release, authors step out of their caves long enough to do some social media schmoozing and guest blogging (Read & Watch 2017, Just Contemporary Romance, and later this week, Fiction University).

The publishing industry is about as unlike what you see on TV. There’s no publicist, or even publicity budget. We arrange and pay for most of our advertising ourselves. We are not making big money. In fact, most of us make less than a dollar on each book sold.

That’s why we annoy our Facebook friends with incessant reminders that, yes, the book is available now, and yes, we desperately need reviews. That’s the biggest thing readers don’t really know.

We NEED reviews.

Not for ego-gratification, or self-flagellation, but because they allow us to leverage better marketing for our books. Seriously. There are many, many places where we cannot BUY advertising with our own cash money unless we have a certain number of reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. Most of my books do not have even the minimum, so I am BEGGING you. Please consider leaving a review in a public forum.

They don’t have to be essays or even a paragraph. I am not asking you to sing my praises. I just need an honest review on the book itself that says, “I liked/didn’t like this, because XXX”

And that’s one book’s journey to publication in an extremely long and picture-laden nutshell. I think I’ll go have a nap now…

Kidding! Kidding!

I can’t nap…I have 5 more books coming at you in the next year.

Brace yourselves!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mayhem – Off to camp I go!

Ha! Not that kind of camp. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not sleep out of doors.

Nope, I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month in an effort to get the writing mojo flowing. I cranked out over five thousand words this weekend! Woot!

I received a visit from the cover art fairy this week. I can’t share yet, but I can’t wait to show you the cover for PLAY DATES – the first in a new series about single dads coming this fall.

Thanks for all the great messages, Facebook posts and Retweets on the release of A BOLT FROM THE BLUE last week. Check out this awesome review from Wicked Reads and this one from Meags.com!

I received a box of paperback copies last week, and they are GORGEOUS. Who wants one? Comment on this post and I will draw the name of one winner on Friday.

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