Random Randomness From the Land of Random

I’m doing a contest this week, and trying to squeeze as much work as I can into the little one’s week of summer camp, so today you’re just getting a bunch of random thoughts.

About the E L James Twitter Debacle:
This is possibly the least shocking thing to happen on the internet in forever. Individuals in the public eye who cannot take criticism have no business doing these kind of things. Seriously. Everyone is surprised it turned into, as Chuck Wendig put it, “a human garbage fire” and they really shouldn’t be. I recall years ago her being all bullying and angry at people at a writing conference calling her self-published. Clearly no one involved with any of that is paying attention to anyone but her staunch fans. That’s a recipe for trouble.

About the world at Large:
So much YAY and so much WTF all wrapped into one week. But added to my Yay? I love the SCOTUS decision about marriage equality, but I also love that they’ve just decided Arizona can create an independent commission to assign districting. Which means the legislature doesn’t get to choose the voters, instead of the other way around. This is good. Hopefully this is wonderful.

In the WTF column I will remind everyone Facebook lets you unfollow your racist uncle’s posts without actually unfriending him and causing family turmoil. Or, as is your right, take a week to joyously poke the trolls. They deserve it once in a while, and so do you. Just try to keep it civil.

And lastly, from the slush pile, our editors kindly remind everyone to read the submission guidelines carefully and please make every effort to adhere to them. Or we will cut you.

Okay, we’re not allowed sharp objects anymore. The cutting is metaphorical and looks a lot like us unceremoniously dumping you in the Reject file.

Alright, stop back by Thursday where I’ll extol myself to write something relevant here.

Wait for it… Wait for it….

I teased you on Wednesday about our new product. Here’s the last of the fuse to the big pay-off at the end.

Here at Golden Fleece Press, we have a weird sense of humor. The entire basis of the name of our company is an inside joke. (JM may or may not have explained that in one of her posts, but I’m too lazy to go find out if she did.) And while we were laughing about said joke, our friend Mike came up with “By Passion Shorn” as the name of a romance novel featuring sheep.

We laughed.

We thought.

We bought the rights to the domain and set up the imprint website.

By Passion Shorn is our romance/erotica imprint. We’re still sussing out our authors and finding the big launch titles.

“He thought he was strong, but love sheered him bare.” <- My contribution, which I have been informed will not actually be a book about a sheep farmer falling in love with the new person in town. I even designed the cover in my head. But, it’s not my genre, so more savvy marketers have taken the reins. (So. Many. Ranch. Jokes.)

We’ve yoked up several of our wonderful authors and we’ve got a great new project: Romancing the Rainbow!

This series of FREE short stories are interlinked by colors. Our first short is “Red Tides” from Spacey Zimmerman and will show up at the end of July.

Be sure to join us. It’s a rainbow of ridiculous romance. Humor, romance, and a bit of spice, what else could you want?

Hi there, stars!

I was going to post something insightful about the new project that’s gearing up for launch, but I’m saving that for Friday. You’ll just have to come back then. *nods firmly*

Instead, I’m going to gush about how proud I am of our author Briane Pagel. His book has a 4.5 rating on Amazon, which is pretty darned good. The reviews are very good and thought-out. The minor flaws they point out are a bit more of personal preference in my opinion than huge issues. But as I say, they are minor.

But the proud part? That’s how Briane handles responding to his reviewers. His responses are respectful and lightly humorous. I am thrilled! (And we didn’t even discuss that as part of marketing, as far as I remember.)

Personally, I’m of two minds about responding to reviews. If you have the skin and the tact to handle responding to every one (even bad ones) with a thank you or a light comment, go for it. If you don’t have a thick skin and get jumpy about bad reviews, I encourage you to respond to all comments with a simple “thank you” or don’t respond at all. Do not, DO NOT, get into a spitting war with your reviewer. All that does is give the reading public a very bad taste in their mouth.

Readers, I encourage you to leave reviews for books you enjoy. Reviews are love for your favorite authors. They help promote the work. They help in page rankings. Any buzz you can give to authors you like or love is positive.

Writers, I encourage you to only review books you feel positively about. Mea culpa, I have a book I despised and wrote a rather scathing review of it. I haven’t done that since then because I realized that people actually read my blogs and well, I’m not A Nonny Mouse anymore. Writers need to stick together.

Readers & Writers: If you have a criticism of a book, that’s valid as part of an overall review, fine. Do not attack the author. A book can be a piece of tripe, but the author is not. The author is a human who wrote a book you do not like. Please keep that in mind.

Well, that went a little off course. Still, reviews are love. 

Behold, I present unto you a veritable bounty of crazy!

I am the queen of creating unfair expectations for myself. Seriously. For the last five years, at least, my thought process going into Nanowrimo has been “how badly do I need to cripple myself to actually finish?”

If I’m not challenged then I get bored and I peter out and walk away. This isn’t just a thing in writing, and I get it wrong a lot.

Sometimes I get it right.

A couple of years ago I sat down for Camp Nano (and hey, that starts again in a couple of weeks, who’s in?) and I looked at what I wanted to write, and then I looked at the literally ridiculous amount of fanfic I’d written in the roughly thirty days previous. I stared at the numbers for a weekend, and then I set myself an utterly ridiculous goal.

“I can totally do this. I’m going to draft an entire trilogy in a month. It’s only one-hundred and fifty thousand words.”

I’m going to leave that there all bolded for a bit so we can all take a minute to mull over how ridiculous I am sometimes. I know what you’re thinking. “Uh huh. Sure, crazy person. That sounds totally doable.” Yeah. I know. I’m broken. But there’s method to my broken. Just hear me out.

So I sat down in the last week or so before Camp Nano and I made sure all my ducks were in a row. Plot for three books–check. Research–double check. Ridiculously over-thought world building–triple check. I did a breakdown of how much I had to write a day to make my goal–five thousand words a day. I planned out when I should tie up book one and move to book two. I was a little less clear on the tie up for book two and the beginning of book three because I wanted it to sort of flow and that means leaving space.

I sat down on the first day of the month and started. I wrote like the wind. I didn’t question anything, I tried to at least loosely keep to my outline, and I went. Somewhere around late week two I finished book one at around 75k. I was behind schedule bookwise, but not word count. We were good. I started on book two the same night I finished book one. It sucked. I didn’t know what I was doing and the characters were being uncooperative. I kept writing. Somewhere in the middle I lost the plot, or a sizable chunk of it. I finished book two at around 55k the end of week three (like nearly week four). I started book three the day I finished book two.

Now, I would love it if I could say I finished book three that same week and made my goal. I didn’t. I only managed 125k, and five chapters of book three before the end of Camp Nano. I failed. Only, you know, I have a hard time calling that a failure. Seriously. I wrote more than two books in a month. I’m proud of that because I should be.

Because sometimes the stupid tasks I set myself work out.

Sometimes they don’t. That’s not the point. You never learn what you can do if you never push yourself. Kate does this crazy insane thing where you sit down and write an entire book in a weekend. Yeah, I know that shouldn’t really be crazier than writing three books in a month. I tried to write a book in a weekend and I could barely get started. Everybody’s threshold for crazy is different.

There’s something to be said for knowing yours.

One of those books I wrote in a month is out in the world now. The second one is set up to meet the world in November (when I manage to knock it into shape, I never said writing a book that quick made for a good book). It took me an extra four months to actually finish book three, but it’ll make its way into the world sometime next summer. That’s a schedule readers love, but one I’d never have pulled if I hadn’t already drafted all three books.

Never underestimate what you can do. Life’s too short to be bored.

Dirty Words and Missing Tableware

dyslexia

It’s getting to be summer again. The Small One’s last day of school is Thursday. And yeah, it’s a short summer this year and he’s getting old enough he can sometimes fend for himself for a bit.

I’m still looking down the barrel of eight weeks with deadlines (eheh. I said the dirty word) and virtually no work time. And in keeping with last week’s post from me that was all about being a real person, this time you’re getting another list. Hopefully, this one will actually be shorter.

So, here are my top five tips for dealing with a creative life when you’re running out of spoons.

1) It’s okay to fail. 

Obviously, try not to fail on the big things. Electricity and running water are kind of a must. If you’ve got a contract with a deadline try not to fail on that. But your personal blog? Yeah, it’s okay if that falls down once in a while. It’s okay if you skip doing the dishes once or twice. Nobody’s perfect.

2) Be honest.

Professional deadlines suck. I know this. They suck in literally every direction. I don’t hate them any less as the publisher than I do as the writer. Sometimes you’re going to miss them. If you’re going to miss them, tell the person this impacts as quickly as you can. Don’t avoid them. Don’t pretend everything is okay. Don’t make excuses. Be clear and concise and honest. And then staple your ass to the chair and get as close to it as you can.

3) Find the thing that refills your tanks.

Do you like to mainline your favorite TV show? Take a run? Window shop for an afternoon? It’s really important to still give yourself permission to do those things. Feeling creatively bereft doesn’t get better when you start stressing yourself out about how much you suck. At least it never does for me. Give yourself a mental health day. But then put your butt back in the chair.

4) Prioritize. 

Drafting the new project you really want to be doing is important, absolutely. But if you’re on contract for something and up against a deadline they’re not really going to care about all the great words you got in on other things. I think sometimes this is hard to do as an artist. It makes you start to feel like a hack. Swallow it. Better to be a hack who occasionally makes art than an artist who can’t hack it (to borrow shamelessly from Chuck Wendig).

5) Seriously, staple your ass to the chair.

Give yourself a goal. You have no idea what you’re capable of, until someone says they want a full revision in three days. Learn the way you work, and then push yourself. If this isn’t a hobby, if this is a thing you’re serious about then be serious about it. Put your ass in the chair and work. You and everybody you work with deserves for you to be a professional.

Yeah. I was telling myself all that just as much as I was telling you. But hey, maybe we can do it together, right? Drop me a line in the comments and tell me what you’re deadline is. We can commiserate. And come back Thursday and we’ll talk about having stupid expectations of yourself.

Call to Arms – Book Marketing Results

An excellent article for authors to take a peek at. Where should you spend ad dollars?

Nicholas C. Rossis

Following my Call to Arms, a number of you responded by sharing with me your book marketing experience. I now have about a hundred responses by some fifty authors. Although some of the responses were expected, there were quite a few surprises in there for me.

Methodology

For anyone wishing to take a look at the raw data, you can download this Excel spreadsheet. I grouped the results according to whether the book was offered full-price, discounted or free. I also have a fourth category titled Other, that includes any entries where this was not specified.

To compare the various ad media, I came up with a number that represents the ratio between number of sales and cost of advertising. In other word, if you spent $1 and had one sale, then this number would be one. If you spent $1 and had two sales, the number would be two, etc.

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The Perils of Having an Opinion

This is a busy week, and I’m trying to crawl back on the bandwagon of all my responsibilities that kind of fell by the wayside between AwesomeCon and the run up to it. Also, I’m about to embark on one of those topics where I could legitimately write a few thousand words and still probably not be finished with my soapbox. So, you know, fair warning and all that.

I stumbled on a couple of posts this week, about how horrible John Green is because he panders to teenagers in his writing (and I’m going to scuttle away from that particular topic because I’m somewhere between baffled and angry at the entire argument there) and in the midst of that there were a whole lot of posts cropping up in my online life about the horrors of having an opinion. About how every single word that ‘comes out of your mouth’ whether you’re speaking it or typing it on a screen has to be metered and held up against the potential downside of some faceless person out there in the ether taking exception to it and dedicating their life to making your life miserable.

Yeah. My instinctual response to that involves a lot of cursing and some helpful “suggestions” for these would-be bullies, and it’s probably better if I keep that to myself for now.

That’s not to say this sort of mentality isn’t a concern for me. It absolutely is. I do weigh everything I say, in every context, sure. More because I know myself, and I know how bad I am at walking away from arguments, and how just because I don’t take them personally doesn’t mean the other person doesn’t and I need to remember that and decide if thing a is worth the argument.

An anecdote about this, because I feel like sharing. Last year sometime we had a little trouble on my kid’s bus route. Basically the bus has to pull around a circle that’s not technically a cul-de-sac (even the busses that don’t pick kids up there) and this is a place where cars park as overflow and sometimes that makes things a little hard on the bus drivers. I get that. I also get being a bus driver has got to be just a shitty job. I go to great lengths to not be responsible for other people’s children so in general I’ve got nothing but respect for people who sign up for that stuff.

Anyway, on this particular day the bus driver had trouble with the bend, and she stopped to complain about the cars and about how they weren’t suppose to park there (they totally are) and I was the parent standing there and… Long story short–too late, I know–I argued with this woman for like twenty minutes before my brain just stopped and went “Jules, what the hell are you doing?”

I’m bad at walking away from an argument when I feel like I’m right.

So I’m going to give you, dear reader, some unsolicited advice. You’re welcome. Also, in keeping with me getting on my soapbox, there’s a bit of language. You’ve been warned.

It goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) these are my opinions, and they should probably be taken with a grain of salt at best.

1) Never say anything online you wouldn’t say to a person’s face.
Alright, so I get this one is kind of difficult because, well…I have opinions about writers and books that I would never say to their creator’s face because I’d feel horrible but if I’m giving a review and I leave that out I’m lying. So really, I guess, rule one should be “think before you open your mouth and use your discretion if you can.”

2) Every breathing person in the universe deserves to be treated like a person.
Even if they really really don’t. I know, this sucks. Dude-bro is totally a neo-nazi skin-head d-bag and there’s nothing about that you respect. I’m right there with you. But sometimes the way we treat people needs to be about what we deserve, not what they deserve. You don’t have to agree with them. You don’t have to legitimize their neo-nazi viewpoint. They’re still a human being, and you deserve to be the sort of person who finds value in that.

2b) Give other people the space and respect you want for yourself.

2c) Remember you’re allowed to take that space/respect, even if they don’t like it.

3) Take a deep breath and walk away.
So and So you generally like made X comment and now you just want to smack them. How could  they. Don’t they realize how horrible that is?

Well, no. Probably not. We’re all human, and we all have at least one time, if we’re being honest, where we’ve opened our mouths and said something really stupid. If you’re me there are probably more like fifty or sixty of them. And I know I’m counseling patience, but before you get upset with me about how I’m trying to stifle you, just give me a second to explain.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write your giant, long-winded angry response. You should. Absolutely. Give ’em both barrels. You have opinions and as long as you think you can not be a jerk about expressing them then go for it. Heck, even if you can’t, and you’re going to be a jerk, go for it. But before you post it, maybe take a minute to breathe and think and give yourself a second to calm down before you send it. See if when you’re not spitting mad there’s any of that you want to reword.

4) Keep something for yourself.
Being online turns into an echo chamber sometimes and whatever edge of that you’re on, whether your reinforcing the echo or trying to buck it, when it starts to negatively impact your mental health walk away. Seriously. If you email me I’ll write you a certificate. “X has permission to be excused from caring about Y and Z until next month/year/whenever.” If tumblr makes you happy, then stick to the parts that do that and hold your ground. Make people respect that. The same with Instagram or Facebook or…I don’t know. I’m sure there are spaces out there I haven’t even toed onto yet.

5) Fear is a shitty motivator. Don’t use it.
You deserve better than to spend your life being afraid someone’s not going to like you for being you. Do I need to say that again? YOU DESERVE BETTER. I cannot tell you how many writers and artists I know online who tell me the whole reviewer/consumer climate online makes them terrified. They’re going to say something and then they’re going to be ganged up on and it’ll ruin their career.

I get ferocious about this, because it’s people I know and like (sometimes even people I don’t like) who’re allowing themselves to be bullied before they’re even being bullied.

On a personal note, just no. I’ve worked too long and too hard to be who I am to start tailoring that for people because they’ll be jerks. Bring it. You and your street team are going to gang up on me? I wasn’t afraid of that shit in seventh grade, when I was small and shy and still capable of being afraid people wouldn’t like me. I’m a grown ass woman. If you’re gonna bully me you better have your ducks in a row and be prepared for how utterly I don’t care. I’m sorry. I have no fucks to give for people who get their jollies being crappy to other people. I don’t dislike you, I’m not going to ruin you back. Because those things imply that you’re worth my time and energy. You’re not. I wish you all the best in your sad little quest. Have a nice life.

So, dear reader. Here’s what I’m saying. The universe deserves to see you as the brilliant, special person you are. Like the things you like, and be unapologetic about it. Be proud of who you are, and brave enough to acknowledge your rough bits. Wear what you want. Be who you want. Give other people the space to do the same. And if anybody ever tries to bully you for that, you can send them to me.

Okay. I’m putting the soapbox away. Come back on Tuesday and we’ll talk about picking projects when you’re running out of spoons.