Thursday, December 26, 2013

Holiday Plans… 2013

If you've read my blog awhile, you may know I don't celebrate Christmas. (Short version: There's no command in Scripture to celebrate Christ's birth, and the holiday's often treated as a celebration of materialism. I don't have any problem with it being celebrated; I just choose not to, myself.)

That said, I did take Christmas Eve and Christmas off work. Personally, I would've rather worked then and taken some days off next week, but my parents would've pitched a fit, though they don't celebrate Christmas, either. But even with taking those two days off, I got a scolding for "not taking the holiday off," with "holiday" left undefined (despite my inquiry), so I'm thinking this coming year, I'll just schedule whatever days off I prefer, since I'll evidently get a lecture either way.

I'd planned to go finally see Catching Fire Christmas Eve or Christmas, but that plan fell through…because I was in the middle of some things that were just about done. (All* my things are at the new apartment, now! Finally. Everything's a jungle of boxes, but at least I have a little stepstool now and can reach more shelves to put things away.)

*Essentially all. There are a handful of things lingering about my parents' house, but I'll likely get those this weekend.

Granted, part of why the movie plan probably fell through is that I don't care for going to the cinema by myself. If I'm going to see it alone, I might as well wait until it's at RedBox or something. My brother and I may go to the cinema later this week to see The Hobbit part II, but he doesn't want to see Catching Fire until it comes out on Netflix or something.

Note: If you want to join my newsletter, this season's drawing ends 12/31. If you're on the newsletter and in the drawing, great! If not and you want to be, sign up now or you'll have another 3 months to wait. Next Thursday will bring the announcement of who won the drawing.

Writing has felt like pulling teeth, lately, for all the projects I've been trying to get written. (Doesn't help that, in my move, I misplaced/lost my notes for two things that are due to publishers.) Even this post has been written in short spurts, because instead of getting on a roll, I'm getting out a few sentences, then freezing up. I go do something else, open this back up, and add some more.

It'll pass—it always does, because I work at it until it passes—but in the meantime, I'm endeavoring to keep in mind what is getting done instead of what isn't.

In any event, the next several days will be busy-busy-busy…and I just realized my to-do list isn't where I thought it was…but at least it's all doable. Just have to remember not to get overwhelmed. (…And I just found my to-do list, which for some reason was with my set of keys.)

Also on the bright side, I found out why my e-mail was acting up, eating incoming and outgoing e-mails: A system update had added a glitch. I got the patch perhaps a month later. (So if you've sent me e-mail and I've not responded, my apologies. I might not have gotten it, or the glitches ate my response. Please resend.)

So the plans are to wrap up things, redo the lost material to get that sent, and start the new year with as much of the "littles" done as possible. Lord willing, I'll have Katariina and another Misty White short story done, too. I have about 3 hours left on that short story (including edits), but Katariina is looking as if it'll be double the length of the prequel, so there are probably about 8–10 hours left on that.

And then I'm planning to do an extra-long update for AFo??? on Wattpad tomorrow. I know the point I want to reach, at minimum. Just have to get there. And get everything else done. (Two things off my to-do list already, yay!)

On an outside-of-work update, the weather has improved enough over the past week or so that I've started meeting more of my neighbors, which has been pleasant. My health's also improving so I should be able to start exercising in the next few months, because my body's starting to respond properly to exercise. Not quite there yet, but I don't feel ill immediately after exercising, which is a huge improvement.

What are you up to for New Year's?


Thursday, December 19, 2013


The saying "You have to spend money to make money" is true, because "Time is money." To make money, you have to first spend time and/or money, whether you're making that money at a day job, a hobby, or via a website where everything's set up to deliver automatically.

But what a lot of would-be entrepreneurs miss, from what I've seen, is that you have to spend your time and money wisely.

I've been around the self-publishing arena these past few years, and one thing I've consistently seen are unrealistic expectations on how many sales a particular ad campaign should garner. "If only 10% buy my book, it'll be worth it."

Problem with that math is that much advertising gets click-through of 1% or less, and then buy-through might be that 10% of people who clicked the ad.

The prolific award-winning authors Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch have long been saying that the best promotion is a new release. Frankly, I've found that to be true, myself. This week in her series on discoverability, Kris mentioned the acronym WIBBOW?, which she credits to another award-winning author they know, Scott William Carter.

WIBBOW? = Would I Be Better Off Writing?

Non-writers with their own businesses should adjust the question for their own businesses, because you can't sell product you don't have or be paid for work that isn't done. (Okay, technically, you can have a job that pays regardless of whether the work is done, but if you don't get anything done, you'll lose your job.)

So perhaps "Would I Be Better Off Working?" would suit a general audience better.

That's something I consider when I'm opening Netflix or RuneScape or some other entertainment: Would I Be Better Off Working?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes it's something I can do as a break (or while) working. For example, I can listen to old Numb3rs episodes while reading over something, to help me focus. (I have to vary up my concentration aids; otherwise, I get immune to them.)

That's something I have to evaluate, because time spent playing an online game is time I'm not writing or working (usually). Anybody who has a business has to evaluate that.

But a business owner also has to consider leisure time, time with friends, time to relax. Yes, it can take working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week to build a business, but if that's the kind of business you're building… You're doing a number on your health. Some of us focus on businesses with more moderate build-up, like my self-publishing, which is still going slow, but I'm working at it.

Could I have a lot more stories out, if I worked myself to the point of not having any leisure time? Yes. But I'd rather be healthy (or as healthy as I can be). I'd rather be able to take a friend to the airport this morning, so she can spend Christmas with family.

Money isn't everything. You don't want to ignore money—because you have to eat—but you don't want to focus on money to the point that you forget to look at the big picture.

As I said, "Would I Be Better Off Working or Writing?" sometimes gets the answer, "No."

What do you think of the balance between leisure and work?


Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Danger of Self-Awareness

If you don't know that you have a problem—like ADD or dyslexia—it's difficult to figure out the coping mechanisms necessary to mitigate the condition. Self-awareness helps with all sorts of things, from noticing sensitivities that you're developing to realizing that you're about to snap at someone else because you're crabby and blowing things out of proportion.

But like everything else, there's potential danger in practicing self-awareness: it easily leads to pride and assumptions that you actually do know yourself when you only know part of yourself, and that imperfectly.

Jeremiah 17:9 makes that clear. ("The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?" [ASV])

Other people have told me I seem more self-aware than most, but that's not necessarily a good thing. The self-awareness helps a ton in figuring out "Okay, is this a take-caffeine headache, a take-allspice headache, or a get-off-the-computer headache?"

The moment you believe yourself entirely self-aware, you lose your ability to be self-aware at all.

If you already know the entire reason you did something, then you won't be open to realizing or noticing that there are other reasons, or that your reasons have changed over time. If you already know a certain pain is normal, you won't be watching for things that stop it.

For example, a bone-deep ache in the right hip means I'm dehydrated. I've had that since I was 12 or younger, and I was 19 before I figured out what it was. Adults scoffed when I complained about it, insisting I was too young for such aches. (Which was maddening when I was trying to figure out the cause.)

But I was so used to the pain that I didn't even realize it left…until months later, when I didn't have sufficient water for a few days, and my hip started to ache. I tested it a time or two, and now a twinge in my right hip serves as a reminder to get some fluids. But I have to be paying attention to notice when that happens.

Such self-awareness easily lends itself to pride.

And that's the real danger in it.

What do you think of self-awareness and its limitations?


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Oh, THAT'S What Day It Is…

Between working from home in my new apartment and some side effects of accidental stevia exposure (toothpaste, I hate you), I feel as if I'm not firing on all four cylinders, today.

…And my cat's figured out how to open the cabinets and is prying them open on purpose. I might have to get child-safety locks for the cabinets to keep my cat from them.

Anyway, that's something that a lot of people don't necessarily think of when thinking of (or planning to) work from home: How to keep track of what day it is. Even if you set up the most thorough reminder system ever, you'll still sometimes forget. Particularly if you have an irregular sleep schedule.

What do y'all use for reminders of what day it is?


Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm Thankful For… (2013 edition)

I likely won't be posting next week (which is American Thanksgiving—I'll be out of town at the Biltmore Estate with relatives, and I'll be settling in to my new apartment). Thanksgiving is a time of being thankful for what you have—though I try to give thanks to God all the time—and here are some things I'm thankful for:

  • You.
  • You readers have been quite encouraging to me—even if you just read it. (I can see the stats.) And then there's those of you who comment, discuss, ask questions… When I'm feeling down, as if nobody's cares about what I have to say, I can look at the stats, at your comments and remember that you find me interesting enough to read, and some of you find me interesting enough to read, comment, and follow me to other sites and comment there, too. Thank you.

  • The Internet.
  • Giving me a community to explore separate from my in-person one, the latter of which can feel lonely. That makes me sound pathetic, but you probably remember that I have a hormonal disorder. It's a ton easier to yank myself out of a mood swing when I can just hop somewhere else for a while.

  • Self-Publishing.
  • I've made no secret of the fact that my sales are low, but the very possibilities in self-publishing has helped me get off my butt and finish things. And it gives me a reason to do things like cover design and formatting, which are both relaxing—something I wouldn't have known without reason to play with them.

  • Wattpad.
  • Wattpad as a platform has been quite encouraging for me—and as a bonus for y'all, it's let me put First Draft Fridays in place, to force me to write, even when I don't feel like it, which can help me get out of the "don't feel like it" funk. I even got a nice e-mail last Friday, that I'm one of the most followed people over there, which is mind boggling. I'm still looking up that e-mail every so often to make sure I didn't imagine it.

  • My friends.
  • In person, online—I'm not distinguishing, here. We're all comfortable enough with each other and ourselves that we're even honest when asked, "What do you think of this?" We'll kindly point out when we're getting stuck in negative funks, or when we're being irrational, or when… You know, all those nice things that need pointing out for someone to improve as a person, rather than feeding each other what we want to hear. (Okay, there's a bit of that what-you-wanna-hear thing, too, but we're honest about it. I admittedly will sometimes use it as a lead-in for some satire, but my friends don't seem to mind—particularly because I stop when asked.)

  • God.
  • I'm Christian, as you likely know, and I do believe God speaks. Over the past few months, I've asked for some specific signs to reassure me, and every single one has happened. I have to do the math to know the statistic probability of 5 specific things happening spontaneously as prayed for, on the very day requested, is extremely small.

  • Life.
  • I've had several would-be-dead-but-for-the-grace-of-God events in my life. I'm actually glad for them, because they're reminders that 1. I have no idea when I'm going to die, 2. God wants me to be alive for now, and 3. Life's to be utilized*, not squandered. (*I'm using utilized in the formal sense, not the colloquial abuse that makes it synonymous with use.)

I could keep going, which is good. It's good to remind yourself of the good things in life, especially when bad things are happening—because you can't control what happens. You can only control your response and what you stew on.

It's healthier to focus on good things than bad—and you can choose to focus on those things.

If you do that, some people will think you (and possibly call you) naïve, due for a rude awakening. But those people aren't going to be happy no matter what you do. That's on them, not you.

What are you thankful for? Have any plans for Thanksgiving?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Kickstarter Almost Over—and some stuff going on

The Kickstarter for A Fistful of Water ends tomorrow! Last chance to get the series at a discount before the holidays—if the project funds.

(Well, except for the e-books of the first two books, which are irregularly priced at various vendors, thanks to some quirks in self-publishing that aren't my fault. It's really weird at Kobo, where my side of everything says they cost $6.99, but when I look them up in the Kobo store, the book pages say $4.99—which is probably why Amazon has A Fistful of Earth at that price, right now. *shrug*)

And I'll probably start posting the first draft of Chronicles of Marsdenfel #4 over on Wattpad. I'm not sure about the opening bit, but that only means I can't be sure if it works or not. So those of you interested in reading a first draft can tell me. ^_^

I still haven't entirely decided what to call that. I was going to call it the name Pneumarian suggested, then recently realized I might actually need a book #5 in the series (*gulp*), which might do better with that title.

So to make things less confusing in case I do juggle titles, I'll probably start it off as A Fistful of ???—AFo4, for short—and see where we go from there.

I also haven't forgotten my plan (mentioned in my newsletter) to report on Holly Lisle's How to Revise Your Novel course, as applied to AFoW. I've just been…busy, then sick, then… Well, still sick. I feel as if I'm getting better, but it's slow. I have so many food sensitivities at the moment that I can't even drink chicken broth. (No garlic, onion, or carrot for me.) I can't put olive oil in my ears, either. :-(

(Oil in the ears is soothing when they hurt, and when there's neem in that olive oil, it's a nice antibiotic. Unfortunately, I'm also sensitive to trees at the moment, and guess where neem comes from… *facepalm*)

But that "sick" thing is why I'm so far behind on NaNoWriMo. I may catch up. I want to catch up. Not sure if I'll be able to, but I plan to try.

I think I'll take another nap first, though.

How are y'all?


Thursday, November 7, 2013

On Changed Plans and Things That Trigger Them

I meant to apply my marketing class to the Kickstarter, but when I thought more about it, I realized I've already messed it up. Oh, well. There's always the next one.

I intentionally attempted to help fans by making my Kickstarter a way to get the Aleyi series for less with the pre-sale…and nibbles have been…pretty much non-existent. (Note to self: Holiday season crowdfund projects need a longer deadline, not a shorter one—and they probably aren't going to work until I have a larger fanbase.)

That's okay. I don't mind failing like that (and frankly, it might still succeed). If it doesn't, that's fine. It's not as if I'll be having to buy a cover for A Fistful of Water—although I'll probably revisit the filtering I do to the photo. I can't quite figure out how to get the effect I'm wanting.

And CreateSpace just made their "Expanded Distribution" free.

What does that mean?

"Expanded Distribution" (ED) refers to additional sales venues to which CreateSpace can make a self-publishing author's book available—including the CreateSpace Direct program, which lets bookstores and such buy your book at a wholesale price. ED used to cost $25…and any books sold through those vendors pays the author a lot less than the other sales venues.

Some self-publishing authors have avoided it due to the cost, and they're jumping on it now. Some have put their books in it as they could afford it and are snatching up the new free ED for new releases and for any old ones that didn't have it yet.

But some authors don't see ED as worth their while, either because of the pay cut or because of where they have to price their books to be able to put it in ED. These folks are generally fretting over keeping print prices "competitive"…compared to mass market paperbacks. (Note that CreateSpace produces trade paperback size books, not mass market paperback size. The mass market paperback size doesn't work with print on demand publishing; that size requires offset printing runs to be economical.)

Personally, I'm putting every book I can in ED. That's me. I don't know how many CreateSpace users are going to do that.

In other news, you might have noticed the widget on the right, where I'm doing NaNoWriMo. I've updated my "FIRST DRAFT PROGRESS" section in the sidebar there to show the things I hope to finish this month. So far, I've finally finished drafting the sequel to "Thrice Uncharmed", and I've discovered that the sequel to "The Nymph and the Goblin" is going to be longer than I originally thought it would be.

After I finish that, plan is to jump into my "How to Focus" guide and my book on writing essays efficiently. I suspect the sequels to the above sequels might weasel their way into that list, though.

In any event, December and probably January will be major revision months for me, so I can get those things to you. Maybe I can finish some of those short stories on the back burner as a break. Hmm. I'll still have First Draft Fridays to do, so… we'll see what happens. Especially since I'm moving in a few weeks.

But Lord willing, the next few months will be nice for fans who want more reading material by me. ^_^

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo? What are y'all up to, this month?


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Chronicles of Marsdenfel Book 3: A Fistful of Water (and Other News)

A Fistful of Water is done!

Well, drafted. Now I'm putting it through Holly Lisle's "How to Revise Your Novel" class—or, at least, I will be, soon. I seem to be running short on hours in a day, lately.

For those of you who have followed me for a while, you're probably unsurprised that I'm now running a Kickstarter for A Fistful of Water.

But before you click away, this one's a bit different than my others.

First, this Kickstarter is intentionally designed to let you pick up the next book (or even the entire series) at a discount.

Second, this Kickstarter includes opportunity to get a collection of all Aleyi short stories—including the no-longer-available "Butterfly Boots" and one as-yet unreleased one—which will only be available through this Kickstarter.

For you readers of my blog, any donation amount will get you the e-book of the limited-edition story collection. Just comment here with your Kickstarter username or PM me there with your commenter name, so I can know who you are.

And I do mean "any". Minimum donation amount on Kickstarter is $1.

Of course, there's always the possibility that it won't fund, but one reason I am low on hours in the day, right now, is that I'm seeking to apply a marketing class I'm in to Kickstarter. Which means—

Well, I'll let it be a surprise. But I think you'll find it amusing. :-)

Now, for other news: My First Draft Fridays over on Wattpad is on hiatus for this week at the very least. Possibly for a bit longer, but it will be returning.

Non-Writing News: I made brine pickles. I dislike them, but I'm not sure if that's a matter of how I flavored them or that I just don't like brine pickles. Considering they were a bit salty and I don't care for saltiness, I'm assuming I don't care for brine pickles and will be attempting vinegar ones, next time.

Writing News: I'm also doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Well, sort of. I'm falling under the "Rebel" classification, this year, where I'm focusing on writing 50k words rather than writing a single novel draft. (The "Rebel" classification is allowable under the formal rules of NaNoWriMo, despite the name being short for "National Novel Writing Month". Speaking of the official name, that missing hyphen bothers me.)

I've designated November as a "Month of Finishing Things". So the sequels to Thrice Uncharmed and The Nymph and the Goblin, my "How to Focus" guide promised to those on my e-mail list for my study guides (sign up here), and my book on how to write essays efficiently that people have been nagging me to finish for years.

I expect that to be about 8k–10k words of fiction, plus 45k or more words of non-fiction. If I'm wrong about how long the non-fiction books will be, I have some short stories that can be added to the "to finish" list.

Have you reached a "finishing" step on any projects, lately? How are your projects coming along? Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Risk and Optimism

People call freelancing risky. I've tried the day job thing, and I was laid off from three day jobs in as many years, so my experience is that it's not. Freelancing income is intermittent, yes, and it can get difficult to pay for things when illness keeps you from working, but I can adjust my schedule to work when it suits me. I love that.

Does that mean I like when clients promise me work, then don't deliver? Not usually.

Does that mean I like when clients flake and don't pay what they owe? No. (But in my years freelancing, I've only had two clients flake completely.)

Does that mean I don't think it's risky, or that I think it impossible to crash and burn and destroy your credit by it? Or that I will never take another day job again?

No. I probably will have to take a day job again, sometime, possibly even soon. I seem to have a fear of success, so I'm even more likely to fail than someone who doesn't have that problem, because there's the likelihood of self-sabotage.

I'm aware of some reasons behind that fear of success. I suspect they'll spawn a story or thirty someday.

Any job venture is a risk. Life is risk. And there's no shame in failing something you try (assuming you didn't cause your own failure by unwise behavior).

I know that, I believe it…and I'm as pain-averse as the next person. Short-term pain for long-term goals—that's something I'm staring in the eye, right now, and my natural inclination is to avoid taking the risk.

Hey, I'm a natural pessimist. I see all the risks involved even in a conversation. (Which is part of why I often don't do well in arguments or debates. The other person wants a quick, direct answer. I usually can't give one, because I'm analyzing everything.)

I have to be careful when thinking through an upcoming conversation or situation, because I'll end up anticipating the worst-case scenario if I don't intentionally remember, This is a worst-case scenario. More than once, I've caught myself starting to panic about something that's merely a possibility—and an unlikely one, at that.

Awkward, much. But at least I don't (usually) inflict it on others. When it's probable enough that others might be affected, I'll warn them of the worst-case possibility, and I'll do what I can in advance to mitigate its effects.

So for this choice I'm considering, I see the possible outcomes, one of which would be horrible—but…even that worst-case scenario wouldn't kill me. Things might get incredibly depressing and difficult for a while. The short-term pain and everything involved in my attempt to reach those long-term goals could end in failure.

I do mean everything. It's possible for me to lose my intellectual property, y'all, which means it's possible for me to lose Aleyi and all those other worlds you've enjoyed reading. (To be honest, that's what gives me the most pause.) It would take some time to get to that point, but it's possible.

But I wouldn't be dead. Even in that situation, I could start again, the wiser for my failure, or change my goals.

Some people, significant in my life, believe I will fail. I very well could, and that has me hesitating, but…

I've faced other such choices in my life, and whenever I've picked the easier route, I've regretted it. When I've picked the harder route, I have never regretted it.

If I choose to not act, I believe I will regret it.

And it very well could end up paying off far better than I even dare to hope. In fact, if I look at others like me, with similar or comparable health issues, my goals are too modest.

You know what? I'm going to double the goal that will prevent that worst-case scenario, starting now.

(Pardon me a moment while I dig out some yarn and graph paper. I'm going to crochet that goal into a trivet—black with white text, I think, with that cotton yarn I keep meaning to use. I'm going to hang it on the wall behind my computer until I hit that goal. Then I'll use it as a trivet.)

I choose to be optimistic, which leads people to assume I don't even notice the negatives, much less think through them.

(Where is my graph paper? I must've not used it for longer than I realize.)

And if I happen to tell them I do think through the negatives—it is rare that anybody suggests a negative that hasn't already ocurred to me—they're either startled or disbelieving.

(Argh. I'll just mock it up on lined paper.)

But there's a reason my writing tends to have so much dark/negative in it—that's what I naturally think of. It's difficult for me to be optimistic. But I choose it, because it's better for me and those around me. I've been called naïve for pointing out that things—relationships, life—don't have to be [certain negative way].

(Hmm… This would be easier on a spreadsheet.)

Positivity is healthier than negativity. It's even safer, letting me seem unafraid in situations where perceptible fear could get me hurt. Such as when dealing with ticked-off animals.

(Ooo, I think I like that even more than graph paper.)

As for the current choice I'm staring in the eye, there's one major factor that I've not mentioned so far.

(Yes, that looks nice. Pattern's ready to use.)

God's given me peace about it. Even when certain things related to this choice looked impossible, God replaced my panic and worry with peace. There was no logical reason for me to be at peace, a month ago when I was looking at what I wanted to do and saw it as impossible—or, at best, as statistically unlikely. But I took the first steps anyway.

And right when I was wondering, "Um, now how do I do this next one?" a door opened to that next one, in a perfectly unlikely series of events.

So now I'm staring at the next factor in this decision. I still don't see how it'll work out…but every single concern has unexpectedly panned out and been addressed so far. And there are several possibilities in the air that could cause that concern to work.

Taking the step will be risky. It will require optimism. It'll also require trust that I'm interpreting God's messages properly…but I have so many signs pointing to this being what I should do. I claim to believe in God's Providence, so shouldn't I act like it?

But I'm not you. Maybe you're risk-averse to the point that you think I'm crazy. Maybe you're optimistic to the point that you don't understand what it's like to spot a truck with a pole strapped to the roof and to automatically consider how to move your car so you'll be unlikely to get impaled if the pole comes off. (I actually do that.)

That's okay. You're welcome to your optimism or pessimism or risk-aversion or risk-taking. Do it intelligently—don't, say, optimistically think that a wild animal can't bite you—but go ahead. Even the church is made of all types, like the missionaries who go to countries where Christians are persecuted.

Are you naturally more risk-averse or risk-willing? Are you naturally more optimistic or pessimistic? Do you decide to act differently than those natural inclinations? Why?


Thursday, October 17, 2013

On Natural Responses and the Trouble They Can Get You in

I'm a bit of a literalist. I have trouble figuring out when what someone says isn't what they mean. Oh, I can follow jokes and idioms and all—if I realize they're figurative. I don't always do so. I also find it amusing to take things literally that are obviously not intended to be.

And when I'm confused, I naturally try to figure out where the disconnect is—but the problem there is that, I apparently sound snappish when I do so. So people hear me as snide, when I'm actually bewildered and trying to figure out what's going on.

People who know me (should) know these things about me. They're downright obvious. But somehow, some people—ones who have known me for years—assume that I can follow when they're joking or when they don't want to get the point of what I'm saying (even when I'm not the only one who can't tell the difference). And call me rude and picking a fight when I react accordingly. (Even other people who respond like me are later discussed along the lines of "What's X's problem?")

At church last night, one guy, grinning, was good-naturedly attempting to give me a hard time. I didn't even realize it until he said outright, ("Here I am, trying to give you a hard time, and it's not working.") Which ultimately led to an interesting comment from him that means people who don't even know me well are noticing, er, certain stressors that are likely contributing to my poor health at the moment.

It can be quite interesting to hear opinionated people who often give others a hard time complain when others give them tastes of their own medicine. (Then there are the times they assume "People should just know!" something. I ask how, and the answer is, "Common sense!", when that's obviously not the case, else others wouldn't be doing the thing being complained about, like allergy-free people eating all the special allergen-free cookies that were made specifically for some members of the congregation who usually cannot eat anything else.)

My natural response to a disconnect is to attempt to figure out where another person is coming from, but that gets problematic when the other person does not have a similar desire or care to understand me. I'm attempting to bite my tongue, but it's difficult, especially because I usually don't even realize what's going on, at first.

Example: I recently got accused of being selfish and was told (in order to not be selfish) to do something I had already done. (I had even offered more than what the accuser said I should've done, and my offer had been refused.) And all the further examples conveniently forgot that, um, the accuser had been offered a portion in those "selfish" times and refused. (And the accuser had completely forgotten the freaking health reasons behind what I was doing, because my diet is extremely limited, right now, and not doing what I'm doing is making me sick, much of the time.)

But the accusations only got so downright ridiculous (without the accuser realizing it) after I attempted to point out an error in the reasoning. (And that initial accusation started because something I said was interpreted to say something…other than what I said—and I only spoke up to begin with because I was asked after I gave a slight [unintentional] sigh.)

(There are multiple accusers involved in this. We're all stressed, if not downright ill, but I'm a convenient scapegoat for all of them—and I know it's not just me being hypersensitive, because even friends of the accusers are commenting.)

If I'd controlled my natural reaction to begin with and bit my tongue, it wouldn't have gotten nearly so stressful and infuriating. (I know from experience that going the "That's not what I said" route would've been worse. As it is, I have to be careful which questions I answer in conversations with them, because a good part of the time, they won't even remember that the question was asked and scoff at me.)

So at least part of the stress right now is technically my own fault. In some ways, it's actually helping to remember that, because it helps me restrain my natural responses.

But in other ways, it's not helping, because I still get scolded for doing things I'm not doing, or for not doing things I am doing. Or called "lazy" for not doing something that selfsame person had, months earlier, told me not to do. The saying "Damned if you don't; damned if you do" applies.

It isn't helped by them mistakenly thinking they're fantastic at reading me. For example, I get called crabby (always by someone who is themselves crabby). I give them a look of "You think?", which they insist is me disbelieving that I'm crabby.

Oddly enough, other people—even ones who don't know me well—read my expressions just fine.

And I'm kinda stuck here, at the moment. (Long story, which involves mixed signals, theology, and attempts on my part to respect those involved.) God's given me a strong sign that I'm going to get out of it soon, but I don't see how yet. (Short version: too many medical bills…)

In any event, this is why I said nothing, last week, and why my posts have in general been very…news-focused, lately, rather than containing much meat to them. Because it's difficult to not go off on rants. Which would be uncouth/disrespectful, as well as blow things out of proportion. (Even as stressed as I am, I can tell some of the things bothering me wouldn't be a big deal at all if not for all the other things behind them.)

I'm pretty sure this post itself crosses some TMI lines, but I'm doing so for a point, and I'm trying to be polite and respectful about it. You've probably been able to guess who these people I'm speaking of are, to me, and one of the Ten Commandments does apply.

When someone else reacts badly, to what extent is it your responsibility, and to what extent is it theirs? At what point is it appropriate to say, "I've done all I can"?

And at what point does "emotional abuse" start, anyway? I mean, sure, if you look at a list of signs of emotional abuse, almost every point can be checked off, and other people have been commenting obliquely on it for years, but surely that's me blowing things out of proportion.

(That last one was sarcasm, by the way. When I'm tired, stressed, and frustrated, I can get caustic. I also cry, which is annoying. Typing this up has resulted in a headache and the use of several tissues.)

I don't say all this to complain. But this is what's going on with me, right now. (Some of it, at least.) And I thought it brought up a case in point for an interesting discussion:

What do you think of the line in Romans 12:18 between personal responsibility to "be at peace with all men" and the caveat "as much as in you lieth"? Or about the line between honoring your parents and how Romans 12:18 applies to psychologically abusive situations? Does emotional abuse even exist?


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nothing to Say, Today.

Between computer issues, adrenal fatigue, headaches, and some other things making me tired and cranky, I can't think of anything to talk about, today, so I'll just link to Kris Rusch's latest post on the Business Rusch, recommend her "How to Negotiate Anything", and bow out.

Hope y'all are well.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

This Is Why Many Pro Authors Don't Re-Read Their Work (plus some news)

The audio edition of A Fistful of Fire is in progress. I'm hearing every awkward sentence, every this-would've-been-clearer-with-a-transition spot. I'm noticing anew all the "problem" areas—some of which were done on purpose to fit the overall story and narrator.

I suspect I'll be one of those authors like Kathy Tyers, who has gone back and revised some of her early novels. Now, she waited a decade before doing so, and one of the reasons she revised was to strengthen the Christian themes. (Original publisher was mainstream; second publisher was Christian.) But still—she's one clear example of someone who has two editions published for more than one book. (I own, er, all the originals, some signed. I used to have all the revisions, too, but I gave one away and haven't yet replaced it.)

I'll probably wait at least a few more years before I attempt such a revision myself, though. (One thing I do want to do is a third person, past tense edition of the series. I started the conversion for fun, and it's interesting how it changes the entire feel.) Even if I do that, though, I'll leave the earlier editions available in some fashion, for those readers who prefer the original over whatever I change. (S.J. Maas? If you read this, when you get your rights back to Queen of Glass, please release an edition of the original that was taken from FictionPress. I know the plot wasn't as tight and there were problems with it, but I actually liked it better.)

So while my fingers are twitching and my inner editor is wailing, "That's wrong!", I'm firmly reminding myself that it's exactly what I wanted it to be. (Well, except for the handful of typos we've found.) And for my first released novel to be precisely what I wanted it to be—that's something that wouldn't have been possible, if not for God's blessing on my writing and friends who critiqued it, and if not for self-publishing getting viable before I finished it, because there are reasons to avoid doing what I did. Good reasons.

And that was part of why I did those things to begin with. I wanted a story with a fairly passive narrator, for instance.

But that doesn't stop me from cringing when I read those things, now, because they aren't what I "should" have done. Or they could've been done better. Or differently, which can seem "better" when you're just looking at what's on the page.

Ah, the joys of being an ever-learning writer. ^_^

I've been working on that Realities of Self-Editing e-book, and I'm torn between the urge to expand it, making each section clearer and more applicable to both fiction and non-fiction, and the urge to just focus on clarity fixes and not worry about the rest. I'm trying to do the former, but I'm almost always tired, these days, and I keep catching myself doing the latter.

(I have an appointment for later this morning with a practicioner of integrative medicine who should at least be able to identify what's causing my myriad of health issues. [She's helped at least two people I know, and she's currently helping my mother.] The list of what could be causing my symptoms is as long as my arm, and there's probably more than one factor involved, but I'm not sick enough for conventional medicine to do anything but start me on the cover-the-symptom funnel of medication. I've started one, which is helping one thing and possibly another, but it seems to be making something else worse, so I'm…hoping I can find an alternative.)

On the bright side, God's been blessing me with a clear mind, regardless of how my body's feeling—and I know from prior experience with some of these symptoms that this should not be the case—so that's good. (Never fear, clients and fans: You're still getting my full quality work. I'm just not working for as long in a day because I'm sleeping more.)

But I'm still getting a nice amount done. My e-mail sign-up form for my fiction releases is all nice and pretty and set up…and still not embeddable due to something in the auto-setup that I've not yet figured out how to hack. (The embedded form is too narrow and cuts off text. So I'm working on that.)

In the meantime, my testing has shown it to work perfectly fine, and I've set it up so you can sign up for updates on everything or on specific names/genres. First e-mail is almost ready to go out. (And I'm probably going to send it out before I feel as if it's "ready", because I probably won't ever feel "ready", since I've never actually run an e-mail list before. Though I've known for years that I should.)

Finding that balance between too much caution and too little of it—it's far easier said than done.

Do you like it or dislike it when an author revises an old work? What do you think of revising your own already-released work?


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Happy Autumn, All

Yay, it's officially autumn! That means the day is (usually) comfortable for me, temperature-wise, the pollen count usually isn't high at all…and my mother's miserable from her tree allergies and cold intolerance. (And when I say my mother's cold intolerant, she's cold intolerant. In pain and shivering in seventy-degree weather, even with socks, pants, sweater, and a blanket.)

One of these days, I'm going to get the pertinent allergy treatment from BioAllers for her, if I only thought she would take it… (But I've gotten her taking HistaBlock now, which helps. Success with the herbal remedies!)

So, now that most people who are doing school are in school, what am I up to, this autumn? I mean, other than work and whatever medical stuff that gets tossed my way?

  • Finishing A Fistful of Water.
  • The end is nigh, I can tell, but I'm still waiting to hit that little rush of words that tends to hit me at the very end. Not exactly looking forward to the revision stage—it's missing pieces, and some aren't quite right, but which pieces? Where? Ergh. Well, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

  • Finishing Twice Bold.
  • This is the sequel to Thrice Uncharmed. I've been intending to finish it for months, but it's like pulling taffy. Drafting the climax now, though, so Lord willing I'll have the entire first draft done by the end of the week.

  • Finishing the sequel to The Nymph and the Goblin.
  • It's proving to be a slaughtering of "Cinderella". It's actually kinda disturbing, and I don't know yet if it'll end well or badly.

  • Finishing a fanfic based on Hugh Howey's world of Wool.
  • I have to read the rest of the series, first, but Hugh Howey's Wool is part of the Kindle Worlds program, which is pretty much a system that lets derivative works be authorized for specific intellectual properties. Plan is to release that under the same name as Thrice Uncharmed.

  • Finishing Realities of Self-Editing, the book.
  • I've been sitting on that project, mostly done, for long enough that I'd forgotten about it. I remembered recently and have been dusting it off and resuming its cleanup.

  • Keep the About That Herb blog going, one post every other Monday.
  • Write the "How to Focus" guide promised to my one e-mail list.
  • Set up e-mail lists for my fiction, ideally giving folks the option to subscribe to all of it, to specific pennames, or specific story worlds.
  • Finish writing a planned project that students I know have been asking me for, for some years, now.

That sounds like a lot, but I expect it to be something like 100k words—which isn't really all that bad, over 3 months. It's very doable.

Now, to just break it down into pieces and do it, because I ideally also want to get well into drafting the sequel to Know Thy Frienemy by winter, maybe finish some of the half-done short stories sitting around.

Speaking of which, yesterday I found a nice new cross-platform timer (hush! I only have four…not including the physical ones). It has its flaws, like all do, but it's built on the Promodoro technique and lets you make a to-do list, estimate how many 25-minute increments it'll take to complete, then tracks how many it takes. I've not yet figured out how to handle when things get done mid-time increment, though—so far, I've only managed to reset things. So I'll be playing with it further today and seeing if I'm just tackling it wrong or if it doesn't have that functionality.

What are y'all up to, this autumn? Any writing goals?


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Information and How We Learn

I've mentioned, mostly in passing, that along with my freelance writing and editing and fantasy work, I tutor and write memorization guides.

The tutoring was kind of an accident. I was the kid who did well enough in school that friends asked me for help…and when others spotted that I was helping a friend, they'd open their own books and join in. A few schools I went to required students to tutor each other, and a few times, I even ended up teaching classes. Several students I helped regularly had various learning disabilities.

I also was one of those Bible verse memorizers in the Awana program. I was fast enough that the church I did it through refused to let me advance to the next level and kept finding me extra things to memorize, instead, and I ended up helping others in the group.

Add in that many of my family and friends have ADD, ADHD, and/or other learning disabilities…and I kinda started off helping the disadvantaged rather than the "normal" people.

So I have no formal education degree or any such thing. What I know, I learned from experience and practice.

But something I've noticed is that most people can learn better or more than they think they can. Either they don't know how they learn, or they fail to take advantage of their learning style. Sometimes they might even think their learning style can't apply to a particular situation.

Now, I realize that there's some debate about if learning styles even exist, but in my experience, they do. However, it is possible to train yourself to use a different learning style than your natural primary (unless you have some disability that keeps you from using a method). Due to that ability to retrain yourself, I believe learning styles are often more indicative of how we're used to processing information rather than how we must process information.

For example, I'm a visual learner from monochromatic typed words. I don't think that it's a coincidence that I also read a good 100 books per year, when I've kept track. I've therefore read a few thousand books—and I watch very few movies or TV shows, so my primary method of picking up information is from typed words. I rarely listen to things or look at pictures, so of course I'm not going to be the greatest with them…but I can memorize things I see in pictures, in color, or hear. It just takes a bit more effort—and the more I practice it, the easier it gets.

So, though you probably have a primary learning style, as well as a method that does you little good, your style can change over time.

This brings me to my tutoring. I was a good student, and I was efficient with my schoolwork. (Kinda had to be—but that's another story altogether. Short version: High school turned out to have more homework than college did.) When friends or people I chat with lament about having to do some type of homework, I often find myself giving tips…and then those people who I see again report that their grades improved. And tell me I need to write the darn tips down to share.

So the current memorization guides are my start to that. They just break down Jude and Psalms 1–6 into chunks that include review so a person can memorize them in a timely manner, including two articles that help the reader apply them properly. I want to do more, and to add further articles on things like "Memorization for the Visual Learner".

But it also occurs to me that, well, you might be interested or might have specific articles or memorization guides you'd like to see. So…

Do you have specific articles on learning or certain memorization guides you'd like? What do you think of learning styles? What do you think your primary learning style is?


P.S. Pollen count's lower, so I'm feeling a ton better. ^_^

E-mail lists require an address on the e-mails, so I've avoided running them. However, I just got a P.O. Box—which can legally be used instead—and am therefore getting started with e-mail lists!

The below list is for memorization guides.

I do plan to set up other ones, but I'm getting started one at a time, here, so I don't overbook myself. If the memorization guides interest you, feel free to sign up—but if they don't, don't. You can make suggestions without signing up. ^_^

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

When Your Body Betrays You

I had four migraines last week. I'm still having dizzy spells.

This is despite the feverfew and sunglasses and excessive use of antihistamine. I even have a very good idea what's been causing the migraines, since I also have had severe sinus pressure and the pollen count's on the high end. (Though not actually high, which has me realizing that 10-months-of-grass-pollen South Carolina likely isn't the best place for me to live. But that's another issue.)

On the bright side, a few other (unexpected but problematic) health things are now under control or stopped altogether by a single (fortunately inexpensive) medication. So that's nice.

The health stuff is a pain, literally and figuratively. It interferes with my life, giving me less time to get anything done, and I actually dropped and broke something on Saturday. I was probably slept a good % of my work hours, last week.

Time management. This is why I like timers, to catch me when I'm distracted.

But even then, I feel as if my to-do list is growing faster than I can get it done. It's temporary, I know, and everything will get done (just maybe not as quickly as I like), and it's doable, but I'm praying to God that I can be unusually efficient, today. Because it'll make my life a lot easier if I can tune out the raw throat and ears and occasional wobble of the room.

Again, doable, but I'm getting so frustrated about it that I'm having trouble doing it.

But the problems aren't even serious, really. Just a bunch of little things that affect my life and that I have to cope with.

And they can be coped with or treated. It's just a matter of figuring out that treatment. Pau d'arco, for example, is helping with the remaining allergies. (Just realized that I forgot to put some lemon juice in the last batch. I'll have to fix that.)

That puts me at an advantage over many people, and many writers have health problems that make it difficult to have other work. Poor Holly Lisle has essentially untreatable virtigo and migraines. Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her husband, Dean Wesley Smith, have health issues of their own.

In a sense, the nature of writing and other creative industries can suit those of us with unsteady health. It gives us the ability to flex with the bad days, while also giving us material and incentive to take advantage of on the good days.

But the thing about bad days…they really make you appreciate the good ones more. I suspect that Scripture writer Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (II Cor 12:7–9) is much of why he accomplished so much.

And to look at me, you often wouldn't even think me sick at all. Likely a mite strange, if you caught me at a time when I was wearing sunglasses indoors, but I look healthy. Enviably so, with how little I am (in bone, height, and weight). A good friend of mine has neurofibromitosis (NF), a condition that means a bunch of benign tumors are growing throughout her body. Another good friend knows her, knows she has NF, knows what NF is…and actually didn't realize that meant she had those tumors before I pointed it out. (Which cleared some things up.)

There are so many people with essentially "invisible" thorns in their flesh, where people ridicule them, call them lazy, harass them because they look fine. If you don't know what you're seeing. Or if you are looking at the wrong things.

(I have a fast metabolism, and one of my friends fights anorexia. Our "enviable" thinness is actually a bad sign. Fortunately, we know other people who are aware of that and comment when we've lost weight, so we can promptly seek to put it back on. There is a reason my MCs are often on the too-thin side…)

If you're such a person—or if you want to better understand such deceptively healthy-looking people, check out ButYouDon'tLookSick, a website and community developed by such people, for such people. Because we need support, sometimes.

(I'm so allergic to strawberries that I react just from trace amounts in the air. Sadly, many people can know but not actually realize that until they bring a strawberry salad somewhere I am and, without even seeing the strawberries, I'm promptly running out the door into the grass-filled outside (which I'm also highly allergic to, but better to risk a migraine than to be unable to breathe).

One benefit to attending a small church with a lot of folks with allergies: Enough people understand, know, and remember enough about my allergies to give me heads-up. ("Don't go downstairs to the potluck! I'll make you a plate. You can have taco, right, as long as I make sure there's no tomato?" [And don't ask me how these people remember. There are so many allergies in my small church, that if you make anything, at least one person in the church can't eat it. That includes the Communion bread.])

In any event, I try to look at it as evidence of how we're all different. God made me (and everyone else) the way He did for a reason. At least it gives me good fodder to mine when writing my stories, to try to make sure my characters have a variety of issues and strengths.

Are there health issues, visible or invisible, that you suffer from, fear, respect? Are you familiar with ButYouDon'tLookSick?


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Now Out: Know Thy Frienemy (and what that has to do with a new blog I've started)

"Know Thy Frienemy" by Misti Wolanski on Ganxy

I am so glad to finally have this book out there. Now to get to working on book 3, which is about 10% written, mostly because it opens with a scene I'd originally written while working on Destiny's Kiss, thinking it would open book 2, but no, not time for that yet.

Interested in the prequel, Destiny's Kiss? It's just started going up on Wattpad. Plan is for one chapter every Tuesday. If my math's right, the last post will go up the last week of January.

If you want to go ahead and get a copy of Destiny's Kiss, good for this week only, use the coupon code PU99L on Smashwords to get for $2.99 instead of $4.99 for this week only. (Sorry if that's not your preferred vendor, but the other major vendors don't make it easy to set up a coupon.)

The paperbacks for both books will soon be available, hopefully this month.

And then I'll be all done with Kickstarter fulfillments (assuming I get the last person's address), except for the item that can't be done until I write book 3.

Oh, that's going to be fun. Research-heavy, like these books tend to be, but fun.

Anybody know of any good resources on yurei mythology? I have a general overview of what they are, but I'll need more for book 3. Which is all the spoilers I'll give for that. ^_^

So… What does the release of Know Thy Frienemy have to do with the new blog I've started?

The blog is Visit it now for the full story of how I accidentally cured my own lung infection, a few years back.

Destiny of the Destiny Walker series works at an herb store, and she does things like chew on a willow twig for the painkiller. (Willow bark reputably has the same chemical in it as aspirin, albeit not nearly as distilled.)

In person, I frequently get told to start a blog to share what I know about kitchen remedies, so here we are. Shiny new blog, an as-yet undecided update schedule—every two weeks, maybe—which includes a "Recommendations" page for where you can get bulk ingredients, based on suppliers I've either used or chatted with those who use it.

Eventually, I'll get to putting together a blogroll for the site that includes such sites as Crunchy Betty. And the site appearance will get a makeover at some point, but it's functional for now.

And I think my readers will enjoy where I'm headed*.

*Speaking of where I'm headed, I've not forgotten about my question regarding free will. It's just taking me a while to mold my thoughts on the matter into something coherent, because there seem to be some differing definitions of terms involved.

Are you interested in the Destiny Walker series or in the herb blog? Both? Why or why not? Have any pertinent links/stories/anecdotes to share?


Thursday, September 5, 2013

This Is Why Some Authors Don't Read Their Reviews

Know Thy Frienemy, the sequel to Destiny's Kiss, will release on Tuesday (9/10)!

First, please excuse me while I swallow hard, then smack myself upside the head because I have little left to do for both the e-book and the print book, so my urge to run around screaming like a chicken with her head cut off is a distinct overreaction.

But this is intimidating. It's a sequel. In a series that is fairly disturbing—the narrator, Destiny, is a Christian teenaged modern-day slave—and she's not right, emotionally, to the point that even she notices, and she's been through some terrible things.

From the early review on Goodreads, that's come through clearly, but I'm kind of chewing my nails now because that review demonstrates that a particular pertinent detail that unreliable narrator Destiny doesn't realize will be missed by at least some readers. I knew that would happen, but seeing it in a review? The very first review?

I'm not now suddenly thinking the story is terrible. It isn't. I'm more concerned that I'm still not targeting my ideal audience properly and that readers won't want to put up with further books in the series until certain details will make more sense.

But we'll see what happens. The former (a failure to properly ID audience) is far more likely than the latter. The reviewer did call Destiny "passive", when she's "reactionary"—which is, well, her, right now.

The novels' standard price is $4.99 US. I'm considering temporarily dropping the price on book 1 when book 2 releases, and I'm also considering posting book 1 on Wattpad, but I've not decided yet. In any event, if you're curious to look into them further, I've embedded the Ganxy showcases below, which should automatically update as further links and such are added.

"Destiny's Kiss" by Misti Wolanski on Ganxy
"Know Thy Frienemy" by Misti Wolanski on Ganxy

In any event that "Oh, no!" feeling is why some writers don't read their reviews. They freak out and think things are absolutely, positively terrible

I admit, I'm not immune to that particular soul-sucking feeling, but I do endeavor to tackle it and squash it with logic until it goes slinking off to bother someone else. A benefit to having a hormone disorder, I presume—I'm used to handling mood swings that happen for no reason other than my body decided to make a little extra something at an inopportune time. (Yes, it's as annoying as it sounds. I don't even like bawling with cause, but bawling for no reason whatsoever?)

And when logic isn't helping? I go read reviews of some books I enjoyed that use some unpopular techniques, like Sunshine by Robin McKinley (or anything by her, really—her stories always seem to meander through the plot in a way some readers loathe) and Hart's Hope by Orson Scott Card (which is dark fantasy in an intentionally archaic style, which has gotten lambasted for violating the "rule" "Show; Don't tell").

*rolls eyes* They're rules of thumb, not rules. ^_^ I feel better already, just remembering those.

Even when a story is precisely what it's supposed to be, folks will dislike it, complain, and make assumptions about the author's writing ability and what they were aiming for. One of my better-selling short stories at the moment received two 1-star reviews from folks bewildered by it before it got a 5-star from someone directly in the target audience.

And then there's the review on Thrice Uncharmed, which politely pointed out that it could've been expanded more on the themes and climax. That reviewer's right—it could've been—but I chose not to on purpose. Maybe that reviewer would've enjoyed it more had I expanded it, but maybe he just thinks he would've. *shrug* It is what it is.

And really, all writing "is what it is".

And Seanan McGuire just had a new book come out this week in her October Daye series! Yay! Like unreliable narrator urban fantasy? Go check it out! It's probably even at the library. ^_^

Do you have any fun reviews, comments, or new releases to share?


Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Do You Want Me to Work on Next?

I've decided to let my readers overtly influence what I work on for my next First Draft Fridays project over on Wattpad, after I finish A Fistful of Water.

How? I have a five-question survey, all questions optional, which lets you make your opinions known on genre, length, characters, etc.

I also ended up doing JA Konrath's 8-hour challenge: Write a story and have it to market within 8 hours. I ended up doing a crack!fic featuring various characters from the Misty White space opera penname. I had fun writing it, but we'll find out if anyone else will have fun reading it.

It has some spoilers for various stories under that penname, but if you're curious to see what I came up with, it's…

Disorientate-tion on a Weekday Morning

Canni from “Buzz and Bunnies”, Tammy from the Catati stories, and Kintah from the Corps space stories all improbably meet, order Starbucks, and learn things about each other that, perhaps, they’d rather not know. Crack fic.

(A crack!fic of about 4400 words.)

Get it for free on Smashwords with the coupon code ZP85G (expires mid-September).

The fairly repetitive mentions of it being a crack fic are intentional—it's my attempt to keep someone from getting it without knowing what they're getting.

And Know Thy Frienemy is just about ready for release, so I've committed to a release date of September 10th. *gulp*

I've set myself up for an interesting autumn, that's for sure.

Have any opinions or thoughts to share on what I'm up to? Have any projects in progress that you want to share?


Thursday, August 22, 2013

On Discoverability and Its Catch-22

First, if any of my many new followers over on Wattpad are over here, welcome!

Second, if you are here, mind letting me know how you found my story? Was it on the auto-recommend engine, in some other part of the site, on some 3rd party site…?

Asking because I've I was fairly steady at around 20 follows per day… and suddenly skyrocketed to 200 followers in one day and have now been getting a good 500 new followers on Wattpad per day for a solid week. And at least a few hundred readers, if my "read" stats are any indicator. (The story only has 9 "parts" on the site… And I've gotten over 200 new followers since I went to bed last night. O.O)

Now, I'm downright elated that so many people who enjoy my work are finding me. (And, as a reformed presbyterian, I'm thanking God for His Providence.) I'm admittedly a bit boggled by the abruptness and the volume—and I'm unsure how, precisely, they're finding me—but that's fine. I'll probably never know, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I didn't advertise anything. I can't find any linkbait mention of my Wattpad page or any such thing. (And I've checked with backlink search engines.) Therefore, I can only assume that Wattpad's internal referral engine has kicked in.

That in-site recommendation is a form of self-propagating word of mouth. That's the point that most authors want to hit for their websites or novels, whereever their works are located. That's why some authors desperately spam "Buy my novel! Buy my novel!" on social media—or, if they have the funds, buy a bunch of their own books—to kick their books' placement in the rankings so it can get noticed in a way that'll hopefully linger.

It's the Catch-22 of life. You have to be noticed to get noticed.

Just think of those authors, actors, and artists who suddenly get popularized in the media. Usually, those folks have been building their audience for far longer than even the general populace who's just discovered them gives them credit for.

For example, when the Dutch band Within Tempation had their first official release in the US, some folks scoffed that they were Evanescence knock-offs…even though that wasn't the case. Technically, Within Temptation was formed a year after Evanescence…but they were the first to release an album.

Within Temptation also had their first major hit—Mother Earth, released in 2000—a few years before Evanescence released Fallen. Those are, in my opinion the most similar albums between the two bands, so if anyone ripped off anyone, it would've been Evanescence. (But there are enough differences—and each band has enough relatives on its respective continents—that I suspect the sort-of concurrent development was coincidental.)

The sort-of comparable Finnish band Nightwish formed the same year Within Tempation did. They just were faster about getting albums out and getting on national charts before Within Temptation did. (And, as someone who listens to that genre of music, more folks seem to know who Nightwish is than who know who Within Temptation is.)

Each band had to be "discovered" in its respective country before its audience could grow to the point that it reached the other band's territories…which made people in those other countries wrongfully assume that the native band necessarily came first.

Er, I may be just a bit annoyed when people ridicule others using bad information that could easily be corrected with a basic glance at Wikipedia. ^_^

You have to be noticed to get noticed.

The same principle applies if you're seeking a promotion or raise at your job, actually. That means doing something worth getting noticed and, often, drawing attention to what you do. (I suspect that's part of why men tend to get higher pay than women. Men are more likely to say, "Hey, when do I get a raise?" Another reason would be the detail that women often have career interruptions in the form of childbearing and childrearing, meaning their priorities can be on negotiating schedule rather than money—but I'm meandering*.)

*I'm actually not ADD. I just have an ADD mother and ADHD brother, so I've grown up with ADD-style communication being normal and non-ADD-style being…abnormal. You could argue that my mind's actually been trained to jump topics. Speaking of which—pardon me a moment, my cat's giving the "Belly rub?" meow—and since she's asking politely, it's best to reward that. (An tap and a single lick on my arm, plus a "request" tone to the meow. Much preferable over when she gets ticked off at the other cat and will only accept attention from me, because she gets demanding and can bear a grudge for a week. To be fair, the other cat does give her reason to be ticked off.)

Okay. Back on topic…

The thing about discoverability… It can only happen if there's something to be discovered.

On Wattpad, I have a public, clearly announced posting schedule: at least one scene in a first draft, every Friday (although I admittedly missed one when ill). That gives people who like my writing a reason to follow me.

I also have multiple stories available on the site, which gives the readers who like my writing a sufficient taste of it to probably—hopefully—remember me well enough so they'll see my name and think "Ooo! New story!" rather than "Man, I wish I could remember who wrote that book I liked with the purple flame…"

My only non-Aleyi story on Wattpad right now is Thrice Uncharmed, because it was my first "First Draft Fridays" project. But it's been reduced to the blurb and a "What happened to this story?" page, because it's contracted to a small press and currently for sale on Amazon (e-book = $1.99).

Aleyi has always been my "Let's try this free fiction thing…" world. I suspect it isn't a coincidence that it also has the most sales, though my sales are also low enough that the in-site discoverability hasn't fully kicked in, so far as I can tell.

Interestingly, posting on Wattpad seems to have started helping sales after I began posting book #2. (Thanks if you've bought any copies of my work, by the way. And please don't feel bad if you haven't or can't. I intentionally participate in the "complete free fiction" style of marketing because I mostly grew up in the "Can't afford to buy even used books" bracket. That isn't hyperbole.)

But my current situation on Wattpad illustrates something about discoverability: You can't force it.

Oh, you can try to. You might even succeed for a time. But any attempts to game the system won't necessarily work…

And any discoverability you do earn won't necessarily last.

Some authors' response to that is to constantly be in promo mode, in the mode of "They can't buy it if they don't know it exists" and the rule of seven (which are true, but constant marketing isn't necessarily the only or most effective method to do so with the time input).

Some don't fret over it at all and focus on just getting the next book out, in the mode of "If you build it, they will come" (which isn't exactly true, but if you build your covers and blurbs and categories and keywords properly, search engines—vendors' and online—should enable your book to be found, though word of mouth will probably take time to build).

Personally, I dabble with some promo things—technically, the Wattpad thing is one—but I don't fret over it. And I recently had a short story in the KDP Select program for a 3-month stint, the success of which was debatable. (And the continuing influence of which seems to be non-existent, though I do have three reviews on that story…two by folks who obviously don't read the genre, so I have revamping the cover on my eventual to-do list.)

You could argue that I therefore have a foot in both worlds and am therefore shooting myself in both feet—not spending enough time on promo, not spending enough time on writing.

Well, I'm primarily a freelancer, so that's where the majority of my time goes: Taking care of clients. What I do after that depends on what mode I'm left in after taking care of them.

There is a reason I tend to play with cover design in batches. I find it something to do that provides some stimulation without requiring too much concentration. I find it, like sudoku, a pleasant way to unwind and get out of critical-editor mode when I'm having trouble pulling out of it. (Yes, I'm one of those people.)

Actually, I tend to do everything in batches. Read a novel—I'll read two or three in a day, or one every night for a few days, then none for a few. Experiment in the kitchen—I'll test three different recipes, make plans to improve them, then not get around to trying again for a few weeks. Write a story—I might write 3k words on a short story in my spare time on a day, then forget* about it for months. (*Okay, so I've not forgotten about that one yet, but considering it's a Wool fanfic and I need to read the rest of the series to finalize it, I probably will by the time I get to doing that.)

That's actually one reason I started the "First Draft Fridays" thing over on Wattpad. It forces me to actually work on a particular story until it's done—something I have far too little practice doing, because I was completely undisciplined for the first years I spent writing, starting maybe twenty stories for every one I finished. I'm still fighting the aftereffects of that bad habit.

But another reason I run those First Draft Fridays is discoverability. It gives me an update schedule for putting consistent content up there, in a form that encourages reader input. It's effectively a method of promotion that suits both Wattpad and me, intended to take advantage of the visibility boost I gained from being featured by the staff over there.

And, judging from my recent uptick in traffic on that site, it seems to be working—for Wattpad.

Will it last? Maybe, maybe not.

Will it lead to discoverability on other sites? Maybe, maybe not.

Even when time reveals the answer for my own work, that'll still be too small a sample size to judge if my experiences are consistent with or contrary to the norm—and the Internet changes so fast anyway that any adequate data compilation and analysis would probably be out of date about as soon as it was published, anyway.

Ergo, why I don't fret over it. (It helps to be Christian who believes God's the one who causes things to fall into place or not. Things always end up so much better when I'm relying on Him rather than on myself.)

Speaking of Christian fantasy writers, did you know Robin McKinley converted to Christianity? I just poked in her blog this week and found out because the post I read mentioned her recent conversion, which led me to track down the post wherein she actually talks about it.

What do you think of discoverability and its Catch-22? Do you think active marketing a necessity for the average person to be discovered?


Thursday, August 15, 2013

On Writing Techniques, Motivation, and Context

Dialogue, setting, action, POV internals (motivations, thoughts, feelings, internal reactions, etc.), and character externals (body language, tone of voice, scent, external reactions, etc.)—all provide context to the reader. That context and how you use it will affect the resulting story.

Now, it's possible to skew a story in one direction or another. It's possible to write an all-dialogue story, for example, or all-setting and action, no internalization. But any such story will be missing part of the context, so it'll rely on the reader to supply the missing context.

For the readers who follow what the author intends, such an intentionally incomplete story can be powerful. But… specific actions don't necessarily indicate particular emotions. Particular situations also don't necessarily result in particular emotive responses.

Different people react differently in the same situation, or have different expressions of the same emotions. When I'm confused, my tone automatically gets sharp (unintentionally so). Someone else, for example, might get quiet and puzzle over it or might talk loudly over anyone who tries to explain.

So when authors omit some aspect of the context, they do so at the expense of the readers who either lack that context or who apply a different context.

Case in point: Book #2 in the Kate Daniels series (Magic Burns) has a particular scene from the first person narrator's perspective that they redid as a side release from the MMC's perspective, which gave another view. Turns out that the way the narrator acts when frustrated and about to cry is how I act when annoyed and holding back my temper, so I completely misread the mood of that scene when I read the novel (which made things a bit confusing)—and that was book 2 in the series, so I already had some pre-existing knowledge of the character. That knowledge was just insufficient to suffice as emotional telepathy to catch the character's emotions.

Now, every style will lose readers.

So the author needs to focus on "What fits my story?" and to go from there. Some readers accept everything that works for them. Some insist that some particular balance (or lack thereof) is the definition of "good writing"—and then the definition of "What is balance?" can depend on the reader.

But… there are limitations in that.

You can't just have all the characters say their motives outright, for example. First, more than half of communication is non-verbal. (Some estimates say it's 80%.)

Second, characters will have intentions, motivations, speech, and actions, which might not all line up. ("Oh, I shouldn't eat that cake" [speech], as your hand reaches for it [action], though you don't intend to [intention] and you're trying to lose weight [motivation].) Characters will have thoughts and reactions, internal and external, to what's around them and what they're thinking.

Third, some characters will lie, in speech or body language, and different characters will have different reactions to the same emotions, actions, situations, etc.

Fourth, narrators have five senses plus preconceptions, through which they perceive the world, which influences how things are conveyed. What actually happens does not necessarily equal what the narrator interprets, and if the author phrases such events properly, the reader will be able to pick up on such disconnects, if they're so inclined.

Example: If you've read A Fistful of Fire (AFoF) and A Fistful of Earth (AFoE)—both of which can be found on Wattpad—you know that Lallie as seen by Evonalé isn't the same as Lallie as seen by herself. If you read AFoF after having read AFoE, you might notice some things in Lallie's behavior that Evonalé doesn't understand the significance of. (For example, Lallie's major life-changing event, from which she's still suffering in AFoE, happened shortly before one scene in AFoF, which shows in how Lallie acts in that scene and in following ones.)

Those things can all be used to great effect without a drop of dialogue. But skewing something too much in any one direction—too much dialogue, too much internal thought, too much description, too much scent—will weaken your writing, unless that skewing particularly fits a particular situation/character/narrator/story.

For example, a musician narrator might pay more attention to sound than a seamstress narrator, who might pay attention to clothing—cuts, fabrics, colors, fit, etc. Ernest Hemingway is known for dialogue-heavy stories, which his fans love and find incredibly powerful, but others find confusing.

The key is to keep your goals in mind, as well as the limitations of what you're doing. The POV, tone, style, and intended audience will all affect the resultant proportion of dialogue to internalization, of setting to action. (Note that most conventional POVs in modern writing require the reader to be able to follow the narrator's thought processes—you can actually get away with a narrator who does the stupidest or cruellest things, as long as you can get the reader to understand the character's perspective, even if they disagree with it.)

If you write good dialogue, you can sometimes omit speech tags because the reader will be able to recognize who's speaking and will know the character well enough to know their mood. But even in that case, the dialogue and setting aren't what set the emotion—the reader's prior understanding of the character(s) is. I found Franny Billingsley's Chime a fantastic example of that, though the novel is probably best appreciated by fans of Robin McKinley.

But if you attempt some of those techniques like an all-dialogue story, and a beta reader comments, "Um, I have no clue in which tone of voice this was said," that is true for the reader. You might not see how it could be said in any way other than the one you intend—but, obviously, it can, so your options are to adjust it to make the mood clear, or to check with another reader to see if that the commenter was just outside your intended readership.

Anything can be said in any tone of voice or intention. Even something like "That dress does make you look fat" could be said cruelly, thoughtfully, absentmindedly, helpfully, etc.

Action and dialogue tags are tools, just as dialogue and setting are themselves tools. Each tool performs its own tasks, and each tool can be used, overused, or misused/abused. You can sometimes get by using one tool to substitute for another—but again, it's not the same.

To demonstrate, here's an all-dialogue situation:

"I said, I'm hungry."

"Just a minute."

"Not a minute. Now."

"I need to finish this e-mail in the next ten minutes. After that, I'll—"


The complaining party could be whining or threatening. The other party could be annoyed or scared. Speech doesn't tell you. Setting wouldn't, either. Action might help, but people act differently in the same situations, so it wouldn't be certain. An author could use those tools to convey emotion, but then the writing would only make sense to people who react the selfsame way in those moods. You'd lose readers who respond differently.

See, when you don't give the motivations (or other details), the reader makes assumptions, when they can. (Sometimes, they're just bewildered.) But a reader who makes assumptions is fine with your story only if those assumptions fit. If those reader-assigned motivations/emotions/etc. end up not fitting as the story continues, you'll lose many of those readers, because your characters are seeming inconsistent, even though they may actually only be misinterpreted.

Now, let's add a bit of action (which puts us into Sylvia's POV):

He tapped her on the shoulder. "I said, I'm hungry."

She pursed her lips and kept typing. "Just a minute."

His scowl reflected in her too-old monitor. "Not a minute. Now."

She frowned. "I need to finish this e-mail in the next ten minutes. After that, I'll—"

He yanked the arm of her rolling office chair. "Now!"

That gives a little more of the situation—he's probably angry; she's probably annoyed or at least isn't acting as if she feels threatened.

Now, let's try again, defining the characters a bit more—and adding some motivations.

Her eight-year-old son tapped her on the shoulder. "I said, I'm hungry."

The doctor'd told Mick to stop going on tiptoe, if he ever wanted his toes to stop breaking—though the boy would break them against the tub, when he wanted sympathy. Sylvia pursed her lips and kept typing. "Just a minute."

Mick's scowl reflected in her too-old monitor. "Not a minute. Now."

She frowned, managing not to shiver, not to let him know he was getting to her. "I need to finish this e-mail in the next ten minutes. After that, I'll—"

He yanked the arm of her rolling office chair. "Now!"

Or how about this?

Joe tapped her on the shoulder. "I said, I'm hungry."

Cy pursed her lips and kept typing, wishing her boyfriend could make his own lunch, for once. "Just a minute."

Joe's scowl reflected in her too-old monitor. "Not a minute. Now."

She frowned, tired of his attitude. He was one tantrum from being kicked to the curb, and she wasn't about to warn him. "I need to finish this e-mail in the next ten minutes. After that, I'll—"

He yanked the arm of her rolling office chair. "Now!"

The dialogue and action are completely the same, but for who the characters are to each other. The major difference? The motivation.

As a line editor, I sometimes have clients who attempt to rely entirely on dialogue and setting and therefore are entirely unclear about emotions, motivations, intentions, etc. that the POV would know and the reader should therefore understand.

Now, I am female. I've noticed, as an editor, that while both male and female authors can have trouble getting motivation on the page, females are more likely to equate thoughts or emotions with motivation, and males are more likely to equate action or setting with motivation. That internal/external distinction actually fits some psychology delineations.

As an author, I tend to write very "close" first person, which has interesting effects with narrators like the aforementioned Evonalé and Lallie. Both of them could be in the selfsame situation and pull completely different details and tones out of it. (Someday, I may write an Aleyi short story with multiple narrators that shows an event from different points of view.)

I mention that to point out that there's an extent to which all techniques are ambiguous. Some are just more so than others—and the extent to which each one is ambiguous depends on what you're going for.

Generally speaking, authors of genre novels want a balance among the different features of a scene, to provide sufficent context to be comprehended by as wide an audience as possible. That balance may look different between two different authors, and it may even look different between two different stories by the same author.

That's fine.

But the various ways to balance motivation and the other things = techniques, not definitions of "good writing". If you're going to skew that balance one way or another, at least be aware of the context you're sacrificing to do so.

What are your thoughts on motivation and the (in)ability of dialogue and action to convey it?


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