Hello dear reader,
It is a lovely hot summer day in late September and despite my having caught ‘the crud’ currently making its way through our school population I am writing away, punctuated by marking beginning of year assessments. I have great classes this year and a very varied schedule. I am doing everything from grades 1 to 8. My schedule includes two grade of core French, music, drama and dance and one class of grade 8 health. I spend half my days singing and dancing and the other half running. But all is good. My heart seems to have settled down and I am back to scheduling time for writing. This week I even stayed awake during my writing time. For the first two weeks of school, every time I sat in my chair I promptly started snoring.
I’m going to start my steady slow paddle with mini goals, small pieces of work that can be accomplished in a couple of hours in the hopes I can stave off attacks of my Paralysing Perfectionism that keeps getting me stopped dead in the water. My mini goal this week is blurbs: author blurb, book blurb, story blurbs for each of the stories in ‘Life and Other Strangers’.
I am wondering if I need a permission slip to get my inner editor let my work go. Yes, an actual permission slip. I grew up In the days when getting an agent or a publishing contract that was your permission slip to let your work out into the world. For Geoff Goins, his permission slip was calling himself an author. I think my paralyzing perfectionism needs something concrete, something I can look at every day like a piece of paper that gives me permission to share my stories with the world. It sounds silly but it feels real. So, dear reader, anyone know where I can get a permission slip? How do you deal with the fear of letting yourself be seen, of letting others see your art or creations?
Three weeks ago my body gave me a sharp box on the ears and forced me to simplify my life, dramatically and not very gracefully. I let go of a lot of obligations in my life including directing (which was the hardest to release). Now I am learning to balance those things that are really important to me: teaching, writing, karate and robots.
For quite a while, I’ve been stressing that I’m not doing this writing thing right. I was sucked into the ‘crazy multiple streams of income indie bandwagon’. I understand where the Indie authors that support this concept are coming from, but after the box on the ears, I realized that it was a rat race that was going nowhere with a lot of stress to me and the stress was the last trigger that led to the box on the ears. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the courses or those contributions of so many of the Independent Authors who give their all in this way but my body was very clear that I can’t handle the endless pull of time away from my imaginary friends.
I want to spend this precious time I have been given writing good stories and letting them into the world to be appreciated by people who like reading them. Realistically, this means I will probably always be a fiction writer with a day job. Not a bad thing since I actually like the day job.
The slap on the side of the head made me realize I must change course. Watching Holly Lisle and reading her challenges has made this very real to me. (If you, dear reader, want to support someone who has taught me a great deal in the last three years, please support the Patreon campaign for Holly Lisle). I need to paddle my canoe out of the raging torrent of ‘do everything now every 30 days a book and a new course and and and …’ into a steady slow deep paddle on the side streams or the calm edge or the river and figure out how to portage around the rapids everyone else is riding. I think with all the change going on in publishing that there has to be something new coming. New is scary for everyone; no one knows the ‘right’ way. Everyone in publishing is panicking and running around the town square yelling at the top of their lungs with ‘this works and this works; no this works; no you should do this!’ but no one really knows what publishing is going to look like in five years. We are making the future right now.
Bottom line: people crave story. It is in our make up to need it, to consume it, to share it, to create it.
I must actively choose to let this writing become a joy to share. Writing is not an obligation or a failure because I did not keep to my self-determined schedule. It isn’t ‘I have to write’. It is ‘I get to spend time with my imaginary friends’. I need to focus on those things that are life-giving to me: personal connections and stories.
They are different things. Supporting one does not automatically lead to supporting both. My personal connections in my writing life, my writing friends online and in real life, are not (for the most part) my readers. They support me, hold me up, give me courage to try, give me feedback and help me improve my craft if only by sitting there while we write together. My stories are themselves-they aren’t me. My stories need the support of readers who love them, readers who find them through ‘also boughts’ on Amazon by other readers who love them. My friends love me but their also boughts might not lead others to my stories.
Of course, if readers are going to find my stories that means I have to let my stories go out into the world. Unless I let them go, they will not get the support they deserve. So back to ‘Publishing while broke’ I go while I carefully pole myself away from the rapids.
Founded 2015 by students of “How To Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writer’s,” created by writer and teacher Holly Lisle.
It is so cool to be part of the Blog Hop tour. I’m working away on the book edits for Life and Other Strangers this week and enjoying the summer sunshine. And we finally have a working dryer, so life is good. I hope you enjoy my story. Don’t forget to check out all the other stories. They are fun!
He stood with the ocean before him, with the village behind him, and he did not look back and he knew he would never stand on that shore again.
It was time to leave. One flash of the lantern. Two. Then he quickly closed it and set it aside. The sunrise swelled in the distance, red against the black sky of night. The sharp tang of salt and water slapped his face in the brisk wind as he waited for that sound, the sound of oars against the waves, the quiet clink of the boat coasting along the shore. A dip of paddle, a rustle of metal on wood. Against his leg, the stones clinked in their soft wrapping, stones he would never admit to having. Not to his compatriots, not to the villagers, not to the woman he had left behind sleeping, a widow who shared a room and a bed and a few nights of pleasure. She was only another soft port, a place to rest for a few nights with soft sheets and quiet words. There had been many such soft ports in his past.
The bulky manuscript rustled in its waxed cloth and leather wrapping under his tunic. He had no interest in it. It was simply an item he had been commissioned to find by a dark voice behind a cloak in a tavern. He preferred jewels and gold, quick to take and ever more quick to pass along to others, just in case the mages had laced the gold with tracking spells. Tracking spells were followed by great dogs and even greater thunders of horses and the specter of the hanging rope trailed behind them. Better to have quick fingers and quick trades in unknown places.
A flash of smiling blue eyes called to him as he waited, the sharp tang of the sea filling his nostrils. He ruthlessly pushed the memory away. He didn’t care to stay in this place. It would be too easy to be noticed, to belong, to become settled. Passage by the sea with loyalty assured by coin and drink was always the best way out. He would return to the drafty estate where small minded people looked up to him and waited for him to tell them how to live their tiny boring lives, try to settle into the routine of the every day, try to find contentment in the bucolic boredom.
The clink came just as the sun’s sharp rays began to touch the edge of the horizon with a lone gold finger of accusation. The boat scurried under the edge of the shadows. He climbed in quickly and did not look back, unaware of the sharp blue eyes watching him from the rocks. He would never admit his relief they had come any more than he would raise his voice when he was annoyed.
“Well?” the querulous voice of the Priest who had woken her from a dreamless sleep demanded from the dark corner beside the widow’s warm fireplace.
“I did not see a book.” Her voice was sweet and calm, a tool like her beauty and her welcoming home. She knew it would betray nothing of her feelings. She felt his searching eyes and turned away, keeping her tight fists hidden behind her skirts. Fists that betrayed her fury that she had been used, that she was being used to betray, that she was easy to walk away from, only a moment of frivolous laughter.
Eventually satisfied, the Priest left.
The hens began to cackle in the distance.
Once more alone, once more facing the empty bed and the long shoreline, she pulled the ruby ring out of her pocket and held it up to the light. It was a the token she had taken to remember a few nights of pleasure in a long series of evenings of endless silence, a reminder of soft firm hands, easily spoken commands, and demanding laughter. The signet that surrounded the ruby gleamed. She wondered what it said. Then she sighed and slipped it onto the heavy chain she wore around her neck with the others from her collection and turned to face her day.
Hello, Dear Reader!
How is your summer going?
Mine has moved from the minor hell of helping hubbie’s family clean out auntie’s apartment into the Purgatory of ‘marketing’ and website design. I’m ‘fixing’ the website, trying to build my audience and my email list. I’m also editing the book that just came back, setting up a launch/pre-launch and finishing the next book. And I’m attempting to figure out auto-responder campaigns.
Marketing is my personal purgatory. Nothing ever works right out of the box, at least not for me. I can find ways to break things no one ever believed possible. I am wading through creating a ‘platform’ or ‘presence’ in the world (or breaking the one I currently have whichever you wish to think) so that I can get a story into your hands when you sign up for my newsletter. As an independent business person, I have total control. Of everything. Even if I wanted to be a traditionally published author, I know that publishers expect authors to do much of the work creating a presence in the world. Editors want to buy from authors who already have a presence. Long gone are the days of blindly listening to experts who guide the author’s presence based on hard earned experience. And, this is the digital age. There are no white washes or take backs with the world of the ‘Way Back Machine.’ Saying less is probably the best course, but if I did that, well, who would you be reading? I might as well be my messy self, good and bad.
My whole Life is messy right now. On top of the normal end of school chaos, we have both pre-wedding chaos (my goddaughter is getting married in two months) and the end of life chaos filling our home. We shall not speak of the garage, the dining room table, or the cantina where all the boxes from hubbie’s aunt’s apartment have been stuffed. We shall not speak of my goddaughter’s wedding dress that is in pieces and pattern-making or of the glitter that one of the layers of tulle is shedding all over my house. Fairy dust. It is fairy dust of joy sticking to your shoes. And we definitely shall not talk about the dryer that is currently in pieces in the back hall. Life is running true to course.
In an effort to make at least one thing in my life straight forward, I decided to take the Instant Bestseller Course from Tim Grahl. In some ways, Tim is repeating what other people have said to do: building your own email list is the key to success. But Tim talks about the business of writing and book launches in plain words advice that makes sense to me. I can see how it is supposed to work. I can do what he is telling me to do. I’ve been trying to do this for two years. I haven’t yet managed to get the freebie to work. If I can get this to work it will be worth every hard earned penny.
Unfortunately his website course, the Ultimate Author Platform, is following true to the rest of my life. If I didn’t already have a website with content and readers like you, the course would be super easy. I’m trying to integrate his suggestions into my current platform and make them work. We all know I can find creative ways to break things that no one ever dreamed possible. In the last two days I have broken and fixed my website at least three times. I have not yet lost anything into the bowels of nothingness that can be the internet (knock wood) but when I (temporarily) lost the navigation tabs and the blog content, it was a little stressful. Now things on the website mostly work like they are supposed to work.
I was ticking right along then I got to Sumome, the suggested plugin to run popups and analytics.
Sumome was a big fail. It was not the instructions or the course (which are very straight forward). It was the fact that Sumome only works with WordPress.org, not WordPress.com sites. After two days of hitting my head against a brick wall, I discovered I have to go back to the drawing board. That means I am back in the land of finding something that will work. Or several somethings. Par for the course of my life, Dear Reader.
But I will figure it out because making it work will mean I can put a story into your hands moments after you sign up for my newsletter. And that will make it worth everything.
Is your life full of rapids these days? Are you enjoying the roller coaster effect of the boulders and the lurking alligators? I’m not.
I’m writing through it, but it is a hard thing to keep trying to make good art.
My family is mostly ok. My youngest sister and my parents are going through changing their lives around to make room for each other in the middle of a difficult family situation. My five year old nephew is the glue that is holding them to the fire to make it work. Youngest is working her way through this year and I see the change in her, how she is growing and changing and becoming. I am so proud of her but I need a bumper sticker that says my child and my money goes to Laurentian. Eldest is in that phase of life between graduating and getting her first career position, the time of life when you have two jobs and no time to think and are struggling to know what it is you are fighting for when all you can do is put one foot in front of the other some mornings. I know she can do this and that she will find her way but it is hard to know what to do or say to support her. Hubbie is working on all the stuff that goes with being part of the team arranging a Hand bell conference in two months while working a full time job that takes him out of the house 12+ hours a day. I spent much of January and February stressed out, balancing teaching, report cards, and helping my family. I kept thinking my exhaustion was just a symptom of my stress, only to discover after I had to take more than a week off of work I was suffering from walking pneumonia.
The road back has been a bit rocky. Life at school went from calm flowing stream to rapidly eddying rapids with giant boulders leaping out of the river in the blink of an eye for me and nearly everyone around me. On top of the normal every day child and parent related stuff that is our job, the board changed the French track effective September and it means change for all of us who teach French in any capacity. I may be back doing the job I am now or I may be somewhere else at a new school doing a totally different job.
Teaching is a balancing act. You work to keep your feet under you while you and your students are riding a floating carpet in the middle of a swiftly flowing river. You try to find the eddying pools of calm along the river because your students are worth it, but the hidden rocks like parent complaints and board directives sometimes turn the river into rapids. July is coming but there is a lot of the river to go between now and then. I’m also not sure what river I will be traveling in September. About the only good thing is that I know I will have a job and I love teaching and I love writing.
Honestly? The rest is details.
In the midst of this roller coaster rapids of my life, I yield my pen and cling to the words of Neil Gaiman:
‘Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor? Make Good Art.’
Hello Dear Reader!
It has been a good week but a tiring week. My classes got through the first half of their assessments (yay) which means I have lots of marking and planning to do. Our employer walked away from bargaining (boo). They did not make similar offers to us like they did other unions (double boo) or deal with the class cap issues, which means we go to level three of strike action and if nothing gets sorted out we start rotating strikes October 1.
The thought of rotating strikes chills my soul.
No one becomes a teacher for the money or the glory, particularly not an elementary second language teacher. You are there because of the kids. My students have books to read because I bought them. Almost all the materials used in my classroom I purchased myself. I say classroom very loosely: I don’t have a classroom. I am the run from room to room French teacher and I teach nearly a third of the students at my school. I am not complaining–my students are great and I love my job. But, the thought of ‘no class size cap’ chills me. Imagine 32 three and four year olds with one teacher and you will totally understand my concern. I am a tiny peg in a huge union and I have no control over what is happening. I can only control my responses and keep my kids happy to be in my classes. My stress management approach is to write and try to do exercise in the mornings. The writing is going well. The exercise? Ha.
I have been trying a new morning routine. I get up before school and write for half an hour or so. So far, I have written every day since school started (and I have only been late to leave once). Sometimes the words come easily and sometimes they are stilted and horrible but there are words on the page. The story that is coming out is awesome. Actually both stories are fun. My sequel to The Dragons’ Court is super fun, and the rewrite of Super School is streaming out in great enthusiasm.
When I changed the starting age of my main character to an older child in Super School, she developed such an interesting voice. And there are logical reasons for some of her issues and how she develops as a person. There is a particularly wonderful scene when Paul and his brothers arrive to fix their house after a home invasion and Jonas carries in the new fridge by himself that made me laugh out loud. When I read the story to Hubie, he can tell me where we left off last time (memorable narrative, check) and as I read he keeps saying–go on, go on. When I get to the end of the narration, he mutters a bit about how I should go write some more. That is a very good sign. I don’t normally write things that hold his attention quite like this story. Or I use too many commas. Or both. But I am happy with the story and he is happy with the story.
I am feeling like a flake with the freebie. I get halfway through the process of getting it to you, dear reader, and I get stuck on some stupid esoteric administrative question that I have no idea how to answer. The same with releasing North Watch Keep on Kobo. Some of the hold up is ISBN numbers. I have applied for and finally gotten an answer from the people in charge asking for more information. Hopefully my answer back to them will make them happy and all will be well and I will have access to numbers next week. I know I should be doing things like pre-release hype, pre-orders for the book, and all that jazz. Or sending out emails and asking if you want to become part of my special release team, but, I am going to be honest. I am not quite at that point. I will be, but I am not there yet. If I get the freebie to work automagically this week, I will be happy. The next step, releasing Dragons’ Court, will not happen until You, dear reader, get the freebie. I will master this issue. I will get through this. You will profit from my managing the challenges. In the meantime, I am just going to keep writing.
I just finished the first week of school. That first week is always a challenge, but this year it was a bit of a madhouse. My school was reorganized five times in the two weeks before school started. The last reorganization was Friday afternoon before the long weekend. I didn’t get my schedule or subjects I would be covering until Monday morning and school started Tuesday. Needless to say, all those things teachers do in the weeks leading up to school didn’t get done until Monday afternoon. Even so, so far, so good. I have a lot of students (and a lot of different classes because one of my French classes became coverages) but I am not so stressed about that. I like my job. I have already had several people in observing students and one of their comments to me was that I was a very dynamic and engaging teacher. All to the good.
My writer’s ADHD has kicked in big time.
I’m working on a rewrite of Super School. I woke up three days ago with what I think is a ‘simple’ way to solve my character challenges. (Are any of them ever really simple?) The new version has a better focus at the beginning and a tighter problem sequence. I think I am going to be able to use most of the second half of the first draft with this new characterization of Marietta, but we will see as things get rolling. I changed the beginning from ‘little kid’ to ‘almost sixteen year old who has hopped around the world with her dad and now is back in her home town for the first time since her mom died when she was six’. The change is making the story work a lot better. I have done some world building, and some character sheets. I am dialing up the conflicts, and creating a better setup for the end by introducing a character who causes chaos much much earlier in the story. And, as you roll through, you suddenly start to see how the super heroes are hanging around Los Domos in a subtle but powerful group. Not quite hiding, but definitely not in plain sight either.
I am also working on the story after The Dragon’s Court. It doesn’t really have a title yet, but it will pull together the stories from The King’s Son, North Watch Keep, and the Dragon’s Court, and add a new element. I’m enjoying watching the characters develop. I don’t know if I will write myself into a corner because I haven’t plotted out the story except–everything comes out right in the end. I seem to be able to plan out about five scenes before my muse digs in her heels and refuses to play along, so I am going to keep rolling with that and hope for the best.
Good stories come out in good editing, right?
The Finder is at a stand still. I need to find some beta readers who will listen as I read the story out loud or who will enjoy reading the story in smaller chunks. My husband and children balked at the box of body parts left on the desk and the finger attached to the roses in the vase. I don’t blame them but because my usual primary audience is going’ lalala I’m not listening’ with fingers in their ears, I need to find another group to read and comment.
On the marketing and communication front, I spent three hours the night before school watching my lovely web designer fix the mess I had made of my new website when I installed the Author’s Theme. The mess was caused by a combination of things: I want a big landing page with a get a free book button on the very front top of the home page (there has to be a work around in that theme for this, but neither of us could figure it out); I want a store that works (eventually lol) and I want a bookshelf where you, dear reader, can go and buy my books in the format you want. So far, I have a book shelf that mostly works, and a lot of stuff behind the scenes that will eventually become the store and the landing page. But, at least, the website works and it is pretty. My designer does not like lots of stuff, so pages got deleted and renamed and reworked all of which was cool. And, in the end?
It looked like my old website page! Nice to know I have good taste when all is said and done.
I am still fighting with the ‘free book’ set up (but I will figure it out, I promise). I am debating about the whole ‘perma-free’ book thing. Right now I have one book published, one almost ready to go, and a short story for the subscribers to my newsletter. I would change North Watch Keep to a permanently free book but I worry that my readers who have already bought my book will be upset. So, I am wondering how to handle this issue with grace and style. I am leaning towards asking readers to provide ‘proof of purchase’ so that I can send them book two for free. Which, is a great theory if I can figure out how to get everything to work for a reader to download. Which is where I am stuck on the technology. Technology is my …friend….. really. If you sign up for the newsletter, you will get Son of the King for free.
If you are willing to write a review for The Dragon’s Court I would be happy to send you a review copy. Just email me at eli dot winfield at gmail dot com and let me know. Reviews help others find my work.
In the end, this is all about sharing stories.
I did it! I finally pushed the button. North Watch Keep went live yesterday on Amazon.
North Watch Keep is famous for its orchards and the family connections to the fey. Suspicious when he had not heard from his cousins for months, the king sends his Hound of Justice, Sir Kelvrin, to find out what is going on at North Watch. Posing as a soldier for hire, Kelvrin discovers the family has been murdered and the Keep occupied by Lord Geoffry of Gwen Myer, whose men are hunting the villagers for sport. Only emotionally scarred Lady Beth remains of the family, eking out her existence as the village healer. Then Lord Geoffry’s men try to kill Kelvrin when they realize they cannot buy his loyalty away from the king. (Novella, 16K words)
It isn’t high literature, but it is a fun story and I love it. It is a medieval fantasy romance, just a little light summer reading, perfect for the beach or the cottage.
Pushing that button was harder than I thought it would be, and yet not as hard as I thought it would be. I am excited, terrified and humbled all at the same time. I had the same feeling that you get right before the long drop on the roller coaster, the one when the person beside you is yelling ‘All right! Put your hands in the air!’ and you are holding on to the bar for dear life thinking ‘What have I just done?’ There is that high when you realize that you just might have Readers. When I went to the bank to sort out all the bank information for royalties my banker actually took a screen shot of the page for his wife so she could read my book. And the low while you wait for someone, anyone, to write that first review. A little silly, since Preston has read my novella and told me face to face he likes it.
I don’t think I could have managed to push the button without Cindy from Guelph Write Now who walked me through the process. Or Preston whose absolute faith in my writing had gotten me over more than one hurdle in the last two years. Or my family, particularly my children, who have watched and listened to me agonize through the whole process. Youngest told me on Sunday (coming home from the Publishing on Amazon workshop) that I ‘just had stage fright’ and that I would get over it. Yesterday she was laughing and started quoting ‘Emperor’s New Groove’ when I started hyperventilating after pushing the button. If she could have managed a video with her two casts, she would have taken one of me dancing around the living room like a total fool when I sold my very first book.
There is nothing quite like it.
I’m sure at some point I will look back on this novella and think of all the things I could have done differently. You know: the email list, the funnel, the marketing work, all those things that you are supposed to have in place before you push the button. But, right now? Today I’m grinning like a Cheshire cat because I sold six novellas on the first day!
So, if you are looking for a little light reading, perfect for the beach or cottage, check out ‘North Watch Keep’ by Eli Winfield.