Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When Does It Feel Real?

Being an author is a strange thing, sometimes. You dream about it and work toward it for so long, when it finally happens it seems like something out of a dream. I've had several, "Wow, this is real!" moments in the last two months, and each one is just as special as the one before.

First sight of your book available for sale:  Smashwords, 11/16.
First review: Jessica Melendez for Indie Jane, 11/18
First surprise review: Love Letters to the Library, 11/23
First time holding the paperback: 11/30

Despite all those things, and the way sales have just taken off, the reality of my new life is still sinking in. I got another reminder on Thursday--first royalties payment! But even with that in my pocket, the awe hasn't worn off. I'm living the life I always dreamed of, and it's just as amazing as I thought it would be.

Yesterday, I blogged at Indie Jane about some of the lessons I've learned since publishing His Good Opinion. I felt a little strange writing something like that after only 75 days, but so much has changed and I've learned so much, I wanted to share it all before I forgot.

If you're a published author, when did it become real to you?
If you're still working toward publication, keep it up--it's absolutely worth it.

His Good Opinion can be purchased in e-book format from AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwordsAmazon UKAmazon DEAmazon FRAmazon.IT, andAmazon.ES. The paperback is available from Amazon.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Productivity 101

If you've read this blog for long, you know that I am capable of getting a lot done in a very short amount of time. (You also know that I can waste time like nobody's business, but that's a topic for another day.) When I'm having a good day, people often ask how I do it.

There is only one trick I've discovered to staying on track. It's so simple that you might wonder if it actually works, but it does. I use a timer.

Let's say in a given morning, I want to spend some time catching up with social media and reading blogs, working on my novel, and reading. The problem is, once I start with Twitter I can easily spend two or three hours doing nothing else without even realizing it. So, I set a timer for 30 minutes and when it goes off, I move on to the next thing and set the timer again.

But what if I have a two hour block of time to devote to writing? How do I keep myself on track and remind myself to get up and stretch occasionally? I break the time up into half hour blocks. Setting the timer for 25 minutes, I write as much as I can, get up and move a little, and then start over at the half hour. The knowledge in the back of my brain that a clock is ticking keeps me from wandering to non-writing things like email (always so much more important when I'm trying to avoid work).

Timers are also useful for challenging other writers. Get a group of you together, either in person or virtually. Set a timer and see who can write the most words or edit the most pages in that time. Once again, the competition encourages you to stay on track.

So that's how I stay on target. Do you have any productivity tips you can offer?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Food of the Heroic

Yesterday was one of my favorite holidays--National Pie Day. That's right, there is an entire day dedicated to that delectable combination of flaky crust and delicious filling we call pie.

When I discovered this amazing holiday two years ago, I immediately decided we needed to celebrate it at work. Tomorrow will be our third annual observation of National Pie Day, and I've been on a strict no-sugar diet for the last week to prepare.

This quote from the New York Times ca 1902 is the best explanation for my deep and abiding love of pie. An Englishman had suggested that Americans--who at the time ate pie on a daily basis--might want to limit themselves to twice a week. This was the editor's response:

"It is utterly insufficient, as anyone who knows the secret of our strength as a nation and the foundation of our industrial supremacy must admit. Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents the calendar of the changing seasons. Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can ever be permanently vanquished.”

No pie-eating people can ever be permanently vanquished.

What other food can claim that? Does cake help with longevity? Do cookies lead to national unity? No! Only pie does those things. It is truly the food of the heroic.

Do you have a favorite pie recipe you'd be willing to share? Post it in the comments, along with any fun pie-related stories.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lesson Learned

What happens when you force your story to be something it isn't? What happens when you force yourself to write a genre you're not confident in? You spend three weeks trying to figure out how to edit your book, that's what.

My first, first draft of Colonel Fitzwilliam was primarily a spy novel, with romance thrown in. Halfway through November, I realized I wanted to write more romance, so I split it 50/50. Part of the struggle in editing has been to find where I made that change and how to create one unified book out of all the bits and bobs I've got written. The other struggle is that... well, honestly, I hate the spy parts.

The first assignment on my outline is to write a one-sentence summary of the story. That sentence then serves as a mission statement for the book. Any time you wonder if a scene belongs,  you can measure it up to the summary--does it support the mission of the book? If not, chuck it. I puzzled over the summary for about five minutes, wondering how on earth I could fit both the spy story and the romance into twenty five words or less.

That's when I realized I was going about this from the wrong angle. If I'm not that great at writing spy scenes, and I wanted to write more of the relationship between Georgiana and Richard, then maybe... maybe it didn't have to be a spy novel. Maybe it could be historical romance instead.

I still need to get Richard's spy mission figured out, at least in broad strokes, so I can allude to it throughout the book. However, this is not Lord of the Rings and I am not J. R. R. Tolkien. It's okay if I don't know the last thousand years of Fitzwilliam family history before I begin writing. Historical fiction requires a depth of understanding of the period, not of the characters' back stories. (If that analogy makes no sense to you, well, now you know what goes on in my head.)

I'm still working on the rest of the outline, but it should be much easier now that I know what genre I'm writing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Identity Crisis

Not me, my book. Yes, I'm still struggling with Colonel Fitzwilliam's story. However, I think I finally figured out why.

I have a very precise method I follow when writing. After I get a new idea, I spend about a month fleshing it out in a very detailed outline. I'm talking scene by scene, who will be there, what important props are used--the works. Then I write the draft in a month of madness known as NaNoWriMo. I take December off and let the draft sit, then I come back to it and begin editing.

I didn't follow that pattern this time around, and I'm paying for it. As has been pointed out, I was a bit busy in the weeks leading up to NaNo this year, so I didn't take the time to outline. I spent the first three days of November trying to shove all the ideas I had about my story into a haphazard storyboard, but that shoddy piece of work fell about around the 10th. I sort of managed to figure out what I wanted to do then and restructured my story... but thanks to the lack of direction at the start, I have several dangling plot lines that no longer belong, and no real awareness of what should stay and what should be cut or moved to a different part of the timeline.

It's time for me to go back to the drawing board. This morning, I'll pull out my trusty copy of Book in a Month and follow that step-by-step outline. I won't skip worksheets, I won't leave anything undone. I have to figure out what my story is before I can figure out how to fix it.

I think I've known from the start that this is what I needed to do. I tried to find other ways to fix the problem, because this is going to take quite a bit of time. I hope to finish the outline by the end of this week, and then I'll need another three weeks or so to go through and move things around. I really don't think this book is going to be ready to publish in September like I wanted, and that disappoints me.

However, it's more important to end up with a book I can be proud of than to end exactly on time. I do hope I can manage to get it published before November though, because I seriously never want to do that craziness again.

Wish me luck!

Friday, January 13, 2012


When I hit the publish button for His Good Opinion eight weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect. I knew my family and close friends would buy a copy, and I was fairly certain that many of my new Jane Austen friends would as well. My shot in the dark goal was to reach 500 sales by Christmas.

I adjusted my goals as the days went by, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would reach 3000 sales in eight weeks. The response to my book has been overwhelming--just knowing people are reading it is an amazing feeling, but then to see the reviews and the recommendations on Good Reads... I can't express how much that means to me.

So thank you, friends. You have made my dream come true.

His Good Opinion can be purchased in e-book format from AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwordsAmazon UKAmazon DE, Amazon FR, Amazon.IT, and Amazon.ES. The paperback is available from Amazon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tolkien Reading Challenge

As I confessed in December, I am a hardcore Lord of the Rings nerd. I try to re-read the book once a year, but last year I just didn't have time. This year, however, I am making time.

More than that, I am launching my very own personal reading challenge. This year, I will read The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion. If I have time, I will also read Children of Hurin. The first three are all re-reads; I have not yet read Children of Hurin.

Why? Well, because The Hobbit is coming out in December for one thing, and I like to re-read books before going to see the film. And for another, these works collectively form one of the most amazing exercises in world-building. There is nothing like Lord of the Rings. Nothing.

In fact, on Saturday I'm going to a showing of the entire Lord of the Rings film trilogy. It's something one of the local theaters does every year in honor of Tolkien's birthday (January 3). This is the first year I've been able to go, since I used to work on Saturday.

Would anyone like to join me in my re-read?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sticking With What Works

I started the year with a Plan. I would go through the rough draft of my NaNo novel (Colonel Fitzwilliam), adding the scenes and chapters that I skipped over in November. Then, when the draft was complete, I'd print it out and begin my editing.

January 1st came, and I didn't write. Then the 2nd and the 3rd passed, and soon I'd lost the whole first week of the year. I was now definitely behind schedule--and the schedule is vital, if I'm going to get this book published before the AGM in October.

Finally, I forced myself to open my file on Sunday. I took one look at it and had a full-fledged meltdown. "It's horrible, I can't write, why did I think I could do this," and etc. The whole cycle of panic and calming down took about four hours.

In those four hours, I realized something important. The problem wasn't my book or my writing. I was trying to force my brain to work in a way that it does not. I can't look at a book and begin adding and fixing without first getting a solid grasp on what's wrong and how I can fix it. Looking at it without the list, all I could see was the insurmountable task of finding the broken bits--like needles in a haystack. (Okay, they are probably very large needles, but just as unfindable to me.)

The funny thing is I did this last year too. I spent all of December thinking I would dig in on edits for His Good Opinion without first reading the draft. I realized my error after Christmas and sent my book to my Kindle, then spent January reading and taking notes.

That's what I've done now. The NaNo draft of Colonel Fitzwilliam is on my Kindle, and after reading only two chapters I discovered a few things, much to my relief. I can write, my book doesn't suck, and I actually love my main character.

So, my point is this: If there's something that works for you, don't try to change it. I thought this other method would be more efficient, but wasting a whole week because I was too scared to look at my story is not efficient. Now that I'm doing things my way, I should be able to get this read-through done by the end of the week--which actually puts me ahead of my original schedule.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

101 Things--Update!

I haven't blogged about my list of 101 things in several months. It seems almost cliche to talk about goals in the first week of January, but here I am.

Obviously, I knocked several things off the list in November. I published His Good Opinion and started work on my next novel, the as-yet untitled Colonel Fitzwilliam story. I began reworking that story on Sunday, and I can't wait to see how it turns out--and what it ends up being called. (Offer your suggestions in the comments!)

This month, I want to finish off the organization category. I think that'll set me up in a much better position to tackle some of the FiNancy goals in February and March. Oh, this is just so boring boring boring, but these domestic things are a part of life too, aren't they?

In a more fun vein, I'm knocking off Shakespeare's plays right and left. I've been listening to them on my way to and from work, and I'm really enjoying it. I've also begun another fun reading challenge, which I'll share with y'all next Thursday.

What kind of goals do you have for the year? Are you going to spread them out over 12 months, or will you try to do everything at once?

His Good Opinion can be purchased in e-book format from AmazonBarnes and NobleSmashwordsAmazon UKAmazon DE, and Amazon FR. The paperback is available from Amazon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Happy One Year Blogiversary to Me!

What I have learned in my first year of blogging:
  1. Blogging takes time. I don't just mean the actual time to sit down and write a post, or even the time I spend reading other blogs. Building a readership takes time--months, even. 
  2. Fun events draw people in. I got a huge stats jump last February, thanks to my Romance Title Generator. People who don't read my blog on a regular basis came by every day just to see what the new category was, and to offer suggestions.
  3. You get out of it what you put into it. If you want people to read your blog, you've got to read theirs. It's as simple as that.
And the biggest thing I learned this year?

Shakespeare Sells.

Yep, Madison Avenue is wrong. It's not sex that sells, it's Shakespeare. Last April, I wrote a blog post about how to write like Shakespeare. That post has received far, far more page views than any other. Part of that is because I discussed the authorship controversy, right before Anonymous came out in theaters. That was just dumb luck, frankly.

I am amazed, however, at the number of people who've found my site by searching for variations of "write like Shakespeare."

So what's in store for 2012? Well, the biggest news is that I'll be moving to a Wordpress blog in February, with my own domain name. I've been putting this off for a while, but with some help from my brilliant cousin, it's finally going to happen.

That's the only real plan for the blog. I've got a set of goals for the new year though. Why don't you share yours in the comments?

1) Pay off my credit cards. (Gotta put the boring one first.)
2) Revise and publish my Colonel Fitzwilliam story.
3) Go to NYC for JASNA this October.
4) Go to San Francisco for the Night of Writing Dangerously in November.
5) Write book 3.
6) Plan a trip to England for fall 2013.

ETA @ 12:00: Cause for even more celebration! I just passed 2500 sales! *cue streamers and balloons*