Abandoned Projects

I hate abandoning writing projects, although up until two years ago, they were all I had. I keep all of my past material, jots of plot lines and snippets of scenes, in manila envelopes in a file crate (I keep my Heather crateStokes material in a separate crate).

Every once in a while, I pick through them and try to remember where I was going or what was going on. I enjoy seeing how much I’ve matured as a writer, and every once in a while I think of a project I want to pull out and bring back to life. Since I kept that material, it is easier.

Do not throw away material.

I know several writers who regret throwing material away, but no one who regrets keeping it. Even if you hate it or hit a wall, don’t trash it. Tuck it away somewhere and forget about it. You might encounter something that makes the idea you had click in a way it hadn’t before, or makes you remember why you thought it was a great idea in the first place.

Do not throw your idea away. Pick it back up, dust it off, and use your more polished writing skills to finish it up.


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The Resolutions I Didn’t Want to Make

resolution-2I was pretty convinced going into the final stretch of 2016 I did not want to make resolutions. Instead, I wanted to focus on improving myself as a whole, not only specific aspects. A goal like that is vague, and a vague goal is bound to fail. The point of making resolutions is to create something to focus on, even if one tends to lose focus quickly. The key is not only to make a resolution, but also to create a plan to go along with it.

In addition to this excellent reason,  I also just wanted something to share with those who asked, because resolutions are a good conversation topic that reveal a lot about someone.

I’ve made two resolutions:

  • engage in political activism
  • manage my time

 

Political Activism

In the past, I was always critical of current events without being active. I had only ever voted once, when I turned 18, and didn’t research before I did so. Even when I did research, I never did anything but discuss the topic. After last year’s political turmoil, I realized the importance of doing research, finding sources, and contacting legislators. My vote in the presidential election may not count for shit (I voted Kerry the first time), but my vote in local and state elections DOES. Therefore, I made a list of Maryland legislators, I am going to research bills going before them, find aspects important to me, and call their offices to ask for their support or rejection. Since I hate speaking on the phone, I’m going to make a script for each topic, based on the following template:

On date, bill number/name will come before you. This bill states excerpt, which means explanationI’d like for you to vote in support of/against this bill.

I will also be posting this script on my Facebook and Twitter for others.

The most time-consuming aspect of this is going to be researching the bills, because so often something important (and controversial) is buried among a seemingly-unrelated topic. Fortunately, there are sites and apps to assist with this hunt.

 

Time Management

I’ve tied my first resolution to my second, which is to manage my time better. This encompasses most of the other areas I’d like to improve: fitness, writing, editing, promotion. In the past, marking my calendar or setting alarms had temporary success, which continued to prompt me on occasion (For example, on weekdays I set an alarm for 7 PM to start editing. I usually ignore it, but if I haven’t already edited that day, or didn’t have anything else going on, I would sit down and edit). The lacking factor is determination and regularity in order to develop a routine. Eventually, I won’t need the calendar or alarm.

I doodled out a seven-day calendar and used bullet points to create a to-do list for each day. Once I have my routine figured out for each day, I’m going to make something more aesthetically-pleasing. Each day has a different main task, and other notes. For example, on Mondays, I will update and promote my Author Facebook. This doesn’t seem like much, but for me, Facebook is the most neglected page I have, especially since not many people engage with it. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, I will post Intermissions and Chapters (respectively) on Wattpad. On Fridays, I will update this blog. On Wednesdays, I will participate in #1lineWed on Twitter. On Sundays, I will research for my activism and develop my script, then contact legislators on Mondays (this, of course, is delayed until I update my residency. Technically, I am still a resident of Georgia). This may seem elementary to some, but that is really the point. Time management does not come easily to all.

When I have the aesthetically-pleasing calendar created, I will take a picture and post it.

 

I would love to hear about everyone else’s New Year’s Resolutions, but most importantly, I would love to hear your plan on how to intend to achieve your goals!

 


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Writing Tips I Learned in 2016

2015 and 2016 were wake-up years for me in so many years, and so much of it came down to one simple lesson:

SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE.

This started with learning to step back while listening to feedback from beta readers and editors. It extended later to any feedback gleaned from negative reviews (called “critical reviews” on Amazon). Even if the words smack you on the face, it’s [generally] c0s8jaguaaa0ww2not intended to harm you or your work. Take a deep breath, write the feedback down in an impartial fashion, and return to it in a day or so.

This is especially important when it comes to representation. If someone tells you representation of a character, especially one unlike you and like them in terms of race, gender, orientation, etc, is problematic, inaccurate, offensive, or simply grating, their opinion is valid. Accept their feedback with grace. I’ve seen several incidents lately where someone – using a civil tone – tells a writer or mentions that their content is offensive, and the writer bucks back as if they had been attacked, or argues and seeks to justify their piece. Don’t do this. Just nod and tuck it away in the back of your mind to do better next time. Ask or research how to do better. I would also go a step further to hire a sensitivity reader (More information about that here). They tend to run cheaper than editors, about the same as professional beta readers. If you are friends with someone who does work like this, they may even do it as a trade.

Be patient. I know you love your manuscript, and even if you don’t, you want it published NOW. Even if you’ve been through the ringer with querying for traditional publication, don’t self-publish. Don’t settle. (Note: I’m not dissing self-publishing. I’m saying self-publishing is only settling if you are giving up on traditional publication in order to do it.) If agents are not replying to your queries, or rejecting you off-hand, I recommend finding several impartial, honest beta readers, or hiring a content/developmental editor, if you haven’t already (not hiring an editor in the first place is a mistake).

This next one is a little bit of pride, but mostly insecurity: Stop worrying about anything but the story you are writing. I’m actually paraphrasing something Joe Lansdale told me earlier (OK, one of the best things about 2016 was learning that I could pick his brain, so the year is not an entire loss). I asked him about writing chronologically, and he answered that he does, then he added this:

I don’t worry about what I do. How it will turn out, who will buy. I just tell a story. 

It takes a lot of time to reach this level of chill, but it would serve you well to make this – or something like it – a mantra for whenever you grow anxious or bogged-down: Just tell the story.

Have you experienced anything in 2016 to reinforce these lessons? Leave a comment and tell us your story! Or if you’ve learned something important that doesn’t fall into the category of “Swallow your pride,” let us know what it is! Either way, let the learning continue into 2017, and pray to the Powers that Be it is a better year than 2016.


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Dad Wolf – The Reunion

This hearkens back to Dad Wolf: The Secret-Keepers.

Adult-ish content.

Posted under pressure.


wolf02

Hank was already there. Amber could tell by the flattened leaves around the clearing he had been there for a while. As soon as she slid down the embankment, he came crashing through the underbrush on the opposite side. Tongue lulling, panting in anticipation, he barreled down and jumped at her feet.

Ducking into a bow, he paused. His paws lengthened, claws shrinking. His muzzle receded. He whimpered and whined, clinching his fingers into fists as soon as his paws turned to hands. Taking a deep breath, he stood. Thick patches of fur still covered his body, but his face was recognizable. His tail still swayed behind him. It wagged enthusiastically as he wrapped his furry arms around her. She loved it when he did that. He nuzzled and nipped her face and neck.

“You smell amazing,” he said, his voice still a growl.

Amber laughed. “You say that every time.”

“It’s true every time.” He pressed his face into her hair and took a deep breath. “I love the smell of you. I can’t get enough of it. I miss it.”

Spinning her, he lifted her off her feet and laid her down in the leaves. The fur was gone now, and her husband smiled down at her. She giggled as he tugged at her clothes, exposing her skin, sniffing, licking, nipping. When he reached her jeans, he buried his nose between her legs and took a big whiff.
“Mmm… You’ve been ready for me.”

Amber pursed her lips and nodded. “Mm-hm… But we should hurry; The kids are waiting for us.”

Hank tugged at her button with his teeth. “Would you prefer I wait?” His smirk told her he already knew the answer.

“No!” She wrestled her jeans down around her thighs, and he pulled them down to her ankles. “We just need to hurry.”

“We can take it slow later,” he murmured. His tongue slipped out to taste her. Turning her over, he took her hips and pulled her to her hands and knees. “I’ve been waiting for this all month.”


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Q & A

My wonderful tweep, Alex Micati, asked “How deep is the cut done to the middleperson, if one decides to self-publish?”

I was a bit confused. In self-publishing, there shouldn’t be a middleperson! He elaborated, “I meant, as a comparison with the idea of ‘old-school’ publishing (agent, publisher, external fees and so on).”

Although I have yet to be traditionally published (*crosses fingers*), I’ve studied and listened enough to say:

Traditional publication should cost you nothing but the fees to hire a lawyer to review your contract (and, yes, you should always have a lawyer review your contract). You should never pay to have an agent read or represent your work. All expenses after your book is picked up should be covered by the publisher.

(That being said, it would be wise, before you begin to pitch, to hire an editor (such as myself), and/or a sensitivity reader (click for more information), or acquire a small, diverse army of no-holds-barred beta readers who will do both of those things for free.)

On the other hand, self-publishing can be very expensive or relatively inexpensive. Anticipated and necessary costs are: An editor/proofreader, a sensitivity reader, a book cover, and you may even want to squirrel something away for marketing expenses/advertising.

The route I took was on the expensive side:

  • My editor is on the expensive side (.02 per word)-but well worth it! (I’m on the cheap side, $500 per 50,000 words, or a dollar per page for Moran Press writers.) This was after an army of beta readers, so my editor said, for the most part, his work was cut out for him. I did not have a proofreader, which I regret now, because I published it with several glaring typos. An alternative to hiring a proofreader would be to read your book backward, word-by-word, then sentence-by-sentence.
  • When I published, I had never heard of a sensitivity reader. However, I should have gotten one for Salvage. These could be free, such as a beta reader or swapping favors, or range from $50-$150.
  • Although you can find stock covers for as low as $30, but you run the risk of the cover not being exclusive. You can ensure an exclusive cover by paying a bit more, $100-150. My brother is a painter, and I had a clear idea of what I wanted my cover to look like, so I commissioned a cover for $300. (I also made an arrangement for five more books for $800.)
  • I have not paid for any kind of marketing. In fact, I suck at marketing. However, another tweep wished to do an experiment/competition, and paid $100 for an Amazon advertising campaign. The campaign was a bust-over the course of a month, I only received eight clicks and no buys. Amazon cancelled the campaign early.

I’ve seen other marketing strategies that would be very efficient, many of which can be found online.

The above guidelines are only for eBooks. For physical copies, expect it to be significantly more expensive: between $5-$8 for a full-sized novel, and much more for shipping. An excellent way to promote physical copies is to take copies to independent book stores and libraries, have author events, and go to conventions and festivals, such as Dragon*Con and local events (although I recommend smaller conventions and festivals). Reserving tables at events like this can be expensive, so do your research well in advance.

 

Readers, do you have anything to add? Any notes or tips you would recommend?

 


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Sample: RUIN (My Name Is Not Heather Stokes, book 3)

Between moving and helping with renovating a kitchen, I haven’t been able to touch my NaNo project. Despite that, here is a sample for you:

ruinThe hospital room hummed with electricity, dripping, and beeping. The only light was the dusky glow filtering through the blinds. The room could not have been more different from the Hospitality House, with its silence and glaring white walls. After a month, Heather had grown accustomed to it, and, despite the pain-killers, she could not sleep. Grandpa noticed, and raised his head. He had refused to leave her side, and his rough fingers stayed wrapped around her hand, reassuring her that she was safe.

“Have I ever told you how I met your mother?” he asked, his raspy voice so loud among the inanimate buzz.

A grin broke across her face. She loved hearing his stories, even when they were painful for him to tell, or for her to hear. “Don’t you mean my grandmother?” she asked, her voice heavy from whatever they had pumped into her.

“No.” He shook his head. “Your mother.”

Smiling curiously, Heather lowered her head to meet his eyes. They were still bright and full of mischief.

“I never told you,” he said, cringing bashfully. “It’s not exactly something to be proud of.”

“I imagine she was some unexpected spoil of war.”Tech

Tech nodded, not exactly sure of what she had said, but certain that she was correct. “I was in Tokyo. I had been in the hospital for, oh, about three weeks – that I can remember – and I get this phone call from my former CO, from before the Mission” – he only ever referred to it as “the Mission,” as if he had never had another – “and he tells me – he says, ‘Tech, I got a – a gook here, demanding to see you. She won’t go away.’”

He laughed nervously. Heather’s attention was completely devoted to him. She had developed that intense gaze over the long nights she spent sitting up with him when he woke screaming. He had been accustomed to it before she disappeared, but now it made him as fidgety and nervous as it had back then. She was slowly running her thumb up and down the hand that held hers.

“See, your grandmother back then was a waitress outside of Seoul. She loved to laugh. She thought I was an idiot. We – uh – I took her out a few times, but when I was pulled for the main_1500Mission, I didn’t see her for several months – almost a year. So, when he called, I said, you know, ‘Too bad, I’m in Tokyo, I’m going home tomorrow.’” He was quiet, running a hand absently over the copper-colored hair on his arm. “Colonel goes quiet, then he says, ‘I’m arranging for transport to Tokyo; You’re taking her with you.’ My reply was, ‘The Hell you are!’”

He chuckled, then sniffed. Heather could tell what was coming next. She swallowed hard, bracing herself against the dull ache that was already blooming in her chest.

“And he tells me, ‘She’s got a baby with her, Tech, a little girl. I didn’t believe her at first, but… She’s got your eyes; She looks like she’s ’bout to crack a joke any minute.’” He chuckled again, shrugging. His laughter faded slowly. Heather could hear the tears in his voice, but they hadn’t reached his eyes. He ran his fingers over them anyway. She squeezed his hand, and he squeezed back.
“I thought he was kidding, but that night, Vu – I called her ‘Vu,’ I didn’t know any better – she shows up with… with this… this little…” He freed his hand to gesture how small, his voice finally cracking. Giving up on the story, he shook his head. He had developed the same lump in his throat that Heather could feel in hers.

Grandpa clutched her hand again, and lowered his forehead to it. “She was so… so beautiful,” he squeezed out. His shoulders shuddered, but when he looked back up at her, his face was dry. “Heather,” he whispered, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean –” he choked and had to swallow. “What I said that night, I didn’t mean it. You are so much – so much – like your mother. She was so strong.”

Whimpering, Heather lowered her head, cradling his hand under her chin. A rattling sob escaped her. Leaning up, she wrapped her arms around him. She had to bite back a groan from the pain shooting from her collar and a broken rib, but it faded as he rocked her like a child, stroking her hair.


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NaNoWriMo 2016

I haven’t given y’all an actual update in a while. Please forgive me. I know y’all are chomping at the bit for MORE JETTE. *snickersnort* I’m in the process of moving from Atlanta to Washington, DC, so have mercy on my soul. I should resume normal functions over next week (hopefully).

Tuesday is 11/01, and the first day of NaNoWriMo. It will be my second actual NaNo (as opposed to the bootcamps).

twogunsFor my first NaNo, I finished/rewrote Two Guns, the second book in the Heather Stokes series. I won by the skin of my teeth, despite a 23k-word head start (Yes, I cheat so badly). I finished by adding material I had decided to remove, then realized I had other material I had removed with the intention of re-added, then eventually decided most of it should stay anyway. It’s complicated. Either way, the sad fact is, Two Guns is finished and revised, but still doesn’t feel right, and needs to be rewritten… again.

For this NaNo, I am going to finish RUIN, the third ruinbook in the Heather Stokes series, and the final book in the core trilogy. I have 18k words so far, and a skeletal outline. I know where it has to end, and several of the beats I want to hit, but I’m not certain if they will all work. I have a lot of psychology to work around.

I may also carve out some extra time to write my COLOSSUS screenplay. I wanted to make that my project, but writing it should – theoretically – only take a few days, since I’m simply boiling down what I already have into action and dialogue. Perhaps I will blog on writing screenplays after I get settled in my new home…

I’d love to hear about your NaNo experiences, past and present. What did you complete last year? What are you planning this year? Have you done any prep and how? Leave a comment below, or @ me on Twitter: @JettimusMaximus.


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