creativity

No News Is Good News

If you are here for today’s letter in the A to Z Challenge, please see this post.

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the April 5 posting of the IWSG will be Chris @ Madness of a Modern Writer, Madeline Mora-Summonte, Fundy Blue, and Chrys Fey!

Most unusual for me, I don’t have a lot of insecurity this month. After the past few months complaining about lack of productivity and scarce ideas on the IWSG, I’m now writing regularly and working on a pretty big, meaty project. This is what always happens to me and I should have learned by now that the fallow times are not the end of the road. I whine and moan and complain for a bit, then I get back to work.

If anything, I’m chewing my nails as I wait for responses on some submissions I’ve sent out, so there’s that. Fingers crossed!

April 5 Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

Hilariously, shortly before this year’s challenge I turned my posts from last year’s challenge into a free e-book (at the request of numerous people). You can now get Pandora’s Tacklebox FREE in an assortment of different formats, through Smashwords! Hopefully, I can help folks learn a little about writing while giving them a laugh at the same time.

I haven’t used the challenge for any other marketing, though of course, it drives people to my website and social media, which can result in sales.  I just let my personality shine through during the challenge and hopefully that makes people want to buy my books!

Our Favorite Toys

I was trying to come up with a topic for today’s post, and as I sometimes do, I asked my cat what I should write about. As she always does when I ask her what I should write about, she said “me.” Well, maybe it was closer to me-ow, but I got the point. So, why not?

My cat has a flippin’ lot of toys:

Sorry, I don’t have enough to share…

I say this as though she went out and spent her own money on an exorbitant amount of cat toys. No, I bought them for her, because I spoil her. She also gets a Kitnip Box every month, adding to her collection. My son is an adult now but my apartment sometimes looks like I have a toddler because of the toys everywhere.

The thing is, as many toys as she has, a few are her favorites. Whenever she wants to play she almost always picks the same ball or plushie, and she loves to maul anything with feathers attached to it. My son sometimes engages her with the lesser-played with toys, but she always ends up going back to her favorites. I’m sure they smell like her and she finds them the most interesting and entertaining.

As writers, we have our favorite ‘toys.’ That is, plots we love to write variations of, character types we enjoy working with, and formulas we feel comfortable sketching out. Also, the genres we tend to work in. Even with a huge box of ideas to choose from, we pick our favorites. Sometimes we try out a new idea, or something we don’t usually toss around, but it’s not always as rewarding to play with as the one that squeaks, or the one that rattles, or the super squishy one that’s fun to chew on.

Is this a bad thing? No, not at all. Many authors are known for the plots and types of characters they write. Some authors even bank hugely on the fact that their readers fully and eagerly expect them to bring the same toy to play with, if in slightly different colors with different jingles and whistles on it. They want the same plot and formula, and the author knows how to build it, twist it around a bit so it’s not identical every single time, and keep readers coming back for more.

We feel comfortable with the things we like to write, the things we’re good at writing, the things we understand in our heart and can turn into stories. It’s okay to think outside the toybox too, and find something new to play with from time to time. And what if all the toys are your favorite? That’s okay too. Have a blast!

But if you just like the one with feathers, pounce on it!

Never Say Never

I’ve been writing for a lot of years. Way, way too many years (I’m old, folks). Sometimes it’s funny to look back on those years and reflect on the attitudes or ideas I had at any given time, and how that directed my work. I believe when you write, and stick to writing for a long time or maybe even your entire life, you’re always growing, learning, and evolving. New attitudes and ideas come along, your skills grow, and you try more new things than you ever imagined you would. It makes sense, because there’s very few creative and artistic people who stay stuck on one theme forever. You expand. You branch out. You give your ‘nevers’ a try.

I’ve had a lot of ‘nevers’ through the years. Things I said I would NEVER do. Things I would NEVER write, or try, or dabble in, or accomplish. Here’s a few of those things I said I would never do and then did them anyway:

  • Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Many times I said I would NEVER get published. Oh, how I languished, and despaired, and felt inadequate and overlooked. I’d never have a book published. No editor would ever want me. No one would ever read my brilliant masterpieces which were actually awful at the time. Well, check out the sidebar of my blog now.
  • I said I would NEVER write romance. This was back when I was younger and trying to be a horror author. Like way too many people, I dismissed romance as fluffy, silly writing that ‘wasn’t real,’ and was just trash and drivel. Never mind it’s the biggest-selling genre in books since…the dawn of time, possibly. I was young and full of myself and never seemed to realize I was constantly writing romance into my stories anyway.
  • At one point in my life I went through an intensely spiritual, religious phase and swore I would NEVER write horror again because it clashed with my moral point of view. I tried switching to sci-fi during this time and I was really, really bad at it. I don’t know what was going on with me, but eventually I moved on, or outgrew it, and got back to writing about vampires.
  • Hilariously, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group question for this month was about whether or not you’d ever gone back and rewritten an old piece of work. I said I hadn’t, and swore I NEVER would because I feel that looking forward is the best direction. Well, guess what I’m doing right this very moment? Revising an old story for an anthology call. D’oh!

NEVER is a block, a wall, a stone in the road that trips you up. It keeps doors closed and opportunities undiscovered. I’ve found that just because I have a writing ‘never’ today, it might be quite flexible tomorrow. And since I know I tend to dispose of those nevers eventually, I’m trying hard not to create them in the first place anymore.

What about you? What NEVER have you kicked aside and done anyway?

The Thrill Is Gone

This post is part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. The awesome co-hosts for the March 1 posting of the IWSG will be Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!

My insecurity this month revolves around the fact that the second novel in my Kentucky Haints series, White Witch Magic, came out on February 21st. Well, I’m not insecure about that actually, that was pretty awesome, and it’s gotten some nice reviews and generally been well-received.

The thing is, I wrote the first and second book one right after another, a couple years ago. The story arc definitely needs a trilogy to be complete and wrap up the loose ends I left hanging at the end of the second book. I even know how I want to tie those ends up. However, I’ve written about a chapter of the third book so far and I’m feeling kinda bleh about the whole thing, just wanting to move on to something else.

I feel like if I put myself to the task I can probably complete the third book and wrap it up nicely. But I’m also wishing I wrote it when I wrote the other two, before the fire dwindled and my passion for the story dampened. Ugh. Have you ever found yourself in this situation? What did you do? Maybe simply working on the book will bring back my interest in the series. Goodness knows when I put my fingers to the keyboard and write, instead of procrastinating and whining, magical things happen.

March 1 Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

One thing I’ve learned for myself is to let sleeping dogs lie. I’ve tried to reawaken stories a couple times and discovered that if I had really wanted the story to come to fruition, I would have completed it and made more of it at the time. Not to mention the further back in my writing I go, the worse it is and the more work it needs to be brought up to my current self-standards.

However, I have taken scenes from scrapped stories, reworked them, and put them into new stories. It’s a very patchwork quilt method of writing. That’s why we keep a scrap box!

The Joy In Doing

I’ve discovered lately, and maybe you already know this as a writer, that when you actually make yourself focus and write, the more you can write, and sometimes even much more than you expected to. For example:

I’m an ultra-procrastinator. I have writing projects to work on, I really do want to work on them, I have time to work on them, but when it comes to actually sitting down and getting the work done, it’s a big old groaaaan. I can find a million ways to distract myself: internet, TV, reading pointless things, doing chores. I like to write, I want to write, but that also means putting the work in, and that doesn’t seem like much fun.

But, with a lot of griping and grumbling, I finally make myself do it. I give myself a small word count to reach and tell myself if I get to that I can consider it an accomplishment. And you know what happens, very often? Once I start writing, I don’t usually stop at that small number. The words start flowing, the ideas start coming, and before I know it, I’m writing. The kind of good, happy writing that makes me feel satisfied when I’m finished with it. The other day I told myself I’d just hammer out 1,000 words and I ended up writing over 6,000! My hands were actually sore and that’s why I stopped. That doesn’t happen every day, of course, and I don’t always have time for that much work, but it just goes to show when I actually put the effort in it quickly becomes enjoyable and easy.

Sometimes it’s just about getting over that initial block and reluctance. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish after you didn’t want to start to begin with. The story is in there, if you’re willing to put the time in to follow it. It’s another one of those writing mysteries.

For example, I put off working on this blog post for a few hours, and now it’s finished. Score!

The Evolution Of Writing Tools

I’ve had a lot of writing tools over the years. I started out in high school writing in notebooks. I got a manual Brother typewriter for Christmas when I was 12 or 13, but even by the standards of the day (goodness I’m dating myself, but 1989? 1990?) it was archaic, clunky, and hard to use, and the keys always stuck. The only way to correct typos was with white out paper (remember that stuff?), though you could buy ink cartridges with a correction ribbon as well. Nevertheless, I did type out a short story on it and sent it to a magazine. Hilariously, they sent it back unread because the typesetting was so bad as to be nearly unreadable. I was 14 and more optimistic than smart, what can I say?

My first ‘technological’ writing tool was a Brother word processor. MUCH better than a manual typewriter, but by today’s standards still a cumbersome, difficult piece of equipment. They keyboard part (which was also a typewriter) weighed about seven hundred pounds, and the cables to hook it up to the monitor were plentiful. Despite it being a huge advancement over a typewriter, its technological capabilities were limited. Printing anything took years, as it printed by literally typing out everything on the screen (and to print out an entire book took about six ink cartridges). It did take 3.5 disks though, which I saved tons and tons of stories on. I can no longer access those disks because the files on them can’t be read by newer technology. Nevertheless, I wrote many stories and books on it and submitted them to magazines and contests. I even got a short story published. I also had a ‘laptop’ word processor, but I didn’t have a printer to hook it up to so I mostly wrote fan fiction on it.

And then, in 2000, we got our first desktop computer. Oh, the ease of writing! The technology! The mountains of stories and books I wrote and submitted and had rejected! Truly astounding. The internet also enabled me to become a hugely popular fan fiction author, which is where I cut my writing teeth to full sharpness (I won’t tell you the fandom or my screen name, to spare my dignity, but there’s a few friends who read this whom I actually met through that writing).

And then on to laptops, eventually. With each new machine came better technology and a better version of Word. Just recently, I replaced my old laptop because I’d had it nearly four years and it was getting to the point it was usable, but not very efficient. Kind of like that one light switch in your house that’s wired backwards so you have to turn it off to turn it on, or the toilet handle you always have to jiggle. It’s comfortable and you know the workaround by heart, but why not fix the issue and do it without the unnecessary jumping through hoops and voodoo spells you have to cast to make it work right?

My new laptop types beautifully, has more memory, better graphics, more storage, and Word 2016 runs as smooth as butter, the words just flowing from my fingertips onto the screen like the technology is right inside my head. I’ve come all this way from pounding sticky keys and cramping my hand with a pen and notebook. Do I miss the old ways? No, not at all. But nostalgia isn’t always about wishing you could do something the hard way again.

How have your writing tools evolved?

That’s A Lot Of Stuff

I’ve been writing since I was 13-14. I have tons of written work that is lost to the ravages of time and technological advancement. Notebooks full of stuff I wrote when I was younger, the ink and pencil now faded, and tons of 3.5 disks which can no longer be accessed because the technology I wrote them on is archaic (ah, my first Brother word processor!). I’m mostly okay with that because my writing back in those days was unwieldy and unpracticed and truly awful, and if I read any of it today I’d cringe. But I remember writing it, and so it still exists in a metaphorical way.

There’s also tons of writing I can still access: uncountable stories, books, half written things, chunks of unused work, abandoned writings, and writings that were finished but never followed through on. Those are on my laptop, or in a cloud, and I can still go look at them any time I want. Many of them will eventually end up on some lost trail behind me as I keep on writing and producing more things, but they exist too.

The point is, I’ve probably literally written millions of words in my writing life. Millions as in plural. Two million? Three million? Maybe more. I’ve written a lot. There’s no way to know how much. Even if I counted up what I have access to, there’s still all that stuff lost in the past. Sometimes I’m quietly impressed by it and give myself a little pat on the back. Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. Churning out all those words is just who I am.

If you’ve been writing for a long time, you probably have just as much in storage, be it literal or theoretical. If you haven’t been writing long, you probably still have more words behind you than you realize. Most of us writers have a half-formed, clunky body of work that follows us around forever, most of which will never be seen by eyes other than our own. That’s okay, because that’s what being a writer is.

I’m using this as an inspiration today, and you may need it too, because right now I feel like I’m in a dry, bitter, fallow period with my writing. I feel like I can’t get anything down on the page and I’ll never produce anything of worth again. I’m having one of those dramatic, hubris moments of I WILL NEVER BE A REAL WRITER. The well is giving up just a few ounces of muddy water and I will never write much again.

But, if you’re feeling this way too, here’s what you should do along with me: look at that big, ugly, misshapen pile of work behind you and ask yourself, do you really think you’ll never be able to write again? Do you really think you’re not capable of producing more words? All those words in the past seem to disagree.

Now, get back to work, self. And you too.

Have a great weekend!

5 Reasons You Should Start A Blog

On Wednesday, I talked about the reasons you should write a book. Even if the industry has too many books and not enough readers, that doesn’t mean we don’t need your book, or that you don’t need your book. If you’re looking for reasons to keep typing, go check it out.

Today, I’m going to tell you why you should start a blog.

I blog three days a week–usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, though sometimes it varies. So you may be surprised to hear that I, for the most part, freakin’ hate blogging. More often than not, I’m wracking my brain for the next blog topic and it’s aggravating. I never know what I’m going to write most weeks, unless I already have something lined up. I’m a tour host for Goddess Fish Promotions, because I want to promote other writers, but also because on average it gives me one ready-made post per week. I’m part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group because it’s an awesome, fun group, but it also gives me a blog topic once a month. I like when it’s easy.

So why do I blog, if I don’t really like it? Well, after you read the list below, maybe you’ll understand.

And here are some reasons why you should add another blog to the internet, because clearly what the internet needs is more blogs:

Five reasons you should start a blog:

  1. It’s cathartic to talk to yourself. When you start out, probably no one is going to be reading your blog, except maybe a few friends who are too nice to tell you no when you ask them to follow you. That’s okay. Blogging is kinda like a diary when you first start out, and it helps you sort your thoughts and learn how you feel about things. It also gives you time to practice before people actually start reading your blog. The more you do it, the better you get at it, and the more interesting things you have to say. It’s okay to fumble around when you first start. Somehow, miraculously, after two years of blogging I have over a thousand subscribers. That means I have to provide some content instead of just talking to myself–and hopefully, I’m managing that. Talk to yourself first, and you will learn to talk to the public.
  2. If you suck at social media, it will give you a platform. I really suck at Twitter and Facebook. I had a personal Twitter a long time ago, and loved using it, but eventually my Twitter fever went away. I have a personal Facebook I’m much more active on than my writing one, but it’s locked to friends and family. My writing Facebook, Twitter, G+, and everywhere else I’m expected to be are mostly full of promotion and regurgitating my blog posts. At least with a blog I’m still reaching an audience, and I can say more here anyway. I can be present without having to be good at everything.
  3. It’s great for procrastinating on your writing. I should be working on the book I’m writing right now, but I’m blogging instead. And I can still say I’m ‘working.’ Ha! Take THAT, productivity!
  4. You can reach people who don’t even read the kind of stuff you write. I know that most of my subscribers don’t even read romance and erotica, but we’ve made friends and enjoy talking to each other because we’ve found each other through places like the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This is why I started a general writing blog instead of focusing on one genre of writing. I’m more interested in engaging other writers than specifically engaging other romance writers. This is up to you, though–but remember, if you make your blog very specific, you need to find a way to reach that specific audience. Sometimes broader is better. It also gives you a lot of freedom in topic matter, too.
  5. It provides site content. If your website is lacking content, if there’s not much to put on there, a blog puts some meat on the skeleton of your online presence. Also, it can be really good for driving traffic to your site. People come to read your posts and check out the rest of the site–that’s a big bonus!

Whether you have a blog already or you’re considering starting one, you should know this: the internet is infinite, and there’s room for you. If you want to blog, then blog! You have a right to express yourself just like everyone else. And even if you find it aggravating, there’s a lot of good reasons to keep at it

Have a great weekend!

10 Reasons You Should Write A Book

If you follow any writing industry blogs and/or news sites, you’ve probably read the disheartening information a million times: less people are reading books these days! Book sales are down! Print/ebooks (whichever one they’re predicting doom and gloom for this week) have had a huge dip in sales and will be obsolete by this time next year! The exact genre you write in is trash and no one is buying those kind of books anymore!

I take most industry ‘facts’ with a grain of salt, largely because I read statistics on one site and the exact opposite projections on another. It’s true we live in a weird age for books because it’s a much more digital age where people are consuming their entertainment in varying forms in ways they’ve never been able to before. I know publishing is very different now than when I first started writing many years ago. It’s true that publishing is easier but it’s harder to get people to read our books, because they’re not a limited commodity that only has one specific path to access anymore.

So under this landslide of books and this lack of readership, why should you still write a book? Because, you’re a writer! And here’s some other reasons why:

Ten reasons you should write a book:

  1. Because non-writers think it’s cool. Seriously, most people in my life who don’t write, no matter if they’re readers or not, think I’m performing some kind of arcane magic. They think I wave a wand when in reality I grit my teeth and yank my hair out a lot.
  2. It gives you reasons to be on your laptop. When people are like “are you gonna stare at that screen all day?” you can tell them you’re working, and shh, please leave me alone I’m trying to concentrate really hard. Make sure you minimize the tab full of cat memes first.
  3. You can get out of boring social situations. Feel free to turn down that invitation to your aunt’s goat’s birthday party by telling her you have a deadline to meet.
  4. You learn how to write blurbs/taglines. Every time someone asks you what your book is about you get a little bit better at telling them in as few words as possible. This trains you to write those short descriptions that have to encapsulate the entire book in one breath. The WHOLE book, in ONE sentence? Are you playing with me right now, Mr. Editor???
  5. On that note, you learn how to deal with disinterest. When people ask you what your book is about, and you tell them, and their eyes glaze over, this prepares you for when no one cares about your book on release day.
  6. Real life is boring. You get to create the fun, fast-paced, exciting world that you wish this one was, so you don’t go crazy like everyone else.
  7. It gives you something to talk about at social gatherings. At least for the first twenty seconds until people’s eyes start to glaze over.
  8. It’s fun to commiserate with other writers. Like ones who write humor-filled yet harrowing lists about what it’s like to be a writer.
  9. If you don’t write, you’re going to have to find some other creative outlet so your brain doesn’t eat itself. And frankly, no one is impressed by my ability to draw a mean stick figure.
  10. Because even if it’s true less people are reading today, and the book market is oversaturated, and it’s harder than ever to make it, somewhere out there, there’s an avid reader who is longing to get lost in the kind of worlds you create, and you need each other.

It’s a hard knock life being a writer, but most of us wouldn’t trade it for the world.

On Friday, I’ll give you five reasons why you should start a blog. Because like books, what we clearly need is more blogs!

The Good, The Bad, And Somewhere In Between

Every Monday for the #MondayBlogs tag I try to talk about some technical aspect of writing. Today, I’m going to talk about the difference between villains and my favorite character archetype: the antihero.

It should be noted that these two terms are not synonymous with protagonist and antagonist, which are literary terms that don’t convey character morality. A protagonist is always the person at the center, the narrator, the POV character, the one whose story we’re reading about, be they good or bad. Likewise, the antagonist isn’t specifically good or bad, they simply create problems and try to block the protagonist from reaching their goal. In a story about a cop and a criminal, protagonist and antagonist are interchangeable depending on which one of them is telling the story.

But villains and antiheroes bring a tone and flavor to these two terms. Let’s see how they differ:

  • An antihero is a protagonist who isn’t necessarily a ‘good’ person in the eyes of the law, society, or the basic standards of morality. Antiheroes are pretty popular in this day and age, that’s why we have so many TV shows and movies about mobsters, drug lords, jewel thieves, serial killers, outlaw bikers, and chemistry teachers turned meth makers. However, even if an antihero does bad things, they usually do it for some relatable or justifiable reason. Relatable in the sense that we get why they do it–most of us like money and power, after all, or would love to live a thrilling and dangerous life. Sometimes the antihero’s plight is justifiable–they’re being bad to protect their family or get out of some terrible situation, or trying to overcome their own nature. We may hate some of the things they do but we relate to their story and feel sympathy for them. Or, they might be doing bad things but are actually a good person caught up in something they can’t control. Being a romance author, I hesitate to lump the ‘sexy bad boy’ character in with antiheroes, because they don’t always fall along those lines. However, the antihero is usually my favorite character in any genre, as I think they’re much more interesting and realistic than a downright good guy.
  • Villains are an antagonist focused on doing bad, or causing pain and strife, and are oftentimes irredeemable. Not that a villain can’t be relatable or sympathetic–in fact, some of the best, and scariest, villains are the ones we can understand, probably because we hate to see something about ourselves reflected in someone terrible and it makes us uncomfortable. While many villains have their reasons, they cross the lines of morality too far and do things for reasons we can’t so readily excuse as we do with antiheroes. They’re usually much more self-serving and twisted in some way, and their methods of achieving their goals are ruthless. They present a strong force that the protagonist has to overcome. Villains can exist on a huge spectrum depending on the genre, from villains who are evil for the sake of evil, to mentally disturbed people, to people out for revenge or carrying out a sadistic vendetta.

Antiheroes and villains add rich differences and facets to a story. Sometimes the line between good and bad is blurred, on both sides of the equation. This allows for a deeper and more layered sort of storytelling, I feel. After all, real life is rarely black and white, and everyone has their reasons for what they do.

Who are some of your favorite villains and antiheroes?