Life as an Author

young-791849_1920I pay my bills with my hobby.  There’s not a whole lot of people who can say that.  I know exactly how lucky I am that I can.  But luck is only a very small part.

You see, being an author means that I run a small business.  Unlike many other indies, I honestly do.  I have a publishing company that I keep hopping.  I have friends who assist with specific areas.  I have contractors who get paid to complete their tasks on time.  Typically, writing the book is what holds the whole thing up.  Not for me.  I write a lot, fast, and intensely – because this is my job.

In one year as a published indie author, I released 8 titles of my own, and two with a fellow author.  That’s ten books, twelve months.  That basically has my cover designer working on nothing but MY work.  My editor is probably sick of my writing ticks, since she sees them almost constantly.  Never mind that I’m friendly enough with her to have weekend cookouts and drinks.  I call this my literary empire, but it’s not really that easy.

You see, there’s only so many hours in a day.  In order to write as much as I do, it means I’m not posting advertisements.  I’m not engaging with fellow authors.  I’m not hanging out at bookstores, writer workshops, or wattpad.  My marketing is all calculated, automated, and preplanned.  My interactions with fans are reduced to a bit here and there, because in my opinion, people don’t read books to make friends with the author.  They read books for the stories.

The goal is for me to vanish, become one of those things easily taken for granted.  But that takes a whole lot more than just doing nothing.  If I don’t put the books out there, then no one will magically “discover” them.  If I don’t play by the rules, then I won’t gain a fan base to keep me going.  If I ignore any of the business aspects of this, I’m going to go broke, and then I won’t have any other option but to let the books wallow on my hard drive for the rest of eternity.

What I’m saying is that this is a business.  It’s a fun business, and it’s one I’m passionate about, but I can never ever forget that this endeavor is supposed to be profitable.  I have to delve into everything from SEO, ROI, click through rates, etc etc etc.  It’s a business, and what I’m selling isn’t the chance to be my friend (although many of my fans are) but to read my stories.  That means that above all else, I need to turn out a great produce that people can fall in love with.

And yes, I have an advantage with the insanity of my typing speed.  I know this.  I hear it on a daily basis.  I have an advantage with my husband who full supports what I do and takes care of the “kids” for me.  I have  the advantage of having no human children who I can’t tell to wait until I’m done with this paragraph like my puppies can.  All of these things make a huge difference and make it easier for me to write more, write faster, and write longer in a day.  Trust me, I know.

But this is the trade-off.  For those who think they will just write a book over the course of ten years (which many people do), finally get it published (happens all the time) and then become rich (ha!  hehehahahohohaha.  Yeah, no) – well, let me assure you that it takes a lot more work, planning, and preparation.  You can’t just say it’s good enough.  You have to work at this until it’s as good as you can possibly make it.  Not just as good as you can be when you’re in a hurry, as good as it can be right now, or any other crap.  You need to be so convinced that this is your best work that you’re honestly ashamed when a typo is found.  And they will be.  You need to put so much of yourself into your work that your spouse/lover/friends all start to hate it.

That’s what it takes to be good enough.  If you aren’t willing to do that, then fine.  There’s no reason you can’t be a great author in your spare time.  Just give up that idea of ever getting rich, because this isn’t a get rich quick kind of thing.  It’s a slave over it until you make it, then shake your head when people talk about your “sudden” success (that takes years to make).  This – being a successful author – is a way of life.

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What comes next…

Leyli Pose 11.pngAs many of you know, I work on a few books at a time.  For me, this is easier, because it means I always have something I’m in the “mood” to work on.  There’s a problem.  When I finish with a release, I’m typically ready for a break from that world.

But there are so many options!  I have Romances, Romanesque fantasy, science fiction, science fantasy, and just some whacked out stuff that sounded like fun at the time.  It’s all tucked away on my hard drive (the cloud, a few spare USB drives, etc) waiting for me to complete the next one.  I don’t even know how many books there are, but somewhere between 20 and 30 that are viable to finish.

I have eleven unique universes created.  I have facts, figures, artwork, and more all jumbled up in my head.  I have friends inside these digital pages.  Friends that I enjoy hearing about, sympathizing with, and chasing around.  So many books… so little time.

And so, while I let a conflict work itself out in my head (Romance conflicts… ugh.  So complicated!) and I try to remember where I left off with the Rhians, I’m ignoring Sal’s attempt to go all Mary Sue on me (and thanks to the alpha reader for pointing that out!).  Well, this means I’m kinda in limbo.

I’m not ready to dive into another work.  They’re on the backburner because I haven’t started these series yet.  I kinda want to, but no.  Must finish the ones people are invested in.  But… it’d be fun.  No.

Ahem.  Sorry.  Little glimpse into my mind up there.  So, I have decided that from now on, I’m going to completely finish a series before I begin the release.  No more of this “well, it’s all in rough, so that’s close enough.  I’ll edit while the covers are being designed!”  Nope.  I’m not gonna do it.  I am going to finish the iliri, Leyli, and tattoo folks’ stories.  Yeah, I still have some gamer girls to play with, but they’ll come along when I have spare time.

And, I’ve finally reached the point that every author hopes for.  My fans are buying my books consistently enough that I’m paying my bills.  I can slow down a little.  I mean, until I get the Rise of the Iliri, Wolf of Oberhame, and Adding Ink series all published, I won’t be truly taking a vacation, but I can spare some time to have a wild party here and there.  I can enjoy the leaves turning colors in my new home.  I can play more with Revan and Jango.

I can get my butt out of this chair, hit the gym, and get a whole lot better descriptions of the human body in action.  Yeah, that’s my motivation.  Has nothing at all to do with my husband being an amazing cook and the holidays rolling closer.  What I won’t be doing, however, is pandering on social media.

I honestly believe that all of my fans  would rather I write a book than post some drivel.  I mean, there will still be pictures of Revan on facebook, and I will still have a litany of displaced thoughts on twitter.  Goodreads?  Well, it was never one of my favorites.

I’m still connected, but the last thing any of us needs is for me to relax and fall into the addiction of social media.  I love to write.  I find the rhythm of my hands on the keys to be like playing music.  Watching the words appear as the little cursor slides across the screen?  It’s heavenly.  I don’t just like to write, I love it.  I obsess over it.  I’m completely addicted to it.  But I also need to get my behind outside at least once a week, and I’ve finally reached the point where I feel like I have the time to do that.

Hopefully, a little sunshine therapy will result in a whole lot more great books for you all to read.  And a nap.  I could really use a good nap.

I’ve been thinking about Cyberpunk

the_immortality_experiment__closeup__by_gray_fox200-d6ts061I’ve always been fascinated with Cyberpunk.  The gritty worlds hidden under neon signs and bright clothes, the technology, criminology, morally grey characters… It’s just lovely.

My problem is how close Cyberpunk has become to reality.  Nah, we don’t need to enhance our brains.  We just clip the tech onto our faces, ears, wrists…  We don’t have to speculate about massive corporations.  We have phrases for them, and political backlash if you talk about that sort of thing.  Our economy is more digital than anything else – I mean, who even carries cash anymore?

Granted, many people have no idea of the common (and free) technology that is around them every day.  Facial recognition?  Yeah, it’s called tagging, and most programs do it for us.  AI marketing?  Check Amazon and see if those deals weren’t specially designed for you.  I mean, we’re currently living in a cross between Star Trek and Blade Runner.  The sucky part?  Not enough neon signs were I live.

992x1200_12961_underground_2d_illustration_sci_fi_cyberpunk_city_picture_image_digital_artSo I’ve been thinking about Cyberpunk.  I’ve mostly been thinking about the problems of getting a little too close to the issues of today when crafting it.  Politics is a HOT topic, and one that isn’t a great way to make friends (or fans!)  But, this year’s political silly season is a gold mine for ideas.  It’s so hyperbolic that I can’t help but take notes.  Future villains may have problems with plausibility – but well, so do this years’ politicians, it seems.

And I can’t really remember the last time a great Cyberpunk novel came out.  Ok, I haven’t been looking lately, either.  I grew up on the greats.  Ah, how I love my dreams of Electric Sheep.  I am inspired by art, such as the images on this page, and I am an admitted technophile.  Without a connection, I’d be lost in the world, both literally and figuratively!

Do people still care about Cyberpunk for more than cosplay?  Is the genre still thriving?  Should I bother putting my crazy ideas down into a novel (er, one might be almost done, and sitting in my “to be released” folder).  Running with it?  Completing a series?

57944b799ad7cdb7ac55e20dd9be6a14-d7kg2r5Or is this a potential waste of my time?  Is it a great way to polarize the audience, get too close to reality, and alienate the very people who have enjoyed my books so far?  The farther in I get to being a full-time author, the more these questions weigh on me.  Writing isn’t just about the love of the story.  If that was the case, then I wouldn’t have a five-man – well, mostly woman – team on call to rip my books apart, make them better, and then veto almost every cover idea I come up with.  If all I wanted was to enjoy the art of writing, I would spend less time with the NOT-writing parts.  Instead, the thing that gets me is the storytelling.  It’s the belief that I’m reaching people, entertaining them, and making them look at so much in a new way.

It’s how I address all my books.  Doesn’t matter if that’s the delicate, pampered girl who isn’t going to trip on her heels because people don’t really do that, or the alien creature who doesn’t think about romance the same way as a human.  I want to take the accepted, bend it just a bit, and then ponder why it’s accepted.  I want to push the boundaries.  I think that right now, the world needs a little more Cyberpunk, because the genre addresses themes that we’re living in the middle of.  I just hope that I can get it right, because I’ve been trying.

sin-and-rissa-hands

 

This isn’t about politics, it’s about language.

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I write about women.  I write strong women, seductive women, and sexually naive women.  I write about women in trouble, women who save themselves, and women who sometimes need a little help.  I’ve written about women who were raped, men who were, and people who have absolutely no sexual trauma.  I use words to make my point, to instill emotions, and to wring a response from the reader.

And then, the political season happened.  Words are my life.  They are my way of reaching out to others, of being understood, and of entertaining.  They matter.  The right words make all the difference.  The wrong ones can be terrifying.

But over and over, I keep hearing the same thing.  When someone complains, it’s ignored as “using the wrong words”.  Well, you know what happens when I use the wrong words?  I don’t get paid.  I make my living with words.  When I write offensive material, I get a reputation.  It can make or break my career.  That truth should hold true for anyone.

Sure, we’ve all ranted.  We’ve all had a moment where we scream we want someone to “die” or that we’ll “kill them” if given half a chance.  This is called hyperbole.  It’s typically used in a specific tone, wrapped up with words that make it clear it’s hyperbolic, and the point is gleaned through the over the top aspect of the language.

The same is not true for rape culture.  Asking what a victim wore, how much she had to drink, or if she was flirting is NOT hyperbolic.  It’s victim blaming.  Laughing about male privilege is not hyperbolic.  It’s sexism.  Joking about how money gives someone privilege to another’s body, whether they like it or not, is not hyperbolic.  It’s misogyny.

This is because words matter!  They convey ideas that are trapped in the recesses of our brains.  They give insight to our opinions, upbringing, and moral compass.

All authors know that if we’re not feeling it, that boredom will come across loud and clear in our writing.  We know that a character’s style of dialogue changes depending on their emotions.  We choose adjectives and adverbs to paint a picture with language.  There’s a difference between a deadly still evening and a quietly serene one.  Whether you are reading it or writing it, we all can tell when we see it.

How many times have you, my readers, chatted with someone via text or instant messenger, and known they were upset, angry, lonely, or giddy?  They don’t even need to say it.  You can tell by the style of their language, the words they choose and the order they’re put in.  It isn’t necessarily what they say.  Sometimes, we know these things by exactly what they don’t say.  It’s the pacing, the pattern, and the nuances that go along with it.

painting-typography-gift-paintBecause while we all know the basic rules of language (or you wouldn’t be reading this) we instinctually understand the emotional responses tied to the phraseology.  We get it, and we use words to find all the hints we need.  Maybe we can’t put our fingers on why we think a person is feeling something, but we know it, deep in our guts, just because of a few simple words.  We know the difference between a joke and a threat.  We don’t need to be told we’re stupid.  We’re all using the same means of communication.

And yes, politics has a lovely way of ranting about this, of making it the reader’s (or listener’s) fault, but it’s not.  It’s always the author, orator, or speech writer.  Sometimes we get it wrong.  Very wrong.  For most of us, it’s a crippling thing.  Doesn’t matter if it’s an email to your boss, a phone call with a client, or a book that plummets right to the bottom of the rankings.  Failure has a penalty.

At least it should.

 

 

 

 

And then Life Happens

landscape-695137Have you ever noticed how things happen in clusters?  First, I moved.  Packing, hauling, unpacking, and the finishing touches all took time away from my writing.  Somehow, I kept going, but I slowed down so much.

Then, Inseparable came out.  I’m hoping my fans enjoy it as much as I loved writing it.  The release went nice and smooth, but sadly, I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I wanted (or had with my previous books).

Why?  Because my dear father had complications with his last surgery.  So far, he’s doing ok, but for a while, we feared that he would lose his arm.  He had a shoulder replacement, and it got infected.  Naturally, this happened at the worst possible time for them, when he was out of town with my brother.  Being the kind of man he is, he didn’t want to bother anyone, so by the time the doctor saw him, things were serious.

I guess that whole saying about when it rains it pours?  Yeah.  It kinda applies.  Needless to say, that’s not all the fun I’ve had.  My antique little house?  Yeah, we’ve had a few issues.  When a house sits empty, things settle and break.  My darling husband has been chasing his tail trying to fix them as fast as it happens.  Not that big of a deal, but in the middle of everything else?

Lemme just say that I need a real good vacation right about now!  Sadly, being an author doesn’t pay THAT well, so I’m going to be headed off to some fairy tale land in my head.  For those of you who know me, that means another book is on the way.  Currently, I’m invested in finishing up Iliri 5 and 6.  A beta reader caught some issues that I need to fix, and while I’m thrilled, it’s quite a bit of re-writing.  The story will be SO much better for it, though.

But I also want to play with something else.  I’ve been having an urge to dabble in paranormal romance and science fiction.  I have a couple of each in progress, but I haven’t bumped any up in the lists yet.  Sadly, not enough time in a day to write as much as I’d like.  Here’s hoping for a very long, very cold winter, where no one wants to talk to me for weeks on end!  (Because that’s the best way to get a whole lot of writing done).

For now, I’m just taking things as they come and hoping my father continues to get better.