Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Next Big Thing, Week 9.

First off, congrats to Illume Eltanin, who wins the free copy of Fissured from last week's contest.  Yay!

This week, we have another contest -- but it's one for me, and I kind of failed.

I'd like to thank A.K. Taylor for tagging me for this week's Next Big Thing.  Her blog is at the link -- please stop by and say hi, and tell her Lynne sent you.

The idea is that authors answer a set of questions about their current work-in-progress, and then tag another group of authors to answer the same set of questions about their works-in-progress the following week.  It's kind of like a chain letter, except with blogs, if that makes any sense.  And, uh, as some of you may know, I'm always the weakest link in the chain; between being out of town for a week and just generally not paying attention, I wasn't able to line up any authors to tag for next week.  So you're just going to have to make do with my answers.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, the good news is that since Fissured is out, I get to talk about the next book in the seriesHere we go:

What is the working title of your book?
Tapped:  Book Three of the Pipe Woman Chronicles.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I needed something to fit between books two and four?  Oh, okay, seriously:  One of the things I set up in Seized was that one of these days, Naomi was going to have to find her father -- and that "one of these days" was probably going to have to be sooner rather than later.  I've talked here before about the medicine wheel I'm using to structure the series.  Seized was the East book -- the beginning.  Fissured is the South book, as it's all about passion.  So Tapped will be the West book, and West is the direction of family, among other things.  So this seems like the perfect time to send her to South Dakota to meet her father.

What genre does your book fall under?
I call it urban fantasy, but I won't argue if you'd rather call it paranormal romance.

What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I'm terrible at these, sorry.  Feel free to suggest your own choices in the comments.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Naomi and Shannon head to North Dakota to find Naomi's father, but with numerous complications -- including the absence of Joseph, the appearance of a spirit wolf, and the shrinking of the largest aquifer in western North America -- their "vacation" turns out to be anything but relaxing.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Indie, baby.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Well, considering I've just started it....  I got the first draft of Seized finished during NaNoWriMo 2011, and the first draft of Fissured took approximately the same amount of time.  So I expect that will be the approximate timetable for Tapped, as well. 

To what other books would you compare this story in your genre?
I'm a fan of Carrie Vaughn's Kitty books and of Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson books, and I just finished reading all of the books in C.E. Murphy's Walker Papers series that have been published so far and liked those, too.  I think Naomi is pretty similar to the main characters in those three series, at least in terms of snark. Each of those series feature shapeshifters, too, of one sort or another.  But I think Joseph is a different kind of hero than the guys in those books; he's more mischievous than brooding or angry.  And my books are shorter.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I decided to start an urban fantasy series for NaNo 2011.  I set the story in Denver, made the main character a lawyer and her boyfriend a jerk, brought in some Native Americans, and started it at the end of the current Mayan calendar, and things took off from there.  Really, you could say I'm tapping into a lot of long-time interests with this series -- Denver, Native American mythology, Neopagan beliefs, and my paralegal training.  (Heh, "tapping into."  I see what I did there.)

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
This has been an enormously fun series to write, and I think people will have fun reading it.  (And don't worry -- Joseph will show up in Tapped eventually.  Probably.)

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I'm , and I approve this blog post.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Welcome the jaguar, and a contest.

This week's news:
  • Congrats to Danee Hayungs, who won a copy of SwanSong in the Goodreads giveaway.  I'll be dropping the book in the mail tomorrow.
  • My very first official staff post went live at Indies Unlimited this week.  The subject is a serious but little-known syndrome suffered by indie authors, and we all hope you give generously so we can continue to suffer from it. ;)
  • More fun with Animoto: I decided The Maidens' War needed some love, in the form of its very own trailer.  You can see the result over on the left there.
But of course, the big news is the release of Fissured: Book Two of the Pipe Woman Chronicles.  It's currently available at Amazon, Smashwords, and the Nook Store. I fully expect Smashwords will be sending it out to iBooks, Kobo, and their other affiliates within the next week or two.  Oh, and you can get a paperback copy from CreateSpace.

Major thanks to those of you who have already picked up a copy!  You are all my new best friends!

Starting Friday, I'll be on (virtual) tour for Fissured as part of the Orangeberry Summer Splash.  My first stop, at Nyx Book Reviews, will feature an interview with me, which I am posting for your convenience below.  Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to answer one of the questions below better than I did.  (Answer it as yourself, not as me!)  Post your Q&A either in the comments here, or on my Facebook page.  I'll award to my favorite a free copy of Fissured in the format of the winner's choice.  And as a friend used to say: the judge's decision is arbitrary, capricious, and final.

Here are my answers.  Go.
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If you could invite any 5 people to dinner, who would you choose?
Four of them would be my grandparents.  Both of my grandfathers died before I was born, and my maternal grandmother died when I was six years old.  Now that I’m old enough to hold a conversation, I’d like to meet them.  Then I would try to stretch the guest list so that both my mother (who died in 2008) and father (who died in 1984) could come, too.
What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Once upon a time, a company called Barracini made a flavor called cherry amaretto almond.  That stuff was amazing.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it in probably twenty-five years.  These days, I settle for Turkey Hill Philadelphia Style in any flavor but strawberry.
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
A breakfast burrito from a street vendor.  But usually I have to settle for cereal.

Night owl, or early bird?
Night owl, for sure.  I can get up early if I have to, but I’m basically sleepwalking until about 8:00 a.m.

One food you would never eat?
Liver.  Ugh.  It even smells bad while it’s cooking.
Skittles or M&Ms?
You really know how to hurt a woman.  Today, almond M&Ms.  But tomorrow it might be Wild Berry Skittles.

Please tell us, in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
I had a lot of fun writing it and I think you’ll have fun reading it.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? 
I’ve got three more Pipe Woman Chronicles books on tap.  I’m planning to write the third book during NaNoWriMo this November.  My original plan was to publish two books a year, but I might try to finish the final three next year.

What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen? 
I loved Little Women until I read Jane Eyre when I was in eighth grade.  Mr. Rochester proved to be a lot sexier than Mr. Bhaer.

If you could be one of the Greek Gods, which would it be and why?
Can I pick a different pantheon?  I would be Lugh, the Celtic god of light.  He was good at everything!  Plus, he’s the patron god of storytellers.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
There’s a reason why the Pipe Woman Chronicles series is set in Colorado – it’s because I harbor a not-very-secret-at-all desire to live there.  What’s not to like about waking up to a view of the Rockies every day?
When you were little, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?
I was a multitasker from an early age.  I wanted to be a nurse, a singer and a mother.  I gave up on nursing after finding out how many years I would have to spend in school.  And later, I learned I was a better writer than a musician.  But I do have two daughters who are now in their twenties.  I guess one out of three isn’t too bad.
What's the craziest writing idea you've had?
I once had an idea for a sci-fi short story that was basically a one-sided phone conversation about waiting for a bus, but it never went anywhere.
Hidden talent?
Music.  At one time, I could play clarinet, alto sax, guitar, and soprano recorder. I’m horribly out of practice now.
What movie and/or book are you looking forward to this year?
I had been trying not to get too excited about “The Hobbit,” but then a friend posted a link to the trailer on Facebook and that was all it took.  I’m not a huge Tolkien fan – I just think it looks like it will be a terrific movie.  As for books, the big one on my horizon is The Last Dark – the final book in “The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.”  Alas, it won’t be out until 2013.
Nickname?
My nickname in college was “Chesh,” which is short for “Cheshire Cat.”  As you might expect, there’s a story behind it.  At Indiana University in the 1970s, registration was held in Assembly Hall, the basketball arena.  Each academic department had a table that held boxes and boxes of IBM punch cards.  You went around to the tables and collected a punch card for each class you wanted to take.  Then you collected your financial aid at another table, and gave that to the bursar at still another table.  It was only after being spit out of that meat grinder that new students got their pictures taken for their ID cards.  When it was my turn to have my picture taken, the guy behind the camera told me to “stand there” – on a pair of bare footprints somebody had painted on the floor.  I was just punchy enough to think the footprints were hysterically funny.  So I sported a huge grin on my ID picture all through college.
If you were a bird, which one would you be?
I would be a magpie.  Magpies are members of the corvid family, as are ravens, crows, and jays.  But magpies live in Colorado, which (as we’ve discussed) is where I want to live.  Plus they like shiny things.  Not that that says anything about me.

If you could have a signed copy of any novel, what would it be and why?
Actually, I already have it:  Lord Foul’s Bane, signed by Stephen R. Donaldson.  It’s the first book in “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever,” which is my favorite fantasy series ever.

You have won one million dollars.  What is the first thing that you would buy?
Well, first, I’d do the practical thing and pay off debt.  But then I’d knock off the rest of the places on my short list of travel destinations (see “favorite places to travel” below).  Then I’d invest the rest of the money, retire early, and write.

What do you do in your free time? 
You mean when I’m not writing, marketing my books, or knitting?  I sleep!
What's your favorite season/weather?
Autumn, hands down.  I used to be a big fan of winter until I moved to the Mid-Atlantic, where snow throws everybody into a panic.  Spring is too soggy and summer is too hot and sticky.  But autumn skies are that beautiful deep blue, and I love the scent of fallen leaves.
Favorite places to travel?
I keep going back to Colorado, New Mexico, and southern West Virginia, so I guess those qualify as my favorites.  But I also have a list of destinations that I intend to visit someday.  I’ve been whittling away at it over the years and it’s now down to three places:  the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Alaska.  I’m going to the Czech Republic this fall, so if all goes as planned, soon the list will be down to two.

Favorite music?
Either Irish trad (my favorite group is Flook) or top-40 songs from the 1960s and ‘70s.  As a kid, I listened to one of two Chicago radio stations, either WLS or WCFL, depending on where Larry Lujack (a.k.a. Superjock) was working at the time.
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I'm , and I approve this blog post. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Happy hearth/myth anniversary!


What a difference a year makes, huh?

My first post on this blog went live August 16, 2011.  That means it's been close enough to a year to celebrate.

I took a brief trip down Memory Lane yesterday and looked over all the posts I've made this past year.  Okay, my ulterior motive was to find some that I could re-run, thereby saving myself the hassle of writing new posts every week.  (I didn't find many. That's the downside to concentrating on writing topical posts, I guess.)  But in the process, I got a pretty good sense of where I was when I began this blog.

In August 2011, I had just published SwanSong, my second novel and my first foray into indie publishing.  The Pipe Woman Chronicles weren't even a glimmer in my eye.  I had a goal: to make some money with my writing.  And off we went.

I've learned a lot this past year, both in the technical arena (OneNote and GIMP and Power Director, oh my!) and about the business of being an indie author.  I've mapped out an urban fantasy series, written two-fifths of it, published one book in the series, and am on the verge of publishing the second one.  I've written blog posts and guest blog posts, answered Q&As, gotten reviews -- and sales! -- from total strangers.  I've created three book trailers (the Seized trailer was featured this past week at the Indie Exchange).  I'm on the staff at Indies Unlimited.  And SwanSong is a finalist for a Global Ebook Award.

And I'm still learning. I keep reading blogs and news articles, keeping my ear to the ground about the business, and picking up new technical skills.  And I'd like to think my writing is getting better (although I guess you guys will be the ultimate judge of that).

Anyway, it's been a fun ride so far.  Thanks for coming along with me.  And just so we're clear, the party's just starting.  Have some cake -- there's plenty!

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I'm , and I approve this blog post. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Fun with trailers, and social media follies.

We're heading into the home stretch, prior to the release of Fissured.  I created a trailer for the new book yesterday -- the link is over to the left, if you want to take a look at it -- and taught myself how to use Power Director 10 in the process.  It's not the most intuitive program in the world (more than once, I wished I were back in the analog world, with a razor blade and a roll of splicing tape), but it's got a lot more bells and whistles than Windows Live Movie Maker.  And all in all, it was fun.

Earlier in the week, the Indies Unlimited staff took a crack at producing book trailers on animoto.com.  I tried it out by throwing together a trailer for SwanSong, which is just below the Fissured trailer on the left.  Making a 30-second video is free, and the process is quite user friendly.  Of course, you can make any sort of movie, not just a book trailer.  So if you've ever had a desire to play around with making videos, you might want to check it out.

One other housekeeping thing:  Further down on the left is a blue bunny icon.  If you click on it, it will take you to a page where you can enter the "Books for Bunnies" contest.  A number of indie authors have contributed their books as prizes, and all proceeds go to The House Rabbit Society, a nonprofit organization devoted to finding homes for pet rabbits that are no longer wanted.  Book blogger Suzie Welker at The Bunny's Review is sponsoring it.

So okay, on to the main subject this week.  On Monday, a blogger at the Guardian's website posted an article about how indie authors are being led astray by advice about social media.  He says:
I'm convinced that epublishing is another tech bubble, and that it will burst within the next 18 months. The reason is this: epublishing is inextricably tied to the structures of social media marketing and the myth that social media functions as a way of selling products.
In a nutshell, he says social media advertising doesn't work, and it requires authors to spend too much time online, talking about meaningless stuff, instead of writing.  He goes on to talk about the 80/20 rule, which, he claims, says we should be spending 20 percent of our time writing and 80 percent marketing through social media.  Furthermore, 80 percent of our "marketing" time should be spent talking about anything but our books -- because the point of social media is to make connections with people, not just hammer them with ads.

There's been a bit of a backlash, as you might expect.  One blogger posted a cogent deconstruction of the Guardian post on Tuesday.  For starters, this post says the Guardian blogger misquoted the 80/20 rule, which simply says 80 percent of your profits come from 20 percent of your customers.  In terms of social media marketing, applying the 80/20 rule would mean that 80 percent of your posts should go toward establishing you as a credible expert in your field.

(This, by the way, and not incidentally, is a good way to beef up your online credentials in any field, not just in writing e-books.  I've heard stories of people receiving job offers after establishing themselves as a helpful and knowledgeable voice on sites like LinkedIn.)

It's true enough that nobody really knows how effective Facebook ads are.  That's part of the reason for Facebook's dismal stock performance since going public a few months ago.  But Facebook isn't the only social media platform -- Twitter and G+ immediately come to mind, and there are numerous others.

But the biggest thing the Guardian blogger misunderstood is that not every indie author is in it to make a fast buck.  Some folks are impatient for their work to show a profit, it's true, and some writers publish before their work is ready (either through ignorance or arrogance).  But most of the indie authors I've met are more level-headed than that.  They know they need a deep catalog, which will likely take them years to build -- and even then, they realize, they may never make much money from their writing.  But they figure that if they're going to be writing anyway, why not e-publish the finished product and make a few bucks from their work?

Indie publishing has been a learning experience for me.  It seems like I'm always acquiring a new skill set, digital video production being the most recent. But I'm having a ball -- and really, isn't that the point?
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I'm , and I approve this blog post.