Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thises and thats, or: allergies suck.

You'll have to forgive me if this post seems a little disjointed.  I've been fighting spring allergies all week, and the allergies have been winning.  My bed is awash in partly-used tissues; I would wake up coughing after a couple of hours' sleep, grab a tissue and sort of blow my nose, then fall back to sleep for a couple more hours with the tissue still in my hand.  Of course, I'd lose my grip on the tissue as soon as I fell asleep, and then the tissue would get lost in the bedclothes.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  I can't wait to do laundry -- I'm sure I'll find five or ten more tissues betwixt sheet and blankets.

It's been quite a number of years since spring has whacked me so badly.  I gather that this year's chilly weather held everything back, and then we had several days of hot weather, which encouraged all the trees to fire off their pollen sacs at once.  That would have been Thursday and Friday, the 18th and 19th, which coincidentally is when my nose started running like a faucet.  It's supposed to get better for the next couple of days.  And we got a little rain today, which should have washed the air clean.  In theory.  It may be a while before my sinuses catch up with that theory.

So now that the first draft of Annealed is done, I thought it might be good to finish the research.  Look, it's not my fault, okay?  I was waiting for the magic of interlibrary loan to bring me the books I need.  I'm trying to find out something about Australian Aboriginal spiritual practices because an Aboriginal makes a sort of cameo appearance in Annealed, together with practitioners of some other traditional religions around the world.

Interlibrary loan provided just one of the books I requested:  Dreamkeepers by Harvey Arden.  But as it happens, the book we're reading for my Pagan book group just now -- Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey -- has a short chapter on Aboriginal culture, as well.

I expect that just about everybody knows about the Dreaming, the time out of time when the Aboriginal world was created.  And a lot of people are probably aware that for Aboriginals, the Dreaming isn't a once-upon-a-time thing, but is still happening now.  What I didn't realize was the extent to which Aboriginal tribes self-identified with their home regions.  In North America, events like the Trail of Tears -- the forced march of the Cherokee people from the southeastern United States to Oklahoma -- were terrible and should never have happened.  But some of the tribes themselves were nomads.  The Sioux, for example, may have started out in the upper Midwest, and moved to the Plains after repeated conflicts with other tribes.

In Australia, I'm learning, things are different.  Each Aboriginal tribe or nation had its own region, and to them, those lands are alive.  Really alive.  A story about a Dreaming being who fell asleep, lending a particular shape to a line of hills, isn't just a myth to explain how the hills got that shape; the hills are that shape because Dreaming being never left.  So Aboriginals feel they have a responsibility to care for their tribal lands.  They have stories to hand down to new generations, cave paintings and other features of the landscape to maintain, and so on.  But the white settlers couldn't wrap their brains around this idea.  To them, the land is just the land, a thing to exploit.  So they brought the Aboriginals onto their ranches as workers, and then later (when the government decreed that ranchers treat Aboriginals like human beings) kicked them out and sent them to live in camps and shanty towns away from their native lands.  So for the Aboriginals, not only can they not take care of their tribal lands properly, but they can't teach their children how to be a proper member of the tribe, either.

The books I've been reading are at least a decade old, and so I'm hopeful things have changed in the interim.  Not very hopeful, mind you, but hopeful.

Besides learning a little bit about Aboriginals in Australia, I've also been reading -- for the first time ever -- The Eye in the Pyramid, the first book in the Illuminatus! Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.  It was first published in 1975, the year I graduated from high school, and boy, is it ever a trip.

And I played around with Audacity yesterday and came up with a 30-second radio ad that will air on the Indie Exchange's Blog Talk Radio shows next month.  I'm going to try to figure out how to upload it onto the blog so you can listen to it, if you like, and see whether I sound as bad as I've been feeling this week.  If it works, it'll be on the Radio Appearances tab.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

ANNEALED news! and: I coulda been a contender...

(This post first ran, in an ever-so-slightly edited form, at this past Friday.)

Man, I was so sure I was going to win. I was so close to the semifinal circle in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards that I could taste it. My Tarot cards even said good news was coming! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, Seized could fail to be a semifinalist. That’s what could go wrong. And did, this past Tuesday.

If you’ve been playing this game of life for long enough, you’ve entered some contest or another, and unless you’re an extraordinary individual (and if so, I’d like to stand very close to you so the magic rubs off), you’ve lost at least once. So you know what it’s like: the sinking feeling in your gut; the denial; the rage; the desire to put the whole episode into your next novel and savage all those rotten writers whose books made the cut, because God knows nobody’s – NOBODY’S – was better than yours!

Oh, right. Sorry.

The rage and denial, at least, have been clinically documented. Years ago, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously wrote a book about the stages of grieving, and those two emotions are in there, along with three others. Here, then, as a way of helping my own healing along (and with apologies to Ms. Kubler-Ross), I offer the Five Stages of Grief for the Writing Contest Loser:

  1. Denial. “There must be some mistake!” For me, this was exacerbated by Amazon’s server issues on Tuesday, the day the semifinalists were announced. I couldn’t get to the page and had to rely on the Minion Brigade to check the list for me. So I had that niggling sense that maybe somebody had looked at it funny, and my book really was there, after all, and it was all a big mistake.
  2. Anger. See “the desire to put the whole episode in your WIP” above.
  3. Bargaining. This stage is marked by sacrifices to one’s deity of choice: “I’ll do anything You ask, if You’ll just make their site go down long enough for them to put up the corrected list of winners!” This is also known as the “if only” stage: “If only I’d tweaked the book a little more, or edited it one more time, or spent more time beefing up the section on X, I just know would have won.”
  4. Depression. Unfortunately, and particularly for writers with fragile egos, the “if only” stage can send them right into a spiral of despair of the “I’ll never be good enough” variety. Sadness is a normal, and even healthy, reaction to losing something you value. Make a date with your coping mechanism of choice (alcohol, ice cream, bubble baths, movies that make you cry) and get on with it. But if if you find yourself wallowing in grief, please go talk to somebody who can help you get over it – a friend, a family member, other writers, the dog you kicked in stage 2, or a mental health professional.*
  5. Acceptance. There comes a day when you find that while the world is not the place it was, all shiny and full of promise, you have the strength to go on. As for me, I said all along that I was only in the ABNA for the Quarter-finalist prize – the Publishers Weekly review (which you can read at the tab up top). And I got this blog post out of it, too. So really, by my own measure of success, I won.

Although I wouldn’t have turned down the cash.

*A lot of this post has been tongue-in-cheek, but I’m dead serious about this. Depression is an illness caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and long-standing feelings of sadness and worthlessness are among its symptoms. If you have felt this way for a long time, please get checked out. 

In happier news: This morning, I finished the first draft of Annealed.  Whoo hoo!  I think I tied up all the loose ends (although I'm sure y'all will let me know if I overlooked something...).  I'm planning to let it ferment...uh, that is, ripen...for a bit, then do a first editing pass, and then send it to my editor.  Still hoping for publication in mid to late May.  Stay tuned....

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

It is time, once again, to honor book bloggers.

It's April, and that means my fellow indie author Terri Giuliano Long is sponsoring a little celebration of book bloggers.  The celebration only lasts through today, which is why this week's post is a day earlier than usual.

Long-time readers of this blog may recall my post on this subject sometime last year.  That is, you may recall it, and I certainly seem to recall writing it, but now I can't find it.  Maybe I posted it at the Indie Exchange.  Hmm.

Anyway, no harm, no foul.  Let's talk about book bloggers, and why they are crucial to the indie author ecosystem.

Traditional publishing wisdom asserts that one of the benefits authors get from signing with a publisher is help with promotion and marketing.  (It's not true, by the way, or it's not true of every trad-pubbed author; these days, only the mega-star authors get a marketing budget, and the rest have to bump along, doing their own promotional efforts, just like we indies do. Tell me again about the benefits of being trad-pubbed....  Sorry.  Off-topic.  Refocusing.)

Indie authors, however, don't even get that much (minimal) help.  No, we are stuck with making our own noise.  And besides personal appearances and chatting up all and sundry on social media, one of the best ways for us to get noticed is to be featured on someone's blog.  The blogger's audience becomes our captive audience, and if we can manage to be charming or entertaining or both, we might sell some books.  Those new readers, if we're very lucky, will become fans, and recommend our books to their friends, who may also become fans, and so on.  Indie authors are on a slow but steady career trajectory, and a lot of our growth wouldn't happen if it weren't for bloggers featuring us or our books.  My thanks must go here to the Cabin Goddess, who twice this year has let me visit with my characters in the Pipe Woman Chronicles in her Fourth-Wall Friday feature; and to Allison Bruning, whose virtual cruise stopped at both Naomi's condo and Swan Island last fall.

Many bloggers also review books, and their reviews can boost an author's visibility.  I am particularly grateful this year to my friends at Big Al's Books and Pals, Leanne Herrera, and Love of the Goddess for giving the Pipe Woman Chronicles such glowing reviews.

I'm sure I'm leaving some folks out, and for that, I apologize.  Dear blogger buddies, even if I didn't mention you by name, know that I am grateful for your help and support this year.  Thanks to all of you -- you rock!

This week's news is mostly Camp NaNoWriMo-related.  The first draft of Annealed is proceeding apace; as of this writing, I am at 20,170 words of my 40,000-word camp goal, and 30,251 words for the whole book.  The first drafts for each preceding Pipe Woman Chronicles book have clocked in at somewhere around 52,000 words, so I'm comfortably past the halfway point.

No, I'm not going to tell you what's happening in the book right now.  Nice try, though.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

The story behind my IU blog post.

When I'd been in radio for a few years, I had a job that I was increasingly desperate to get out of.  I'd loved it at first, but we had had some staff turnover and I had begun to see things in a different light.  Then, too, a promising romance had turned sour.  And I was tired of the town I was living in, too.  In short, it was getting to the point where I wanted to go back home.  So I applied for a job at a radio station in a bigger city much closer to where I grew up.  The news director called and asked me to come for an interview, which I did.  I liked her, and the station seemed okay.  And so I was thrilled when she called me, not long after the interview, and said I was her first choice.  In a flash, I wrote up my resignation letter and turned it in.  I was also asked to fill out a separation form that asked, among other things, why I was leaving. Not only did I tell them, but I was kind of blunt about it.

A few days went by.  Maybe a week.  And I didn't hear anything from my new employer.  So I called and asked the news director when she wanted me to start.  And she said, "They said no."

"What do you mean, they said no?" I cried, confused about who "they" were.  "I've already quit my job!"

It turned out that the news director who loved me didn't have final say on staffing.  That was up to station management, and they'd told her to keep looking.  So I had to go back to my current employer and tell them that the job had fallen through and I hoped I could stay on -- at which point I was informed that they had already advertised my position, and while I was welcome to re-apply....

As luck would have it, our crosstown rival had an opening, and they hired me shortly thereafter (and I learned very quickly just how good I'd had it at my original gig, which is another story).  But the whole thing was certainly A Learning Experience.

I was reminded of this episode a few days ago, when one of my Indies Unlimited compadres mentioned in the minions' lounge that she'd received an e-mail from a woman in Europe, asking IU for publicity for her book.  We do author interviews and book features and the like, so the request made sense.  But it devolved that English was not the author's first language, or her second, and it showed, in both her blurb and in the book itself.  She was contacted and informed, and that's when the story turned interesting.  It turned out that the author had found an editorial service on the Internet and paid them several hundred dollars to edit her book.  Clearly, they hadn't done a damn thing.

The IU troops rallied and gave her tons of advice on what to do next.  But the capper was when she admitted that she didn't have the money to hire a new editor because in order to promote her book, she had quit her job.

You can see how that resonated with me.  So the story of the Dude and Annie Abby became my post for IU this week.  Miz Abby's question -- "Why are you helping me? You don't even know me!" -- is more or less a direct quote from the European author after we gave her all of our advice.  But you know, that's just what indie authors do.  We do it because we've been there.

But I meant the post to be not just a celebration of indie authors; I meant it as a cautionary tale, too.  This Brave New World of e-publishing is a great place, but it's anything but serene.  Those waters that look so warm and inviting are infested with sharks -- sharks who are eager to bite you in the wallet.

I hate those sharks.  I really do.  I hate how they take advantage of innocent, unsuspecting people who dream of being published.  I hate how it's legal for them to do that.  And I hate how the sharks' parents never taught them that being kind is better than being wealthy.

Anyway, this is why I tell you guys to be careful when you pursue your publishing dreams.  Don't pay somebody money you don't have for something you can do yourself.  And please, please, please don't quit your job until your next step is a sure thing.
Thanks to everybody who voted for Seized in Big Al's Books and Pals Readers' Choice Awards!  I lost to Hugh Howey's Wool, but I appreciate your support all the same, I'm still grateful to have been nominated, and I don't see any shame in losing to the 800-lb. gorilla.

Congrats to my fellow nominees, including IU staffers K.S. Brooks and Laurie Boris and alumnus David Antrobus.  And a big round of applause for Laurie and David, who won in their respective categories.  You guys rock!

Speaking of the 800-lb. gorilla, he had a great post in Salon this week about our Brave New World.  In the article, Howey says he can't envision a scenario in which self-publishing wouldn't be the best choice today.  That prompted Chuck Wendig to post the opposing view on his blog.  Both are entertaining reading; Wendig's is shorter, if you're pressed for time, but my money is obviously on Howey.

Oh, one more thing:  You'll see, at the top of the column to the left, a place to enter your e-mail address so that I can send you a little newsletter thingum when I have really big news to share.  Like, for instance, Annealed's release date.  I'm not going to spam you and I'm not going to sell your address to anybody else, I promise.  Thanks!

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