Tag Archives: Publishing

The stakes are a lie

Bloganuary: What’s a lie you tell yourself?

Well, this one’s a bit salty.

For me, it’s this idea that sometime in the misty future, I’ll be able to earn a living with my fiction writing.

This notion is so ingrained I’m not sure I can completely rid myself of it. But I’m trying to. Not because I dislike making money from my writing. I enjoy that.

But it was never my original motivation for writing fiction in the first place. I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past several months. Interestingly, writing these prompts every morning has helped clarify some of the thinking, even those prompts that don’t relate to success or goals.

Or maybe especially those. It reminded me that I love to write. That my first motivation for doing so was to have stories I couldn’t find anywhere else.

When I started writing, I recognized the gap immediately. What I was writing did not match what I was reading in published novels. This frustrated me.

So I used publication as a way to gauge my progress. It was a great way to work with editors and learn.

At some point, instead of being a means to an end, publication became the end. Back in the days when traditional publishing ruled, the author with the most contracts (or awards or bestseller lists) won.

And I was—frankly—miserable. I maybe didn’t show it, but deep down, I was.

Then indie publishing came along. For a good couple of years, I had so much fun—again, learning and making progress. I love creating books, from the wispy first ideas to the finished project.

But then sales and money became the markers of success, to the point where it’s binary. If you aren’t earning “good money” (however you define that) with your writing, you should quit. Or at least, this is what it feels like. The notion permeates so many conversations about writing and publishing. It’s the water we swim in. (Which is why I’ve opted out of most of those conversations.)

For me, at least, it’s not a binary choice. Perhaps this is unique to American culture. But holy cats! We don’t need to monetize every last thing we do. Writing has worth. Whether you earn six figures from it or you simply blog for the joy of it.

I’m trying to unlearn this lie. And while I like it when people buy my books, it’s not why I write them.

So I’m searching for a new way forward. Perhaps, if I reach into the past and take the hand of the woman I once was, we can find our way into the future.

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Published: Field Manual for Waiting

Yesterday, I received my author copies for Issue 29 of the Blue Earth Review.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

It’s been my aim, for a while, to get a piece accepted in this publication. This might seem like a random goal, but I had my reasons. A handful, actually.

The Blue Earth Review is Minnesota State University, Mankato’s literary magazine. I grew up in Mankato, my father taught at the university for 28 years, and my daughter recently received her Associate of Arts degree from there.

It is a literary magazine, however. Normally my writing does not skew literary. I’ve only submitted there once before, with a piece I thought might fit. (Clearly, it didn’t.)

This time, I submitted a piece I wrote during a class I took this past July on writing about grief.

“Field Manual for Waiting” is written in the second person, present tense, and ties together two events that occurred 30 years apart. (And yes, where else am I going to send something like that but a literary journal?)

I’m pleased the piece was a runner-up in the creative nonfiction category of their Dog Daze contest. I’m really pleased with the production values. Again, this little journal is gorgeous, and I’m glad “Field Manual for Waiting” found a home there.

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Of brass rings and other dreams

Bloganuary: How do you define success?

So, I started this prompt maybe three or four times? Each time it was all: delete, delete, backspace, delete.

I think success is so hard to define because we often conflate it with happiness. You can have all the success in the world and still be the most miserable person on the planet.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because writing is tied up with publishing, and publishing (whether traditional or indie) is tied up with success. What happens when the brass ring of publishing success only makes you momentarily happy?

You reach for another.

And another.

And another.

And maybe you don’t question whether these are good things to reach for, whether they make you happy or successful.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that people abandon their goals and dreams of success. With the correct alignment, success might help you gain happiness (or at least contentment).

But I’ve been asking myself what makes me happy, what makes me feel successful. I’m working to filter the external, those things that are someone else’s standards, and capture my own.

And that might be a moving target, but it feels like a good one to set my sights on.

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New Release: Here’s How We Survive: The (Love) Stories for 2020

One year. Four dozen stories.

115,000 words.

Here’s How We Survive: The (Love) Stories for 2020

When I first conceived of this project, way back in late 2019 (around November, I think), I had no idea what 2020 would bring.

Then again, none of us did.

All I knew was that I had any number of previously published stories that weren’t doing anything and several on my hard drive that had never found a home.

With a little creative scheduling, I figured it would be fairly easy to write enough new stories to fill in any blanks.

Then 2020 actually happened.

I wondered what I’d gotten myself into and feared that somewhere along the way, I’d get derailed. So I took it one story and one week at a time.

It was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. In some ways, it became my anchor for 2020. I could always edit a post, create images in Photoshop, or excavate stories from my hard drive.

(Note: if you’re fairly new to writing, it may seem strange that you can forget about writing stories. I’m here to tell you: it really does happen.)

A couple of times, I came this close to not having any stories scheduled. At others, I had so many in the queue, there wasn’t enough room on the WordPress dashboard to display them all.

Once, I became exceedingly confused and published a story on Thursday, realized my mistake, and unpublished it until the next day. This was post-COVID, so we can simply blame lingering coronavirus brain fog for that.

I learned a number of practical lessons, things like it’s good to have several posts in reserve in case you sprain your ankle or that scheduling each story/post will take much longer than you think it will.

The project–and 2020–gave me the chance to reflect on my writing in a way I’m not sure I would have otherwise. As the saying goes:

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten.

Or, in this case, fifteen. That’s the breadth of the stories in this collection. It’s not the sum total of my entire writing career, but it’s a significant portion of it. I chose not to include some earlier stories (and, actually, some later ones too). They’re not necessarily bad. They were published, after all–one even nominated for a Pushcart Prize. They simply didn’t fit the collection.

So now I’ll turn my attention not only to 2021 but beyond. Sure, there are many things I’d like to accomplish this coming year, but I’m going to keep my eye on the next decade as well.

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Mini-release Monday: Dragon Whispers

Dragon Whispers: Six Tales of Dragon Adventure and Lore

Here be dragons … six of them.

Often mercurial, preternaturally perceptive, always inscrutable.

What if you had to barter for your village while tied to a stake? Or if the one thing you always wanted—a dragon of your own—was forever denied? Where might a midnight chase through a stately hotel lead?

From adversary to lover to devoted friend, from epic to urban fantasy—follow six heroines as they encounter six very different dragons. They’ll barter and bargain, chase and be chased, and in the end, learn the true meaning of dragon’s bane.

Dragon Whispers gathers together the dragon stories from The (Love) Stories for 2020 project:

  • Aleag the Great
  • Knight at the Royal Arms
  • Fire and Ivy
  • Dragon’s End
  • Heart Whisper
  • Dragon’s Bane

Let the adventure begin!

Don’t buy this book!

All right, you certainly can buy this book. I’m not going to stop you.

However, all the stories in it have (or will) appear as part of The (Love) Stories for 2020 project. So you can absolutely read them for free as well (Aleag the Great and Heart Whisper are scheduled for November). Plus, I’ll be releasing a compilation of all the 2020 stories at the end of the year.

So why release this (somewhat) slender compilation and then tell people not to buy it? Reverse psychology?

No, actually, I have a couple of reasons for doing this. As I was working on the project, I discovered I had dragon stories—in my head and on my hard drive—enough to create their own compilation.

These themed compilations sell surprisingly well for me–in markets you can’t really see. Library pay-per-checkout, print library sales, print sales via Ingram, and subscription services like Kobo Plus and Scrib. I have books that don’t sell on any of the e-retailer sites (and have the Amazon rank to prove it, ha!) but sell in print.

Unfortunately, it’s a murky thing. I can’t tell where these books are selling (most of the time), so my only recourse is more = better.

Also, it’s been more than a year since I’ve released something new. It’s always good to practice the steps since things change all the time.

But most of all, it was fun. I enjoy the production side of things almost as much as the writing. And maybe it’s a result of 2020, but it feels good to make something and put it out into the world.

So, sure, go buy the book if you wish, but if you’re in a reviewing sort of mood, I’d love some of those as well. Drop me a line, and I’ll send you an electronic copy.

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Free Fiction Friday: Crying Wolf

This month, it’s all about fairy tale retellings. First up, a retelling of … well, you can probably guess.

Sending you over to Daily Science Fiction today for my story Crying Wolf.

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Weekly writing check-in: the Amazon bait and switch

So, I discovered that the US Amazon store was selling the print version of The Complete Coffee and Ghosts for $6.88.

Usually, it’s $24.99.

I know. Totally insane. The price stayed like that for a few days, so this morning I took a chance and alerted my newsletter subscribers to the deal.

You know what happens next, right?

Amazon jacked the price back up to $24.99. Because, of course, they did.

No doubt people clicking through from the email triggered some algorithm or other. Even I missed picking up a couple of copies. I was going to grab some for a giveaway or little free libraries.

But all is not lost. The Kindle version is still on sale for $6.88. It’s not the fire sale of earlier, but it’s not bad.

In less frustrating news, I submitted a story this week, played around with some time travel ideas (story ideas, not actual time travel), and of course, saw The Way Home published over at Long and Short Reviews.

So, minus the Amazon debacle, not a bad week.

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Weekly writing check-in: 2018 in review

I am charging through the read-through of The Trouble with Necromancers. Once that’s done, and I do a quick check for grammar and typos, I’ll send it out for editing.

That makes now a good time to review 2018.

2018, by the numbers:

2018 was a strange year, for so many reasons. For me, one of the main ones was losing my good friend and writing BFF, Darcy Vance (you can read my tribute to her here). She died about a year ago, and navigating my creative life without her has been difficult. For a bit, I thought I would stop writing altogether.

I didn’t, obviously. Darcy wouldn’t want me to. Still, this year was full of me trying to find my way again, on my own.

Writing. Eh. Not as much as I wanted to or would have liked. That being said, I started the year with an unfinished, very thin draft of The Trouble with Necromancers, and I ended up with something I think/hope works as a series starter, along with ~six books planned.

I switched gears early in the year. I was thinking of focusing on a fairy tale series, but the world building wasn’t there. I switched to a contemporary story because that would be “easier” (ha, ha). What I think happened is I learned a lot about building a series and world from scratch.

I do plan to return to the fairy tale series, but probably not this year. (Then again, when it comes to writing, I never say never.)

I also wrote a novella (soon to be a full-fledged novel) in the Tea & Sorcery series. I also had the chance to write a story that takes place in one of my favorite series. The author extended the invitation, so essentially, it was fan fiction. It was also a lot of fun to do (and necessitated rereading the entire series, of course). I’ll let you know if/when it’s published.

Submissions. I sent out 25 submissions this year. I didn’t write any new stories for the short fiction market, so most of those were either stories I haven’t sold yet or reprints.

I made two sales:

I’m still waiting on a handful of 2018 submissions as well.

Books. I published one book, Straying from the Path. This is my fairy tale compilation, and I was so certain I’d follow it up with more fairy tales. And … someday I will.

What I did do this year is rebrand all my offerings. In doing so, I managed to snag a BookBub Featured Deal for Coffee & Ghosts 1: Must Love Ghosts. That was a big deal. That was a very big deal.

I’m pleased I took the time and effort to re-do all the covers. It really made a difference in the next category.

Money. I’m from the midwest. We don’t talk about money, at least not willingly. But in full transparency mode, how is this indie publish thing working out for me?

Pretty okay. This is the second year in a row that I’ve made five figures. Not living-wage five figures, mind you. Still. Enough that this is certainly worth my while. Plus? It’s fun.

But this whole money thing brings me to my goals for 2019:

More books, new books, new formats (audio, large print, and so on). But especially new series and new things for people to read. That’s really been my goal all along: things for people to read.

Let’s see if I’m up to the task in 2019.

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Weekly writing check-in: the one with the bundle of ghosts

So, this week, I released the bundle of season three of Coffee & Ghosts, because some people like their coffee and ghosts all in one place. I’m still doing the print layout for it, but that should be ready in a week or two.

And … I started in on a new story. For now I’m calling it How Goldie Lost Her Locks, and it’s about how … Goldie lost her locks. I’m also outlining another one that I think I’ll call An Army of Toads. And if you’re thinking to yourself: hm, those sound like reimaged fairy tales, you might be right.

Otherwise, I filled the week helping my daughter with her Girl Scout cookie sales … lots and lots of cookies sales and lots and lots of cookies.

Writing Work:

  • Planning/researching new series
  • Draft writing ~ 5,000 words!

Submissions:

  • None

Rejections:

  • None

Acceptances:

  • None

Publications:

ghost-series-3Coffee & Ghosts 3: The Complete Third Season is now available for those of you who like your coffee & ghosts in one place.

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Fabulous Fantasy and Science Fiction Special

Another fabulous promotion courtesy of author Patty Jansen. If you need to fill up on books to beat the winter blues, this is just the thing. All books (and some boxed sets!) are 99 cents. But hurry! This weekend only!

sffjanuarypromo

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