March 22

Illusive Words

It’s been awhile, again. It’s been a rough year in general so far, and I knew that when I stopped serializing my drafts on the blog, it would be hard to stay motivated to write daily. But I also didn’t count on getting so completely out of the habit of writing that even sitting down to put down a few random words here and there would be an extreme exercise in willpower.

And yet, here I am.

I suppose you could say I’m in a “growth cycle” of sorts, but that would really just be an excuse. The fact is, I’ve let the habit slip, and while I want to write, there are about a million things that seem more important to focus on right now. So I haven’t buckled down and made writing a habit again.

I’m even having a hard time writing this blog post, partially because I’m out of practice, and partially because all I have are excuses that seem lame even to my own ears. But what if we look at this a different way?

I don’t have to write, which means I don’t need excuses when I don’t write. What if I just decide not to feel guilty about not writing, and instead just be confident in the fact that I’ve been writing on and off since high school, and no matter how long of a “break” I had to take for various detours, I always, always come back to the words. I lost a dog to cancer earlier this year, and it was kind of a traumatic, drawn out experience. Then we kind of had a hole in our pack, work just kept on being super-busy, and our remaining dog started revisiting old bad habits.

Now we’re on the cusp of adopting another dog to eventually be a companion to our current dog (as well as us, of course), and the new dog has some issues he’s working through as well. It took two weeks to determine whether the dogs would eventually be able to get along, and it’ll be at least another three before they find equilibrium after the new dog moves in.

Work is still busy, busy, busy. It leaves me satisfied, but somewhat brain-dead at the end of the day.

All that said…I will get back to my stories soon. I can feel my life slowly finding a balance again after everything that’s happened, and I think when I finally find that point again, I’ll slip back into the writing habit as if I never let it slide.

Or that’s what I hope, anyway. We’ll see in a few weeks. Hopefully less.

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt of something I wrote a few weeks ago, just playing around in my “scratch-pad” file. Whether anything will ever come of it is anyone’s guess, but I think there’s an interesting premise here, I think.

She didn’t know what she was thinking, buying the orange and green abstract monstrosity. It wasn’t pretty…or ugly, or even what she’d consider particularly intriguing. But the moment she’d seen it, it had claimed her, and now she couldn’t even fathom not taking it home.

“How will you be paying, Miss?” The wizened old gentleman stood dapper in his tux behind a linen-draped card table serving as a cash register for the evening. Everything about him was a cliche, save for the look in his eye. It wasn’t the look of a white-haired has-been, but rather one of those tall, dark, silent-predator types that every girl wanted to be caught by when she was young and naive. A cliche within a cliche.

She handed over her credit card with a wan smile, not sure whether her attraction to him was more or less embarrassing than the purchase she was making. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but it was every bit as certain to her as gravity and oxygen that he knew of her inner struggle. Even more perplexing, he seemed to approve.

“I knew who that was for the minute you walked through the door, my dear.”

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February 16

Musings on Voice & Genre

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past six months or so about the genres I write in, and my personal writing voice. Part of the reason I’m giving up romantic suspense, at least for a little while, is because when I look at my version of the genre, it’s…different than what I think people are expecting. Different than what most readers of the genre want, but not different enough to be distinctive and forge a new trend.

A writer’s “voice” is an all encompassing thing…not just how we write, but how we see and filter the world and then translate that onto the page. I’m very independent (often accused of being too much so), but I also love men, and get along with them better than I do with most women. So that comes across on the page, and I’m often harder on my female characters than males…which, I’m afraid, is exactly opposite what most women want to read about (not all – there are people of both genders who’ve enjoyed my books thus far, and I appreciate them more than I can say).

Until I started thinking about this in terms of voice, I really kind of felt like this made me a bad writer. My books never really caught on no matter how much marketing I did (which has been admittedly less than I should). One would think that keeping on writing, studying the craft and working to improve things like descriptions and plots would make me improve, but I wasn’t getting anywhere, and after a really long, frustrating year last year, I finally realized that there may not be much more I can do to become “good” in that genre without changing my overall voice.

I could do that, I suppose, but honestly, I don’t think it would come out right on the page. And writers with similar perspectives (it seems) to mine seem to be writing mostly romantic comedy. Though I can be funny at times, it’s a dry wit, and while I do occasionally give it to a character here and there, it’s often misunderstood and causes problems.

In any case, this year I’m focusing on three genres – young adult, speculative fiction, and horror. And I have to say, while the young adult is a bit of a stretch (to put it mildly), the other two are more like putting on a comfy pair of shoes. I use a different writing style for each and the cadence between spec fic and horror occasionally bleed into each other (no pun intended), but the young adult is teaching me a lot about range and alternate cadence and character arcs and growth.

Basically, even though it was hard to make the decision, I’m glad I left romance behind. I’ll keep reading it, of course, but I think I’m finally on the right track to really use my natural voice – which will hopefully resonate with readers as well.

I’ve had a rough start to writing this year, but I’m slowly working my way back into it. Next week, I’ll have an excerpt or two to share.

Until then…

Related Reading:

Kristine Kathryn Rusch on “Serious Writer Voice”

Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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September 23

Writer’s Notes: Sept. 23, 2015

Daily Stats for Mon & Tues
Word count: 252/241
Drafts worked on: Live With Me
Writing Time: 20 min./20 min.

I only sort of know where this story is headed from here on out…I thought I knew, but it turns out we’re taking a detour. Which is my own fault for not feeling like writing what was supposed to happen when it was supposed to happen, so now…here we are, in the hospital with rough waters ahead. I might finish this before Christmas…if I’m lucky…

Excerpt

“I can’t believe you can joke around at a time like this,” she said, blinking back the glassy sheen from her eyes. “This is all your fault, you know. If you hadn’t been so hell-bent on taking a shower before your appointment…”


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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September 18

Writer’s Notes: Sept. 17, 2015

Daily Stats
Word count: 156
Drafts worked on: Double Blind
Writing Time: 20 min.

Slow going today, mostly because I sort of think I know where this is going, but maybe not, and it’s been hard for me to get on board with this story from the start. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be in a better “writing groove”. We all have those days…

Excerpt

“I do want something…with you. I just need to figure out where or how Jasper fits in. Thanks for being patient.”


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

 

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September 16

Writer’s Notes: Sept. 16, 2015

Daily Stats
Word count: 505
Drafts worked on: The Dry Rain
Writing time: 30 minutes

I know a lot of writers who need to know the end of the story before they even start writing. To me, that completely takes the fun out of the whole process. I need to get to the end through the journey my characters take, and I can’t know that until I write it, which means I never know the ending of a story until I start getting close to writing it.

Today, two endings for this story came to mind. I’m certainly leaning toward one more than the other, but the only way to figure out which one will truly “fit” is to just keep writing. But it’s still exciting to know I’m getting close to “the end”…

Excerpt: 

A woman in green scrubs stood at a counter just through another narrow doorway, with a tray of syringes in front of her, an array of tiny bottles to the right, and a box of empty syringes just next to those. As he watched, she filled syringe after syringe with a clear liquid, capping the needles and laying them on the tray.


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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September 15

Writer’s Notes: Sept. 15, 2015

Daily Stats
Word count: 187
Drafts worked on: LWM
Writing time: 15 minutes

I know, it’s dismal. It’s also Tuesday, which is generally my “bad” day of the week (generally speaking – like most people’s Monday). So while it sucks, I’m not all that surprised. And I just ran out of time before bed. Tomorrow will be better.

Excerpt: 

 “You can’t drive,” Emmett remarked. He shifted, and she felt him easing down to perch on the side of the tub. “I’m calling an ambulance. Just stay there.”


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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September 15

Writer’s Notes: September 14, 2015

Daily Stats
Word count: 567
Drafts worked on: LWM
Writing time: 30 minutes

I was at the point in this draft where my characters were finally gonna get lucky. But after the day I had at work, I just didn’t have it in me to write that scene. I suppose I could have just worked on another draft, but instead, I decided my characters would just have to wait awhile longer, and what should have been a rather pleasant shower turned into a serious injury-ridden incident that I’ll still need to get them out of before the scene is done.

It’s fun being a writer. Good therapy some days, too.

Excerpt: 

Being kissed by Emmett was such a heady feeling. Candace smoothed her hands over his bare skin and held her arms high when he pushed them up to pull her top over her head. His arms slid around her waist and he kissed her again until her head spun and she felt like she was falling…


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

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March 22

Writing & Publishing Notes: Mar. 22, 2015

So…it’s been awhile. A month, actually, now that I look at the calendar…

You know how sometimes when you drop a ball and run after it but it just keeps rolling out of reach, and then it bumps something that sends it back toward you and you think you’re actually going to be able to catch it, but then your fingertips graze it or your dog joins in and it ends up spiraling in yet another direction so you have to keep running in hopes of getting close again?

Yeah. That’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling lately. And I share that not from a “woe is me” sort of place, but just as a “this is how it’s been” sort of thing…because I’m sure someone out there reading is having the same sort of experience, and sometimes it helps to know you’re not alone.

I was doing okay, overwhelmed, but still sort of keeping things going, and then I got hit with that super-nasty cold that’s been going around. That completely wiped out pretty much an entire week for me (of everything – I missed day job work days too, so I’m even behind there), plus a good portion of a second week, and right in the middle of my big marketing push. Not good, but nothing I could really do to avoid or stop it, so no point in getting upset about it. I’m playing catch-up again now, but it’s just going to be kind of a slog for awhile.

I did decide to hire someone to format my latest print book for me – Polgarus Studios, and not only did they do a great job, it only took them a few days longer than it would have taken me, and it didn’t cost all that much. The time I saved in having them do the work as opposed to doing it myself was worth every penny, and as I’m way behind on my print formatting, I’m going to have them do a bunch more for me, one every month or whenever they can fit them into their schedule. That will take some of the pressure off me, and their prices are so reasonable it won’t be a strain on the budget.

As for the marketing push…well, I pretty much went about it all wrong, but that’s how you learn. And it did result in a few more sales, but really, considering I couldn’t do the promo work needed to really get the word out and I kind of screwed up *how* I ran it in general, I don’t even think I can draw any conclusions from it, because all the different parts were very insular from each other due to my not being able to bring everything together. But it’s more than I’ve done in quite awhile, and visibility is definitely higher for all formats, so it was still definitely a positive thing. And now I know better for next time, which is incredibly valuable going forward.

A few things I learned, for those interested:

– Reviews should come before a big promo push, so I need to do the review-request giveaways before I want to do a big promotion (consecutively rather than concurrently, I think), and before I lower the price, so the giveaways are that much more enticing.

– All formats need to be done and available before any kind of sale or discount

– Gotta have reminders all over the place for the promo. The review contests will take care of themselves on book lover’s sites, but for my own sites, and for a sale price, I need to make the visibility higher for that time period.

– I need to use my newsletters better for announcing contests/review giveaway opportunities

I’m starting to plan my next two promotional pushes well in advance, so I can correct some of these mistakes and see what kind of traction I can get.

As for the writing…I’m way behind on my writing *and* publishing schedule at this point, with no hope of catching up. So, I’m reworking my plans/schedule, and just moving forward from where I am now. Sucks, but it is what it is, and there’s no point in lamenting my own limitations. I’ll do the best I can, and see where I end up in December.

I think the important thing to remember (for me) is that I’m not actually on a deadline to *sell books*. So I can take my time and learn what I need to learn and make mistakes with promo and such…and all the while, I’ll still be working on my craft, and writing better books (hopefully), and nothing’s going to expire or anything like that. I have time. I have a day job I like that pays my bills, so I can afford to make mistakes, and learn slowly, and experiment with things, and figure this all out at my own pace.

And that is a very good, powerful place to be in.


Author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Publisher Site: Brazen Snake Books

February 22

Writing, Marketing & Publishing Notes: Feb. 22, 2015

Writing

My word count sucked this week, and I really have no real excuse for it – nothing that counts for anything, anyways. I was distracted for most of the week with various things, and thus just…didn’t write nearly as much as I should or could have. Needless to say, there’s nothing in the world I can do to finish this draft by the deadline, and I’m not sure I can actually live up to the publishing schedule I set for myself this year either. So I’ll be going through that this week, and paring down to something actually “doable” given my average word counts over the past couple of months. The fact is, the day job has a lot more to do with how much mental energy I have for writing on any given weekday, and deciding to get back into promotion and keep up with my business stuff on the weekends means there’s no time or energy for writing on the weekends either.

I’m not feeling sorry for myself here, just facing facts, and figuring out what to do about them. I think it’s important to be realistic when making goals, and to adjust when I realize I’m expecting too much of myself. It’s kinder than constantly reaching for too much, and constantly failing.

So…this week’s tally (most of it done on Monday, since I had the day off):

The Time Stone: 2,504

And that’s it. The draft is currently sitting at around 18k words, and I think it’ll end up being around 40k – 50k words, so around half-done. I am going to diligently work to bring that up to 30k words by next weekend, though that won’t be the average speed I expect from myself all year. I do want to get this draft done and out the door though, so I’ll give up some extra time to make that happen. It’ll still be late, but hopefully not more than a week.

Marketing/Promotions

This weekend was newsletter weekend. I’m sending out newsletters once a month – one for each pen name, and one main BSB newsletter. Last month, it took me an entire weekend of fairly steady work to get just three newsletters templated and scheduled. This month, I was more organized, but I needed to optimize my templates for mobile use (something I didn’t think about until I opened up last month’s newsletters on my cell), and I still had to write the actual letter part of it, which took more thought than I had planned for.

The other thing that took awhile was the fact that I’d planned a marketing campaign for March for my latest book, but I didn’t have everything in place yet, some of which needed to be before I could finish the newsletter. I had to spend time firming up plans, finishing general launch-type things that I’d started, but not finished just yet, and grabbing links from all over the place to include in the letter. That lack of planning really cost me, but it’s okay, because honestly, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing, and this process forced me not only to make decisions, but it sort of showed me through trial and error (and a lot of bumbling around) what I need to do in order to plan and execute a campaign like this.

I do tend to learn best through trial and error, so while it was irritating at the time, I’m glad I have a much better perspective on what needs to be done, and *when*. I’m going to make myself a list now – a blueprint, if you will, to use for marketing campaigns in the future, and also a list of things I need to think about on the first weekend of every month that will force me to decide what needs to be done before the end of each month as far as marketing goes. Training myself to think farther ahead, if you will.

I’m still working my way through Write, Publish, Repeat, and I really need to set up marketing funnels for my books. Which is going to be a lot of work, going backwards, but hopefully worth it. Another item for the ever-expanding to-do list…

After I post this, I’ll be formatting the print copy for my latest book, so I can get my giveaways set up for March on Goodreads, as well as digital giveaways for LibraryThing & BookLikes. I need reviews, and I’m exploring options for enticing those as well.

Business

I spent my business office hours this morning uploading books to Coffee Time Romance, my new distributor. It’ll take awhile to get my whole catalog uploaded, but hopefully I’ll sell a few things there. I need to get TrackerBox all set up with a new file for 2015, and also an all-encompassing file for previous years, but haven’t had time yet. Next weekend, I need to do the monthly bookkeeping, but that won’t take me as long with the new accounting software, so I’ll try to get TrackerBox updated then as well. I’ll have a better overview of how things are selling, then, and that will help me plan my marketing campaigns more effectively. I think.

So…keepin’ on, keepin’ moving. To say there’s a lot to do is an understatement, but I’m not feeling quite so overwhelmed this week, even with being way behind with no hope of really catching up. The thing is, I’m starting to see patterns in what I need to do, and logical sequences, and things that make me feel more in control of it all. And control-freak that I am, that keeps me calm and steady.

Now I’d better get that print book formatted. Here’s hoping next month’s campaign yields some good results – or at least some good data to learn from.


My author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com

Brazen Snake Books

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February 15

Writer’s Notes: Feb. 15, 2015

Okay, I admit it. I’m overwhelmed. Not to the point of burnout, because I’m being careful not to let myself go there, but I’m definitely at the point where even thinking about my list of things to do as far as business and marketing go makes me want to…well, not.

On the actual writing front, last week was a total bust. I don’t like to admit it, but my day job does play a part in how much I get written, even though my writing sessions are after work. The thing is, when my day job is really busy and/or stressful, I end up spending pretty much all my brain power on solving problems there, and then when it’s time to write, I have very little energy left to give my drafts. Which sucks, of course, but that’s just kind of the way it is. My word count for the week definitely reflects that, sadly enough.

Weekly Word Count: 

The Time Stone (Stone Scavengers): 2,305

Yep, that’s it. I’d hoped to spend more time on it this weekend, but other things got in the way. Luckily, I do have Monday off work (President’s Day), and aside from a dentist appt. that shouldn’t take more than an hour, I have the entire day set aside to write. That should get my writing week off to a decent start. I am way, way behind on my writing/publishing schedule for the year, and I really don’t think my goals are all that lofty, but clearly I’m having trouble meeting them, so I need to go through and rework the schedule into something a bit more realistic, methinks. Sad, but necessary.

As for marketing, I felt like it was important to rewrite the blurb for my most recent release, so I did that and uploaded the new blurb to all my distributors. I also got two more books uploaded to the CTR store. I wanted to get the print formatting and cover done for F&S, but couldn’t quite get to it, but I may work on that a couple nights this week. We’ll see. It needs to be done sooner rather than later if I’m going to get those giveaways scheduled for next month!

The business side of things went pretty well. I got SideShark – my new accounting software- all set up, and got everything for January entered with no problems at all. It was/is much simpler to use than Quickbooks, which is exactly what I wanted. So that was a huge relief, actually, because it’s going to make my bookkeeping a lot easier/quicker, which will leave me more time in my designated business hours to get other things done.

I feel like I could prioritize better and work more efficiently if I sit down and divide my publishing tasks into clearly delineated “marketing” and  “business” tasks. Then I could use my time more wisely on the weekends, instead of just having these huge lists to pick random projects from to work on. So that’s going to be one of the things I do this week while I’m watching TV in the evenings. Organize my tasks, allocate them to either marketing or business, and then prioritize according to projected release dates and other deadlines. That should make things run more smoothly, and it’ll certainly make my own brain much happier/less chaotic.


My author sites: JamieDeBree.com | TrinityMarlow.com | AlexWesthaven.com