Support Systems

In honor of my upcoming wedding anniversary this Saturday, today’s post is about support systems. My husband and I will have been together for 12 years this weekend, married for 8 of that, and for nearly a decade he was the only person that even came close to reading whatever I was working on at the time. He’s not a reader himself so I was pretty safe most of the time that he wouldn’t have the time or the energy after a long day of work to sit down and struggle through whatever crap I was currently spewing out. No one else was allowed to even touch my work, much less read it.

Whenever I would get frustrated with a project, which was often, he would encourage me not to delete it, get frustrated for me when I did and urge me to continue working. When I spent years (literal YEARS) putting my writing energies into RPG boards rather than my own work, he reminded me of what my goals were and that I would never reach them if I didn’t work for it. When I finally decided I was ready to branch out from my shell and let my writing out into the world, he supported me 100%.

And now, here I am — I have a publisher, an editor and I am not only working on several short stories for an anthology with my fellow Blysster Press authors but I’m working on the novel that I’m planning on releasing next year. I doubt I ever would have done this without my husband’s encouragement and support.

But he’s not my only source of support – my family and my friends have all been incredibly helpful and supportive … WHEN I actually open up and talk about what I’m doing, which is not often. I still feel foolish most of the time when I talk about my writing, I feel like I’m a kid playing pretend and at any time someone is going to call me out and shove me back out into the playground where I belong. Believing that isn’t going to happen while believing in myself is INCREDIBLY hard for me.

But the friends who’ve volunteered to help by being test readers and peer editors, the ones who ask how the writing is going and who don’t mock me or make fun of me, the ones who share their knowledge and insight and opinions — those are the ones who make the hard parts just a little bit easier. And I will be forever grateful to them.

I know I need to stop second guessing my own talent. I know I need to be confident and assertive and stop blushing and stammering when someone wants to talk about my current project. I KNOW I need to stop nearly having a heart attack when the books containing my short stories are brought out.

I’m working on it. That’s the best I can offer at this time. I’m slowly getting better – thanks to my support system.

Who is in your support system? How have they influenced your and your writing career? Leave your story in the comments and share your experiences and thoughts. I’m interested to know.

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Motivation & Inspriation

Today’s topic of discussion is motivation and inspiration – namely, what gets your creative juices flowing?

For example: I work at home but I can’t write while I am working, I’ve tried and it’s impossible. Being interrupted every two to three minutes with a phone call that takes anywhere from three to fifteen minutes to complete completely stalls my creative process. So while one would think I should be able to get a TON of writing done while I’m working, I just can’t do it. What I force out during those times ends up being crap I’m not proud of and therefore I won’t write. I reserve that time for social networking, research and general screwing around … between calls, of course. 😉

When I am writing, I don’t need to be alone but I do need music. So if there are other people in the room, I need headphones or something to block out conversations or television noise. The music I like to listen to while I write is mostly electronicia and techno. Stuff with heavy beats and little to no lyrics to distract me. 

No snacks, generally, but a glass of iced tea and a bottle of water alongside a fresh pack of smokes (yeah, I know… shush) and I’m set to go for a few hours at least. 

I think that I’m pretty low maintenance when it comes to what I need — getting the quiet time seems to be harder because of the guilt… The small voices in my head whisper of all the things I could be doing (laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, etc) and I have to work hard to ignore these thoughts because, really, I deserve time to myself too.. don’t I?

What about you? What keeps you motivated to keep writing, whether you’re at a keyboard or putting pen to paper? 


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Westercon Recap & Summer Plans

Westercon happened this last weekend and while I was incredibly nervous about going – were we going to at least break even… was there going to be enough alcohol… – it ended up being a fantastic event. There wasn’t huge numbers or anything but that turned out to be a good thing. We made enough in tips to break even for the weekend (barely, actually but those annoyances are for someone else to handle, thank god) and the staff was able to relax and actually enjoy the party. That never happens. 

Our sleeping room actually connected to the party room so we had more party stuff happening in there than we did the actual suite (omg it was such a mess) but I didn’t mind. I put up a ‘Private Room’ sign and surprisingly everyone respected it (even the people for whom the sign was not meant) and the girls and I (plus K and even B1 and B2 for a bit) danced the night away both Friday and Saturday. It was great. I haven’t had that much fun at a convention in… god, I don’t even know in how long. 

So the 2012 con season for Biohazard Party is over. Finally. Now we can concentrate on Rusty in January and getting ready for next year. 

In the meantime, there are summer plans ahead and work yet to be done. I’m still working on my novel manuscript and have added a few short stories to the mix that have a end-of-September deadline. It feels so good to have stuff to do that isn’t just me screwing around on the computer for my own amusement. 

Time to start acting like a real author now. 


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Future Planning

I got the manuscript template from my publisher this week. Getting my work transferred into it makes it feel somehow more real – it’s not just going to be a manuscript for a novel that I’m going to throw out into the world and hope gets selected… this is already accepted. My to-do list starts with finishing the book and then moves into the editing stages before it is going to be ready for publication. I’m hoping I’ll be done with step 1 (writing) by the end of the year. Step 2 will take several months and then it’s off to the races, right? Sit back and wait for the money to roll in? 

Not so much.

The work doesn’t end when the book is in print. In fact, that’s where a lot of the hard work starts – promotions and marketing, getting your name out there and your book sold. And if I want to do this right, I’m going to need to have a plan in place, a plan that starts now even before I’m done writing it. 

Why is that, you ask? Because, dear reader, my publishing house is not your usual run-of-the-mill book publisher. I’ll be in charge of my own marketing, my own promotions, scheduling my own book tour (based on my budget and calendar), and whether my book sells or not rests solely on my shoulders – I will have no one else to blame. 

So while I get the benefit of editors and proofreaders and typesetting and having my book published under a house, I also have a lot (if not most) of the responsibility of a self-pubbed author. I like to look at it as the best of both worlds, I am in control [I wouldn’t be with a traditional publisher] and I have a team to support me and educate me along my journey [I wouldn’t if I were self publishing]. 

Seriously, what is better than that?

Here is the start of my Master List of DOOM – what I’m going to need and when approximately – so that I can start getting my brain organized. The last thing I want is to not have prepared for the end and be scrambling to catch up and get my name out there. 

The list includes:
– Marketing Plan
– Press Kit
– Vanity Photos
– Book Tour Plan (what I can afford for travel, dates … don’t forget the cons I already attend each year)
– Cover Art (found the artist I want to work with, her stuff is gorgeous and she did one of our other authors)
– Promotional Plan
– Reviews (pre-release)

… and such. It’s not a complete list. Luckily I think my need for control works well with my non-traditional publishing house and my OCD will make this process less of a headache than it seems at the moment. I actually feel a lot better just having written that all down. 

Planning for the end result makes for more success, right?

Yeah, sure… we’ll go with that. 

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Two sides of an interesting question –

Read this WSJ article: Your E-Book is Reading You

Now, a question for both readers & authors (feel free to answer both):

Readers: if your reading habits, preferences & opinions were made known to your favorite authors, would it make a difference to you in purchasing books in the future or following a particular author?

Authors: Would you do anything with such insight from your readers

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Influence and Critiques

I always turn into a psychotic freak when I hand over my stuff to read; it never matters if it’s a work in progress or a finished piece (published or not) … I hand it over and my mind immediately starts listing all the reasons why that was a REALLY BAD IDEA. It gets worse if they read it and then get back to me — cold sweats and heart thumping terror kind of worse.

When I try and explain this to people, they automatically assume it has everything to do with whether or not they’ll like what I’ve written, that I’m terrified of criticism and that I can’t handle an honest opinion. But that’s not it at all – sure, it’d be nice if they liked it but I am seriously more concerned about their reading it changing their opinion of me. Not my writing but me as a person because this is the closest that anyone will ever get to my soul without cutting me open and trying to find it for themselves.

If someone reads it and has nothing to say except how much they loved it, how perfect it was and how wonderful of a writer I am, well, it’s nice to hear that and all but really it feels more like I’m being told what they think I want to hear and this is at the top of my ‘List Of Things I Hate’.

If they’ve got constructive criticism and they’re up for a bit of back and forth bantering, whether they liked it or not, I will be over the moon – recently a friend read my work in progress novel manuscript and afterwards we spent nearly an entire workday on G-Talk discussing various things; and it helped me see the story I’m creating from a whole different side. I’ve got tons of new ideas, I’m more confident in where I’m going and I’m feeling fantastic about what I’ve got so far — I took the good and the bad and I worked with them, I laughed at myself and opened myself up to knowing that I am not 100% perfect … and it felt great.

But how do you explain the difference to someone who has never had an experience with putting such a portion of yourself out there as an artist (of any kind)? How do I assure them that I won’t crumble into a little pile of dust and broken heart if they don’t like it. I am smart enough to know that nothing pleases everyone … I am writing this because I have a story I want to tell, not because I want to win anyone over or because I think it’s going to bring me fame and fortune. Really, I have better chances with the lotto tickets on that aspect.

I can’t not write. I tried that, the voices inside my head nearly drove me insane. What’s the point in writing anything if you’re not constantly trying to learn, grow and improve your craft? How can I do any of that without letting my words out there to be read?

In short, I cannot and I must continue on my path, venturing occasionally into the realm of freak out and assuring those around me I’m stronger than they seem to think.

It is, at the very least, reassuring to know that I’m not alone — I’m not the only writer out there who ever questioned her talent, abhorred the words she’d written or was positive that it would all be snatched away when the mistake was figured out.

I may be crazy in this aspect, but at least I’m not alone.

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Writing Prompt: Road Trip

Today we’re doing a fifteen minute writing prompt from Joe Bunting over at the Write Practice about a Road Trip.

Ready? Here we … Go!

Anticipation grew for the summers; not just for the breaks from school and the monotony of everyday but because for three weeks I’d pack my things and load up with my church youth group for the annual trek to Canada. I grew up attending a Lutheran church, every Sunday we’d attend church services, Sunday school when I was younger, confirmation classes when I reached my teens. Wednesday nights was dedicated to youth group activities and the pay off for this dedication was the summer camp.

Wilderness Ranch, set in the foothills of the Rockies in Alberta, Canada – outside of Calgary. The farthest from civilization I’d ever been (our first trip was in August and it snowed two or three feet that trip). But the getting there and getting home was a long and often torturous drive – three or four days straight, stopping to sleep in church basements or common rooms, where ever we could find space along our way in the Lutheran community.

I remember once we’d stopped at a motel of sorts, something we usually never did, only this was atop a bar and when the girls went to the bathroom Pastor Tom escorted us and stood outside the door. I was only about eleven or twelve at the time, it must have been a rougher place than I remember – but I felt completely safe in his presence, even without my parents, so I never second guessed his ability to protect us. I doubt, though, it had anything to do with God. Despite my dedication to attending church, I was never particularly religious or devout.

Which is not to say I don’t believe … I just think of the whole thing as being more spiritual and internal.

Anyways, back to the point of the post – the trip itself. Whenever I think of a road trip, these are the ones my mind goes to first; pretty much everything since then has been a day’s drive. These trips were special, sleeping in groups in a different space every night, rarely the same set of places every year with the anticipation of a new country and new adventures horseback and in the mountains awaiting us on the way, our beds, our family and friends and anxiousness for the familiarity of home on the way back.

I think I remember more about those days on the road than I do the exhausting days working the ranch itself, as much fun as they were. I learned a lot about myself and the people around me and I specifically remember particular things, scenes and thoughts twenty or more years later; which for me is nearly amazing.

I stopped going to Wilderness Ranch when I hit fourteen – too much teenage girl stuff to be done then and by the time I wanted to go back, I was already a mother and no longer able to attend on someone else’s dime. It is on the bucket list, however — places I’d love to take my children so they can experience what I got to… though do I let them experience without me? Or do I tag along so I can relive it for myself?

Perhaps someday, I’ll actually have the chance to tackle that problem.

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