Tag Archives: books

Behind the Scenes In Being Published: Update and Cover Art (Aug. 2017)

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Recap: I sold my New Adult alternate-history fantasy series late last year to Glass House Press. Since then, I’ve been detailing my journey of what goes on behind the scenes. Now, my publishing story is going to be (probably markedly) different than someone else’s, but you might take some inspiration or advice with my tale.

If you’re interested, here is:

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If you’re caught up, you know that I’ve been working on a whole ‘nother book before the original series I sold to Glass House Press. My editor, in considering how gigantic my world is and how much backstory I have to get there, was nervous that there was too much information to pack into the beginning of the series. Thus, a prequel.

Well, it’s turned into 64k words with the latest revision, so I guess it’s real-book sized! I thought it was going to be a novella but since it’s basically impossible for me to write anything short… yeah.

Anyway, August consisted of me working with the first letter of feedback. Mainly, fleshing out my ending, and putting more world details and MC voice in the beginning. This last month was a big of a whirlwind, in learning more about my world than I have before. (The last blog post goes into more detail about this)

I’m a pantser character writer, which means that my world building comes in fits and starts as my characters explore it. It’s got it’s disadvantages; meaning, I tend to have to re-write everything once I get to the end as I figure out Oh Yeah I Need To Know How That Works. Because there’s nothing more irritating to a reader than going along thinking one thing and then having to jar yourself into another world-space because of oh yeah this important detail of my world right here that I’m suddenly bringing in to create conflict hahahahaaaa… 

Okay I’m sure there are other things that are more irritating but that’s probably one of the top ones. At least for me as a reader.

Anyway, I ended up fleshing out/discovering things about my world beyond what I expected. I thought I had it mostly figured out; in delving deeper, into things I thought weren’t important because they weren’t important to the character necessarily, I discovered/created a lot that made my world a lot more interesting. Even though I still feel meh about this prequel coming out before Book One, the exercise of going through all of this has been immensely helpful (and important, to be honest). I already have a boat-load of new information that Book One needs to have. It’s really rather exciting.

I’m starting to think that going forward as a writer, I need to write a ‘history book’ involving whatever world I’m working on. Nothing I ever publish or even make interesting in any sense of the word, but something that makes me walk through and flesh out the environment that my characters are living in. I plot it out in my head, but there’s just something about writing it all out. Because I vastly underestimate how much detail I need to build certain world elements.

(You world-building first types are probably like DUH, but hey I’m getting there)

So that’s the update involving the writing portion of what’s going on behind the scenes.

IN OTHER NEWS.

The publisher and I have started talking cover designs and concepts. For a fun and awesome twist, I get a lot of input on what is going into my cover(s). So last month I had a meeting with my publisher and we worked out concept ideas, themes, and what we wanted to portray for my series. Like, the covers are all going to be made in the same style with similar designs in order to link them together.

The color and certain elements will be different for each one (I’m not sure how much I can talk about details since it’s not quite set in stone this is killing me!!), but we have a basic concept, theme, and vision going forward.

An AMAZING designer (I’m not sure I’m allowed to really say who yet but omg I’m so excited!!?!) has been booked to create my first cover in November. She’s slotted for the first three for sure (first three including prequel and book one and two), and I’m not sure what happens after that, but considering it’ll be like a year or two before I have to think about it I’m sure we’re fine.

Guys I’m so excited about the designer. I didn’t really connect who she was at first, but as soon as I went to check her out and I was like WAIT I KNOW THIS I’VE SEEN THESE COVERS ON SOME OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS. She does gorgeous work, and I think the theme that the publisher and I worked out is going to be very striking and unique. *Cue flailing*

So there’s that.

I’m going to do my darnest to get the latest revision of the prequel back to my editor today. I’ve walked through all the changes she suggested (and some changes I felt it needed), and I can feel my focus on the story flagging; I’m not really seeing it anymore. I’ve done a LOT of work on it (12k words of addition plus whatever I’ve subtracted!), and need a break to come back with it with fresh eyes.

The next step is going to be another round of hard core development edits focused on what I’ve written (the last round of devs utilized a very detailed outline for a big-picture set of edits). It will be very interesting to see what my editor thinks walking through the story, versus just hearing about what the story will be about…

I’m pretty nervous, but also really looking forward to it. I’ve been craving this kind of in-depth, er, teaching, for lack of a better word. I read a lot of writing advice and such, but it’s easy to get tunnel vision when it comes to your own writing and not quite see how to apply the advice. Developmental edits are not my strong suit, and I sincerely want to learn!

And on that note…. happy Monday everyone! May your week be filled with inspiration and writing.

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Let’s Talk About “New Adult” Novels

 

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Okay, so we all know what Young Adult (or YA) is. Novels written for a teenage audience. And we know what “Adult” books are. Books written for an adult audience.

If you don’t know what “New Adult” is, that’s okay, because it’s kind of a new phenomenon and doesn’t have an aisle at the library yet. Simply put, New Adult, or NA, are novels geared towards that aggravating in between stage in life, where you’re technically an adult but are lost in the big, wide world and are pretty sure you’re still a kid somehow.

Those can be pretty broad terms. An age-group can encompass a vast variety of experiences and lessons — and each of these can be different depending on the person. We all learn and grow at different rates, and everybody probably has different ideas of what should happen (or what’s appropriate) for a particular age group anyway.

For simplicities sake, we’ll go with this explanation I’ve heard and appeals to me: YA is about finding yourself, NA is about finding how you fit into the world.

Now, obviously, that’s simplistic. There are adult books that are stories about finding yourself or finding your place in the world. Honestly, I think “finding yourself” happens at any age and all throughout your life, but there does seem to be a particular foundational self-finding as a teen. Or self-solidifying. Or something. But anyway, NA is college-aged focused, tends to be more mature and have darker content.

Because certain things are more acceptable in NA… and the fact that not a lot of people know about NA, so those who do tend to dominate simply by design… and if we’re looking at numbers a lot of writers tend to write some element of romance… a lot of the writers spearheading the NA as an age-group write romance.

NA is able to delve into the area of sex and sexuality that is frowned upon in YA, which means that what people love about YA gets to be mixed with another very popular element: sex. Descriptions and “exploration” of sex is allowed in NA where it’s not in YA. A win-win for a lot of people.

However, this is also leading to a source of frustration.

Please note: THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH ROMANCE. I love romance. I read quite a bit of romance. I’m a romantic person, I eat it up, especially when I want a happily ever after where everyone is okay in the end and the idea of reading anything about reality makes me want to goat-bolt into the nearest bed.

(I’m going to make goat-bolting a thing. It’s really fast. Trust me.)

Buuuuuuut. The frustration stems from the overwhelmed amount of romance that is dominating New Adult. NA seems to be, practically, just “YA with sex” instead of “college-aged life struggles of finding where you fit in with life.” (Which includes sex of course but you get what I’m saying.) NA has a huge capacity to explore A LOT, but many people of the NA age group or who enjoy the NA age group get frustrated by the seemingly never ending stories about sexual awakening.

Sometimes you want something non-romance. Not only because of the lovely asexual folks out there, who don’t want every book they read in their age group to be smut, but because diversity is a wonderful thing that leads to greatness. Also, choices, because that’s a thing, asexual or otherwise. Romance is great, but when you’re inundated with it you can become sick of it.

The truth is, I get really excited about New Adult stories. I’m a new adult. I feel like I’m in this adult world helplessly swimming in tar looking at everything like WTF AM I DOING. (Current world affairs don’t help.) Finding oneself is amazing and wonderful, but putting those pieces of yourself out in the world and finding how where best they fit keeps me up late wondering. This is where magic happens. This is where “oneself” starts changing the world. This is where “oneself” goes from meaning something just to you to finding the you that means something to other people. It’s terrifying, exhilarating, incredible. Sometimes it’s heartbreak and destruction. Sometimes it’s belonging and joy.

Anyway, the point is: NA is an age-group, not a genre, which means it’s capacity for story is GIGANTIC. I sometimes forget in my own little world where I write what I want, that reality doesn’t always reflect what I think it is or what I think it should be. So, it was really only recently that I realized, yeah, NA is pretty romance-heavy.

But I think there’s an evolution.Since it’s a new age-group, it takes a little bit before it’s fully fleshed out. Romance brought attention to NA: it’s becoming popular and noticed. Agents and publishers acknowledge it, the indie-publishing scene is all over it. Which means that now, as people realize it’s a thing, there will be people writing into it that have other stories to tell.

It’s funny, I wrote NA stories before it was even an age-group. I just wrote what I wanted to see in the world, I wasn’t really worried about it fitting in a bracket. Maybe that’s why I have confidence that NA will move on from “YA with sex” — because if I’m writing it, someone else had to be too. If readers and writers are frustrated about NA seeming limited to one genre, they’ll start writing something different.

NA will evolve. It will become more diverse. Many of us are working on making it so. And hey, if you’re one of those, I’d love to hear from you! Let’s be writing buddies.

 

Comments? Questions? What’s your experience with New Adult — are you writing it?


Branding Myself Journey (er, the Incomplete Journey)

Like any author in this day and age, “marketing” is a huge part of our job, traditionally published and indie alike. Marketing is this huge vast subject that scares the crap out of most authors, but includes things like: interaction on social media (with fans and other writers — and keeping consistent with whatever platforms you choose), ads on different sites, getting your book into the hands of reviewers, etc, and… branding.

I want to talk about what I’ve learned about branding. I’m definitely not an expert, but I’ve read a lot and am starting to feel like I’ve got my head halfway wrapped around the concept. Mostly, I wanted to share what I know while processing what I know.

Branding, simply, is what face you show to your audience. It’s what they associate with you when they think of you. In marketing in general, you want to cultivate a certain image of yourself and what you write so that you can more easily attract people that are going to align with what you have to offer (and hopefully want to buy your book!).

If you can attract people who are interested in the same thing as you, who have similar passions or motivations, they’re more likely to become loyal fans. This is opposed to, say, tweeting annoying ‘buy my books!’ links, or just talking into the void. That is vastly less successful, and honestly, will probably turn people off. Thought, technically, I suppose it is ‘marketing’ in the broadest sense of the word.

You can read a lot of advice about marketing in general, not book related, which can be pretty helpful. But for specific book-related marketing advice, I take a lot of it from BadRedHeadMedia. Her slogan is “Helping you help your damn self since 2011”, which I can’t help but like. She’s funny, concise, and her stuff really makes sense to me. A big shout-out to her.

(If you need somewhere to start with her, since we’re talking about branding, her Branding 101 article is really great, as is her The Reasons Branding Confuses You and How To Fix That Right Now.)

I’m going to snag another one of her phrases right here, too —

“You brand the author. Not the book.”

The point is, with branding, is that you’re developing attracting readers for YOU, THE AUTHOR, not a one-time book sale. Yes, books bring readers, obviously. But they’ll connect even more if they feel a connect to you, the author.

Sometimes I wince at that, because I wonder about the risks. Readers loving one book and not liking the next, or being put off accidentally by something I say, or, or, or. Most advice I read says being genuine and authentic is key to people connecting and liking you as an author, but there’s a lot of vulnerability in that too. Which is scary.

But I digress. I want to talk about what branding actually LOOKS like, which is what I struggled with when I first started consuming vast amounts of marketing advice.

So branding is what people think of when they think of you.

For me, I separate branding out into three parts into my head which helps me wrap my mind around it.

There are the esthetics

  • Colors
  • Symbols

There is your personality (sarcastic? funny? sweet? tough?)

  • Being authentic
  • Being genuine

There are the issues

  • What are you passionate about? The environment? Dogs? Happy endings?
  • These issues should be important to you, which could possibly connect you to a reader who also shares that interest and will then want to read your book.

Now, that’s just what helps me. I’m not a professional marketer, and those categories are far from clear cut from one another. They blend a lot. But it helps my head to see it that way.

As for my esthetics, I’m all about dark colors. I love blues and greens and purples. I generally have some sort of plant-related or dragon-related thing somewhere. I like sprawling landscapes and epic scenes. I also like grittiness, though — a hint of darkness and danger. I want to do an overhaul on all my sites to really portray this better. I also want to create a symbol that really encompasses me — to put in all sorts of places, including business cards and the like. I’m getting there.

My personality, well. I love sarcasm. But, I’m pretty much a bleeding-heart sap to my core, so there’s that. I’m more timid than I like, and it comes through when I make stances on issues, because I tend to over-think and just make myself go in circles. I like adding aspects of thought to conversation rather than arguing. I know, devil’s advocate personalities are the worst. I try to restrain myself.

Furthermore, I want to be intelligent but accessible. I want to teach, not preach. I want to break boxes and step out into new ways of thinking and perceiving the world… and bring everything else along with the ride. (Succeeding at this is a whole new story.)

As for issues… well, let’s get a little more in-depth with that.

Advice I’ve read from professional marketers state that you should choose 5-6 major issues to include in your branding, and 4-5 minor subjects.

Major subjects are more directly related to what your books are about, the image you really want people to identify with you. These are things that are most important to you that show up in your books.

For example.

Environmental issues have been a big part of my life forever, and when looking at my writing, it shows up. A lot. Whether it’s actual solarpunk I’m writing, or there’s historical significance for the world, or the main character is worried about an environmental issue.

I’m also a huge fan writing alternate history. I like messing with time and events and making something new. My INITIUM series, my first series being published, is alternate history. And historical truth in real life (winners writing the historical narrative) has also been an issue near and dear to my heart since… forever.

Then, there’s the fact that I write fantasy. I love fantasy and magic and tend to be daydreaming wherever I’m at. So, another theme that I like to fit into my branding is pointing out the moments of magic in real life. I’d love to be known for seeing magic in the drudgery. (This theme doesn’t come up as often as it should — I need to work on it.)

Right off the bat, those are three issues that I can post about that reveal who I am as a person and what I write about as an author.

Also, my editor suggested a while ago that my heroine, Fairian, is quite the strong female figure. She’s kind of a reluctant hero, not really wanting to change the world around her, but doing so for various reasons. So: women power. That’s another issue that can fit into my branding narrative, as my characters are generally pretty strong and feisty. It’s also a pretty popular one, which helps. I’m working on really making this more of a part of my branding, since it’s a pretty complicated subject and I’m not sure exactly what this looks like, to post about.

Another issue that’s been slowly showing up in my branding is mental health. I suffer from depression, so it’s natural to me, but I’ve never really been one to share it or talk about it. But, I’m realizing more and more, that a lot of people struggle with this issue, especially writers. My characters also tend to struggle with some sort of mental/existential issue in their paths, so it fits there, too.

Then, probably the most obvious theme that fits into branding me-as-a-writer, is #writinglife itself. That one doesn’t need much explanation: whether it’s ironic jokes or complaining about word counts or posting snippets or joining Twitter chats, that one fits in pretty naturally.

Do you see where I’m going with this? I’ve got 6 major themes to use for branding, right there.

  • Environmental issues
  • Real History, #OnThisDay History, etc
  • Magic in real life
  • Strong women
  • Mental Health
  • Writer’s Life

All of these themes fit into what’s in my books, in one way or another. But they’re also related to me, and give an idea of who I am.

(This also works into the esthetics and personality stuff I was talking about before. Esthetics: there’s a lot of plant and dragon related stuff. Personality: bleeding heart save the environment, sarcastic to the core because I fight depression and that means I can fight you. But it also means I’m almost always in existential crisis and people suck.)

Then there are the minor subjects. These are, from what I understand, things you post about less often but are more about rounding out who you are as a person. They don’t necessarily show up in your writing.

For me, these include:

  • Goats — I have 13 of them, and who doesn’t want to see baby goats?
  • Funny plants/animals — I always find the strangest creatures, and this fits into the environmental theme.
  • Working in retail/odd fruit and things — I work retail at a produce market and have some pretty funny stories, and the fruit and vegetables thing also works into the environmental theme.
  • Geeky/nerdy things — I play Dungeons and Dragons quite a bit, among other things.

*deep breath*

That was a lot of information. But is it starting to make sense?

In the reality of my own branding, I want a stronger presence of magic-in-reality and strong women, and I’ve been wondering how to take all of them to the next level. Because while I post things in these themes, I’m not sure they engage or inspire the way I want them to.

The last piece of important information I want to convey here (at least for this post) is about engagement. Posts with high engagement contain one of these elements:

  • Challenge — does it challenge the person reading it?
  • Curiosity — does it satisfy or inflame a curiosity?
  • Fantasy — does it lead the person on a journey, a fantasy, a place they want to go?

In other words, when you’re posting this or that having to do with one of your themes, you tailor it with one of the three ideas above so that it really hits home for whoever is reading it. You want to inspire someone, somehow — and if you can do that, your post is going to get more engagement, but more importantly, people are going to remember you.

I haven’t quite figured out how to do this yet. I’m going to write another post at some point that goes more in depth on how I take my themes and turn them into actual content… but to be honest I don’t think I’ve figured out the reality of what all of this looks like.

I post a lot of environmental news on FaceBook and generally do a few #OnThisDay posts a few times a week, and my Instagram is full of amazing fantasy artists (and goats), and Twitter is all sorts of tweets about writing life and retail nonsense and different chats. But I want to inspire more, engage people more. I want more of my personality to bleed through, while at the same time, my introvert-self is like Oh HELL no.

But I think if I can find my groove, my way of being awesome and vulnerable to the world, I’ll really like it. I love Instagram for this reason — I love showing off art from amazing artists, and being inspired about writing something in turn. Branding should be fun, and while work, you shouldn’t hate it.

At least, that’s what I think.

 

Alrighty, I think this post has gone on long enough! Kudos for reading this whole thing — and I hope it was helpful. Like I said, I’ll be writing another post that goes more in depth on how I’m turning this information into content. Mostly because I like writing all of this out… and I hope you get some inspiration from it too.

 

Thanks for sticking through with me through my two month absence. ❤ I’ll be writing another Behind the Scenes in Publishing post here soon! I’m going to talk about contract writing versus writing from the heart…

Questions? Comments? Additions? Concerns? What did you think? What works for you in branding yourself?


Published: Behind the Scenes (April 2017)

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Well this is going to be a short one. Much the same as my last post, I’m working on the prequel project assigned by my editor. I will be writing a post about what it’s like to write for oneself vs. ‘contract writing’ as they say, but I’d like to finish writing the thing before I delve into that.

So, just in case you missed it! I’ve written about my initial foray into developmental editing, which was eye-opening to say the least. I also wrote a post about my Path to Publication, which highlights how I even got my publishing contract that I still can’t quite wrap my head around as actually having oh my god my book is going to come out next year —

*deep breath*

So while you wait for more crazy thoughts of behind the scenes, here’s a snippet of what’s taking up so much of my time lately. Don’t judge too harshly, it hasn’t gone through editing yet (ha!).

The windowpane was cold on the side of my head. I could just move and relieve the discomfort, but I didn’t. I sat there, useless. Or maybe I was punishing myself. Everybody was always worried about that lately. Survivor’s guilt, they called it.

But they didn’t know it actually was my fault. If I hadn’t told my biggest secret, none of it would have happened. He’d made sure to tell me how special I was, that the secret I hid from the world was the reason he’d had to take my sister and me. Not just to ransom, like most people kidnapped upper class girls for. But for something else, something that meant he hurt us, over and over, without even touching us…

The cold from the glass was seeping from my head, down my body. Annoying little shivers kept hitting me at intervals, pulling me out of my reverie. I pulled the blanket tighter and higher around me, but the cold still penetrated. It made me squirm on the window bench; between the cold and my butt falling asleep, I wanted to move.

Damn it, I couldn’t even be miserable properly. I couldn’t even punish myself for being alive when she wasn’t.

I flung myself up from bench and stalked across the room. My eyes burned, looking for something or throw or to hit. A pillow went first, but that didn’t feel like anything. The water glass on the bedside table went next. It made a loud sound against the wall before hitting to the ground, a large crack down its side. The damn glass couldn’t even shatter properly.

I slumped down on my bed, trying to cry, trying to feel anything but hollow, like I’d had all my insides sucked out by those things that had taken us and held us and burrowed into our heads like worms that ate through our brains –

I slapped myself sharply across the face. The gleeful bubbling panic under my breastbone was too close; I’d let it too close. My thoughts ran frantic through my head, like clawing hands searching for a way to rip open the memories and spill them forth like sewage.

Two deep breaths later, I knew I’d be able to conquer it. It wasn’t going to overwhelm me. I breathed deep and focused on one single point, keeping my mind still. It still took several more minutes of deep breathing before my hands stopped shaking.

The therapists my parents had been hiring weren’t completely duff. I’d mostly ignored all of what they’d said, because like everyone else, they wouldn’t listen to me when I’d told them the truth about what had taken us. But some of what they’d said about panic attacks helped.

The slapping bit was my own, though. Sometimes I needed something more drastic to get my stupid head’s attention.

I fell backwards across my four-poster, and nearly brained myself on the book I’d bought earlier today. Wincing, I yanked it out from under my head and stared at its dark cover.

It didn’t hold the answers I sought.

There was nothing in the book about what he was. Nothing had fit. Oh, plenty about the other things. Plenty about creatures that were more shadow than flesh, creatures that lived off of human blood, creatures that could change shape, ones that stole children and ate them, ones that looked to be a mix of several creatures, ones that controlled weather or elements – all of them categorized by their most common regions, favorite habitats, and common behaviors. Even dragons, and more creatures I’d never even dreamed of yet alone heard of from my grandmother.

Breathing deeply, I spent a few seconds calming, my train of thought courting the panic attack I’d just conquered.

Another thought hit me; my stomach gave a little lurch. The book held no answers about what he was, or why he’d taken us. But this couldn’t be the only book. And this couldn’t be the only way of finding new information. My grandmother was gone, everyone laughed off what I said – I was the only one willing to find out the truth.

The book was heavy and warm in my hands. It couldn’t be the only one with information like this. There had to be others of its kind, with more information, new information.

There was a way to find out who’d killed my sister.

There was a way to find the truth about the things that dwelled in the dark.

Comments? Questions? Laughter?

Have a fantastic writing day, friends.


What is half-published, you say?

Half-published is when you’ve signed a contract with a publisher but your book isn’t out in the world yet.

Because yeah. That’s what’s happening. With me.

Like, what? Me? I have a what now?

*deep breath*

I am officially signed with Glass House Press for my INITIUM series, starring Fairian, my cranky answers-driven heroine, and Daimyn, my intense immortal guardian of the innocent.

*soundless flailing as I can’t decide what emotion to stick with*

Actually, I’m rather surprised at how I feel about it. I was thinking I’d be giddy, or so excited I felt sick, or doing the omg what did I just get into thing. Instead, I feel so light. With a huge dose of LET’S FREAKING DO THIS. I am so ready to make this happen I can barely stand it. I know at some point I’ll be overwhelmed by editing, marketing, etc — but right now I’m incredibly eager to make it happen and learn and see what works.

I feel solid. Grounded. Determined and excited. Which makes me feel like I’ve made a really good decision and am totally ready for this.

It’s going to be an incredible adventure.


NaNoWriMo: Day One

Yesterday I finally decided my dilemma: I’m continuing with my current WIP. I probably do need the creativity break, but I’d really like to see how I react in a situation where the pressure is on for a project I really care about. If I’m going to survive as an author, I think I’d better figure this out!

(Beyond that, my excitement for the new idea rather petered out. I need to do a lot more work on a plot before it’s ready.)

National Novel Writing Month is an excellent opportunity to test my reaction to writing under pressure on a project dear to my heart. Last year I reworked an old idea and put a new spin on it, and tested my ability to stick to a schedule. (It turns out, I can stick to a schedule! Alongside other lessons) But it was a story that didn’t have much investment, and was not so dear to me.

I’m pretty nervous excited to find out how I react, learn new things about myself as a writer, and get this book done.

As for today’s word count, I’ve only gotten to a little over a thousand. For some reason the scene I’m trying to write it just not jiving with my mood. So much for leaving the editor at the door.

(Wish me luck!)

Good luck to everyone out there participating in NaNoWriMo, and happy November 1st! I’m writing under the name Bluescale, come be my buddy!