Back to Self-Publishing…?

Image courtesy of Green Apple Books, our local bookstore

I really do miss self-publishing.

There, I said it. Back when I self-released A Division of Souls, I had the vaguest of ideas of what I was doing and mostly trusting my own instincts and relying on my own interpretations of how self-publishing works. I loved the idea of releasing my own books like I was selling my new punk single in Maximumrocknroll. I loved the idea of self-producing it — the editing, the cover art selection and layout — and trusting that I was doing a pretty good job of it. I loved creating and ordering those freebie cards that I could give out during local conventions. I may not have made any significant amounts of money, but I’m okay with that.

Why did it fall by the wayside? Well, a lot of personal stuff happened. The Former Day Job’s killing off of working remotely severely damaged whatever writing time I had. There was the idea of sending Diwa & Kaffi out to agents and publishers that got put on hold because of the pandemic that went on for far too long. Then I took a lot of time off to make some seriously overdue personal changes in my life.

I kept writing, though.

And because of that, I have multiple books waiting to see the light of day: Diwa & Kaffi is completed and ready to be seen by the big bad world. Queen Ophelia and Theadia are almost done. And I’m already thinking of what to work on next.

Which is all fine, but how to re-approach that avenue? I could keep up with what I’m doing, but there’s only so far I can go by just putting it out there. I need to relearn how to promote myself, what I can afford and what I can do on my own. I need to find more avenues to get my stories out there. I still want to aim for the goal of at least one title released per year, so that’s not the problem I need to focus on most. It’s bringing attention to the title. And I’ve read so many different things about how to do it that I’ve come to a temporary conclusion: no one really knows the One True Way towards self-publishing success, because there isn’t one. It’s not so much about following someone else’s directions as it is finding the version that works for you. I’m yet to find that version myself, but I’m still willing to take the time to search for it. Eventually I’ll find that version that fits me best.

In the meantime, I’m going to stick with what’s worked with me so far as a stable platform, and what I’ve enjoyed the most about it: writing the novels, doing the post-production, and putting it out there in the world for everyone to enjoy.

Year’s End View VI: Fin

Image courtesy of Weathering with You

So. With all that talk about the past year, I suppose it’s only fitting that I finish out the year (and this series of posts) looking ahead, yes?

I’m writing this just as yet another wave of COVID is making its way across the world, and this time out A and I know a few people who have been struck by it. They’re all okay from what I’ve been told, but this time it’s definitely cutting a bit close to home, and I do sometimes wonder how long this pandemic will continue to go on. Still…A and I are also taking the best steps we can to avoid it, masks and all. And I’m refusing to feel cynical or afraid or angry about it. [If anything, I am angry to the extent that there are those going out of their way to refuse to take any responsibility in helping stop this pandemic.] Whatever else is going on out there in the world that crashes into us — the strange weather patterns and destructive wildfires, the hateful words of bigots and the Ponzi schemes of cryptobros, and everything else — I continue to be well aware of it, but I choose not to let it bury me. I survive how I can.

I’m also writing this on the cusp of wondering what the next year will be like.

What will happen in my writing career? It’ll be what I make of it, of course. Whether I continue with my small band of readers or if by some chance one of my novels is a success I won’t know unless I try, anyway. And then there’s new projects to think about: I’m always fascinated at how they pop up unbidden. At this point last year, I hadn’t even come up with Queen Ophelia — I’d come up with that in March. My writing career has never been about reaching a certain point and surfing from there on in. One, it’s not productive, and Two, I’d get bored easily. Writing taught me to look at life and realize that I can stay safe, or I can say sure, why the hell not?

And what of my personal life? Well, as they say, it’s a work in progress. Making peace with issues I’d long ignored. Learning more about what makes me tick. Embracing new phases of my life. Finding and starting a new day job. It’s been a while since I left that last place, and the me of late 2019 and the me of New Year’s Eve 2021 are very different people indeed. I think I was getting to this point, but I had to clear a hell of a lot of detritus that was in my way first. Most of that is now gone and I am surely glad of that. Whatever I do next, I can do so with a lot more determination and self-trust.

I don’t have many particular resolutions other than to make my life better in certain ways. Whether it’s health-related, mind-related or otherwise, as long as I’m going in the right direction. There will always be some form of obstacle that’ll present itself in one way or another, but with a bit of patience and knowledge and a lot more self-confidence that I’ve had in the past, I should be able to overcome them.

I can do this, one way or another.

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I’m hoping all of you have a safe New Year’s Eve, and a safe and healthier 2022. We still have a ways to go, but we can do it together.

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(PS – I’ll be taking the first week of the new year off just to relax, and maybe kick off a few new things in my life. See ya on the flip side!)

Year’s End View V

First things first: END OF YEAR BOOK SALE!

Want some free e-books? My novels are currently available for free over at Smashwords until the end of the year! That’s all three books in the Bridgetown TrilogyMeet the Lidwells!, and In My Blue World, available in all formats. Go on, you know you want them!

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I’ve been thinking, along with everything else, about where I want my writing career to go in 2022. I haven’t self-published anything new since In My Blue World in 2019, and I need to catch up on my plan of (at least) one self-pubbed project a year. I’ll give myself a break, though, considering what the pandemic has done to the publishing arena over the last couple of years. My initial plan of submitting Diwa & Kaffi to agents and publishers was put on the sidelines because of it, so I chose to use the ensuing wait time wisely by writing Queen Ophelia and Theadia. One (or both? or all three?) may be released in e-book form sometime next year, depending on where we are in revision and cover art.

Meanwhile, back in November I joked to A that maybe for next year’s NaNoWriMo I should write a Christmas romcom. (A did kind of give me an ‘oookay, where did this come from?’ look, but come on, romances are often a guaranteed seller no matter how much nonbelievers want to make fun of them.) I’ve actually been meaning to read more romances anyway to expand my reading and writing horizons. This in turn kicked off an immersive reading binge of romances and romance/mysteries, and I’m thinking this is indeed a viable avenue for me, not to mention another genre for me to read so I’m not stuck in the same reading groove. We both found Sarah Morganthaler’s Moose Springs, Alaska series really good fun, and it also has excellent doggo content. This kind of setup seems to resonate with my style of humor and plot, so I’m thinking this might be a good start.

This, of course, led to another semi-related conversation about pen names. I tend to think my given name is pretty plain and easy to pronounce (though I’ve heard my last name mangled many times over the years), but I’ve often thought about toying with a pen name anyway. I know of a few writers who’ve used them for one reason or another, whether it’s to revive a flagging career, kickstart a new one, or to keep different styles and genres separate. I do have a few thoughts about this that I may toy with in the new year. In a way I kind of like the idea, considering that I’ve put said career on pause over the last couple years. Starting off fresh across the board does have a certain appeal.

There’s something to be said about creating a new self-image, especially when you’ve been thinking about it over a long period of time and it’s something that’s long overdue. This is another one of the paradoxes in my life: while I might be a creature of comforting habits, there’s also this consistent undercurrent that I need to change things up now and again, especially when it’s desperately needed.

And in my writing career, while I’m happy that I’ve been coming up with these new stories, many that I’m proud of, I still get the feeling that I’m limiting myself somehow. Whether it’s by self-censoring or avoidance, I know when it happens because that’s when I get irritated with my work. Why am I writing all these non-action scenes? Why am I avoiding writing conflict? Why am I finding it so hard to face those scenes? It’s that paradox: I feel comfortable avoiding the conflict, but I know that does not make a good story.

I kind of blame writing Diwa & Kaffi for this, really. That project, while near and dear to my heart, was partly an exercise in writing conflict that specifically wasn’t based on protagonists and antagonists. The conflict in that story is within: learning to trust oneself and others, and learning how to believe in oneself. This in turn kind of skittered my own life into an unexpected direction: I realized these were conflicts I was avoiding in my own life. Writing that kind of story is one thing, but dealing it in reality is quite another. And it took me a while to realize just how badly I was limiting myself, not just as a writer but as a person.

While writing Theadia and Queen Ophelia this year, I chose to face that. I prepped myself by having a relatively strong outline I could work from, but I had to learn to trust myself with these stories. Let them go where they needed to go, even if they went in unexpected directions. This wasn’t just the “steadily increasing the volume” action style I used for the Bridgetown Trilogy…this was about immersing myself in these stories. Putting myself into them, but also letting the characters shine as much as possible. While they’re still a bit of a pre-revision mess, they’re probably the strongest stories and the most realistic characters I’ve written. I trust these stories implicitly enough that revision will only make them shine even brighter.

Which brings me back to the theme of this whole series of posts: I’ve been running in rough draft mode for far too long. Sure, there are moments in my life, professional and personal, where I’ll shine when my strengths are at their peak, but everything else definitely needed a fuckton of work. And that work is what I’d done over the last year and a half during this weird pandemic season. And I think, finally, I’m ready to emerge in a much better edition of myself.

End of Year Planning

Image courtesy of 5 Centimeters Per Second

It’s now December, which means that I should start thinking seriously about what I want to do for 2022. I’ve got writing plans, of course…I’ll have two books to revise plus a third to shop around, and I’m open for more projects as they arise. I’d really like to drop a few more self-published novels and really sink my teeth into properly marketing them this time out as well. And I’ve been looking into writing-related jobs online as well, and while they’ve kind of been thin on the ground during this season, I’ll be looking deeper and further afield for positions I can handle remotely.

On a personal note, yeah, I’m sure I have a few things I’d like to follow up on. Our local YMCA has just reopened this week (we’re going later on today!) and we’d like to get back into the rhythm of stopping there a few times a week. We still enjoy our walks after work, but it’ll be good to get back to the gym again. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this soon enough…

And I do of course need to get my end-of-year lists and mixtapes together! Every Spotify user has been posting theirs over the last couple of days, but since I so rarely use it, I’ll have to make my own. [Does Media Monkey show me the most plays? Good question, I’ll have to look into that.] And maybe just for fun, I’ll look at my GoodReads list and pick out my favorites of the year. You know me…I always enjoy the year-end countdowns and best-of lists!

In the meantime, however, I’ll keep on working at the pace I’m currently at. It’s well-balanced, keeps me busy during the day, and I’m getting some serious word count done. Maybe a few shifts in the daily schedule here and there, but nothing major. As long as I keep writing!

Post-Holiday Readjustment

Image courtesy of One Piece

The extended holiday weekend is over and, depending on how you look at it, things are either going back to normal or ramping up. It’s now officially the Christmas season. Local listen-at-work station KOIT has officially gone 24/7 Holiday Music, as they do every December until New Year’s Day. One of our neighbors got their Christmas tree on Sunday and I know this because there’s a trail of needles heading from the front door to the elevator. We’ve yet to put up our own tree (ours is fake and lives in the back closet most of the year), but I’ll most likely do that this week. And we are so well-stocked on turkey leftovers that we’ve been eating turkey wraps the last few days. (Not that I’m complaining.)

Also, I haven’t written any new words at all since last Tuesday, and I’m really itching to get back to it. I’ve been doing another read-through of Theadia (and will most likely do one of Queen Ophelia after I’m done with that one) the last few days and I can’t wait to get back to work. It’s also that time of year where I start thinking about my year-end music lists and mixtapes (I am woefully behind on mixtapes in general, so I may do a few of those this week as well). And it’s time for me to think about what I want and need to do come 2022, personally and professionally.

So it’s not so much post-holiday readjustment as it is mid-holiday readjustment, I suppose. I’m so used to my Decembers being busy as hell so I see no reason why I shouldn’t be busy creatively while I have the time and ability. With the old Former Day Jobs I’d survive them by hyperfocusing on whatever I need to do at that moment — get the new cd releases security-tagged and price-tagged, lay out the pallets for the 8,374,621 candle boxes that will come down only my lane in the next five minutes, figure out whose UrgentPLZHALP email needs to be looked at first, and so on — so I’ve done the same with my writing projects. That way I can start the new year fresh and already revved up and excited to get going.

Whatever is coming next, I’m ready for it.

The Real Thing

There’s been some noise lately about a few companies and intellectual properties jumping on the NFT bandwagon, and this time they’re all about trying to convince everyone that it’s in an artist’s/musician’s/writer’s best interests, that they can make all sorts of dough fast and easy, just by creating these doohickeys! And surprising absolutely no one, an extremely high percentage of said creative persons are responding with a big fat NOPE.

I mean, other than the vague theoretical that an NFT is — a non-fungible token, which no one really seems to understand or be able to accurately describe in the first place, including those who are trying to shill them — these creative people aren’t really buying the idea of a person not owning, say, a signed book, or a limited edition vinyl record, or a one-of-a-kind painting one can hang on their wall, or a photograph printed by the photographer themselves, or a cd that one can get autographed by the band members themselves. That’s not what an NFT is.

So what is it? Who the fuck knows. In vague theoretical terms, it’s apparently an e-token of sorts. Something that says one owns not an original piece of created art or a copy of it that you can actually tangibly hold and appreciate in some sort of way, but…something that says you own said token that’s tied to it. You’re not a shareholder. You’re not an owner of the creation. You’re just an owner of the mere statement that you own something.

In short, it’s saying “hey look what I have”. What you actually have doesn’t really matter. You’re not even an insider or a collector. It’s the idea that you have it, and you can’t trade it for anything else. It’s a one-of-a-kind statement of ownership, with the pesky annoyance of what you own taken out of the equation. And in some weird theoretical financial world, that’s worth…something? I think?

So. Why am I yammering on about this?

Because I, as a writer, a musician, a photographer and an artist, have absolutely zero intention of getting in on that bit of vague theoretical nonsense. When I put my books out for sale, you get a book. I flipping wrote them on purpose. For you to read. Good Christ Almighty, why the hell would I want to put myself through multiple tireless months of writing, editing, revising, laying out and self-releasing novels otherwise??

If you buy my wares, you get the real thing. Not a vague theoretical.

Readjustment (Again)

Image courtesy of From Up on Poppy Hill

It’s been a very long and exhausting weekend here, between the three days of Outside Lands (Friday through Sunday) as well as grocery shopping and laundry (today). This would of course explain the lateness of this post! Now that I have a minute, I have a few things on my mind.

For the most part I was extremely successful doing my daily sketch for Inktober! That’s a first in years, as I’d usually end up crashing and burning about halfway through. I only missed two days (one because the prompt was just too esoteric for me to think of anything decent, and one because I just plum forgot), so that’s a win for me. I did learn a few things: first, I’m still more of a doodler than an artist but I think with time and consistent practice, I could definitely get better at it. Second and semi-related, I finally figured out the ‘consistent practice’ part of it that always eluded me, and essentially that I just needed to find a good time to do it; in this case, it fit in perfectly with my morning journaling. Third, that I really do need to practice on keeping the overthinking to a minimum.

This third one’s the most important one for me, because that’s always been my biggest problem in writing, especially when I’m assigning myself things. I’ve said it before: you ask me to write a simple bit of microfiction about a goat in ten minutes, my brain will automatically try to extrapolate so many extraneous details — what kind of goat, where is the goat, why a goat, what weird plot can I come up with, and so on and so on — and it’s always driven me crazy. Maybe it’s undiagnosed ADHD or something else, I don’t know, but my brain’s always been that way, even when I want to do a simple and fun throwaway exercise.

So how did I work past it? Well, with Inktober, my initial plan was to make it simple: take the prompt and draw the first thing (or second if the first is too hard) that comes to mind, and running with it. Also, don’t take more than a minute or two on it. So in short: have fun and don’t think too hard about it!

And in the process, this has helped me learn how to work past writing blocks and Don’t Wanna/Distraction days — of which I had one not that long ago. I had to do a few needed errands and in the process my productivity just completely bottomed out that day. It got me thinking: why did something so simple as driving A to the BART station and some food shopping throw me so completely off my game? It’s not that I couldn’t find the inspiration…it’s just that I just could not get started. (Which really does make me wonder about that ADHD thing.) I was totally fine the next day, once I returned to my daily schedule. All I had to do is what I’d been doing over the last several months: compartmentalize these tasks. Write the journal. Do the daily Inktober sketch. Get my daily words for Project A. Get the daily words for Project B. Just one step at a time.

All of this is stuff I know I’ll need to adjust and readjust over time, depending on whatever life throws at me from here on in. But now that I know how to do it, I think it’ll be easier to handle.

That Time Again: Reading What I Have So Far

Yup, it’s time once again for me to read what I have so far of my projects. The other night I finished reading Project A, and I’m now on the second chapter of Project B. So what do I have to say for myself?

Well, Project A has a lot of…gaps. It’s not horrible work, but I think I can add a few more scenes in between what I do have to make the story that much richer. These will essentially do two things: one, it’ll show the two main characters interacting with the different worlds they find themselves in, and two, it will expand on a few of the secondary characters that will become important later on. This one has been coming along really well and I’m quite proud of what I have so far — it’s sort of a distant cousin of In My Blue World in that it’s a Parallel World fantasy, and I find that I’m really enjoying writing that kind of thing. Who knows, maybe I’ll come up with more of them soon enough!

As for Project B? Well…you can definitely tell I had a bad case of the First Chapter Flails here. Or first chapters, really. By the time I got to maybe Chapter Four I had a better idea of where it’s all going. I can salvage a lot of it by way of snipping out some of the extraneous dead ends and insert a few things that I came up with much later in the story as a mirror plot point. The other day I was in bed reading this one and made myself get up to add four words — just a half-sentence that now makes a vague hint at an extremely important plot point much later in the book. That’s mainly what I need to do with this one: go back and realign the beginning stuff so it works with the ending stuff. I think I might be done with this one by sometime mid-November if I keep up, so I’m already looking forward to working on this one!

As for Project C…? Well, I’ve been bad with that one the last week or so, but that’s because I’ve been working on the outline instead. I should probably be back on that one by next week. I haven’t reread that one in a while, but I think I’ll do that after I finish reading Project B. We shall see…

In the meantime, I’ve also been sneaking in quick doodles for Inktober all this month and I’m proud to say that this is probably the first year I’ve been able to do it this consistently all the way to the end. (You can see my drawings on my Twitter and my Instagram.) I guess this experiment of mine of being super-involved with daily scheduling is working out better than I thought! Woo!

Distraction

The (in)famous Distraction Dance from Fleeing the Complex

Okay, I’ll admit it. I still get distracted, even when I’m on a roll with my writing. Some days it’s not bad…I’ll hear a song on the radio and temporarily stop what I’m doing to look it up and add to my shopping list, or I’ll take a quick peek on social media when I happen to slowly sludging my way through a scene. And yeah, I’ll also have those worse days when I Just Don’t Wanna and I’ll slide into a Twitter thread for a half hour.

I still get through them, though. I’ve gotten a lot better at saying No, you REALLY need to hit your daily goal, preferably before lunch/before you go to bed. I have my workarounds. Part of is that I’ve made sure I’m always conscious of the fact that I really do enjoy these current projects I’m working on, even if it’s taking me forever to get through them. I’ve also made sure I don’t overthink any problems I might encounter. Hell, one of the projects has multiple [FIX THIS LATER] notes all over the place. And that is something I’ve never done in the past, at least not before writing Diwa & Kaffi, and that one was added during revision when I realized I’d left out a major scene that tripped up the flow.

Still, today’s Friday and of course I’ll be heavily distracted because it’s New Music Release day. But I’ve gotten better at that as well. I’m no longer completely focused on the music; I’ll give it all a listen while I work, because I’ve prioritized work first. It works most of the time.

Distraction is no longer my enemy, I suppose. It’s just another sensory input that I’ve finally figured out how to manage.

Back to work

Monday morning is here and it’s time for me to get back to writing. So what is it that I do on the weekends, anyway? That is, when we’re not out and about in the neighborhood or going on an afternoon roadtrip?

Well, for the most part I keep it as my catch-up-with-cleaning days, mostly house errands. Sometimes I’ll drive up the street to shop or get our car washed, but for the most part it’s the Sunday laundry and the Saturday walk around the neighborhood.

Then I attempt to catch up with my email inboxes. I have a terrible habit of sliding a lot of them in one of many TBR subfolders — I’m organized enough that I’ll have a general TBR for store ads and whatnot, a music-related one (no big surprise there), a creativity-related one (writing, art, and so on), a local one (opera, symphony, museum, etc) and a mailing-list one for the Patreons, Substacks and Kickstarters I follow. For the most part I’m good at keeping on top of them, but every now and again I’ll fall behind and next thing I know I have like thirty or forty piled up and a month old. Most of them I’ll delete as they’re mostly shopping mailing lists and news updates I already know about, but eventually I’ll get around to answering some of them. [So yeah, if I don’t get back to you for a bit, I’m not ignoring or avoiding you. I’m just behind.]

But anyway! Monday morning starts the whole daily schedule off again. I do All The Writing while listening to tunage with the occasional mental break to keep myself from overdoing it (and to shift out of that terrible slouch AGAIN), and by afternoon we’re doing our sort-of-daily walk around the block once we both clock out.

Yeah, I know, this is sort of a boring mundane post, but that’s the life of a writer when we’re not in our heads coming up with all sorts of wild and entertaining things for you to read!