Friday, January 31, 2014

Paying it forward

Tomorrow, there will be a guest post here.

Up until now (or tomorrow, really), this has been a one person blog. Almost all of the things posted here have been about me or my projects or thoughts or ideas. But as I continue to build a career in the independent author sphere, I realize more and more that we all have to kind of rely on each other. Indies have started boosting each other, spreading the word about one another's books and ideas. Backing one another up.

I think that's a good thing. Actually, I think it's great.

So I've decided to occasionally give people space to speak about their own projects here. Or to speak about other people projects on their behalf. I did it a little with the Diversity in Color post (which is, again, going all year. You can still join in!). I suppose, in a way, the Month of Letters counts. Sort of.

Tomorrow, there'll be a guest post from another author. Later in February, there'll be a weekend of urban fantasy goodness. There may be things between now and then. There may not be anything else until later in the year. We'll have to see.

I want to disclaim before any of that happens: Just because there's a guest post or a blog tour hop or something like that here, I'm not necessarily saying that you must enjoy whatever that post is about if you enjoy my writing. Or even that you should. We're all different. We all have different tastes. Read what is presented, if you like, and decide for yourself.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writing independently.

Ladies and gents, I am tired. And that's largely because I decided to engage in discussions on this here internet thing that I should have been wise enough to avoid. Sometimes even when we think we're clever, we get drawn into a Pit of Mistakes (tm).

I don't really want to rehash the arguments. I'm just going to give my point of view.

Self-publishing or indie publishing or publishing independently, however we choose to label it, may mean that we don't have to write to the standards of the Big 6 (or 5 or however many) publishing houses that control the traditional market. It does not mean that an independent/self-published author should be allowing their cat to walk on their keyboard for 400 pages, then putting that document up on Amazon for $3.99. Or $.99. Or anything except free if it absolutely must be shared with the world.

There are no people saying we can't charge for nonsense or poorly edited books. There is no gatekeeper. There is no guardian at the door refusing to let us do whatever we want.

But if you publish something (especially knowingly) that isn't ready to be sold to the public, it doesn't just reflect badly on you. It reflects badly on everyone publishing under the independent/self-published umbrella. It chases people away from not just your book, but hers and his and mine too.

I certainly care about my own career. I'd like to see everyone who wants to publish the book of their dreams do it and do it well. We may not all make six-figure incomes, but that's not a reason not to try, if you want your voice to be heard.

So it's my opinion that books -- yes, even indepent/self-published books who need adhere to no publisher's rules -- should be edited coherently. Have professional-looking covers. Show some authorial pride and respect for the reader spending both their time and their money to read them.

This is my pledge to you, my readers. I will strive to release books that are ready to be read, only when they're ready to be read. I want you to enjoy them as much as I do and I want you to keep coming back, not only to read my books, but to take a chance on the other independent/self-published authors who take the same care with their works.

And that's that.

(Well, not quite. There's another chapter of And The Skies Fell up this week too. Back on track. :) )

Monday, January 27, 2014

Read to write. Write to read. Yes.

There's a believe in the world of writing, or much of it at least, that in order to write well you must also read widely. How can you stay on top of what counts as current in the if you're not on top of what's being published today.

I get that. And I try to read stuff that's relatively current, when I can.

But I have also been notoriously slow about reading these past few years. I also know a LOT of writers and like to support them when I can by buying their stuff. (Note to the writers I know: Stop putting out so much good stuff, will you? Yeesh.) In theory, I should be reading it when I buy it. In practice, not so much.

So when people talk about their TBR piles or TBR stacks, I look at my boxes of books I have bought but not yet read, some going back about eight years if not more, and I sigh and despair of reading current things. How am I ever going to read the stuff I bought back then if I'm supposed to read the new stuff, and yet read series in order and  and and...

It gets a little overwhelming, you know?

Last year I read 16 books. Some of those were current. Several of them were old. This year, my baseline goal is 25 books. Some will, again, be current. Some will be old. It would be great if I read more than that, but 25 seems like a nice solid probably-achievable start.

Between them, I will write and edit current stories. Will reading old books influence my current writing style? Not in any harmful ways, I hope. We'll have to see.

Speaking of which, got a pretty great review on Immortal Lies today. I'm pleased! (Not about the typo comment, but you know, when there are still typos in the file, it's not the reviewer's fault. They have now been fixed. I hope. Sweet Pete, I hope.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

A whole different kind of writing.

I guess the title is slightly incorrect. It's not a whole different kind of writing. The words would probably be the same. The mode, however, is completely different.

What am I talking about? Nothing like jumping into the middle of my stream of thought.

I am talking about the Month of Letters, a project started by Mary Robinette Kowal (who does the audio versions of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series, and whose voice I might love a little bit). There's a lot of information about it on the website, but the basic gist is this: every day that the postal service is functioning, wherever you might be, you send one letter or postcard or handwritten something to someone else. You, in turn, receive letters from others. It's a step back to the "good old days" when we weren't all glued to our computer and communicating by SMS and 140-character tweets.

I think it's brilliant.

Back when I was in college, before the internet was quite such a focus of life as it is now, I spent a summer writing letters to a friend. Nevermind that for some reason I had assigned him the wrong last name, I had a blast writing to him and getting letters back.

Since then I've more or less stopped writing by hand. Until recently when I discovered that writing new scenes on the book I'm editing happens much more quickly if I scribble them out on paper. But it really is scribbling, as you may have noticed in my post earlier this month on editing.

So! I think I'm going to join in. I can write a letter or postcard or something a day for 23 days next month. Can you? :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

On persistence.

Yep. That topic.

In order to write and do it successfully, there are a few rules that must be followed. Learn your grammar, learn your punctuation, try not to write in the rock's point of view unless the story really -cannot- go on without input from said rock.

Other than that, the main thing you need to do is write. Continue to write. Write a lot, throw it away and write more to replace it. Write it better. Write it faster. Just keep writing.

As I've said elsewhere before, if you really don't like it or rejection and critique get you so down that you can't pick yourself up again, you're allowed to quit. This is not an until death do we part kind of thing for everyone. As someone else said, if someone can convince you not to write, let them. It may have been about screen writing. It may have been writing advice in general. I honestly don't remember and I'm paraphrasing.

Point is, everyone has ups and downs. Everyone has good times and bad times and everyone has to decide, from day to day and year to year, whether or not they're going to get up from one more tumble into the crap, wipe it off, and go back to the typewriter or keyboard or spiral notebook.


Just remember that when someone is dispensing wisdom or advice and you feel like the angels are singing. We've all been there. You'll be there too.

And the world will keep turning.


(No serial chapter today. Sorry! P'raps I'll update And The Skies Fell twice next week. Or later this week. We shall see.)

Monday, January 20, 2014

What's in a name?

If you have read my author bio anywhere, you know it starts with the following lines:

What's in a pseudonym? A writer by any other name called would make words as sweet. So S. L. Gray would,were she not S. L. Gray called.

But then how would you find her books?

Aside from the obvious hat-tip to Shakespeare (yes, I'm a Shakespeare fan. I have no shame.), this is my new philosophy on pen names. I, as an author, am unlikely to stick to one pure genre. I started out writing romance. I split away from myself a little and wrote erotic romance for a while. Now I'm writing urban fantasy with varying levels of romantic content.

And going forward, I intend to write it all under the same name. There will probably not be a lot (if any) erotic romance. There will be a lot of fantasy of various flavors and some romance-centered stuff and maybe even a YA novel or three down the road.

But I'm going to publish them all as S.L. Gray. I have made the attempt at maintaining and building an audience for more than one name before and honestly, the benefits didn't outweigh the pain in the butt it would be to keep it up.  Now, mind, I am not writing in wildly divergent genres. If I were writing erotic romance and middle grade books? Yes, I might very well use yet another pen name. As I'm not? Nope. This is where I'm sitting. I like the view from S.L. Gray land.

One argument from people who suggest multiple pen names is that it helps you continue to reach readers who don't cross genres. If I have a fan of my urban fantasy who really doesn't want to read a romance-heavy story, won't I betray their trust by writing under the same name?

Nah. My readers (and readers in general) are sharp enough to figure out what they want to read or don't want to read. Why make it harder for them to find my next book by making them become fans of some other me? 

That's -my- story and I'm definitely sticking to it.

Just a note before you go: You have about an hour to enter my print giveaway. I'll be drawing winners this evening. Good luck!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Five things make a post.

Because sometimes, after talking about words a lot, you run out of clever things to say.


1. If you are at all interested in self-publishing, or how it's working out for authors across the board (and not just the ones you hear about like Amanda Hocking or Hugh Howey or others having amazing success, check out the survey Beverly Kendall did. There's some pretty interesting information in there.

2. My print copy giveaway continues. There are four days left! Have you entered yet?

3. Do you know about the Kindle Worlds program? I think shared worlds are pretty amazing, or can be at any rate. And now, Amazon has licensed several worlds that are open to other authors writing in them. Like writing fan fic? Want to potentially get paid to write it? Check it out.

4. My cat, who I refer to as The Grey Cat, is sometimes goofy. This is how he sits on my bed. Ignore the stuff in the corner behind him. I'm a writer, not a housekeeper, okay?

5. The new chapter of And The Skies Fell is up. Enjoy!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Let's talk about reviews

Since I've been writing about words, I'm just going to keep doing that. Not my words today. Not necessarily, anyway. Words other people write about the books they read. Yep, reviews.

I'll confess right up front that I never really thought about reviews. Not book reviews anyway, not until recently. Sure, they were nice and sometimes a good review would make me pay closer attention to a new release, but traditionally, I went with what looked interesting to me or what someone else had read and now insisted I read too.

I am also one of those people who balks when something gets incredible amounts of hype. Harry Potter? Twilight? The Hunger Games? I read those books because I finally, -finally- grudgingly gave in to the overwhelming enthusiasm from people who'd read them already. So book reviews have never been that much of a determining factor for me.

Now, however, I understand that when it comes to selling things to people, I'm really kind of a fluke. There are a lot of people out there who rely heavily on reviews to tell them where they ought to spend their allotment of dollars. It makes sense. People have only so much mad money and there are a LOT of options out there for spending it. If you go to a website, be it Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Chapters, and you have the choice of two books, which would you buy? The one that has a 100+ reviews telling you how much other people enjoyed it, or the one with no reviews at all? Not even a flood of negative reviews. Just... nothing.


So! This year, I am resolving to give back to authors of the books I've read. Not just by letting them know what *I* think about their books (for better or worse; I don't like everything I read), but also to contribute to the pool of opinion surrounding their work, so other people can make decisions and maybe plunk down a couple-three of those spare dollars in their pocket.

Which means I'm also going to say: If you've read Immortal Lies, whether you loved it or hated it or something'd it in between, please leave a review on a public site. Blogs are great, but Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Goodreads are better. Reviews help authors gather up more readers and more readers keep us writing.

(BTW, if you have not entered -- or even if you have and want to spread the word -- there's still a week left on my print giveaway. Check it out here!)

Friday, January 10, 2014

So after you write those words...

Yes, I'm still going on about words. I'm a writer. It's kind of what I do.

(If you ask my mother, she may hilariously tell you that sometimes I love my words too much.

Or, you could ask my former co-workers. They used to use me as thesaurus when they were writing documents and emails. In a fit of pique one morning, I said, "I don't like to use big words around you guys. It always makes me feel pretentious."


Ahem. Anyway!

Once I have written words, I almost always have to edit them. I would like to be able to write perfect prose and never have to look back, but if that's possible, I haven't done it yet.

On a good day, my edits look something like this:

Yesterday (and probably on a few more days in the future because I'm  changing some important things), my edits look like this:

Yes, you get points if you can read my chicken scratching. I'm not sure *I* can at this point.

Cover me. I'm going in!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Counting words, or words that count.

Obviously, writing a book takes x number of words. More than 50,000 for a novel, generally speaking. Less than 20,000 to still qualify as a short story (though that's a pretty long short story if you ask me.)

Last year, I didn't write a lot of words, for various reasons.

This year, I was doing pretty good. I'd written 6000 or so by, you know, the sixth. Right on track.

And then I started editing.

Editing doesn't mean I'm not writing new words, of course, but it does mean that I'm basically switching out new words for the old ones that don't work as well. It means I'm not so much on track now and if I want to see my dates and numbers match up, I'm going to have to do a powerful lot of writing at some point.

Is it going to ruin my life? No. Is it going to make me a little nutty? Probably.

Then again, who would notice? I'm pretty crazy already. It's a writer thing.

So, if you're following me on WriteTrack and not seeing the status bar move, don't worry. I really am working. The new book is getting nice and shiny. It just *looks* like I'm marching in place.

Unless of course you're reading the serial. If you are, I have brand new words for you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A book is a book. And a giveaway!

People whose work is published as an ebook, whether through a publisher or independently, inevitably get comments and questions about when they're going to write a "real" book, or how an ebook isn't a "real" book. It can't be held or touched, the pages can't be turned or dog-eared. There is no new page smell to a digital copy.

All of those things are true.

I am obviously too old to have grown up with ebooks. I read paperbacks voraciously. I freely confess that I used to be one of those people who turned up their noses at the idea of reading books on a computer screen. Video games? Sure. Reading for pleasure? Pshaw. (Nevermind how much time I spent talking to friends and roleplaying online. That requires reading on a computer screen. Usually for pleasure. Shh, just never-you-mind. :))

Slowly but surely, I have become a convert. Not because my books are all electronic. Mostly, it's because, let's face it, physical books take up a -lot- of space. It's great to have a few treasured copies of books that really move you or mean something. Possibly a signed hardback or two. We, the Engineer and I, are both serious readers. When we moved, we moved box upon box of Really Heavy Books. Most of which have yet to be unpacked. Why? Space. Books take up a lot of space.

It's also a heck of a lot easier to carry a laptop or an e-reader than to stuff half a dozen books in your carry-on or in the car when you're traveling. Or to read in bed when your partner wants to sleep. Or any number of other reasons.

So yes, I'm a convert. I'm not saying I'll never read another paperback. Don't be silly.

Plus. Plus! In this new era of independent publishing, I have the option of physical copies of my books. Really, it's like having my cake and eating it too, only it's SO MUCH COOLER THAN CAKE!

And to celebrate all of this choice, (and slip briefly into my marketing hat), I'm sharing my glee and giving away two copies of Immortal Lies, in print.

If you're a slow convert to ebooks and you'd rather hold the book in your hand, this is for you.

If you want to see Anne Cain's amaaaaazing cover up close and personal, this is for you.

If you just like getting free books in the mail? Well. This is for you. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It's Monday. I'm in a good mood. (And wordy, apparently.) Enjoy!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Diversity on the Shelf 2014

I linked to this challenge in my New Year's post, but I need to just make a post dedicated to it because it's such a cool idea.

My Little Pocketbooks is hosting a reading challenge this year. I would try to summarize the reason and the purpose, but they do it so much better than I ever could that I'm not going to try to reinvent the wheel.

The point being: There's room for all sorts of characters and authors in the world. Read some of them.

I personally will be aiming for the 1-shelf goal of 1-6 books, because I can be a slow reader. I'm hoping to read more. I've already got plans for that many this year, so we'll see.

You can find out more information (and join!) by clicking the button. :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Too much? Not enough? Let's dance!

Let's do the marketing dance, that is.

One of the nice parts of being traditionally published, or so I've been led to believe, is that once you get someone to buy your book and work through the edits, you can, in theory, leave the book alone from then on. A good publisher will do the marketing for you. They might do an ad in a magazine or on websites. They might make a book trailer. They might book you on a promotional book signing tour. They might enter you in important contests or submit your book for awards.

All things that you, the author, don't have to do.

They can definitely get your book into brick-and-mortar bookstores and possibly libraries. Again, all without much, if any, input from the person writing the words. Which means, again in theory, that the author gets to go back to writing until it's time to start the whole process again.

If you're going indie, and you don't have the budget to hire someone to market for you, that stuff all falls on you. Or me. :)

The question that always nags at me is, how much promotion is too much? How much is too little? How many repeats of 'Hey, I have this book...' does it take to annoy my friends and family into ignoring me?

The answer, I guess, is everyone's favorite: It depends.

A publisher with a marketing team may not be constantly shoving the book in the average consumer's, or reader's, face, but they are putting it out there to the distributors. They're sending copies to professional reviewers and magazines. They're doing a version of stumping for the book that most of us don't ever see.
Do the reviewers get tired of having books waved at them all day? I don't know, but I hope not. We kind of need them to read. :)

For my part, I'm doing my best to balance out being the marketer with being me. You know me. The gal on the other side of the screen or the page. The person who just wants people to like the story she wrote. I figure if I can manage to stay me and still sell a couple of books, I'll be all right and no one will end up wanting to gag me.

But if you ever get the urge to holler "Enough already!", or you sprain something rolling your eyes because my name's on the screen again, let me know, will you? I'll try to listen.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking forward!

This is sort of the logical extension of the last post, isn't it? A retrospective followed by a ... what's the opposite of retrospective? Predictive? Not a noun, though. Oh words, why are you so hard?


It's 2014! Happy New Year! May this be your best year yet, in every way possible!

I sort of jokingly asked the Engineer if he felt completely different, at about 12:01 last night. He looked at me like I was crazy, but the new year is meant to be a new start. Time to put the past behind us and move on with confidence. Of course it's not as easy as the clock ticking over. I usually start out pretty optimistically, as we all do, I think (I hope!).  Let's see how long we can keep that going.

To encourage me, I'm actually going to post resolutions. This will help serve to motivate me, I hope, and keep me honest. It also makes me nervous. I don't want to let myself down on any of them, and I certainly don't want other people to see me trip over any. Fingers crossed!

In 2014, I would like:

  • to clean one thing in the house, every day. I have been doing better about cleaning in the new place. I'd like to keep that up. It's less stressful for everyone.
  • to walk every day. I need to get more exercise. Writing is a very sedentary thing and I don't think I'd take advantage of a treaddesk. Besides, outside is good for you. So.  Walking.
  • to read at least 25 books. I managed 16 last year, which is not that many, but given all that was going on, is decent-ish. This year, there are couple of fun reading challenges going on, so I think I can do it. I think I can, I think I can...
  • to express love or joy, out loud, at least once a day. There's not enough of this in my life. Just needs to be done, particularly to/for/with the Engineer. Love the family you've chosen, whatever the shape it takes.
  • to write every day (AKA the one people who don't live in my head care most about). I would like to write at least 250,000 words this year. I would like to publish at least two new full-length novels. I have gravy goals, but I'm going to keep them private, for now. The writing every day bit is the important one. And, to that end, you can watch my progress on this spiffy new tracker.

That's it! I think that's a pretty decent list.

And speaking of that walk, off I go!