Monday, August 12, 2019

The Fight with Technology is Never Over

I have finished making the last of the minor tweaks on my latest Austen pastiche, Resolution (a modern retelling on Persuasion). I have a couple of shout outs to make. Many thanks to Abigail Bok, who gave this a rigorous copy edit. The cover is courtesy of my sister, Valerie Mighetto. I thank her profusely and do appreciate her squeezing this in when she has a zillion demands on her time these days. Now all I need to do is format it and post it, right? So much easier said than done. I deal with technology all the time in my job, and I've managed over these many years to bash around and  eventually get there, but it's not without a really ugly fight. I was born far too late to feel like I own technology; it owns me for sure. Three days and an aching wrist later, I think I am close. Of course, I said that yesterday. And the day before. And...

Anyway, it will appear soon on a variety of sales platforms (I hope). Here's the cover. Pretty sweet, isn't it?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Our New Normal

It is difficult to write anything when every time I turn around, there is a new mass shooting. The latest one but two (imagine having to type that and have it make sense) occurred not an hour from where I live. At what point does the insanity stop? I don't own guns. I have no desire to own a gun. I don't understand the passion that people have for their guns. Flat out don't get it. I don't want to. It speaks to a fear and loathing that lurks in the souls of gun owners that I don't understand. Again, I don't want to know. Hatred of government? Fear that brown people will swarm your house and take your fifty-six-inch television. Rape your wife, your daughter, your son? I don't know. I have fears but they are more of the variety that I will get a phone call from a dispatcher telling me that my son or daughter has been gunned down in another senseless killing. THAT IS WHAT I AM AFRAID OF!

Okay, keep some guns. Fine. Clearly it strokes something in your psyche. Keep them. You have to register them in a national registry. You cannot own assault rifles because these are designed to kill masses of people, not the brown person stealing your television. I don't understand why you would need body armor, so in my world you can't buy body armor unless you are in law enforcement. You cannot buy truckloads of ammo because that says that you are going to try to kill a whole lot of people with it. Oh, and no bump stocks. That's it. You can own a gun. Be my guest. Don't invite me to your parties, don't even talk to me if you feel differently. This is not about rights. This is about your belief that you have a God-given right to kill people. Lots of them. Own it.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Not Writing Today

Today is the first anniversary of my mother's death. Some days you have nothing to say.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Boycott Alert

I have been traveling, and I owe you a "chat" on the writing workshop I attended, and I returned to work, and it was a deluge of delugy-ish tasks to complete. So. We will catch up, I promise. Except I've been checking my stats on amazon (pointless endeavor, I know, and why I do this is a form of perverse masochism not worth exploring at this juncture), and what keeps popping up on my amazon page, but plugs for Gilbert's City of Girls.

Nope. Not going there. For a lot of reasons, but the title itself disqualifies it. To cover myself, I did look at a synopsis and it is not about children. No, the book is about a young woman in New York in the 1940s. What I wrote in 2017 still holds true:

My latest pet peeve is this persistent insulting trend of books that are about women that have "girls" or "girl" in the title. I am now boycotting all such books. I don't care HOW good they are. This stealth sexist bullshit by reducing adult women into the role of a powerless "girl" has to stop somewhere, and it's going to stop at my pocketbook. I walked through one of the last remaining Barnes and Nobles in my area and I counted--I AM NOT JOKING--eight books with the word "girl" in the title, And I wasn't even looking. I was just strolling along trying to find a Father's Day present for my husband. Did I see ONE book with the word "boy" in the title. I did not.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Leaving on a Jet Plane

This will be short and sweet. I'm leaving on a jet plane to participate in a writing retreat that I had to cancel last year because of my husband's emergency open heart surgery. (Fun times!) I've never been to a writing retreat so I'm stoked and hope to write a huge hunk of this new book I'm writing. 

The more ephemeral goal is to find the path to writing enlightenment: how do I bring writing up a notch. The one aspect of writing that most people don't talk about is that there are plateaus in your ability to write. Every writer I talk to wants their current book to be the best they've ever written. And that's what I want, too. There is a point where you've stopped flailing with voice, pacing, and plot. Sure, you struggle to keep these balls in the writing air, but you know that you need to do that. Believe or not, that's a hard hurdle to jump. But say you have the basics down, and now you have the luxury of stepping back and viewing your writing with objectivity, its strengths and weaknesses, and you ask yourself, how to I capitalize on my strengths and chip away at my weaknesses?

The longer you write, the slower the learning curve. The first five years of my writing seriously, the direction up was phenomenal. I learned so much and improved to the point where I could get a book published and pickup some nice kudos. Then I plateaued out. I wrote a ton more and could see my writing improve until I reached another plateau. By about the fourth plateau, the changes were incremental but critical. And here I sit. On the fourth plateau. This is where you are a decent writer but not much more than that.  I've been sitting on this fourth plateau for a couple of years now, twiddling my thumbs, occasionally have small campfires and toasting marshmallows, planting a few daffodils when I have the time, but I'm not moving upward. It's lonely and frustrating. I want more. I'm hoping this retreat will give me insight in how to get better. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Industry Groups Want You!

You bite the bullet and you lock-down a domain name and pay for hosting for a website for a year. At this point your next step is to join industry groups. Genre is easier than, say, straight fiction. Romance, Science Fiction, and Mystery all have robust national industry groups that would welcome your membership checks. Many of these groups have monthly meetings where you can meet industry professionals or just writers who are having the same struggles you are. Industry groups like Mystery Writers of America or Sisters in Crime will keep your toe in the water while you write that first book or that next book. Also, I've found that the mystery writing community is a rather fine bunch of people, and who doesn't need more fine people in your life?

At a certain point you have to bite the second bullet and acknowledge that you are running a business: a writing business. It doesn't take a lot of money to learn how language works, cultivating your voice, and then writing the best book you can possibly write. It takes discipline but not a whole lot of $$$. Joining industry groups is also minimal sunk costs, and, more importantly, it gives your name a face. All industry groups I have belonged to offer great classes, motivating speakers, industry insights, and all around information about the business of writing. These insights might not get you a publishing contract ASAP, but they will give you invaluable information about the minefield you're about to walk through. Because at some point it's likely you will enter the phase where the real $$$ pedal meets the metal.

The convention circuit.

The focus of these cons varies greatly, and whether you attend any of them depends on where you are in the process and how much you have to spend. Many of the classes/advice offered in the industry cons are also available through the industry groups for free or nominal fees as perks of your membership. But the sheer numbers of agents/editors and industry professionals at these cons makes it worth attending a convention if you can afford it. If you do a Google search on writers conferences, it will take you hours to plow through all the possible cons you can attend. Based on my perusal of various Google searches, the industry cons break down into two different categories: those cons geared toward improving your writing and those cons that are network oriented, i.e., how to write successful query letters, polish your pitch, common mistakes in trying to market your book, etc. There are industry cons for every step of the process in writing a book, from typing "Chapter 1" to typing the "The End."

 All you need is a credit card.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Biz

I've been talking to a number of other authors about the biz as it stands today. Sales are way down, across the board, and those markets that seemed to be hot two years ago--specifically paranormal and Young Adult--have now seemed to have worn out their welcome. What is selling? Um, nothing seems to be selling from what I can gather. As I am currently writing a paranormal YA novel, I'm a little depressed by this news.

Where does that leave you? In some ways this is very liberating because, hell, take chances, get messy (Ms. Frizzle, I do love you so much). You really do not have much to lose by letting those creative critters that are currently doing the rumba in your brain let them loose and snake around some wild ideas that might actually work. I've always found that writing to market is dangerous, which is why I am going to write this book because it's yelling at me to write it.

The reality is that as soon as one book grabs the market that does not mean that a hundred books on wizards will sell, yours being one of them. Generally speaking, it takes two years to get a book to market. Two years. Chew on that. I will say that only series that I thought took the wizarding concept and gave as good a ride as Harry Potter was Grossman's The Magicians series; as a rival to the Harry Potter series, the Magician's was a contender. Grossman's books had a completely different and much smaller audience so perhaps it wasn't as much of a financial success for him, but the writing was a zillion times more sophisticated, as were the themes, and he certainly gave Rowling's world building skills a run for their money. He also didn't have to deal with the issue of writing a children's book with adult themes (or an adult book that was also catering to children, JKR's perpetual dilemma). He wrote for adults and it freed him in many ways to write a dark and gritty tale that was mature (he avoided the sight gags that JKR loves so much) and, for lack of a better word, urban. I have issues with books two and three of that series (I have book reviews on my website so check out why those books didn't quite work for me). I had issues with Rowling's last book for the same reason. Both authors let the world-building triumph over plot and character arcs, but that's a separate issue entirely. As usual, I'm digressing.

Anyway, so nothing is selling and you have this great idea but the only books that you see for sale feature wealthy young adults with a romance shoved in there for good measure. Yes, Crazy Rich Asians, I'm looking at you (and a host of other books featuring wealthy protagonists). You have a gritty, dark tale of wizards who are in college and they have sex and they drink and take drugs and they are mean to each other and betray each other and... Okay, that book has been written (see Grossman's The Magicians series). BUT, write your idea like you want to write it. Don't discount passion. It matters. I am sure that a zillion people told Lev Grossman, do not write about wizards. Are you crazy? That market is so ten years ago. And now he has a television series based on his novels. He didn't listen to those naysayers and neither should you. Even though I have critical issues with his books (book 2 is very weak), I cannot deny that he really cares about these characters. He identifies with Quentin and loves Alice. I hope that Lev Grossman has an Alice in his life and that it's not a fantasy of the woman he wishes he has. And that love for someone special or even hope for someone special comes through in neon letters. So write about what you care about. I was disappointed in book two, but that hasn't stop me from having all three books in a prominent place on my bookshelf in HARDCOVER.

I have read books that if I pulled them apart they would actually hit my "fail" buzzer, but the passion of the author for their story pulls me along, and while my finger might be poised about the "fail" button, it never quite pushes it, because you, author, you trickster, you, bamboozled me with your words.

Bamboozle, people. Write what you love because the market is moving so quickly, what you think will be selling will not be selling in a week.

I keep postponing this, but next week we talk about the authorly-type endeavors worth investing $$$ in.