I have plenty of things in the queue for this blog: writing playlists, reviews of writing-related books, an anecdote or two about the road that's led me to Aviario ... but right now, my focus is on something big and exciting that I have in the works: my mailing list! I'd ask you to join it right now, but the fact is: it's not ready yet, and this post's purpose is to tell you exactly why.
I know I have a lot of casual readers on Twitter and Facebook, but I want those who join my mailing list to get something beyond just the "first scoop" on what's going on. I want to get to know them, since my readers are so important to me. Beyond that, I want to give them something special. That's why it's going to take a while to prepare, and I hope to have it ready by the end of August.
Subscribers to my mailing list will receive a series of emails called Around Aviario in 30 Days. It's a projected collection of 30 short stories about the inhabitants of my tiny Connecticut city: its past, its present, and some of the more supernaturally inclined inhabitants ... the ones other residents refer to as "Those People". Some of these stories will take place outside the town lines, but will still have relevance at some point in the city's timeline. Think of it as a sort of game: finding out where each story fits into things as the books come out!
With that bit of exciting news, I'm going to get cracking on these stories. In the meantime, please enjoy yesterday's #1lineWed excerpt, and I'll write to you all again, soon!
For the last few weeks, I've been sharing excerpts on Facebook which fit the weekly theme for Twitter's One Line Wednesday. I've decided to move them here. Here's the latest offering: a tidbit from In The Cards.
“We got any other loose nails need fixin’ around here?”
“Not that I can think of. I’m looking at a loose screw right now, though.”
“Har har har, Slovich. Bite me.” Ral positioned the nail carefully, then gave it a few taps to seat it. Just as he was about to drive the hammer home, the phone behind the counter rang.
“I would have laughed if you hit your thumb.”
“You are my very, very best friend, you know that? Answer your damn phone.”
“Bestest of friends forever and ever,” she smiled as she picked up the phone, only to shriek mid-greeting as he hurled a crumpled paper from his pocket at her. “Balefires, June speaking—aah. Dick! … Not you, of course. How may I help you? … Oh, thank Goddess, hi Sam. I was super crazy hoping it’d be someone I knew. Ral’s throwing things at me, I think I need to report a case of disorderly conduct. … Oh. … Yeah, I guess I could. … I mean, only if you throw in an hour of community service too. … Cool, it’s a deal.” She covered the mouthpiece and leaned over the counter. “It’s Sam. He says he won’t lock you up for bullying me if you swing by his place when you get out tonight.”
“And my community service?” Ral grinned.
“Taste test Barb’s new lasagna recipe.”
“That’s gonna be tough.” With a few sharp swings of the hammer, he took care of the cabinet, then set the tool aside and stood up to take the phone. “Oi, Sam. Haven’t even heard my story and you’re already pickin’ out my sentence! What’s the matter with you?” As he listened, the smile faded from his face, and he gripped the edge of the counter. “… Oh. Yeah, absolutely. Don’t know how much help I’ll be, but … I’ll try.” With a wince, he nodded, despite the fact that the Lieutenant couldn’t see him on the other end of the line. “Sure thing. Be there tomorrow.” He held the receiver back out toward June.
“What’s going on?” She asked, as she hung up.
“Can’t say,” he insisted, letting go of the counter, careful not to let the fresh scratches in the worn oak show. “But I might need to leave early tomorrow. Nothing’s wrong with Sam, but … somebody around here might really not be right in the head.”
It's been ten days since I started the journey of suffering that is Chandler Bolt's Self-Publishing Summit, and I have to say that at this point, I am throwing in the towel and walking out of the ring. A large contributing factor to that was Mr. Bolt, himself. The over-acted charm of his repeated "Heeeeey, ev'rybody, Chandler BOLT here" was grating on my nerves by the last viewing attempt. While I'm grateful that he did manage to pull together a few people of use, I have no love for the man himself. His second planned book is called "How To Not Suck At Writing", and he wrote it because he admitted that his own writing was not very good. When viewers in chat posed the question of how he got to be such a best-seller if his writing was so terrible, Chandler pretended not to understand the question... three times. Pleading the fifth, anyone? On top of it all, he legitimately said "Right on, boy" to one of his presenters during the course of his hosting duties.
ANYWAY. Moving on. There were nearly fifty webinars in the Summit, and out of the dozen seminars I marked as useful for fiction writers, only three ended up being of use! A few of the presenters were flat-out jokes. One man's only published "self-help" book was a dating playbook (and he didn't have the benefit of being funny and multi-talented like Neil Patrick Harris). Most of these sessions were more about the speaker's individual success stories than the methods they actually used to get there. Many of the speakers were more interested in pushing business strategies and making money off of them ... these were entrepreneurs first and foremost, not authors, and many of them were young. I'm not about to say that young people can't be successful, but when half the people I watched looked fresh out of college and all but said "eh, I'm only in it for the money", it turned me off immediately. As I said in an entry last fall, I'm all about the story first, and the money second. Close friends will tell you just how much I dislike the concept of cold-selling things without getting to know people first... just thinking about it makes me feel like I need a long, hot shower and some brain bleach.
I'm sure that entrepreneurs who like to write business tactic books like What Color Is Your Parachute and Raving Fans would get value out of these seminars, and even some people who blog non-fiction may, as well. But I went into this as a fiction author, and as a fiction author, I can say to my fellow fictionistas and affictionados quite confidently and adamantly: Chandler Bolt's Self-Publishing Seminar is not worth your time, even without paying for any of it. That being said, here are the few people I thought had noteworthy things to say.
Joseph Michael: This webinar was the first that I took copious notes on. Joseph spent several hours learning the ins and outs of Scrivener, and now shares his knowledge by teaching online courses so that other authors do not need to do the same. For me, half the fun of new programs is usually taking the time to play with them and see what does what ... but when you're writing, you don't want to be distracted by settings and options and tabs and toolbars. What would have been an entire afternoon of mucking around was accomplished in about 40 minutes (subtracting the time he spent on his backstory and the time Chandler spent trying to play Mr. Popular). Personally, I came away with enough to do what I need, but his self-styled "Scrivener Coach" nickname is pretty well-earned... even if there's a major typo on his personal website. (I edit, okay? I can't help it.) He charges a pretty penny for the course, but to quote someone in one of the other seminars I enjoyed: "Either you're willing to put the time and the hard work in yourself to get it done, or you have to save your money and hire someone else to do it for you." If you're interested and willing to pay for the knowledge, his website is Learn Scrivener Fast.
John Tighe: Kindle sales direct from Amazon are John's self-proclaimed specialty. He spent a great deal of time padding his tips with stories about himself and his company, so I only took away a few basics, which are not really worth linking you to anything of his for. They're useful, but really common knowledge to a point:
Nick Stephenson: Not only has this author earned himself accolade on my part for how much he shared about his mailing list process ... but he may have gained another reader, as well. As an aside: I went to get his website link for this blog post, and he lists "Homing Pigeons" as a method of contact, with a link to an eHow article. I can honestly say that he is the only webinar host I watched over the last week and a half who presented himself as a "real person", and not just a salesman or self-promoter. Thanks to Nick's advice, I'm going to be starting up a mailing list quite soon, and I hope you'll join me there. I've got a lot of fun things in store. But marketing tips weren't the only thing Nick dished out: he shared experience and advice, as well, and many of the things he said resonated with a lot that's been going through my head ever since I concretely decided to self-publish. He believes in getting to know his readers before he tries to sell them things, self-published his own novel before trying to teach others how to do it, and does not sugar-coat the fact that Just Writing Forever And Ever will not make you a successful author, unless you are willing to pay others to do the behind-the-scenes legwork for you. Writing is still a job, after all. I don't want to tell you everything, because here's the last thing that made him stand out from the pack: his video training is FREE, and you can find it here on his blog. Tell 'im Angela sent you.
So, that's my experience with the Self-Publishing Summit. Hopefully, some of you will find it useful, and the rest of you can imagine the amusing faces I made while listening to most of these people. See you next week!
Since writing is not what pays my bills and keeps me fed, clothed, and housed ... I have been trying to find as many close-to-free tools to help me in my journey to self-published status as possible. I figured that I should probably share with you all when I find something that works well ... or, in this case, something that doesn't.
I signed up for a free Self-Publishing Summit, this week ... several webinars supposedly designed to help writers who are looking to self-publish polish their book and get it out there into the world. They're offering people the "opportunity" to buy unlimited access to all of these webinar videos for $100, and the headliner's site charges even more for other summits and courses.
Bottom line: As of today, I wouldn't bother.
I watched the kickoff on Sunday. The headliner, Chandler Bolt, is a college dropout, self-made entrepreneur who wrote a book and made a ridiculous amount of money from it. He admits in the kickoff that it wasn't even a well-written book. From the start, that turned me off: this seems like a lot of self-promoting, buzzword-filled ... well ... let's just call it "cow crap" and keep things PG, shall we? But I decided to reserve judgement until I heard what the rest of the "summit" had in store. Out of a large panel of speakers, only five or so were touted as being useful for fiction writers. No big deal. That's fine. I made a note of them and added them to my Google calendar, since the webinars are only available for free viewing until 72 hours after they're aired.
Yesterday morning, I sat down to watch two of the Monday webinars: both on kicking that infamous writer's doubt so that you can get out of your own way and write. I gave up on the first one ten minutes in, because it was so full of fluff and buzzwords with nothing truly useful. As for the second, all I had to do was read the preserved user chat to see that it wasn't for me. The second speaker was just as self-aggrandized and egotistical as Chandler, to the point where she came out and said she was smarter and better than the clients she helped. Needless to say, I closed that tab without even clicking play.
The only thing I had on my list from Tuesday was a session on Scrivener, which I've been wanting to try, anyway, since I saw comrades from NaNoWriMo shouting its praises. So far, this is the only thing that's been remotely useful. I'll check in again next week once I've seen the rest of the seminars I marked to review.
"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life." - Ernest Hemingway
Statements like that have been made countless times by so many writers. Over the last few weeks, I have been realizing that, for me, they couldn't be farther from the truth. It wasn't always that way, though. I grew up isolated by my creative nature: in school, I was the girl in the back corner doodling in the margins of her notebooks and scribbling stories in her spare time about her favorite fictional characters, weaving in ones she'd created. (As one of the dying breed that grew up pre-internet, I wouldn't realize that the term for this was "fan-fiction" until halfway through high school.)
I went through college and several years afterward thinking that writing was something you kept secret from the world at large until you were a Published Author. There was a very silent but strongly implied distinction between a writer and a Published Author, you see: one was just a hobby, almost a waste of time ... the other was a Legitimate Job, but only if you were a Bestselling Published Author (BPA). So, you can imagine how I thought the cards were stacked against me from the start. I kept my writing to myself, because what were the chances of becoming a BPA?
Over the course of the last year and a half, an amazing thing has happened: I began to shed that mentality. With the help of a loved one and dear friends, I began to realize that it was the writing itself that mattered most, not necessarily what became of it. When I was actively writing, at least four days a week or so, I noticed that I was happier. I felt more like "myself". I was more inclined to say hello to strangers on the street, smile, hold doors, actively hold conversations at gatherings instead of waiting to be found and talked to. In observing things so that I can add them to the rich tapestry of Aviario and its inhabitants, I engage myself more fully with people: I find myself asking more questions about how and why they live, and not just "what they do". If people come to me with their worries, I listen and try to understand, instead of waiting for my chance to speak: because couldn't someone on the page have something similar on their mind?
Not only that, but since I rejected the notion of the BPA, I have been far more willing to identify with myself as An Author, not just a writer: I have created books. That makes me an Author. I've begun to say it with pride, even though I will likely have to tell people that I "do" something else to earn the roof over my head and the groceries in my pantry (and the internet that makes this blog possible, of course). A funny thing has happened, since I began to own my Authorship: people have been asking more about it. When I tell people what I "do", they simply nod and dismiss .... when I tell people what I AM? They sit up and pay attention. Call me crazy, but I think they can see, somehow, that I really care about my writing, that it's a passionate thing. I've always believed that passion and dreams go a long way toward making a person who they are. So, without a doubt, BPA or not, I am an Author. Admitting it to myself and enriching the world in my mind has brought me out into the world I live in. The writer may be lonely, but this Author has never been happier.
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