Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Doing It All Wrong (and not giving a damn)

   Everyone has advice for aspiring writers. Established authors, not so established authors, readers, and even folks who wouldn't know a book if it hit them in the face have something to say on the subject. And that's great. Many of us could use all of the help we can get. Much of this help comes in the form of blog posts and online forums. You know, the internet. That magical place where everyone is rational and level headed.

   Uh oh, that took a dark turn. No, this is not going to be a blog post about the perils of navigating overblown egos and self-importance in the virtual world. Nor is this going to be a thoughtful and well written list of dos and don'ts for the aspiring author. I've read lots of tips and tricks to being a successful self-published author. Some, I've taken to heart. Others, I've outright ignored. The results? Your milage may vary.

   There is no simple solution to being a success and what works for one may not work for another. Keep this in mind, aspiring authors, because what I am about to reveal to you is very important. Ready for this? The secret to becoming a successful author is...

   ...redefining your definition of success.

   Am I a success? According to most answers, no, I am very much not a successful author. I am barely recognized, I'm not yet a thousandaire, and I am not a bestselling author by any lists out there. But I would beg to differ. I have successfully published six books in two years, four of which are a complete series, all of which have landed in the hands of readers across the world. I've got a handful of glowing reviews from people who liked my books enough to tell others. While I don't sell every day or even every week, I've yet to have a month where I've sold nothing (knock on wood). Pretty impressive for a nobody without a marketing strategy, don't you think?

   Will I try harder someday? Perhaps, but for right now, I'm more concerned with building a nice catalog of quality books that people may or may not read.

   Now, let me tell you what does bother me: Seeing others in the same situation I am in getting upset and jealous of authors who are more successful than they are. I've seen too many and it just makes me sad. They think that other indie authors are their competition.
   Seriously. Apple and Samsung are competitors. Honda and Toyota are competitors. Saying other authors are your competition is like saying corn and peas are in competition. No one eats just one type of food and no one buys just one book out of a particular genre. For that matter, tons of people buy books in many genres. Fellow authors are not competition. We are all in this together. Whether you make ten bucks or ten thousand, remember that.

   That being said, I have to apologize for my woefully under managed review segment, Write On! In light of this, I'm going to continue the multi-author post that I started with #3. My goal at the moment is to review three books a month at least. Hopefully, the next will be up some time this week. Until then, keep reading indie books and be nice to each other!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Author as an Artist

   You probably didn't know this, but before I decided to dedicate all of my creativity to writing, I fancied myself an artist. I was never much good at it, but occasionally I would have flashes of brilliant luck where something would turn out sort of art-like. 
Like this exotic wood mobile I once made and could never replicate.

   But mostly what I ended up with was a giant mess of an art space full of paint splatters, saw dust, and mod podge everywhere.
   You see, art is just like writing. To break the rules, one must know the rules. I know the writing rules, but the art rules? Eh, not so much. However, I'm learning. For our anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a painting class through our local Painting With a Twist. Have you heard of this? It's fun! You supply your own snacks and drinks (booze is allowed!), and they supply the art supplies and instructions. Our class also supplied two hours of eighties music, which led to a lot of impromptu singing and dancing, even though most of the one singing and dancing probably hadn't been born when the songs were popular. I'm officially old because my childhood is cool again.
(I would like to take this opportunity to officially apologize to all of the baby boomers that I likely offended when I discovered my love of The Beatles. I'm sorry, no one should have to find out they are old in this way.)
   Our class was painting a tree in the moonlight. I tried to find a picture of what it was supposed to look like, but it isn't on their site anymore. First, we painted the sky and then we added a moon. Now, here is where I ran into my first problem. The original painting had this cloudy, ethereal look and I assumed that there would be a blending phase where we add some softening. No. That phase never happened, so my sky remained streaky. 

   Next we added the tree, which was great, until they took away our Flat Stanley brushes. (Side note: our teacher, who named the brushes Flat Stanley, had no idea this was a book. Kids! I tell ya!). All I had left to do my branches was Tiny Tina. Oh, we still had Bob. Bob was short for Big Ol' Brush. Bob would be used for the leaves. My leaves looked more like Muppets than cherry blossoms. When we were done, I used Bob to make my  moon a bit more moon-like. Below is the finished product:
   Not bad for a novice, but I knew I could do better with practice because if life has taught me anything,it's that I will obsess until I get it right! So the next day I dug out my old paints and took my 40% off coupon down to Joanne's for some new brushes, and tried again. The result? Not too shabby:
   One of these days, I might move on to something other than trees. For now, I'm sticking with what I know. I tried putting a bird on it:

   If you have a similar studio in your area, I highly recommend taking it. Date night, girl's night, guy's night, whatever, just go, bring your drinks (we did Starbucks because, as I mentioned above, I'm old) and have fun! We will definitely be taking another class. When we do, I'll post the results so that we can see if I've improved at all. Who knows? I may have it in me to be an artist yet.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Walk Away, Cliché

   We've all heard them, silly catchphrases, metaphors and old wives' tales that are meant to make us stop and think. The early bird catches the worm. A penny saved is a penny earned. A stitch in time saves nine.
   Okay, funny story about that last one. I never was very good at sewing, so I had no earthly idea what it meant. I thought a stitch in time literally meant a stitch in the fabric of space and time. What nine was it saving? Astronauts, of course. Nine astronauts were lost in space and about to fall into  a black hole,  but some benevolent being stitched it up. Seriously, I am sometimes literal to a fault.
   And sometimes I stray off topic. The point is, these phrases are quick ways to convey a point without having to say much. But I think it is time to retire some. Mainly, the ones I hear over and over when I dare complain about writing. And complain I do. Ask my husband. Every book I write is 'killing me' or is the 'absolute worst!' Fortunately for me, he is a musician and understands where I am coming from. He would never say, for example...

Slow and steady wins the race
   I hear this one occasionally when I get bogged down by the fact that I am a slow writer. Let me tell you something. Back in November, I did a 5k. It took me something like 43 minutes to complete. I was slow. I was steady. I did not win the race. In fact, I might have been dead last if it hadn't been for the fact that there were young children in this race as well. The winner had a time of something obscene like, 17 minutes. As I was plodding along, thinking about the cupcakes* at the finish line, several of these winners ran past, screaming at us slowpokes to get the heck out of their way. By the way, this was, as many 5ks are, a charity event, which was supposed to be fun. Do you know what isn't fun? Being knocked off course by someone who takes running too seriously.
   So no, slow and steady does not win the race. Neither does the promise of cupcakes*. Months of training and a competitive spirit wins the race. I guess, in a way, this is a better phrase. Not for book writing, but marketing for sure. Not that I'm going to win that race either. But hey, cupcakes* are cheap enough that I don't have to win. Speaking of races...

Life isn't a race
   Wait, what? You just gave me bad advice on how to win the race! As my father (and later Kurt Cobain) used to say, "take your time and hurry up!" Well, which is it? A race or not a race? Here's the thing: we're using this one all wrong. Death isn't the finish line in the race of life. Early retirement? Now were getting a little bit closer. We are all racing toward success. The faster you get there, the faster you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or cupcakes*, in my case.

Rome wasn't built in a day
   This irks me to no end. Aside from the 'duh' factor that any civilization built in a day is probably a cult and a poorly managed one at that, Rome was built by conquering other states and enslaving their people. Again, this one pertains to the speed of my writing, but also to the highs and lows of the book selling process. I realize that you can't build a city in one day. And you can't write a novel in one day. Well, I'm sure you could, but you shouldn't. Not if you want it to be any good. And I certainly am not going to be a success in one day. But Rome wasn't built by one person either, now was it? Books, especially indie books, are. I didn't build the world I am writing in one day, but I built it. It is my world and I would like others to see my world and enjoy it. It's okay to be a little impatient. Just don't let it overtake you.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy
   Okay, show of hands: How many of you just saw Jack Nicholson doing what Jack Nicholson does best?
   Actually, there is nothing wrong with this proverb. Everyone needs to realize that sometimes it's better to punch out and leave the project unfinished instead of wasting countless hours slamming your head against an immovable roadblock. Go home or go to happy hour, just don't stay in the office, drooling on your keyboard as your brain turns to mush. Go win the race that isn't life. There may even be cupcakes*.

*Why yes, I am starting my fall doctor's visit diet. Why do you ask?