Categories
Furbabies Promotion Writing Life

How my books are like my cats: a study in surprising similarities.

I’ve raised six cats so far in my life. I’ve written & published six books. There are some entertaining parallels. Check it out:

Here’s my first novel, and also Jake, the first cat who was mine, not a whole-family shared pet.

Ways they’re alike:

  • a bit messy
  • rough around the edges not to everyone’s taste
  • took a long time to mature
  • hold a special place in my heart
  • more about the novel here: bit.ly/controlleddescent

2nd novel & 2nd cat, Banshee:

  • bigger than the first one
  • slightly goofy
  • lots of running around & tail-chasing
  • never gets much respect
  • more about the book here: bit.ly/FlightPlankmh

Third book, third cat:

Alexander Batwing Spook got stuck with “Kitten” as his callname. Like Weaving In the Ends, he was:

  • sleek, dark, & handsome
  • full of attitude
  • in love with yarn
  • more popular than the one who came before him.
  • there’s more about the book here: bit.ly/weavingends

If you look closely at cat 2 & 3, you get an idea of their relationship. That’s Kitten’s foot kicking Banshee in the chin. This perfectly illustrates the relationship between the two books as well.

Onward to the 4th enty.

Like my novella Novices, Bruce, our 4th cat, started off short & got longer (plot for the story, hair, in Bruce’s case) More parallels:

  • did not plan on getting another cat, did not plan on writing this book
  • LGBTQ+
  • sometimes cuddly, sometimes prickly
  • unsophisticated but sweet
  • never went according to plan
  • further book details here: amzn.to/3gMYzUp

Book 5.

This novel was a big change in direction & was unlike any story before it. Scooter, was a new adventure too. More things in common:

  • able to convince people into picking them up
  • thought-provoking
  • dark
  • but sometimes also silly & comic
  • curious? go here: bit.ly/roughpassages

And now, this!

Pippin is my big, bold, gorgeous new cat, all fluffy & huge & complicated. He’s full of goodness, sticks with you, & never goes does what people expect. Just like my latest novel. Which you can find here bit.ly/sharpedgekmh, if you’re interested. One last thing they have in common:L very long tails.

That’s all. I expect there will be a new cat fairly soon, and eventually there will be more novels. It’s gonna be fun to see how (or if) the trend continues.

There’s no deep meaning to this post. It’s winter solstice, my sleep patterns are all thrown off by the long dark nights, and that leaves me antsy & tired at once. I decided to amuse myself, and this happened.

Until later. Happy holidays!

Categories
Writing Life

Musings on reviews & reaching readers

I don’t go looking at reviews often, but when I do, sometimes I find pure gems. Take this observation, from an unverified 2-star Amazon review left in June. (Why am I posting this now, when it happened in June? HI HAVE WE MET? HAVE I NOT MENTIONED MY ABILITY TO OVERTHINK THINGS FOREVER?)

But I digress early this time.

The reviewer found Controlled Descent unappealing in large part because there were repeated instances of “characters dealing with physical suffering and acting like jerks.”

Friends, I confess THIS IS A VALID TAKE, and that makes this a valuable review.

Not sure where the reader got their copy. Since the review is unverified & not linked to a Goodreads, it’s not an Amazon purchase. Might have been a convention? This means someone cared hard enough about their disappointment in a book they bought at least 2 years ago to hunt it down online & vent.

I admire that kind of dedication, and I’m (perhaps perversely) pleased I was able to inspire that passionate a reaction.

I mean, sure I’d rather inspire excitement and joy and other positive responses like loyalty and enthusiasm, but the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. I’d rather fifty people passionately but thoughtfully hate my writing than five hundred think it’s too MEH to bother rating at all.

I’ve learned over the years that my perspective on this is far from universal. Your mileage may vary, etc.

That same review complained about an “obligatory intertwined love story” and that remark kinda underscores that the book was a bad fit for them. Which happens. But not because there’s and intertwined love story.

There isn’t. Pinkie swear. There are multiple characters who are sexually attracted to others, yes. That’s hardly unrealistic. And there are comedic elements involving one character’s obliviousness, because that’s my lived experience & fun to write. But it’s a group of people who all respect consent & accept responsibility for their own attraction, so that’s that. There;s a straightforward pair-up within the embrace of a supportive, approving friendship group, and nothing more.

But!

If a reader was braced for/expecting matters to fall out as a Typical Tropey Lurve Triangle, well, I can see why they might read the interactions differently and not appreciate it. I’m not a fan of love triangle angst myself, so I can respect others being sensitive to it and having a different perspective.

I’m sharing all this as an example of why an unfavorable review can still be a good one — nay, even an excellent one.

Now, there are bad reviews aplenty out there. Vicious, vitriolic, meanspirited, hating, hateful ones. Getting a lot of those can sink a beautiful book into obscurity forever. I’ve seen stories smothered that way on Goodreads, on Twitter, on…well, anywhere readers are gathered together. Like some other authors, I fear attcks like those. So far, my obscurity has protected my writing.

(Low-star pile-on attacks have little to do with the quality of the book. Even in cases where problematic elements offended and enraged people, the massive inundation of bad reviews come from people who never. read. the. book–which is a little piece of proof that a review reveals something of its author along with its analysis.)

BUT I DIGRESS AGAIN. QUELLE SUPRISE

As long as the review is a good, honest, thoughtful one, the reasons one reader did NOT like a book inform other prospective readers about things they WILL like. That’s why I welcome good unfavorable ones. I’m grateful to all the people who took the time to share why they didn’t like my books.

Some provide insight into choices I made unconsciously about characters or style or themes–the kind of choices beta readers and editors might not question, but ones which I would rather make consciously. Other “bad” reviews highlight imperfections in plot or structure that are part of the craft ‘m always striving to improve. And yes, a few of the reviews are pure entertainment in a classic “WTAF, did they read the same book I wrote?” way.

But anyway. I thought I’d share my ponderings on this topic, and now I have done so.

That’s all for now. Until later!

OOP! CAT TAX:

Categories
Authoring Promotion Writing Life

Life notes & book numbers

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Post Daylights Saving Monday is Monday-est Monday of the Year.

Admitting I cannot brain is hard, but I am beating back the gnawing be-productive weasels with mentally forgiving tasks. So far, so good. Fresh foods arrived before the storm & have been stowed away, three loads of laundry are done, and two more loads are sorted and ready. Pantry dinner is prepped, sheets are changed, bills paid, and correspondence sorted out.

Still to do: do my daily online promotion for Sharp Edge Of Yesterday, and enjoying some downtime with Ghost Town. Yes, the writing time is a reward, not a task. It’s a mindset I’m trying to nurture.

BUT FIRST! A “THANK YOU!” shoutout to everyone whose pre-orders have put Sharp Edge within 3 spots of first place in my personal ranking (not comparing to others because that would be depressing.) Posting promotions for it online is hard work that uses up writing brainspace. It’s satisfying when effortful cause leads to desired effect.

Oh! And speaking of the pre-orders, let me share some numbers. I like it when authors are transparent about such things. Disclaimers ahead of time: everyone’s experience is different. I don’t have a large audience. My writing seems to attract devoted fans, in that if you like any one of my books, you end up hunting down and enjoying all of them, but you folx are still an elite cadre, not a market-swaying population segment.

It’s a bigger audience than I ever thought to have when I started this gig, I admit. My flavor of impostor syndrome means I suspect innocent people of pity purchases (sorry) but this time I’m pretty confident most of these orders are going to people who want to read the book, not just support a friend by buying something they would never read on its own merits in a million years. But I digress. (It wouldn’t be a post by me if I didn’t. At least you know I’m not a pod person!)

The raw numbers:
Rough Passages, current pre-order champion, 32 pre-orders.
Sharp Edge Of Yesterday, 29 pre-orders as of today. With one week left to go.

And now, some data analysis & background because that makes this like a science report, and we all know those are FUN, right?

I did a massive promotional push for Rough Passages‘ release back in 2017. At the time I was active in a lot of Facebook groups and the general “writing community” online as part of my “Learning to Be An Independent Author” phase. I told all the people in all the groups where I was active about the book & why it was wonderful. I posted notes and snippets and pictures in my own online spaces. I told people IRL and asked for online support. I set the introductory pre-order price at a low-risk investment of $0.99. I did multiple reminders per day for weeks.

I was thrilled to get 32 pre-orders. It’s peanuts to authors who make a living from wordcraft, but it was twice the orders I’d gotten for a previous, similar release. Return On Investment was great if I only looked at the number.

ROI was abysmal when I added in personal cost. Constant participation in multiple book-related communities online is grueling. The #writingcommunity hashtag is hugely popular, and in the indie author community, success is linked to maintaining a constant, consistent, personal presence online.

I don’t care how excited and exuberant you are, how PROUD you are of your book, performing in public is work, and every promotional post is a singular little performance. Not to mention the time and emotional energy involved in conversating online daily to stay active in multiple groups. Plus I hate seeing the same post a dozen times a day no matter what it is, so incessant posting about Only My Book will never not generate guilt.

Shortly after Rough Passages came out, I realized I couldn’t survive on gruel. The way I promoted its release is still touted far and wide by commercially-successful indie authors & some publishers as “The Way,” but it can’t be my way. I’m comfortable bragging on my writing, because yes, it’s great, but making professional interaction my constant focus was like hitting myself with a stick while fasting. It left me perpetually weak and bruised. Spec-fic is a tiny niche in the bookworld. It’s a loud, boisterous niche full of bestsellers, but I gotta be realistic: quiet, prosy, slow-burn stories like mine are unlikely to ever appeal to the majority market, no matter how much I promoted it to the wider publishing world.

I detached myself from ALL the Facebook groups, writing, science fiction, and all, and unfollowed a lot of people on Twitter who never interacted with me anyway. The struggle to stay out of the tempting flow is real, but I am committed to it. These days I lurk on the fringes of the online indie-author writing community so I can spot trends and catch news, but I’m only in a handful of groups, and I don’t bother with most Twitter or Instagram hashtags.

That brings us to Sharp Edge’s number. 29.

This pre-release promotion has been low-key and very much in my own small spaces, and I’ve made a conscious effort to spend more time writing the next book (Ghost Town! 85% drafted!) than being online talking about Sharp Edge. I post daily-ish on my spaces, have sent two reminders to my newsletter base, and shared posts to a couple of groups where I was invited to do so. I’m not reeling.

And yet, here I am with nearly the same result. That is more than thrilling. That’s happy-dance celebration worthy.

Not that it’s been easy! Since I am stubborn and will not pay Facebook for advertising boosts on post, I have to announce the same thing again & again to reach anyone when the “pay us to talk about yourself” FB algorithms are working hard against me. It’s still tiring and time consuming. But hey, I’m doing much less of it, and no GUILT!

The email newsletter is easier. I’m actually enjoying sending news & stuff to folx who’ve subscribed to it, because you all volunteered to get news from me! That idea is HIGHLY affirming, to be honest. Heartwarming. Truly.

In conclusion, once again, thank you, THANK YOU, to all you wonderful people who will be welcoming my new book baby into your homes & your hearts. I am deeply grateful.

Some final points.
If you haven’t signed up for my fancy occasional email newsletter yet, you can do that right here: https://mailchi.mp/afe76c32cbce/freestory2021
If you haven’t pre-ordered The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday like all the cool kids have, you can get to its sales pages from here: https://linktr.ee/SharpEdge
If you haven’t read Rough Passages yet and can’t imagine starting Sharp Edge until you do, it’s on sale for $0.99 cents in ebook again, find a seller here: https://books2read.com/rough-passages

That’s all until later, except here’s another cat pic from Pexels, because it’s cute.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com
Categories
Authoring nuts & bolts Writing Life

A low-priority request

Hiya friends! I hope StayAtHome Spring 2020 Day X (where x is an integer value greater than zero) is treating you well.

If you have perchance ordered paperback copies of Novices from Big River Online, could you let me know when the book reaches you?  I’m collecting data for science! I expect it will take a lot longer than usual, with books being in the non-essential column compared to a lot of things BRO is shipping right now, and also I’m made of curiousity.

(Big hat tip to Seanan McGuire for my new favorite search-engine-dodging alternative for a certain retailer’s name.)

Note 2: If you care to leave a review for Novices online somewhere, that would be beyond fabulous and I would be ever so grateful, but…well.  I know reviews are hard. True confession, I’m behind on them too. Three reviews on my Habitica to-do list are bright red for being late-late-late.

**Note 3: Also remember that when you alert ME (privately, thx) to any typos/proofing glitches in any of my books, you get entered in a raffle for a free copy of the next book.

On the other hand, if you report typos & errata to Big River Online, the book gets pulled off the website & the creator gets penalized. Just an FYI for those who didn’t realize that.

And that reminds me, I owe someone a free copy of Novices. I do love giving people free things when I can.

AND I need to change the cover picture and add the paperback link to the book page on my website and ask Author Central to link the paperback & ebook entries…ah, all the authoring details. Never-ending fun. (for some values of fun)

Until later, all!

Categories
Authoring Media Consumption

Writer Reading Report: January-March 2020

I’ve read over 20 new books and done a couple dozen re-reads since the first of the year. I’ve also watched plenty of shows & movies, but not as many as I would have done in the same time period last year. One nice thing about the new house is that we cut the cable cord, so turning on the TV is an Intentional Act, not a default activity.

Writing is now the default activity. Go, wording!

Well. To be strictly accurate, Writing is now among my many default activities. Writing & working on table & bling ideas for Gen Con, & hammering away at the intractable Series Title Problem, &planting things, & baking, &…my days are not empty.

Anyway. I’m going to do my usual thing & summarize things more by author than title. No pretty pictures because I am The Laziest Ever. Also they were mostly library books read on ebook, & those don’t get pretty color cover pictures.

First I did a comprehensive chronological re-read of ALL the Liaden Universe books by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. I then bought all the Constellation short work collections. A new book came out while I was finishing those, so I  read it too. I love these characters, I love the universe, and I love where the plots are headed.

A review of one of my books complimented my writing by comparing it to theirs. That remains one of my all-time favorite reviews.

Next up in reading: Hunter, Elite, & Apex by Mercedes Lackey, a tidy series I somehow entirely missed when published, because I always want to read All the Lackey. Neat spin on the usual post-apocalyptic dystopian  thing, (add magic, plus it’s not a totally horrible All Guvmint Bad kind of place) And the young protagonist is competent all by herself because it’s what she does, not because daddy wanted a boy or to heal trauma or For Boyfriend…I do adore no-excuses competent heroines.

I got Peace Talks by Jim Butcher & Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs through NetGalley. Those two are both Advanced Reading Copies of novels due out later this year, and I very much enjoyed them both.

I read a Regency in there somewhere…ah! Project Duchess by Sabrina Jeffries. An unexpected delight. I guess I still love my fantasy romances if they have loads of good dialogue and comedy of manners elements.

And currently I’m on a YA/Middle Grade kick. They’re mostly (all?) books written long after I was an adult, but I decided to tackle them just because. So I’ve finally read a bunch of Gail Carson Levine books. (And obviously I enjoy them or else I wouldn’t keep reading.)  So far, it’s been Ella, Enchanted, Fairest, A Tale of Two Castles, Stolen Magic…I think that’s all so far. I’m on a waitlist for more. I did read a couple in paperback, but it was a painful slog compared to reading onscreen.

I’m 3/4 of the way through Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, loving every sentence.  I need to go put myself on the waitlist for All The Tamora Pierce books through the library’s digital loan program. And I suspect I’ll need to own them all in the end, though.

In summary : I recommend without reservation all the books I’ve mentioned here–except the NetGalley titles. I do recommend the series they come from, but…BUT.  The Harry Dresden & Mercy Thompson series are both clocking in at  10+ books. Despite great efforts by the authors to keep references to past events understandable and relevant, the weight of continuing plot is a tangible force in almost every scene. Someone could jump in, but it won’t be nearly as much fun as starting at the beginning.

That’s all for now. If I keep up with writing and reading the way I aim to do, the next reading report won’t be quite so LOOOOONG.

Until later, world.