homework

woman-sitting-at-table-and-working-with-computer

I was never this tidy when doing homework.  I’m, um, still not this tidy when working…

There’s this thing in indie publishing circles that’s kind of a hot subject, and that is writing to market.  The idea, basically, is to write what readers want to read.  Sounds pretty simple, if you’re an author that wants to buy groceries and pay rent and whatnot.  I mean, it makes sense, right?

Well, it gets a little bit more complicated than that once you start getting deeper into it, and some people start arguing that writing to market is gross commercialism and selling out and all that. And then there are other folks who are pointing at popular authors saying ‘see?  It works! Give people what they want to read!’ and it all often devolves from there, as things are wont to do on the internet.

And then there are those of us that don’t really want to go hardcore either way– I love my readers and want anyone who reads my work to enjoy it, but I started publishing because I couldn’t find quite what I wanted to read.  So… what that means really, is that I want to know what the common themes and tropes are in my genre so I can know which ones are what I’m looking for in a story and which ones make me insane. And that’s kind of the problem.

You might have noticed that I kinda like to read?  >_>

It’s partly because I like finding a good, fun, stress-free place in the world.  (Hint: the news isn’t it.) So, when I read, if it’s a good book, my active mind turns off.  So I’m enjoying the story, not analyzing it like I’m in ninth grade English.

Nothing ruins the fun of a good book quite like high school English classes.

If I have to keep my brain active enough to think ‘this is a plot point,  I should take note of that, and be aware of what the characters are doing and thinking’ then I am kicked fully out of the story.  I might as well be reading the driver’s ed manual, or Hamlet for the five hundredth time (oh, the perils of a theatre degree.) Either way, I’m no longer enjoying a good urban fantasy adventure.

How is that a fun thing to do to a book?

The obvious option is to read it through once for fun, and then if I enjoy it enough, go back through it and find the tropes and beats and analyze the structure.  But… (you know there was a ‘but’) that feels an awful lot like homework again.

87167258_2342334209324876_8220883539906789376_n

What I did last weekend.  I regret nothing.

I just finished Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews, for example, and it was amazing.  I stayed up way too late over the weekend to finish it and it was worth every sleepy minute I struggled through the next day.  If you haven’t read this, you probably should.

Since I finished it, though, I’ve been playing with the idea of going through it again and taking notes on the major tropes and plot points, and… I can’t bring myself to pick it up again to do that.  Because that would suck all the magic out of it for me.

And sucking the magic out of a story seems like the worst sin of all.

Introductions

4815205632_632ee48a71_b

Photo credit: Drew Coffman on VisualHunt / CC BY

I was watching a YouTube talk by a fellow indie author and she said something that kind of stuck with me.  She was talking about marketing stuff and business things, but one of the things she said was that she spent a lot of time talking to people about her favorite character.  She put up a whole slide, with an artist’s image of the character and a whole description of the woman, as if she was running for office and needed an introduction.

Well, I’m not sure I’m going to do anything like that, really, but… I thought maybe I could talk more about my own characters since I spend so much time with them.  I do rather like them, and I don’t know.  Maybe you will, too.  So, I’m starting a new series here on the blog, occasionally introducing my characters and talking a little bit about why I like them, and maybe revealing a bit about them that’s not in the books since it’s not really relevant to the stories.

I thought I’d start with Caroline since she’s the main character in my current series.  I’ll go back and talk a bit about the Los Gatos folks as I go on since I’m feeling less and less done with that universe the longer I go on.  We’ll see.

Anyway!  Introductions!

Caroline portraitThis is Caroline.  She’s a first-year college student at Stonehaven University, studying Criminal Justice in order to work her way up the ranks at the Federal Paranormal Activities Agency.  For now, she’s happy as an intern— mostly because she’s not treated as an intern, just paid like one.

How did she end up there, working for a troll and partnered with a vampire and the world’s only known manticore when most people only knew about the existence of mages and elves?  Well, funny story, that.  Back when she was a senior in high school she cut class and instead of getting detention, she got kidnapped by some not terribly skilled elf supremacists and tossed into a dungeon cell with Darien Webb, FPAA agent and badly injured vampire.

Caroline impressed Darien (and later, Point, the troll who became Section Chief,) by keeping her head and working with him to get them both out of danger.  She managed to keep it together all the way until she got home and closed herself up in her room where she managed to have her complete breakdown in the privacy of her blanket burrito.

She’s good under pressure, but come on.

So, now she works for the FPAA and goes to school and does her best to keep her new friends safe and happy while keeping the secrets of the paranormal world and hunting down bad guys.  And, you know.  Filing paperwork.  She is still an intern, after all.

Avoiding burnout

burnout-burned-out-disease-psychic-pain-bullying-1One of the real downsides to being an indie author, in my opinion, is that while I get to write for my living, I also have to do all the other stuff involved with making a book, too.  I am a one-person publishing company, which means that I have to secure book covers, advertise, write ad copy, and so on and so forth. And that’s just the surface-level list!

Take advertising, for example.  It is, of course, The Future now, so advertising is a wildly careening, viral-post-dependent, buzzword soup, the battle octopus of a monster.  Where should I advertise?  Amazon?  Facebook?  Goodreads?  Should I look for newsletters to buy space in?  Should I try to make viral memes?  How much time should I spend on it when I could be writing?  How much money is too much to spend on it?  Not that I have much to spare on advertising anyway, but…. I just.. I don’t… oh, man.  Come on, you guys.  I did not take any business classes in college, which I now realize was foolish, but it seemed rational back then!

Trying to do everything, and do it “right” is one of the reasons I got so burned out last year.  I was trying to go in too many directions all at once, all while writing my books, and doing all that ‘Mom stuff’ that I need to stay on top of.  And laundry.  So.  Much.  Laundry.  You know, normal everyday living stuff.  So this year I’m scaling back.  Seriously.

StockSnap_LTY3TGLE73So I’m sticking with Facebook and IG for social media, and no more than that, because those are the two that I can kind of get my brain around.  I’ll try to post here more often than I did last year— I’m aiming for about twice a month or so— but I’m not going to stress myself out about it.  I am going to really buckle down on getting my books written and some ebook bundles put together.  And, if you’ve been following me on Facebook you’ve heard about my Grand Audiobook Plans…

This year, instead of boring myself out trying to do everything, I’m going to try to get more help from my family and the occasional virtual assistant, and stay focused on the fun part of being an indie author.  The writing.

Limit break

gnome-garden-decoration-dwarf-littleI know I’ve mentioned my anxiety here, and you are all likewise aware that I am an introvert.  These things combine fairly often to become more than a little toxic and have ended up with me not leaving my apartment more than once a week at most.  I can easily go for several weeks without leaving our small home.  Frankly, my circumstances make it easy.

My husband is very outgoing and gets a bit twitchy if he doesn’t get out into the crowds often.  He’ll frequently just head out to the combini for a drink or over to the station to grab a cheap bento just to get out among other people, but me?  I’m thrilled to get some peace and quiet at home, and I’ll often suggest he take our son with him, just for a short wander so I can get some serious alone time.

But this isn’t healthy in the long run.  Humans are, after all, social animals.  Not to mention the fact that if I want to write about people I need to be around people to know what I’m talking about.  But… I live in Tokyo, and my Japanese is, um, not great.  Language learning doesn’t come easily to me, and even after so long here, I’m not very good at the language which makes me both embarrassed at my lack of skill and frustrated at my inability to communicate.

Which keeps me inside.

Which I am fully aware is unhealthy.

3690218087_2c32372cdf_b

While the Lawson’s is nearest (and our favorite,) there is both a Family Mart and a 7-11 close by.  

So!  I have decided that I’m going to Do Something About It.  It’s not a resolution or anything like that, it’s more of a goal.  We have trash day on Monday and Thursday, and the recycling goes out on Tuesdays.  So.  Every time I take out the trash or the recycling, I am going to take a short walk.  Even if it’s just around the block, it will be outside in public, where other human beings can see me.  I might even stop in at my local Lawsons, where they actually do recognize us (and they adore my son who managed to charm them early on.). That will be both leaving the apartment AND interacting with people!  Primarily in Japanese, even!  I’m hoping to work up to heading off to a coffee place and getting a breakfast set without my husband doing all the ordering for me.  I know, lofty goals, right?

Honestly, it’s terrifying to me, and it’s well past my comfortable limits.  Which seems stupid.  It’s a convenience store and they know me, so why am I stressed out?  Who knows?  The human mind is a weird place and I sure don’t understand how it works.  I just know myself and I know that if I don’t actually face this small thing, I really will end up becoming a hikkikomori, and I think that’s honestly more frightening.

Back from the dead

sparklers-on-black-backgroundSo… I guess I haven’t been around here in the blog much for a few months.  *blows dust off ‘pst now’ button.*  I don’t really have an excuse to give you other than that I sort of ran out of spoons after Typhoon Hagabis.  I tried to buckle down and focus on my writing and that project didn’t go so well.  It still has my heart, though, so I suspect that the concept will come back around eventually.

It’s a new year, though, and a new decade, and I’m feeling that new year energy.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I’ve started out finally nailing down the steps I need to take to get some audiobooks out.  My husband is helping me find the right equipment and people to help me out with it, too.  There are a few giant decisions to make before I can take any massive strides on that, but I’ll let you know when I do!

I’ve also decided that I need to revamp this here website at some point soon, and I’m once again rejiggering the Patreon, probably in conjunction with the audiobook thing once I’ve made a few decisions and have things firmed up better.  I’ve been listening to writing podcasts and working on a new book that is going MUCH better than the last one, so all is not lost.

Typhoon

So you may have heard about Typhoon Hagibis.  It hit Tokyo on Saturday, and my family plus a friend who took shelter with us since his place was near a river, hunkered down to ride it out.  We didn’t lose power or the internet, nor were we evacuated unlike thousands of others.  We were fortunate and we know it.

9181853815_013eaa93e7_c

Photo credit: vhines200 on Visualhunt / CC BY-ND

Tokyo, in general, didn’t suffer from too much flooding.  There was some flooding, mainly near rivers, since the storm came with a massive amount of rain.  But Tokyo has a seriously amazing flood control system under the city, alongside the water mains and subway tunnels and so on.  It’s so impressive that you can actually schedule a tour of it if there’s no rain predicted.

However, the typhoon wasn’t the only exciting natural disaster we got to watch here in Japan!  We had a tornado!  An earthquake!  A volcano erupted!  It was just one of those days where the planet was throwing a temper tantrum.

We were incredibly lucky, and we know it.  Our neighborhood had little damage and even though it was almost deserted in the streets on Saturday, Sunday was really lovely.  I learned a lot about Japan’s disaster response and recovery abilities.  It will take a while for many harder-hit locations to fully clean up and recover.

But thank goodness for rugby teams.  Turns out they’re pretty handy to have around.

Crowded

I woke up this morning and my brain was full of people.  Not even all my own people, which would make sense since I’m in the middle of writing a theft and a murder.  No, mostly my mind is filled with other people’s people, and it’s feeling a bit crowded.

blurred-image-of-people-in-underground

There’s the character from a book I read a while back who I really liked but disappointed me badly.  He was a young man who for several reasons had nothing much to do besides hang out and train at his local dojo, and thus grew up to be a very skilled martial artist.  His story in the book was one of trying to find a real place for himself, a path besides just hanging out and now teaching classes in his master’s school.  By the end of the book, while he does find a path that fits nicely with both his skills and his lack of patience with bullies, he winds up meekly following along with whatever his partner decides, flat out saying ‘he tells me what to do and I do it.’  For a character that started out fiery and passionate, it was a serious letdown, and it’s bothering me like it was a close friend in a bad relationship.

Then there are the characters who are abrasive and awful.  I read a book recently that I really, thoroughly enjoyed, and went on to grab another of the author’s books set in the same universe.  Within three pages, however, the main character showed off her violent anger problem and her complete refusal to take responsibility for said issues.  Then over the next chapter or so, it was made clear that her family was aiding and abetting with the excuses. “You’ll find a job that won’t fire you, I’m sure!” and “Just keep trying, someone will see you for the gem you are!” are not appropriate responses to “I got fired again for assaulting a customer.  Again.”  And it’s definitely not a trait that should be rewarded with jobs, adventures, and powerful friends.

And then, of course, lurking in the corners are my own characters.  The clever one that I can’t seem to write out of a hole.  The persistent one who is feeling like giving up.  The annoying, bubbly one who is sliding into seriousness and, well, not despair.  That’s a bit melodramatic, but definitely a melancholic mood..

Sigh.  It’s frustrating that the only people in my head lately are the ones that frustrate, irritate, or disappoint me.  I suppose it’s human nature— the bad sticks so much more easily than the good, after all.  So I’m going to go back and sit down with a few books full of characters I know I like (I strongly recommend The Wood Wife by Terri Windling) and hang out with a cup of coffee and some old friends.

What’s your favorite character?  Who should I meet?

Holiday anti-hijinks

5PuweTeKQi6oMqQ6cy1Z+AWe’ve had two Monday holidays in a row here in Japan, and it’s thrown me off a bit.  Add in The Boy’s birthday and oof.  I didn’t write any post for today.  But!  Depending on when you’re reading this (like, say, two hours after I’ve posted it…) then I have excellent news!  In The Blood is live!  You can get it on Amazon or a number of other ebook retailers!

So that’s all I’ve got right now, because between forgetting that it’s recycling day (because Monday felt like Sunday…) and the leftover party pizza for lunch, I’m about done in.

Untitled design (1).png

Gnome food

T4LKOQOyRsGfJnxU3yLVtw

Sensoji Temple is a Buddhist temple and dates back to 645 CE

So last week my son and a friend of ours and I went off to Asakusa to take some photos for my Patreon photo essay and generally hang out, do the hometown tourist thing. The main tourist thing over there is Sensoji Temple (which is certainly impressive and has a pretty cool history, and I think it’s worth braving the crowds.)

There are plenty of smaller shrines and what-have-yous nearby, and we stopped into one such place to get out of the crowd for a moment, and while there I thought I’d be respectful and wash my hands as you do. Well, I dunno if y’all know this, but I’m not actually Japanese, and I don’t instinctively know all the things about Japanese culture. So I started out wrong, and the older woman manning the small building selling charms (or prayer things or… tourist pamphlets or something,) yelled at me. It wasn’t in a super aggressive way, and I’m pretty sure she kept all the nasty epithets in her head, but still. I really only realized she was addressing me because my friend translated for me.  So, I corrected myself and tried to smile and nod to make it clear that it was an inadvertent slight due to lack of information, and everyone moved on. Mostly. 

It was maybe 10 seconds of the day, out of several hours of picture taking, food eating, and awesome tiny coffee shop finding. Still, my brain keeps flashing to that one moment and its. sort of sitting like lead in my gut. I know I should let it go and accept that humans like myself are, you know, only human. But still. I know that my Anxiety Gnomes are going to use the moment as ammunition for years to come. It’s telling my brain that I shouldn’t even bother trying because I won’t get it right.

gnome-garden-decoration-dwarf-little

I managed to ignore the whole “I don’t belong here” mental whisper long enough to visit another temple with my family over the weekend, but that whisper is still there, making me crazy and keeping me awake at night.  I know it’s bullshit, but… *sigh* Maybe I’ll do better next month. Or next year. Or someday.  How do you cope with this sort of thing?

Lack of Perfection

boy-facepalm-child-youth-exasperated-tiredI have a problem and it’s often called perfectionism.  It isn’t really that, but I think that’s a close enough word for it, but Adulting is hard and this seems to be how I deal with it.  You see, I often seem to have two modes: hyper-focused on being super perfect at something, or eh, close enough.  It’s done.  Neither of these modes is exactly conducive to being productive or doing good work, but more than that they’re both a good way to self destruct.

As an example: I’ll have a good idea, like create a weekly list of chores that need doing so I don’t forget any of them as I am somewhat prone to doing.  But… it’s Tuesday.  I missed Monday so I can’t start this list project until NEXT Monday because obviously, I can’t just start something like that in the middle, right?  Then I’ll have this list-idea in my mind for a day or two as I think about what all I’m going to need for it (the right paper or journal, some pens, maybe a few awesome stickers!  Because stickers are always awesome no matter how old you get! Oh, and a ruler because I can’t draw lines to save my life…) and then it gets to the weekend when I can go out to acquire these things, and… I’ve either forgotten it entirely or getting up and going out is too much work.

And then, because I don’t have the supplies I’d thought about, I can’t just grab a piece of paper that I already have and a pen from my cup, because those aren’t perfect materials.

You see my problem?  Anxiety Gome stealth attack.

gnome-garden-decoration-dwarf-little

It bleeds into my work, too.  I have missed a bunch of blog posts this summer and I’m woman-sitting-at-table-and-working-with-computerbeating myself up over it.  But then I write something and I think ‘I’ll post it next week!’ And then I get to posting time and my laptop sits there while I stare at it morosely thinking ‘but I can’t find the right pictures to put with it, and looking will just take me away from family time and I’ve missed so many posts already…. And yeah.

Often I can manage to get my work done anyway, but for some reason, this summer’s been extra tough.  But it’s sliding into autumn and I don’t know.  The slight change in the weather and the strange allure of the new school year (in the U.S. anyway) which still holds so much power over my brain even after so many years of theoretical adulthood is all adding up to a strengthening resolve.  I make no promises, but I’m starting a new bullet journal style thing and we’ll see how it goes.  How do you all keep track of your Adulting?