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.

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.

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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?

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.

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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?

To thine own self (not the plot) be true

You may have guessed but I read a lot.  It helps me improve my own writing (I hope!) and exposes me to a lot of styles and plot lines and ideas that I would never have thought of on my own.  Honestly, that’s one of the things that has inspired more than a couple of blog posts.  Like this one.

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I was reading a mystery being, in theory, solved by a psychic.  It probably will be, but I had to put it down because the book wasn’t really about the mystery.  Oh, sure.  The description certainly implied it would be.  There are mobsters and murder and parents trying to protect their infant daughter and all that good thriller/mystery sort of thing, and I’m certain that there’s a dramatic climax where someone gets shot and the Bad Guys are brought to justice. But…

But I’m just over a third of the way through the book and the mystery solving is just getting started.  So what have I been reading this whole time?  I’ve been reading a story about a man whose father left him and his mother on their own before the man even learned to walk.  He’s had thirty years to be angry, and the whole first third of the book is dealing with his own new fatherhood and with the complete shock brought by the long-missing father’s reappearance.

So when the man and the psychic decide to effectively drop everything- including these not insignificant emotional reactions- to investigate the case and clear the way for a happy family reunion, I had to stop reading.  That, to me, felt like a betrayal of the characters in favor of the author’s priorities of Solving The Obvious Mystery.

I suspect this may boil down to a pantser vs plotter debate, ultimately.  I think what happened is that the author carefully outlined the book, and put certain beats in certain places, and simply wrote the emotional life of her characters too well so that when she went to get the ball truly rolling on solving the crimes, the characters themselves weren’t actually positioned to do it.  Still, it feels to me like a betrayal.  These characters don’t feel like they are acting in ways that are consistent.  I have no doubt that I’ll go back and read the rest of this book, even though I have a strong suspicion that the man

Quick study

 will readily forgive his long-lost dad, even though I personally feel like the guy can shove right back off to whatever hole he’s lived in for three decades.

What do you think, have you come across books like this?  Or even individual

 characters?

In other news, Quick Study is now live!  If you want to find out more about the crazy girl I’ve been occasionally talking about, you can get your own copy almost anywhere you can buy e-books!

 

Preorder prison

boy-facepalm-child-youth-exasperated-tiredSo apparently I was a bad, bad writer.  I guess.  At least this is the case according to Amazon.  When I went to get the preorder for Spiritkind together the other day, I was unceremoniously informed that I am ineligible for creating preorders.  The reason? ‘Past preorder activity.’ I have no idea what that actually means, though, so…

What this means is that I can’t, at the moment, put any of my upcoming books up for preorder, which sucks, since that’s easily my favorite way to handle launches and it makes my life rather more tricky.  It also means that I am letting you guys know now— if you didn’t already know— that Spiritkind launches on Thursday, and I’m going to mention that again next week, so fair warning.

I’m not sure how I’m going to handle my next few books.Spiritkind Ebook  It’s a pretty major inconvenience, to be honest, and it seems pretty random.  I’ve read reports that some people managed to find out why (mostly due to canceled preorder processes and failure to post the final manuscript before the launch date,) and I’ve heard that a very small number of people have gotten through to an actual human at Amazon who is sometimes able to get the prison sentence reversed.

I doubt I’ll be that lucky, so I’m more than likely looking at a year of this nonsense.  I’m not sure what to tell you other than keep your eyes out on Thursday.  I would, however, suggest that you join my newsletter since that’s where announcements go out first and I might just have a few sneaky presents and things planned out for the next few months for newsletter readers.  Just saying.

It’s good to be bad, sometimes

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There is a long history behind humanity’s love of criminals.  Sure, there’s plenty of ruthless villains out there to loathe and fear, and rightly so.  Criminals in the real world are not who most folks want to associate with.  But there’s always that romantic idea of but what if… in the back of our mind.  What if he’s really a Robin Hood?  Or a Dexter?  Pirates were many things, many of them very contradictory, but they were still violent murderers and thieves with nary a Jack Sparrow among them.  And then there’s the Sopranos and The Godfather.  Nobody can argue that those stories weren’t entirely about criminals being celebrated, whether or not you think they were acting heroically

I think— and feel free to disagree, it’s totally my own thoughts on the subject— but at least a large part of it is the idea that justice and the law are often wildly different things.  How many times have we heard on the news about some horrible criminal getting away with theft or rape or murder because of some legal technicality?  Now, I don’t think any of us want to live in a world where anyone can just go after someone else for any perceived slight, but boy is it appealing to think that there’s some golden-hearted assassin or cat burglar out there willing to take out the worst trash humanity has to offer, laws be damned.  Batman is a fine example.  Or better yet, Deadpool.

But as for fiction?  My mind springs right to Arsène Lupin and Danny Ocean.  You may have heard of the former as the grandfather of Lupin the Third, but the Maurice Leblanc stories are worth a read.  And, honestly, if you haven’t seen the Ocean’s Eleven remake for an entirely charming take on Danny Ocean and his merry band, where have you been?  The appeal there is the wit and the caper, and the hook is that the criminals often end up having far stricter moral code than the police that chase them, and are often out to right some sort of wrong, or at the very least balance the scales.

And then there are the real-life heroes who broke laws that were entirely unjust and were labeled criminals in their own time.  Rosa Parks springs immediately to mind as an example.  Nelson Mandela, as well.   They broke the law, and the world has been made better for it.

Personally, I’ve been really entertained recently by the adventures of a wildly successful international assassin.  He quickly and brutally murders his way through some of humanity’s worst while trying, with various degrees of success, to retire to a nice house in the country.

It’s nice to imagine someone’s watching over us, even if they are ruthless, hardened criminals.  Who’s your favorite not-so-good-guy?

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Cooling off period

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Photo credit: @lattefarsan on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

I have a rant to post, but it’s… a little ranty, and a wise person once said to me never to post something online when I’m mad or drunk.  So…  Let me get back to y’all.  Maybe tomorrow if I can think a little more rationally.

 

Being a reader is tough when you get blindingly angry at your imaginary friends.  Anyone else have this problem?

Wait, what?

I just read about a woman standing in peak-toed shoes.  She was also peaking around the corner, horrified at the site her eyes were taking in.

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I can’t even tell you how much it hurt me to read about this poor woman.  I mean what kind of bizarre body shape does she have to require those strange shoes?  Or to jut out like that from around a corner?  And what sort of superpowers does she have to suck an entire location into her eyes?

Okay, okay, we all know perfectly well that I’m talking about homophones here.  We’re all familiar with the usual suspects like ‘which witch is which?’ and ‘They’re going to their car over there.’ These are the popular ones that everyone talks about in grade school, and when we come across them we often sigh and shake our head but move on past them because we understand it.  But I have been coming across some whoppers lately that a spell check is just not going to catch, and man.  I had to start collecting them.

Reek vs wreak is a good one.  I’m not sure how someone would reek vengeance, but it sounds horrifying.  I posted on Facebook the other day about the wonton love scene.  The professor in my family facepalmed hard when I pointed out the site/sight/cite problem one author was having.  Past and passed is another one I’ve started coming across recently.  It’s difficult for me to keep my suspension of disbelief when someone ducked passed something or wants to discuss the recent passed.  And when I read about it, I don’t shutter, I shudder.  Yeah, I’ve seen that one as well.

Illicit and elicit is a new one I just dug up.  I can’t even imagine how someone could illicit the reaction the author was going on about, but it probably was illegal in several states.  One I actually come across frequently isn’t a homophone, but a spelling error that is very easy to make so I try not to get upset, but breath and breathe are not interchangeable words.

Now I am far from perfect.  I’ve gotten notes on my published books where I’ve made a whopper of a mistake, and I truly appreciate when someone takes the time to let me know about a specific error.  But truly.  Some of these mistakes are just at the peek of lazy editing.

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Photo credit: theilr on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA

Golden Rule

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One of the things I mentioned last week is that I’m falling down on reading books to review here.  I basically haven’t read any urban fantasy for a few weeks, and the reason for that is pretty much the same as the reason I write it: most urban fantasy these days is full of horrible people treating each other badly.  I have picked up several books lately that sounded great from the description— interesting characters, exciting plot— but the interaction between the characters was so negative that I couldn’t stick with it.

In one case some manipulative parents actually had me punching the wall in frustration and man do I regret that.  I had to get an ice pack.  And I did not finish that book.

No genre is immune to people treating each other badly, and it’s difficult to tell it’s coming from a blurb or description.  And honestly it’s not a terrible way to set up a character’s life if that’s what’s necessary to get the story rolling, so I can’t argue that it’s absolutely the worst, but as a reader, I really need to find my reading material more hopeful.  I need to see people making friends and allies rather than losing them.  There are books out there that skirt the issue, slightly.  Like Dead Man.  It’s a good book, I won’t lie, but at the end of it, Cisco still alone and lacking answers because nobody will talk to him.

Real life is too harsh, especially right now, for me to want to immerse myself in poor behavior and bad manners.  I’m not looking for rainbows and flowers at all times, but at least, for the love of storytelling, let the main character have some loyal friends, please?

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Photo credit: Bennilover via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Getting angry

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Photo credit: @lattefarsan on Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Characters have feelings, just like anyone else.  Sometimes those feelings get hurt, and characters get angry, and the interesting part for me is always how they come back from that particular ledge.  Often the person or situation they’re angry at is the bad guy or the Great Crisis of the book, and the way our heroes get past their anger is to defeat the bad guy, solve the Crisis, and go home victorious to have cake and fancy drinks and maybe flirt with that cutie over at the corner of the bar.  Or something.

But other times— and this is where I get really hung up— our heroes get angry at their friends, family, or love interest, and we all know that they’re going to have to work that out to get through the Great Crisis or else the whole story is a mess of people falling apart and nothing getting fixed.  So, often someone will talk to our hero and explain, either logically or not, that they’re wrong for being mad, and the hero sighs ponderously and agrees, either silently or out loud, and then they go and apologize to whoever they were mad at. And the story moves cheerfully along to its grand finale.

Fuck.  That.  People are allowed to be angry.  People are allowed to be hurt when they are wronged, or even think they’ve been wronged, and it’s not their job to apologize for having feelings.  This post was inspired by a book I was reading the other day, and yes I’ll admit it was a romance because I love me a happy ending, and no I’m not going to author-shame by naming it.

Our young hero agrees, after a long conversation discussing it, to date their love interest.  When the love interest is seen out with another, our hero gets upset and makes a small scene in public before being hauled off by his friend.  Now, in the story the whole thing hinged on a misunderstanding of exclusivity, and I can easily see how it could be resolved quickly, but instead of a reconciliation scene where two adults admit faulty assumptions, what I got was a “well we never talked about that, we just said we’re dating, now come on we’re going to do what I want now,” statement and within about 3 short sentences the couple was all over each other.  No further discussion was necessary, apparently, and all was forgiven even though the actual problem was barely even addressed let alone solved.  And they lived, I assume, happily ever after, but I wouldn’t know because I had to put the damn thing down and walk away.  I had no respect left for either of the characters involved.  And the love interest showed that they were uninterested in our hero’s emotional health to the point of being actually harmful.

Our young hero had every right to be upset since he was under the impression that they had talked about that, thank you very much, and discounting that fact is dismissive in the extreme.  It’s also maybe hurtful in bigger ways since in all honesty humans learn from fiction, and that scene taught that anger and hurt in a relationship should be buried and ignored.

That’s only one example of perfectly justifiable anger being ignored or pushed aside that I’ve come across, but it’s a pretty clear one.  I don’t mind anger in a story, because like I said, characters are just like everyone else, and they’re allowed to get mad when the situation calls for it.  It’s how they come back from being angry that can be hit or miss for me.  I would hope that there would be some sort of acknowledgment that a character’s feelings are acceptable, if only because they’re part of that character.

Now acting on that rage…. Well.  That’s another blog post altogether.