Thursday, April 28, 2011

All Book Profits Go to Alabama Tornado Relief

I'm an Alabama writer. A blessed one, who has sold more books than I ever thought I could this otherwise horrible month. No one is more surprised, humbled, grateful- pick an adjective- than me. So for the rest of April, starting with the moment the tornadoes touched down in my state, I'm going to donate all profits from my book sales to Alabama tornado relief. I figure this is a good place to start picking up the pieces, and I'll go from there.

I love my state, even though truthfully, I make a pretty sad Southern wife. I can't even make sweet tea, or biscuits. I think under Alabama law that entitles D. to a free divorce. As a state there are all kinds of things wrong with us, I know: buck dancing, the annual mullet toss, Nascar. We may seem preoccupied with religion and lost wars. Many of us have three names instead of two. We speak in polite, circling euphemisms that may mystify the outsider. 

But look what we get right:

If we tell you to make yourself at home, you can be sure we mean it. It is, in fact, a pledge that will protect you against the zombie apocalypse should it befall you in our homes. We revere our writers, artists, and musicians, even though we have some of the lowest literacy rates in the country. We fixate on a lost war in part because accents and lost causes put together are romantic things. And religion? Fire-and-brimstone brushes against the pure spiritual mysticism that can only be born when suffering crosses hope. We have the suffering; I've got my fingers crossed for the hope.  

I don't have a charity picked out yet. I have few in mind but I'm kind of waiting to see where need develops. I'm thinking of one that's focused on the Birmingham arts district and another that helps displaced pets all over. I'm still pretty shell-shocked, as are a lot of us here. Many of you know my own family got hit earlier this month, with storms damaging our home and injuring my husband. We're still recovering from that, but so many people have it worse right now. Thanks to everyone who's been so supportive with their outreach, prayers, and kind comments, esp. Stacey Wallace Benefiel, Kait Nolan, Andrew Mocete, Claire LeGrand, Lauralynn Elliot, Claire Farrell, fellow ROW80ers, and local writer/pal Lacy Marschalk, who has done her time under the sirens with grace and charm. And of course, thanks to my readers for giving April a silver lining. Without you, I wouldn't be able to do any of this at all. Alabama thanks you. So do I, again and again, 'cause you rock my casbah.

Photos by Amanda Chapman
of Amanda Chapman Photography

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Eye of the Storm

First ever post from my phone, from storm shelter. Why blog? Cause I forgot earlier and I'm terrified now so why not? Had to leave the studio because the tornado sirens went off. Very very soul sick from the constant destruction.

Fast Row80: 3 editing days subbed for writing days; blog post; no marketing; two very good books : The Replacement by Brenda Yovanoff and Ethereal by Addison Moore. Both were really excellent in different ways. Reviews up on Goodreads- will do something more in depth, esp. @ Ethereal because the book is a great Indie discovery and Addison Moore is an awesome writer. So I guess besides the marketing I'm pretty on target for Row80.

As far as the book, I'm so close to done but this has been a nightmare month for my family and my state. I was sitting down to work on some wrap up when Daniel came to get me from my studio. A few seconds after he opened the door the sirens started. Again. The storms and their aftermath take up huge swaths of our days. The death toll across the state keeps climbing every few minutes. It went from 10 to 40 to 64 in less than an hour. We keep getting slammed every few weeks but this is the mother of all. The old timers used to talk about the day of the killer tornadoes back in '74, but they say this is worse.

"April is the cruellest month..."
TS Eliot, The Wasteland
Dude WAS a Southerner, at least part of the time. :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Coup de Blog Part II: Easter Update

Hi- Caspia here, one of the "nicer characters" Asheroth made so much fun off last blog. I can't get Asheroth to totally abandon his post, but I did get him to let me deliver an Easter basket. Using a combination of Mrs. Alice's magic and Mr. Pepper's baking skills, we managed to conceal half of a two-way radio inside a hollow chocolate bunny. So although Ms. Keire is still pretty much under house arrest, we're able to communicate with her in a limited way.

She's been adamant about making her ROW80 updates, and is furious with Asheroth for imprisoning her before she had time to make her last one.  She spent so much time being infuriated with him that her update really is rather brief: she's been editing every single day rather than doing word counts. She says she's learned rather a lot about self- editing and the value of excellent editors. This should make for some good posts in the future, but for now she'd just like to leave her studio please. (But sadly, she can't.) Her other ROW80 activities have been relegated more to the planning/thinking level. For example, she's determined to teach herself Excel when she escapes... er, is released, so that she can keep track of book and review blogs. This will help when she plans tours, promotions, etc. She also hopes to use the chocolate encrusted two-way radio to check in with fellow ROW80ers until she, is released.

You may have noticed the blog redesign. I just couldn't let Asheroth's flame and fire nightmare stand. I don't agree with his methods, but I do sympathize with Asheroth's urge to force things to completion. Really, I don't see how Ms. Keire can hold out much longer, and things can go back to normal then. I'm just going to keep hanging around to make sure Asheroth remembers to feed and water her, and that she doesn't get so mad she consumes us all in a tornado. She is the author, after all.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Coup de Blog and Villainous Guest Post

Ms. Keire can't come and out and blog today.  She's gotten behind schedule, and we characters simply can't let it slide this time. Once was fine; the tornado was deliciously terrifying and really did throw a kink in things. I understand senseless destruction on a grand scale as well as the next villain. I even approve of it and, on rare occasions, indulge in it recreationally

Ms. Keire will remain confined to quarters until I SAY SO. I, Asheroth, Dark Nephilim Guardian... WHAT!?!  What do you mean, humans need food? And water, too? Fine, whatever. The woman had better write fast.

I'm assuming control of Ms. Keire's blog and have locked her in her writer's studio until further notice. Every moment that Ms. Keire continues to breathe air as a free woman is one moment more that I must wait to unleash more of me upon the world! Oh, and Caspia says normal people are waiting, too. (There, Caspia. Are you happy? Will you go away now? And what did you mean with that normal comment?) Ahem. 

Some of the nicer characters wanted to be in charge of Ms. Keire's welfare while she puts the finishing touches on her second book. It was hard for me to hear their reasoning over the gales of evil laughter that accompanied their pathetic pleas. Eventually, they became sad and went away. Hopefully, we've seen the last of them. 

In the meantime, I'll be hanging around Ms. Keire's blog, doing all the things a good guest host does: going through her mail, responding to questions, passing along her pleas updates, rearranging the bookshelves, redecorating (can we say too much blue?), blaring the stereo. I'm excited. It will be like one big virtual evil sleepover. 

Hopefully, Ms. Keire will finish before I forget to feed and water her.

In the meantime, please enjoy some Sympathy for the Devil, by The Rolling Stones:

Or, if you prefer something more uplifting, here's Jeff Buckley performing the Leonard Cohen classic "Hallelujah." (Happy now, Caspia? No, DO NOT wish me a Happy Easter. Oh, fine. I'll take the stupid chocolate bunny. But only if it's headless.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Success is a Sackful of Angry Kittens

I feel as if I've been beaten with a sackful of angry kittens. I wasn't- I promise. No kittens were harmed in the writing of this post. Nor was I, for that matter. Just, wow. What a week. Thank goodness I got so much done earlier. This ROW80 update is a bit stream-of-consciousness for a variety of reasons that should become sadly obvious. Let me say at the start: Congrats to Susan for landing an agent! Happy dance and felicitations!
ROW80 goals, week 2:
Four writing intensive days (or editing as needed), book reviewed, blog, marketing, all check!
      Monday: something crazy like 4000+ words. My book has been climbing steadily in the rankings, something I try not to think about because it makes me feel alternately sick and a bit like a child playing dress-up. My daughter asks: "What are you going to do if it hits above the 1000 rank?" "Throw up and pass out," I tell her. "At the same time?" she wants to know. I do not respond because I fear the answer.
      Tuesday: 2000+ words. Sometime in here I got in a reading and review- Finding Sky by Joss Stirling. It's up on Goodreads. I'm not sure it was today but I'll put it down because I count these things in weeks anyway. Right now I'm working my way through Blue by Lou Aronica. It's slow going, thank goodness. I've got too much to do to be reading.
      Wednesday: another 2000ish words; then I did my backwards outline. Then I came back out late and wrote another 500 very tortured words. Should have quit when I was ahead- I do not do well writing when I'm tired. All I managed to do was frustrate myself and ensure a grumpy, sleep-deprived Thursday. Oh, and there's some marketing stuff in here somewhere too. Wrote @ that last blog.
      Thursday: see notes @ Wed. So I did some editing and tried to help a stressed-out Daniel however I could. Fri is the fancy dinner; Sat. is the big show. D goes to another festival meeting. I edit like a mad fool.
      Friday: I wake up to find my book has broken the Amazon top 1000 rank. It peaks in the 720s. It breaks into the top 20 categories in 3 of my favorite genres with some of my favorite authors, Indie or otherwise: Amanda Hocking, Susan Bischoff, Kait Nolan, Stacey W. Benefiel, Sherrilyn Kenyon, J.R. Ward. H.P. Mallory, Stephenie Meyer. These authors have been my definition of writerly success for a long time now: some because they're selling books, others because they're very skilled, some because they're happy with the choices they've made. No way do I count myself among their number. It is neat to see my little book on the same lists, in the top 20s, if only for a minute or two. But that's all it is: a lung-twisting moment of coolness. I put on a nice shirt and go to a fundraiser dinner in a very snazzy pickle factory.
      Saturday: Indie Music Fest. D, of course, is there at dawn. I pause in my child wrangling duties to check my email and rankings. I'm still in the top 20s. For no good reason at all, I start snapping at people to hurry up, we're keeping semi-famous musicians waiting. It's a bit of a ride to the festival. I remember a conversation I had with my husband, one of many: if my book continues to sell even remotely this well, I can write for a living. Soon. "Make writing your first priority," he's been telling me for weeks. At the festival, Daniel finds me hyperventilating and crying over the steering wheel. "What's wrong?" he asks. "Did your rankings go up?" He has been waiting for this, telling me to expect it. I've been brushing him off. I have one little 3 1/2 month old book. No way did I expect this. No way does this feel real. I spend the rest of Saturday throwing myself into the festival like it's Woodstock or something. I really don't want to think about it anymore.
      Except I do. I'm painfully shy, especially by performer's standards. So I wait until twilight to slip up to one of my favorites. Bingham Barnes reminds me of a darkly bearded, bass-playing buddha. He's famous for profound statements like, "I'm leaving for fifteen minutes, and I'm not coming back." He taunts me about my book and, to my surprise, I feel much better. First, he accuses me of writing "a Twilight book." Clearly he's not a writer and has no idea what grave sin he's just committed, but being Bingham he wouldn't care anyway so there's no point in either taking offense or forgiving him. Then he mocks me when I correct him by clarifying: "No, I wrote a YA Paranormal." His eyes take on a wicked Loki gleam. "Ooh, a para-normal." He makes it sound like a naughty carnival ride. I have only one come back: "Oh yeah? Well my main character listens to your band in chapter two of this Twilight para-normal book. So there." But he's relentless. Him: "So you must feel pretty good about your first book, huh?" Me: "I don't know, Bingham. It's not supposed to do this well. It's kinda scary." Him: "What are you gonna do when your second one sells even better?" Me: "I don't know. It probably won't happen." Him: "What are you gonna do when they make it into a movie?" Me: "Shut the hell up! You're not helping, so quit making fun of me, ok?" Bingham runs away like a creature of the night, but not before I feel better.
      He's reminded me: Don't take myself too damn seriously, and I usually do ok.
      Sunday: We're out of coffee. I'm feeling the effects of the (imaginary) sack of angry kittens attack. Plus pondering what "success" looks like for an Indie writer. Selling 1,000 books a month? Check. Being able to support myself writing? Pretty darn close. Having people write and tell me they like my book? Yep, that's pretty cool. But truthfully, I have no idea. Right now, success looks like, "Not imaginary." Whatever that means. I suspect taking things on a day by day basis is a good idea. Especially today.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Of Book Releases and Free Music!

My second novel, Darkness in the Blood, drops on April 19th. My second novel. Can you believe that? Wow. There's so much other stuff going on, too. There's the wreck that is our home. We have received estimates, so I tell myself this is progress. Progress is knowing the entire porch must be torn down and rebuilt. Every single piece of it. (Sniffle.) It's pretty obvious from the pics, but hearing a contractor say this out loud is another thing entirely.

Release weekend coincides with a music festival that's really important to my husband's label. A whole lot of talented people we love but never get to see are coming into town from far away. D has to do a lot of the last minute stuff that always crops up with his arm in a sling. Last night at a meeting he forgot and shook a hand. He manfully squelched the scream of pain, but I could see how much it hurt. (All. My. Fault.) Normally, we'd host some of these bands at our house. But there's no way this year. Bands have a lot of stuff, and parts of our house are just plain unsafe. I am sad I won't be able to dodge sleeping bodies and bags of gear on the floor on my way to make fifty or sixty pancakes the morning after the festival. Very sad.

ROW80 progress?
Monday: 4272 (is that right? it is. that's creepy.)
Tuesday: 2657
Wednesday: 2250
Did a "Backwards Outline." There's probably a more technical term for this, but it's where I go back through a manuscript and outline each chapter from the end to the beginning, summarizing and word counting each one. For some reason, I catch things going backwards that I don't going forwards.

Yeah, I think I maybe wrote a blog. :)

Exciting movement on the Rock Your Kindle front. Nutshell: each ebook gets a free mp3- one that's directly related to the book. As in, it appears in the book in some way. I'm excited because it's yet another way to connect readers to the text and also because I don't think it's been done this way before. It's also a way for readers to hear some great new music. I'm concerned that the infrastructure won't be ready by the time I want to launch, and I don't want to hold the book back another week. I mean, I don't mind, but I think some of my readers will. Let me be clear: no waiting on Rock Your Kindle, ok!!!!!  The release will happen, so don't panic and send upset Tweets and emails!!!!

Um, what was that other one? Books and reviewing? I'm currently reading Kristie Cook's Purpose, the sequel to Promise. I'm loving Purpose but I'm reading a lot slower than usual. I have a lot going on, I guess. I did read Valmore Daniel's Angel Fire and did a quickie review on Goodreads about that.

So I think I'm catching up. Take that, you stupid tornado.
Here's a song from the band that would have been staying at my house but can't, (stupid tornado!) the totally amazing and very nice
Glossary from Murfreesboro, TN:
Song: Blood on the Knobs
Album: The Better Angels of Our Nature
They're so nice, you can download this whole album for free by clicking here! And you can check out "Blood on the Knobs" on the nifty little player down here:

Saturday, April 9, 2011

...In Which I Wonder if Life in Oz is Better After All

I was hoping I could channel the events of this past week into something constructive, like writing or editing or something. But apparently I'm not wired that way. Or perhaps my life isn't. Last ROW80 check in, I was just getting over the shock. I was still marvelling over the fact that everyone was alive and the main part of our house was still standing. Now, almost a full week after The Event, the full scope of things is sinking in.

To hell with gratitude. This stinks.

I was really spoiled before The Event. I have my little studio, set away from the house in what used to be a nicely wooded area. I was outside writing when the storm hit. My husband actually charged a tornado to get to me. So when the porch collapsed, he was on it, crushing his shoulder and fracturing his arm in multiple places. I'm convinced this is all my fault. All. My. Fault. And now this wonderful man can't even tie his own shoes. (It was his right arm.) (And please don't tell him I said that.)

I'm forcibly reminded that there is a world outside the one I make up that requires constant tending. Shopping, driving, washing, children, errands. How did I do this without him? And contractors, estimates, insurance agents, the claims department, the adjustor, the neighbors who have part of one (!) tree in their yard and think it's the end of the world, the rest of the neighborhood that wants to tour our back yard, and random people who drive by to tell us how terrible the damage is because we clearly don't know this yet.

Oh well. Whatever. Channeling the positive:
This week's ROW80:
Four writing intensive days (1500 wc) per week or editing a chapter: FAIL
          I think I wrote for two and edited for one. So 3 out of 4. Not terrible.
Blogging: SUCCESS
          Whiny, tornado-laced blogs, but still, they're there.
Book tour/ blog: SUCCESS???
          Lukewarm conversation about Rock Your Kindle and some movement on that front. That's a formal marketing campaign with some touring involved, so I'm counting that.
Read/Review book: SUCCESS!!!
          Read a bunch, as usual. Did a quick review of Kristie Cook's Promise on Goodreads, which I will cross post to Amazon as soon as I can. Also read Tabitha Suzuma's A Note of Madness, which I enjoyed but not as much as Forbidden, and Lauren deStefano's Wither, which is excellent.

Ok, everyone have a great week. Stay motivated although I know I'm a hypocrite for typing that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Round 2 Inaugural (w/ bonus tornado)

ROW80 Round 2 has certainly started with a bang. Or a whirl, I suppose. I've gone ahead and listed my goals, etc., but I haven't done much to make progress towards them yet. A lot of that has to do with this tornado that hit my house on the very first day of ROW80 Round 2. It was so wild it's getting its own post. Let's just say it's crazy to actually be caught outside in one, and I don't mean crazy fun. So I haven't made much (ok any) progress towards goals yet. But that's ok, because expecting that would be overachiever insane. I've got the rest of the week. I try to build flexibility into my week so that I can do a sprint towards the end if I have to. This is going to be one of those weeks. Or months.

ROW80 Goals/ Musings (pre-disaster):

First of all, what am I working towards? What's the bigger picture? I'm not even remotely tempted to think of these goals in terms of sales or rankings. Call me old fashioned, call me starry-eyed, but I really believe the best way to sell books is to write a really good story. So that's what I'm aiming for first and foremost. Here are my ideas for those stories:

1. Novella and/or novelette:
      a. Novelette: For those of you familiar with my Whitfield world, over the course of writing Darkness I thought it might be neat to explore Asheroth's story. This will be a short historical piece exploring the events that made him into the creature he is today. It will also delve a bit into Whitfield's history and Caspia's mysterious ancestress.
      b. Novella: The Resurrection of Blake House is the story that started it all. This Gothic romance provided the original setting for the town of Whitfield, and things just kind of mushroomed from there. For a variety of reasons I had to put it down, but I'd like to return to it and give it the attention it deserves.

2. New series launch:
      I have ideas for two that I'm pretty excited about. One is already well defined and partially written. The other is a brand new idea that would challenge me more as a writer. I also don't think it's been done before, and that's always good. The best advice I've ever gotten in cases like this is to write them both, at least for a little while, and see which one fits.

Then there are the other parts of being a writer that aren't nearly as fun. Except blogging. I really like blogging. And Twitter. Twitter would totally beat up Facebook in a cage match. But the rest I'm working towards. You can probably tell this from my tone:

3. Some kind of formal book/ blog tour in support of the Gifted Blood trilogy. Still figuring this one out.

4. Blogging!
      I love ROW80 because this is almost automatic, with bi-weekly check-ins built in. At least two blogs a week is a pretty realistic goal, but there's no law that says I have to stop there. Too much blogging can get in the way of word count writing, though. I suppose I should add something about social media in here, so yeah, that too.

5. Read and Review:
      Read at least one book in my genre per week and write a review about it, even if it's a quick and dirty one hastily thrown up on Goodreads. (Did I mention my undying love for Goodreads?) I'm something of a compulsive reader, so I rarely have a problem meeting this. If anything, I have to monitor my reading and try not to go overboard.

So these are all fine goals, but what about the getting there part? You know, the breaking it down into manageable chunks part? Well, here's the nuts and bolts as I see them now:

6. The All-Important Word Count:
      A weekly goal of four writing intensive days per week. Writing intensive means at least 1500 words per day. I'm leaving this flexible at this point, because some days this may mean freewriting or some other form of planning, or it may mean bleary-eyed four a.m. full chapter sprints. Whatever's needed, as long as it contributes to an actual project. A writing intensive day may be traded for at least one fully edited chapter, as needed.

To Summarize:
1. Four writing intensive days (1500 wc) per week
2. Book/blog tour
3. Blogging! n' stuff
4. Read & review
The summary version seems way more manageable. But not as fun.
Have a great week everyone, and stay safe! -VK