Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekend Update: "Darkness" and ROW80

Wow! What a week. It's excellent to be back on the Interwebs and approaching something resembling a normal routine again. Here's a slice of my writing life as I move forward with ROW80 goals:

Writing/ editing:
I pretty much spent the past month or so engaged in some pretty intensive manuscript redux. I'm not going to lie: it was painful, but also satisfying because I could feel myself becoming a better writing. Kind of like when your muscles are sore from working out, but at least you have muscles, right?
So I can definitely say I reached that ROW80 goal. I thought, hey. I edited and formatted my tail feathers off, so I can take the rest of the week and not write or edit. Goal met. That lasted a couple of days. Friday night, D found me hiding under the blankets like a kid after lights out with a pen and small notebook.
"What are you doing?"
"Uh, making a grocery list?"
"In paragraph form?"
Busted. I was, in fact, frantically scribbling down ideas which were coming hot and heavy. Several of them. Apparently, even editing counts as some kind of creative fallow period for my brain, because I had a lot of ideas. Too many. And now I'm kind of left wondering which direction to go. Obviously there's the third and final "Gifts" book. I also have The Resurrection of Blake House, a sort-of ghost story that's already pretty close to finished. But oh, the sexy new ideas. Some of them aren't even that new. They just got sexier as I scribbled furiously under my blanket. I've never really tried working on more than one story idea at a time, so I don't know how that would work out. Some people seem to manage it fine. The plan is to finish Blake House and get it out quickly- this summer- before finishing the "Gifts" trilogy to release late summer/ early Fall. In the meantime, I'll just flesh out the sexy new(er) ideas and see what happens. ROW80 III draws nigh, after all.

I have learned the value of having some spare posts in the queue. If I'd been able to do that, I wouldn't have fallen off the face of the earth with my blogging while I was sprinting towards the finish line. Being a writer, writing has to come first. I have no regrets about that. But I could also utilize Blogger's auto-schedule feature if I had some things lined up. So here's to being better prepared next time.

Reading/ reviews:
It's a real sign of how focused I was that I didn't read much at all during my Internet break. What reading I did accomplish happened when I collapsed in bed, but before my brain shut off. Still, I managed to read a few things. Among them:

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Books released with as much hype as this one almost always automatically annoy me.
Guess what? This one more than lives up to the hype.
Divergent is one of the best books of the year. It can hold it own against the entire Hunger Games trilogy any day, and I love the Hunger Games. It's exciting times for YA Dystopian, and Divergent is the best entry into this category all year.

The Gathering (Darkness Rising, #1)The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers series so much. I have high hopes for this series, and in many ways, it delivered exactly what I've come to love about her YA writing. The characters were well developed, the relationships complex, the world building nuanced. I especially liked the way she set this one in rural Canada. The setting was amazing. Armstrong is Canadian herself, and I don't know if that accounts for why the setting just seemed so much stronger than her Summoning series, which was set in New York and its environs.
What I didn't like, and can only wait for the sequel to pick up, was the way the book just ended without any real conflict. I don't mind a cliffhanger ending at all, but I put the book down without any clear sense of who the bad guys are. I mean, who am I supposed to be rooting for, and why, exactly? So the plot failed to develop for me there at the end.

In my TBR pile: Jessica Sorensen's The Fallen Star; Amy Plum's Die for Me; V.J. Chamber's Brighter.

I've got the whole new-book-just-released thing going on. My head kind spins when I think about it. I'm really blessed in that my books seem to be doing really well on their own. I know how amazing that is and I'm really grateful for it. But I'm also looking ahead to see what I can do for the series. Not just to increase sales or anything like that, but because I'd like to do right by my readers and give my future books the best starts they can get.
One thing I mean is that I keep getting emails from people who want to know where they can buy my books in print, and I have to tell them they're not available yet. I have to admit, I find the idea of print mildly terrifying. But enough people have asked me for print versions that I'm starting to develop a guilt complex. One lady who has the ebooks already wants physical copies because she "wants to get me when I'm starting out." Um, terrifying much? But a lot of people still don't have e readers or labor under the mysterious delusion that reading on a Nook or Kindle will hurt their eyes like a backlit computer screen. So... I'm looking into print.
Also: fun swag, updating my website with new playlists, contacting book bloggers, cross-promotion, having an actual advertising/ marketing budget (!?!), and buying a Nook.
What? Buying a Nook? Yes, Barnes and Noble is a really strange market. Volatile. Mysterious. One month I absolutey swamped my Amazon sales there. Lately? Nada. Most writer friends just roll their eyes heavenward when asked about the vagaries of the B&N market. So I thought about buying a Nook and getting cozy with it. Maybe, if I wine and dine it, it will unlock the secrets of the B&N universe for me. First, I'll try the Don Juan approach. If it doesn't fall madly in love with me and tell me how to crack the B&N market, then I'll have to move on to less pleasant methods. I'll make it read long boring texts aloud while listening to muzak until it begs for mercy.
Of course, I could save my money (and dubious sanity) and just do some research. Maybe I'll try that first. :)

Well. It's good to be back. I hope everyone's having an excellent week, and will continue to do so. For those of us here in the U.S., Happy Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Darkness: Live!

First, the big news: Darkness is live on Smashwords, with major retailers to follow. I have two books of a trilogy now. That is better than a buttered toffee frappachino, my friends.

Next, Internet breaks. It's hard to take a complete break from the Internet in the 21st C. Something's always pinging me, reminding me there's a whole digital universe passing me by. Especially since I work on a computer. Plus wow, what a fast digital world. Unplug for a week and I might have to upgrade my browser already. Part of this one was enforced when I fried my PowerMac. Yes, I wrote that sucker into the ground. Take that, you sequel, you! Then I was forced to compose on a Microsoft laptop I got for Mother's Day. Thank goodness for that laptop, don't get me wrong. It really beat the body wash as far as presents go. It's just an abrupt cognitive shift, going from a PowerMac to a Samsung notebook. Talk about dissonance.

And now, Row80. Since one of my goals allowed me to replace writing intensive with editing, I can honestly say I have done almost nothing but. That's what the Internet break was about- pretty much total editing boot camp. Although I can't claim to love editing, I can say I've learned a hell of a lot going through this process. I had way different expectations with the first book. I took my time and no one really cared. But this time around, I learned a lot about pacing myself. I had to just slow down or risk releasing a book I wasn't happy with. I can honestly say I'm happy with this one. For all those readers who sent me emails, wanting to read the book already, I thought about each and every one of you when I was tempted to say, "good enough." I didn't want "good enough." You all deserve The Best. As a fairly new indie author, I had to learn what that looked like. I'm excited about it. Darkness is live on Smashwords, with major retailers to follow. I'll announce as soon as I know when it's live on Amazon and B&N, but some of you will probably beat me to it.

I have a bunch of other ROW80 stuff to catch up on: blogging and reviews and fantastic new releases (like Stacey Wallace Benefiel's The Toilet Business. That book is hilarious. I needed it in my life so very very badly) and hitting those word counts again. I have learned so much going through this, and I'm sure I'll have more interesting things to say when my brain starts working again. Right now, though, I really just want a buttered toffee frappachino. And for all of you to have a great week! 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

On My Bookshelf

Blogger has been acting up this weekend. It erased a bunch of comments and did odd things to my post. First, if you were kind enough to comment on my blog and found your comment gone, Blogger did it, not me! (points finger and sticks out tongue) Second, because I'm in the process of final format checks before I (gasp) upload, my brain actually has a little room for thinking about life beyond book 2. Not much room. I know there is a thing called book 3, plus an Asheroth novella, and a whole other related series based on events in book 2. I know all these things, and yet I can't help but think about breathing room. And to us bibliophiles, isn't breathing room synonymous with reading room?

I have a whole pile of digital deliciousness waiting for me. Here's what's on my digital bookshelf. And by all means, if you have a recommendation, please don't hesitate to send it along:




That's good for a start. Ought to keep me busy for a week at the beach. Thanks, V

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Darkness in the Blood: Done Baby Done

Done. I am done done done.
Happy dance.
I am going to find a dive and eat a dive breakfast because I have been up all night keeping vampire hours. Then, because an unreleased book is like a sore tooth and I just can't leave it alone, I will come back and poke and prod it.
More professional people, who don't like to mix breakfast and dental hygeine analogies, call this editing, tweaking, post-production, etc. Poke and prod works for me, though.
Barring any other bizarre acts of God like mass outbreaks of killer tornadoes in a concentrated geographic area within a very short amount of time, it should be out this weekend.
Thanks all! More later, I'm kinda giddy with the sleep deprivation.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Update

Mother's Day. My favorite commercially generated holiday. One of two holidays when I get breakfast in bed. Bagels and fresh blackberries. Yum. They really do taste sweeter when someone else serves them. And coffee, of course.

Writing update, for the week? Three days of editing and one day of writing. That's on goal and perfectly in line with my bigger picture: my current (late) release. (Arrgh. Ok, that's it. One daily arrgh. Moving on now.) One thing I'm noticing about the editing is that I'm a recursive editor. I tend to re-write as I edit. Since my writing process is fairly expressivist, this doesn't surprise me. As long as I stay within the chapter I'm editing and don't change things significantly, I don't really have a problem with it. What would be bad is if I stopped editing, say, Chapter Twenty because I had an idea about Chapter Five while I was doing it and picked up Chapter Five again. Nope. That, in my opinion, is not editing. I can make a note of this Chapter Five idea and proceed to dominate... er, edit, Chapter Twenty. I can decide what to do with the note when I go back through on the next pass. The other danger of being a recursive editor is spending too much time on a chapter. I have to limit the time I spend on any one chapter; one day for significant edits. After that, I'm only allowed to review it as a way to orient myself as I move forward into the next chapter. If I missed something, have a brilliant idea, or whatever, then it gets relegated to note status.

Blogging? Yes, I wrote a couple of those.

Reading/reviewing: Two Indie authors: Theresa Ragan's A Knight in Central Park, (.99) which was cute and fairly well done. If you're into steamy time travel romance, you will love this one. I enjoyed it but I will admit this is not my favorite genre, the single exception being Monique Martin's Out of Time, (.99) which I kind of consider the gold standard of Indie time travel romance. I hope to read more in this genre because there seem to be some exciting things happening with it. I also don't want to get too comfortable with YA paranormal, so I'm making an effort to branch out. Slowly. I'm planning on checking out some thrillers next.

Another Indie author I discovered and loved was Edie Ramer, specifically Dead People (Haunted Hearts) (.99). Again, this was an adult romance, but it was still in the paranormal genre, so perhaps that's part of why I liked it so much? At any rate, I really did like this one. It's worth checking out: funny, original plot and characters, sexy without being heavy-handed. I loved the fact that the heroine was so strong-willed and stubborn and yet managed to get herself into all kinds of embarrassing scrapes. I can't remember if I posted reviews, but I will cross-post these soon.

I also read Aprillyne Pike's entire Faerie series: Wings, Spells, and Illusions ($8.99-9.99). It was good and all. I think younger teens especially would like it. I was not too enchanted with all the plant stuff, or the fact that a lot of the plot seemed to hang on a love triangle. I think I'm just attracted to darker versions of Faerie, like Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series. My undying love for all things Marr is well documented. Just look up my Darkest Mercy review on Goodreads. I'm disgustingly proud of it; in a way, it got me writing again. My own Faerie series is pretty dark, too. Actually, the very end of Pike's Illusions was great. Things were getting darker, a really wicked villain had shown up, and I totally wondered how our heroes were going to faerie their way out of this one when it just ended. Aargh! And now we wait.

Marketing: Last post I began the slow and painful deconstruction of marketing as a concept that I could then translate into a workable goal. I assigned myself the goal of coming up with three things I could do to market my book that wouldn't make my tummy feel all squirmy. Here's the short form:
1. Media kit. Before you contact a bunch of book bloggers, it would help your cause a lot to have this handy little file ready to go. Also, you never know when someone's going to contact you out of the blue and ask if you want to do an interview, guest spotlight, or something like that. Usually this will happen when you have a deadline, sick child and/or pet, have just survived a natural disaster, and have an army of relatives coming to visit out of the blue in less than 48 hours. Your magic media kit will allow you to say "No problem, and thanks for thinking of me. I'll get that right to you," and mean it. You actually can get it to her/him/them in a matter of minutes because you are that damn cool. Go you! This helped me a ton when Michelle of Indie Paranormal Book Reviews contacted me about doing an author spotlight.
2. Role models (and not). Find out who's doing what and if something strikes you as squirm-worthy, don't do it, no matter how many people tell you it's gold or how many books it seems to be selling. For example, there are some websites and message boards I don't visit much because I just feel drained when I leave them. They fill me with this vague sense of panic, like being a writer is so tough we're all going to starve if we don't toughen up and eat each other first. Maybe that works for some people, but it literally gives me writer's block and hives simultaneously. Conversely, I like to point out writers like JL Bryan. He did this fabulous blog tour for his book The Haunted Ebook. He lined up guest posts for weeks with cleverly hilarious subjects like how to host a seance party and adopting a shelter ghost. It was a blast, and I met some great people who later joined ROW80 and have books coming out soon, including Claudia LaFeve, one of our current sponsors. If and when I do a blog tour, I hope it's half as great as JL Bryan's. There are lots of writers who are interacting with their readers in innovative ways. I can learn a lot just from keeping my eyes open.
3. Cross-promotion: Obviously, authors can do a lot to cross-promote each other. But we want to be looking for ways to expand our market base, otherwise we wind up promoting to the same people in different ways. This can be tricky, but it's not impossible. Opportunities are happening all around us. For instance: a blog tour I read about for Memorial Day. It's designed to get free ebooks into the hands of our soldiers. There's another market: the military. Comfortable with technology and eager for entertainment, sometimes with long stretches of time to fill away from home, and ebooks don't take up precious space either. Friends who've served have described it this way: "When you're not actually on duty, you're away from family, friends, all the things you do for fun. Movies, music, books- they become really welcome distractions." Am I saying some members of our military haven't been reading ebooks all along? No, absolutely not. I'm not Prometheus bringing fire here. I'm simply wondering out loud if the military has ever been marketed to as a distinct group. If not, then there's that market base expansion. That's just one idea.
As far as ROW80 goes, my goal was nothing more than to identify three strategies that didn't make me feel like a sharky salesperson. I didn't specify that I had to do anything beyond that. I LOVE how this goal setting works! But next week will roll along, and with it, another check-in, so here's another marketing goal: choose one of the above goals and develop it into a detailed, actionable plan. Notice I don't have to implement the plan yet. I just have to come up with it. (Baby steps.) Tune in next week for further adventures in marketing. Will it be the military? Crazy musicians? An "I've been wowed by marketing" expose? A media kit gleaming with glitter and unicorns?
Hah. Yeah, right. I'll be happy to hit word count. That's really the ultimate marketing tool: good books. Until then, everyone have a great week.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mid Week Update

Goodbye April. Please let the calendar page smother you as it turns.

Seriously, this April was hard. But it's over, and I'm all set to fall in love with May. Writing: Four writing intensive days of 1500 words a day OR may substitute a day of editing, as needed. Over the span of two days, I did a combination of writing and editing. I was wrestling with a chapter that just would not behave. It's a key transitional chapter, so it was really important to get it right. In the end I wound up going from almost 3,000 words to over 5,000. That took care of the word count requirement. At this point it was obvious that I had not one chapter but two. So my one badly behaved chapter settled down quite nicely into two more manageable ones. Editing went much more smoothly after that. Although it was something of a hybrid exercise, the bulk of the writing took place on the first day, with the editing on the second. That leaves two more days of writing or editing this week to make goal.

Blogging? One down. Reading and reviewing? I picked up Claudia Gray's Evernight series for the first time. This series has been around for a while. I don't know why I waited so long because I really love it. I reviewed the first one on Goodreads. I'm not killing myself to review these books because 1) They're an older series and have thousands of reviews already and 2) My reviews really aren't going to make much of a difference since she's a mega-huge super-selling author. I try a little harder with Indies and new writers to write reviews and get them out there because I think it has more impact. Not that I'm actually a book reviewer or anything; I just read a lot. I try to cross-post when I review what I read, but I get behind like everybody else. If you're a writer and you see that I've reviewed your book on Goodreads or this blog or anyplace else and I haven't gotten around to cross-posting it to Amazon yet, I seriously don't mind a little nudge to remind me.

Marketing: Umm... huh?
Ok, I'm seriously lacking in this department. I'm supposed to be doing some of this each day. I pretty much just assumed I knew what it mean; on a level, I'm sure I intuit the basics. But my vague understanding isn't working for me anymore. I want a solid plan grounded in concrete understanding. So I did what any good English major would do and broke out the dictionary:
Marketing: (noun) the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing and selling. (so says the Random House dictionary on my iPhone.)
Ok, to unpack that a little: the total of activities (that sounds pretty broad) involved in the transfer of goods (that would be my book?) from the producer (me, the writer) to the consumer (the reader), including (insert the rest.)
So whatever "total of activities" that gets my book to my readers = marketing. Got it.
To make things even more fun, I think that I, Vicki Keire the writer, am supposed to qualify as a good or commodity as well. So I must also engage in activities that will transfer myself, or at least the writerly version of me, to my readers? (I think this gets into branding. Which is more than I want to get into right now. Baby steps.)
So that's a bit more narrowly defined. It helps cleanse my brain of the mental picture of marketing meaning I have to spam everyone I know with emails and Tweets begging them to buy my book. Yuck. Next step: develop more concrete plan. That's the beauty of ROW80. "Work on marketing" is not a goal. "Identify three marketing strategies I can stomach by next week" is a goal. "Read Kristen Lamb's WANA by next week" is a goal. Etc. I think I'll start with that first one.

Various: I'll most likely be working with a charity called Toomer's for Tuscaloosa. It's a funny story, really, especially if you're a fan of SEC football, but for now I'll just throw up the link and save the story for another blog. It's worth its own post. I'm also becoming fascinated with productivity apps. Kait Nolan's doing her Efficiency Monday posts, which I find myself anticipating. I downloaded the organizer app Intuition that she mentioned. I can honestly say I've never used a prettier app. We'll see how it works out. I've also found two timer-related apps that work with my Mac. Both are great if you spend long periods in front of the computer. Focus Booster is a timer that goes off every 25 mins., giving you a 5 min. break. It's based on research showing that the human brain is most productive in 20 min. or so bursts. Every couple of hours the timer gives you a longer break- 15 or 20 min. I've been using this for non-creative work- email, research, etc. I find that I need longer for writing time. 25 min. is just not long enough. For that I have Time Out, an app that grays out my screen every hour for about 10 min. There's an icon of a little green man meditating- very peaceful looking. You have the option to postpone the break for 5 or 10 min., or skip it altogether until the next hour if you're really on fire. Time Out also grays out very briefly, for 15 seconds every 10 minutes, to remind you to stretch or rest your eyes or breathe. Again, you can skip this. So far these apps are helping make computer time less torturous physically, and may help with productivity. I'll see in a couple of weeks. Any writing/productivity/etc. app suggestions are quite welcome.

I hope everyone is on track with their goals and generally having a good week. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Update w/ Fundraisers, Tornadoes, and Wicked Pickles

This blog has two parts. ROW80 is clearly marked and cordoned off from the tornado section, because I can totally understand if it's too depressing. If you want, skip on down to the ROW80 section for updates. A little tornado may creep in but that's really more a fabric of life thing, as opposed to overt news and updates about the fundraiser, etc.

Fundraisers, Tornadoes, and Wicked Pickles

Thanks to everyone who made the fundraiser such a success. I feel blessed and grateful; thanks to my readers, the last three days of April were really successful. I have to sit down with figures from the different vendors, but I know off the top of my head that's royalties from a few hundred books going to help tornado victims. And that's just the beginning. This is a long-haul event, and I'll be looking for more ways to help. I will keep everyone posted about figures and exact charities as things develop. 

Honestly, the most amazing charity work I've seen has come from extremely motivated individuals on the ground. Duquette Johnston, singer/guitarist for The Gum Creek Killers, commandeered a bunch of gas cans, filled them up, drove to Cullman, AL, and hand-delivered gas to people on oxygen. They couldn't get their tanks to work because they couldn't get gas for their generators. Duquette lives in Birmingham; both cities suffered extensive damage. That's the kind of charity I want to help. While I can't be a first responder, I can write. Some people seem to think so, anyway :). I'm already thinking of a longer-term project where all the royalties will go to relief efforts. Also, thanks to Alabama resident Amanda Chapman for her amazing photography. She was in Phil Campbell when they were pulling bodies out of the wreckage. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, and is hands down the best coverage of the disaster I've yet to see. Thanks for letting me post it to my site.

We're busy planning more fundraisers of the concert variety. That'll be fun. One as early as next week, and one in June? July? Oh, and the weekend I first broke through the Amazon 1K I wrote this blog about angry kittens... well anyway, I wrote about "putting on a nice shirt and going to a fundraising dinner in a snazzy pickle factory." Many of you thought I was kidding. It really exists: the snazzy pickle factory was Wickles Pickles, maker of gourmet relishes, spreads, and exotic pickles.  

It really was swank. They had a full bar, a sign advising "Chinchilla Crossing," a pool table, crystal chandeliers, bear skin rugs. And the food? Bananas Foster Pudding, folks. Sadly, Wickles Pickles was flattened by the killer tornado. This will no doubt drive the prices of Wickles Pickles through the roof, but if you want a way to help that's sort of like charity but more delicious, then consider buying some Wickles products. With names like Wicked Pepper Strips, how can you not? And the things they do with okra. Those boys are cray-zee. 

ROW80ers here:

Goals: 4 writing intensive days of 1500 wc each OR may substitute editing as needed.  Most days, I took the editing. There's no wc or time limit assigned to the editing, so that went over well with my addled brain. I did do some writing: I think it breaks down into a 3 editing, 1 writing day this week.

Reading and reviewing: Read Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind thinking it would help me with a project I have in the works: a YA novel exploring the lines between psychic abilities and mental illness. Except it probably wasn't a very smart thing to read the week of the killer tornadoes. Mostly it made me sad and wondering if I didn't need meds, which I guess is actually a normal response when everyone you know is glued to Facebook and the Red Cross's web page checking to see who's checked in. Checking in meaning, "Oh, look, so-and-so made it."
So that's it for non-fiction for me. After that I switched to escapist, middle grade fiction. Simple and away. The night of the Big One I actually read four books in one night: finished Jenna Black's Shadowspell, read Carrie Vaughn's Steel, and read both of Janni Lee Simner's Faerie books. It's how I cope. Reviews up on Goodreads.
Also, I'm starting a list of e-reads I like that cost between .99 and 2.99. I read so much, and so many of my friends ask me for recs anyway, I thought I might as well make it official. I have that big long list over there but it doesn't make any distinction based on price or quality. This is not a book review component, just a little list of "Oh, I found this and liked it and it's only a buck!" kind of thing. It's surprising how many people ask me about this kind of thing. Please feel free to add in your two cents if you find a good one.

Marketing: sorted out my Facebook fan page, which I have sorely neglected because I didn't really know how or what to do with it. I was on it a lot because of... well, never mind. Anyway, I figured some things out and it's a much more interesting page now. Check it out. Like me! Like me! 'Cause right now I look like a great big 'ol Facebook loser.

There's a fourth thing. I'm always forgetting the fourth thing. Must not be that important. That, or I'll catch up next week. Everyone have a good week, good luck with your goals, and stay safe!!!!!!