Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Panda-cide and Other Forms of Writerly Insanity

I'm getting deeper into an entirely new universe for me- a scary one where I have to dodge the Scylla and Carybdis of not enough sex, too much sex, and the kind of glorified nymphomania that only exists between pages populated by yoga-limber, acrobatic twenty-somethings who think they've invented the deed. I'm talking about New Adult, people. Which can be downright smutty, and I don't want to go there, but I do know I want to push past the sex-as-euphemism thing that abounds in YA.

I've had to change my entire manner of writing, going from simple past tense to the strange but more emotionally punchy first person present. And I'm alternating between boy and girl. I don't typically write boys. I have, but only as a part of a huge cast of characters, and only in third person. And this boy? He's an intense sort of fellow, who demands that I dig deep and do him justice. So there's a lot of stretching myself going on, to say nothing of the whole "how will I find the time" and "I'm never going to finish on time" and "Ohmigosh I better skip the shower and order takeout, because if I don't, I will fail to make word count, and then something horrible will happen, like an oil spill or an endangered species going extinct. Probably pandas. Yep, pandas." When, of course, this is in no way related to writing in any way.

(Are you sure? Pandas are already walking a thin line...)

Sigh. Just the f*%# up already!

In other words, I am getting to that place I call "Going off the map." This is not a good place. Most writers reach it, at some point or other. Some of us actually live there through the entire writing process. But usually we sink into the crazy for a bit, and get so sick of ourselves, and everyone else gets that sick of us, too, that we manage to claw our way out. And so, when I'm looking at that blank part of the map that proclaims "Here be monsters," it's good to take stock and listen to the wisdom of others who have been there.

Like this amazing and hilarious post from Claire LeGrand: Ya'll Please Remember to Shower.

And this tirade of wisdom from the terrible mind of Chuck Wendig: How Not to Bug The Fuck Out When Writing a Novel. 

And it helps to re-read my own blog for evidence of prior insanity that was, eventually, conquered, like this and this. And maybe this.

And after absorbing all of that, one more back into the breach I go, and I can only hope some of that wisdom will stick. Or that at least, this time, I will not lose my peace of mind, if not my mind itself.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

FAQ About Publishing: Small Press v. Indie

I haven't done a Q&A in a while, and I thought this time I'd focus on the "business of writing" questions I get asked. Often. Maybe I'll even eventually put some of this post over in my FAQ/About section, since these kinds of questions come up quite a lot. This is part one in a three-part series; the others will focus on the writing life, and then questions about craft and the nuts-and-bolts of the process.

1. How did you get your publishing deal?

First, let me say that my publishers are the greatest people ever. Somebody Up There was really watching over me the day they got in touch. It hasn't always been a bed of roses- nothing in this business ever is, and anyone who tells you differently is delusional or a liar- but they are made of solid awesome. They've gone from a very small operation to one that signs agented authors who have NYT bestsellers and big 6 deals under their belts. And they just sold subsidiary rights from eight of their authors in "a very nice deal" to Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon. And they're placing books in Barnes and Noble, too. On actual shelves. But most importantly, they're just really great people who care about their authors, and we CQ authors care about each other. That may sound Pollyanna, but that's been my experience. Really.

What's that, you say? Back up a minute. They got in touch? With you, and not the other way around? Um, yes, that's exactly what happened. The Angel's Edge books had been out for a bit, outperforming my wildest dreams, and I kind of didn't know where to go next. Most of us didn't, in those days. I was thinking about agents, and thinking about publishers, and thinking Indie, too. I posted a kind of rambling, where-do-I-want-to-go kind of blog post, and Lisa Gus of Curiosity Quills Press got in touch almost immediately. She loved my writing, she said, and had a fledgling publishing company- small, hybridized, innovative, with a lot of collaboration between authors and staff, and would I like to give it a shot? I'd been studying with Ann Crispin, co-founder of Writer Beware, who drilled caution into all her students like a boot-camp sergeant. So I asked a lot of questions. I mean, a lot. At one point, Eugene (one of the owners) spent at least five hours answering every question under the sun. I asked around and got no red flags, and when the contract came, I made sure to run it by Ann, who had said she would read it for me. Ann, who had been very anti e-publishing up until that point, didn't see any red flags, and actually signed with an e-press herself later that year. Her experience wasn't as positive as mine was, sorry to say. I've been with them for what? Three years? I currently have no Indie titles. Everything is signed with them.

2. Do you plan to publish any more Indie titles? What are some of the advantages of going with a small press?

I'm lumping these together because a lot of the answers are the same. I miss having Indie titles. As much as I love my publishers, I like having books that are wholly mine, and wholly under my control. Want to change the cover? Done. Want to run a sale, a contest, drop the price or raise it, put it in a box set with similar Indies, upload an entirely new version? Done. There is joy in logging into KDP and seeing in real time that I have readers in Japan and Germany. There is a real sense of community and camaraderie in the Indie community. And, let me be honest, the money is better, if you manage halfway decent sales. Which I did, as an Indie.

But. There are a lot of costs, and therefore risks, that you assume as an Indie. The market for Indie titles is way more saturated than when I started, and in many ways, it's a whole 'nother ball game. You have to find and pay for your own editor and proofreader, your own cover, your own PR. And you have to do this upfront, not knowing if you will recoup your money or not, let alone make a profit. I currently have teenagers and an eight month old, and I stay home with her, leaving us with one steady income and whatever I bring in. I'm not as poised to take risks as I once was. Then you have to market the sucker, and even though you would want do at least some of this even if you do go with a press, it's much less painful if a press has got your back. Publishers have more reach, too. You will almost certainly not get shelf space at national bookstore chains, or deals with Audible, tables at conferences, or space on Net Galley on your own, or at least not out of your own pocket. My publisher gives me these things, and more. But they're a really good publisher, and many are not. Be aggressive, ask questions, don't be afraid to negotiate, and ask to get in touch with other authors. Any press not open to these things is one I'd pass on.

To make a long answer short (too late!), I do plan on having Indie titles again. Not sure when or what they will be, but I like the experimentation and control that goes with it. And I definitely plan on sticking with CQ, and maybe other small presses, if they'll have me. And maybe I'll work with more than one. Who knows? A good, successful model for this hybrid approach is Jennifer Armentrout. She's been wildly successful, and has been with small presses, big ones, has had Indie titles, and somehow manages to make all this work with an agent. Plus she's funny. That's always a plus.

So this is all I can think of on the two or three most common "business" aspect of writing questions that I get. Hope it was helpful. Next mail call, I plan on addressing ways that I make writing work as a lifestyle- finding time to write, working with and around family, balancing work and family and writing, and that kind of thing. If anyone's got more questions, just drop me an email or a FB message, or leave a comment. Thanks!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"The Last Carnivale" Reviewed in Primetime

Anthologies are odd creatures. I don't do a lot of them, primarily because I'm not much of a short story
writer. I don't read many of them, either, because I'm not much of a short story reader. Hmm. Seems to be a connection there. ;) This is probably a failing of some kind on my part, because on the rare occasion I do delve into an anthology, I invariably find something good. I tend to be drawn to stories in my (admittedly narrow) field of interest: paranormal and fantasy with a good dose of romance. I'm also more likely to pick one up if it's for a charitable cause.

When I entered a story in the Primetime compilation, it was because I've had this novel boiling around in the recesses of the creative stew pot- one that I fear may never see the light of day. Or at least, not for a long time. But the story keeps hanging around, and every now and then I'll give in and play around in that universe a bit. That's what happened with Primetime. Also, the proceeds go to a good cause: no-kill animal shelters. But I didn't have high hopes that the anthology would be some kind of breakaway success. It was mostly something I did for fun and charity. I didn't really expect that it would get reviewed. At least, not much. And I certainly didn't think my story would get singled out.

So I was more than pleased, and pretty surprised, when The Story Sanctuary did exactly that. Here's the review: "Some of the stories are simple suspenseful fun, while others flirt with a deeper darkness, exploring the minds of murderers and sexual predators. A few feature characters from full-length novels, no doubt hoping to pique the reader’s interest. Most compelling in this vein is the story of the Beggar Princess and her desperate resistance against powerful enemies who would destroy her people and home by titled “The Last Carnivale” by Vicki Keire."

So yes, wow, and thanks, Story Sanctuary! A good review- even a short blurb of one- is always happy news, but when it comes out of the blue, and for a story I'm not sure I'll get the chance to lavish much attention on for a while, it really makes my day. And makes me rethink the whole novel postponement, because hey, maybe it should see the light of day sooner than I'd planned. I certainly have my plate full with some heavy subject matter right now, and maybe this would be a good, fun, escapist kind of break.

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Book's Blurb!

So far it's been known as the cry-write-cry book. It's had a couple of names, too, including Bright Stars, Broken Compass. And even though I think I've finally settled on one name, I reserve the right to change my mind. Again. Grr. Many of you have listened to me moan and groan about it, or helped talk me off that ledge we writers sometimes can't find our way down from. So today, I'm really pleased to be able to offer up a blurb, and a tentative release date: March 25th. I have no idea how I'll be releasing it- self, Indie, small or trad. I just know it's a story that stretching my limits like no other. And I love it. Hopefully, you will too.

Something Like It

(A Dark New Adult Romance)

Shuffled between relatives who used him as a pawn in a high-stakes custody battle, Will Parker has been fending for himself since age twelve. Now in college, he's finally begun to cobble together a life of his own, with his own rules, and a circle of friends who know nothing about his past. 

Then he meets Abbey Banks. She speaks three languages, picks locks for fun, and reads poetry because she actually enjoys it. She has a Nobel Peace Prize winner on speed dial. And she's clueless that she has the body of a 1940s pin-up girl.

Being together makes life seem more exciting, more vibrant, more everything. Waffle feasts at midnight. Running away to the French Quarter. Skinny dipping in February. Will wants her more than oxygen, and Abbey feels the same way.

Until the day she disappears, taking nothing but the clothes on her back and her bank card. 

Will embarks on a desperate quest where just finding her won't be enough. Vulnerable and alone, Abbey's sense of what's real is unraveling fast. When she surfaces, stripped of everything that made her feel human, Will can only hope his something like a life can sustain them both.

(Also, it's the BCS Championship. War Damn Eagle! Just had to work that in.)