Category Archives: Publishing

2015 Year In Review!

2015! What a Year! Let’s take a look.

As 2015 dawned, I was working full-steam ahead on a little sequel that would be known TOWER-smallas The TowerWhile that took up most of my creative attention for the first few months, come spring I found out I was among the ten incredible writers selected to attend Nova Ren Suma’s Young Adult Novel Writing Workshop at Djerassi! Basically my head exploded and I rode that high until halfway through summer. <3

In the meantime, I was finishing up edits on The Tower AND working with the incredible Maria Marquis on the audiobook version of GHOST CITY. I also started work on the novel that I brought with me to the workshop, (working title:) SAVAGE CASTLE, which I discovered was Too Fast, Too Furious a pace for me to continue with that precious gem. I know myself, I know my stories have a longer gestation period than some, and I conceived the idea and churned out the first 75 pages way too quickly (as much as I am still in love with the words I’ve written and the idea of the book) without letting all of it take firm root in my head and my heart. (Soon, though. Soon.)

ghost city audiobook imageOver summer, I attended Nova Ren Suma’s Djerassi workshop where I got to meet not only the author of my favorite YA novel to date (who is also an amazingly lovely person! Er, Nova is, not her book. That would be weird, if her book was also a person. Although…*jots down story idea*), but also nine other incredible and talented lady authors whose books I can’t wait to read when they are published! I had the thrilling, if harrowing, experience of doing my first reading (public speaking, blech), and the invaluable experience of talking about craft and industry with other authors from around the world.

Then BAM–the Ghost City audiobook was released!

BAM–The Hierophant read-along! 15 poorly planned days of insanity wherein I revealed read-along-rounded2little known facts and insights about The Hierophant, and even somehow got over my fear of being on video and posted a few vlogs where I got to read from the book and ramble about what I liked about writing it.

BAM–The Tower – Book II in the Arcana Series was released! Finally, after two years of writing and revising and editing until my brains fell out, my very first sequel was set loose upon the world.

AND THEN…rest. Lots of rest. Because it turns out I can’t keep up with the pace I was setting for myself in writing/publishing, in addition to working a full-time job.

And then…some sadness, too, because I made the mistake of comparing myself and my process and my speed of writing to that of other writers, faster writers, more accomplished writers.

And then…some writer’s block, as well, because what I want my books and my writing to be does not fit into the molds that others have shown me, and when I ignore the wild, outrageous ideas that inspire me to write, I end up listless, lost, disconnected from the story (and ignoring wild, outrageous me is specifically why I haven’t been able to work on SAVAGE CASTLE, something that’s only obvious to me now as I type this).

In short, 2015 was a very busy year that started with a bang and ended with a much-needed nap. But I’m slowly getting back on track, I think, reminding myself to trust the story, to trust the little inspirations that come along the way, and stop thinking about what one “can” and “can’t” do when writing a novel, or a sequel, or within the nebulously defined category of “young adult.”

So what am I working on, now that the bleak fog of writer’s block has finally lifted? As promised, finishing up the first draft of Book III in the Arcana Series is my main focus for the time being (when I’m satisfied with it, I will announce the title! Oooh what tarot card could it be??!!). I don’t want to be a mean author and make people wait years for another sequel. But after that, SAVAGE CASTLE has my full attention. I have…*strong feelings* about that book and, without putting too much pressure on myself, I know I need to get that novel written, for myself, as much as for my career.

It’s true, those novels are two utterly different creatures, but they both possess a different part of my heart. And I dare to hope that, someday, they might touch the hearts of a few other people, too.

So that’s it for 2015! Happy New Year everyone! May 2016 be a year of incredible stories for all of us. :)

 

Presenting THE TOWER (Book 2 in the Arcana Series) – Cover Reveal!

tower teaserI have been sitting on these covers for months because A) I can’t write book descriptions to save my life–and you have to have the book description for the cover reveal, obvs.–and B) it took me forever to figure out when a realistic release date might be for this novel, in the midst of a very hectic, very crazy summer (August 11! Be there or be square!).

But here it is! Today! A cover reveal! It’s happening!

Are you ready?

Well, hold your horses. Before we do this…do you remember the covers for The Hierophant? That’s right, there were two. Because I got sassy and decided that I wanted a different cover for the ebook (because I REALLY LIKE MAKING COVERS, OKAY?).

Well, because I started this trend with the first book in the series, I felt obligated to continue it. And that’s fine, because I LOVE the covers I came up with for The Tower.

So instead of just one, you’re actually getting TWO cover reveals today. ;D

But first, THE DESCRIPTION:

Ana Flynn just made a deal with the Devil, but she hasn’t lost her soul—yet.

In exchange for bringing her best friend back from the dead, Ana has no choice but to return to the hellish world of Sheol—a world that has been the backdrop to all of her nightmares since she narrowly escaped it, well over a year ago. But this time, Ana is trapped in a sentient prison school that defies the laws of space and time, a place her new demonic classmates call the Tower. And once you enter the Tower, there is only one way out: graduation.

While Ana wants nothing more than to return to what’s left of her life back home, her freedom can only come at a price: in order to graduate, she must find a way to face her greatest fears, and embrace the dark magic of Sheol—a magic that will transform her, forever.

Ana was human when she entered the Tower. Will she leave a monster?

Eh? Ehhh? :D

Ok, now…onto the cover reveal(s)!

Ready?

READY?

PRESENTING…

THE TOWER

BOOK II IN THE ARCANA SERIES

ebook cover:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00061]

and print:

The Tower Print FINAL image only

TA DA! :D

I’m super proud of both of these covers and the feats of Photoshop that I had to perform to make them happen. Troubleshooter is my middle name! (Actually it’s not, it’s Claire, hence why my books don’t say “Madeline Troubleshooter Franklin” on the covers.)

And just so you can see the FULL glory of these beasts, here they are next to their predecessors:

ebook covers

print covers

Eh? Ehhhhhhh? :D (Picture me as the annoying artist at a gallery trying to get your attention so I can point out every single deliberate artistic choice I made ;p I’m just SUPER PROUD OF THESE COVERS, OKAY?) I can’t wait to get my hands on the print copies and hold them side by side… *DEEP SIGH OF LONGING*

I’d love to hear what you think about the covers and the description for The Tower! You can contact me here, tweet at me @madelineclaire_, or hop on over to my Facebook page to say hello!

That’s it for now, folks!

* * *

Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to find out about new releases! No spam, I promise! :D

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Some Good News! And Some Philosophical Rambling About Making Art.

After months of waiting with bated breath (okay, bated breath was really just the last few days before I got the email), I finally received word that I have been accepted into Nova Ren Suma’s YA novel-writing workshop at Djerassi! I’m incredibly honored and grateful for the opportunity to work not only with an author that has deeply inspired me as a writer and as a person, but also to be working with 9 other talented writers! I’m looking forward to some inspiring people and conversations, and learning whatever I can from each and every person present. My brain is ready for your wisdom! And I guess to share whatever wisdom I might have (lol).

I’ve said it a million times before, but one of the reasons why I continue to work towards having a traditional publishing experience is because I want to always be working towards becoming the best writer that I can possibly be. I hope that, with the right agent and editor, I can learn and grow as a writer and a storyteller. Lessons from the traditional publishing world are one of the few unexplored frontiers for me, as someone who’s been a self-proclaimed writer since before I could spell my own name. You see, (and you’ll have to pardon the unintentional humblebrag) all my life I’ve had the unsatisfying experience of being a “really good writer for my age” when I was younger or “extremely talented.” Which means that, in every creative writing class and every writing workshop, even up to an agent-fishing-type conference just a few years ago, I’ve always been a big fish in a small-to-medium pond, and the focus was always on teaching those smaller fish. That’s awesome when two agents are fighting over you at a conference–not so great when all the full manuscript requests over the years never seem to pan out.

I’m lucky. I know I’m a good writer. I believe in that wholeheartedly, even when I also know that what I’m writing is shit (I know I can fix it. Revision is glorious). Just having that in my core belief system puts me miles ahead of a lot of creative types. But I know I have plenty left to learn, that my writing can always be even better, that there will never come a day when I am done perfecting my voice, my craft, my process, my method.

I am not a religious person, but for me, everything in life rests on a spiritual foundation. Every choice I’ve made; every relationship I keep or dissolve; the food I eat, the products I buy; the way I see everything in the entire world–it all comes down to the things that I believe in, deeply, when nothing else can be known for certain. Choosing to self publish, despite the criticism I knew it would invite, was based on those core beliefs (and a handful of editors validating my work but telling me, essentially, “as good as it is, no publisher will take a chance on something so strange.”). I love the freedom of self publishing, the possibilities it presents, and, you know 70% royalties on ebook sales doesn’t hurt either.

But I didn’t do it for money. I did it because unpublished novels that I know are good feel like deaths in the family–far worse than an abandoned manuscript that wasn’t ever going to get better. And besides, just because a novel doesn’t necessarily have a broad appeal doesn’t mean it’s not a great novel with the potential to change someone’s life.

Admittedly, that sounds really defensive. I’m not here to defend my choice to self-publish my early work in this ever-changing landscape of publishing. But consider this: have you ever loved the shit out of something no one in your life had ever heard of, that never gained in popularity (or if it did it took a very long time)? Have you ever loved a person that no one else even notices, or wanted to get to know the super shy kid in class that everyone else ignores? Have you ever found an old book at a used book store, a novel or a book of poems, or found a piece of art and fallen completely in love with it and then found out there is ZERO information on that poor author/artist who probably died in obscurity?

Okay, well, maybe you have and maybe you haven’t. These probably aren’t universal experiences. Maybe there are just some people who live a kind of universal experience themselves, and there’s nothing obscure about them. Hipsters weep for them, and chances are good that they probably wouldn’t like the books I’ve self-published. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But let’s be honest–the mark of a great piece of art, including fiction, is that it speaks to us. And the more people a work of art speaks to, the greater it is, in history and theory. And, also, let’s be more honest: the more people it speaks to, the more appealing it is to anyone who stands to profit from representing it.

How to appeal to the masses (or a large enough mass to make your art lucrative, anyway) is probably the hardest thing for any artist to learn, if indeed it is something that you can learn. Some people have it–some people, who probably already enjoy things that appeal to larger groups of people, naturally tell stories that fit into that world and appeal to those masses. For other people, like myself, we tend towards things that may be excellent, but unmarketable. Remarkable, but strange. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, since my whole life people have repeatedly told me the things I say and do are “lol so weird” and my response has always been “Really? That’s weird? Not the spoon cult I started in eighth grade, or the comics I used to draw about my sociopathic alter ego?”

I don’t know if you can actually learn how to write stories that appeal to more people–and if you can, I don’t know that it would actually serve your writing. I’ve experienced myself, and heard countless tales from other authors, how writing for mass appeal can cause devastating depression and creative blocks. But I do believe that as we grow into our art, we connect more and more with that deep undercurrent of raw humanity that lies at the foundation of all creativity. I believe that if we follow our hearts and hone our craft and keep writing our words, no matter what, that the stories we write will naturally evolve into things that are bigger than our quirks and fascinations, our talent and our vision. A great story–and great art–is always much more than the sum of the artist’s parts.

Anyway. I’m finishing the second draft of The Tower and starting the outline for my next stand-alone YA novel, I’ve got an AMAZING narrator contracted for the Ghost City audiobook, and I’m really looking forward to the conference in June. So that’s where I’m at right now. :D

Stirrings.

Hello, friends.

It’s been a while, but I can assure you that there are Things Happening at Ye Olde Indie Publishing Desk. I can’t say much right now, but I can say this:

Watch the skies…Er. Watch your inboxes.

I’ll be making some announcements shortly, so if you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter, now is a good time to do so! (I promise that I rarely if ever send anything–only very important announcements!) You can also follow me on Twitter (@madelineclaire_) for live squee-ing.

Have a fantabulous week!

Video et Videor – To see and to be seen.

When you write a story, you know its insides as well as its skin color, its height, the shape of its mouth and its eyes. A lot of people burn through books these days and walk away with a photograph in their mind of what the story looked like, memories of the feelings that it gave them, maybe a smear of its blood on their lips or a few bruises where the story tried to open them up and slip inside. But it’s rare that people really see the bones.

But then sometimes a person reads your book and they have no bruises, because the had no resistance to its punches. They let the story move inside of them, meanwhile slicing through to the heart of the story itself. They peel back the skin, examine the muscles, the connective tissue, the organs, the waste. They bite into the marrow of the story, the place where fantasy turns back to reality, and they understand the ineffable, the seed power that spouted into the novel before them.

I got an email this morning that told me the reader had done that. (I would post it here, except that it’s spoiler-heavy) I felt at once totally naked, totally free, and totally understood. The things he saw in The Hierophant were not projections, as sometimes happens when you hand a story over to the world. They are genuinely there, carefully cultivated and hidden in the text, the characters, and the metaphor of fantasy. And he told me he recognized them. And there is nothing quite as empowering as the feeling of being seen and understood.

On the outside, it is easy to pitch my novel as a paranormal fantasy adventure complete with magic and demons and true love. But let’s be honest: those books are a dime a dozen these days, especially in YA. So I have always wanted nothing more than to tell people about the soul of it–the secrets of it–the things that, even though it is a fantastical story, can be taken away into the “real world.” I want the jacket blurb to talk about Ana and Kyla’s amazing friendship; about Ana’s relationship with her ancestors and her desire to belong somewhere without changing who she is; about how Ana’s father is only human, doing the best he can; about how we each choose and learn to bear our crosses differently.

But that’s the point of the novel, isn’t it? To express those things that can’t be said in just a few words. To express those things that must be said with story.

And if I tell you about it, well, that ruins the magic of discovering it for yourself, doesn’t it?

;)

 

fancy-horz

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THE HIEROPHANT – Cover reveal!

A couple of weeks ago I announced the upcoming release of my second novel, The Hierophant, coming June 18, 2013. I can’t begin to explain how happy it makes me JUST to be able to make that announcement. About as happy as Aro with a red panda.

This is how happy I am that I got to make that announcement.

This is how happy I am that I got to make that announcement.

This book has been a very long time coming. I wrote the original (and thankfully LONG LOST) draft of The Hierophant in 2007, while I was still an Anthropology major, before I had realized that Young Adult Literature was even a thing. The book has transformed into something almost unrecognizable since then, but the soul of the story remains, and it’s stronger than ever. The Hierophant has always been about a girl–Ana–coming to terms with the unknown and uncertain: unknown heritage, uncertain future, unknown worlds and all the paranormal creatures that inhabit them. But mostly, as it turned out in this final incarnation, Ana’s story is about learning to accept the things she can’t control.

Funny, that it took getting unexpectedly fired for me to commit to sharing her story with the world.

This is an independently published book, and I make no attempt to hide it. I do the best I can by the words and the product, and to create a book worthy of any legacy publisher’s standards. But self-publishing is not a sure-fire career. It’s risky business, and an investment in time, energy, and money. I can’t control how sales will turn out. People might hate this book. It might never even reach enough readers for it to matter.

But you have to take risks to follow your dreams, and my dream has always, always been to tell stories. So thank you–yes You!–for being, for reading, for wanting the stories that authors dream to tell. You make it possible for us to do what we do. By reading, sharing, and supporting our work, you help make dreams come true.

When I first wrote The Hierophant six years ago, I could not imagine in (2007, or 2010, or even earlier in 2013) what the cover–the face–of this book would look like. And then a split second of inspired crowd sourcing put me in touch with an amazing design team, and everything fell into place.

So, ladies and gents, without further ado, I give you the cover of The Hierophant.

Print

And the description, in case you haven’t seen it:

Demons are watching you. They move invisible through our world, hunting for rare prey–most humans don’t see the monsters that lurk in the dark, and as long as you can’t see them, they can’t hurt you.

But Ana sees the demons. Creatures once found only in the bedtime stories told by her late mother have crept from the shadows, whispering her name, and stirring ancient magic in her veins.

On the day her tarot deck foretells a disturbing change, Ana encounters an uncanny young man who literally stops her heart. Trebor has strange powers, and an even stranger quest, and for some reason wants to help her. But the closer Trebor gets to unlocking Ana’s power, the more important–and dangerous–his own quest becomes. And in a world haunted by demons determined to find the key to their empire, there is much more at stake than one girl’s soul.

This glorious cover was designed by the brilliant minds of Nathaniel and Lana Winter-Hebert at www.winterhebert.com, who were absolutely wonderful to work with. They took my vague idea of “uh, Tarot” and came up with something more beautiful and intriguing than I could have ever imagined. I’d love to hear what you think about it!

And of course, with the cover reveal comes an official Goodreads listing! If you are so inclined, I would be absolutely as delighted as Aro on the Millennium Falcon if you would consider adding it to your bookshelves!:)

This is how happy I would be if you added THE HIEROPHANT on Goodreads!

This is how happy I would be if you added THE HIEROPHANT on Goodreads!

 

~*~

Stay tuned for more exciting reveals like the book trailer, giveaways, and information on pre-ordering signed paperback copies (plus a free bonus eReader copy)!

If you’d like to be notified when The Hierophant is released, please sign up for my mailing list! No spam, I promise. ;)

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A New Note on Writer’s Block

Rusty, aka: Lord Rusticus

Well, it’s been a while since I posted here, but I have Explanations. The biggest one being that it’s summer, and I feel like every free moment is booked from June to October. The other big reason is that we got a dog just after my birthday! So I’ve been busy calming our resident cats, training our new pup, and trying to deal with his previously undiscovered allergies that are making him scratch all the hair off his head. Oof. He’s like a fluffy little old man, except he’s hyperactive and chews on everything (like the six pairs of  shoes we’ve had to throw out). But we love him!

The other big thing keeping me away from this blog? I’ll admit it: writer’s block. That thing I don’t really believe in. But let’s call this Advanced Writer’s Block, Code Orange. I wasn’t quite at the quitting stage (Code Red), but I was definitely in the “will I ever write again?” stage. It wasn’t that I was uninspired, or out of ideas, or believed my writing was bad. It was beyond all the normal things that once kept me from writing, long ago before I called them out as frauds. It wasn’t any kind of belief in lack that was a problem–it was a belief that there was too much. I had too many choices, too many questions–but there was lack, too, I guess, because I didn’t know myself well enough, or my story well enough, to know how to resolve my concerns.

Ultimately, it wasn’t about any of those things though. It was about fear, of making the wrong choice, of wasting time and effort. And even beyond that, it was something more: I was putting too much pressure on myself to write the “best book EVAR.” And even beyond that, the pressure was there because, essentially, I hate my day job, and it was also there because I hate false hopes, hate getting so far as to have lots of agents (I’ve lost count now) request the full manuscript only to pass a few weeks later. I’d reached my limit of stagnation and disappointment, and I was depressed. (Actually, I had “severe anxiety” for three months, but that was basically just me, doggedly determined to Solve All The Problems)

Anyway, I could go on and on psychoanalyzing myself here, but who cares? The point is actually something much easier to digest: I have got a lot of experience under my belt when it comes to creative recovery, overcoming blocks, and understanding how the artist’s mind works and surprises us. I know a lot of tricks, and I know a lot about my own creative habits, and I know a lot about how to avoid the common pitfalls of Doubt. But even with all that I know and all that I’ve experienced? Writer’s block still got me. Like a virus that’s mutated to become immune to antibiodies, my ego ramped up its bullshit to weasel through my wall of well-grounded ambition, and then proceeded to kick me in the teeth.

It’s more than that, though. It’s not just that the insidious part of my ego that likes to kick me into place has adapted–it’s that I, myself, have grown and changed, by leaps and bounds, as a person. Emotionally, mentally, creatively, I’ve grown in depth and width and height, but consciously I have not yet stretched my awareness to cover my new borders. I don’t really understand myself as well as I thought I did, because I’ve changed shape. That’s why, when looking at an old manuscript and a partially finished rewrite, I had no idea how to proceed. Of course, I love the old version. But the new version is amazing too. And both are very different. How can I choose what to keep, what to change?

The thing is, the story I loved several years ago when I wrote that novel is still a story I love, but no longer a story I can tell. My shape has changed–my stories have changed with it–and in order to tell the story I want to tell, I have to explore this new creature I’ve become, get used to my skin, my height, my voice. So,  I guess this whole period of anxiousness and sadness and crippling indecision was/is actually just growing pains.

I’m not quite there yet. I’m not entirely certain who I have, or will, become, but I’m finding my footing more and more each day. The smoke and debris are clearing from my head, and I’m beginning to make out the shapes and sounds of the new stories I’m carrying in my heart, incubating, until I’m ready to put them onto paper.

I’m also trying to learn patience, because god DAMN it I want those stories ready to be written.

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Abusing the Use of Sexual Assult in YA

If you haven’t seen this article on The Victimization of Lara Croft, read it. It brings to mind an issue I have, specifically about YA novels, that has been bugging the hell out of me lately: there is too much god damn sexual assault.

Before you get upset and say “it’s a real thing and YA needs to address real things!” hear me out: Yes, YA is doing a bang-up job at addressing real things, and yes, sexual assault is real. For all the women I know, the majority of us have either been sexually assaulted, harassed, or straight up raped. I know how real this thing is, and that’s why the common and complete mishandling of this highly sensitive subject pisses me off. 

I’m not saying all, but if you read a handful of YA from the past few years with female protagonists and romance, just like in real life, 1 in 4 females will be a victim of sexual assault. The abundance isn’t what pisses me off, but how it’s most commonly used in the context of the story: aside from stories where rape and the emotional fall-out is the prime conflict throughout the book, almost every single time a female protagonist is sexually assaulted, she is then rescued by her romantic interest. Not only is that probably never going to happen, because most girls aren’t semi-stalked by their teenage dreamboats, but that course of events makes the female protagonist into a victim, and her romantic interest a hero. It artificially deepens the bond between them by taking a serious trauma, something with long-lasting psychological and emotional effects, and romanticizing it.

Pardon me, but what the fuck, people? 

Forgetting the fact that this is a widely overused trope, it’s also insensitive as hell, completely dismissing the fact that it’s not healthy or expected that a girl would fall in love with her rescuer, and for many people who have experienced emotional trauma of any kind, that is a potential problem: it’s called erotic or romantic transference, and it’s like an inverse Florence Nightengale effect–patient falling in love with therapist, or rescued falling in love with rescuer. Girls who experience sexual trauma are much more likely to form unhealthy dependencies and attachments to romantic or sexual partners, and even develop romantic feelings for people they don’t actually love or probably shouldn’t fall in love with. Likewise, some women have a hard time developing romantic feelings for anyone, ever, because their ability to trust the human race (and in particular, men) has been shot to hell.

The scary thing is, as both readers and writers we’ve created this trope unconsciously–making the female protagonist incapable of defending herself by making her a victim of sexual assault does two easy things: makes her vulnerable and desirable. Weird, huh? That’s our reaction, for the most part: this person had such a strong reaction to this character that they tried to violate her, and now she’s a little more interesting to us, too.

I’m not a proponent for invulnerable characters by any means–Superman is boring and his superness causes many a plot hole. Sure, I love a strong female protagonist, but what makes them real and what makes their strengths even cooler is that they are not perfect. They do have weaknesses, weaknesses that they often overcome or come to terms with–that’s called the character arc. But I’ve never read a non-rape-issue YA novel where the protagonist was sexually assaulted and actively overcame the traumatic effects of it, because for the most part those are glossed over or not even mentioned. Yes, it’s a big deal at the time, or maybe there is some obvious residual fear if the actual character who assaults the protagonist doesn’t go away, but for the most part it goes like this: set up, assault, rescue, love, no psychological or emotional repercussions whatsoever.

I admit it’s possible that a character is strong enough, mentally and emotionally, to pick themselves up and dust themselves off and go on about their lives as if nothing ever happened, but we’re talking YA, which means teenage girls without well-defined senses of themselves as sexual beings, and…well, good luck selling that line.

As writers, we need to try harder, not just for the audience but for the dignity of our stories, to avoid abusing sexual assault as a vehicle for character appeal. As readers, we should be wary of our own reactions to this trope–it’s natural to want to protect a girl who has been victimized, but don’t be complacent about this form of emotional manipulation. If the author wants you to care about their main character, demand female protagonists who are made appealing to the reader because they are intelligent, insightful, hilarious, brave, brutally honest–anything besides so hot and vulnerable you either want to rape or protect her.

This is a touchy subject, I know–hell, discussing YA is a touchy subject in general these days. Feel free to yell at me and tell me I’m wrong, because truly, I would love to hear what anyone else thinks about this subject.

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Happy Birthday TPaL!

Happy Birthday Week TPaL!

Tomorrow, I turn 27 (years young!?) and my baby, The Poppet and the Lune, turns 1 year old. To celebrate, TPaL is available for FREE in the Kindle store until the end of May 17th, our official birthday! (Go on! Get ye to the kindle store! Download an app! It’s FREE!)

an original illustration from my little blue journal which holds the earliest chapters of TPaL

In another bit of happy news, somehow this whole “free” business has gotten TPaL some visibility! As I write this, The Poppet and the Lune is ranking #129 for free books in the entire Kindle store, #6 in free Fantasy Kindle books, and a mind-blowing #6 in free Children’s Sci-fi-Fantasy Kindle books. I am shocked, and amazed, and so, so grateful.

It’s been almost a year exactly since I published TPaL and released her to the world at large, and I want to say something about what I’ve learned. I’m not sure exactly, how to say it (a more common problem for writers than you think), but I’m going to give it a try.

Some of you may recall that TPaL was originally a free web serial hosted on my wordpress blog, with a very small, but very kind and loyal following. The story was told for the sake of telling stories–it was meant to be fun, and adventurous, and to explore the heart of my own love of story. I hope that it’s been all of that to those of you who have read it.

If manuscripts are like people, and many authors say that their manuscripts are like children, or lovers, or enemies, then I would have to say that The Poppet and the Lune has been a dear and constant friend. She has never been demanding. She has never been difficult. She has always been exactly what she is and was meant to be, never straying, never giving up. Even when people cock an eyebrow at her premise, or shrug their shoulders when trying to think of publishers to sell her to, she is steadfast, and certain.

I have a lot to learn from that.

original illustration from the blue journal

It’s so easy in life, especially in the publishing world, to lose sight of who and what we really are. For the sake of marketing, we don genres and audiences as if we’re trying on winter coats, seeing if our stories appeal more to one crowd or another, wondering if our story is appropriate for one age group or another. The line between telling your stories and finding an audience versus fitting your stories to a specific audience is not very fine, but it does get blurred. We get blurred–when we lose sight of who we are, and the heart of our stories.

Being true to your story means being true to yourself. Sometimes that doesn’t get you an agent, or a book contract, or very much in royalties. But it gives you peace of mind, and that is invaluable. That is what primes you for your next book, and your next. There is clarity there–precious, priceless clarity–that is sometimes called insight, or inspiration, which is at the heart of all creation, of all storytelling. We cannot afford to lose sight of that–we cannot afford to lose sight of who we are, even as we grow and change.

Birthdays and anniversaries are about more than celebrating that first breath, kiss, or step into the world. They are about taking stock, reflecting on change and what you’ve learned, the ways you’ve grown–they’re about setting goals, and planting hopes and dreams–and celebrating every victory and failure that has shaped you into what you are today.

So with another year under my belt, and many lessons learned, I think I’m going to take the time to do that for the rest of my birthday week.

Happy Birthday, TPaL. You’ve come a long way.

And Happy Birthday, Self. Remember, you never stop learning.

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5 Reasons Why Aspiring Authors Should Not Trust The Internet

Wary woman is wary. Hmm...

Call me a hippy, or an optimist, or whatever you like, but I have a personal rule about any kind of advice: if it makes you feel good, take it; if it makes you feel like shit, it’s probably wrong. At least, it’s probably wrong for you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surfing around the internet looking for advice on a particular aspect of the writing process or the publishing process, only to have a brick dropped on me that makes me sick to my stomach, makes me question all 20+ years of my experience, and honestly believe that this king or queen of the blogosphere knows what he or she is talking about better than I know what’s right for me. Countless times. And it still happens, even though I make a concerted effort these days NOT to look for advice from anyone but trusted friends. I know it happens to a lot of us out there, innocent creative types searching for wisdom an guidance, and instead we have our dreams and ideas crushed beneath the jackboots of the All Knowing Bloggers.

This is not to say that the internet is useless, or that you can’t trust anyone out there/here. But I strongly, strongly encourage you to take all of what you read and experience in your pursuit of writerly knowledge with a large grain of salt, including this blog and this post.

Which brings me to this:

5 Reasons why aspiring authors should not trust the internet

1.) Opinions are formed from personal experience. I once read a blog post about how dream sequences ruin books and should never be written by aspiring authors, and it crushed me. What does it say about me as a writer that I love a good dream sequence, both writing them and reading them? Ultimately I got over it (I know you were worried), but it seemed irresponsible to make a statement like that when you have hundreds of readers out there who trust you to give them at least thought-provoking, if not good, advice. But almost all blog posts that give us “rules” or “10 Reasons why” are based on personal experience and opinion, and therefore are never actual hard and fast laws. Maybe the author admits to that, and maybe they don’t, but it’s usually easy to overlook the admission because…

2.) These posts are written by writers, the best liars of the creative world. A good writer knows, consciously or not, how to get their audience on board with them–make them believe in magic, and true love, and that good can occasionally triumph over evil. A good writer also knows how to write a blog post and make it sound like they are an authority on the matter. I’m doing it right now. Don’t I sound official? It’s because I’m just telling you things, and I’m stating these things so matter-of-factly that you’re beginning to see the truth of them, whether it’s there or not. The other reason is because you want to believe people are doling out free professional advice. You saw a list of ten things to avoid or ten reasons to do or not do something, and that made it sound simple and easy to follow. These are all tricks, which brings me to the fact that…

3) The thing the internet wants to do most of all is trick you. It wants to trick you into clicking one more link, or into believing you need one more social networking site, that if you don’t re-post that status about fighting cancer then you’re not as good of a person as that person’s 10% of friends who actually care. Worst of all, it wants to trick you into wasting time, and believing you are working. “Oh, but I was reading an article on world-building,” you think. “It’s okay, I want to be a writer, so spending X more minutes learning about my craft is excusable.” No, actually, it’s not, because unless that blog post was written by Frank Herbert (greatest world-builder of all time, thank you very much!) himself, you’re not even getting professional advice. Have you ever noticed that, for the most part, the busiest writers aren’t writing blog posts about craft? That’s because they’re writing.

That’s probably the worst way the internet deceives us: it tricks us into giving up time for writing, in exchange for well-crafted amateur advice.

4) Haters gonna hate. Really, I don’t want to hear about how the gate-keepers are keeping us down, and so any self-respecting author should self-publish. And I don’t want to hear about how self-publishing authors need to keep their filthy DIY hands off of the term “independent publishing,” unless you’re that excited about being a hipster that you have to shout it from the rooftops. I’m not interested in any blog that paints a negative picture of any group of people, because that kind of advice can only reinforce narrow-mindedness or make you feel bad about the path you’re already considering. Really, when was the last time you Googled “advantages to self publishing” when you weren’t interested in what it had to offer?

The same thing goes for the old, salty veterans, weather-worn and wearing their badge of “experience” like a shroud. They’ve been through the system, they’ll tell you again and again, and the system is cruel. Well, we covered that in my last post, and you can’t take one author’s experience as gospel.

5) Bitter people are always more than happy to give you their opinion. That is certainly not to say everyone giving their opinion is bitter (ahem). But if you’ve ever given up your writing for a critique and gotten back the kind of feedback I’m talking about, you know it: hyper-critical, personally biased, and ultimately nothing but destructive (unless they’re clever at hiding their bitterness, in which case they do a compliment sandwich: “I liked this… hate hate hate hate hate… and this part was pretty interesting too.”). Offering up your writing to strangers can be, on the one hand, an amazing experience worth putting your faith in humanity to the test. But you have to be wary–the internet is full of trouble-makers. I’m probably one of them.

~*~

Now for the actual, constructive advice part of this post:

If you’re anything like me, or if you hated this post and will probably just ignore everything above, you’re still going to read advice about writing on blogs. So here are some tips I think we can call benefit from.

When reading a blog about writing, ask yourself:

  • How does this post make me feel?
  • Is this narrowing or broadening my perspective?
  • Am I inspired by this post, or do I want to smash my monitor/swallow my smart phone and all the shame it holds on its shiny little screen?

I’m sure you can see where I’m going with that, so I’ll just leave that alone for now.

There are a few blogs that I almost always enjoy:

Nova Ren Suma‘s blog has a guest post series on Turning Points for writers that offers a rainbow of different experiences from all kinds of different authors.

Intern Spills, by… the former intern of a publisher, or agency, I can’t remember. I read all of her blog in two days at work one week, and loved it to death. You will see, however, that this is the site of the entry regarding the dream sequence hate. I got over it, but I do read everything after with an eyebrow ready to be raised.

Terrible Minds, a blog by Chuck Wendig, the King of the “[NUMBER] Things About [SUBJECT]” posts. The reason I love his lists is because he is full of wit and snark, and actually gives solid advice about the craft of writing. How do I know it’s solid? He is constantly admitting that the rules are bullshit if you know what you’re doing.

So what about you? What do you love or hate about finding writing advice on the internet? Do you have any writing blogs or sites you’ve found valuable? Writer by Night wants to know!