Happenings

I sit here typing this post with a tab open with over 200 items on it that I’d like to take a look at on my story.

My beta reader boyfriend is the best. He wants what’s best for me, even if it makes me cry a little inside.

Fortunately, most of these edits are quick or related – I can bang out about 10 a night, depending on which ones I choose. Apparently I spelled “catalog” the European way. That took 3 seconds to fix. Oops. Other issues included details about world-building that I took too far and made confusing or spelled out too much. Such is the case for science fiction stories. That’s why they take so dang long to get right.

My prospective book cover artist hopes he can have something for me in mid-July. I should have these edits completed by then. I’ve already knocked 20-30 items off the list. I’m in great shape.

However…

My work offered me a promotion. It will look fabulous on a resume, pay well, and will definitely help my career going forward. A manager gave his two weeks’ notice and within hours, I was offered the job. Not just offered – they really, really wanted me to take the job. I’m amazing at what I do (sales), even though I have very little experience in construction. It took me time to accept, though.

I will be working ten hours per day and commuting for at least two – not the train kind of commuting where you can be productive, either. In addition, because I have to go to bed earlier, five of my writing/editing hours per week are gone. I’ve basically done this job before back in September and it reaked havoc on my health. But the kicker is that whether or not I accepted the title and pay, I have to do it. There are only two sales people in the office now, including myself.

When someone goes on vacation or calls out sick, it will be only me.

So yeah, if I’m working those crazy hours all of a sudden, anyway, and covering responsibilities, I’d be dumb not to accept the perks. Especially since this is the second time around. The position has very high turnover.

I woke up last night having nightmares about roof pitches for a particularly unhelpful customer. It’s totally understandable why people move on.

It’s an odd spot for me to be in, that’s all I can say. My friends feel bad for me. My family is elated – only because of how it could help me in the future. No one I know is actually pleased for me as a whole.

As for myself, I’m experiencing a deep imposter syndrome. I’m at a point in my life where I’m gaining some clarity on what I do and don’t want in my life. But I’m also realizing that sometimes, you don’t have much of a choice, and all you can do is push back against the tide.

Anyway, this being said, I won’t be blogging as much as I have these past couple of months. I’m still here keeping an eye on things, but I won’t be posting quite as often.

See you soon – hopefully!

A Day in the Life

I have absolutely no energy to accomplish anything. None. I’ve done a lot of writing and editing this week, but I still manage to find myself in an I-Just-Want-This-Done-Now mode. I keep hearing that this is a success killer, so I’ve been avoiding working on anything when I feel this way. So, here’s a fun glimpse into my average weekday:

5 AM: Get woken up by my brother getting ready for work. Usually it’s someone else.
5:15 AM: Fall back to sleep. I think I dreamt about bears.
6:15 AM: Slept through my alarm clock. Oops.
6:20 AM: Eat breakfast. This morning it was chocolate and vanilla Chex. I regretted that later – my stomach is sensitive to something or other in them, but dey so good.
6:30 AM: Down my coffee as I watch the news in a frozen, sleepy haze.
7:20 AM: Leave for work – on time this morning, despite sharing one bathroom with two other people. No need to operate at 75 on the highway!
8:00 AM: Arrive at work. I wanted a few spare minutes to nod off in the parking lot, but alas…
8-12 PM: Work is slow. Google recipes, work on brainteasers with my co-workers, make a lot of jokes with them (which get progressively more insane as the day goes on – the waves of construction work haven’t annihilated us yet)
12:00 PM: Eat lunch with my co-workers in the warehouse. Ham & Turkey club. I don’t really want it (see 6:20 AM), but I shovel it in, anyway. More insane jokes ensue.
12:50 PM: I’ve stayed in the warehouse longer than my allotted time because there is quite literally nothing to do in the office. No one in the office cares. Re-commence Googling. Do a quick quote and order here and there. I’m too fast at my job now. I will regret thinking this in two months.
4:00 PM: Text someone about plans this weekend. It looks like they’ve flaked and my weekend will now consist of cat documentaries on Netflix. There needs to be a Tindr for friendships only. … Seriously, how do you make friends after you leave school?
4:30 PM: Go home. Contemplate a nap.
5:00 PM: Shovel down another sandwich. Internet.
6:30 PM: Shower. Never took that nap.
7:00 PM: Work on If I Let You Go, my first book. Get distracted by music on YouTube. … This is all I’ve been doing since then, and it is now midnight. Poisons of the night: Korn, A Perfect Circle, Porcupine Tree, Slipknot. Not sure why so aggressive. … That’s a lie, actually. During this period, I also got distracted looking for apartments and houses. I can’t find an apartment that’s less than 59% of my post-tax income and I’m ripshit about that because I no longer feel like my current living situation is healthy. It would be easier if I found a roommate, but no one wants to drop this kind of money on a one-bedroom apartment. I’ve accomplished writing 252 words of a new chapter. That’s it.

So, as you can probably see, today wasn’t that great. I have a lot of personal crap going on, but hey, who doesn’t? Because we all like to complain, I will list a few complaints here:

I need to sign up for vision and dental insurance at work. In 6 months, I will need to sign up for health insurance. In the meantime, apartment prices in my area are going to keep going up. What is now 59% of my income will easily become closer to 65%. If I buy a house, it’s going to be an ugly hole that looks like it was transported from the 1970s. I’m okay with that.

A company in Cambridge approached me for an interview last month. It was for a marketing manager job paying over $70,000 a year. They saw that I have excellent sales, marketing, and leadership skills and wanted to gauge how I’d fit with an opening they had. Naturally, seeing as my current pay affords me to live in a really nice cardboard box, I was interested. It never went anywhere, but it gave me the confidence to ask myself a couple questions: What is my worth, really? What are my long-term goals aside from writing and what am I doing to achieve them? I actually really miss the creative side of marketing. I’m playing with the idea of freelancing again (got to afford a $200,000 shack in MA somehow; I can’t move), but is it even worth it? With what little free time I have and the demands of clients, I’ll never sleep again. The extra tax forms alone might cost more than I’ll make. The best I can do is transcription, and transcription sucks. I might as well be a waitress, but I don’t have the time for a part-time job job.

I’ve got chronic pelvic pain. Doctors have been saying it’s XY&Z for years. Thought I almost had the cause, but nope. The way I’m starting to look at things is… This chronic pain thing is hopeless. I have no control over that. But I do have control over my general health, and I’m not at my healthiest. I would like to be stronger, leaner, less stressed out. Maybe fixing the basics will pull me up in some way. If not, there’s still exploratory surgery. Some things have to change, which means setting aside time.

Time that I don’t have and it’s going to get worse as things at work pick up. But really, even 20 minutes of planks is something.

I know that someday I’m going to be able to use all of these experiences and grievances for something, so I’m trying not to be too bitter. Some of it is just life at 25, and there are people who have it worse.

All of these experiences are going to become a part of me, the way the alcoholism I was exposed to as a kid did; the way being told by my family that asking someone “what’s up?” or “what are you doing?” meant someone was being nosy and didn’t just want to be friends branded me a snob for years (because I believed it) stuck with me; the way I got into a car accident and still walked in to the interview I was scheduled for – where I was insulted by a hostile, disgruntled, and under-educated Russian woman and still kept my cool – affected my sense of self in a weirdly positive way.

We all have bad days and things that hold us back; things that boost us up, yet make ourselves question our sanity a little bit. Use those experiences, whether it’s in your writing or to help the people in your life. Life is all beautiful, even the terrible parts.

Book Covers

It’s been a while!  Editing is going well with 19,000 words left.

I’ve made 3 book cover mock-ups.

If I Let You Go Cover #4

This was the first.  I like it, but it’s too busy, and it doesn’t give many hints as to what the story is about.

 

If I Let You Go Forest #2

#2.  You can tell which PicMonkey filters I like best. I’m proud of this edit because the original was total broad daylight.  The barrel looks like crap. It should be darker (but still a feature), stuck in the mud… Anyway, no one liked this.  In a book store, it wouldn’t stick out.  You can’t see the text from a distance.  I think I may make a dark cover like this in the future, but not for this novel.  So, keeping the problems with #1 and #2 in mind, I created:

 

If I Let You Go Biohazard Trees

 

This cover won by a landslide. I’m still not sure that it’s what I’m going to go with.  The text is hard to see at a distance.  I’m sure I will need to scale everything a bit.

What are your thoughts on what a good book cover looks like?  Do you have any suggestions for me?  Let me know in a comment.

Word Count Updates

To hold myself accountable, I’m going to update a post once a week with my word counts.  As long as I’m making about 10 pages of progress a day, I’m calling it good. Now, I don’t want to spam anyone’s inbox, so it’s going to be a constant edit.  If you want to keep up, you’re going to have to come back to this post.

Before I get started, I also want to thank everyone who said they’d like a free digital copy of If I Let You Go.  As a new writer, I understand that the trust isn’t there yet, so I want to give anyone who is interested the chance to get to know my style. A few of you have said you don’t want a free copy and you’re going to pay.  That’s amazing to me.  Thank you!

So, here we go!

Starting – 44,244

December 28:  44,683 (approximately on page 20 – made changes and added a 300 word addition to a scene to improve tone)

December 29: Oops. I was so tired I fell asleep at 8 PM… Double the work tomorrow?

December 30: 46, 339.  Perfect, because I may be going away and be unable to edit for a few days. Added a badass new chapter and made changes.  Somehow, I’ve ended up with 13 additional MS Word pages since starting.

December 31: x

January 1: x

January 2: x

January 3: Way too tired. x

January 4: Way too tired and worked overtime… 46,376. Worked on 2-3 pages. Ouch.  This is harder than I thought.

January 5: 46,547. I added more to the prologue and cleaned some stuff up.  It’s hard to believe I’ve added 14 pages by restructuring things and making additions.  It’s a little nutty to think that I’m already about 20% into this edit.  I’ll definitely be done by the end of the month and probably sooner, barring anything disastrous.  I do feel a sore throat coming on…

January 6: x

January 7: Theoretically, I should be finishing up on page 110, but I’m only on page 46 due to the time it takes to write additions.  I’ve been editing for an hour, and I’ve only added 100 words (including many subtractions). Perhaps the 10 page a day goal was too much? Ending on: 46,879, page 51

January 8: x, out of town

January 9: 47,239. I’m in the middle of writing a new chapter, but haven’t gotten very far.  I worked overtime today.  The best part of editing is realizing I need to add more because writing is so much more enjoyable.  Here’s to hoping I don’t need to go over these additions 5 times like I have with everything else!

January 10: 47,707. In the middle of a new chapter in a totally new environment with new characters and it’s messing me up a little. Probably going to have to go back and revise later…

January 11: 48,054

January 12: 48,932.  This new chapter is getting long.  My new character is a total dick.

January 13:

Progress Report

When I told myself I wanted to finish my third draft of If I Let You Go by Christmas, I didn’t realize I had about half the book to go.

This is probably because I was using two different types of paper stock.  Oh well.

The first half of the book was painful to edit, but as the story went on, the writing got better.  Because I didn’t write every day, some of the plots were a tad disjointed. I’ve done a lot to correct that.  I’ve decided that I have chapters upon chapters to add, including a prologue.  I might even change my entire ending.  I still can’t decide.  My editor, my amazing boyfriend, threw out an alternate ending that somewhat appeals to me. My ending leaves room for a second story.  I’m not sure what route I want to take.

At current mark, we’re looking at 43,670 words.  I set a goal to edit half the book by Christmas.  Now, I’m setting a goal to type corrections and additions – at least 500 words a day/3,500 words a week – until it’s done. This will most likely be around January 20th. Keep in mind, I’m cutting some stuff out, so the book isn’t going to be 56,000 words.  It will, I think, be about 50,000. I’ll try to post status updates here.

Then we go into round 4, where I will beg my boyfriend to read through it again. And I’ll review his notes, make possible changes, and honestly…

After that, I’m going to take a break.  I’m going to work on cover art, learn how to set this up for publication, do some marketing, work on other stories… And then review it a final time.  With luck, it will be like reading any other book.  I think that after working with totally different characters and plots, I’ll be able to look at If I Let You Go more objectively.

I really want to get this story out there, but I don’t want to fall into the trap of being one of those self-published atrocities who makes typos and misses details and has the writing ability of a piece of cork.

This Christmas eve, one of my boyfriend’s relatives announced to the family – who wasn’t paying attention – that I wrote a book and she hoped she’d see it in the Yankee Swap.  It wasn’t there, but I am hoping it will be available sometime in March, or possibly slightly after.  I should have a date in mind roughly one month before I’m ready.

On another note, I do want to comment on sexism in this industry, because I’m finding it on some level.  In my quest to make writer connections via Twitter, I started DM’ing with someone – mostly conversational stuff.  What do you do for a day job? What do you write about? That kind of thing.  I did some research on the guy.  He’s written a number of books – all with God awful cover art – but they’ve sold some copies.  One in particular garnished several dozen reviews.  Now, you can go on Fiverr and pay for fake reviews.  Just because someone has reviews doesn’t mean they’re real. Let’s keep this in mind.  He also has over 50,000 Twitter followers.  Again, these can be bought.

Or, they could be real. I’m open to that disappointing possibility.

This guy started calling me sexy, pretty lady, etc.  I could see where it was going. Show me your tits and I’ll tell you the tricks of the trade!  Show me a kindergarten coloring book, and I’ll show you fonts that would look better on your book covers.

Lady writers, don’t fall for this shit. I promptly blocked this poser.

 

 

Twitter Marketing

In my last post, I touched upon how I’ve been using Twitter to meet more people and make more people aware of my writing.  As of this posting, I have about 11.2K followers and I’m following 8,500 people.  Ouch.

This doesn’t look good, but the reality is that a lot of people Twitter marketing actually follow MORE people than are following them.  Many of the accounts have never even posted.

This is what I didn’t know when I first started doing Twitter marketing back in my silly YouTube hey-days. I’d follow anyone with a digital pulse, even if it was pretty weak.

Needless to say, I’m still following a lot of these accounts.  They don’t post, they don’t speak English, they just follow me hoping I’ll follow them back…

“But Ashley, don’t you do that, too?”

Sure. But I do want to interact. I follow people who have similar interests. No one is just a number to me.

I used to use FriendorFollow to weed out accounts I didn’t want to follow anymore, but once I hit 10K followers, the site cut me off.  Now I use ManageFlitter.

It tells me who doesn’t speak English, the last time someone posted, accounts that are likely to be spam or have bought followers, etc.

It looks shady to have 50K followers, but be following 60K. People don’t realize that.  The number of followers doesn’t matter if you’re just a number to them and the engagement is weak.

If you like to write, tell me about it in a comment or on Twitter. My account is @peneraserlove .

 

2006 vs. Modern Day

As I’ve mentioned before, I spend a lot of time reading J.A. Konrath’s blog.  I’m not sure where he’s disappeared to as of late, but his old content is very interesting.

For example, in August 2006 he mentioned that people should focus their time on selling physical copies of books rather than digital ones.  He went so far as to go on book tours, visiting hundreds of book stores, developing contacts – even my local one, which I remember ransacking 3-4 years later for discounted books as it shut down permanently.  My bet is that most of the stores he visited have also shut down, and here’s why:

As of 2012, more books sold online than in brick-and-mortar stores.  That’s huge – and keep in mind, these are old statistics. Today, e-books are blowing up the markets and self-publishing has allowed high-quality, inexpensive work to reach audiences, competing with great traditional authors like Stephen King.

Even though 2006 was only a decade ago, Amazon wasn’t the powerhouse then that it is now.  Things have changed.  Now, I know people who exclusively shop Amazon for Christmas. You can purchase more for less at Amazon than you can at Walmart, in many cases.  It’s not going away.

This leads me to wonder: where are all the bookstore contacts that Konrath worked so hard to acquire?  Are they even in the publishing/bookselling industry anymore?

The e-book phenomenon isn’t just affecting fiction.  College textbooks are going online.  Magazines are going digital. Just last year, I was a final candidate at a scientific publishing company. They cited layoffs galore because they hadn’t jumped on the bandwagon quick enough.  They weren’t sure if they’d properly recover.

Which is why I took the job at the metal shop, along with being given only two days to decide. Perhaps if I’d had more time to think, I would have worked for the publishing company. It would have been an exciting adventure. But we can’t change our pasts.

Going forward in my research about publishing, I’m going to take Konrath’s advice with a grain of salt, at least until 2010 or so.  It’s not that the information is useless; things have just changed tremendously. Most people get their names out there digitally now, whether that be through blogs or social media. Konrath understood early on that blogging would help him build an audience.

As for myself, I’m using Twitter as my primary means of getting my name out there.  I haven’t quite started marketing If I Let You Go yet, but people know it exists and that I write science fiction. I try to follow back other writers, although to be honest, things have started blowing up there lately and it’s hard to keep up.

Twitter is an excellent way to be a part of a community and encourage others. Seeing all the hard work everyone else is doing inspires me to get my ass in gear.  Follow me at @peneraserlove if you like.