Gratitude And The Self-Publisher

It’s a funny thing, this self-publishing business. You start out with reasonably realistic expectations–‘I’ll probably only sell a book per month at first’, and ‘It’ll take a long time to build that email list’–and you put your head down and work at the thing.

You sell your book-per-month, and you feel grateful. You’re excited that there’s someone out there every month who wants to read your book. Then it’s four books a month. After that, it’s four books per week. At first you feel delighted: your sales are growing! But the next month, when it’s still only the four books per week, a subtle sense of disappointment begins to creep in. You begin to forget that once you were happy with a book per month.

Soon you’re averaging a sale per day. Giddy excitement! Life has never seemed so good! You may not be one of the best sellers out there–or even one of the best Indie sellers–but you’re not doing too bad for yourself. And your sales are still growing, albiet slowly. Maybe you have a promotion or two. Suddenly there are spikes of twenty to one hundred sales over a day or two, and it feels great! Then you get back to the humdrum sale-per-day after the promotion ends, and suddenly it feels a bit flat…

What’s the problem here? There is no problem. Your sales are fine. Your career is fine. It’s still growing, and it’s still miles ahead of the reasonable expectations you had when you started this thing. And yet, that subtle sense of disappointment still tends to creep in when you’re not watching out for it. You have to remind yourself that a sale-and-a-bit per day is miles ahead of where you reasonably expected to be a few months ago. There are still many miles to go and many readers to reach before you find your audience.

What does this have to do with you, you may be asking? (Apart from my use of the 2nd person for the blog post, that is). To you I reply: Precisely nothing. It’s more of a reminder to myself. But for all the other indie authors out there who sometimes feel glum and disappointed at the amount of books they’re selling (or not selling, as the case may be), try looking back to your beginning as an author.  I bet you’re doing better now than you were then. And you’ve probably done the same thing I have: you’ve become so used to a higher rate of sales that you’ve ceased to be grateful for what you’ve got. Take a moment to remember what it was like when you were starting out. It helps to put things in perspective.

And maybe don’t check your sales every day. That’ll help, too.

I Found A Thing On The Interwebz #1

Cool stuff I randomly found on the internet: Bookcase Edition! I found this lot on IncredibleThings.com

I’m sure you’ve got room in your life for bookshelves like this:

Platzhalter Expanding Bookshelf

If your bookshelf always seems to be bursting at the seams, maybe you should just let it. You’re obviously not going to stop collecting more books than you have space for, so why not store them on something that adapts to your needs. Although after a certain point you may realize it would have been more prudent to just by a second regular shelf instead. Source

Or this:

Tangram Bookshelf

Creative use of shapes, endless possibilities.
If you liked playing with Tangram blocks as a kid, but can’t quite bring yourself to break out the blocks as an adult, this book case will alleviate the urge. Get the shapes you need and create unique artwork that expresses your style. Source

Or even this:

Rolling Shelf

Take advantage of more shelf space by making it bend to your will. Create interesting arrangements with varying heights and options with the Rolling Shelf. The flexible ends made from strips of wood are held together by fabric that allow them to be rolled up to make room. Source

And my personal favourite:

DIY Inverted Bookshelf

Follow these simple instructions and create your own upside down book shelf that freaks out your roommate. It’s a quick enough project that you can do it before he gets up for work. Unlike the time you stapled his coat to the ceiling, this won’t damage any property. In fact, the bookshelf is completely functional. Source

This has been partially reblogged from IncredibleThings.com, and the other VERY COOL bookshelves can be found here.

Breaking The Rules

I’d like to start out this blog post by saying that I break the rules. A lot. (Not laws and work rules and such- I’m almost offensively straight-laced when it comes to following those. I am not a rebel.)

Nope, I’m talking about writing rules. The ones that say things like ‘Cut ALL adverbs and adjectives’ and ‘Never start a sentence with a preposition’ and ‘Never use any dialogue tags’. Stuff like ‘Always sit down and outline your book before you write the first word’ and ‘Never use semicolons’. No run-on sentences! Not to mention all the various grammar rules and regulations. Let’s face it, when it comes to writing, there are a lot of rules.

For the record, I use quite a reasonable amount of adverbs and adjectives, and although I don’t tag every bit of dialogue I write, I do tag some. There are some rules of grammar that I break for effect or in line with a particular character’s voice. I quite often, for stylistic purposes, start a sentence with a preposition. I may, in fact, have broken most of the rules of writing. There’s a time and a place for everything.

HOWEVER.

There is a huge, monumental, gaping great difference between breaking the rules for stylistic/characteristic/etc purposes, and breaking them because you don’t know what the heck you’re doing. A huge amount of my favourite authors break the rules constantly, in one way or another (reading Terry Pratchett last night just reinforced this) and I don’t think there are many people who would be daft enough to tell Terry Pratchett, Patricia Wrede, Steven Brust, etc, to pull their socks up and get their grammar right. This is because they know the rules. They simply choose to break them every now and then. But they do know them.

I’ve read a heck of a lot of bad books. Books with bad spelling, the wrong homonyms, atrocious grammar: errors that stick with you whether or not the actual stuff of the book is good. I’ve also heard a lot of authors, when their errors are pointed out, say something along the lines of: “Oh, I didn’t realise that. But it’s okay, insert famous author here does it all the time.”

It’s not okay. Breaking the rules is okay, but there needs to be a reason. And you need to know that reason. You need to know the rules before you break them. It makes all the difference between good and bad writing. You might get it right by accident, breaking the rules, but you’re far more likely to get it horribly wrong and find your book being mocked for the rest of its (probably short) life.

So pull your socks up. Learn the rules.

Then go ahead and feel free to break ’em.

Busy, Busy, Busy

It’s been a busy week. And now that I’ve written the word ‘busy’ five times, it’s looking really weird to me. Maybe I need a nap.

But I digress.

It’s been a busy week. My proofs for Wolfskin came in (finally!) but since they’re late arriving I have only a week and a half to check and correct. So there’s that. Then there’s the last 5000-odd words of Spindle that need to be done by next week if I want to keep on target with that particular deadline. And then there’s Memento Mori (the second volume in the Time-Traveller’s Best Friend series). I’ve only just begun it, and though I know roughly what the story arc for the collection will be, and have a few titles and ideas for a few of the stories, I still need to write the thing. By August at the latest.

With all these deadlines, you’d think I’d be madly at work on one or all of them. No such thing. I also got a new idea for a Short Thing for Weekly Fiction’s Open Call For Submissions. Naturally, I started work on that, with a little bit of editing and proof-reading around the edges. Fortunately, Wolfskin is proving much less complicated than Masque was. I seem to have caught most of the errors and inconsistencies and missed words before this point (does that mean I’ve advanced a level? New Power! Error-Free Gained!) and it’s really mostly a matter of a tiny change here and there.

Added to all the above is a busier-than-usual week at work, coupled with an annoying surge of my favourite companion, Meniere’s Disease.

I may just quietly go mad for a while. Don’t mind me. It’s a self-chosen madness after all.

What about you guys? Who else has a murder of deadlines? (Well, what is the group word for many deadlines, anyway?) And are you actually working on them?

Leprechauns!

This week I’m Playing Nice With Others. Absolute Write’s blogging section has a blog hop every month, and this month I decided to join up. Hi out there, Absolute Writers! The prompt was St. Patrick’s Day, Ireland, or anything Irish. So of course I made you all a flash piece of fiction about sadistic leprechauns. Because I can.

Do enjoy.

 

* * *

There’s an old song that goes: “There are fairies in the bottom of my garden”. You know the one.

I don’t have a problem with fairies. They’re stupid, ineffectual little glitter-puffs, but they don’t give a gardener much trouble so long as the occasional plate of Dollar-5s is left out for them to eat. No, my garden is chock-a-block with leprechauns.

Shut up. It’s not sweet. It’s not cool. And if there’s a pot of gold down there those little suckers sure as heck aren’t letting anyone get at it.

They’ve killed one gardener already: hung his corpse on a couple of crossed sticks as a gruesome kind of scarecrow. Mum can’t see either the leprechauns or the dead gardener: she thinks he’s run off to Fiji or something. I see him every time I go out into the garden, though.

I tried to get rid of them once when I was ten. They were eating all my best carrots and eviscerating the sweetpeas I was training, and maybe we could have negotiated that. Only then they went and killed my dog. Cut out his heart and tore mouthfuls from it as I watched, yelping with laughter as I cried.

I laid rat-baits for them the next day. I reckon I must have caught a couple of them on the hop, because when I went out into the garden later on they tied me to the beanpoles and cut off two of my fingers. One for each dead leprechaun.

Mum thought I’d cut off my own fingers by accident: she couldn’t see the leprechauns then, either. That’s when I knew I was on my own.

***

“Don’t you know that today’s March 17? It’s a day for the wearin’ of the green!”

That’s a song, too.

It’s taken me a while to work it all out. A lot of time sneaking around the bottom of the garden and peeping out from behind the curtains in the upstairs bedroom before I find out where their burrow is. And it takes a lot of time to gather all the petrol I need.

Leprechauns like to drink, you see. And March 17 is their big one. They drink and wail and cause as much bloody mahem as possible. I think even Mum gets close to seeing them then. By the time midnight comes they’re back in their burrow, sleeping it off.

So in the wee hours of the morning on March 18, I sneak into the garden with my jerry-cans, one by one until they’re all lined up in a smelly row. It takes a long time pouring and a lot of petrol before I can’t pour any more into the hole. They’re probably already dead, drowned; but I can’t take that chance. The matches are in my back pocket.

***

The newspapers will probably talk about it for weeks. The morning the Schulmann garden blew up in a spray of concrete chunks and turf that sent the clothesline hurtling into next-door’s swimming pool. The roar that shook the neighbourhood and left a crater the size of a small car.

I lost my eyebrows, but it’s worth it. When I scrabble around in the debris the next day, I find a few blackened skulls and my fingerbones. There’s no sign of the gardener. I don’t know where he went.

Now there’s a tiny skull on a stick at the garden gate. Mum can’t see it, so why not? I hung my fingerbones with it as well, as a warning.

So far I haven’t had any more trouble, but if I do, I’ll know how to deal with it.

* * *

Check out the other blog posts in the blog hop:

J Elyzabeth’s Blog Post

BB Burke’s Blog Post

Joanne Zebedee’s Blog Post

A Simple Syrup’s Blog Post

Layla Lawler’s Blog Post

Sudo One’s Blog Post

Improv-o-matic’s Blog Post

Ahelia’s Blog Post

Leigh Anderson’s Blog Post

(NOTE: The last three are yet to be updated with links to the actual post, as they are after me in the blog chain. Do bear with me.)

All The Lovely Stuff

When I first decided that I was going to go with self-publishing rather than traditional publishing, there was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be a long, hard slog. I knew that I’d have to work very hard for potentially very little reward, and that success – if it came – would most likely come slowly.

I was prepared for the exasperatingly finnicky adjustments and bug fixes of preparing different formats for different platforms. I was prepared for the necessity of promoting myself (not an easy thing for an introvert). I was even prepared for the arduous gauntlet of GST, ABNs, EINs, ITINs, and every other taxation-related acronym. I knew I’d have to do a fair bit of leg work to get my books into the local bookstores, and that this would involve a lot of stammering, ums, and daft half-sentences that would lead the most patient store owner to wonder how an idiot ever managed to publish a book.

I knew, in fact, that there was a very good possibility that I would publish to very little reception, and that I might never write to an audience of more than three or four people (not counting mum and sis). I figured I could live with that, because let’s face it, I write because I love writing. Getting paid for it would be a plus, but it’s not the reason I write. Becoming famous would be awesome, but it’s not the reason I write.

I was pretty well prepared for most of what I’ve had to do. A few things have taken me by surprise: been harder or easier to do than I expected, etc. But I find that I neglected to think of one thing.

It didn’t actually occur to me that someone, having loved what I wrote, would write, email, tweet, or contact me in some way, to tell me how much they’d loved it. It seems a bit stupid of me not to have thought of it. But the first email I received, telling me that the writer loved Masque and that they were waiting eagerly for my next book, was a complete surprise. The second left me stunned and a little dizzy, and inclined to stare into the middle distance with a fatuous beam on my face. Then there were the lovely tweets, comments, and emails that followed.

So to everyone who has contacted me in some way to tell me how much they enjoyed my book/story/excerpt, etc: Thank you! You’re part of The Lovely Stuff about being an author. When you tell me that Thing you particularly enjoyed about my book, it delights me to know that someone noticed that Thing. Odds are, I worked very hard to make it right.

It can sometimes feel like I’m shouting into an immense void, and the occasional human touch from across the internet is very much appreciated. Thank you for reaching out and becoming a part of my life.

Jim Carrey in The Mask, sourced from http://giphy.com/search/thank-you/2

Jim Carrey in The Mask, sourced from http://giphy.com/search/thank-you/2

Let The Games Begin! (Aka, Masque Is On Tour, And So Am I)

Let the games begin! The book blog tour for Masque has kicked off at The Indy Book Fairy, where you can read an excerpt and enter to win a paperback copy of Masque. Come on along and say Hi!

Further stops will be:

15th- I Heart Reading (Starter Party)

17th- Nat’s Book Nook (Promo Post)

18th- Books, Books, and More Books (Promo + Excerpt)

20th- Howling Turtle (Promo Post)

22nd- Mystical Books (Guest Post)

24th-100 Pages a Day (Book Review)

25th- Tea Talks (Promo Post)

26th- Jooniel Obsesses Over Stories (Book Review)

28th- Literary Musings (Book Excerpt)

28th- Dreams Come True Through Reading (Promo + Excerpt)

29th- C.J. Anaya’s Blog (Book Review and Character Interview)

So follow along with me as I traipse merrily across the blogosphere: and don’t forget to enter into the rafflecopter draw to win a paperback copy of Masque!

(I’ll even sign it for you. Hmm, draw or put-off . . . ?)

masqueblogtourbanner

Musings: On Hannibal The Cannibal

Okay, so first things first. When I talk about Hannibal I mean the TV and Movie Hannibal. I haven’t read the books. That said, proceed!

hannibal lecter

I’ve watched a few of the Hannibal movies (Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, and Hannibal) and I’m now in the process of watching the second season of TV Hannibal, which is slightly different again but just as compelling. (Also it’s fun to listen to hubby retching when he comes in sight of the tv screen for a particularly gruesome murder.)

The murders are one and all excessively gruesome and sometimes beautiful in that gruesomeness (for example, the guy with a tree wrapped around his legs, his arms in its cherry-blossom’d branches and glorious flowers blossoming from his split torso). They’re also almost completely unbelievable. I mean, seriously, what murderer has the uninterrupted time to set up a guy in a tree in a parking lot without being noticed? Or slice a girl into slides and arrange the slides so beautifully that it’s like looking at one of those books with the plastic slides of musculature? Not to mention the cops should have a field day with stuff as easy to find out as who purchased eight-odd MASSIVE FREAKING SLIDES OF GLASS.

That’s another story, though, and for the most part I suspend disbelief and just go along with it. The question that occurred to me the other night is, why do I go along with it? Why am I watching this show? Why am I even half cheering for this guy?

To recap:

  1. The bloke eats people. Yanno? He actually slices pieces of flesh and bone (though mostly, it seems, the soft organs like kidneys and brains and tongues) and cooks and eats them. That’s not okay. That’s gross and disturbing and completely alien to any right-thinking person.

  2. He murders on a whim. If he thinks someone is being rude, whether to himself or some other societal more he considers important, wham! That person is liable to end up dead, with missing body parts. That goes for any musician unlucky enough to disturb Hannibal’s enjoyment of a concert by playing a wrong note. I can only imagine what he’d do to someone whose mobile phone went off in the middle of said concert.

  3. He’s been known to wear people’s faces. Seriously. Like, tearing off a dude’s face and wearing it to escape (if you want to know how that happens, watch the movie yourself). And he tends to disemboweling and other gross stuff like that. He seems to prefer his victims alive, too. That is also not okay.

There’s more, but those are the main things. This guy is a predator; a terrifying, alien, other predator with no normal human morals or perceivable conscience.

So, the question remains: Why is he so compelling?

And I can’t deny that he is compelling, because despite the extreme violence in the movies/tv show, and the (for me) more than usually allowable bad language, I found it hard to stop watching. Why is that? Since the moment I watched The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal (my favourite of the movies, if ‘favourite’ is quite the word to use) I’ve puzzled to myself about why I find Hannibal so compelling. Watching the second season of the TV show Hannibal got me wondering again.

This morning, in the middle of my devotions, cuddling my cup of tea, I got it.

There’s a catechism/truth/principal that is used in the Presbyterian church I go to, and in some of the older protestant books that I read. It goes something like: ‘The value of a soul depends upon the object of its affections’. It’s used in relation to God and His loving of His own Self: ie, that His soul/person is of infinite value and worth because the object of His affections (Himself) is utterly beautiful, perfect, right, just, and unchanging. His affections are set on what is most right and beautiful. In that sense, God defines Himself. It’s also used with regards to Christians. We’re ultimately beautiful when we love that which is beautiful- in this case, God. Our worth is dependent upon appreciating and finding beautiful the things that are beautiful and ought to be appreciated. If we love wrong things and see them as beautiful instead, our soul is corrupted.

To tie this in, consider Hannibal’s main relationships. In the movies, it’s mainly Clarice Starling: an upright, righteous, and morally straight FBI Agent. There’s the sense that she’s a good copper, but the main idea that I personally got from their interactions on screen was her unwavering sense of right. She was morally upright.

In the TV series there is Will Graham. Now, as the series proceeds, he gets darker. But the thing about Will that I most appreciate is that he sees the darkness in the world and potentially in himself, and he hates it. Even the wrong things he does are motivated by a sense of right. He is terrified of the darkness, and yet he keeps fighting it in the world and in himself.

And these two people, in one way or another, Hannibal loves. He loves them fiercely, terrifyingly, and in some cases, almost entirely selflessly. It’s an alien and unfathomable emotion in him. He sees the uprightness in them and he loves them for it. He knows that if he gets too close he’ll be burned, but he can’t seem to help himself. He’s drawn to them.

And that, right there, is what makes Hannibal such a compelling character. In his otherness and alienness, he is terrifying. But in his love of these two people (and seemingly only these two people) with their uprightness and unwavering determination to do what is right at all times, there is something oddly good and worthwhile.

So while the violence turns my stomach at times, and I fully recognise that Hannibal needs to be shot quickly and efficiently, I can’t help but find him compelling still.

Mads Mikkelson as Hannibal Lecter

Mads Mikkelson as Hannibal Lecter