Tag Archives: priorities

Happy New(ish) Year (and a Sale!)


BBT500x800By now most of us have made our new year’s resolutions, kept some, and failed to meet others. I like the idea of resolutions. I like the idea that every year (and in fact, every day) we have the opportunity to do better work, to establish better habits, to be better people. We aren’t stuck with how things are. We can choose to change–if we want to–and are willing to pay the price. Whatever change you’re contemplating comes down to this: what are you willing to pay/give up/sacrifice to get what you want? When we answer that question honestly, sometimes we find out that we don’t REALLY want what we think we want, or at least not enough to pay the price for it.

I have one resolution that I’ve made every year for the last ten years or so. Every year I say I want to go to bed earlier so I can get up earlier. I usually manage this for a few days and then the old habits reassert themselves. I’ve come to the conclusion that up to this point the payoff, the gratification that comes from following through, and the improved productivity that I think will come from getting up earlier, haven’t been enough to entice me away from the pleasure of reading just one more chapter (or whatever it is I’m doing when it’s time to go to bed).

Sometimes the only way to find out what we really want (as opposed to what we think we’re supposed to want) is to try for it, fail, and then try again. Eventually, we either decide we don’t really want it (which isn’t the same as failing), or we figure out a different way to get it.

So what do I really want? Well, lots of things. But this weekend I want lots of people to discover my Celestial Affairs books, so I’m making BETRAYED BY TRUST available for FREE today thru Tuesday, February 2nd. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope this will entice you to take a chance on it, and leave a review.

Happy reading!


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Start Planning Now For 2013

I know that’s not what you want to hear right now. You’re in the throes of buying holiday gifts, decorating, making the rounds of parties, and hosting guests. You’d rather wait until January to make plans for 2013. But after all the ribbons and candles are put away, you’ll want to hit the ground running, and that will be easier to do if you already have a plan. It doesn’t have to be rigid or too detailed. In fact, I think it’s better to leave it a little loose because as we all know, Life Happens. But in the end you’ll be happier with where you wind up if you know where you’re going.

One of the things already on my calendar for 2013 is a class I’m teaching for WriterUniv.com. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, co-founder Laurie Campbell asked me to teach a class called “Before You Indie Publish” next March. I have the lessons completed already, and I’m putting together a companion book (BLAZING A TRAIL: YOUR SELF PUBLISHING JOURNEY) with additional material. That’s almost done, too, and will be released in late February or early March. I’ll be finishing the production process for that in January and February. (BTW, I’m including an appendix of interviews of indie authors. If you’ve self-published at least five months ago and would like to have your perspective included, please contact me.)

I’m also talking at the Tucson Festival of Books next March. First, I’m on a panel titled, “50 Shades of What? Is Erotica Romance?” and the next day I’ll be on a panel about blending genres.

I’ll be releasing BETRAYED BY TRUST early in the year, too. (BBT is set in 1979 and in the same “universe” as LIGHTBRINGER.)

After that, I’ll be working on GUARDIAN, the sequel to LIGHTBRINGER. I’m really looking forward to writing fiction again, but I may take a couple of weeks off to catch my breath.

What do you have planned for next year?


Filed under Publishing, writing

Every Indie Knows . . .

When I plan what to write about here, I sometimes catch myself thinking, “Everybody knows that. I don’t want to beat a dead horse.” But not everybody is in the same place in their career development, and not everybody has read earlier posts, so at the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to mention a few things again.

Get Rich Quick and Easy–NOT!

The decision to bypass traditional publishers and go Indie is sometimes regarded as a quick way to make money. It takes so much less time to get a book in front of a reader with digital publishing than it does going the traditional route, it’s easy to see how beginners might fall into the trap of thinking this. In my experience, however, and in the experience of the Indie authors I know personally, this is not the case. It takes time to build an audience, and unless you already have a following from some other public life or as a traditionally published author, don’t expect to sell hundreds or thousands of books in the first few weeks, or even months. The authors who do well as Indies have multiple books out there. Don’t expect your first book to take off like a rocket. Keep writing.

It also takes a lot of work. See below.


I’ve seen some good books that went though multiple rounds of beta readers so I won’t say categorically that a book must have professional editing to succeed. But good golly, it sure helps. Yes, it will push back your break even point but I think your long term career will benefit because the book will be that much better. Second only to word of mouth, readers say the reputation of the author is what persuades them to buy. Build your reputation by putting out a quality product.

I just finished “Not Magic Enough,” a novella by Valerie Douglas that is meant to be an ambassador for the author’s other romantic fantasy books. The author’s voice is absolutely perfect, but as an ad for her other books this offering is weak because of the poor editing. (Despite that, check it out. Douglas’s voice is beautiful.)

My advice: Don’t rush your finished story out the door. Get a pro editor, or if you can’t afford it, do multiple rounds of beta readers. Even so, typos will still slip though, but consider what your work will look like if you don’t do this.  You don’t want readers to miss the forest of your story for the trees of typos.


Some authors have the skill to design beautiful and effective covers, or they have a loved one who can do it for them, but most of us don’t. Human’s are visual creatures. We respond to visual cues. We need to use this to sell our work. If we don’t, our competitors will, and they’ll make the sale that could have been ours.


I’d rather be writing than cleaning up Word’s weird style artifacts, but formatting can be done at home. If you decide to do this yourself, make use of the great resources out there to learn how to do it well. Me, I hire it out. There are folks out there charging very reasonable prices for quick, clean work. You do not want a reader to stop reading your story (and leave a bad review) because the font changes every other paragraph, or the question marks are replaced by hieroglyphics.


Write a great story with engaging characters. ‘Nuff said.

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Synchronicity and Perfection

I had a brief exchange recently with a new follower on Twitter. This man is a stay at home dad with four kids, and amazing writing productivity. Yet he’s still looking for ways to increase his output because he believes that by writing more he’ll become a better writer, faster.

I couldn’t help but remind him that quality is as important as quantity. (Sue me, I’m a devil’s advocate.) I think there is just as much to be learned from the revision process as there is from composition. Learning to let your subconscious do its thing is important. Learning how to critique your work by seeing what works and what doesn’t teaches your subconscious to do better next time. The trick is to not get bogged down in endless revisions.

Actually, I think that writing a lot is important. That’s why I encourage beginners (and others who ask) to write short stories at first. You can create an entire story arc, experiment with voice, POV, plotting, and character development in a small package and bring it to a conclusion in days or weeks instead of the months a novel requires. (Yes, short stories are different animals from novels, but they’re similar enough to be a good starting point.)

Just after I had the exchange on Twitter, I stumbled upon a post from a couple of weeks ago by Kris Rusch on the topic “Perfection.”   What I took away from Kris’s essay was that there is 1) No ultimate arbiter of perfection, 2) The single most important criteria to use in evaluating a story is not the quality of punctuation, imagery, or plot, but whether it entertained you, 3) Strive to write the best story you can right now, not for perfection, and then, 4) Move on to the next best story you can write.

That’s where the synchronicity comes in. I just finished reviewing FORBIDDEN TALENTS one last time before sending it to my editor. This book was the second novel I finished. It’s been through more than one critique group, but I hadn’t looked at it in over a year.  I read through it again to clean up word processing artifacts, and touch up word choice here and there. I wanted to clarify things for readers who haven’t read DANGEROUS TALENTS. Fortunately I didn’t find any glaring problems. Does that mean I wasted my time?

Remember Pareto’s Law? Eighty percent of your results come from 20% of your effort. The time I spent on FORBIDDEN TALENTS this week was not part of the most productive 20%. Whatever entertainment value the story has was already there.

And yet, the devil’s in the details. I can’t help thinking that my readers will have a slightly smoother ride because I spent that extra bit of time. Will that mean I sell more books? Who knows? But I do know that I’ll be sending FORBIDDEN TALENTS out into the world with the confidence that it is the best I can do, right now.


Filed under Publishing, writing

What Did You Give Up, To Get What You Got?

Maybe the perfect life in perfect balance isn’t the ideal goal. This excellent blog reminds me of the saying, “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.” What I like about this post is that the author is also saying that it’s okay to not even want to have it all.

It is, perhaps, not the having, but the striving, that is the real joy.

What Did You Give Up, To Get What You Got?.


Filed under Life

My Self-Publishing Journey: Ruthless Clarity

As I take this self-publishing journey, one of the changes I’ve observed in myself is the way I think about how I spend my money and my time. When I was pursuing traditional publishing I wasn’t as careful about how I spent my time.  When I sold VEILED MIRROR to The Wild Rose Press I did editing on their (very relaxed) schedule. I was a business owner even then, but I didn’t really think of it that way. That all changed when I decided to self-publish. As a business owner, I have to allocate my limited resources for the best effect, and there is no shortage of products and projects clamoring for my time and money.

Initially, I took the approach that every minute (and every dollar) should count. It seemed obvious that I shouldn’t spend time on activities that won’t move my career forward.

Let’s stop for a minute to examine that. What does it mean, to move your career forward? It’s a very personal question, actually, and underpinning it are the questions of why do you write, and why do you want to publish? Understanding the answers to these questions is vital to keeping us on track. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Bob Mayer observed in his book WHO DARES WINS, that understanding the intention of a military order can determine whether it’s successfully carried out, especially when circumstances change.

Once you’ve figured out what your bedrock objectives are, I recommend writing them down, and saying them out loud. Be honest! It can be a little frightening to do this, because putting feelings into words lays it all right out there. Your motivation is no longer a mushy, vague concept. It’s a clear, hard-edged statement. It may reveal something about you to yourself that you hadn’t acknowledged before.

Why do I write? I like writing better than any other job I’ve had. I write because I have stories inside me that I want to tell. I would write just as a hobby, but at a much slower pace. I revise because I want other people to enjoy reading what I write. I publish and sell my stories because I want the respect and validation that comes from successfully testing my work in the marketplace.

Knowing that about myself helps me make decisions about where to spend my time and effort and money. It’s important to remember: all knowledge is good. And if you don’t know what your real goal is, you’ll never be satisfied with what you get, because it probably won’t be what you really wanted.

That’s where the ruthless clarity comes in. (I looked up ruthless, in preparation for writing this. It means merciless, unrelenting, unyielding. And clarity is “freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.”) Once you know what it is that you really want, you can cut away the distractions. That doesn’t mean you have to become a single-minded grind. Everyone has multiple goals from different areas of life. Goals in job, family, health. It’s hard work to figure out what’s really important to us, and even harder to juggle them all. Sometimes the people we care about want us to have different priorities. You may need to learn to say no to them. Or you may decide that the goal of meeting other people’s needs is more important  for now, than achieving a personal goal. Knowing that, and choosing it consciously, will make deferring other goals easier.

The word “ruthless” gave me pause when I looked it up. It’s a harsh word, with a lot of negative connotations. It’s also a strong word. Ruthless clarity is a way of defending ourselves from the clamor of distractions that can destroy our time and eat our lives. Articulating my goals has made making career and life choices clearer, if not necessarily easier. I still struggle with knowing which priority to spend time on, and with wanting to fit one more thing into too little time. Sometimes my life isn’t balanced, and I don’t always make every moment “count.” And that’s okay. But at least I have a pretty good idea of where I’m going, even if I take a detour now and then.



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It’s All In How You Look At It . . .

Merry Yule! I hope you and yours are all enjoying this holiday season. So often at this time of year it’s easy to become stressed by the additional efforts of shopping, entertaining, and planning holiday meals, not to mention the disruption of our usual routines. I compounded the chaos this year by planning the holiday release of WITH HEART TO HEAR and replacing some very worn carpet in my living room before we hosted our holiday party.

I was starting to feel a little snippy about my home being discombobulated for longer than planned when I remembered how blessed I am that I can do both of these things. Then I read this excellent post from Dan Wells from early last month about Cheerful Flexibility.

Cheerful Flexibility is a wonderful mantra for life as well as publishing. With the industry in the process of finding a new way of doing business we’re bound to need to adjust and readjust in the next few years. If we can do it with an open heart, life (and change) will be so much easier for us (and for those around us). We probably won’t like some of the changes we’ll be facing, but they’ll be less painful if we work through them instead of resisting them. I fully expect I’ll have to alter my plans–probably more than once.

In the meantime, it’s good to keep focused on what’s really important: friends, family, meaningful work.

May the blessings of the season be upon you!


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Musings On Productivity

I just read an article about Nora Roberts. Aside from the author’s awe that Nora still lives in the same house she’s lived in since she was married at 19, one of the other impressive facts reported is that it takes Nora about 45 days to write a book.

I’d heard that Nora often wrote between 4 – 6 books a year, but I’d never done the math.  6×45=270 days working/year. That means she writes all week and some weekends too, producing a minimum of eight pages a day (2000 words x 45 = 90K). Plus editing, don’t forget.

I know other authors who write fast. John Vornholt and Mike Stackpole come to mind. Dean Wesley Smith is also a proponent of how fast writing can also be good writing. He says most people who make a living at writing are prolific, writing much more than one or two books a year.

Okay, so we know there are people who write like demons and produce gazillions of books, blog posts, and articles every year. Their stuff is good, not dreck.This is one of the oft stated keys to self-publishing success: high productivity. And generally speaking, the more you write, the better you get.

Given her success, this is true for Nora as well. Just like any athlete who trains daily to perfect their reflexes and skill, Nora writes all day, everyday. Because she does, her brain is trained to develop character and story structure. Writing isn’t something she struggles to squeeze in between other things. On the contrary, it’s the other things she squeezes in, like developing craft stores and bed & breakfasts.

Can we become like these authors who write volumes? As much as I like the advice that we must each be true to our own process, if my process is a slow one, shouldn’t I try to speed it up? I know very well that the choices I make about what I spend my time doing affect my productivity. Instead of reading email, blogging, and reading others’ blogs, I could be writing my next novel. I do think that “refilling the well” is important. I enjoy finding out what’s going on “out there.” I enjoy reading others’ books. (That is what inspired most of us to write isn’t it? Our love of reading?) What’s the right balance for productivity and refilling? And does it change as we become better writers?

Chris Guillebeau wrote in his book The Art of Non-Conformity, that it was only when the discomfort of remaining in his old apartment became greater than the pain of moving that he altered his circumstance. I think that’s true of most of us. We have to get to a place where we can no longer ignore the discomfort of not getting the work done, before we can say, “I’m going to change the way I work.”  There’s a saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve already got.” If you’re satisfied with your productivity, then keep doing what you’re doing. If not, change it up.



Filed under writing

What Are You Waiting For?

My Dear Husband said today, “Even if self-publishing somehow turns out not to be the ‘right’ choice for your career, it was the right choice for your life. You have more enthusiasm for writing now than you’ve had for years.” To which I responded, “I’m happier than I’ve been for at least a decade.”

And that got me to thinking about what was going on in my life ten years ago.  By 2001 I’d been writing for several years without making any sales. My father-in-law and my mother had passed. My father had Alzheimers. And of course there was 9-11. In the intervening years several friends died too young, one in an accident only nine months after marrying his sweetheart.

I don’t relate that to elicit sympathy. Many, many folks have much more difficult lives than mine. I’m writing this short post to remind you: Give your attention to what is most important to you.  If you do that, no matter how short or long your life is, when it’s over you’ll be satisfied.

Or to put it more bluntly: Stop dicking around! You are not guaranteed another day.


I’ll still be posting tomorrow as usual: VEILED MIRROR — Chapter Five

Also, check out my guest blog on Friday at Secrets of 7 Scribes.



Filed under Life, writing

My Self-Publishing Journey: I am the Decider!

I just got the 2nd pass edits on LIGHTBRINGER back from Edits that Rock. One of the questions Rochelle raised after the first round was whether I wanted  to discuss religion quite as much as I did. In much of today’s paranormal romance, the big questions of religion are carefully skirted so as to not offend and lose readers. This isn’t as true in science-fiction and fantasy. A significant number of authors in those genres have tackled religion head-on, but not so much in romance.

I had what I think is a fairly average Christian upbringing, colored by an early love of science-fiction and fantasy.  In SF and fantasy it’s often acknowledged that in building a new world, religion is an integral part of  what motivates people. So for me, if characters have a conversation about life after death (VEILED MIRROR)  or angels (LIGHTBRINGER) it doesn’t make sense to pretend religion doesn’t exist.

And yet . . . I am paying Rochelle for her expertise, and I do want to actually sell my books, not just decorate Amazon’s website with my listings. So I thought pretty hard about her advice. I was free to take it or leave it. As I mentioned in a previous post, unlike an editor at a traditional publisher, Rochell has no leverage — the decision was all up to me.

I’m pretty good at catastrophizing. I can worry that a minor misstep can doom me to utter darkness and failure with the best of them. Interestingly, as I’ve progressed on my self-publishing journey, I’ve felt less of that. Where I used to worry that if I didn’t write the perfect synopsis I would be exiled to the outer reaches of writer purgatory, now a decision about editing is just that, a business decision.

In the end I decided to trim a few sentences from LIGHTBRINGER for the sake of the larger story arc of the Celestial Affairs series. And that’s the point of this post: It’s all about the story you want to tell. Every story has its audience. Don’t worry about that. In my opinion, the priority should be what works best for the story, not protecting the author’s ego and not potential sales.


Filed under writing