Monday, August 29, 2016

Indie Author Day

If dogs can have their own day (which was last week), why not indie authors?

The first annual Indie Author Day is scheduled for Saturday, October 8th. Libraries across the United States will be holding a variety of events to support local indie authors. You can learn more about Indie Author Day at their own website, This is also where authors and libraries can sign up to join the event. I think signing up puts you on the ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) mailing list, as I received an e-mail from them with an offer of a free eBook shortly after I signed up.

One caveat I would point out is that one of the sponsors of Indie Author Day is SELF-e, a service that asks indie authors to donate eBooks so SELF-e can sell them to libraries. I don't mind donating paper copies of my books to the local library or offering permafree books as a marketing strategy, but other people shouldn't profit off of my free works. Hopefully they won't pressure me to enroll with SELF-e.

My local library hasn't signed up yet to be part of Indie Author Day, so I'm not sure yet if I'll be able to do anything with them or if I'll be able to participate at another nearby library. I'll keep you updated as the time draws closer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Writing Memes, Story Layers, and Story Meaning

Anyone with an interest in books and/or writing has probably seen a lot of the writing memes in circulation on social media. For instance, the meme below prompted a response from a famous SF writer last night. I won't name him because I'm not sure if he meant for this discussion to continue off of Facebook. To paraphrase, writers who put down the first thing that comes into their head, who aren't adding a layer of symbolism or subtext to their work aren't writing stories that people will teach. He also added that you may technically be a writer, but you won't be a good one.

Well, I'm much lower on the writing chain than this author, but while I might agree with his main point, I disagree with him in two respects. First, the way his statement was worded was disrespectful to pantsers. I may not have symbols planned when I'm writing the first draft, but I have the opportunity to discover them along the way. (An example might be Yvonne's cross in Twinned Universes.) Even though I'm trying to increase my publication speed to at least two books a year, I still rewrite and revise my work before publishing. I do look for telling details that show us how the viewpoint character thinks. Symbols that are discovered during the first draft can be honed during the second draft. Pantsers do outline; it's just that our first drafts are our outlines.

I also take issue with this author's assumptions that the only way a work--and an author--can be judged good is if they're taught in schools. Symbols and subtext do deepen a story and can make a reread of the story a whole new experience. But that's not why I write stories. I write stories to explore characters' internal lives and their interactions with each other, to work out implications of creating worlds with certain characteristics, to tell a single truth behind a thousand falsehoods. To me, entertainment should be the main goal of a story; subtext is secondary. That's why I prefer this meme:

Symbols are important, but no one just writes in symbols. Without context, symbols have no meaning.

What's your take on symbols and story purpose? Please share it in the comments.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Myths and Realities of Doing What You Love

I read an article on Medium last week with the title listed above. I thought it was worth sharing because it offers a balanced, sensible solution to the age-old dilemma of doing what you love versus doing what will pay the bills. It suggests doing what you love as a side gig while having a good-paying job to support the side gig. I think this is especially important if you have a spouse and/or dependents. If you haven't read this article yet, feel free to go over there and read it before commenting. If you did read it already, what do you think?

Edited to Add: One point I don't the author addressed very well is time management. Even if you "only" work a 40-hour week (technically, my job is 37.5 hours a week), there's still commuting, daily tasks, and other responsibilities that take up your free time. If you have dependents, it can be very difficult finding time for yourself, let alone a side gig. That's why I write on lunch break, during my son's tae-kwon-do class, and any time I can steal for it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Writers and Words

One of the books I'm currently reading is actually a trilogy that came out over a decade ago. I read the series when it originally came out, but I don't have the paper copies any more. When I saw the ebook version of trilogy advertised at a bargain price on Bookbub, I decided to grab it. Reading a trilogy isn't going to help me make up my book count for my Goodreads challenge, especially when it's a very long trilogy, but I'm already close to halfway done. My secret? I'm skipping or skimming the description.

In the prefaces to the first and second books, the author talks about her love of words, which started in childhood. She also loves worldbuilding, which results in pages and pages of description of even unimportant people and locations. Unfortunately, I'm the kind of reader who is more interested in the story than the setting. (I have to admit I forgot about this aspect of the series, or maybe it didn't bother me back then.) I wonder how well a new author with this amount of description would be able to sell her work to a traditional publisher today--or how well her work would fare if she self-published.

It's important for writers to develop their vocabularies so they know the proper definitions and connotations of words. There are words that are appropriate for a Victorian setting but not a futuristic one, and vice versa. As a creative writer, I acknowledge that other writers are free to experiment with language--and they should. I don't believe that writers should abstain from using adverbs and adjectives. But with my background in technical writing, I also want to keep my works easy-to-follow. I don't want to write the parts that readers are going to skip. Wordcraft is only one aspect of storytelling; story structure and character development are also important. Writers and readers may prefer different proportions of description and action. Perhaps book blurbs should do a better job of conveying style along with story. (Some do, but not all of them.)

In my opinion, Patricia McKillip is the champion of writing poetic prose that doesn't detract from the story. What other authors do you admire for their writing style? Do you think they'll still be read a hundred years from now, or will changes in our language make our current works inaccessible for future generations? Please comment below.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Newsletter Relaunch with Free Book!

Although newsletters can be an invaluable part of book promotion to authors (since subscribers are most often your fans who are most likely to buy your book), I have to admit I've neglected expanding and using my newsletter. In fact, it's been so long since I last accessed my newsletter that I can no longer log into my previous MailChimp account. So I made a new one, and I'm finally starting to put new sign-up forms here (see the sidebar) and website. (I thought about doing a popup for the website, but I didn't want to do through MailChimp and didn't want to register with yet another service. Besides, popups are annoying, even though they're effective.) I'll have to update links in my books on a rolling basis when I have time.

To pique interest in my newsletter (and more importantly, my stories), I'll be giving away free copies of Scattered Seasons to all subscribers. This is Book Two in my fantasy Season Avatars series; Book One, Seasons' Beginnings, is permafree. Hopefully readers who finish the first two books will want to complete the series or try some of my other work.

I plan to use the newsletter for announcements of books available to order, sales, convention appearances, and so on. While I'll post this information on my blog as well, I may do giveaways or provide bonus stories to newsletters subscribers later on.

Do you use an author newsletter or subscribe to one? What do you like or not like about them?

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