Wednesday, December 14, 2016

To-Do Lists and Other Organizational Methods

Friday will be my last day of work for the year. I'm always stingy with my vacation days, since I never know when my son will get sick or if something happens at school or daycare. That means I still have a lot of time to use up. I'm not planning to go anywhere; instead, I'm making a master list in Word of everything from chores to do around the house, writing/publishing tasks to work on, other personal project, and even fun things for me and my family to do. By the time I finish this list, I'm sure it will be overwhelming and probably more than I'll realistically be able to complete in two weeks. I'm not going to plot out a timetable for all these activities either. After all, my productivity is going to depend in part on whether my son is home (and yes, I have activities with him on the list too). It may be a very informal way to manage my tasks, but as long as I complete a good amount of them, that's all I need.

How do you organize your tasks? Do you create to-do lists, or do you use another method? Do you use paper, apps, or a combination of them? Feel free to share your method (or madness, if you prefer) in the comments.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Goodreads Reading Challenge Update

I don't have much to talk about today, so I thought I'd give you a quick update on my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge. I wanted to read 200 books this year, and I've currently read 180, which puts me eight books behind schedule. In addition to the books I have on my Currently Reading shelf, I also have two others that I'm working on. It'll be a tough pace to finish 20 books before the end of the year, especially if they're not short. Good thing I have the last two weeks of the year off. We'll see how close I get to 200.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

IWSG: An Indie Author's Five-Year Plan

Welcome to the final Insecure Writer's Support Group post of 2016! Today's co-hosts include Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield.

This month, we've been given the question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what's your plan to get there?

I have two goals in mind for the next five years:

1. Publish at least two works a year, even if they're not full-length novels (though I ought to be able to manage at least one novel a year). For example, in 2017 I plan to publish Young Seasons, a short story collection about the Season Avatars, and Summon the Seasons, the final book in the Season Avatars series. I plan to write the first book (tentatively titled Dryads to Discover) in a new urban fantasy series next year, but it might not be ready until 2018. There will be at least two other books in the urban fantasy series, plus I want to develop a spin-off series called Selathen Avatars that takes place after Summon the Seasons. At some point, I'd like to return to the Catalyst Chronicles series (I'm struggling with a short story called "The Unnumbered World," which is told from a minor character's POV. Since Julia is half-Navajo, writing from her perspective is a challenge.) I'm sure there will be even more ideas down the line--the trick is keeping up with them all and giving myself sufficient lead time from first draft to publication.

2. Grow my mailing list to at least 1,000 subscribers. Thanks to a highly promoted giveaway on Instafreebie, over 300 people signed on to my mailing list in exchange for a free copy of Scattered Seasons. I intend to keep the giveaway running for a while; perhaps as my backlist expands, I'll be able to switch out the books I offer for free. The key will be keeping my current subscribers even as I add others.

If you're an author, do you have a five-year plan? Feel free to describe it in the comments.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Guest Post by Aviva Rothschild

  My friend Aviva Rothschild recently published a sequel to her Beatles/gaming novel With Strings Attached. It's called The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. She's here to discuss some of the themes in Keys. Take it away, Aviva!

            Many thanks to Sandra for giving me this space today!
            Almost six years ago I finished what turned out to be a 29-year project: the Beatles fanfic fantasy novel, With Strings Attached, or The Big Pink Job. I'd always had sequels in mind, and I had gotten started on the first one while finishing up Strings. It went through several name changes (not to mention plot changes), but I settled on The Keys Stand Alone. Because it's turning out to be longer than Strings, I decided to split it into two volumes; hence, the first volume is now The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World. (The second volume will be Keys: The Hard World.) It is currently available in a Kindle version on Amazon, and I intend to have the hard copy version done within a few days.
            Strings followed our heroes in 1980, when they suddenly found themselves thrown together on a planet called C'hou, sixteen years younger and terrified out of their minds. One thing led to another, and by the end of the book they'd been considerably empowered and had accomplished a universe-spanning quest to remove a curse from a continent... though their actions resulted in even greater changes to the entirety of C'hou, as well as changes to themselves and their peace of mind. Changes that they would confront ten weeks later in Keys, after having been sent back to Earth in their original bodies. While those days had been slipping by here, C'hou saw almost six years go by, and our heroes quickly discover that now nearly everything is different, including the landscape and the inhabitants.
            Not to mention the war that had broken out in the interim between the newly established White and Black Towers. And the huge swarm of outworlders who had been imported by the enfeebled White Tower gods to fight for them, but who tended to fight one another more than the Black Tower and its minions.
            So here come our peace-minded heroes, more powerful than nearly everyone else but absolutely opposed to the violence around them. Imagine their horror when they're told by the gods that they must help one of the outworlder Power Groups defeat the Black Tower, or they'll never get home!
             Strings touched upon a lot of the themes in Keys, but with more time to mull everything over, I did my best to more fully examine certain problems inherent in both the situation and in the kind of empowerment that our heroes experienced. For example, what is good? What is evil? How contextual are they? What happens when people, especially powerful people rubbing up against one another, have very different definitions of good and evil? Is pacifism always good, or are there times when it could be considered evil?  I do not and cannot provide answers, but hopefully I convey how complicated such questions are, and how seeing things in simple black-and-white terms is fairly useless in real-world situations.
            Keys is also sort of a parallel to the middle part of the Beatles experience, in that what they once found fun and exciting in Strings has now become much more toxic, if not outright deadly. Again, the toxicity is both internal and external to them. Not only must they deal with magic that can be dangerously unreliable—or worse, dangerously seductive—but they find that nearly everyone wants something from them. And quite often, what people want is not something that our heroes want to give....
            At least, though, they have each other. At least they can trust one another. If Keys does nothing else, it reestablishes what a tight unit the four can be, and had been at their peak. It reminds readers that whatever their differences, the four loved one another deeply and shared something that no one else can really fully comprehend.

The Kindle edition of The Keys Stand Alone is here:
Curious about With Strings Attached, or want to buy a copy in one of several different formats?
The Facebook page for Strings, which includes some artwork not in the book or on the website:

Aviva's Bio: Aviva Rothschild is the world's most overeducated fanfic writer. In the past she worked as a book editor, technical writer, and (briefly) website designer. Currently she writes, makes soap, and sells stuff on eBay in the store “Gatsby's Great Stuff.” Besides her Beatles writing, she's known for having written the very first bibliography of graphic novels, Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics. Naturally, she collects graphic novels. She also collects musical theatre recordings on CDs and other musical formats.

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