Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Small Stories...

I'm in the process of writing a much longer blog post that I hope to post eventually. I've been working on it for months. It is currently entitled, Why I'm Angry and it deals with human beings killing other human beings for not very good reasons, or no reason at all, how that affects ALL of us, and why it needs to stop.

But today, as I prepare for an evening fun things, and have just come back from spending time on a long, warm walk outside with the dog, I am putting aside the aforementioned anger and instead wish to relate three short(ish) anecdotes.

  • Yesterday, I biked to a friend's house for tea. On my way home I was enjoying the sunny day by biking along the river at a leisurely pace. Then a guy who looked to be in his mid thirties pulled up next to me on his mountain bike and said, "Nice day, huh?" (At least I think that's what he said, I couldn't quite make out the words, but his tone of voice was, "hey, baby...") And he then proceeded to, and I'm not making this up, pop a wheelie for the next fifty meters or so until the trail started to go up hill again. Then looked over his shoulder to wink at me, and biked away.

    What's funny is that my initial reaction was wanting to catch up with him and bike over some obstacles, not because I wanted to impress him in turn, but because I wanted to show him up. I suppose we're both twelve year old boys at heart...

  • Today on a walk through the woods near my house, Artemis and I came across a group of teenage boys sitting around an established fire circle by the river, hanging out and lighting a fire. It was a rather sad fire, but fire danger is high in our neck of the woods at the moment so I walked on by and resolved to check on the fire on my return trip. As Artemis and I came back in the other direction the boys were still there, but they were just packing up and... walking away from the fire without putting it out.

    I won't lie, I went into instant teacher mode. (Some habits are hard to break.) And I called down to them (not angry, just with my enforcer voice). "Guys, you can't leave the fire like that, you have to pour water on it until it stops smoking. The fire danger is too high right now to leave it that way."

    My teacher voice must still work because they didn't argue; they just started looking through their belongings for anything that would carry water. Of course, they had nothing. So I walked back down to where they were and loaned them the plastic bag I was carrying for dog crap collection. In their defense they used it (twice) and picked up and old tin can and filled that up once too. Then they walked away. With the fire still smoking...

    Not feeling up for the time and energy it would take to herd them into doing it properly, I grabbed my plastic bag (which they had left lying on a log, *sigh*) and made multiple trips to the river with a slightly holey bag in order to put the damned thing out properly.

The tools I had on hand.

The end result

Today's fire hazard. You'll be happy to know we're right in the middle of all the concentrated red and orange bits. :-/

  • And finally, also on my walk with the dog today, Artemis and I passed two guys fishing on the other side of the smallest river that runs near us, just as they caught a fish. The two guys who caught the fish had clearly never done anything similar in their lives. They were freaking out (and fair enough: the fish was about two feet long and they were fishing in a very small river) and while one guy held the rod but left the fish in the water the other guy was trying to grab the fish (around its middle, by its fins) and then jumping back and crying out in pain and frustration. (If you've never fished before - or caught anything- you may not know that fish are actually a. quite strong, and b. quite sharp and pointy.) Finally, their friend who was fishing further up river comes down to join them, and it's clearly not his first rodeo. He helps the guy with the rod pull the fish onto land, and then steps down and grabs the fish through the gills to bring it up to level ground. Success! I stopped to watch the whole thing because it was funny, and also kind of lovely--in a strange way, to watch three grown men hoot and holler like five year old boys because they had outsmarted another animal. Then I turned and walked on my way.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Interview with Joanna Meyer

Today we're stepping away from the Interviews with Indie Authors series, and interviewing an author who is in the midst of a traditional publishing journey.

If you're wondering why please take a look at my post from last Friday.

The short answer is because authors of all kinds should stick together and support each other.

I met Joanna back in 2007 during my first ever NaNoWriMo. I think we might have met in person (we were both in Phoenix at the time and I did attend a write-in or two) but I can't recall with clarity whether or not that happened. We certainly "met" in the forums. I started following her blog then.

Years later, after various trials and tribulations, we both find ourselves much farther along the publishing journey. Recently, Joanna found herself in the enviable position of having multiple offers of representation from agents at the same time. She is now signed with an agent who represents many talented YA authors.

Today she'll be sharing that story with us.

If you're unfamiliar with her internet presence I recommend checking out her blog and twitter feed as listed below:


Here's a bit about her:

Joanna Ruth Meyer is a writer of YA fantasy, represented by Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary. She lives in Mesa, AZ, with her dear husband, a rascally feline, and an enormous grand piano named Prince Imrahil. She loves good music, thick books, looseleaf tea, and rainstorms.

Here's what she looks like:

And, without any further ado, here is the interview:

  1. When was the first time you thought, I want to write stories for a living?

    I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about seven years old. I read voraciously, and hardly remember a time when I wasn’t writing stories in one form or another—I just always imagined I’d be writing books my whole life, probably in a mysterious Victorian mansion populated with plenty of books and lots of cats! :-)

  2. Tell us a bit about your journey from that point to where you are now.

    Growing up I was always writing short stories or poems, entering writing contests, and submitting pieces to the (very few) magazines that accept material from kids. When I was fourteen, I had a short story published in Stone Soup, which was the best ever—they sent me a check and everything! I completed my first novel (although to be very technical it was only 35K) at the age of seventeen. After earning my Bachelor’s degree in Piano Performance, I started writing novels very seriously, inspired by discovering National Novel Writing Month in the summer of 2005. That summer I finished my first actual novel, and then went on to write a second in November. 
    I wrote a third novel during NaNo 2006, which was the first draft of The Whale and the Tree. I kept writing! I revised Whale a couple of times, and queried it to a handful of agents (I actually got a few requests!), but ended up pulling it when it wasn’t going anywhere. I wrote a few more books. I did several rounds of querying with three different versions of another book on and off between 2010 and 2014.Throughout 2013 and half of 2014, I did an enormous rewrite of Whale, connected with a wonderful critique partner, and collected rejections for that other novel. I started querying the new version of Whalein August 2014, and by March I was bracing myself to start querying something else in the summer… but as it turns out I didn’t have to. :-)

  3. You wound up with multiple offers for representation at the same time, and wound up having to choose. How did you make that choice? What criteria did you look at for the agents offering representation?

    First of all, I never thought I would be in that position! I honestly still can’t believe it happened! There was a lot of angsting, endless conversations with my critique partner, my writer friend Hanna (who was also fielding four offers at exactly the same time, which gave us both a lot of insight into each other’s predicament), my husband, my mom, my best friend… Tons of discussing and weighing pros and cons! I had two weeks to make my decision, and didn’t actually get offers two, three, and four, until Monday,Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively (my decision day was Thursday). I considered things like experience, how well we connected during our phone calls, their visions for my book, etc. It was SO HARD because I loved all four. I couldn’t believe I was having to choose between such incredible agents! One thing that helped A LOT was asking for client referrals—I HIGHLY recommend any author in a multiple-offers situation to do this! It’s incredibly helpful to get the inside scoop of what it’s like working with a particular agent before signing with them.

    In the end I picked Sarah Davies, partially because I knew she was going to make me work the hardest! She had some extensive revision requests, but I connected with them deeply, and her thoughts made me excited to work on Whale again, and grow as a writer in the process.

  4. There are a lot of pros and cons to both traditional and independent publishing. Ultimately, the choice is a personal one made by each author. Can you tell us a bit about what made you choose traditional publishing over independent publishing?

    I guess there’s two main reasons! First, I want to reach as many people as I can with my stories, and I feel that getting published by one of “the big five” is the way to accomplish that. Second, I honestly don’t want the full weight of marketing my book to fall on my shoulders… I know I wouldn’t do a very good job of it! I so admire people who can be tenacious about initiating sales, but that’s just not me!

  5. Tell us a bit about the process from here on out! Now that you've got an agent, what happens next?

    I’m in uncharted territory now! :-) Next on the agenda for me is revising Whale under my amazing agent’s guidance, which will definitely take a few months. When it’s ready, I’ll go on submission, which is when Sarah pitches my book to editors. Then we wait for an offer—I’m already nervous just thinking about it!!

  6. Did you get enough feedback from agents to be able to share what about The Whale and the Tree caught their attention?

    Many of the agents said they really connected with the world and the myths I created for Whale. (The myths are my favorite part, too! Well, besides the love story. <3)

  7. Once The Whale and the Tree is out being subbed to publishers, what's next? Will you be writing a new book or revising one that already exists? Is your agent planning to rep your other books too? (Is that too nosy a question?)

    Honest answer: I don’t know! One step at a time! :-) I’ve definitely got a lot of drafts floating around, as well as new ideas in my brain bursting to come out, so we shall see what happens! One thing I do know is I’m going to be writing BOOKS for my JOB for the rest of my life, and I just couldn’t be happier about that!!

  8. What are three books that have most influenced your writing of The Whale and the Tree?

    Oooh love this question!

    The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye. I read this monster of a book the summer of 2006—it’s an epic historical fiction set in British India, a time-period and setting I hadn’t known a lot about previously. It’s gorgeous and heartbreaking (it almost made me break down sobbing in a Panda Express), and I was just completely enamored with the setting. It inspired my main character’s home country.

    The Thief & The Queen of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner. I’m COMPLETELY obsessed with this YA fantasy series. I first read these books in the summer of 2006 as well, and was intrigued by MWT’s use of myths throughout her stories. They made me think “what if…” and following that rabbit trail exploded into much of the concept behind Whale.

    The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’m a huge Tolkien fan, and I’d be lying if I didn’t own up to gleaning inspiration from his amazing mythical epic. I have to be careful how often I read it, though, as it generally translates into me writing VERY VERY FORMAL STIFF language. :-) The Sil is so beautiful and tragic and makes you ache in all the right ways.

  9. If you were to be sent on a one woman mission to Mars what three things would you take with you and why?

    Hmmmmmmmmm. A lifetime supply of tea, an e-reader with an internet connection, and a laptop with an eternal battery loaded with Scrivener.

  10. Plotter or pantser?

    I sorta aspire to be a pantser… but for me that way always leads to disaster! When I get stuck, I stop writing. So a number of years ago I realized that I must plan things out before I write them. I love using the Snowflake method of outlining—it allows me to grow my ideas in an organic way, which I really appreciate. In real life I’m fairly spontaneous and kind of hate planning things—the Snowflake gives me structured creativity! At the end of it, I have every scene outlined (I use Scrivener for writing, and use a separate notecard for each scene). That way, I always know exactly what’s coming! But I don’t necessarily stick to the letter of my outline… sometimes I get to a planned scene and it doesn’t feel right, so I get rid of it, or write something else in place of it.

  11. Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin or Gryffindor? Why?

    Okay. Horrible, horrible confession time: I’ve only read one and a half Harry Potter books. (I know, I know. The rest are on my list, I promise!!) I haven’t researched this enough to know for certain, but I strongly suspect I’m a Hufflepuff. Those are the cheery, naive, always-see-good-in-people ones, right?

  12. Best thing about being a jedi?

    Ohhhh the light-sabers, for sure!! And their robes are really cool.

  13. What is your favorite thing about The Whale and the Tree?

    The myths, and this one particular character who I just love to pieces!

  14. And my final question comes from what I thought was an excellent question in a forum of which I'm a member. Recognizing that not everyone enjoys the same things, who do you think would not enjoy reading The Whale and the Tree?

    Wow, what an interesting question! Hmmm, Whale is very fanciful and kind of weird, and if you don’t tend to wool-gather much, you probably wouldn’t care for it—definitely not the book for extreme realists!
Thanks, Joanna! 

There you have it folks. Keep an eye out for Joanna's name in the months to come. I have a feeling we'll be seeing her in all of our favorite bookstores in the not too distant future. Be sure to keep up with her blog as she continues the journey with traditional publishing. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Indie vs. Trad -- Why the divide?

**Warning, the following is a fairly lengthy opinion essay. If the back end of the publishing world is not interesting to you, I don't recommend reading this post.**

I spend a fair bit of time in author forums on various writing sites, and over the past year I've noticed a common theme. *Beware* the following statements are gross generalizations (exceptions to follow): Authors who are publishing traditionally, or pursuing traditional publishing, have a tendency to snub independent authors - as a group. And independent authors, or those who are just starting the process of publishing independently, have a tendency to snub traditionally published authors - as a group. 

Note that I said tendency, and note that I warned you that those were generalizations. And we all know that generalizations aren't good for much in the long run. But, my point is, I'm seeing a disturbing divisive trend and I'd like to do whatever I can to push us all back together. 

Because being a writer is HARD no matter how you choose to publish your work.

(The familiar author facedesk)

First of all, you have to complete an entire novel. If you've ever written the first 10, 100, 1000, or 10,000 words of a novel and then stuck them in a drawer and forgotten about them (and anyone who's in this business has done that at some point) you know how hard it is to even finish a first draft.

We all have that in common, and crafting that first draft is, of course, crucial to everything that follows. Without the first draft nothing else can happen. It's not surprising then, that I enjoy bonding with other authors over the trials and tribulations of the first draft.

(The frustration of writing with a calligraphy pen is a metaphor for the struggle of the first draft -- just go with me on this one)

Second, we have revision. And all authors, whether submitting to traditional publishers, or deciding to forge ahead with self publishing, will revise. Granted, many authors (both those who are submitting to trad publishers and those who are publishing themselves) do not revise enough, but they do revise some. 

And it's here where the division often starts between indies and trads. There are self-published authors who really don't revise anywhere near enough, and they publish anyway. Typically, no one buys their books, but they're still there. Published. Whereas, if you're going the trad route and submitting drafts that are insufficiently revised you will simply receive rejection after rejection.

Still, I would argue that no one buying your book, and not getting past the front door in a publishing house or agency, amounts to the same thing. No one is reading your book either way. If you want people to read your book, you have to revise, revise, revise. (I'm lumping revising and rewriting together here for the sake of expediency, but the point is --- EDIT.) 

From here the paths diverge substantially but they are both damned hard work. If you're going the traditional route you must take your well revised manuscript, figure out a pitch for it (which is an entirely different talent than writing it in the first place), research submission guidelines for publishers and/or agents, and then submit, submit, submit. And receive a lot of rejections and hopefully, eventually, a few requests for the full manuscript, and then eventually offers to rep or publish your book. It is a long hard road requiring a ton of persistence, commitment, and work to get past the gate keepers of the publishing industry. And then, once you do, it's more work, but suddenly you're supported by a team of people who are all trying to help your book sell as well as possible (at least in theory).

If, on the other hand, you decide to go it alone, then you have to come up with the money to put your book on a level playing field with all of the traditionally published books out there (or try to, it's difficult to level the playing field entirely yet, but it's getting more and more plausible). You have to research editors, cover artists, cover designers, and formatters, and decide which parts you can afford to hire for and which you'll just have to do yourself. Then you have to get the money together for the parts you can't do yourself (which can be very intensive if you decide to crowdfund). Then you have to oversee all of those pieces (or do them yourself) and then you have to double, triple and quadruple check everything before you put your book into the world. And THEN you have to do all of the marketing and publicity yourself (unless you find someone to hire for that too). 


Both of those paths are a ton of work. The reasons for choosing one over the other are many and varied, and entirely personal. At this point, I don't think you can objectively say, "This is the best choice for every author," about either selection. The best we can do right now is, "this is the best choice for me, at this time."

So knowing that, why are authors on either side denouncing each other or each other's choices? I would imagine it's because it's a thing humans do all the time. We like to feel like we belong, and part of our feeling of belonging seems to be derived from excluding others. So, hey, I guess that's normal enough. But maybe we could cut it out? 

Being an author is hard no matter how you slice it, and so much of what we do is the same no matter how we reach publication. Why treat each other with anything but understanding and respect? 

Of course, I would argue that for all humans period, but that's a separate blog post. 

Getting back to authors in particular, I think it's important for us to support each other no matter which path to publication we're traveling. I know that a number of readers of this blog are here for the behind the scenes info about indie publishing, and since that's what I'm familiar with (and still in the process of learning about) that's what I've shared. And, because I've been very interested in the journeys of other indie authors, I have interviewed them and shared those interviews here as well.

But there are many other perspectives, and indeed, for years now I have followed the blog of Kristin Cashore (one of my favorite authors of all time, who is traditionally published), Neil Gaiman (also one of my favs and also traditionally published) and a number of authors still working their way towards publication. I don't often share those stories here because they aren't my stories to tell but I very much enjoy reading about them.

Next week, I will be sharing an interview with an author in the middle of her journey to traditional publication. Her name is Joanna Ruth Meyer, she is lovely, she is a frequent NaNoWriMo participant, and I have been following her blog for a number of years now. In addition, she has recently been signed by an agency, and she's going to tell us a bit about how that came to be. Her interview will appear here on the blog on Monday and, in the meantime, I recommend that you go check out her blog here

Authors of all kinds, unite! 

And, finally, can we take a moment to appreciate that I found freaking moose tracks in the park not fifty meters from my house?

They look like baby moose tracks, but still. MOOSE. IN THE CITY. WTF?

That is all. 

Happy Spring!

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Happy Announcement!

No, not that.

Nope, not that either.

Geeze, mom, calm down, it's definitely not THAT. And if I told you that over a blog post you would have my permission to smack to me.


I am, however, very happy to announce that for the foreseeable future the lovely people at Cassowary Publishing will be in charge of marketing and promotion of Blade's Edge! This is incredibly exciting as it will return to me a lot of the time that I need to spend on writing and revision of other projects. For me, that is huge and a very exciting prospect. So keep an eye out for a few things:

  1. A new twitter account devoted solely to Blade's Edge announcements. If you're interested you can find it @bladesedgebook. (And if you're into that kind of thing, don't forget to follow my original twitter account @gwendamned, and, if you're into publishing content and news--or just crazy looking birds--@cassowarypub.)
  2. A pinterest account devoted to Blade's Edge full of images of what the fantasy world of Gensokai might look like, some possible character lookalikes, some badass katana pics, and, of course, women with swords. :-)
  3. Some other new social media accounts devoted to Blade's Edge. I'll be sure to let you know as they appear.
In the meantime, I'm going to go out to the outdoor office, which is in the process of redecorating yet again, to spend some time actually writing and revising... BECAUSE I CAN!! And because I no longer feel weirdly guilty about working on new projects because the awesome folks at Cassowary Publishing are all over promoting Blade's Edge for me. 

It's strange to think that working on writing and revising would ever make me feel guilty (that is, after all, MY JOB) but ever since Blade's Edge went to print it has actually done so... making me feel as though I were somehow giving up on Blade's Edge by trying to work on new projects (or old projects that are just getting ready for publication). The mind is a strange and interesting place, full of contradictions and paradoxes... What can I say?

Anyway, that feeling is gradually easing as I shift control of marketing over to Cass-- (ok I'm just going to start calling them CP, alright? Cassowary is a long and awkward word to type and publishing is just long) over to CP and feel like it's in good hands. 

Alright, the longer I linger here, the less revision I'm getting done, so that's it! I'm out of here! Here is the latest picture from the office: 

And here's an extra shot of Artemis looking cute, because why not?

I hope spring is treating the rest of you as well as it's treating us at the moment. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Blade's Edge Around the Web...

Hey folks just a quick blog post to let you know that Blade's Edge has been getting some friendly press this past week!

First of all, it received a lovely, eloquent, and thoughtful review from Jason Crawford over on his blog (as well on amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble).

And second of all, I was interviewed by the lovely and talented Joanna Ruth Meyers about being an indie author -- and of course Blade's Edge came up. You can check that out on her blog by clicking here. In addition, if you check out the latest post on her blog, you can read the entire story of her journey to signing with an agency (exciting news that culminated last week). If you're an aspiring traditional author it's well worth a read, and it's an interesting story even if you're not. :-)

I think that's it for Blade's Edge getting press recently. I'll post something with a little more substance later this week. Is it spring everywhere else yet? We've had some lovely weather the past few days and I've been itching to go for a run...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How to feel alone in a room full of people...

It happens to all of us. Or, well, I think it does. I'm just extrapolating based on my own experience and what other people have said to me, but my guess is it happens to most of us at some point or another, and some of us more often than most...

You're standing in a room full of people, doesn't matter how many really, maybe twelve, maybe fifty, maybe five hundred. Lots of people. It should be impossible to feel alone with so many people around you, and yet...

These people are all there for the same reason that you are, maybe it's a party and you were all invited, maybe it's an event and you're all supporting the same cause, maybe it's a concert and you all like the same band. There's a reason to talk with, and connect with, every person in this room. You could probably find one thing in common with everyone in here, even if it's only the color of socks you're wearing but...

Humans can connect so easily, all it takes is a shared moment -- eye contact, a smile, a few words exchanged, a hug, a kiss, a pat on the shoulder. It doesn't take much. And yet, in a room full of people, all capable of that kind of contact, all seeking it...

We often don't take the time to make the connection. Or, we find it unimportant. Or, we are too focused on the people we already feel connected to, to include the person who just walked in. Conversely, we can walk into a room and feel so overwhelmed by the connections already established that we feel there's no way to break in and form our own.

These people are already talking and having a good time, I don't want to interrupt them.

No one here even sees me.

How can any of these people relate to me?

Oddly enough, it can happen even when people we know are in the room, people we normally feel comfortable engaging with. Until they look up and make a connection we feel impossibly isolated.

Then, like magic, someone we know -- or sometimes someone we don't know -- looks up and catches our eye, and the spell is broken. A smile forms on someone else's lips and we are drawn in. Now we are part of the connection and we can share in the human contact. A hug, or a greeting, change everything, and suddenly we are part of the group.

What changed? We are the same people we were moments before. How did I go from being all alone to being surrounded by people?

A look, a smile, a greeting, a hug... contact. Humans crave it. Even the most solitary of us, long for it occasionally. Small things. Such small things. And suddenly a room full of strangers becomes a room full of people. And despite how dreadful strangers can be, people are welcoming and kind.

See someone standing alone? Say hi, smile, shake hands, make contact. We've all been that person. Offer them a connection and see where it goes.