Last week the University of Aberdeen had a festival called “Being Human.” Unfortunately, I was only able to go to one event, a lecture on time, time machines, and the Victorians by one of my professors. It was good research for a book idea I’ve had for years that hasn’t quite gelled yet. The festival also had and interview with Will Self, a talk on Viking funeralscapes, an informal “Skeptics at the Pub” event, and more. I really wanted to go to a talk on the history of disability, and another on terrors, gods, and magic in the north, but between part-time day job, existing studies, and the fact that I was away in Glasgow Thursday and Friday meant that I couldn’t go.
This week is Book Week Scotland. I’m a Patron of Reading for the Aberdeen City Library, so a letter to the library I wrote will be on display within at least one branch, I think. There are some great events on both through the public library and at the University of Aberdeen library, though again, due to the semester nearing an end and the day job needing me for extra hours this week, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to attend any. I’d like to go to the historical crime event on Saturday, and I’m going to at least look at the miniature books on display before my lecture tomorrow at the University library! Tonight there was a bookbinding workshop I wish I could have gone to rather than toiling on my essay. One day, I’ll have free time…! But if you’re free in Aberdeen, you should definitely pop along to some of the upcoming events if you can to celebrate books an libraries.
The Rainbow List is “a joint project of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table and the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. The Rainbow Book List presents an annual bibliography of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through eighteen years of age.”
I’ve been meaning to blog about this for ages, but over the last few months I’ve done some school visits around Aberdeen.
The Aberdeen City Council / Central Library were awarded funding for visits as part of their event #WriteCity. I visited:
– Tilly Youth Centre for their LGBT youth group
– Northfield Library for an open to the public event
– Kincorth Academy
– Harlaw Academy
– St. Machar Academy (this one was part of the Scottish Book Trust Live Literature project rather than #WriteCity)
– California State University East Bay (this was a Skype visit for my mom’s class, who’s a lecturer there. She’s been teaching Pantomime in a composition class that focuses on the theme of gender and identity for the last two quarters.)
I spoke to all the groups about my writing, both the books themselves and my publishing journey. Some of them were more discussion groups, some with a heavy emphasis on Q&A, and for others I led writing workshops and had them do some exercises. As a warm up, I made them write a 6 word story, made famous by Hemingway (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”). Another exercise I did that worked quite well was bringing in three or so objects and asking them to write something about them. Some of the things I brought: a crystal ball, a key, a small elephant figurine, a paper pantomime stage (technically the card Kim Curran gave me for Pantomime’s publication!), a spanner. It would be really interesting to see what was most popular (crystal ball and key) and what wasn’t particularly (the spanner). And also, even though say 10 people would write about the crystal ball, all the stories would be different. The people attending the events were anywhere from around 14 at the youngest, up to retired people at the public event.
Sometimes the group would share their results, and sometimes they wouldn’t. I never force them to read aloud as I know that could be detrimental to their writing confidence. Sharing your work with others is hard at the best of times, especially when it’s a first draft you’ve been asked to craft on the spot.
I am so glad Aberdeen City Council Libraries approached me, and that I’ve been approved for a few visits via the Scottish Book Trust. I have one school visit lined up next year, but now that I’m not working as much, I have time for more. If you know any teachers or librarians in Scotland interested in bringing in an author for a school visit, take a look at the Live Literature database. And, if you’d like me to come, here’s my page. The Scottish Book Trust pays half of the school fees and the travel, which makes it a lot easier for budget-strapped schools to bring in speakers. I’m hoping the students and people I spoke to enjoyed the events, as I sure did.
There is no way I’m going to win NaNoWriMo without cheating.
I thought now that I was working less I’d magically have more free time, and I do, but there’s still so much for me to do. I made really good progress in week one, but week two has been a struggle. However, I do think I can still write 50k in a month, it just won’t all be on Brainfreeze Book.
So I’ve added a little folder called “Cheating” in Screivener and I’ll copy my uni work into it. “CHEATING!” you cry. Me: “Yeah, so what?” The uni work is a lot more important to finish this month, versus rushing through a draft for a book not due until next October, and said rushing might mean a lot more work in edits down the line. I’m reaching the bit in the book where the corporate espionage kicks in. I’ve interviewed my cousin, who is basically a white hat hacker and owner of Secure DNA, which was SUPER helpful, but I still need to do more research to figure out how this next section of the plot will pan out. If I just make shit up, it’s going to stink and I’m going to have to re-write it all anyway. That’s a waste of time.
SO. I’m aiming to write at least 30k in Brainfreeze Book, which I’m well on my way to completing, and I’m also pasting in my essays and such and still updating my NaNo word count, because I’d find it disappointing to see my word count so far below the “goal”.
Every year I try NaNoWriMo, but the emphasis on word count over everything else always ends up stressing me out, and my anxiety is in overrdrive all the time anyway. I’ve tried NaNo twice before. Both books had to be thrown out completely. One is trunked forever, and the other one has a premise I love but that iteration of the book was so bad. SO VERY BAD. My best friend Erica read it and was like “…yeah, you need to throw this out and start again.” And she was so right. It was possibly one of the worst things I’d ever written, and it’s because I kept madly tapping even though I knew it was wrong. The books I write slower (first draft between 3-6 months)? Those are the ones published.
So if you struggle with NaNoWriMo, you’re far from the only one! For some people it works brilliantly. I thought this year maybe I could properly win it, since I have a detailed outline. And I probably could win it, but the draft would suck and I’d possibly fail my courses. So that’s not the way for me to go. I’m not enjoying the race, so I’m taking a different track. I’ll still probably write 50k this month, they just won’t all be on the same thing. It’s not wrong. There’s no wrong way to write, as long as you’re writing and making progress.
Background if you’re new to my blog: I’m self-publishing some short stories/novellas set in the same world as my Micah Grey series (Pantomime, Shadowplay& Masquerade). There’s going to be a bit of delay in getting Masquerade to market. These short stories/novellas are to help break up the wait and teach me about self-publishing.
This is the first month since I started chronicling these that I haven’t had a new release. So, how much did sales drop?
Answer: there is a drop, as expected, but it wasn’t as drastic as I thought it’d be. I also did a 5 day Kindle countdown for “The Tarot Reader,” which helped, but that was US only. The currency didn’t convert to be at the UK threshold level, so it didn’t work and I couldn’t run one before the Amazon exclusive ran out. Boo. But, that means that two of the four stories are now out of the exclusive time period and up on Smashwords! As I said at the top of the post, I’ve also listed “The Tarot Reader as pay what you want, which should be an interesting experiment.
Total Sales for October:
Paid (Amazon): 46
Borrowed (Amazon): 6
Paid (Smashwords): 0
Total Sales to Date: 377
Per Story in October:
“The Snake Charm”: 7 (plus one bought and refunded)
“The Fisherman’s Net”: 12
“The Tarot Reader”: 20 (15 of the sales during the Kindle Countdown deal)
“The Card Sharp”: 12 (plus one bought and refunded)
Total Sales/Borrows per Story:
“The Snake Charm”: 145 (plus 395 free ones)
“The Fisherman’s Net”: 116
“The Tarot Reader”: 76
“The Card Sharp”: 40
Total Gross Income for September: £36.97 ($58.68)
Total Gross Income to Date: £313.04 ($496.84)
Costs: £132 for 10 ISBNs
Total Net Profit: £181.04 ($287.34)
Reviews as of today:
“The Snake Charm” on GR: 48 ratings (22 reviews)
“The Snake Charm” on Amazon: 8 (US), 9 (UK)
“The Fisherman’s Net” on GR: 22 ratings (9 reviews)
“The Fisherman’s Net” on Amazon: 2 (US), 2 (UK)
“The Fisherman’s Net” on Smashwords: 0
“The Tarot Reader” on GR: 20 ratings (8 reviews)
“The Tarot Reader” on Amazon: 2 (US), 2 (UK)
“The Tarot Reader” on Smashwords: 0
“The Card Sharp” on GR: 15 ratings (8 reviews)
“The Card Sharp” on Amazon: 0 (US), 2 (UK)
As ever, if you’ve read any of the stories, leaving a short review on Goodreads/Amazon would be so greatly appreciated. Especially on Amazon/Smashwords, as it means more casual readers might pick them up. And if you’d consider purchasing one, it’d also be appreciated. All money is being earmarked for self-publishing Masquerade. So far it’s raised enough for the ISBNs and some of the costs for orders swag for the varying backing levels.
I’m still finding it an interesting experiment, though it’s not made me enough money that I’d consider writing more soon to generate a side income. It seems my time is better spent focusing on novels, or selling short stories/novellas to trade markets. Which is a shame, as I quite enjoy being able to see sales in real time, fiddle with prices, and generally have control. I’m hoping with Masquerade, because it’s a full-length book, sales will be more robust, but we’ll see.
I have a short story in the upcoming anthology from Fablecroft press, The Cranky Ladies of History, about a very cranky french pirate, Jeanne de Clisson, in the 1300s. Here’s the full table of contents. There’s some rather familiar names on there for me, which still tickles me: Jane Yolen, Garth Nix, Juliet Marillier, Nisi Shawl, Kaaron Warren, Foz Meadows, and more. I’m looking forward to sharing the story with you all soon.
Whoohoo! November may be ridiculously insane, but good news so far:
First, The Gay YA have decided to follow Pantomime as their October Book of the Month with Shadowplay as their November Book of the Month! This is super awesome. I definitely think all the amazing events in October helped Pantomime find some new readers, and now here’s hoping more follow along to the magician’s stage in Shadowplay.
There will be more discussion questions, and probably some other goodies! Yay Gay YA!
Next up, my 2016 title, False Hearts, has sold in Germany to Heyne Verlag! I took German for two years in high school so I might be able to pick out a little bit here any there. Really excited! So far False Hearts will be out in the UK, US/Canada, Italy, Germany, and more to come. *throws confetti*
This is the first week I’ve been able to really cut down my hours at work–I’ll work around 12 hours this week. But I had an extra lecture at university this week, which made things a bit more hectic. Also, evidently I am allergic to free time, as I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, as I said in this post. We’re almost a week in and I’m on track, at least so far. I’ve also written about 1500 words extra between blogging and uni work, though they don’t count (pout). I’m hoping I can keep up the pace, as I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to focus so entirely on one project, and not find excuses to do something other than put actual new words to actual paper (or screen). At the end of the month, though, I’ll have more university work to do, though, but even if I tail off, it’s a lot of headway in a book I’ve been thinking about since July.
Thanks to grad school, I read a lot in October! Mini-reviews as usual because I have All the Words to write for NaNoWriMo.
1. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë. I read this as a teen so it was fun to revisit it a decade later. Though I seriously side-eyed Rochester’s attempts at wooing. Maybe DON’T dress up as a gypsy to try and trick your crush into revealing her feelings about you. Or maybe don’t pretend to love someone else to see if your crush gets jealous. Also, maybe don’t have a hidden wife in the attic. I wrote a 2,500 word essay on fairy tale illusions in the book as well.
2. The House of Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also read for uni. The only other book by Hawthorne I’ve read was The Scarlet Letter. I enjoyed this well enough, but a lot of the characters were a little flat for me.
4. The Portrait of a Lady – Henry James. Another university read. I enjoyed it mightily at the start, thinking Isabel was lively and good fun. Then it got rather depressing as her light went out. Still well-written, but man, so long.
5. Murder Most Rare: The Female Serial Killer – Kelleher & Kelleher. Research for Brainfreeze Book. Fascinating and chilling. Serial killers are separated by type with case studies for each major type: poisoning, angel of death, crime or profit, sexual violence, team killers, etc.
6. Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn. Finally got around to reading this, just before going to see the film. Had some issues with it, but overall it was a compelling read.
7. Dirty Work – Chris Farnell. A short story anthology Chris asked me to read, which I really enjoyed.
8. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf. Also for university. My first stream of consciousness novel. I enjoyed it, and it made me want to re-watch The Hours, as I feel I’d get all the references I missed.
I’ve tried NaNoWriMo a few times in the past, and I’ve always failed. 1667 words a day consistently for 30 days is a pace hard for me to keep up. Often I didn’t plan enough before starting, so that the iteration of the novel I did two years ago had to be completely thrown out (though I’m still not giving up on the premise). I didn’t think I’d ever really try it again.
But, cue to this year. I’d just started drafting a book anyway: the option on my 2 book deal, codenamed Brainfreeze Book. I’ve finished the first draft of Masquerade and it needs to sit for a month anyway. The 31st of October marked the end of me having to work 5 days a week at the day job–I’m now ad hoc, probably working around 12-15 hours a week. I have my Masters, but the hours worked for that are flexible, since it’s mostly reading and I’m only actually in lecture 4 hours a week. I might never have this much free time in November again, or be right at the start of drafting a project, with lots of planning and research collected over the last few months.
I cheated a bit by adding the few words I already had on the project to day 1’s total, as that way I can easily update the word count with the total project. Though it would be nice to win properly, at least once. But at the same time, I have a bunch of school projects due around December 5th, it’s the run up to Christmas, and I have a long weekend booked in Glasgow for my husband’s birthday. I’ll aim to get to around 54k to make up for it, but even if say I only make it to 50k in total, that’s fine by me. Or really, as long as I made headway in this draft, I’m happy.
Best of luck to anyone else trying this insane thing!