Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Murder of Marketing

There is a future in self publishing. If nothing else, self publishing gives you almost complete control over your books. However, it comes with a heavy price. Marketing. I feel like I am constantly drowning, trying to prove that I am a real author without being published. Only a few people know that I have always been a writer at heart.

I should start saying my blood type is ink.

I can't survive *not* writing. I *really* don't like trying to prove this to other people, in part, because I must prove to myself that writing is a legitimate career, and that I am a real writer, even though I am not yet published. CBMusicworks (husband) tries to remind me all the time that I am, in fact, a writer. He tells people that his wife is a writer. This still boggles my mind. I fall into my complex of "Who's really going to believe that I have what it takes to do what I love?"

Why is that? What is it that makes me have such low confidence?

I can only answer part of that question. The first part has to do with the many roles I must play in my life.

My writer's role wars with my mother's role, and sometimes with my wife's role. My writer's role wars with just about everything else most people think of as "normal" in society.

It requires me to be alone a lot, which at the moment, is nigh impossible. It requires more money than I have to actually do location research and beyond. *sigh* It requires me to bear my soul, to strangers.

It requires me to write alone after writing with my co-writer for 10 years. This is a requirement because I want to publish and my co-writer does not. My co-writer is my muse. I will never give him up, but I do need to expand my horizons.

So why the low confidence? It's a matter of exploring the unknown. I like taking risks, but I am very cautious about which risks I take. However, I am getting better at just plugging my nose and diving into the deep end.

This year I have gained a lot of confidence after doing NaNoWriMo two years in a row, and finding my footing in social networking a little more. I am finding new and exciting ways to do location research. I am diligently working on a novel that takes place (finally) in the world I have been wanting to write. Also, I am beginning to not fear feedback as much. *shudder* I am posting some of my short stories, which are similar in flavor to my novel in progress. This is frightening because it opens myself up to that terrifying feedback.

Overall, it's a journey, and I love to travel in all forms. And because I now have a new dream for how to get my writer's retreat; here's my little plug for Amtrak's new plan to have Writers in Residence on their trains. How cool is that!? I want to make this happen so much! I love trains and this would be *perfect*.

My writing will always be a part of me. I look forward to sharing with the rest of the world someday, but I'll still be taking some baby steps along that path for awhile. More importantly, I will be struggling along the path in my own way. There won't be many people who can tell me how to make my book(s) happen. I get too overwhelmed with the extreme number of options out there. Along with my novel(s), I have to make this marketing thing up as I go along.

I'll leave you with some words of wisdom on marketing and choosing a publisher avenue from Lynn Viehl and the National Novel Writing Month Blog.

"How you pick your pub is a business decision, not an illustration of your character, a demonstration of your ego, or a yardstick to size your IQ. If you view publication as an industry (which it is) you’re basically opting to either work with an established company (traditional) or set up your own business (independent.) My advice is to set your priorities, educate yourself, choose what’s right for you and stick with it—like a pit bull, in cleats." - Lynn Viehl  Since her debut in 2000, New York Times bestselling author Lynn Viehl has published 47 novels in 8 genres, and is the host of Paperback Writer, a popular publishing industry weblog featuring writing advice, market info and free resources for writers. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

I'm on Fire!

Ok well, not really, but I feel like I do sometimes.

I'm kind of high on the word count right now. I managed despite a screeching parakeet (who knows how much it hurts my ears), a 4 year old who is practicing to be a professional banshee with her own screaming, many pets, and numerous other distractions (ahem, Pinterest, Twitter, email...)

I'm rocking 12K in the last three days. Yeah, baby!

I need to publicly thank my family. If it weren't for my husband, Mark, I definitely wouldn't be able to function like a human being. My kids are awesome and not online (at least not that I'm sharing), and even when they drive me crazy, I still get things done. It's difficult and not the most fun of lessons, but it is possible to give yourself *your* time.

So if you're having a hard time with your word count, or breaking through that wall, you *will* get there. I know you will. If something is really getting you down, I have discovered that doing a different creative project does, in fact, let your subconscious work on your writing project.

I would also like to thank Julie Hutchings, J. Elizabeth Hill, Kristen Strassel, Chris Allen-Riley, Kristen Jett, Fiona Chapman, Megan Paasch, Summer Heacock, Jen Naumann, Katie Hayoz and all of my good Twitter friends for backing me up as I broke through this wall. Since I am not really Chuck Norris, I need all the help I can get. Love you guys! Honestly, if I didn't surround myself with the writers on Twitter, I don't think I could have made my most recent launch into creative efforts. It might be a weird network, but it's a good one!

This is my sneaky way of promoting people. Please check out the authors and creative people above. You can follow us all on Twitter to keep tabs on what we're up to.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Writing Exercise

This might not be an original idea. I highly suspect it was buried deep in my subconscious, after practicing it a long time ago in my college creative writing course. In any case, it emerged again last night.

The exercise: Take your main characters (and your side characters too, if you want) and find their opposite selves... for example: You have a female protagonist. Who would she be if she were male instead? And vice versa with a male character. Simple really.

You could be as elaborate as you want. Fill out a character profile sheet for the male version of your female, or just find a male actor who your female character would look like. And vice versa. You could do this all day. It's not only a great way to get to know your characters, it's a distraction from that looming scene you've been trying to write. It might even give you some insight for the scene.

Choose the traits you like from the yin side to add to your character's yang and you've got a deeper character. You can do this with same sex versions too. It's merely an exercise in opposites so you get a well rounded character.

It's a project I am still working on. Here's a small example. Marilyn is inspiration for my female protagonist. She would be Paul Newman if she were male.

Now go have fun with some extra curricular character development! Feel free to share your insights in the comments below! 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Little Background

Pinterest is where I hoard all the photos that inspire the hell out of me. It's what you're supposed to do there, after all. 

Right now, a particular board is very important to me. It's my current WIP board. It's changed names three times and descriptions more than that. We're talking serious Work In Progress.

I will be the first person to tell you that I don't know a thing about self marketing, branding or any of the stuff that is proclaimed to be the best way for "getting your book out there." I kind of ignore things and go about it my own way. If I don't, I get overwhelmed.

In doing things my own way, I have Twitter and Pinterest, and will never have Facebook. I might sneak into reddit once in awhile. Three cheers for the rebel in me! I should probably never use the word never. Anyway, I was going to tell you a little background on my WIP board

If you visit, it looks like a hodgepodge. That's intentional, even beyond the nature of Pinterest. I am cryptic when it comes to giving away my secrets. I'd like to say I am mysterious, but cryptic is probably the better word. This board has my main characters in it, and it looks like the board of a crazy fangirl, somewhat. There's a reason for that. 

Good lord, those British actors (and a few of our domestic ones) inspire me like nothing else, and they happen to fit super well for the all star cast in my head. I promise things will be revealed a little bit as I develop them, or I might just leave things up to your imagination. Books are better for that sometimes, right?

What do you have to look forward to? 

Well, hopefully a series of books that will knock your socks off with a little bit of noir, a little bit of blood, a little bit of murder, a goodly portion of conflict, romance, adventure and a whole lot of sex appeal. 

I hope you'll keep watching my board to see how things develop! Hell, I'll keep watching my board to see how they develop. Gosh, don't the photos on this post tell quite a story already? What do you think it will be? Who will get the girl? ;)

If you want more to hunt down, my short stories are over here. The stories are just a taste. As novels are wont to do, they will have a slightly different flavor, but be all the more tasty for the effort. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Case of Miss Kitty and the Thief

Inspired by a new Twitter friend, here's another short story that takes place in my WIP world. This is a tale from my MC's past, a prelude of sorts. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real life is coincidental and all of that. Links are provided with most of the photos. Many thanks to web folks from whom I pilfered photos. 

The Case of Miss Kitty and the Thief
by Shanah Wooldrage © 2014

I was once the victim of fraud. The worst part about it was that I kind of liked it. My illustrious career as a finder of things was not always so pure, you see. When you're looking for lost things, you run into a lot of other people's treasures. You also run into a lot of people who want other people's things. 

I needed money and I was low on cases, and didn't have a day job. You know, the hard luck story. This run down castle of mine, believe it or not, was even more of a pit before this adventure. I was endeavoring to improve matters when my exploits began.

I never knew his name, and I will always think of him as The Thief. He stole the item he wanted me to find, and he stole my heart. Sappy, right? The lines for a bad romance novel. Cue Lady Gaga. Anyway, I was dumb then, and thought I could show off. I succeeded in both showing off and being dumb. 

Let's see…what had I been doing the day The Thief walked into my life? Oh yeah, I was going through some of my late father's papers in the library. I had just finished planning out how I was going to turn my drafty Dracula's castle into a cozy cottage, and was looking for the blueprints of the place. My dad had lovingly designed the castle for my mother…out here, in the middle of nowhere. Midwest. USA. Wisconsin. Where the closest village was called Rooster Bush. It was always fun to tell people my alma mater. 

Incidentally, it is still called Rooster Bush and I still live in the castle lovingly built and consequently destroyed by my father and his wise investments turned sour. That's another story. I was looking for the blueprints so I could give them over to the contractors who were kind enough to offer me a remodeling estimate. 

I had my platinum blonde hair tied up in a scarf. I was wearing my oldest, most faded, most full of holes, pair of jeans. Several cobwebs were accessorizing my torn t-shirt and my head. I was cleaning and digging through the really old stuff. That's when I heard the doorbell echoing through the cavernous entrance hall. Every castle had to have one. 

Wiping back a strand of hair, and a few hundred sticky webs, I stretched from my squat in front of dad's trunk and tottered stiffly to my front door. Opening the door revealed the sexiest salesman I had ever seen. We must have stared at each other for five minutes before even uttering a greeting. I am not ashamed to say he looked like one of my favorite actors, and he was staring at me like I was his next starlet. 

"Uh…I'm sorry." He brushed his hand over his receding, but saucily still wavy, hair and blinked his sea foam greenish blue eyes at me. 

Wrong starlet, I guess. "Oh, um, may I help you?" I tried not to sound too hopeful.

"Huh?" He was still staring at me. 

"May I help you? You know?" I nodded toward his briefcase. I had to nod twice. "Proclaiming my saved soul? Or maybe selling some life insurance? I assure you I could probably use both." 

He coughed a chuckle. "Uh, well, no actually I am here to see Miss Katherine Montrose, and I just thought, well, I kind of thought I was looking at Marilyn Monroe…a grubby one, certainly, but all the same." 

That's when it hit me he had a British accent, was calling me Marilyn Monroe, and my knees were feeling pretty liquified. "Uh huh..heh, well yeah I guess I do bare a certain resemblance." I patted my cobwebbed shrouded scarf and tugged back some more locks of hair. "It's natural…"

He had stepped into the foyer, or whatever the heck people called my entrance thing. "What?" He eyeballed me with a raised eyebrow. 

"Uh, my hair…" I blushed like a fool. "Never mind…Ok so you're looking for Katherine Montrose and not Marilyn Monroe. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I am Katherine and *not* Marilyn." 

The man, who had not introduced himself, just blinked at me some more. "Uh, right… ok…so, I would like to hire you." 

I stared at him. "Oh…well, I am uh…" Crap. I really did need the money, but I was promising myself a few weeks off to get things in order for the remodelers. This was a big castle, after all. I studied my guest and noticed his clothes were expensive, his hair product or cologne smelled expensively spicy and his boots were clean. He had not been in Rooster Bush long. "So…" I gestured to my library door. "Please, come in and sit down." 

What followed was a long drawn out conversation in my library with me jumping up to fetch coffee and my guest, who I will call Jude, since he looked like a stand-in for the actor Jude Law, told me about the item he wanted me to find. 

At the end of his story, which involved hijackers, the black market, art collectors and a few religious fanatics, I was staring at a photo of an artifact. It was a jeweled bauble, said to have belonged to some saint of something or other. I understood the religious fanatics' involvement. "And you say it has been in your family for years…" I murmured, my doubt obvious. 

"Yes, that's right."
I pulled myself away from imagining him in a Victorian suit and cravat and eyed him. "Well, I'll have to do my research." 
"Of course." 
"And we will have to make up a contract." 
If he purred at me any more I would write up any old thing into a contract that would make Rumplestiltskin proud. "Right, ok…"
"You've got some idea then?" 
"Pardon?" I was catching onto his British cadence and word choices. 
"For finding it. You have some idea?"
I glanced down at the bauble that looked like some kind of princely plaything. "Yeah. Actually I do know where to look for it." 
"Oh my god, that's fantastic." 

I raised an eyebrow. "Yeah. I guess so…I do make mistakes sometimes…" I didn't want to give him an overinflated idea of my abilities. "I'll still have to do some research. There will be travel expenses, uh, insurance, transport, that kind of thing…"

"Of course," The Thief said. 

I shook my head. I probably was a goner right then, and shouldn't have convinced myself of his resemblance to the British actor, but then he thought I looked like a spider web covered Marilyn Monroe, so I decided not to keep score. "You've got an awful lot of confidence in me for never having done business with me before." I ventured there. I didn't want to, but I needed to know his background. 

Maddeningly, he responded with something along the lines of "You come highly recommended, Miss Montrose." 
I replied with equal flippancy. "Call me Kit." 

A broad smile widened his handsome face and I melted into the palm of his hand.

The weeks that followed took me back to my nomadic childhood. Jude and I traveled to Rome. We visited Spain and the Riviera. Greece, France, Germany…He wined and dined me all in the name of research, and I was hot on the trail of his jeweled ball. Ahem…er, yeah…the artifact. 

Anyway, it was one of the more romantic adventures, of course. I found the bauble. It was….where was it? Oh yeah, it was hidden in some chamber of an idyllic ruin of a chapel buried under brambles in Scotland. The thing had a crazy lifespan. I handed it over. He handed me a check. We kissed goodbye and I never saw my fantasy Jude again. 

Nope, instead I went back to Rooster Bush, Wisconsin and my drafty castle, which was somehow nowhere near as fabulous as the places The Thief and I had explored. I was subsequently arrested. 

My one and only arrest, I assure you! Captain Reginald Gallagher, good old Reg, camped out in my library. His boots were resting on my dad's papers, his arms were folded, and he had a big grin on his face. When he said "caught ya" I nearly threw my suitcase at him. The jerk. 

I went through all kinds of questioning. I told the whole story, and Judge Hilary couldn't prove I had any previous knowledge the bauble was stolen property. It had merely been placed where my thief couldn't find it. His partner had double crossed him, apparently. He had given me no indication whatsoever about the truth, of course. He hadn't even given me his real name. I think he was amused that we went on calling each other Jude and Marilyn. It was a whirlwind romance and a job for me, that was all. Fortunately, Judge Hilary believed me, while Captain Reg "Regulations By the Book", police chief of Rooster Bush, wanted me behind bars or to be his own personal crime dog. 

"Anyone who can find a piece of stolen antique junk, thousands of miles from where its thief thought it was supposed to be, needs to be on the police force." 

He tells me this weekly, if not daily. Depends on if I see him at the coffee shop or not. 

I've mostly forgotten the adventure with my thief. It probably would have made a good film. Jude Law would look pretty good with a platinum blonde on his arm. And yes, it is natural.