Inspiration Files for NaNoWriMo

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It’s day 5 of NaNoWriMo and I’m over 10,000 words in to a new Romance series I’ve been rolling around in my head for several years now.  As I write, I am imagining some of my favorite locations along the North Shore of Boston (like the photo above which I took at Halibut Point State Park).

I was going to finish the fourth book in the Relic Hunter Series, but life’s been a bit stressful these past few years and I decided to make this year the year of relaxation writing.  You see, that’s how this whole writing thing started for me.  I began to seriously write in order to deal with conflict I had between wanting adventures and the current state of my life at the time which prevented me from having adventures.  My elderly dog was diabetic and blind – so the summer adventures we’d always shared as a family were put on hold for the dog’s comfort.  I don’t regret those precious moments I spent with my husband and our dog in the air-conditioned comfort of our home; those long summer days with Sandy gave life to the Relic Hunter series.

So this year, I decided to go back to my roots and begin writing in a new genre – not only for the escapism pleasure of my readers – but as therapy for myself.  Through writing, I can revisit some of my favorite places in the world – places where I have been happiest and most at peace – and then give those emotions to my characters.  In a way, I am vicariously living through my characters (and at times re-living), but isn’t that the goal of every writer?

At the end of November I will have finished my novel.  I’m not 100% sure of the title yet, but I know the series will be sub-titled “A Mulligan’s Cove Romance”.  If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, look me up – I could always use a few writing buddies!

Leigh

Coming Soon….

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As I prep for NaNoWriMo, I thought it was time I finished a Relic Hunter Short that I’ve been working on for a while.  I just got the cover done…What do you think???

This Gang is just…AWESOME!

I love it when one of my favorite author sites features me as the author of the day.  If you’re an indie (like me) or a traditionally published author then check out AwesomeGang for promotions and their features.  They’re really an incredible site devoted to promoting all authors (and most of the authors help promote other authors and give such generous advice).  It’s really amazing and here’s their website link Awesome Gang and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter and even on Pinterest!

Researching Magic

Although I primarily write fantasy, there’s a great deal of research which goes into the creation of my stories.  I suppose I could simply make up the entire thing, but I love legends and mythology so I actually enjoy the research.  That research has given me new ideas and taken my characters to places I couldn’t have imagined!

Along with a pretty extensive collection of legends, I admit I’m addicted to Wikipedia.  While I do look up specific objects on that site, I also click on the sources below the articles.  It is through these external links that I have found on-line library collections of 16th century illuminated manuscripts and a little known compilation of Native American legends.  Being a writer when there’s such a vast wealth of knowledge available is exhilarating.

The creation of magical powers is another part of my stories, and I spent hours developing it for my first book and more time increasing my knowledge since then.  I have read books on magic and herbal healing, mostly those written by modern practitioners of the craft – and while I’m not a witch – as an author, I like to have some basis in reality for my stories.  Many cultures have a strong tradition of herbal and crystal healing and those areas find their way into my work as well.   I have expanded on those resources to develop my own brand of magic.  I like spending a few moments flipping through my dictionaries of healing herbs and crystals to get some inspirtaion for my stories.  Sometimes, I write my characters into impossible situations that I have no solution for – a few flips through one of my resources sometimes turns up the perfect answer or at least gives me a grain of knowledge that I can expand into a viable solution.

All of the research gets filed into my brain, or scribbled onto index cards, or typed into documents that lurk on my computer. That process makes writing as much about learning as about creating a story.  I think that’s the thing that keeps my reader interested – there’s really something to learn hidden in my stories.  I know the research and learning is what keeps me interested as a writer – there’s so much out there that I feel like I’ll never run out of fuel for my stories.

Marketing strategies should match your real goals as an indie author.

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I feel guilty every time I log onto Facebook.  Another author I know is constantly posting to pages – all sorts of pages – and I get notified every time it happens.  It makes me feel inefficient.  I might post a couple times a week – to a select few sites – and 90% of the time, I’m just commenting on something instead of posting about my books.  It’s the same on Twitter.  My blog posts are generally related to being an indie author because posting about my books usually doesn’t occur to me.  Obviously, the other author and I have different goals.

As an indie, not only do I write books, I have to coordinate the cover design (or do it myself), editor, formatting, and promotion of my work.  If that isn’t enough of a to-do list, I have to maintain my online presence on my blog(s), Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon (including the international sites).  I’m pulled in ninety directions just to launch my book.   BOOK – as in singular product.

Yes, it would be great to launch one book and have it succeed beyond my wildest expectations – but how much better would it be to have three or four books which were earning money?   What about nine or ten?

That’s my real issue as an indie author.  Do I want to launch one book – investing all of my time and profits in that singular work (because I can advertise it all over the place for a fee), or do I keep my focus on writing my next book?  I choose option B – because my goal is to write many books.  I don’t even want to write just one series.  I want to write and market in the most efficient way possible for me.  It needs to be a way that meets my goals as an indie.

So what makes a marketing strategy effective for me?

It has to be quick.  I’m not interested in posting to fifteen sites every day because on a good day, I only have an hour or two of solid writing time.  If I’m marketing for five or ten hours a week, I have no time to write the next book.  If I had more time to market, I might…but it’s equally possible that I would just devote that time to writing more.

It has to be fun.  As an indie, I have a wonderful opportunity to create the career I want without having to conform to the conventions that make traditional work…well, work.  Feeling like I have to do something sucks all of the joy out of it and then I just avoid the task.

It has to be low-cost or even free.  At this point, I’m just not interested in spending all of my profit on marketing.   I’d much rather spend it on cover design (which might be marketing in some people’s eyes) or another service that frees me up so I can write more.  What brings in money is book sales – and I’ve noticed that the thing that boosts sales is running a promotion – free or 99 cents – and letting other people do the marketing for me.  I’m amazed every time I do a free or 99 cent promotion and find out I have more mentions on Twitter…it’s free marketing!

Indie authors need to decide what their goal is.  Mine is to spend as much time as possible writing books.  I love the process.  I love the quiet escape writing provides.  I love being able to do it around the rest of my life.  I also want to publish two books a year.  If I don’t keep that goal in mind, then I start to feel the pressure to market, market, market – and if I’m doing that, then I’m not going to meet my real goal.

As to the frequent posting of books some other authors do, I’m sure it’s fun for them and they have the time to devote to it.  The challenge for me has been to create what I want, in a way it works for me, and without comparing myself to other authors who have different objectives.  By keeping my goals in mind, I’m maintaining focus so I can achieve my aim without feeling that I should be doing something that takes me away from the thing I love doing.

Writing as therapy

Sometimes (like today), I get up at the crack of dawn because I’m simply too stressed out to sleep.  Life’s like that – long periods of status quo where it seems as if everything is flowing along like a peaceful river and then you’re suddenly going through the rapids in an innertube, clinging to irrational hope that the roaring you hear in the distance isn’t a giant waterfall.

Those moments of “Oh, crap – here we go!” are what fuel my writing.  For those of you who’ve read my books, you know that my characters find themselves charging forward despite those little voices in their heads that say “I’d rather be taking a nap on the couch” or even “this wasn’t such a good idea.”  That’s what life is all about.  There are days when you can nap, and days when you just need to deal with the insurmountable tasks you feel ill equiped to handle.  You can’t crumble and you can’t hide from those challenges – the only thing you can do is move through them, trying to trust the fact that your talents and skills will serve you well.

For me, my ability to make a mental escape into another place has been a skill which has kept me from twisting into a giant stress ball and rolling into a nice, dark closet to wait out the catastrophe.  Sure, I can’t sleep a lot of nights, but I can get up and lose myself in Arienne’s next adventure, or I can relish Cleo’s self-serving “me first” attitude, or I can help Caly figure out what the clues mean.  Those breaks from the reality give me time to decompress and solving a complicated plot twist is so satisfying that it gives me hope I can solve the gnarled tangled that my own life sometimes becomes.

Writing is my escape.  I can point to situations in my books and think “Oh, right – that’s when x happened” and I can remember the particular emotion or issue that was playing in the back of my mind when I first sat down to write a specific chapter.  Those exact situations aren’t in my book, but I can think of times when (like Arienne) I was facing a giant obstacle and felt too overwhelmed to work out the solution until that little voice in my head spoke up (like Gonishen did) and said “Just think.  You know the answer to this.”

That’s what a book should do.  Take you out of your current situation and bring you somewhere where you can solve messy problems and feel like no matter how bad things get, there’s a solution and everthing you’ve learned up until that point has been to prepare you to find that solution and keep moving forward.  I think of my readers when I write – I want to take you on a journey to an interesting place with people who feel just as overwhelmed and inadequate as the rest of the world does but after an adventure, I want to bring you safely home feeling like just maybe, a happy ending is always possible.

The moment that converted me to a Scrivener User

I’m not a linear writer – my main frame of the story is pretty set when I begin hammering out chapter 1, but then the twists and turns take me many places.  I had read about Scrivener but thought much of what it contained would be useless fluff.  I decided to give it a shot, though, and downloaded the free trial (you can get that here:  http://www.literatureandlatte.com).  I played with it for two days, basically ignoring the handy user guide – I’m more of a hands-on girl and way too impatient to work my way through a guide 🙂

My initial assessment was that the learning curve would be relatively steep, but I decided to try it for my next book and actually use the program the way it was intended.  Before we get to those details, here’s a little background:

I used to write in WordPerfect then in Word.  My manuscript was one document with long blank spaces where I had to work on joining two sections together.  Some days, I write the ending, other days I change the beginning, sometimes I have a random idea I stick in the middle of a section so I won’t lose it. When I changed something important that I’d mentioned earlier in the manuscript, I’d have to hunt around the document to find the section I needed to rework then go back and continue writing.  The constant back and forth made me read brief sections of my text over and over – that is a total enthusiasm killer for me because it was so distracting.

My ideas usually come to me in the early morning before I even bother to get out of bed, or (worse) in the middle of the night.  When I hit an issue in the plot where I have something to resolve I fall asleep trying to think of ways to work it out.  When I wake up in the morning I spend a few minutes still  trying to resolve the issue and sometimes it’s so clear that I rush out of bed and flip on the laptop.  I add the new thought to the bottom of the manuscript and figure I’ll find the exact place to put it later – this is how I create larges blank spaces in my document…and I lose things that way.

Yesterday morning, I resolved a huge issue in my next book (A Whisper of Feathers).  I jumped out of bed, raced to the laptop and opened my Scrivener document.  I used my index cards on the cork board – RIGHT IN THE PROGRAM – to find the right section of the story and banged out the resolved issue in a brand new chapter.  I have an outline of my book sitting right on the screen – it’s generated from my index cards so I know where I’m going and how long I have to get there. I have index cards for ideas, documents with character and setting sketches and the ability to take some ideas and throw them from Book 1 of the series into Book 2 or 3.

My chapters are labeled with the main event so I can easily find things. My cork board is filled with ideas and I can move them around as I see fit or as the story changes. All of those capabilities have made me a diehard Scrivener fan. It has given me organization in a way I can actually use it to drive my story. It has enabled me to spend those days where I don’t feel like writing just pinning index cards to my virtual cork board so when I do feel capable of writing long passages, I have a place to put them and ideas about where they’ll fall in the story.

I haven’t compiled the chapters into a manuscript for publishing yet, but so far the program has exceeded my expectations. I honestly didn’t think “writing software” could actually make me a better writer – but it did because it enables me to write the way my brain works and the software lets me put things together in a logical order and then easily rearrange it if necessary. If you want to buy the software (currently $40.00) you can click on the logo below and be taken to Amazon.com. If you’re a writer, I recommend trying it. I didn’t think I’d be a convert, but I am! 51msMSey69L._SL1000_

But I just want to write!

Being an indie author requires me to market and I keep trying to fall in love with marketing.  I know that’s the key to book sales, the way to get people to know about my books, and the way to gain new readers – but some of the easiest things to do are just a giant waste of time.  It seems like spending 30 minutes a day on marketing leaves me with 30 fewer minutes to write so I’ve decided to cull the daily marketing activities so I have fewer things to do (and hence, more time to actually WRITE).

Since I think those 30 minutes could be better spent writing (short pieces, press releases, mastering Scrivener etc.) I am going to cull my marketing herd and stick to the basics:  Tweeting the reviews I get, maintaining presence in on-line author rooms, and updating my blog more frequently.

In the spirit of this new focus, here’s what I’ve been up to as an AUTHOR:

I’ve started working on my new trilogy – Feathered Justice.  The first book should be ready in a few months to go to my Beta-Readers and I’ll be working on a cover in the next few weeks (I always seem to write better when I have the cover done!).

I’m finishing my submission in a dog anthology – it’s tentatively titled “The Dogs of Summer” and it’s a touching and funny story about how one family (mine) rearranged their entire lives around old dogs – and how much they seemed to appreciate the effort!

Arienne is busy relaxing the Berkshires at the moment (I hear she’s getting dumped on by yet another snow storm) but she’ll be back soon – this time she’ll have another adventure with Coyote and Basir (because one of my readers told me she loves Basir and wants to see more of him and Ka’Tehm!).  I’m not sure where her adventure will take her, but I know it’ll be great fun.  You might also want to keep your eyes open for some new covers for the Relic Hunter Series.  Tattered Shadows has a new look, Fortunes Bought and Sold is up next in the make-over department and then possibly a new set for the Relic Hunter Series – most of this self-publishing thing is really trial and error, so I think new covers might be in order.

In the meantime, I’m off to write!

My first review for Legendary Magic (Relic Hunter Book 3)

LM Image 2E with TextI just got my first review for Legendary Magic and I couldn’t be happier! It made my day! Here it is:

“I have been reading this author since 2012. I absolutely love her books. I feel as though I’ve been brought into the world she is writing about. This most recent book was fantastic. I highly recommend this book for sitting next to the fire drinking a glass of Irish Mist!” written by Taraharp on Amazon.com.

Come on, it’s snowing – don’t you want to sit by the fire with a glass of Irish Mist and escape on a magical adventure? I know you do…