Wednesday, February 29, 2012

How to enter a book contest without having an anxiety attack.

Contests for authors are a tricky thing...especially for new and independent (aka, non-rich) authors. You have to have either a lot of faith in the worth of your book, or a lot of money that you're okay never seeing again.

Case in point: Today I took a leap and entered HOLIDAY CHICK into the IndieReader Discovery Awards. It's $150 to enter a book into a main category, and $50 for each additional category you may wish to also enter said book into. Even if you don't win, your book will be read by an esteemed panel of agents, publishers, managers, and a bunch of other kids who can help take your writing career to the next level AND you're guarenteed a review on IndieReader (kind of a big deal. In the olden days, authors paid big bucks for them to review a book. Now you just take your chances by sending your book in and hope that someone likes it enough to review it instead of throwing it into a pile to langish for years). The only sad news is that if you win, you're not guarenteed a deal (but let's face it - if the panel liked your book enough to award you a winner...you're gonna get signed by someone).

As you can probably figure out, this contest is a pretty fail-safe one to enter your first time out. With other contests, if you don't win? You're out some serious change, so much so that even the esteemed ones can seem like a racket. But with IndieReader, even if you lose, that $150 still gets a review and your book studied by people you otherwise would have to pound the digital pavement to even get an email read by them. But I was still a little scared, last night, as I chatted with Chris about it on IM. Would it be worth it? Did I really want to spend $150 on a book contest? Would that $150 maybe be better spent on Facebook ads or other marketing stuff or maybe...getting new brakes for my car or something? But Chris, being a filmmaker, related that it was a lot like film festivals - they require entry fees and there's never any guarentee that you're going to get anything out of it, no matter how awesome you might think your film is. But you gotta put up the dough, because it's an investment in your future, and an investment in your craft. And if I believe in HOLIDAY CHICK - and I do - then it's time to put my money where my mouth is.

So! We'll find out in June if the judges and reviewers liked HOLIDAY CHICK, or if they were all just a bunch of cycnical assholes who hate awesome stories about going down the rabbit hole when it comes to God, sex, and hot skateboarders.

What about you guys? Anyone out there enter a contest similar to this? Did you kind of die a little inside when you finalized the entry fee? Or was it the best thing you've ever done? I'll also be checking out some other contests this year to see what's up - I'M GONNA DOMINATE THE INDIE AUTHOR CIRCUIT, YOU GUYS - so if you know of any favorites or total-rip-offs, gimme the heads up. Unless you want to keep the contest a secret so you can win it all yourselves. I totally get that, because I'd probably do that, too.

*Sorry if you came here expecting a "How To" list of how to enter book contests. But there's a billion articles like that to be found on a Google Search, and they're all kind of boring, so you should maybe be happy that you got to read this instead. But just in case: 1) Read the contest directions. 2) Follow them. 3) The End.

Snow-in!

After the big Birkie weekend, I stayed up north to dog-sit for my parents until they got back from their trip late this evening. 

Something tells me that I may not make it back home tomorrow.








Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No one on The Bachelor ever says, "I came here to make friends." I would, though. If I went on The Bachelor. Which I won't, because I have a boyfriend. Which, by the way, did you guys realize that having a boyfriend means you can't try out for The Bachelor? Chris just informed me of this last week. I can't even go on the show just to stir the pot amongst the girls, of which I would do AN AMAZING JOB AT.

Cords.

I missed Holly's Last Night Out. And I haven't seen the full crew of Bausch and Slawson in over a month, probably longer. And everything seems to fall on the weekend that you're going to be out of town. 

Catching up on my Tumblr feed tonight, I felt the first real pangs of remorse for having moved up here. It was fleeting and temporary - I know I made the right choice - but something about something someone wrote made me wonder if I had stayed too long. If the connections had become too frayed to ever pull tight again. I remembered standing on a sidewalk a couple of years ago and inwardly scoffing at the news from one of my best friends that he barely heard from another friend now that they had moved across the country. "It would never be like that, with us," I remembered thinking. "If I moved or if he moved, we would text and email and visit all the time." Nope. They were busy and I was busy, and... I used to get really irritated with friends whom I felt had that "out of sight, out of mind" mentality. Now sometimes I wonder if that's now me...I get so distracted and swept up and buried under sometimes. And I worry about being a good friend, because I don't always do a perfect job even though it's far and away one of the most important things in my entire life. Friendship. It's weird, right? Autumn and I can go years without seeing each other and months without talking, yet by the time we've finished saying "hello" on the phone it feels like she's sitting right across from me and no time has passed at all. And I'm lucky, for that and for her, as well as for the other friendships I have that carry that same, always-bonded quality.

And then there's other friends that I get irritated with because they give me guilt trips about being gone but seem to have yet to realize that the gates to the North are not locked and that they let just about anyone into the city limits of Hayward and Cable these days, and so if they miss me that much, maybe instead of nagging me about my next visit they can come and see me this time. And that's the part that stings, you know? Because it could go either way: It could either make you realize the hard truth about you and them - that maybe you're not really as close as you thought, maybe they're more important to you than you are to them, and is that okay? Is that how you want it? Or should this be a clearing out, a resolution, a making way for a new friendship where you don't have to ask that question? - or it could be an opening of the eyes...a realization that, for every friend who is wonderfully patient and forgiving of you, there's another that you have to be that way with, too.

I guess the bottom line is, I miss my friends. And I hate missing out, with them. In the swirl and fervor and the "God! I'm gone again that weekend!" of February, I am so excited to come home on Thursday and be home. Stay home. Get back to weekday happy hours and Friday nights out and weekend brunches with friends. I know it won't look like it used to...but nothing in my life looks like it used to. And with as happy as I've been with that, I gotta believe that I'll be happy with this, too.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Monsterbeard : Last night I got to that part in Storm of Swords

Monsterbeard : Last night I got to that part in Storm of Swords:

And nobody told me. Nobody freaking told me and I was really upset and wanted to keep reading to see if it was a trick but it wasn’t a trick. And it was the middle of the night of course so I had to hold it all in.

I’m glad nobody told me but I kind of wish when I had started the series someone would have said “Hey, listen, don’t do this to yourself. There are too many pages and too many characters, and too many die and there’s nothing you can do.” Why don’t we tell people that when they say they’re reading Game of Thrones?!


Like with most popular books (Harry Potter, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, etc), I'm purposefully late to the game with The Game of Thrones (I have this weird thing where I don't like to read a popular book that everyone else is reading because it kind of feels like participating in crowd hysteria, so I like to wait until the fury has died down and then I'll pick it up, read it in peace, and then bug everyone else with my old news about how good it is). In fact, I just started it last night! The reading of this book comes after a viewing of the last half of the first episode about a year ago (all I seem to remember, though, is that everyone in the realm seemed to really like doing it from behind. Seriously. There were, like, three sex scenes back-to-back where everyone was doing The Quarterback. Which, curiously enough, is only talked about once during that specific part of the book - and abstractly, I might add - so I wonder if maybe the writing team at HBO is predominantly male, maybe?) and after reading an article about how, as a writer, you can't let yourself get too close to your characters, aka Martin.

So I knew people were gonna die. And yet I was still upset when it started to happen. Not too upset, however, that I'm going to stop reading it. And especially not now, because now I have to see what it is that happens in Storm of Swords that made you so upset, Monsterbeard! Now I have to get to that part and figure out what you're talking about! Don't you see? NOW YOU'VE JUST MADE IT WORSE WITH YOUR CURSED FORESHADOWING!

I bet you guys can't even wait until I start The Hunger Games trilogy!




Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Super serial, you guys.

Sometimes stuff gets too serious, and I forgot why I got into this gig in the first place. I have a tendency to do that: Put so much of myself into one thing that the joy gets kind of sapped out of it. I take everything a little too seriously. Meditation has to be serious. Working out has to be serious. Quality time has to be serious quality time. I have to be a serious writer.
 
It's my bag, but I think some of it comes from the culture I've put myself in. This entrepreneurship, social business thing that's trending... I've surrounded myself with a lot of pals - real and virtual - who have taken something and have really run with it. Who have made empires out of it, who have dedicated themselves so thoroughly to their vision and goals that everyone else around them just kind of has to stand back and marvel in amazement. They did it, I think to myself, when I read their Facebook feeds or blog posts. They committed and dedicated and worked and they did it. I could do it, too, if I just worked a little harder. I could do it, too, if I just got serious about it. If I got serious about everything.
 
But then that stuff gets to be a drag, and I find myself procrastinating. Which, especially when it comes to the writing, is ridiculous. Writing is the one thing that fills my soul more than anything else! It's the thing I love doing more than anything else! It should be the last thing I put off. It should be the one thing I put everything else off for

But I make things a chore. I realized today that I'm really, really good at that. I put weight on those things because I want them to have meaning. And then I put so much meaning on them that I end up self-paralyzing myself - what if I do this wrong? What if I put time into the wrong thing and then I have to go back and do it all over again? What if I do it the wrong way and then I end up regretting it for the rest of my life?!! 

And it's like that with the writing. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been listening to a few Nerdist podcasts where writing has been a topic. A unifying theme has come out for me - every time writing has come up, someone has said something about how the first draft should be the easiest - you just write and write and write and don't really care about it until it's finished, and THEN you go back and care about it. And I'm driving and listening and thinking to myself - but I really care. For me, the first draft is the hardest, because I want to do it right the first time. And with the couple projects I'm working on right now, it's really, really important to me that every word is right. These books are my life's work. If I don't end up having children of my own...these are going to be it, you know? 
 
Then, last night and this morning, I found myself wistfully wishing for a time when I could write something with gleeful abandon...something that's just fun. Like a Harlequin romance, or a teen movie, or a paranormal romance. Get wrapped up in the adventure of it. Something I could whip off in a week. And whenever I have that thought - that sort of writing-vacation-fantasy - I know that I'm taking the writing shiz too seriously. I'm supposed to be working on this writing thing because I love it. Because I would rather do it than anything else. And if it's getting to be a drag...then I'm coming at it from the wrong angle. And I started writing about this on the blog and then realized...I do this with the blog, too. I catch myself getting too stupidly self-important with them (But what is the point of this post? What can the reader get out of this? How will this affect their lives?) when the whole point of the blog is having a space where I can write about whatever the fuck I want. 

YOU HEAR THAT, KEVIN? THIS IS MY SPACE FOR WRITING WHATEVER THE FUCK I WANT.

My point is: I am an important person. And I do lots of important stuff. But sometimes, even I need to take a moment to laugh. To play! Like with this blog post...it really doesn't have a point - no lesson, no goal, no "And then today I learned ___". It's basically me just talking about myself and some stuff I've thought about. And as you probably know since you're already reading this blog, that's some pretty fucking cool stuff. So let's just all have some fun, you guys. Let's stop taking life so seriously all the time! Let's just make sure that everything we do is fun and that we love it and that it makes us super happy, okay?

And now I'm gonna go write some more...because fuck that Olivia Munn, right?! She gets to be smart and funny and super hot and on TV and movies AND now she's also a book writer? C'mon! We won't even talk about the fact that she potentially made out with Justin Timberlake and got to work with Jon Stewart. You're lighting a fire under me, Olivia Munn. A fire of funness...but one that burns all the same...
 

Monday, February 20, 2012

TONIGHT!

Christopher is taking me to my first ever WWE Raw. 
 
I am excited about this because:
 
 A. Wrestling is a ridiculous spectacle. It's like thee-ah-tah for a more..."down to earth" crowd. Or a soap opera for body-builders. Back in the day, when I tended bar at The G-Spot, we used to watch WWE once a week, marveling at the amazing acting and torrid story lines. This stopped, however, when they started working out an ill-conceived "She said I raped her, but really she's lying to pit me against my arch-nemesis" storyline. Since picking it up again (aka, last night during a Pay Per View party), I have not witnessed any other similarly offensive storylines. 
 
B. The Miz of MTV Road Rules and Challenge fame will be performing tonight, which will support my huge pop-culture geekdom. Also, he's awful. 
 
C. One of the wrestlers, CM Punk, started a Twitter war against Chris Brown last night and basically challenged him to a match. Which makes me happy, since nothing would give me greater joy than to see Chris Brown get punched repeatedly.

D. Chris loves wrestling for all the right reasons. And while I'm not a big "Oh, if you're into it, I am now TOTALLY into it, TOOO!" kind of girl, it's fun to pair something that I liked a little before with something that he likes a lot now. Also, it's really fun to see him having fun. So! It's gonna be fun.

Also, in case you guys didn't know, packing and unpacking, organizing and reorganizing, negotiating keep-or-get-rid-of, and cleaning and arranging can be really fecking stressful, boring, and tiring, even when you're doing it with one of the funnest guys on earth. So. Tonight we're taking a break. And buying ourselves a Miz t-shirt. And possibly going to try to get on camera with ridiculous antics (aka, I'll eat a hot dog and the camera will pan to me stuffing my face, as has happened 4 out of the 7 times I've been seen on TV).
 
It'll be raw. 

RAW!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Like, let's say that you wanted a book to say, "To the most important person in my entire life, who has inspired me to great things. To you, I owe everything." You could get that here. It would probably be a lie, but that never stopped me from asking other authors to sign their books for me that way.

Big news, errr'ybody - the Holiday Chick Online Shop is open again!

One, I did this so you could get yer signed copies of Holiday Chick delivered right to your doorstep. Take note, long-distance lovers.

Two, I did this so you could get a print copy of Holiday Chick for a better price. Even with shipping & handling, the total price is still less than what you'd have to pay to get the book on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. (Not, however, if you bundle the book with Game of Thrones series, The Hunger Games trilogy, or the box set of Twilight in your Amazon or B&N shopping cart to take advantage of their free shipping perks. But I don't really know you that well and so it's not really my place to comment on your shopping or reading habits.)

Three, I had to get the online store set up for the upcoming pre-sale of my next book. 

One + Two + Three = Awesome job, me.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Domestic Partnership

It was quiet and dark, when I woke up in the middle of the night to find myself nestled snugly in between Ella The Dog and Chris. Ella's sweet head was resting on my hip, and Chris' left arm was wrapped around me, holding me close to him while he slumbered. I could feel, rather than hear, the deep, rhythmic breathing of their still-uninterrupted sleep. As my eyes slowly opened against the full moonlight floating through the window, I thought, sleepily to myself before drifting off again, I have a family.

It was the happiest thought, and the end of an era. I've been really happy with my life as a single girl, and for a long time. Lucky, too. These past couple of years have been the most adventurous, heart-swelling, exhilarating time of my life. Then I met Chris. Someday I will tell you the story of us, because it's a good one, and one worth telling. But for right now, I kind of love keeping it as something special, a secret, just between us.

But what I will tell you is that on Sunday, I ended my full-time adventures in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and moved Pooks and I to a Minnesotan metropolis to pair our lives with Chris, his hilariously wacky son Dax, and Ella, their energetic and overly-affectionate dog. To blend our little family with theirs. It's not something I could have imagined for myself as little as a year ago, yet it's more magical than anything I could have planned.

There's new adventures to be had: While Pooks is super excited about the extra daily attention she'll receive from her two new favorite boys...when it comes to Ella, not so much. Do I buy Dax tons of toys and candy right away, or do I spread them out to about one a day so as to slowly work my way in as The Awesomest Person On Earth? Can a person be too happy about having a Keurig Coffee Maker? Does getting super excited about the future purchase of a Dyson vacuum cleaner instantly suck out all of your street cred (It's so brilliantly designed! And fun to use! And LOOK AT IT!)? And why has no one told me about Adventure Time before? Is there a whole new cool crowd of people that I have to try to befriend on Twitter now that I'm going to be attending a lot of kid's movies, science museum exhibits, children's theater productions, and swim lessons? Has anyone else gone on a drive-thru tour of their town to see how many free dog biscuits they can procure for their adorable canine car companion?

So this is going to be my new year. I'm pretty excited about it.


Friday, February 03, 2012

I GOTTA make me holla, honey-boo-boo!

The above title is partially from and courtesy of the amazing Alana, who for the past four weeks has been holding steady as my Most Favoritest Person In America. She is also responsible for the phrases "git monnnaaaaay!", "Honey boo-boo child" and "Go-Go Juice " being added to my everyday vernacular.

Also, for special romantic occasions, I like pull out my "Alana's Talent Dance, As Performed By Her Momma" (skip ahead to the 4:15 mark for the magic) for Chris. It gets him so excited that, when I'm done, he's ready to skip making out altogether and just go to sleep.

Anyway. In three days it's going to be my birthday. Typically, when it's my birthday, I like having a whole month devoted to it. "But it's my birthday," I'll declare, when wheedling friends into meeting me for a happy hour arranged specifically to fit my schedule and location. "But it's my birthdaaay!" I'll whine, when people have the audacity to make other plans that don't include me during any point in the month of February. "Buuuut it's my birthday," I rationalize, when I or anyone accompanying me has a moment of hesitation over whether or not I really need that Starbucks beverage, ice cream cake, new book, or cute scarf.

And I'm happy to report that many other people - whether willingly or begrudgingly - have fallen in line with this type of personal birthday thinking. But this year, I'd like to do something a little different.

This year, instead of interrupting your internet trolling to write happy birthday on mah Facebook or dragging yourself out to a birthday happy hour, I'm asking peeps to gift a copy of the Holiday Chick eBook to another friend. It costs a dollar, Amazon and Smashwords makes it easy to give a copy to anyone (all you need is their email address and all they need is a computer - Smashwords does PDF files for people who aren't fancy e-reader owners), and you get to look like a pal by giving someone else the gift of a new book

And I mean, if you still want to do the thing where you sit there and think, "I'll give you what I want to give you for your birthday" and you still want to take me out for drinks at Starbucks or buy me a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, that's your prerogative, moneybags. But since it's only a dollar, gifting an eBook of Holiday Chick is both more fiscally responsible and admittedly less selfish (for you. Not for me). And, frankly, this might be your only chance to take my special day as a way to strengthen your friendships with others, instead of shunning them in favor of me like you're usually supposed to do. I'm letting you off the hook this year. I'm encouraging you to do something different, something special, for others. 

Except for my parents and brothers. You guys still have to send me money. 
To make my birthday extra-special and show me that you love me by spreading the birthday cheer and supporting my dreams by giving an eBook of Holiday Chick to a friend, go here

To not support me in my dreams and refuse to make this, the only 33rd birthday I'll ever have in my entire life, a happy one and be a real jerk who won't just do the one thing that I ask them to even though it would make me and the other people around them so, so happy, go here for Smashwords and here for Amazon. 

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The 99 Cent eBook Battling Ground: WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON, HUH?

There's been a lot of chatter over the 99 cent eBook debate. (Actually, it could be more aptly described as hysteria rather than chatter...). In case you haven't been plugged into it, here's the high points of the controversy: 
 
1) A handful of authors, mostly ones who have written series, priced their eBooks at 99 cents early in the digital-and-self-published-book game and suddenly became best-selling authors.

2) Publishing houses and some independent authors are upset about this because - and I know this is going to surprise you - you don't really make a lot of money by selling a copy of your book for 99 cents.

3) However, readers really love this pricing model because you get to try out new, unproved authors and their books for little to no remorse-buying risk.

4) BUT IT'S CHANGING EVERYTHING THAT WE KNOW ABOUT PUBLISHING AND BUYING BOOKS! AND IF WE CHANGE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY, THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT WILL END... OR, EVEN WORSE, PUBLISHING WILL BECOME LIKE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, WHERE PEOPLE NOW ACTUALLY HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE THEIR OWN ALBUMS AND/OR INFORMED CHOICES ABOUT WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO LISTEN TO.
 
In January, I changed my Holiday Chick eBook pricing from $1.99 to 99 cents and saw an immediate spike in sales (aka, my eBook sales for the month of January was over half the total number of eBooks that I sold in 2011). However, it *was* hard to not to look at the numbers sold and calculate inside my head how many more royalties I would have earned if I would have sold that number for $1.99. I make 34 cents every time I sell an eBook on Amazon. 56 cents if I sell it on Smashwords (which makes it available on the NOOK, iPad, Sony readers, as well as via PDF version and other this-might-be-compatible-with-what-you're-rockin' versions). In laymen terms? Selling 20 books on Kindle will barely get me a seasonal beverage at Starbucks...and it definitely will NOT get YOU a seasonal beverage at Starbucks if you happen to be accompanying me.

But the thing is, I know myself and how I operate as a reader: If I know and love an author, $1.99 is nothing to me when it comes to buying their book. However, if I have no clue who this person is, $1.99 and 99 cents could be the difference between whether I give them a chance and whether I don't. Cheap? Maybe. I also take into account that I value paper copies over digital...and I've also been known to buy an eBook on the cheap, read it, and if I love it, I'll buy the paper version to put in my library. That's two sales for one person, neither of which would have happened if that 99 cent price point hadn't gotten me in the door.

I understand and sympathize with the arguments about value of work. It took me a long feckin' time to write Holiday Chick. It's a big-ass book, and I worked really, really hard on it. I understand where authors are coming from who argue that their price should reflect that value. But the answer to that is: No, it shouldn't, because the reader doesn't give a shit about how long it took or how hard it was for you to write that book, just like how I don't really give a shit about how it long or hard (heh) it was for a production company to make my favorite movie. If you are offering more value in the actual product than other are - such as visuals, photos, or salacious gossip about people I hate, etc - than yeah...your price point could arguably be higher. But then the real question all comes down to this: Do you want to sell your books? Do you want to sell them to a lot of people? Or do you just want to make a lot of money off of any single book that is sold? 

I started out wanting to make the most money I rationally could from a single book sold. When you're a first-time author, sometimes you have the mentality of "Let's try to make as much money as we can before people realize we're a hack and run us out of town!" Yet the more I learned and the longer I was in the game, I started to realize an unshakeable rule about the buying and reading of books: People who love books, talk about them. They tell their moms, their buddies, their sisters, their husbands, their kids: I just read this book. I loved it. You should check it out. And the easier you make it for their moms, buddies, sisters, husbands, and kids to pick that book up, the more you're going to sell. And you're going to make it easier by putting your book on accessible, multiple platforms and pricing it at a point that's an absolute no-brainer.
 
So that's it. END OF STORY. If you don't price your eBook at 99 cents, NO ONE IS GOING TO BUY IT. And they're not gonna like ya, either! And then you're NEVER going to become a best-selling author, and then EVERYONE is going to laugh at you and your STUPID dreams, and you'll wish you had NEVER even thought about even WRITING a book, and you should just GIVE UP and become a receptionist and have some kids and then DIE.

Or just do what you want. I guess I don't really care  - this is just what I'm doing, and it's working for me, so.

Talk to you guys some more tomorrow.

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