Wednesday, 28 May 2014

So that happened...

We all have to start somewhere, I guess
I guess it would probably be silly to surprised that Wattpad juggernaut, After*, by Anna Todd has been acquired by Simon and Schuster.** I mean, it's a perfect popularity accord: it's a sprawling One Direction fanfic in a time where One Direction are everywhere anyway, it's New Adult in a moment where New Adult is searingly hot, and the film and TV rights have already been snapped up. Basically it's free money for the publisher and author, just the same way Fifty Shades of Grey was for EL James and Vintage Books. So no, not surprising, but I guess somewhat depressing. This is a book, after all, that could charitably be described as "rough round the edges," which is now going to be rushed to print in an all-new, lean, trimmed, professionally edited format to capitalise on the fan craze for One Direction (although the PW release makes no comment on that, which makes me think a little revisionist history is going down along with the editing), and to bring in all the money.

That's...that's hard to hear. I'm 31 and I've wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember. The minute I realised that people could have their stories published, that was my life goal. And I've achieved that. I've won awards and cracked a few bestseller lists via Amazon and ARe. I've hit my thirties and fulfilled a lifetime ambition (hell, my only lifetime ambition). That's awesome!

It's also something I find hard to remember and struggle to appreciate. Because for so long I, and probably every other writer I know, had been taught that the path is this: write > revise > edit the fuck out of your book > submit to agents > be rejected > keep submitting > maybe get accepted > maybe get published > maybe have some success. That's it, that's what you do. If you weren't being rejected, you weren't doing it right. If you weren't struggling and desperate and clawing for it, you weren't dedicated enough. And what I did was, try that path > fail > and then find my own path via epublishing. Which was not the Accepted Way at the time, although admittedly it still came with a huge helping of trying and failing. And despite everything I have achieved, part of me still yearns for the agent and the publisher and the book deal and the "real book in a real bookshop." Part of me probably always will.

Now, there's a lot to be said for rejection. Nobody learns in a vacuum, and I'm sure that I improved as a writer because I got harsh, honest critiques and because I tried and failed and then started over. But at the same time, it's really strange and discouraging to see that that doesn't necessarily matter anymore. That someone who doesn't know the difference between "acceptable" and "expectable" can be handed all the rewards you've been struggling to even get a glimpse of. And not because they're better or they worked for it. Just because...because, I guess? Because there is guaranteed money there, for however long you can surf this wave.

Yeah, that's hard to hear.

All that training and honing and fighting you did? Doesn't matter. Doesn't count. You didn't nail that magical combination of self-insert wish-fulfillment fantasy and boybands, sorry. And it would be really easy to resent Anna Todd for accidentally falling into this crazy success story (assuming it wasn't all some carefully calculated plan, anyway...). But actually, after an initial spurt of "oh god really?" on hearing this news yesterday, I felt better about what I'm doing. Much better.

I struggled for years to define myself as a writer. Am I a gritty urban fantasy author? Am I paranormal romance author? Am I a lesbian fiction author, a short story writer...Am I a writer at all? I've self-published, epublished, tried for traditional publication. I've made bad choices and written bad books and I've cried over where it's all going, or not going, and I've whined and angsted and tried to write for the market, and quit writing and...and...and...and, oh god, it looks like I'll have to cave in and write some godawful thinly-veiled RPF*** with a heavy dose of teenage angst, typos, and tattoos to get anywhere in life. What is this? Why is this happening? That was me, all last year.

And this year I just thought, "no, fuck that, I'll write what I want and I'll see what happens."

Me, 1st Jan 2014
And last night I started writing a book I've wanted to write for years, and I just teared up over how happy I was to be writing it. Will it ever get published? I'm saying yes, because there are so many more options now for writers than just write > revise > edit the fuck out of your book > submit to agents > be rejected > keep submitting > maybe get accepted > maybe get published. Will it be the book that defines me as an author? I don't know, but who cares because I'm in love with it already and that finally matters more to me than whether everyone else in the world will love it. And that is the path I want - knowing that I'm writing the best book I can with all the skill I have, and that whatever I achieve, I've done it myself, for myself. I didn't follow a trend to get rich or popular. I didn't write something I didn't believe in. I didn't (or won't again, anyway, but that's another story) submit to a publisher because I was desperate and they would take me.

So I can't be depressed over Anna Todd. I expect After will be successful and I hope she becomes a better writer as a result. But look, if you're a writer staring in despair at the Publisher's Weekly announcement today, if you're wondering why this always happens to everyone else, or if you should start writing BDSM boyband billionaire fanfic, if you're generally just shaking your head over the state of the industry and the Doom that surely awaits us all because of this deal...Please don't. All that hard work and crafting and improvement - it still counts. It still matters. Find your way. Do what you love. Write what you want. If it happens that what you love is BDSM billionaire boyband stories, now is your time.

*I really wish this book was called "After Something" and not just "After," because every time I see someone mention it online I feel like I've missed part of a sentence. "So After got picked up..." After WHAT got picked up? Use all the words!

**If you've yet to discover After, you can read Jenny Trout's read-along here.

***I have no problem with fanfic, even real person fanfic, but I am feeling a lot of second-hand embarrassment for Harry Styles right now.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Mission Accomplished!

I said I was going to finish my current WIP this week (well, last week, but as this is a bank holiday weekend, I feel like today counts as last week still. Shut up, you're not making any sense), and I did! Huzzahs! The Beast of Birch Hill, a f/f paranormal romance, is done, dusted, revised, and submitted. And now we wait...

And while we wait, how about a look at the cover for PHANTOM FEARS?

Friday, 23 May 2014

PHANTOM FEARS - Coming really, really soon!

I just got the release date for PHANTOM FEARS confirmed - next Friday, 30th May! So I figured now was a good time to properly share the blurb for Shannon's solo outing.

As a private investigator with a werewolf girlfriend, Shannon Ryan is used to the unusual. But her latest case has even level-headed Shannon questioning reality. Joyce Bonner swears her daughter is being haunted by a poltergeist. Charlotte Bonner swears she's not. Shannon has one night to uncover the facts behind the supposed supernatural phenomena. Between an over-enthusiastic ghost-hunter and her own scepticism, can she get to the truth?

Ahhhhh! I'm exciiiiiited!!! This short story combines some of my favourite things - private investigators, ghost hunting, skepticism, and Shannon Ryan. I can't wait til next week when this story hits the wild (for free!) and you can all get a glimpse of life from Shannon's perspective. 

In the mean time, please enjoy this adorable elder god and have a happy Friday!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

"Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart"

Stephen King

This morning I woke up to edits for PHANTOM FEARS in my inbox. Being the dedicated writer I am, I did them as soon as I got to work (I am a slightly less dedicated PA). I don't know if there'll be another round after this, but either way, we are one step closer to Shannon's solo adventure being released! Huzzahs!

I'm lucky in that most of the edits were missing words and changing UK spellings to US spellings - that made it a really quick, smooth process. Generally speaking I think my shorter pieces are pretty okay when it comes to editing. My novels are somewhat messier, mostly because I don't outline beforehand and tend to meander my way through the plot with no sense of direction.

Short stories though, you can't do that. Short stories were the heart and soul of my writing degree and I spent three years working with very low word counts (100 words was the lowest - that was a tough piece of homework), and learning that you can't afford to waste a single word. I think the result is that my short pieces are pretty tight and neat, and that's reflected in the small amount of editing they (thus far, touch wood, etc) have needed. With my current WIP, The Beast of Birch Hill, I'm aiming for 12k, tops. It's sitting at around 8k right now, and I'm starting to worry that the remaining 4k isn't enough to wrap everything up nicely and satisfyingly. Luckily, I can already see parts early on in the story that can be hacked out without causing too much damage.

My aim is to get the first draft of this WIP done this week (I'm pretty sure I said that last week, but this time I mean it). After that I'm stepping back into novel territory, where everything becomes chaotic and weird, especially because this will be an Ethan novel. Expect whiskey, demons, dogs, and cursing. I can't wait!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Cover Reveal and Teaser - Guarding Mari by Ella Grey

Enough about my writerly woes! Today I'm delighted to be sharing with you the cover, blurb, and even a teaser, for Ella Grey's forthcoming release. GUARDING MARI is the second in Ella's Black Paw Pack series and promises to be packed (ha!) full of romance, action, and werewolves. Sounds perfect to me! How do you guys like the cover?

A killer is on the hunt for Mari, the doctor to the Black Paw Pack. It will take the combined efforts of Mari and her mate, a man she hasn’t seen in three years to keep her safe.

Three years is a long time to be away from your mate.

Mari has been living half a life.

A doctor before she was infected with the werewolf virus, Mari is now the target of a deranged serial killer. The night held one bright moment, she met Daniel Greyborn, the other half of her soul.

Daniel wants a life time with his mate.

He made a difficult decision when he left Mari with the Black Paw Pack. When he finds a body on his compound he knows that Ryback is back and it’s time to finish what happened three years ago.

But are they about to underestimate a killer?

Monday, 12 May 2014

"Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy."

This is the first thing that came up
when I search for "celebration." I...
I don't know.
Holy shit, I'm just two sales away from 700 at Common Brimstone. I was only just figuring out how to celebrate reaching 600 sales in April o_O I'm not going to make a big deal of it every time I hit a certain number, but I still can't quite get my head around the fact that, "hey, you started a business and it's working!" It makes me extremely proud and giddy to be doing something creative that I love, sharing it with other people and finding out they love it too. And I really want to apply the attitude and techniques that I used to get Common Brimstone to this point to my writing career.

Saturday night, Kyle and I did a lot of deep, meaningful talking and I just ranted and raved to him about my writing and he ranted and raved back about how talented I am and how much he loves my stuff, even the stuff he wouldn't normally read. I know a lot of it was probably just warm-fuzzies, but it did make me feel like I can't keep underestimating myself as a writer and that I should stop telling myself my writing career is going nowhere. If I can accidentally build a really successful home business, I should really be able to deliberately channel more energy into my writing and make something out of it, instead of just resigning myself to "never going to achieve much there." And I should remember that I've already achieved a lot. If someone asks me about my perfume, I will jabber at them for hours. Why don't I have that same sense of pride and accomplishment about my writing? I should. I'm an award-winning bestseller, dammit. I need to take back ownership of my writing.
And I need to carve out time to do that. Last year when I was working on Ethan #3 I'd get up half an hour earlier so I could be at work an hour early and write in that time. I worked slavishly on Ethan #3. Every morning, every lunch break, every free second I had, and some seconds that weren't actually free. And it was a terrible, terrible book. That's why I eventually scrapped it. But hey, look, Undertow is going to be out in the wild this year and if there's one thing I know I love, it's Ethan Banning, and being mean to Ethan Banning, and making Ethan Banning's life miserable. You know, for Art. Frankly, if anything is going to spark the same energy in me that my perfume-making does, it's going to be giving Ethan a really hard time.

At the moment I'm working on a short paranormal romance piece inspired by my love of cryptozoology. I'm about halfway through and my aim is to have it finished this week and submit it before the end of May. Then. Then. Oh then. Then I am going really mess up Ethan's life moreso. I christened 2014 the Year of the Kraken, as in, "let's just grab stuff and wreck it and damn the consequences." I think it's high time I applied that philosophy to my writing life.

Me, grabbing stuff and wrecking it: an approximation.