Tuesday, December 17, 2013

eStocking Stuffers!

[cross posted in All Places Sue]
I've heard from some people that they can't afford books for themselves during the holidays, so I wanted to stuff some Kindle ebooks in your stocking. Lucky me, Rose Gordon is also stepping up to help with the stocking stuffing! We're posting books from people we know and like, so if you like our fiction you should be able to find something you like here, too.

Enter the Rafflecopter here, or in one of the other places this is cross posted, saying which book you're hoping to find in your stocking and you'll be eligible to win one of the DAILY giveaways until Twelfth Night. More books will be added as our friends join in the fun.

Stocking Stuffers You Can Win*

And some of our buddies have FREE books out there, too. You never need to go without a book!
*All books on this list are 99-cents. Any books that change price above 99-cents will become ineligible and will be removed. We're not made of money, people!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find out more about Sue and Rose at the following links:
Sue London, Author http://bysuelondon.com
Rose Gordon, Author http://www.rosegordon.net/

Thanks for sponsorship from Parchment & Plume!! Check out all of their current and upcoming releases!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dress for Success

“There is only one success: to be able to spend life in your own way and not to give others absurd maddening claims upon it.” ~ Christopher Morley

 As any career guide will tell you, one of the first things to do when choosing a career path is invest in appropriate clothing. Now that it looks like I can plan on making the career change from accounting to writing in the next year or so I need to consider the "look" my new role requires.

It's possible I've never been more excited.

If you follow my blogs or my Twitter you might have picked up that I've actually worked for a long time. Even if you rule out helping in the family health food business as a tween, or the babysitting and crafts I did as a young teen, I've been in the work force neigh on thirty years. I've worked retail, restaurant, and hospitality. I've done sales, marketing, office management, project management, IT, and accounting. I've worn uniforms, suits, and jeans to work (usually not all at the same place). I'm fairly sure that I've not had any gap in employment for the last 26 years, having at times up to three jobs at a time. Work? Yes, I know what that is.

To date my least favorite aspect of work has been clothing. See, I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of a girl and most jobs just don't go for that. Worse yet, my first impression personality doesn't even match the jeans and t-shirt. I deal with the first by being a rebel. As for the second, well, honey badger don't care. If I seem like a pinstripe personality to you then you just don't know me yet.

My typical approach at work is to assess what the minimal requirement is to look professional where I am and then take it a notch lower to see what I can get away with. I'm also difficult to persuade. The people who say to me "You should dress for the job you want" usually get the retort "I want to be first mate on a sailboat in the Bahamas." Yeah, come at me, bro. I'll dress up if I deem it necessary, but when it comes to advancing my career I focus on the WORK before I worry about how my image affects me. I wear more than my fair share of Hawaiian shirts on casual Fridays throughout the summer (and sometimes on formal Monday thru Thursdays, too). See aforementioned note on being a rebel...

So the idea that I can have a job where I spend most of my time in comfortable, casual clothing? Heaven. It's among the things I look forward to the most. Now don't be disappointed if you see me at a signing and I'm not "dressed down." If nothing else, shouldn't I wear these professional clothes somewhere? What else could I possibly do with a collection of red and black blazers? Maybe I'll cultivate the jeans and blazer look...

Here's my list of wardrobe items I think I need to ensure I have on hand. Tell me if there is anything else you would add:

  • T-shirts with snarky and geeky sayings/designs - maybe from ThinkGeek?
  • Comfy cotton and wool sweaters - those cold nights, they are coming
  • Sweatpants/yoga pants - an obvious must
  • Leggings - because every day can't be a sweatpants day
  • Jeans - because sometimes we must leave the house
  • Comfy slippers - warm feet are required for creativity
So what did I miss? And what is your dream wardrobe?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Opening Letter for Flapper Girl (A Story of the Jazz Age)

Was chatting with a twitter friend (@tiffanyreisz) about how reading biographies of people in other eras is a great reminder that everyone is always living in what they consider to be the most modern age. And that reminded me of this opening letter for my upcoming Jazz Age series. Really looking forward to putting this one together.

To my kind reader,

These are the stories I remember, and after telling them for years some of y'all convinced me to write them down. The thing to know, like I always say, is that it's not history. Not if you've been there. Never was a time that was more modern, more a part of the future, more immediate. We thought we'd done it, we thought, no, we knew, we were on the edge of a new age. I've lived a lot of years since then and I got to tell you, the world still ain't caught up to that time. While you read this know that it isn't the past, it's a future that already happened.

But when I think about where to start it seems like the best place is in the beginning, and that means Lulu. I've seen a lot of legs in my time but never any that compared to Lu's. When she started dancing there wasn't a man born that could take his eyes off her. And when she smiled at you it was somewhere between the holy Madonna and the first girl you fell in love with. She stole hearts, that one, stole them with such beauty and joy that there never was a man who could get mad about it. At least not until 1921.

                                                                                                    The Jazz Man

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Egads! Is Historical Romance Becoming Credible?

A friend brought me this article at work (where it now hangs on my door) In a Plot Twist: Scholars Get Serious About Romance Novels. Yes, that link goes to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Well dang. Can't decide this means that I entered the market at just the right, or just the wrong, time.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sue Hangs Out with Nerd Lunch - Podcast 98: Nerd Romance

In case you don't haunt my "Interviews" page looking for new entries, I was on the Nerd Lunch podcast this week. Take a little Friday downtime to check it out. #TGIF Nerd Lunch: Nerd Lunch Podcast 98: Nerd Romance

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Reviews Are In....

I've been cyber-stalking Trials of Artemis, waiting to see a blog review, and finally found an online review today. Apparently even though many readers really love the book (based on Amazon and Goodreads reviews), this reviewer... eh, not so much. Such is life.

But this gives me an opportunity to talk about something near and dear to writers. Feedback.

What I mean is that feedback is vital. Essential. We can't live without it. But we use it in two very different ways.

First, most writers have their sense of identity bound with their work. That certainly isn't a trait unique to writers. I've met many an accountant whose sense of identity is bound up in their work. But, please take note, WHEN YOUR IDENTITY IS BOUND TO SOMETHING EXTERNAL TO YOURSELF YOU FEEL VULNERABLE. You need for others to approve of your creation because it feeds your sense of self. This can be a problem for anyone whose output has tremendous opportunity for subjective feedback. The key word there is subjective.

I'm going to tell you something here and I need you to hear me. No matter who you are, no matter what you write, there are people who are going to not like your work. The more people who see your work, the more people you will find who don't like it.

This is not your "fault." There is no fault. Tastes differ. Different people value different things. It doesn't mean they are a bad person. It doesn't mean that you are a bad person. In the grand scheme of things it doesn't mean much at all.

"What? How can it not mean anything?" cries the soul of those bound to their work. I know that your soul is screaming out for approval, but here is what you do. Ignore those who don't care for your work. Seek those who do. Simple but hard. And do that from the get-go. I know so many writers who want to find someone who will be "hard" on their work so they can "improve." Baby, if they're being hard on your work that means that it just doesn't work for them. At best you will become a hollow, uninspired (and uninspiring) version of a "good" writer. At worst you will give up. Ask instead for someone who really loves something in your work. Let them help you to find and hone what is unique about your voice and your story. Good things always come out of love. Always.

Second, we all need to be open to criticism. Wait, didn't I just tell you to focus on those who give you positive feedback? Well, yes, that's where you should focus your soul and emotions. Meanwhile, in other parts of the galaxy, your head needs to do some work. Once you succeed in decoupling your sense of self from that bouncing baby manuscript, and send it out into the world to do it's thing (that may not be publishing, that might be sharing in a class or some other broader group than THE SAFE PLACE where your soul lives), then you need to be able to pay attention to the feedback you get.

This is why you have to separate your sense of self from your product. Every ounce of attachment between soul and product becomes at least a pound (perhaps a ton?) of resentment whenever that product is criticized. Nothing about that is going to do you any good. Listen to the words that are coming out of my mouth: NOTHING ABOUT THAT IS GOING TO DO YOU ANY GOOD. You can't hear the useful feedback and, in some cases, you may create hard feelings with your reaction.

So what work should you let your head do?
  1. Check validity: Is this useful feedback? Are they suggesting something that I can/want to change? You may find lovely nuggets that make you think "Man, wish I'd thought of that myself." Excellent. They just gave you free help. Try to ignore if they were grumpy about it. Pretend that the whole thing was typed up by Grumpy Cat. If you're receiving it in person just imagine Grumpy Cat's head over their head. They will keep getting grumpier at your secret smile and eventually you will have to fall out of your chair cackling.
  2. Judge for yourself: You need to KNOW what you are good at and where you want to improve so that you don't become a puppet on a string, reacting to everyone else. When someone criticizes that I'm not descriptive (enough for them) my reaction is "Tell me something I don't know." I know that my strengths lie in dialog, character depth, and pacing. One day I may care about developing a more descriptive style. Or I may not. That's up to me now, id'n't?
  3. Decide what to pursue: Feedback is critical because once you see what people love you can DO THAT. I'm lucky in that pretty much everything that readers have reacted positively to in Trials of Artemis I already planned to use later in the series (Quince, Sam, and keeping up with Jack and Giddy even after their book was done). But I'm sure that something will come along that I haven't thought about. And it's as likely to be in a one-star review as a five-star review. You gotta stay open.
In closing, let me tell you one last thing. I am SO GLAD that I did not succeed in publishing twenty years ago because I would not have known how to separate my sense of self from my product. Even success would have been a horrible experience because haters gonna hate. You hear me? Haters gonna hate.

If you want to check out reviews for my work you can find them on Amazon and Goodreads. If you would like to receive a free review copy of Trials of Artemis you can email me at sue.london@graythorn.com. I don't mind if you give me a one-star review, just tell me something new. (Uh oh, I just opened myself up to a big font of creativity in criticism, didn't I?)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thank You Trixie Belden

It's been bothering me for awhile to start a series of gratitude posts about the stories and authors who made me want to be a writer, or affected my approach to writing. Thinking back I know that the first series of books I really got into was Trixie Belden. There were plenty of books prior to reading Trixie, as we were a very bookish family, but Trixie was the first series that was "mine." I spent my allowance on them, haunted the bookstore to ask when the next one would be out, and would re-read them when nothing else presented itself.

At the same time I was also collecting the Black Stallion series, which don't get me wrong, I LOVE, but it didn't have the same group camaraderie that infused the Trixie Belden books. And camaraderie is big with me. It's my favorite part of Star Trek (and Star Trek is about my favorite thing ever). Quite honestly, it is confusing that I was able to focus on just two characters throughout the entirety of Trials of Artemis. But I digress. Let me tell you why I love Trixie Belden and how it influenced me.

Trixie was a smart, spunky tomboy with two older brothers. This was instantly easy for me to identify with, except that I was keeping most of my spunky on the inside. (I was a notoriously calm and rational child. There are stories.) Trixie had a large, loving, and loyal group of friends which was something I didn't have, but wanted to. Each of the books centered on a mystery that Trixie and her friends (collectively referred to by their club name the Bob-Whites) would solve. So it was a little bit Scooby-Doo (darn those kids!), and Trixie was a little bit like a young, female Sherlock Holmes. She noticed details and was clever in deducing something from them. I... am not like that, but found that personality fascinating.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and when I ran out of books to read I immediately set about flattering the Trixie Belden series by trying to write my own. Since I was all of maybe eleven we can imagine how well that turned out. Actually I don't have to imagine, I could go downstairs and dig the papers up, but that sounds like a terrible, terrible idea.

Trixie Belden, I salute your sassy self (and the writers that created you), because you inspired my first serious attempt at writing a series. Without you I wouldn't be me, and that makes you my very best tween-age friend. Thanks for everything.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hello Publication Day. Nice to Meet You.

For years I "wanted to be a writer" as though I felt like there was a barrier between myself and "being" a writer. As with many things in life it turned out that the barrier, the glass (or jell-o) wall, was something of my own mind's creation. Lo and behold it came down to a process that has been preached by published authors since time immemorial.
  1. Sit your ass down.
  2. Write a book.
  3. Edit it until it doesn't suck.
  4. Get feedback on said book from people who have a clue.
  5. Edit the hell out of it until it's actually good.
  6. Follow your chosen path to publication.
  7. Have a party.
  8. Repeat process as needed.
The good news is that you are officially a writer before you even start, you're an author if you get through step 2, and you're a published author if you can make it to step 7.

Step 6 can be very difficult. Very, very, very difficult. It's not so much a step as a whole sub-process by itself. And these days the author has a "chose your own adventure" aspect here because they need to pick traditional vs. self-publishing. Granted, you could always self-publish but selling books out of the back of your car is quite different than having access to powerhouse markets like Kindle, Nook, and Kobo for a relatively low entry fee. No matter which path you chose on this adventure there are challenges aplenty.

Writers seeking traditional publishing will be querying agents, querying editors, and undoubtedly going through additional edits and changes to align with their publisher. It's rare to pop out of the gate with an acceptance (thank you so much Truman Capote for proving it CAN happen and making the rest of us have vain hope), so the process of getting an agent and an editor could take years. It's just hard to say. Then even once you have a contract it could be a year or more before your book hits the shelves.

Writers going the self-publishing route also have a hard row to hoe. All those things that the "professionals" do in the traditional publication route have to be picked up and paid for by the self-published author - usually on a shoestring budget. Professional quality editing, professional quality cover, publishing to multiple formats, and all of the promotion duties. All the risk for potentially high reward - if you happen to have the right mix of product, price, placement, and promotion. You know, that marketing stuff that the big publishing firms hire specialists to do. And yes, traditionally published authors have to do a big share of their own promotion, but not all of it. That first boost from the publishing firm can be crucial for sales. How many of us know who to send press releases to? Or have any faith that someone on the other end will pay attention? There's a lot to be said for the traditional approach.

Be that as it may, as soon as I heard about self-publishing in e-book format I knew it was my path. A fiercely independent nature has always worked out well for me. I'd never heard of home-schooling as a kid but at 13 I quit traditional school and set about educating myself. Yes, I went to college. And for my bachelor's degree chose an "adult program" for maximum flexibility and independent study. All of my graduate level courses have been done online and self-paced. It's not that I can't suck it up and be a good little soldier when necessary, but I will always look for the route that gives me maximum independence. High risk with potential for high reward? Even better. Taking Trials of Artemis from concept to publication is about the most fun I've ever had. Researching every aspect of both the art and business of publishing has been a delight. I'm looking forward to publishing more in this series, and starting a few other series to boot.

I've learned a lot and look forward to applying that learning to the rest of my writing career. And in case you wonder where my big "promotion push" is, don't expect to see it until I've got the third book in this series out. If I *know* that I'm going to write a series and I *know* how we series readers are (READ ALL THE THINGS!), then I don't see the point in making a big push and having people lament for months on how the second one isn't out yet. Right now I have a more-than-full-time job so I can't commit to cranking them out every couple of months.

Happy publication day to me. It's about damn time.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

So That's When It Gets Fun

As you may recall I found myself somewhat surprised by how much of a non-event finishing my first book was. After a few rounds of edits I released it to some beta readers (thanks guys!), kicked off the cover design process, and worked on lining up the final editor.

Then I got the first draft of the cover back from the designer and almost died from awesome. After a few revisions on colors and fonts, which took a total of 7 hours emailing back and forth, we were done. In less than 72 hours from my initial request.

You may have already seen it elsewhere, but this is the final product:

So apparently (for me at least) it starts to get fun when there are graphics and colors involved. Now I want the whole process to be finished so that I can "hold" it in my hands and read it again. Jack, Gideon - ya'll look fabulous.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Finishing a Novel: So That's What It Feels Like...

"I hate writing, I love having written." ~ Dorothy Parker

Now don't get me wrong, I've completed writing projects before. Even when I was seven years old I knew how to move a story to a conclusion even if it was just a three-pager about a horse and some magical flowers and, well, I don't really remember how that one goes but you get my point. Then there were short stories, essays, articles, and the horrible monstrosity known as a senior thesis in college. But my ambition (as you may notice from all the decorations here) has always been to complete a NOVEL. And it was a goal that somehow remained elusive for almost thirty years. Before you get too judgy and start trying to calculate my age just know that my first novel attempt was a middle grade mystery series because I loved Trixie Belden so much. And yes I know that judgy isn't really a word but I'm a writer and we try to push the boundaries on things like that. So, as I was saying, I've completed writing projects before but my goal was always to be a novelist and that seemed to be something out of reach.

But no longer.

Be it for good or for ill last night (ok, early this morning) I completed my first novel. Typed -TheEnd- at the end and everything for a feeling of completion. And it was... anti-climatic. Ironic in a way considering that it was a sexy romance book. Reaching the end, although satisfying in a box-checking sort of way, turned out to be a lot like writing anything else. There was no surge of "Hell yeah I'm the queen of the world! Let's go celebrate!" Which, granted, I've only felt once in my life but I was suspicious that this particular milestone might have provided the second round of that. It was more "Oh good, that's over. I thought they'd never shut up. I wonder how long the next book will take to write. Hopefully a week or two is enough time to let this one sit before I start doing edits..." and other mundane things that writers think about when contemplating everything about getting the writing done other than actually, er, getting the writing done. In some ways that's probably good because it means I can bump along contentedly in my writing projects and with this milestone out of the way it demonstrates that there is absolutely nothing stopping me from writing novels. In fact, based on last summer's statistics I can cough one up in a month or so with relatively low impact on my current schedule. Once I have enough books out there even if only a handful of people like them I can certainly fund my cafe habit. So as the little peace-loving INFP that I am I should probably be ecstatic that, soup to nuts, writing a novel isn't an emotional roller-coaster for me.

But... it seems like there should be more.

Because isn't it a big deal? Shouldn't I be shouting from the rooftops, dancing in the streets, or at least listening to Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" on repeat? I don't know. The most amusing response has been from my sister, who received the news this afternoon. (She's not on Twitter. I don't know what's wrong with her.)

Me [text]: The good news for me is that I finally finished writing a novel last night. The bad news for you is that it's historical romance.
Her [text]: Congrats! As long as it's not about me I'm ok.

Later she called to congratulate me again and tried to get clear on exactly what it was I had written since the last she had heard everything on my plate was SFF (of which she approves).

Her: So it's historical...?
Me: Romance.
Her: What period?
Me: Regency.
Her: So it's a bodice ripper?
Me: Yep.
Her: Well... I guess I'll read one of those in my life, then.
Me: I have more bad news for you. It's the beginning of a series.
Her: [pause] Like I said, I guess I'll read one of those in my life, then.

So, what does finishing my first novel feel like? A lot like normal life. Except now instead of saying "I'm writing a book" I can say "I've written a book." And that's pretty sweet.

How about you? Have you finished a novel, or reached any other major milestone, and it didn't quite come off the way you expected? Tell me about it in the comments.