November Recap

A few days late, but it’s been that kind of month.

On the personal front, I did 7 shows in November, and one on the 1st of December. 2 of those shows were 2-day events. That’s my Christmas season done. My next for sure show is KeyCon in May. I might make it to KeyCon Lite in January. I’ll have more about that in the “looking ahead to next year” post in a month or so.

November is also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo or NaNo for shorter). I do it every year, since I’m writing anyway. I did not make it to the 50,000 words this year. My November total word count was 24,749 (which brought my 2019 word count up to 481,260).

I hit a roadblock on Zoedar #3 at the end of October/beginning of November which slowed me down a lot. Instead of finishing off that novel, I worked on a few short stories I had on the docket and the outline for Lost Light (which doesn’t count towards total words). I’m pretty sure I know what’s going on with Zoedar now but I’m going to leave it on the back burner a bit longer.

My goal right now is to finish off my “520,000 words in a year” goal before Christmas (as of writing this I have about 14k to go). Lost Light is my next book-length project as I’d like to have it ready for KeyCon and the Kraken Tea in the spring. Once Lost Light is done I plan to do the revisions on Zoedar #1+2. I think having those two books closer to finalized will help me with #3 (which may be split into 2 books making it a 5-book set instead of a 4-book set).

I guess the next time I touch base with everyone it will be the end-of-year wrap-up post. Have an awesome month and a blessed whatever it is you celebrate. I hope you had a good NaNo (for those who participate). See you soon!

 

The 2020 Supportive Creative Challenge

I have a challenge for you. Yes you. You artists, photographers, novelists, poets, playwrights, actors, sculptors, potters, creators of all stripes. I have a challenge for you.

When was the last time you gave another creator a shout out? Why? How many? On what platform? When was the last time you recommended a fellow local creator? A small-timer? An ‘I’m just starting out’ friend? An indie?

It’s late fall and everywhere professional organizations are releasing best-of lists and honouring folks with awards and accolades. Best photos, best art installations, best novels … are they really? Or are they just the best ones to be noticed? The best ones with lots of financial backing? The best of the ones with professional distribution and media attention?

I belong to a non-profit author’s collective. We’re supposed to support each other. We’re supposed to offer each other advice and assistance so new authors don’t get scammed, so we don’t publish with horrible blurbs or ugly covers, so we can split the costs and risks of promotional ventures. We’re supposed to shine a light on each other so more readers can find us. And too often I feel like I’m holding all the candles.

I’m burning out.

It’s my job to find events, pay the fees, find authors to split the costs, coordinate people coming and going from events, set up times, displays, and so on. It’s my job to post people’s readings and launches to the public page, to say “hey, there’s a new release here, check it out”, to add people’s covers and links to their albums so their books are visible. I share events. I invite people. I walk from table to table at conventions and invite new authors to join us.

I love my job. I signed up for this. I volunteer to do this. And everyone I work with is full of thanks and gratitude, and for the most part, they are polite, cooperative, and on the ball. (And since I know a few will pop over to read this, I honestly have ZERO complaints about the work I have done on the group’s behalf these last 5 years).

I’m not saying any of this to complain. I’m not. I do my job and I don’t expect others to do it for me. What I’m talking about here is the above and beyond. I’m talking about the Tweet that went across my feed today asking for #canlit recommendations, the one I retweeted with my own list of local 2019 releases attached. I’m talking about the threads in writing groups asking for favourite authors, new release recommendations, favourite book you read this month, etc., the ones I respond to ONLY with the names and titles of local indie authors, or indie authors I chat with online on a regular basis. I’m talking about having a reader in front of me at a convention and writing SOMEONE ELSE’S NAME on the back of my business card so they can check out an author who isn’t me. I’m talking about loading every new release by every author friend I have onto my grandmother’s tablet every other week because she’s a voracious reader and a random $2.99 ebook sale on someone’s dashboard might be the difference between them writing the next book or giving up.

So, when was the last time you did something like this? When someone asks you to recommend a photographer, do you pull out the big-business’s information or the up-and-comer? When someone asks you for reading recommendations do you repeat what Oprah said or do you suggest someone local, someone self-published? Do you buy your friend a mass-produced print from Target for their house warming or a print by a local photographer?

Maybe it’s just the way I grew up. We had paintings and prints and art in our house, the majority of it by local artists we found at flea markets and street festivals. The giant oil painting in the living room was done by my friend’s father. It’s brilliant. I don’t think he ever got a gallery showing. He deserved one. We bought locally authored books from small presses long before self-publishing started. We frequented small, locally-owned stores over chain stores long before #buylocal got a hashtag. We went to indie muscians’ CD release parties and stopped to talk to authors sitting at the book store with a table full of books to sign. I grew up valuing local, and indie, and handmade. I want to share that with others.

So, what’s the challenge?

I want you, Dear Creator, to boost other creators. I want you to spend 2020 lifting other people up. I want you to seek out “what should I read next” posts and list self-published authors as recommendations. I want you to tag your artist/photographer/crafter/maker friend in every post that might land them a client. I want you to review local short films and local music videos and locally authored books. I want you to visit local coffee shops and shop at local Mom and Pop shops.

Challenges are supposed to have a number, right? Something catchy? 20 in 2020?

I honestly don’t care about a number or a catchy title. I want you to put your favourite creators and artists and authors on blast. I want to start word of mouth wildfires. I want you to push yourself. Do 20 in the year. Do 20 every month. Do 20 every week. Do what your time and energy and budget will allow for. Help as many people as you are capable of.

We’re all awesome at sharing #shoplocal memes. Now lets support local in more active ways – share, recommend, review, buy when possible, show up when possible, and help shed some much deserved light on as many awesome creators as possible.

Who’s with me?

October Recap

What a busy month! My sister-in-law was in town for some work training and brought her kids (who stayed at the farm) so we had multiple visits with them while they were here. Plus Thanksgiving for two sides of the family, a family brunch for my son’s birthday, and a school-friend party for my son’s birthday. I worked the federal election (which meant 3 evenings of training plus a 16 hour day). The kids had 3 no-school days this month. And of course, Halloween.

Phew.

I managed just over 60,000 words this month (making it the fourth month I’ve topped 50k in 30 or 31 days, plus June where I knocked out 100k in 30 days for a double Nano). My annual total to date is 474,000.

I’ll be slowing down now until the end of the year, taking lots of days off for sales, birthdays, and the holidays. My goal is to write 1500 words every available day until December 19th. That will put me over my annual goal with enough to spare to cover sick days or surprise commitments.

I’ve also started a program with Strongest Families to help me learn to deal with my daughter’s outbursts better. That should wrap up early in the new year. It’s a distance thing (online and phone) so it’s not physically taxing but it is emotionally powerful. Lots of digging. Lots of reflection.

Only 2 months to go. Whatever happens, 2019 will be my most productive year to date (as I just topped my 2018 annual total!)

Long-Term Writing

I started writing my debut novel in May of 2014. By November I was publishing it (keep in mind that this wasn’t the first novel I wrote, just the first novel I published). Pieces took me less than a year to write. Both were just under 70k,

The Rose Garden took me 4 years two write 5 books, and that was with a MAJOR plot-driven road-block while writing book 2. They ranged from 64k-95k. The Underground took me 3 years to write 8 books of 20-32k each.

But Zoedar? I started the Zoedavian Chronicles with my best friend when we were 15 or 16 – half a lifetime ago. I’m 32. I’ve literally been working on this series for half of my life.

Why? Since May of 2014 I have written and published 19 books and 3 short stories. Why is it taking me 15+ years to write a 4 book series?

Well, book 1 of The Zoedavian Chronicles is roughly 83k, longer than all but 2 of the previous books I wrote. Book 2 is roughly 97k, equal in length to the longest of the previous books I wrote. Book 3 is shaping up to be 130k – longer than any single book I’ve written, nearly as long as the ENTIRE Underground series combined.

The 5 book Rose Garden Series is approximately 382k combined. This 4 books series looks like it will be at least 410k. So yeah, length plays a huge roll in how long this is taking.

Also, 410k? At 15 years old? There was no way I could have finished a project that large at that age and had it be any good. (Trust me on this. I wrote a MASSIVE vampire project in high school and it’s not salvageable – believe me, I tried).

The biggest reason this project took me so long? I wasn’t ready. I keep telling writers to write crap, and I mean it. That garbaged vampire series taught me A LOT about writing. But I knew in the back of my mind that I was writing crap, I was writing practice pieces, and THIS project called to me, I knew it was special, I knew it held potential.

And I knew I didn’t yet have the ability to write it.

I tried a few times over the years, starting it, outlining it, refining it, revising it. I made so many changes as I learned more about history, religion, cultures outside of my own, and how writing fiction ties into politics. I’d play with it awhile and then put it aside. I’d make some changes to the outlining or the world-building and then put it aside.

Then I started both Rose Garden and The Underground and I knew I had to finish those series completely before I started any other large-scale projects. Even though, by that time, I was itching to start on this for real.

I’ve gone further with this project than I ever have before. I’m still making changes, with the help of a talented, dedicated, and thoughtful beta reader. I still add to the worldbuilding. I still doubt if I’m ready to really tell this story. But now is the time. I feel good about this. It’s coming together.

Writing a book or a series that takes FOREVER is a unique challenge. You have to stay motivated to work on a single project for a lot longer. You have to resist the urge to eternally edit/revise and never finish writing. You have to be strict about cutting everything that isn’t necessary because over the years I have fallen in love with countless facts and fun bits that don’t further the story. They will find a place somewhere, but not here, not now. And you have to be willing to let go of things that no longer work, like beloved character names or plot twists. And you can’t give in to the urge to rush through it. I’ve been working on this a long time, I am not going to ruin it now by rushing things.

 

A Long Time Coming

Way back in high school (okay, I’m not that old but it was half a lifetime ago) I met this girl and somehow, even with me being a complete dufus and so socially awkward it was past laughable, we became best friends.

She started this story with her two best friends from middle school who she didn’t see anymore, sort of as a way to keep them all together. She added me to it and eventually, the other two were dropped.

We started putting real work into it, instead of just “wouldn’t it be cool if we were princesses from another planet!” We created a map (she drew it, I did the labelling), a language, cultures, races, magical systems, and an entire history. We worked on it so much that she’d dream about it at night. She’d tell me the dreams and I’d record them, compiling them and blending them to create a consistent story line.

We tried a comic adaptation but that didn’t work out.

We started work on a novel but the story shifted too much.

And then we graduated.

I kept tinkering with the world and the story and we’d meet up every few months to chat about it and hash things out. I got married and had kids. She got an awesome career. And at some point, our world was put on a shelf.

Until now.

With her permission, I took it down, dusted it off, and started cleaning up the mess of storylines and versions and adaptations we’d created.

I’m now working on book 3 in the series that we always dreamed of writing. And you can learn all about it here.

The world is called Thelara. The series is called The Zoedavian Chronicles. And her name was Steph. I wish I could see more of her but kids, work, books, friends … life has gotten in the way. But I hope, someday soon, she and I will be getting together for drinks to celebrate the publication of the story we once dreamed of writing.

September Recap

The kids went back to school this month and with that comes routine. I have a set time to wake up, set jobs to do at set times, and a large chunk of a quiet day to write with no kids underfoot. I do have to chase the cat around but that’s life.

Oh yeah. Got a new cat. He’s a white and silver tabby, about 5 months old. We named him Zephyr.

Now that the important news is out of the way …

In other news, our dog has been with us a year. She’s down to a healthy weight now and she’s affectionate and energetic. We’re still working on the listening skills but as a 6 year old rescue, well, there’s only so much we’ll be able to do, I think.

There was a black belt test on the 28th. I wasn’t testing (I don’t get to test again until April) but I attended to help with setup and show support. That night was the Award Dinner for our academy. It was a nice excuse to get fancied up and have a nice meal. I was selected for the Role Model of the Year award, which comes as a delightful surprise.

Nothing Everything Nothing, my first novel, was rereleased as a 2nd edition, with a new cover, a new forward, some minor edits, and some bonus content. The last three books in the Underground series have been released (Turncoats, Sunlight, and Cheyanne and Other Tales from Underground). All 4 are available on Amazon as paperbacks and ebooks.

One show this month with the Lorette Family Fun Days, sold 1 book. Probably won’t do it next year.

Writing. I got back to writing this month. I finished Zoedar book 2 and sent it to the beta reader and started on Zoedar book 3.

Let me tell you a bit about the creation process of this series. It’s been my back burner series for a long time. I’ve written scenes and ideas and scrapped them and written others and none of it was ever thrown out. I had a 108k manuscript written, it was supposed to be book 1. When I sat down to work on this project for real, I decided to add a whole bunch to the beginning and rearrange the existing timeline, creating an all-new book 1 (which used some material from the old manuscript) with book 2 being the bulk of the old manuscript. Which is why those books went so fast.

Book 3 is all new territory. I’ve never gotten this far on this project before. I had outlines and timelines and a map of how the war unfolds, but I hadn’t written any of this down yet. My typing speed is great, it’s the actual creating process that takes the most amount of time. Most of writing a book is staring at the screen trying to figure out what word comes next. When the muse is kind and the words come easily, then daily word counts are no problem.

Because I was so far behind after taking August off to edit, I wanted to push myself this month. I’m now at a point where I should be able to finish on time without having to write several hours on holidays.

Oh, I also did a little more work on my memoirs. Those are coming along slowly and I’m going to be rearranging them in the new year.

September Word Count Total: 69550

Zoedar Book 2 finished word count: 94450 (did 11k of that in September)

Zoedar Book 3 end of month word count: 54003

Zoedar Book 3 projected completion date: end of October at a final word count of 110k+

August Recap

I’m a few days late but here’s August in a nutshell. I wrote zero words.

That’s all folks!

Okay, so July ended off with me taking on a paid editing gig for a talented writer from the US. 80k+ words, epic fantasy, real D&D spin sort of thing, right up my alley. I spent all of my available computer time in August working on that and finishing up other projects.

  • Finished a paid editing job
  • Finished the edits and formatting on The Underground books 6-8, including fixing a major plot hold in the ending sequence (like series killing big)
  • Did the edits and reformatting on the Nothing Everything Nothing second edition
  • Published The Underground books 6-8 and Nothing Everything Nothing second edition in paperback and ebook

On the personal front, we started off August with a trip to BC to visit my sister-in-law. When we got home, we finished up school supply shopping and fit in all the remaining “things to do during summer vacation” – including the swimming pool and taking my husband to the zoo to pet the stingrays (so cool).

We ended off the month by adopting a cat. He’s a 4-month-old rescue from the Humane Society, came in as a kitten with his mother and litter-mates. He’s a white and silver short-hair tabby with a beautiful swirl pattern on his back and yellow eyes. We’ve named him Zephyr (but he’s often called Shithead or Dingus by me and Fluff Butt by the kids).

What’s up for September?

We’ve got to get the cat acclimated to the house and eventually introduced to the dog. The kids are going back to school (hooray!) I have a show on the 8th and possibly one on the 14th if all goes well. My baby sister is turning 30. Oh, and there’s a black belt test at the end of the month (I’m not eligible to test but my master is testing for his next dan so I’m excited to go). We also have the academy award dinner at the end of September.

Writing goals include finishing Zoedar Book 2 (we’re at 83k right now and 21 scenes to go), write up all the TV, movie, and book reviews I haven’t gotten around to yet, and look over the notes on Zoedar Book 1 that my extremely awesome beta reader provided.

I’m at 344k words this year. That leaves me 17.5 weeks to write the remaining 176k. That’s just over 10k per week, which is right on my usual goals. Guess I ate up all the buffer time I’d built up earlier in the year. It’s nose to the grindstone time to finish off the year strong.

Wish me luck!

I’ll check in again in a month.

July Recap

I’m a few days early but it’s a busy week so I need to get this out of the way now.

I barely wrote anything in July. Seriously, like 10k.

But, I picked up a paid editing job for a first-time author. 80k of high fantasy adventure. And I need to have all of it finished by the end of August.

On top of that, I’ve been working at cleaning up the house since it’s a disaster. With the garage and the writing, the cleaning fell behind. Oh, and the garage. And my brother-in-law came to visit for a week. And I took the kids camping for 3 days. And we’re prepping to travel to BC for a week at the beginning of August.

And the kids are home full time for summer vacation so we’ve done bowling, splash pads, and many visits to friends and family.

Life is good, I’m tired but feel accomplished, even if I haven’t written much.

The second Zoedar book is at 80k and about 2/3rds done. No, a little more than that. Maybe. It’s going to be a long book. The first book comes back from the Beta Reader this week.

The Underground books will be completed by the end of August. No excuses. All I have to do is make the corrections, double-check the formatting, and do up the back covers.

I did manage to watch a few shows on Netflix and I’ve got a long list of reviews to write up. Maybe I’ll get to that in September.

Enjoy your summer!

 

Prolific Works

I received a troubling email this morning from an app/site called Prolific Works.

prolific1

The rest of the email was simply inviting me to click the link to upgrade my account. So, what’s so troubling?

I’d never heard of Prolific Works before today and I’ve never given them permission to distribute my books, let alone give my books away.

I went to their website intending to search their database to see if my books were indeed available there or if this was some new site trying to get me to sign up. It’s a little of both. First, though, I couldn’t search via their website, I had to download the app.

I downloaded the app and registered (I will be leaving a review before I delete my account and the app later today). I searched my name and bingo! 1 result listed under fantasy.

The good news is that the only book they have listed is a short story that I offer for free on Smashwords and their associate sites. Which gave me pause. Perhaps this is a Smashwords affiliated distributor? Turns out they are not.

I emailed Prolific Works next and this was their reply:

Hi Casia,

Sorry for the confusion regarding this message! Our company used to be called Instafreebie, and it looks like you ran a giveaway on our site in 2017. Our system automatically generates these emails, so it didn’t realize that you haven’t been active since that time. You do have one book and one giveaway on the site, and the book is called “Roses of Airon.” If you don’t plan on using our services in the future, I’m happy to deactivate your account for you! Again, I’m sorry for the miscommunication, and you won’t be receiving an email like this from us again. Let me know if there’s anything else I can clarify for you.

Aha! So, in 2017 I ran a freebie on my free short story, a prequel to a series I recently finished. If Instafreebie sent me an email about the change in name, I didn’t get it, because I didn’t get any results from the giveaway I ran with them at the time. But in the last 2 years, apparently, the story has been downloaded 200+ times. Sadly those downloads have NOT translated into sales for me. There was no “end” date on the giveaway, which is how it was still live on their site.

I have replied to their email, asking them to deactivate my account.

In the grand scheme of things I’ve lost nothing in this ordeal. The readers who downloaded my short story for free were never going to purchase my books, no matter where they downloaded it from. I’ve written about Free Culture before, and how it is killing the arts, and this is further proof.

I’m glad this turned out to be harmless. I’ve received some predatory emails in the past from sites that want to publish my work for free for their profit. If you have free stories and want to put them on another platform, you can look at Prolific Works. I’m in no position to review, rate, or recommend them, but they’re out there.

June Recap

It’s strange how things come and go in waves. Some months are busy and stressful and I get next to nothing written, barely meeting word count goals, struggling to find the inspiration to make the stories work and some months, while busy, are blessed with hours of racing to get the words down on the page at the same rate they’re going through my head.

On the personal front, June marks the end of the school year, but also the start of a new endeavor, one that thankfully doesn’t add too much to my already full plate. I’ve transferred branches within my Taekwondo Academy so I can take on the role of Assistant Instructor. My new ‘home’ is a small but growing group, a little rowdy perhaps, but fun.

The kiddos wrapped up school this year with a bang. My 7-year-old daughter did a Taekwondo pattern for her talent show and even broke a board in front of the whole school. My nine-year-old son’s class wrote books (they were 5-12 pages), many choosing to write comics or graphic novels, and did a book reading for the parents. Visitors could go around the room, from author to author, to hear the stories and ask questions. We had snacks and drinks, which is a necessity at any book launch event. My son is a perfectionist (not surprising since I’m more a ‘basher’ than a ‘swooper’) and wound up having to work on his book at home – a lot. The stress of meeting the deadline was hard on him but the finished product was worth it.

He did a comic in his sketchbook for fun, one about Supa Baby. It is heavily inspired by the fast-paced, silliness of Dogman. His comedic timing is shining through. I’ll be drawing up good copy frames for him so he can do up a clean version, and I hope to upload a sample page here, and to my Patreon.

This month hasn’t been all joy, I’m afraid. Early in June, a family friend lost her fight with cancer, and a few weeks later, one of my local author friends had a second stroke and did not bounce back. The older you get, the more funerals there are to attend, but it doesn’t get easier.

My husband and I are up to our eyeballs in this garage we’re building. We were lucky to get the cement pad poured before the rains started (the rains messed us up last summer, we couldn’t get the gravel to dry enough to pack it properly). We’ve got the frame and plywood up (walls and roof) so it’s time to get it okayed by the inspector again, then on to the siding.

As for writing, I finished the novella Cheyanne and the short story Fifty-Fifty which finishes out The Underground series. I finished Whispers in the Dark (Book 1 of the Chronicles of Zoedar series) and sent that off to the beta reader. I’m just over halfway done Darkness Falling (Book 2 in the Chronicles of Zoedar series). Book 2 is largely a rewrite so that has helped boost my word count numbers this month – a good thing, since the kids are out of school and will be underfoot for the next 8 weeks.

  • Cheyanne + Fifty-Fifty – complete at 25,000 words. They’ve been to the editor and come back. In July I need to do the edits and get the e-book pre-order set up.
  • Sunlight – complete back in the spring. Since I have to sit down and do the edits on Cheyanne, I’ll sit down and do the edits here too. e-book pre-order will be set up, as well as the pre-order for Turncoats.
  • Whispers in the Dark – I won’t get this back from the beta reader until August, most likely. We set end of August as the deadline, because summer vacation and all that, but we’ll see if I get lucky and get it back earlier.
  • Darkness Falling – over 60k written. I’m aiming for 90-120k finished so mid-to-late-July at this rate.
  • June’s total word count: 100,033 (A RECORD!!)
  • 2019 word count so far: 335,794 (184,000 words to go)
  • Chronicles of Zoedar: this is a 4-book series, with books 3 and 4 targeted at 100k, give or take 10k. I’m hoping to have book 1 done and polished in time for #pitmad this fall, with the others completed in quick succession (all first drafts done by the end of 2019). You can read more about this series here

And, we are now halfway through the year! I’m quite a bit past halfway on my word count goals but at this point, I don’t think I’d increase it for next year. Having old drafts of Zoedar kicking about, and Rose at the End exploding past its estimated word count helped boost my speed and productivity this year. Next year will be all new projects, and possibly a lot of marketing – we’ll see what happens!