It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask

Just a tiny part of my cool Doctor Who cake, based on the Threadless T-Shirt design "Who Do You Want To Be Today?" by Alicia-B.
Just a tiny part of my cool Doctor Who cake, based on the Threadless T-Shirt design “Who Do You Want To Be Today?” by Alicia-B.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do for my (admittedly, still fledgling) writing career is work on marketing.

Once upon a time, so I’ve heard, writers used to write, and their publishers handled the marketing – but that’s just not the world we’re in any more. Not that my publisher hasn’t been awesome, giving me a publicist to work with, and generally championing my book, but these days writers are expected to take an active part in their marketing by being present on social media, setting up interviews and reviews, and generally creating publicity for their books. Because after all, why write books if no one’s going to buy them?

For me, the worst part of this has been the cold call (ok, cold email – it would be so much worse if I had to actually talk to people on the phone). Having to blurb my book and promote myself to total strangers has required more confidence than I thought I possessed (you can check out my posts on confidence here and here)

And yet…

When it comes right down to it, what do I have to lose from a cold email requesting an interview or review? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

They could say no.

In which case, I’m no worse off than I was before I sent the email – in fact, I’m a bit better, because now at least one more person (the one who read the email) has heard of my book.

(Now, obviously, I’m talking about emailing requests to appropriate places – if you send out requests for your picture book to a site that only reviews erotica, you’re just going to annoy people and waste their time.)

And people are going to say no. Right now I’m averaging about a 75% rejection rate. But do you know what that means? That means 25% of the places I’ve contacted have said yes!

It’s why I now have an Appearances and Events page on this site. And it’s why I have my first TV appearance on Monday. Squee! (Strangely, thanks to my acting background, I’m less nervous about the actual appearance than I was sending the email to request it – go figure.)

It just goes to show that, as hard as it may be to muster the confidence to do it, it doesn’t hurt to ask – you never know what good things could come from a simple request. (Now here’s to hoping I don’t make a fool out of myself next week :D)

What about you? What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do lately? Let me know in the comments.

Proof that fondant can be good: The full cake based on the Threadless T-Shirt design "Who Do You Want To Be Today?" by Alicia-B.)
Proof that fondant can be good: The full cake based on the Threadless T-Shirt design “Who Do You Want To Be Today?” by Alicia-B.)

PS For those of you who missed it on Twitter yesterday, my copies of FUN WITH FROSTING arrived! Squee! (Check out my Facebook page for a photo of me grinning like a goofball with my book!)

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Some Thoughts on Reading

I have a confession to make. Last week, I gave up on a book* I was reading.

This is practically unheard-of for me. I mean, I’ve given up on books before, but they were usually random books I picked up with no knowledge of the author – and even then, my Type A personality usually demands I read them through to the very end. (Oh, and A Storm of Swords, which I put down after the red wedding because I couldn’t handle any more fiction-induced heartache.)

But this book came highly recommended (4.5 stars on Goodreads out of over ten thousand reviews!) Not only that, but on the surface, it was a book I should have liked. A book I wanted to like.

But, with my reading time limited by my concussion, I couldn’t bring myself to keep going with a book I just wasn’t that into. It’s not like the story was terrible, or anything, I just couldn’t connect to the character.

Now, if you’re a writer, those words probably sound eerily familiar. They’re a common refrain in rejection letters, along with “this is a very subjective business” and “it’s just not a good fit for me.”

And this is why you should query/submit widely. Because this really *is* a subjective business, and not everyone is going to enjoy every story. Lots of best sellers were rejected before they became hits – and they still don’t have universal appeal.

But the most important thing is to keep trying. Keep putting your work out there, and hopefully one day you’ll find the agent/editor/reader who is the right fit for your book. Or, at least, that’s what I’m trying to tell myself as I get ready to go on sub with my MG.

What about you? Ever given up partway through a book, or do you stick it out to the end? Ever read something popular and wondered what all the hype was about? Tell me about it in the comments.

 

*No, I’m not telling you which book, because, honestly, I’m kind of embarrassed I didn’t like it. Also, the world of kidlit is small, and I don’t want to step on any toes.

 

Vacation-Inspired World-Building Tips

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Okay, this post is a little late. It’s been almost three weeks since I returned from the vacation that inspired the idea for this post, but, as I wrote last week, sometimes life gets in the way.

This trip was my first-ever tropical vacation, and I was surprised by some of differences I discovered while I was there. They were all small things, but it’s the little details which can make or break your world-building, so I thought I’d share them with you for future writing use.

  1. The sounds: For the first few days I was convinced the hotel was playing a recording of birdsong as a gimmick. Of course it turned out to be real, live, wild birds serenading us each morning. And the roar of the ocean fooled us into thinking there was a thunderstorm coming more than once.
  2.  The food: Obviously I expected the food to be different, and it was. There were lots of delicious, new-to-me rice and bean dishes, as well as new vegetable recipes, and soups. But it was the variations on standard things that surprised me. For instance, a chocolate cake that I thought was Black Forest, but which had an apple filling, instead of cherry. Or just the fact that sweet potatoes are white, pink-colored desserts (jams, jellies, ice cream, etc) are banana-flavored (gak!), yogurts only come in tropical fruit flavors, and milk is served hot for coffee, but never cold to drink (unless you’re mixing it with alcohol).
  3.  The lack of walls:  Our room had A/C, but the hotel lobbies and the restaurants were all open air, relying (quite effectively) on fans and a cross breeze to keep them cool.
  4. The wildlife: I’ve already mentioned the beautifully-voiced birds (some of which had the habit of sampling from the booze bottles at the bars), but there were also lizards, crabs, hermit crabs, and tarantulas (seen my uncle-in-law, not me – or I wouldn’t have slept the entire trip!) wandering freely throughout the hotel.
So there you have it, four small details I wouldn’t have realized were different, if I had experienced them for myself. Which goes to show why you should always do your research.
What about you? What little world-building details have you included in your writing? Tell me about it in the comments.

When Life Gets in the Way…

We all want to have our cake and eat it too, but sometimes life just gets in the way...
We all want to have our cake and eat it too, but sometimes life just gets in the way…

2016 has been a rough year for me, as far getting any work done goes. I’ve spent most of the year so far battling various colds and flus (Note to self: next year, don’t forget to get your flu shot) and resting when I should have been writing.

Last week, I was fine with being sick, and even with missing my blog post. After all, I felt terrible, and didn’t have the energy to do more than sprawl on the couch and watch tv. But this week, I had more energy – not a lot more, but more. Enough that I only needed to spend about 75% of my time sprawled on the couch, resting.

And yet, I barely got any work done.

I mean, I got some work done: I did a few critiques and posted a chapter of my WIP to my online crit group, I sent out some publicity requests for FUN WITH FROSTING, and I tried to keep at least vaguely on top of my social media accounts. But I didn’t get any new writing done.

So, what happened?

Well, we needed groceries, the boys had appointments, we have a bunch of birthdays coming up that require gifts (some by this weekend), it was spirit week at the kids’ school, requiring different ‘costumes’ each day (waaay more work than you’d think, between shopping for items, doing laundry, and just generally trying to find specific clothes in the disaster area we call a house – I haven’t had the time/energy for cleaning, either)…you get the idea…

In short, life got in the way.

It’s frustrating, but it happens. I’ve always said I’m an almost-full-time writer (/part-time parent), and this is why. Because when you have kids there’s always going to be something that needs your attention: homework, parties, field trips, laundry (so much laundry!), sick days, food prep, hair styling, not to mention actually playing with them. And there are only so many hours in a day.

I am so fortunate to have a job that allows me to spend so much time with/on my kids. If I had a regular, out-of-the-house “real” job, not only would I probably have been fired already due to absences, I don’t know how I’d find the time to get everything done that needs to be done, let alone find time for writing.

On the other hand, if I don’t manage to squeeze in some writing time soon, I’m not going to be able to be an almost-full-time writer for much longer.

So I’m working on ways to squeeze writing in. Step 1 was getting up at 5:30 this morning to write this post. Step 2 includes bringing my notebook to the doctor’s this afternoon so I can work while I wait. Step 3 is taking the kids to go visit their grandparents for March Break next week. Hopefully with their help I’ll rest up enough to finally kick this flu, or at the very least, find more time for writing. Wish me luck.

What about you? How do you balance work and life? Ever had your life completely take over your work? How did you get things back on track? Tell me about it in the comments.

Post Cancelled Due to Toucan Attack

Okay, not really. Actually it’s cancelled because of the nasty flu I’ve been fighting since the last day of vacation.

But my vacation *did* involve a toucan attack, and instead of a post today, enjoy this photo of me being bit on the head by a toucan – hubs managed to snap the photo just as it attacked.

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This is the guy who did it. Doesn’t he look smug?

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for this week. Off now to curl up on the couch with a cup of chai and continue binge-watching Bones on Netflix. See you next week.

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