If you are here for my creative work, my graphic novel Freebird is currently available from Amazon and at local bookstores in Fairbanks. See the above links for my various other projects, or visit my Livejournal for the majority of my blogging. Project updates, notices of new stories, and so forth will be posted here. I am also just starting to write romance as Layla M. Wier (but since this is new, there’s not much available yet!).
I found a couple of short-story rejections in my email this morning. That’s always tough to deal with, although one thing that’s a little bit heartening is that I’m starting to get to the point where I’m getting personalized rejections with critiques, rather than form rejections. Which is a major step up!
And it’s interesting to me that there’s a recurring theme to the critiques, which confirms something I had suspected about my stories: they tend to ramble. This is the thing that keeps getting pointed out — my stories have good characters and ideas, but they’re loose and unfocused, and need to be tightened up.
I’ve always known that I had a tendency to do this. My betas have also pointed it out. It’s partly, I guess, that I naturally lean towards long-form rather than short-form writing, and this means that I want to stuff ALL the worldbuilding and ALL the characterization into my short stories — and you just can’t. But even in my longer stories, I do need to teach myself some better editing skills, and better techniques for maintaining suspense.
I know this is going to sound embarrassingly full of myself, but I’m one of those people who is used to being good at things. I breezed through school and always did very well at work. Of course, the down side of that (and this is true of a lot of other “smart” people I know) is that we maintain our mental image of ourselves as “person who is good at stuff” by only doing things we’re good at. When we run into something that’s hard for us, something we can’t pick up quickly, we have a tendency to reject it and do something we already know how to do instead. Which is obviously not a good life habit to develop. And it’s humbling and probably very character-building to have something that I want very badly to do, and work very hard on, that I’m actually not that good at — or, at least, not nearly as good as a whole lot of other people that I’m tacitly having to compete with.
Just for the heck of it, because I like numbers, the other day I was playing around with my submission spreadsheets to see how my numbers track over the years.
|2013 (so far)||12||10||1|
This is slightly misleading because some of the “unique stories” are actually from previous years. However, these numbers definitely indicate that I’m not sending out enough stories, and in particular I’m not doing nearly as well as I should be at resubmitting the same story to different markets. In 2012, for example, I was basically only sending out any given story once, and that will never do. (In 2011 I kinda gave up. )
This month I’ve set a new goal for myself of (minimum) 5 submissions each month for the rest of the year. Get a story back, turn right around and send it out again until it sells somewhere. That’s the plan!
Hey, Fairbanks-area people: our show opens tonight! Nine Alaskan comics and fine artists will be at the Alaska Center for Natural Medicine on Davis Road from 5-8 p.m. We will have tables set up throughout the building with books, art, gifts and more. There’s free food — if no one comes, we’ll have to eat it all ourselves! And free wine — if no one comes, we’ll have to drink it all ourselves. (And trust me, no one wants to see that.)
If you can’t make it on Friday, the art show will be up throughout the months of May and June, and the AK Center for Natural Medicine has kindly offered to host a small display of our books as well, so you can browse them there and buy them if you like what you see!
And now I am off to print more Freebird comics, which I plan to stick into every available scrap of gallery space. *g*
A lot, it seems!
First of all, I’m in an art show that opens in May! The opening is a First Friday event on May 3rd from 5-8 p.m. (although the show will be up all summer). It’s a comics-themed show at the Alaska Center for Natural Medicine — which might sound like an unusual place for a gallery show, but it’s an absolutely beautiful space, with lots of little corridors and nooks and crannies for art to hang in. The show itself is like a who’s who of Alaskan cartoonists and purveyors of fantasy-themed art, including myself, Ellen Million, Jamie Smith, Chad Carpenter, and Anchorage editorial cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl. I’ll mention it again closer to the show itself.
(Oh my, preparing for the show has been a nonstop comedy of errors. At the moment, after purchasing a number of cheap frames so that everything would match, I’ve just discovered that a double-thick mat doesn’t fit in the frame style, so one of my pieces of art is going to need a different, non-matching frame. FAIL.)
By the way, I have NOT forgotten about all of you who expressed interest in my watercolor cards! The main problem is that I haven’t made much more progress (on either painting more cards, or putting together a website ordering system), but I’m getting some cards together to (attempt to) sell at the opening, and after that I will focus on getting a catalog up on my website and contacting the people who had expressed interest. Thank you again for your interest and enthusiasm, and I’m terribly sorry I’ve been such a sloth about it.
On a slightly different front, my romance-writing alias Layla M. Wier has been busy. I’m starting to wonder if there’s even the slightest point in having a separate alias for that, because as it turns out, what I’m writing under that alias is basically indistinguishable from everything else I write, except for the way it’s marketed. On the other hand, the categorization split is unexpectedly useful for my work ethic. (“Today I’m working on Layla Wier’s stuff; tomorrow I’m doing Layla Lawlor” is how the thought process goes, and as bizarre as it sounds, it’s actually helpful.) As “Layla Wier”, here’s what I have for sale and upcoming:
- One of my short stories appears in the anthology Snow on the Roof from Dreamspinner Press (m/m anthology about men over 40).
- I will have a story — actually more of a novelette — forthcoming in July in Storm Moon Press’s Big Damn Heroines anthology (see their fantastic cover!), about plus-sized women kicking ass. This story is adventure fantasy with f/f and f/m pairings on the side. The anthology releases on July 12; I’ll have more info and a preview when it’s for sale!
- I just sold a novella, Homespun, to Dreamspinner Press. This will probably be out in October or November, and I’ll post more info (the cover, etc) when I have it. I’m thoroughly delighted that this one sold, though I was (pleasantly!) surprised that DSP bought it, because it isn’t really their usual fare: both the main couple are middle-aged and have been together for 20 years, and the viewpoint rotates between the two of them and a third major POV character who is female. It’s not a story about falling in love; it’s a story about growing up and growing old and dealing with family and community along the way. And also, it’s about a sheep farm; I am embarrassed to admit how many books on sheep and fiber spinning I bought for “research”.
- Also, I made a blog post over there on writing what you love that I meant to crosspost here and never got around to it. Oops.
And that’s what I’m up to! Oh, and I also need to get another round of agent submissions going for my urban fantasy novel. (Yes, I’m still at it; no, I still haven’t placed it anywhere, but that’s partly because I haven’t sent out more submissions in … uh, awhile. It’ll never sell if it never gets sent out, though.)
Still waiting for progress to occur on the “melting” front. Walking the dog last night, I noticed the setting sun glinting rather beautifully off the snowbanks along the driveway, although by the time I ran and got my camera it had mostly set:
(This was about 10 p.m. — we have a lot of light, at least.)
And here’s a picture I took today of water pooling on the creek ice:
It’s 40 degrees today and feels wonderful. Hopefully we’ll lose this snow quickly now that it’s getting warmer.
You may notice lately that some of my posts are crossposted from the WordPress blog and some aren’t. That’s mainly because crossposting from WordPress is more work than typing into an LJ (or LJ clone) window. (Not a LOT more work, but between troubleshooting formatting issues, having to log into WordPress every time, and not being able to use LJ-specific markup code … yeah. It’s work.)
So I think I’m going to bother with crossposting on WordPress only when it’s Serious Writing Stuff (updates on my projects, or posts on writing) and otherwise, I’ll just be posting to Dreamwidth and crossposting to LJ.
I doubt if this matters to anyone but me (since, for those of you reading along on LJ or DW, nothing will change, and I think that is 99% of you), but I figured I’d mention it.
(Though I may change my mind once my paid LJ time runs out and I have to deal with ads again …)
The latest book from my Library Pile is one that I’d thought to be a historical murder mystery from the cover, but once I started to read, I realized it was a mystery-romance. The heroine has a meet-cute with a guy on the ferry that she’s taking to the Greek island where the events of the book take place. On the island, he is giving her a lift in his sporty little car, when he accidentally knocks over an old lady’s fruit stand, knocking oranges all over the road. Immediately, he stops, apologizes, and helps the old lady pick up her fruit.
And this really gave me pause; it made me stop and go, “Wow, I like this guy! This one’s a keeper, lady.”
… then about five pages later, the actual romantic hero shows up, which is clearly signposted because he is a total dick and the heroine hates him. Just to be sure, I turned to the blurb on the back (normally I avoid those, being a spoilerphobe) and discovered that not only is Dick Boy our “hero”, but the guy I’d liked so much is slated to be the murder victim.
Yeah. No. This one goes straight back to the library.
But this made me realize just how thoroughly over the alpha-hero trope I am. Over. Done. I want characters (male and female) who are the sort of person who would stop to help an old lady pick up her oranges. I am hungry for kind characters in literature, the sort of people who are aware that they exist as part of a community; who, when they accidentally hurt someone, notice and apologize for it, even if it’s a stranger, and doubly so if it’s a loved one.
And I think it was very eye-opening for me how startling it was, to encounter a scene in the opening pages of the book in which the character that I had believed to be the hero does something kind and altruistic. That’s rare. And it shouldn’t be. And this isn’t a problem specific to the romance genre. I read so many books in which the characters are misanthropic loners or just general jerks. I can enjoy me some misanthropic loners, but these days, I find that I’m really craving books about characters who aren’t. (Even if they may occasionally mistake themselves for one.)
My attempts to get my novel agented have been met with resounding, deafening silence. I haven’t even gotten a request for a partial yet. (The way it works is: you send out a query letter, and if they’re interested, they ask to see a “partial”, i.e. the first few chapters; if they like that, they ask to see the whole manuscript.) The lack of response is somewhat disheartening — okay, I’ll be honest, it’s a lot disheartening — but it’s also making me think seriously about self-publishing. Or, more specifically, I’m thinking about serializing the novel online for free.
This isn’t a “holy cow, I must suck” kind of thing. I know that I am still at the apprentice level of learning my novelist’s craft … and possibly farther down the apprentice curve than I had realized. It’s hard to juggle all the elements that go into a novel: plot and character and worldbuilding, dramatic tension and description and action and quiet character moments. I wrote the best novel that I possibly could, but there’s a very real possibility (getting more real with every week that goes by with no response) that it’s not quite enough to catch an agent’s eye. I think it’s a good novel and I’m deeply in love with the characters. Could it be better? Sure. Hopefully the next one will be. And in the meantime …
The more I think about self-publishing, the more I like it. I don’t want to go flying into the endeavor without making a good plan, though. After all, I have an entire novel (edited, beta-read, researched to within an inch of its life) and a sequel that’s complete in rough draft. I don’t want to squander them. I want to make them work for me.
So what is the best way to approach it?
At this point, I’m thinking of serializing the novel on my blog, a chapter a week, and also having it available as an ebook. I’m still trying to think about how to handle the timing of the ebook release. Having the ebook available while I am still serializing the novel is a good incentive to buy: you read all the free chapters, and need to go get the ebook to find out how it ends! As opposed to waiting until it’s all online and then releasing the ebook. However, I need enough of the book online to make a good teaser. And releasing the ebook at the beginning also makes it impossible to edit the story in response to reader comments (it’s not going to be a choose-your-own-plot-point free-for-all, but I do think I’d be a fool not to take advantage of readers pointing out weaknesses, typos and so forth).
So what I’m currently thinking is this: I’ll serialize half the book (that’s about 3 months at a chapter a week), then have a release party for the ebook, then serialize the other half. If people prefer to wait and read it online, they can certainly do so! If they want to buy the ebook, there will be a good stack of chapters to sample, and some buzz generated by those chapters as well. (Hopefully.)
And, yeah, I could go the safe route and just release it as an ebook, forget putting it online for free. But you know, honestly, I actually think I’d sell more books that way? Or, at least, I want to try. I think it would be a very interesting project. Serializing stuff is fun. I love doing webcomics. I enjoy reading serialized fiction. Can I make money at it? Well, I don’t know. But I’m kind of excited to find out.
Here are some things I’m pondering:
- Should I have a dedicated community or blog for the novel, or just release chapters on my main blog?
- When to release the ebook? At the beginning, middle, end of the serialization process?
- Should I try having a subscription option, with extra content? I was seriously thinking about doing something similar to Catherynne Valente’s Omikuji Project, where a very cheap monthly fee ($5 or so) gets you access to all kinds of cool stuff: extra stories, artwork, character bios, sneak peeks of upcoming stuff.
Ummm … thoughts? Ideas? Tell me I’ve lost my mind and I’m jumping the gun on giving up so quickly on traditional publishing?
In my year-long to-do list (yes, I have one of those), March is labeled “Kismet”. My goal for the month is 50 pages, penciled and inked, though probably not colored. That’ll give me a year of weekly updates. It sounds like a lot, and it may end up being an unrealistic goal, but I’m starting to realize that sometimes it’s good to challenge myself. And it’s been awhile since I’ve regularly, consistently done comics. I’m sort of curious how fast I’m going to be once I settle into it.
I know it’s technically still February, but I started penciling tonight, so hey! Progress bars.
1 / 50 pages. 2% done!
0 / 50 pages. 0% done!
0 / 50 pages. 0% done!
Before I get to the rest of this, my romance alias Layla M. Wier has a story out now in the anthology Snow on the Roof, from Dreamspinner Press. This is an M/M anthology of stories about men over 40. I’m very happy with the company I’m in; the final story in the anthology in particular, “Granddad’s Cup of Tea”, is just really good fiction, nevermind romance. And it’s a pleasantly less-tropy-than-usual collection of romantic fiction. Here’s its Goodreads page. I’ll also have a novelette with a female protagonist (F/F and F/M pairings) in an anthology coming out from Storm Moon Press in July. Small steps, yes, but hey, I’m selling stuff.
Anyway, right now I’m making WordPress sites for Sun-Cutter and for the Annotated Raven’s Children. Having already created an account on WordPress.com for my (rarely updated) romance blog, I discovered that it is incredibly easy to create new WordPress accounts and manage them all from the same hub. So now annotatedravenschildren.wordpress.com is a go, and so is kismetsuncutter.wordpress.com. (No real content in either place yet; I’m still getting them set up — well, at the moment, trying to figure out how I can stop the site scheme I chose for the Sun-Cutter site from putting a line around all my images. Knock it off, CSS!) I also figured it would be a good idea to lock down the “laylalawlor” name at WordPress too, since in both the above cases, the addresses I really wanted (“ravenschildren” and “suncutter”) were already taken.
… which is partly because WordPress’s rules for deleting accounts are STUPID. You can only delete an account by completely locking it out of the system, so that no one else, including you, will ever be able to use that address again. Why would they do that?! I much prefer LJ’s system, where a deleted username can either redirect to your new site or become available for other people to use. Once you select a WordPress username, no one can EVER use that name at WordPress, and if you delete it, you can’t ever change your mind and undelete it. Right now I have a spare WordPress account that I (somewhat stupidly) made in the beginning, back when I was futzing around with different romance aliases and thought I wanted to be Lenora Glass. (Turned out I didn’t.) But I like that pseud and I’m keeping the account even though it’s just visual clutter on my dashboard, because otherwise I can never ever use it again at WordPress.com.
(Seriously, why would they do that, WHY.)
Other than that, though, I like WordPress a lot. Most of my site management on my website is now being done that way; I still have some tag cleanup to do at LJ/DW to get the two of them in sync with the way I’m handling tags at WordPress, but, now that I’ve managed to staunch the tide of spam by setting it to registered users only, I’m quite comfortable working with it. When I start updating the Kismet and Raven’s Children wordpress accounts, I will probably crosspost them to LJ & DW much as I’ve been doing with my main laylalawlor.com blog (where I’m typing this update right now); there’s no reason, I think, why you can’t crosspost from multiple WordPress blogs into the same LJ account.
A partial website “to do” list for the next couple of weeks:
- Get the Sun-Cutter and Raven’s Children archives set up on WordPress, so that I can start updating RC again.
- Somehow figure out a good fiction archive interface for my website. (I want to start posting free short stories and putting up ebook versions of the fiction I already have online, but I’m not sure exactly how I want to handle it. Right now it is, like all else, a scattered mess.)
- Set up a website store, selling books, art, ebooks, etc. (Aargh, so overdue!)