Monday, August 29, 2011

At My Best

Summer's over and I'm back at school and dealing with a new crop of freshmen and returning upper classmen.  The kids are fun but I'd rather retire.  The odd thing about being back at the day job is the amount of writing work I get done. 

Perhaps because I have fewer hours I work with more intensity during those precious minutes.  Today at lunch I ate my ranch chicken wrap while polishing my one-liner and blurb for my latest fantasy romance, A Tiger's Courage.  I was thrilled last week to receive a contract offer from New Concepts Publishing for this book but of course I received it just in time to be back at work.  But today at work I managed to get it done and send it out tonight.  I even stopped by the post office on my way home to put the contract in the mail.

I've always liked working under pressure with time constraints.  In the summer when I should have hours and hours to write, I seem to get less done than when I'm teaching school for eight hours per day.  Why?  I do get distracted when I'm working at home by laundry, cooking, yard work but I still have more hours than during the school year.  I can't figure it out but there it is.  So for the next ten months, I'm expecting some of my best work.

Are you a pressure worker? Do you find time constraints inspire you to work more efficiently?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Right Choice

About a year ago, I asked my friends in the blogosphere their opinions on keeping a website and a blog.  I collected and weighed the information so generously shared with me by those with more experience in online networking.

I had started up this blog two years previously but I posted less than once per week.  In two years I had only a little over 100 posts and at the same time I was spending hours updating my website every few weeks.  I had slowly expanded my circle of blog friends and noticed how great their blogs were.  They had nearly everything on their blogs that I had on my website and blog combined and many of them didn't have websites.  I decided to try the way that had been working so well for so many.

I haven't regretted it getting rid of my website for even one day.  I've increased the frequency of my posting, found lots of wonderful blogs to follow and increased my own flock of followers from around forty to over two hundred.  Last week marked the three year anniversary of Susan Says and I intend to keep it going as long as blogging remains popular.  I not try to post at least twice a week but sometimes manage as many as four posts.

I know from attendance at conferences, agents and editors will recommend keeping a website and a blog, but I'm going to stick with just the blog.  I get ten times the visits and page views I ever got on my website and hopefully it will keep increasing.  Concentrating on my blog was the right choice for me.

How many of you maintain websites and blogs?  Do any of you own more than one blog?  Is your blog the main focus of your online promotion?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Many Road, One Destination

Those of you who have been reading my blog the past few months know I've been doing numerous road trips with my daughter on college visits. We spend Monday and Tuesday in Boston, visiting Boston University.  Great school and one of my daughter's top choices if we can work out the money.  But this post isn't about colleges.

Driving the six and a half hours to our appointment, we ploughed and floated our way through driving rain and stop and go traffic.  I found the interstates from eastern New York State to Boston to be pretty much a road through one big metropolis.  Cities just kind of overlapped.  It was some tense driving in the early morning hours.  Then we get to Boston and, well, doesn't that city believe in street signs. I'm not sure if they were missing or just not there.  Thank goodness for the borrowed GPS or we would never have found the admissions office.  And parking? I don't really care for cities. Traffic. Noise. So many people! On the up side, lots of Starbucks and other coffee bars.

Then the drive home after a good night's sleep in a great hotel.  Doesn't any one work during the day? I swear the entire population of Connecticut and Massachusetts was on the road with us.  Stop and go. Frustrating.  Then we stopped for gas and asked the GPS to take us home from the gas station.  It took us over the scenic mountains and through small towns with strange names.  We saw numerous lakes in New York, farms and crossed a really cool bridge over the Hudson.  Eventually we returned to an interstate but our moods stayed high after our wonderful trek off the beaten path.

I couldn't help but thing of the many different paths writers take toward publication.  Some authors land contracts with big traditional publishers and suffer all the highs and lows of that.  Some find homes for their work with smaller publishers and though they may not make the big money with an advance, they have a chance at decent royalties and may enjoy a more intimate relationship with their publisher.  And more and more authors are taking the third path and publishing their books themselves.  Success for them varies from amazing to not so great. 

But the journey to publication is part of the adventure.  Hopefully you're traveling a path that isn't as stressful and frustrating as the interstate I was driving on yesterday.  My route over the Bear Mountain Expressway provided me with many sights and memories I'll hang onto for a while.  It was relaxing while still getting me where I needed to go. Sometimes deadlines, promotional responsibilities and the need to constantly network can leach away the joy of writing.  Find the right path and have a fun trip on your way to publication.

Are you happy with the path you're taking in your writing career? Have you ever taken a turn you wish you hadn't or that turned out to be exactly correct?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

That's Odd

I have to share some weird things I've seen over the past week. If you've visited my blog over the course of the last few weeks, you've heard me bemoan the loss of our Borders.  Our store was a real revenue maker so it is staying open as they try to sell as much merchandise as they can before closing for good.  The workers in the store told me they would be receiving products from other stores that have already been closed. 

The book sections are really picked over and fantasy, mystery and the literature sections are still only 30% off but I still stop in when I'm near the store to see what might have been shipped in.  Borders has always had a great selection of journals and calendars.  I often browsed the game and jigsaw puzzle shelves though Borders' stock was a far second to B&N's.  One could always find some pens, gift bags, cups and a few other odds and ends that made cute gifts for the hard-to-buy-for relative. 

But today I went into Borders and saw things that made me laugh out loud. I can only guess these items were shipped in from other stores.  Stacks and stacks of bath towels, adult bundles and pink and blue infant sets.  Not far inside the door was a table full of gift sets of fragrances, male and female scents.  I couldn't quite believe it.  Was I seeing one of the reasons the business failed? Who buys towels at a bookstore? The aisles near the books were packed with people browsing but I didn't see a single person looking at the towels or colognes. 

I know some of you have witnessed the slow, ugly melting of their Borders.  Have you seen some odd things appearing as they shuffled merchandise from store to store?  What is the most out-of-place thing you've ever seen in any bookstore?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's That Time

I know a few, only a few, authors who use their blog only to promote their own work. Most blogs I follow are involved in the business of writing or reading and the content of their blogs varies but most of the time I can read and learn something to help my career.  Sometimes, though, those blogs are just pure entertainment and fun to read.

Yesterday I received my quarterly statement from one of my publishers and a check will follow within a week or so.  New Concepts Publishing has revamped their website and put together lots of promotions to sell more books.  And I can see the results in my statement.  So many publishers leave all the promotion to the author and I certainly understand it is my responsibility.  That knowledge only adds to my gratitude for the efforts my publisher is making.

If you pop over to New Concepts Publishing Website, you can see the beautiful covers they create for their books and you can see the cool contests and the chats they've organized.  I'm honored to have my latest release, Tiger's Mate, as one of the books on the front page now that it's become available in print as well as ebook.

So this is my monthly post to self-promote my books.  New Concepts offers reasonable prices for ebooks and I hope I have many more contracts with them.  I have some other promotional plans in the works.

As an author, do you ever pay for promotion?  As a reader, how do you usually discover new authors? As an author, what do you feel is the best 'free' promotion you do?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Floods, Weeds and Lawns

I don't usually have to search for reasons to procrastinate and this week Mother Nature provided all the opportunities to avoid the writing chair.

Central PA is on pace as one of the wettest years ever.  After receiving six inches of rain in a matter of hours a few days ago, our basement flooded for the second time this year.  It's rain every day since so the weeds and lawn are growing like a rabbit running before a greyhound. We can't keep up.  Tomorrow I'm going to use bleach to wash the basement floor again. I've almost chased out the odor.

I don't like complaining about the rain because so many people are having dry years.  But the clean up chores have been draining the energy I usually put into my writing including my blogging. I've been remiss in visiting and posting.  I'm behind in my edits.

I know real life interferes with all writers but June, July and now August seem to be ganging up on me. In a few weeks, days actually, I'll be back at the day job of teaching and my time will be even more limited.  I always set big goals for the summer months and consistently fall short. 

How have your recent goals been coming along? What recent events contributed to any procrastination issues you've been having?  And is it raining there?

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Today is the last day I can get the extra 10% discount at Borders.  I'm going to visit one last time and pick over the bare bones of books left. Lots of hardbacks are left in the mystery and fantasy rows.  A few tempt me but not enough.  I want to buy them but even with the discount and sales price most are going to be around fifteen dollars.  If they were by authors I put on the keeper shelf I would snag them but I'll probably wait for the paper back or the library to finally get them.  Once they're out in paperback I can get them much cheaper for my eReader also.

It's still sad to go in the store and see the cafe closed and that ugly, uncomfortable furniture with bright orange price tags on.  My daughter and I spent many hours together there, talking about books and sharing all kinds of talks.  We have found nothing to replace Borders yet, at least not within easy commuting distance. 

I composed at least a third of my blogs while sitting in that cafe as well as typing 'The End' on two of my novels while enjoying an over priced cup of iced coffee.   I already miss you.

Have any of you shopped at your local going-out-of-business Borders?  Any good buys?

Friday, August 5, 2011

I'm Going As Fast As I Can

If you're a fan of books written in series, you know the frustration of waiting for the next book to be released.  I read many different genres and there are many authors I eagerly await their next work of fine prose.  In mystery and suspense, I love, Preston and Childs, John Sandford, Lee Child, Elizabeth George and James Rollins.  Most of these writers produce a book about once per year. I can live with that.

My first love is fantasy and perhaps in no other genre do authors torture readers with long waits between books.  Patrick Rothfuss made us wait four years between the first book in Kingkiller Chronicles, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fears.  I'm not sure how long I've waited for Terry Goodkind to come out with his next Sword of Truth book.  I couldn't even guess how long Brandon Sanderson will make us wait for the book following that ten-pounder, The Way of Kings.

I think a big question on fantasy readers' minds is how long it will take George Martin to write the next book in Fire and Ice series.  We waited six years for A Dance of Dragons.  The series if a very involved book with a huge world and a cast of thousands but six years?  I'm wondering if having his books made into an HBO series will inspire him to write faster.  Or, worse case scenario, might it slow him down? 

My fantasy books aren't as long as the big stars I mention as examples. Usually they're about 100,000 words rather than 2K.  It does take me about a year to complete one.  But I'm also working a full time job and raising a family.  Could I do better?  Probably if I let some things go, but as of right now, I'm working as fast as I can.

How long does it take you complete a book? What is the longest you've waited for the next book in a series? What book, besides your own, are you anticipating right now?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Timeline: From Idea to Publication

With great pleasure I introduce guest, Maria Zannini, as she blogs about how long it takes to bring a book to market.  You can join her on her roadshow as she celebrates her new release, The Devil to Pay.
Timeline: From Idea to Publication

How long does it take to get from idea to publication when we’re talking Indie? You might as
well ask how long is a piece of string.

I won’t swear on a stack of bibles because honestly, I didn’t time myself. But I have a fair idea of
how many months, weeks, days, hours it took me to get from idea to publication for a novella.
The idea

I’ll have to take a gimme on this one. The Devil To Pay was already a done deal. I had even
written a draft, and then rewrote it so I could submit it to an anthology. First draft: 3 weeks
Note: At the time I wrote this, I had no intention of self-publishing.

The writing/editing

Once I decided it was going to be self-published I had to give it a hard look and determine if it
was any good. Usually, the editor or agent tells you this. But since I didn’t turn it in anywhere,
the ultimate decision was mine. Was it crap or could it do a little devil dance for me?
I polished it again after my critique partners returned it to me. Then I sent it to an editor. All in
all it took about 10 days before I got back all my feedback.

After that it was time to polish. Again. Add another ten days.

Total: 20 days to write and rewrite a novella that had grown from 23K to 29.5K.

While I was waiting for feedback, I started searching for cover art. I was an artist in my last life
and I pulled out all the stops. This was no longer about my story, but my cover as well. I didn’t
want my fellow artists to point and laugh at me.

The cover art

Since I started searching for art simultaneously while waiting for feedback, I’ll deduct the
overlap. For those of you keeping score at home though, I spent approximately twelve days to
find and finesse the final art you see.
Six days to pull all the art cuts I liked. Two days to try out various layouts and models. One day to find fonts.

Three days to ‘fix’ the model I eventually chose. The poor girl needed hair, cropping, scars
removed, hair accessories removed, skin smoothed, the background removed, and shadows
created. She had a real makeover. :sigh: If only I could do that for myself.
Note: Except for searching for art, most of those days were 2-4 hours per day. Only the initial
art search took 6-8 hours per day. I looked through three databases, finally choosing one and
began the arduous task of seeing what they had to offer.

Total time not counting the days I used while waiting for feedback: Two days

Total time overlapped with editing: 12 days


Let me state right now. I hate formatting. It’s tedious, mind numbing work. It felt like it took
months. In truth, it only took a couple of hours from start to finish.

Total Time for each format, Smashwords and Kindle: Four hours

Total (perceived) Time it sucked the life out of Maria: at least three years.

Add everything up all together and from idea to published novella it comes to 43 Days and 4

I am hoping now that I have a better grasp of what kind of stock art is available, the cover will
go faster next time. But there’s nothing I can do about the life-sucking hours of formatting. If
you’re going to do it yourself, you’re going to have to donate your brain cells to the underverse.
So what do you think? Did my timeline give you any surprises? How long do you think it would
take you?

I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on
my road to self-publishing.

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of
the series, Second Chances.

Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds
herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one
another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they
don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No
matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her
time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions.
Occasionally, she writes novels.

Follow me on Facebook or my blog.

Thank you for visiting Maria.  Good luck with your release.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How Do I Get There?

More and more authors are investigating the self-publishing route.  I only know a few bare bones about it, but tomorrow I'll have a guest who really knows what she's doing.  Maria Zannini will be my guest expert tomorrow.  I hope you'll visit while she shares a timeline from idea to publication.  How long does it take to do all the preparation and then get that book up on Amazon?  Maria will tell us. You'll also get a look on the book she worked so hard to produce, The Devil to Pay.

Have you self-published? How long did it take you?