Scribbles and thoughts ...

These are ramblings from J L Wilson, published author of romantic suspense, mystery, and paranormal -time travel fiction....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Yes, we're still on hold here

I'm working on getting pieces of my web site uploaded here as "Pages" on Blogger. I'm not sure if I'll use Blogger permanently or switch over to Wordpress. Blogger is SO much easier to use but WordPress may be a bit better looking.

Sigh. Go for looks? Go for comfort? Sort of like choosing high heels over sneakers.

I ordered a Blogger for Dummies book (I hate those titles but it was the only thing I could find). I already have WordPress books. I'm hoping the BfD book comes soon so I can delve into this, make a decision, and (ta da!) have a web site again.

Until then...stay tuned. This site will be tweaked and touched now and then as I get time. I'm trying to finish my latest book (about 4 chapters to go!), dealing with holidays, and still sorting through Mom's estate, trying to help get that settled.

Here's hoping 2011 is a bit more even-keeled.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Web site woes

My web site is down (host issues. don't get me started).

This will have to serve as my web site for now. I hope for not long, but who knows?

Ah, technology.

Send me an email at jayellwilson@yahoo.com if you're trying to find me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Printed word or just word?

I have a very close relationship to the printed word.

I wrote my first novel when I was 10 (17 chapters, almost 40 pages of text. About a racehorse. I grew up in Iowa and the closest I came to a racehorse was the ponies ridden by friends, but I had a good imagination).

I learned Braille long ago (long story), but have since forgotten all but the feeling of "ahah" when I was able to close my eyes and discern a letter by ITS SHAPE. Not its appearance, but its shape. That was truly unique.

In college I earned 'fun money' by doing calligraphy. I taught myself pen techniques, took some classes, and developed my own fonts and styles, some of which were quite inventive. Along the way I earned four college degrees (in English Literature and Informatino Theory), which combined my love of the word with a study of the scientific way we process words. Again: an "a ha" moment, a fascination with words and how we perceive them all given new light.

My first professional job was as a typesetter for a printing company. I also did layout and proofreading. I developed a love for letters -- the physical shape of letters, how they are presented on the page, how they appear. I learned about leading, kerning, layout design.

My next professional job was as a writer -- a technical writer. Part of what a technical writer does is write about the product or task, but the other part is deciding how to present the material. I learned about graphics, visual presentation of technical information (have you read Edward Tufte? If not, you should: http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_vdqi).

One of my tech writing jobs is to document software that manages content -- all kinds of content, whether it be documents, or graphics, or physical items. Again: content management. A way to present, use, handle content.

Then I started to be published in fiction. I have quite  few books out now, all with different publishers. And you know what? Some of them are in digital form only, some are printed. And I love 'em all just the same. I think they're all just as good. The digital ones aren't less well written than the printed ones. I love seeing the 'printed word' on my Kindle, on a paper page, and on my computer screen.

If ANYBODY should have a beef with digital publishing, it should be me -- one of the keystones of my life has been to study letters (and words). But I have no beef. I don't think digital demeans a book. I won't deny myself a book just because I can't "hold it in my hand." I don't care about the smell of books, I don't care about the touch of a book, I don't care about its appearance except only in how it affects my reading of content.

Why are some people so passionate about the 'printed word'? I just don't get it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Adaptation

This is the first month I haven't gone to Iowa to visit my Mom in years. I'm keeping busy doing other things, but the lack of that visit is haunting me. I loved those visits. I loved the trip itself and the town and my walks there and connecting with my Mom. It was very relaxing.

I'm adapting to this sense of strangeness, but it's not a happy thing. I don't know if it ever will be. All I know is I'm restless. I need a change. I need something to break up the monotony of what I'm doing. My visits there did that, and now I don't have it. So I need to find a change that I can use.

Still searching.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A world full of awesome

I'm having one of those days where I feel lousy: my clothes don't fit right, I feel fat, I don't want to work out tonight, I should go to Yoga class but I dislike the teacher, I have to write a bunch of acknowledgment cards for donations to Mom's memorial fund and that always makes me cry...

Yeah. A crappy day.

And yet it is a day of awesome. The air is crisp. The snow is white and fresh. The streets are well plowed and not slippery. My job is interesting. My back pain is manageable.

In short. Life is good. Let's face it. Most of the time, Life Is Good. It's just a matter of looking past the crappy to see the awesome.

What a Pollyanna attitude. Yep. It's mine, and I'm sticking to it!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Philosophy on a Thursday


As I look back on 2010, I realize that this was a watershed year for me in all ways. What ways? Let me count them:
  • Life: this was the year my mother died (just a month ago). She was 91 and led a relatively active life up until a week before she died. I’m grieving for myself, not her. Her health had failed and she was ready to ‘move on to the next thing,’ as she put it. I was a primary caregiver for her in the last years of her life, and it made me realize how much I enjoyed that role. I miss it more than I thought I would, just as I miss her. 
  • “Real” career: This year marks my 25th year in my chosen career (professional technical writer). I stumbled into this career by accident. I have four college degrees, two in computer science and two in English. It seemed like a natural progression to merge them all into one career and it’s sustained me all these years. I really enjoy my job, my co-workers, and my boss. I am so fortunate to have this job and when Mom was sick, I realized that even more as I was able to travel to be with her and still telecommute, with the blessing of my company and my boss. I make good money, I’m challenged, and I’m valued. What more can a person ask?
  • My writing career: This year marks the end of my fourth year of my publication journeys. My first book released in June of 2007 and since then 18 of my books have released. I have contracts for 5 more books next year and I have 4 books written, waiting to submit. I’ve enjoyed my publishing experiences, but I’m restless to move on to a new challenge. I’m sure I’ll still write for publication, but I may try a new publisher, or I may try self-publishing, or I may try … who knows what?
  • Health: I had some challenging health issues this year that have stumped all the doctors I visited. It made me realize that medicine is really an art, not a science, as we would like to think. These are the sort of health problems that aren’t life-threatening, but are life changing in that I have to adjust how I do my daily life in order to accommodate pain and discomfort. So I haven’t been aggressive about pursuing ‘a cure,’ because I’m not convinced there is one (and I don’t want to spend more hours in an MRI machine, thank-you-very-much).
So what does this all add up to?
It has reinforced my firm belief that life is a teeter-totter and for every high, there’s a low, and vice versa. My mother died, but…I suddenly have much more free time, time to pursue new interests and challenges. My day job is great…and I need to remember that when I’m on deadline and working bunches of overtime. My writing career is just that—a career. I’m in charge of it, and I need to determine what I want to do with it. And my health, while shaky at times, is still okay. I need to re-intensify my physical therapy and take charge of my aches and pains and not let them slow me down…much.
The more I consider it, the more I think that publishing is like a microcosm of life. Trends come and go, publishing houses rise and fall, sales ebb and flow. And through it all, we continue to write stories people want to read about characters we love. It may seem like our success if out of our control and at the whim of editors and agents, but it all depends on how you define success. Today’s triumph will be balanced by tomorrow’s rejection letter. That odd story you’re writing may be tomorrow’s trend. That agent who rejected you may contact you a year from now and ask for more submissions.
Life is a big roller coaster. It’s up to you to hang on and try to enjoy the ride. It won’t always be happy and there will be some stomach-churning dips. But just wait…a peak is coming and a spectacular view is waiting to be seen. It’s all just a matter of time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Offline

Mom passed away last week and the funeral is this week. So I'm away.

Friday, November 05, 2010

I'm gone for a while

My mother is very ill, and I don't know how much longer she'll be with us. So I'm focusing on her now. I'll be back later.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

It's coming ....

My next book. Almost here.

Oh, heck. It's at Amazon, so here it is:

This is the story of Jack, a guy who goes into a used-book store. And it's the story of Odetta, the woman who runs the store.

They team up to solve a mystery and along the way, they discover that neither of them is too old for love. In fact, they might be just about exactly right for each other. But there's the pesky problem of the mystery, with clues sprinkled throughout some of the 'sexy books' that Odetta loves to read.

Hmm. Might be just what they need to have some fun on that cross-country journey they take.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Okay. Not so bad

It was only $1700.

Only?

It's a sad day when I celebrate only spending $1700 but there you are.

Mouse traps are out and the Mouse Wars have begun.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Normal world? Hunh?

Took my car in for its 30k checkup. I figured, $300-$400.

Nope. 10 times that. Yep.

Do I have your attention? Why?

Mice.

Mice got into the motor and chewed up the wiring. Parts must be ordered and it will take at least 1 day of a mechanic working on it to get it going again.

I didn't have any problem before, but according to the service guy, it was a fire waiting to happen.

You know, it makes me wonder: what else is out there lurking, waiting to catch me by surprise?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What is normal any more?


I've been in town, out of town, in town, out of town, for about three months now. I'm in town for two weeks, maybe three, this time. And it's weird.

What is normal any more?

I'm not sure. I went to work (the Real Job) and it felt weird to be there. I was there for a few days before I left the last time, but was gone a week before that, and ... I've gotten out of touch with schedules and deadlines and being On Task there.

It's odd how our circadian rhythms can be so easily disrupted. I was totally unaware of how scheduled my life was until it became totally unscheduled for several months. Now I find myself asking, "What would you like to do?" instead of "what is scheduled to do?"

It's an oddly freeing feeling. One that maybe I'll grow to enjoy.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

This is what it should be like ...

I forgot how much fun it was to write novels.

That sounds odd from someone who has 5 books out this year, but this summer was a challenge. I was working on a book that was like pulling teeth. I just didn't feel INTO the book. I wasn't in the characters' heads, I didn't feel their emotions. I was going through the motions.

Then, on vacation, I had an idea for a completely different kind of book. And suddenly my writing mojo is back.

This tells me a very important thing about me: my writing is, at least at first, 90% inspiration. After that it's 100% craft, but if I don't have that initial kick of inspiration, it's a P.I.T.A. to write.

So, lemons/lemonade. Clouds/silver lining. You know the schtick.

Back to the book. It's getting good ...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Fresh starts

I'll tell you, there's nothing like a vacation. I was away for a week and while I could have logged in, blogged, etc., I didn't. You know what I did?

I sat, I thought, I jotted down some ideas, I wrote, I read magazines, I relaxed.

And now I'm back with even more ideas, a new way to focus on my writing, revised ideas about promotion, and hopefully a new journey into self-publishing.

Stay tuned. It might get interesting around here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Offline

No, I'm not really offline. I'm just delayed.

I attended a 2-day writer conference and it was ... interesting. I was a bit disappointed, I'll say that right off. I thought the presenter would be more prepared, more on-task.

HOWEVER: I did get a few tidbits of "how to" tricks out of it, so that was useful. Let's face it: if I can get *something* out of it, it's okay.

And now I'm on the road again for the ... hmm, 4th? 5th? time in 6 weeks. So expect erratic updates here and there.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What is promo, really?

I just read a blog post on a friend's blog. Said friend is also a published author, and I checked her 'followers', and HOLY COW, she's got a couple of hundred blog followers.

Well, foo -- that's great promo for her, right?

Hmm. Wait a minute. Have I ever bought someone's book just because I read an interesting blog post? Uh, no. Nor have I explored a web page unless I found it really attractive -- a plain/Jane page: nope.

So what is promo? Authors are always told to "get their name out there" as though that will magically get us some sales. But does it? I don't think so. I think the "get out there" is to get out there and interact with people, build a sense of who you are on the web, and, yes, get out there and promote the book.

So WHEW. I'm not as worried about those blog stats now.

Not much...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And writerly angst

An acquaintance of mine, who has many, many books published (mostly erotica), has just acquired an agent. I am briefly jealous.

Jealous because this means she's taken the time to work on her career, something that, sadly, I haven't done lately. And happy for her because she's taken the next step forward in her career.

It seems like every fall I go through this: continue as I've done? Strive for more?

It looks like this fall won't be any different ....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Writerly enthusiasm

Had a meeting today with other writers in my area -- it's always so much fun to touch base with others 'in the trade.' We're doing a web site demo right now, and since I've already done my web site, I'm taking time to do a blog.

I highly recommend finding people who have like interests--it will always give you a shot in the arm.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Life, the hospital, and everything

I had to drop everything earlier in the week to go back to Iowa and help my Mom. I had visited her last weekend, came back to MN on Monday, on Tuesday got the call she needed me, and on Wednesday I drove back. On Friday I came back to MN.

It's surprising how easy that 4 hour drive is -- I literally do a lot of it on auto-pilot, which I suppose is a bit frightening. But I plug in my iPod, listen to a book on tape, and allow my mind to wander as I drive. It's Interstate most of the way, so it's easy.

I don't *enjoy* those trips, but I will miss them when my Mom passes (and not just because she's gone). They truly are an "out of the normal" experience, and I find I value those because I value my time when I get home so much.

It's all part of the balance of life, I know, but it's also something that gives me a chance to think. I don't get that enough in my daily life.

I know -- make time for it.

I wonder if I can ?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

TBR: pile or list?

I've seen several folks comment about their "TBR" pile: a stack of books, To Be Read, that awaits the reader's free time.

I've started to keep a TBRL: To Be Read List. You see, I don't have time to read. Seriously. I work full-time, I write full-time, and I have a social life. But after seeing my elderly mother and how much she reads, I thought, "You know, I'm going to keep a TBRL so when that day comes that I'm retired and I have time on my hands, I can dig out these books and read them."

It's surprising how fun this list is to keep -- I'm adding books right and left that intrigue me. I won't buy them. I'll probably get them from the library or maybe I'll download a first chapter for my Kindle (will there be Kindles by the time I retire?) I have an assurance that, barring an apocalypse, these books will still be around in some way, shape or form. A few years ago, I couldn't think that way -- I would have had to buy the books.

It's another way the electronic world is freeing me. I anticipate having a LOT of reading to do in the future.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dual personality me

Yes, there are two me-people. No, I'm not bipolar or anything like that.

I write novels (see the sidebar), and I am fascinated by The Train Wreck That Is Publishing (TTWTIP). There have been several meltdowns lately, all documented on our Information Superhighway:

  • Barnes & Noble up for sale
  • Borders' going bankrupt, or close to it
  • Joe Konrath selling ebooks like crazy and making more money than when in print
  • Other authors abandoning publishers and going to self-publishing
  • Publishers abandoning authors: Dorchester has gone totally e-releasing, and will only do selected titles in print. Plus they let most of their editors go. Going under? Or trying to stay alive?
  • Other publishers doing similar things, plus looking at that e-rights clause in contracts.
  • The fuss over literary vs. popular fiction (i.e., the Franzen/Picoult fuss. Just Google either and you'll find out, or read my previous blog on "Why I don't read literary fiction"). Note that there have been complaints about the lack of credibility for popular fiction since Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road, but I digress.

So that's one part of the world that I eagerly read about, tweet about, post updates about. It totally fascinates me because I am IN that world, albeit in a small part of it.

Then there's the other me: the Sane Me. The me who has nothing to do with that stuff. The Me who goes to work in the morning, has coffee with friends, shops at the mall, and is just another guy on the street. The person who has to meet deadlines in her Other Career, the one that really brings in the bucks, the one that pays for the medical insurance, the one that is still challenging and interesting but not as 'glamorous' as the TTWTIP.

There are days when I want to be fully in One World or the Other. I don't really care which one: just give me ONE life, please! Because I'm fascinated by one then am pulled to the other. Or I am in one and the other nudges me with a reminder of things to do.

So far I'm balancing them okay. I'm able to be productive in both worlds with little exhaustion and only the occasional snappish mood ("Leave me alone! I'm writing!") But sometimes ...

I push TTWTIP to one side and get on with the Real World. A snippet here and there may intrigue me, but I resist, focusing on the Paycheck Job. Then I spot a headline, or read a tweet and WHOOSH: I'm sucked in!

Friday, August 27, 2010

A walk through my home town

There is nothing like a long walk in a small town, especially one you know and love. I got in 6700 steps this morning in my home town. Let me tell you about my walk.

I start on the south side of town, where Mom's apartment is located. I head straight north, past a beautiful brick house that has a large maple where the birds are chattering briskly, getting caught up on all the gossip from the night before (who slept with who? who knows?) Roses line the sidewalks, losing their petals now, but still brilliantly pink and dark red where the flowers cling to the stalk.

You have to be careful walking on the sidewalk. There are so many old, mature trees lining the streets that the roots have poked the concrete in spots, so if you're not careful you can do a header. Roller skating is definitely not doable on some of these sidewalks.

As I pass in front of houses, in the space *between* houses, I hear the grain elevator on the west side of town, the fans busy with a rhythmic whooshing noise as they dry the stored grain. It's too early for harvest, so this must be grain that was stored over-winter. As I cross the railroad tracks, my guess is confirmed. I see fat yellow kernels of corn lying in among the creosote covered ties, left there when one of the freight cars pass. A mouse darts out from the shrubbery lining the tracks, his cheeks full of stolen corn. I'm guessing there's a lot of fat and happy mice living within mouse-distance of the tracks.

As I reach downtown, I turn left (west) and walk along the last residential street before the downtown begins. One corner has two churches, and a sign in front of one says "Free ice cream, every Wednesday, kindergarten through fifth grade, 3 to 5." That's after school entertainment, indeed. I pass a couple of other walkers, each with a dog, and we smile and nod and agree it's a beautiful morning.

I reach my old house, where I grew up and I take another left, heading south. A man on a bicycle passes me. He's wearing a tie and dress pants, has on a helmet, and is carrying a paper cup of coffee-to-go in one hand, and steering with one hand. No need to worry about traffic here, since it's only three blocks to town and that's probably where he's headed. We smile at each other and agree it's a beautiful morning.

I start to zigzag, going east and west along quiet residential streets, delaying the time I have to return inside. On one of my 'zigs' I spy a woman crouched over a tangle of flowers in her front yard, camera in hand. As I approach, she says, "It's a Hawkeye spider, see?"

I join her in peering and see that, yes indeed, there's a big black-and-yellow spider dangling in a web, highlighted by morning dew. The web broke in the night and the spider has repaired it, big zipper-like stitches gleaming whitely with spider-juice and still thick from where it was woven. The intricate precision is amazing, the delicate edges blending perfectly with the old pieces of web.

The woman looks at her camera. "I've been trying to get his picture every morning. I won't know if they are any good until it gets developed." I nod and agree, wondering when was the last time I talked to anyone who used film in their camera -- or who had a camera as large and clunky as the one she held. I wonder, too, if she'll wait with anticipation for those pictures to come back from the developer. In our town, pictures are 'sent out' and it may be three or four days before you'll see the result.

We watch the spider as it weaves, then I move on just as the seven a.m. work whistle blows. It has blown at 7 in the morning and noon every work day since I can remember. I thought it was used for the canning factory, but now that I think of it, the canning factory (long defunct) only was in operation in the summer, which made sense since we're in farming country. But that whistles blows at 7 and 12, summer and winter, so why do we have that whistle? I'm not sure. It's a mystery.

As I walk, I see someone has played Hangman on the sidewalk using brightly colored chalk. I pause to puzzle out the answer, agreeing that yes, it was a tough one ('suspend' -- who thought of that one? Was it a school fear, perhaps?) As I continue my walk, I critique landscapes, mentally removing a tree here, installing a flower bed there, trimming a shrub there or painting a house, perhaps.

Children start to appear, singly and in pairs. A young boy & girl pass me, probably in their early teens. They may be just friends, or maybe boyfriend/girlfriend. They appear to be close, but at that age it's hard to tell what that means. A young boy, probably 10 or so, passes me wearing his Cub Scout shirt, his backpack as big as his small back. He is apparently practicing something as he walks because his lips move and his hands make small gestures unless he tucks them tightly under his pack. After I pass him I look back and see him take a stance and pitch an imaginary fast ball before he hurries to catch up with friends waiting for him on the corner.

It's only after they leave my sight that I realize how odd this would be in a large town. The only school buses here are those that pick up the country kids and bring them into town. If you live in town, you walk or get a ride to school. It is not at all unusual to see young children, accompanied by slightly older children, meandering toward the schools, all of which now are on the south side of town. In my day, the schools were distributed in different spots, but now there is no more "East is least and West is best." Now all the grade school kids go to one big school. Progress, I suppose.

Dogs bark at me from their yards as I cross that dividing line that they have designated as their Protection Zone. I'm in the east side of town now, and the cemetery isn't far away. I consider going to visit Dad, but I think I'll save that for another walk. I head back to the south and west, hearing the calisthentic-sounding intonations carrying across the breeze from the high school. "On a six-count then turn -- AND -- one-two-three-four-five-six-and TURN." It takes me two or three blocks to realize it isn't physical education but the marching band, out on the football field as they practice before school.

As I head back to the apartment, I spy another 'good luck' marker on the sidewalk corner. These were printed into the pavement, indicating a junction of waterworks, just small circles or sometimes a small metal disk that showed the city maintenance workers where the pipes were. As children, we made sure to step on each one and make a wish, because they were Good Luck. So I do an awkward little dance to tap each one at each corner of the sidewalk square before going back into the nursing home to join Mom.

Tomorrow I'll go to the west side of town and explore those streets and on Sunday I'll probably visit Dad. I wonder what I'll see on those days? But I think I already know ... after all, this is my home town.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Once again: the power of a tweet

I've blogged about this in the past: how I tweeted about a problem and, lo, someone saw and I got it fixed.

Worked again! A friend found an orphaned kitten, she needed some help with feeding him, etc., and I tweeted about it, and another friend saw it, and that friend now may adopt the kitten. I mean, is that cool, or what?

Just imagine if the WORLD problems could be solved that way? Just imagine if a social network could be harnessed to get everybody thinking about a problem and how to solve it.

Oh, yeah.... I'm off to think about THAT one!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Do all writers have this?

I was at a meeting with some aspiring writers; I was one of 3 published authors, talking to the group.

One of the other authors said something like, "I started working on a book but it was beyond my talents, so I stopped writing it. I worked on {this one} instead and I hope to return to the other one someday."

Her words really stuck a chord with me because I've been picking away at a book for a few years that I would love to have see the light of day. The problem is: I don't know if I'll ever be good enough to write the damn book. It's a multi-generational story, set in a post-apocalyptic America (sort of "Book of Eli meets the Stand with a bit of Gone with the Wind thrown in"). It's a BIG book: in fact, it will probably be six or seven books if I let it take shape the way I think it should.

I return to it every autumn, without fail. For some reason, winter's approach makes me want to work on that series.I read what I wrote and I wonder if it's good enough, but I keep writing on it, keep it moving forward.

I'll probably self-publish it some day on the Kindle or somewhere (that's the way publishing is going, isn't it? Will there be any publishing houses left?)

Does every writer have "the one that got away" from them? Do we all have that "Big Book" we want to finish? It's not necessarily The Book of My Heart, but it's a story that I just can't put down...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why I Don't Read Literary Fiction

I just read a review of the Newest Darling of the New York Times (article is here: http://tinyurl.com/394lgdo).

This may very well be a fascinating and well-written book, but I couldn't get past the turgid prose that described the book. Any book that can be discussed in such terms tells me that (1) it will be a struggle to read and (2) will probably be depressing and (3) will probably end up being talked about for months to come. The kiss of death came for me when the reviewer mentioned David Foster Wallace, another literary wunderkind whom I have tried to read and failed. Perhaps this commentary of mine will come off as an 'intemperate blog entry' but I have the advantage of anonymity so I'm not too worried.

None of the characters sound like people I would like to know. The conflict sounds mildly depressing. What is prose that is "visceral and lapidary"? It sounds dense, whether it is nor not. Maybe I just have a quibble with the reviewer, but that review meant that I wrote off the book. No way would I read it.

And that was when I realized that I have probably never read a book that was loved in a NYT review. I also don't read Oprah books. I thought about this for a while. Heaven knows, I'm not lazy. I'm a published author, I work full-time besides writing almost full-time, I have a busy social life. Laziness is just not in my genetic makeup -- ever. I have 5 college degrees, 2 of which are in literature and 2 of which are in computer science. I got those degrees while working full-time. Trust me: I ain't lazy. I've read and analyzed British and American fiction and I know how to do it. I know Good Literature when I read it.

I finally crystallized what bugged me about this (and about other aspects of our society. That's why I set up Blog-Think-Do, my other blog). It boils down to this:

I want to be entertained. I don't watch a lot of TV (maybe an hour a day) and I go to the movies about once every two months. I don't like passive entertainment, but I do want to be entertained when I have the time. I don't want to be taught. I don't want to be led. I don't want to join other people on their journeys of self-discovery. I live in the real world. I go through self-discovery every day. I can't toss my job aside and globe-trot, nor do I care to read about those who do. Nor do I want to read about people who "struggle to balance the equation between their expectations of life and dull reality, their political ideals and mercenary personal urges." I *live* that, Mr. Reviewer. I'm *there*. I don't want to use my meager free time to read about people involved in the same struggles that I undertake.

I want to be swept away. I want a tidy mystery to occupy my mind. I want a romance, either historical or otherwise. I want real people I can identify with and I want to watch them as they encounter interesting issues and/or people and deal with them.

What do I consider 'great fiction' or 'keeper fiction'?

Little Women
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Family Man (Jayne Ann Krentz edition)
The Bond Street Burlesque
The Man with a Load of Mischief
Jack the Bodiless

Why? Because they have CHARACTERS I like, they have a SETTING that is unusual or well-drawn, they have a CONFLICT I can relate to and they have a RESOLUTION I like. The books are usually short, succinctly written with little florid prose and lots of dialog that shows me who the characters are.

I've rambled on enough but I have one last speculation: I wonder if those books were reviewed by the NYT and if so, what the reviewer said. You know, based on that review, I might have passed on those books, too.

Maybe I just need to quit reading book reviews. Now *that's* food for thought!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A week of blog talk

For some reason, the way it worked out, I blogged three times this week. I either set up blogs somewhere to be released, I blogged that day, or I had a scheduled blog release.

I was at a writer's meeting and we were talking about social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and I mentioned scheduling blogs and tweets. Most folks hadn't heard about that, so I told them how it works and many folks had a "wow" moment -- you can blog when YOU feel like it about something that you're curious about, schedule it, and let it go when you need a blog. What a great convenience!

I think people often feel tied to their computers because they "should" do something at a certain time, but scheduling makes life so much easier. In fact, I'm off to schedule some blogs right now!

In case you're curious, here's where I blogged this week:

http://tinyurl.com/2bxowh4

http://tinyurl.com/3xe7de7

http://tinyurl.com/296uphy

Stay tuned. More are coming ....

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Starting a new venture

I'm branching out into a new blog. I know, I know -- why? This one is perfectly fine, right?

Well, of course it is, but I wanted to try a new blog to have a chance to talk about things other than publishing. I've been peeved lately about people who are into the whole "Zen" thing (to be honest, I don't really know what that means, 'Zen', except it comes across as being sort of 'other-worldly' and 'far from the madding crowd' sort of thing).

So anyway: I started Blog Think Do, which is my way saying: I'll blog, you think about it, and maybe you'll do it. And if not -- well, it gave me a chance to write about something I find intriguing: how to cope with our stressed-out world.

Check it out: http://www.blogthinkdo.blogspot.com/. It's brand spanking new. I'll update it randomly, and we'll see where I go with it.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Publishing Uproars (long post)

This is a repeat, with some links and some typos fixed

(Parts of this appeared on the Savvy Authors blog. Skip this if you read that (right here: http://tinyurl.com/3xe7de7).

Two items in the news have the publishing world a-twitter: Barnes & Noble is up for sale and Dorchester is going to follow a small press model of “all books go digital with a select few going to print” (DMP: digital, maybe print). I’ll keep my opinions about B&N to myself. To be honest, I don’t know much about them because I seldom use a bricks-and-morter bookstore any more and I have no idea what their business model is like. I assume something is out of whack and that’s why they’re up for sale.

I can express an opinion about the Dorchester thing, though. I publish with 3 smalll publishers, and 1 of them follows this DMP model. The others all have a “digital then print” model (DTP) for books of a certain length (and mine always qualify). This gives me a chance to reach two distinct audiences: the digital and the print.

First off, allow me to offer sympathy to those Dorchester authors who didn’t expect this news and who signed a contract thinking their books would be on bookstore shelves. I can imagine your disappointment. I wish I could say that the model they’re following (DMP) is one that will offer you lots of success, but I can’t. The 2 publishers I’m with who do the DTP model have far better sales than the other, who follows the ‘maybe print’ model. Keep in mind that I write mainstream romantic suspense, mystery, and paranormal books. If I wrote erotica, the story would be different. Erotica authors almost all do well in the DMP model. But if you write mainstream, I’ve found that it’s important to have that print book because many of our audience has not yet switched to digital.

What will this mean for you, the author or the aspiring author? As anyone who follows publishing knows, the business is in flux now. Joe Konrath claims to be making mega-bucks in self-publishing (and others claim the same). On the other side of the coin are those who refute what he says, and find alternate reasons for why he’s succeeding (no one doubts that he’s succeeding but there are some doubts about why.) Some long-time authors who have had decent sales are being dropped by their houses or are being shifted into other imprints. And many new authors get a one-book deal, not the three-book deal they might have had years ago, when publishers could take a chance on new authors.

For you, the author, much remains the same: write a good book. If you can, write an exceptional book. You’ll find an audience, whether it’s through your own efforts (self-publishing), a small press, or a big one. It may take time, it may take effort, but the readers will find you. And keep writing good books, because they’ll continue to find you. If you have books in a back list, I think giving the self-pubbed model a try is a good idea. Get the rights back and see what you can do with them, either through digital or print.

And for readers? I’m sorry, but your bookstore experience is going to be vastly different in the next few years. I don’t know what it will look like, but it’s not going to over-flowing shelves, lots of new authors, and choice-choice-choice. You’ll be able to find the tried-and-true but it may be short on the new and unusual. For that, you’ll have to go online. But many of you are doing that now (witness B&N’s problems), so perhaps you won’t have a problem with change.

My experience with small publishers has been good. I’ve had better experiences with 2 of my publishers then the third one, but that’s to be expected, I think. I’ve had 17 books release in 3 years, so I have a track record that lets me evaluate what works and what doesn’t work for me. And in terms of plots -- I write in 3 genres and I’ve seen which have better sales and better reviews. It’s given me a chance to evaluate my strengths as an author.

Why did I go with a small publisher? One word. TIME. I’ll be honest: I don’t write deep, mystical, wordy prose. I write light mysteries and romantic suspense (with a stress on the romantic). I’m able to write them relatively quickly because I think I’ve found a voice that works for me. I’m able to write several books a year, which fits in exactly with what I have in my life (more in the next paragraph).

If I wanted to compete in a big publishing house with other authors (and yes, you do compete for slots, etc.) I’d have to change how I write and what I write. Writing would become, well, hard, for me. Right now it isn’t. It’s fun. I enjoy it. I like what I write and how I write. I have a full-time day job that takes me out of the house for 40+ hours a week. I wedge my writing time in where I can. I love writing mysteries with funny and eccentric heroines and Beta males. I love my quirky romantic suspense books with heroes in their 50s and the women who love ‘em. And I love my paranormal series set on another planet, a planet I created because I was so fed up with what we’re doing to our own Mother Earth (hey – that’s a pitch for my latest book! I knew I could work that in somewhere!)

When I realized that—let’s be honest—I didn’t have what Big Publishers were looking for, I turned to small publishers and you know what? They welcomed me with open arms. They gave me multiple publishing slots a year. I have some rockin’ covers. And they support me in a lot of ways. Happy? You bet! Do I wish I was a Big Name Author on Big Seller Lists? Sometimes. But you know and I know that being on a list isn’t always the mark of success. I’ve got 5 books out this year, 5 next year, and I’m prepping 3 for 2012. I’m going to be around for a while. Who knows? Maybe there’ll be a new Big Digital List someday and I’ll hit that chart.

I don’t think anyone can predict where we’ll be 5 years from now. If you had said 5 years ago that Dorchester would be going digital, and B&N would be for sale... So hang on, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.

Here’s a blurb for that latest book (set on the alternate planet). I have to warn you: Jak Exo is one of the best heroes I’ve ever written, all full of layers, and lies, and complexity (and damn sexy as well). I sort of fell in love with him myself...

Dru Delaney, one of the planetary Leaders of Delmorna, doesn’t quite trust Jak Exo, her co-Leader. Exo is too handsome, too kind, and too intelligent for the strong-willed Dru. When he announces he’s leaving to explore the uncharted Northern continent, Dru decides to go with him to keep a closer eye on the man. But what they find on that continent is more than just a lost civilization: they find passion, duplicity, and a secret that will shake the government and their society. Now Dru has to escape with her life – and her heart – intact …

Check out Living Proof, the second book in my New Human Intercession series. I think you’ll fall in love with Jak, too. It’s available in digital (http://tinyurl.com/29vozuo) and print (http://tinyurl.com/2cf2q3e). And if you wait a couple of days, it will be on Amazon, Fictionwise, etc., in digital (and print).

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

A new take on an old problem

Promo, thy name is Satan.

Or something like that. ::sigh:: I've whined about this before, but I really dislike doing promotions. I've tried all kinds of things: lists, blog 'tours,' posting here and there, and just ignoring promotion all together.

I'm trying something new. Every day I'm posting one mention/excerpt/idea to a Yahoo group, a different one every day. That's doable and it's something I rather enjoy. I'm also going to make an effort to find one or two places where I feel comfortable posting & 'hang out' there. I'd like to find one Yahoo group, one Amazon forum, and maybe one other spot on the web, and alternate chatting on those loops.

Why is this different? This time I'm focusing on something that might be kinda fun to do. This isn't a chore. It's something I would like to do. I'm no longer counting the hours that are subtracted from my free time. I'm making time for things I want to do. It's a change of attitude, more than anything. I used to resent having to steal time from my writing to do "Stuff." Well, I've found that if I keep my WIP percolating in the back of my mind, then the time I actually do end up writing is time that isn't wasted -- it's amazingly productive. So much so that I'm on target to finish writing 2 books by Labor Day, which is a goal I set for myself at Memorial Day.

I wasted a lot of time in June trying to wrestle my current manuscript onto a path that just didn't work. Now I'm relaxing, letting it write itself, and letting new plot ideas creep in. Consequently: I'm less stressed, the book is getting done, and I feel like I can spend time on other stuff: like promo.

Yep. It all comes back to getting the word out. I've got a new book coming out on Friday, I had one release in January, one release in April, one in June, and I'll have one in November. You counted right. Five books this year. That's a lot of promo.

So I'd better quit blogging about it and do it...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Testing testing testing

I'm messing around again with my blog, trying different settings.

I'll be curious to see if this works. Until then ... carry on as usual!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

My 25th anniversary: let me count the ways

I was married 25 years ago today. We've had our ups and downs, but we're still together and I think we will be, into the foreseeable future.

How do I remember this? Let me count the ways:
  • 8 changes of address
  • 7 job changes for me
  • 9 job changes for him
  • 9 pets (4 still with us)
  • 16 books (me)
  • 3 more college degrees (me)
  • 1 college degree (him)
  • 8 sculptures (him) + many pieces of furniture
  • 2 fathers who died
  • 4 nieces, 1 nephew, 1 grand-nephew, 1 grand-niece
  • 50 lbs. gained; 40 lbs. lost (me). Sigh.
  • 2 states lived in (PA and MN)
  •  18 states visited
  • at least 20 home computers (I've lost count)
  • 2 total landscape make-overs
  • 8 cars (3 still with us)
What does that all add up to?

A life with someone who knows me as I am and can still tolerate me.




Priceless.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Zip code stress

I am suffering from zip code stress.

I really noticed this time, when I came home from a visit to Mom in my home town. Just about the minute I entered that zip code, I relaxed. I slowed down. I laughed more. I didn't have to remind myself to 'be patient, take your time, don't let {whatever that is} bug you'.

When I got home (in my home zip code) I felt a bit of stress creeping in. I set myself some mental "to do" lists, I looked at what's coming up this week, I made a mental roadmap of how my week would work out.

When I got to my work zip code, it was as if my time away vanished. I was back to full blown stress: do this, do that, wedge this into your week, finish this, wrap up that, make time to do this.

I need to figure out a way to maintain hometown-zip-code relaxation with work-zip-code life. If anybody out there has it figured out, tell me, okay?

Back to work.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Yep. It's summer.

I'm in Iowa right now, visiting my mother. I grew up in this town and have visited here, off and on, for decades. There have been subtle changes but nothing major since I was a child.

The biggest change (to me) is the municipal swimming pool. Gone is the long rectangular structure, shaped like a truncated "L". The short bar was the diving end, the long bar was for swimmers. At the one end it was 8' deep, at the other it was 3'. In the diving part it was 12'.

Now there's 3 squarish pools. There's a kiddy pool, I think. Lots of young-uns and parents. And there's a pool with folks jumping around. And there's a diving area: diving boards and slides. I know that lap swims are allowed at certain times of the day (off-peak times), but for the life of me I can't figure out where a person could swim a decent lap.

Swimming has been on my mind lately. I grew up learning how to swim and I love doing it. I go to the pool at my local gym at least once a week to do laps. But it's been a long, long time since I just romped in a pool. You can't romp in hotel pools: they're too small. And you can't romp in the gym pool: it's too shallow. And it looks like I can't really romp in the municipal pool (it's too crowded! The temps are in the 90s here and high humidity, which means the pool is jammed).

Yep. It's summer. I'm thinking about how great a nice, long dip in the pool would feel...

Sigh. Back to the air conditioning.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New challenges

I'm starting -- SLOWLY -- to get my writing enthusiasm back. My new book is taking some unexpected turns, which happened once I threw out the initial draft (written years ago and truly bad) and started fresh. So I hope it will be fun to work on.

The new challenge? I'm working on a book of essay about Crap That Bothers Me. This is going to cover the gamut from the so-called "Zen" people I meet, to the wealthy who act like asses, to the publishing world. I figure if nothing else it'll make me laugh.

Traveling again tomorrow, but I'll be online here and there. Something like a vacation but not quite. I'm looking forward to a change of scene.

Friday, July 16, 2010

To zen or not to zen

I've been reading several different blogs, Facebook updates, etc., that are written by people who are trying to de-stress their lives. Let me hasten to say: I think this is a laudable goal. Stress is endemic today and I'm all for de-stressing.

One thing that strikes me reading all of these blogs is just how foreign their lives are to mine. Here's one: Zen Habits. I read this and I thought, "What planet does this guy live on? How can he take an hour or two or three hour walk every day?" And how do you start "Working less"? For many people that just isn't an option. If we work less, we earn less. If we earn less, we have less money. If we have less money, then we are forced to make changes, some of which are not pleasant.

The same is true of some other blogs I've read. These are written by people who seem to be permanently on vacation. They take 2 week long trips here and there. They take long walks in the mountains. They don't appear to have to work for a living. Another person whom I know is constantly playing: sports, hobbies, relaxation...she doesn't work for a living.

This has been bugging me for weeks now. The most precious thing I lack right now is TIME. I don't have all the TIME I want to do things. I work full-time. I write almost full-time. I have an hour or two a day to spend with my husband. And I have 5-6 hours to sleep. I can't take vacations here and there. I have to plan mine and save up time for them and, well, earn them.

So reading these updates, and reading these blogs has been irritating to me, not enlightening because these people don't live on my planet. They don't live in reality. They are living somewhere else that has little to do with how most people live their lives.

I need to find someone who is de-stressing who is living in the Real World. When I do, I hope I can learn from that person. Because life is a juggling act, and sometimes I'm just waiting for the balls to fall all around me...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In praise of Rom Con

I got back from a 'new' conference on Sunday. RomCon was held in Denver, and it ROCKED! It was an absolutely great conference where readers got to meet authors.

Most conferences are all about the authors, but this one was all about the readers: what they like, don't like, what they want to see in books, etc. It was just great. I had a blast.

Now I'm energized and ready to write write write. And I'm definitely going next year -- it's one of the few conferences that focuses on readers, and hey -- that's why I'm doing this, right?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

New life for an old project

I was struggling in June to work on a book (re-work a book, actually) that I wrote 5 years ago. The writing was all over the map -- POV shifts, too much exposition...the usual stuff for a beginning writer. Since I've started publishing I've learned how to tighten up my prose, stay on track, etc. so this book was a shocker.

I finally decided the plot was too flimsy to really carry the book so I tried to devise a new plot line with these characters, but it just wasn't coming to me. I'm the kind of writer who has to get the first 3 chapters down in order to continue, and I must have written and re-written those chapters four or five times (that's a lot for me).

I finally set it all aside and decided to edit another book to prep it for submission. This new book was much closer to being ready, so I figured maybe it would give me some incentive to finish. I took a nice long walk yesterday morning, early in the a.m. (my favorite time) and while out and about I came up with a great idea for Book 1 (the book that gave me fits).

So now I'm working on 3 books at once: writing a new one, prepping an old one, and doing editorial changes for a third one that will release next year.

I'm back to juggling -- and I think that's what was missing! I need that feeling of having a bunch of projects on the fire. We'll see if that's the nudge I needed to get active again with my writing.

I'm out of town this weekend, so may not post again until next week. If you're curious where I am, check my Facebook page to find me (http://www.facebook.com/jayellwilson).

Monday, July 05, 2010

I need a challenge

I've been feeling bored lately. Bored? Me? I know. Sounds like an oxymoron. I always have a million irons in the fire.

But here's the thing -- I'm the sort of person who dives headfirst and face-most into projects as I'm learning them. I immerse myself in whatever I'm doing. This was true of my sewing (years ago), my school work, and then my writing. Once I learn how to master it, I know longer have much energy for it.

I think that's what's been bugging me lately. I no longer feel the challenge. Yes, I could aim for the Kindle best-seller list, or the NYT list, but those are artificial. Those are lists created by people regarding sales and that doesn't mean much to me. It's nice to have sales, but the challenge for me is the writing. And I'm not sure I feel that challenge any more. I think that's why I've been struggling with my latest book, that's why I've turned to my SciFi series to write (now *that's* a challenge!) I doubt if I'll find a publisher for it and I don't care -- the goal is the writing not the publishing.

I've been skimming through various topics that interest me, looking for my Next Big Challenge. Maybe we'll move and I'll have a chance to garden again (our current garden is perfect. I can't change it. But a new house? Oh that would be fun!) Maybe I'll take up yoga or Tai Chi -- something new to master that would be good for me. Or maybe I should switch genres, go to horror or thrillers, or ...make up a new genre.

There are a world of possibilities out there. I need to find out what draws my focus again...

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Oh, the horror! The angst! The ... bad writing!

I recently decided to tackle a Big Project -- cleaning out my old files.

These aren't files tucked away in a file drawer. These are the Old Files, the ones stored in a box that is stored in a disused well room (cool and dry, but so out of the way even the spiders don't go there). My husband is the one who tucks things into that room. I refuse to go in (think "Root cellar" and you get the idea).

So he dragged out 3 boxes and a trunk full of ... stuff. Some of it is scrapbooks. Some of it is work-related (old writing samples, resumes, etc). I spent most of 2 mornings sorting, tossing, weeding out. I ended up with 2 boxes and a trunk and I told him, "When I go, just toss all this stuff. Nobody but me would care about it." Old letters, pictures, birthday cards. I had fun going through them, and suspect I'll have fun going through them in another 10 years or so.

Now I'm left with a stack of 3 or 4 notebooks that has my old writing in it. Some of it is surprisingly good, but the plots are very weak. I'm going to peek through them in my spare time this winter (ha! What is spare time? Who has any of that?!) The one thing that struck me as I skimmed through them was that my style is somewhat like my style today -- mostly first-person, casual, direct, straightforward. I would have thought with all the 'craft' classes & workshops I've attended, that maybe my real Voice would be changed. But it isn't.

That's sort of a relief to me. Now if I can just wade through the asinine plots ....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A consequence of relaxation

An unintended consequence of taking a bit of time away from my writing has been that I'm wondering if I want to continue writing.

Let me hasten to say I suspect I *will* continue to pursue publication. I just may do it on a different timeline and in a different manner. I'm finding that the goals I once had are no longer valid for me. I don't have interest in those things: finding an agent or a bigger venue for my books. They just don't interest me. I don't want to promote hither-and-yon about new releases. I want to do some quiet blogging, chatting, and talking about them.

So I'm setting about creating a new set of goals. I'm hoping to have a new idea in mind of where I want to go within a week or two. I'll give myself 2 years to reach the milestones on the list. At the end of 2 years, I'll check again where I am and see if I'm close, if I care, etc.

It's all so very interesting, this publishing ride of mine....

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ignore this space ... it's a test

I'm trying to set up a feed to my Amazon page. Since I've never done this before, I anticipate some trial and error. So you may see a test post here and there.

Ignore me until I say otherwise.  8)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A place overlooked by the world

I'm in Iowa right now, visiting family.

This town is like a microcosm of what America used to be like. People don't lock their cars (or their houses). People know who you are and why you're in town (to visit family). Guys bag your groceries at the grocery store and carry it out for you -- and they wear neckties and white shirts! Everyone is polite, the streets are clean, and it's amazingly low key.

I love this place. I wish I could bottle the essence of this place and keep it with me forever. Seriously. It's a balm to my soul. Which is why I visit as often as I do.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A bullet dodged

I woke up today and my cell phone appeared to be dead.

Puzzling, since it worked last night but this morning...nada. I plugged it in and charged it fully but still no phone. Wouldn't turn on.

So I pried apart the decorative covering I had purchased for it, removed the battery, reinserted, and voila: phone.

Sometimes the simple 'wins' are the best, aren't they? What was going to be a gloomy day spent at the Verizon store, arguing with clerks, has turned into: what should I do with my Sunday now?

Life is sometimes Very Good.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The best laid plans ...

I'm working on a new book and this one was giving me fits -- I just couldn't get the groove on the book.

When that happens, I've found that all I need to do is unconnect from the world for a bit and FOCUS like crazy. If I do that, then I can usually find my way through the morass that's holding me back.

It happened again. I let my mind wander (the best way to focus) and I came up with what I think is an excellent way to tie my secondary character in this book to a previous book. By doing that, I open up a new world of possibilities in how I can have the plot move.

Lack of focus is a good thing sometimes!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

A day for ME!

I have an entire weekend of Unplanned Me. This means I have nothing that *has* to get accomplished (oh, there's the usual: laundry; groceries, etc.) But I'm not going anywhere and I'm not on deadline for anything.

How did I spend my Saturday? On Friday, I thought, "What would be fun tomorrow?"

An early morning swim at the gym. Stop at the casino (very early in the a.m.). I love casinos in the early morning. They're quieter, the people there aren't desperate (yet), and there's plenty of chance to wander around and try out different slot machines. I spent an enjoyable 2 hours, frittering away $30 on assorted machines.

Then to the garden center. The best time at a garden center is when it rains, and it was drizzling today. I scored some plants with no one else there to jostle me as I wandered about, under my umbrella. I came home and had the plants in the ground by 10 a.m. Then I cleaned up my little garden shed, had some lunch then talked the Spousal Unit into a movie: Iron Man 2.

I am a sucker for Super Hero movies. I love 'em. IM is very good, too, because Tony Stark is a well-rounded character (annoying sometimes but very 3-dimensional). We had a rollicking good time then went to our favorite sandwich shop for a meal. Back home early enough to watch horse racing on TV (another of my favorite things) and now I can sit down and write.

What a great day of ME things. ME ME ME

We all need these days now and again, days of "what do *I* want to do today". No deadlines to meet, no planes to catch, no trips to take.

You know what ... I may do it again tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Why are we here?

It seems like whenever I have time away from thinking about publishing, whenever I come back to it, I wonder why the heck I'm doing this.

I had a hectic but fun weekend with my family last weekend, and publishing was on the periphery of my mind. Now I'm back to my routine and I find myself asking why I do this -- why do I write? why do I attempt to be published? Why do I read reviews, and industry blogs, and author blogs?

I recently read an article about a "Vision Map" -- it's a New Age kind of thing where a person is supposed to cut out pictures of things that give her a visceral reaction. Keep those pictures, and eventually you'll come up with a collage of things that reflect your true inner vision.

I'm starting to think my books are my Vision Map. They reflect themes and topics that intrigued me at the time. If that's so, should I care about sales and placement in lists and reader reaction? If my books are written mainly for me, well, why should I care about anyone else?

One more thing to ponder as I resume my writing cloak and settle back into routine.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oh, woe! Where is publishing going?

I don't know if you've noticed, but the publishing industry is changing as we speak (metaphorically speaking, that is).

Authors are bypassing the agency model and pairing with Amazon (and soon, Barnes & Noble) to put their back lists on assorted e-devices. Some authors are going straight to Amazon (witness Joe Konrath's startling news recently). I am still skeptical about Joe's assertion that if the marketing is right and the price is right, an author can make beaucoup bucks on Kindle. I don't have the time to spend that he does on marketing and schmoozing my books, but I'll give it a try in the future, probably, with some books whose rights will be returned to me soon. I'll report back on what I find.

A friend and I had coffee last night and she said, "Look at how much publishing has changed since you started three years ago. Do you have any idea where it will be in three years?"

I never thought it would change as much as it has so quickly. I knew I was on the inside track of the New Wave, but I thought it might take a decade or more for e-sales to take off the way they have. I always thought that at some point I might re-approach a NY house and look for that "real" publishing contract. But I don't have that inclination any more. I've seen how authors have to compete for those rare publishing slots. I've been to quite a few mystery conferences lately, and I've heard about it, believe me. A NY contract gives me access to walk-in sales at a bookstore. From what I've heard from other authors -- that isn't much. Only a rare few get some promotional help from their publisher. The rest of the authors are mostly on their own.

I know of a handful of authors who make their living as writers. By 'make a living' I mean those who have no spouse to provide a backup income or who can provide medical coverage. These are people who make enough money to support themselves now -- and of course, their future is dependent on more books and more sales. All of them have a 'side job' as an editor or speaker to supplement their writing income.

I like my 'side job'. I'm a writer (technical) and I make really good money doing what I do. I'm disciplined and I can juggle both jobs: fiction and non-fiction writing. Some day I may walk away from one or the other, but for now they peacefully co-exist. I have 15 books out, I have 3 more coming this year, I have 5 for next year, and who knows what will happen after that?

The way publishing is changing, it's anybody's guess...

Friday, May 14, 2010

Free time, hmm. What is it good for?

I had some free time today.

This is very unusual for me. I work full-time outside the home. I write (I've got 6 books out this year). I'm working on edits for 3 books for next year, my WIP is a 6-book series, and I've got 2 other books waiting for me to write them.

Through an odd quirk of fate, I had a few hours of free time. I thought about how to spend it -- do some gardening? Nope, still too soggy from a week of rain. Pack for my trip tomorrow? Mostly done. Just a few last things to do. Read a book?

That stopped me in my tracks. I don't read any more. Since I started publishing, I very, very seldom read a fiction book. I do read non-fiction now and again, and I read the occasional book from friends who are publishing and I read (now and again) someone that I'm curious about, but I seldom read start-to-finish, "I want to read this" any more.

I've lost the reading bug.

Let me hasten to say I don't miss it -- reading (like needlework and gardening and wycinanki) are activities I do to relax me and have fun at the same time. I never classed reading as 'entertainment' (like I would a movie). It was a hobby, a "thing" I did. Now I don't do it any more, just like I don't do much needlework or wycinanki (aging eyes make those hobbies a chore now, not fun). And I have to admit, I don't miss reading fiction. I was skimming most of the books I read anyway except for a few from authors I really cherished (and they are few, believe me).

Nope, I'm going to have to find something else to fill those rare few hours of 'free' time. I could do the obligatory piece of promo: NEW BOOK OUT. FUN READ. FUNNY HEROINE. CLASSY HERO. All about a college professor who writes erotic romances and gets outed just when she's up for a promotion. There's a murder (at the State Fair, no less), a stalker, a boorish fellow professor, and a fan who is in love with the heroine's erotic alter ego...

Or I can take a nap, or lay on the couch and watch a bit of TV, or ...

Get caught up on my blog reading!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Edits R Us

I'm working on edits on the series that will release next year. So far, so good. I haven't hit any big snags yet, but I'm on book 2 of 3, so I'm not saying I'm out of the woods yet.

I'm also doing a few others things in my spare time -- looking at maybe redoing my blog; maybe revamping my web site. Maybe ... maybe some writing! What a concept!

There are so many demands on our time. I'm trying something new -- I'm focusing on only 3 things per day in my free time. One is writing (or editing, if needed). One is promotion. Those are the two constants. And one is ... something else. I'm not sure what it will be tonight, but once I do the other 2, I'll look at that third one.

So far, so good.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Writing ups and downs and ups

I wrote a series last year that was accepted for publication this year for release next year.

What this means is I'm editing books that I've essentially forgotten about for promotion next year when I will have forgotten about them again since I'll be knee deep in new writing by then.

Such is the writer's life. The 'up' of this is that I've rediscovered these characters and I like them. The 'down' of this is that I have to change a few plot elements to suit my publisher. The 'up' of this is that I'm discovering interesting sub-plots to weave in to help me change those elements.

I've discovered that anything I dread (like changing plot elements) is not as bad as I usually fear. I just have to take the plunge and once in, the water's fine.

Of course, check back with me in a month -- I may have changed my mind!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Back home & ready to go!

I had a great time at the Malice Domestic conference in D.C. last weekend. It's funny -- I often come home from romance conferences drained, but this one totally energized me. There were so many fans there who love to read new authors, it really gave me encouragement.

I'm at that stage of my career that encouragement is as valued as a great review (although I love great reviews -- don't get me wrong). It's so easy to get sidetracked by the negative things that happen. When good things happen, they're just so unexpected and GREAT. I pitched 'Pornography' and it was very well received.  8)

So I'm back into my mysteries, working on edits to 3 of them (a series for next year), then I hope to tackle 3 more before the end of the year. Along the way I hope to self-publish my time travel series, find an agent, and maybe finish book 1 of my Big Book of Global Destruction.

A busy year ahead!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The conference season is upon us

Whenever I say "conference season" I automatically think of the first book in my Fatal Writers' Conference series. So here's the obligatory link to it  8)

I saw a brief tweet from someone who said, "RT and RWA [two major conferences] also force me to balance the green-eyed monster with politeness."

How right she is! When you go to a conference and see other people who started at the same time you did, and how successful they are, it's hard not to be jealous. I'm not talking about the Big Names: most of them are coasting on their success now, relying on their name to sell a book.

Nope, it's the other folks who make me stop and think. I always have to back up and remember: I'm doing this because I want to do it. No one is forcing me to write a book. No one is forcing me to submit it for publication. I'm doing this because [drum roll] I ENJOY DOING IT.

Once I remind myself of that, life settles back down again.

Man. You'd think I'd learn, wouldn't you?

And speaking of conferences: I'm off to Malice Domestic tomorrow in Washington D.C. I'm looking forward to it -- my first mystery conference of the year! I'll try to post an update on Saturday, if I get the chance.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Look at this -- a new book!

I'm trying out a new thing here -- I got pinged by Amazon to set up this "Associates" program whereby if you buy the book from Amazon by clicking my link here, I get a cut of the profits. So why not? I'll give it a try.

My 15th book in 3 years. Wow. That sounds impressive, even to me... until you think that my goal was to be "The Nora Roberts of E-publishing". That means I'm just about on track. Nora puts out about 5 print books a year, so yeah, I guess I'm just about on par with her (in terms of quantity. I won't comment on quality and I'm pretty damn sure I'm not on a par with her in terms of money earned).

Oh well.

I've bee so swamped at my Real Job that I haven't had time to really think about this release, but I don't feel any pressure to get out there an promote (promote Porno -- say that fast a few times!) I'll be talking about this book most of the summer because it really is one of my favorites. Of course, I say that about a lot of my books, but this one is unique.

So welcome, 15th book! So glad you could join us.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

musings

I'm visiting my Mom this weekend. It's her birthday (91) and I wanted to share it with her.

Thoughts on this auspicious date:

People have gone out of their way to acknowledge her big day. This is a benefit of having an intimate circle of friends and acquaintances who are willing to go out of their way to do that. I am lucky to have seen this.

The people here at the facility where she lives now (assisted living) are all making the best of their lot. No one is grumpy, annoyed, or angry. None of them want to be here but all have a universal "well, I'm stuck with this so let's make the best of it" attitude. I want to be like them when I grow up.

A nice place is live is crucial. Buddy the social worker dog wanders the hall, there's a nifty patio nearby where we have our before-dinner drinks, and there's a nice, quiet meadow outside.

More thoughts will come as I continue to watch Mom experience aging. These just struck me on this, her auspicious day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This is what it means to be "deadline driven"

BIG deadlines at my day job. I'm a writer (ha, surprise), and we have a major release coming up (software). We're at that point in the process where the programmers are giving me changes for the documentation because it's really better at this point to change the docs, not the code.

Today one of our tools used to produce the help totally threw me for a curve. I found a MAJOR bug -- 36 hours before I have to turn in my help files to production!

::deep breath::

Yes, it will all turn out okay. I have tonight & tomorrow to make it right. And to be honest -- they'll probably change the damn release date. They always do.

You know what I did to get through my brief moment of panic? I made up a list of all the things I want to do when I retire. I'm going to revisit it every now and then. I'm just going to close my eyes and think, "Hmm. I have all the time in the world. What should I do today?"

Pleasant dreams!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

And the Magic 8-ball has spoken

My 3-book series will stay with Wild Rose.

Whew.

On the one hand, this simplifies my life -- I get to work with the editor I know (and love) and I get to work with a known publisher.

On the other hand: maybe I should have branched out. Maybe I should have tried New York with these books. BUT -- and it's a big one -- publishing is changing rapidly. Being published with NY is no longer the tried & true measure of success. So maybe I'm in the right place.

Either way: I'm there for another year.

Woo!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Ah, the future. Murky it is...

I've hit a potential detour with one of my publishers that has me in a bit of a quandry.

My mysteries are with Wild Rose Press but the latest books I submitted to my editor -- a 3 book series -- was rejected because it was a series. Apparently TWRP doesn't want to do a series.

This has me flummoxed. I can understand them not wanting to do a series with an unknown author, but I submitted all 3 books (finished), my editor loved them all, and the Senior Editor loved them. It's just that they're not 'quite right' for the publisher.

I view this as a chance for the publisher to branch out, but maybe it's going to be my chance to branch out. Maybe this is the kick in the butt I need to try for a New York contract and 'move on'.

I spoke with the publisher last night and explained that I've enjoyed my tenure with them, but this might mean I can't be with them in the future. I know I've been a good earner for them and I'm not trying to browbeat them into keeping me if it's truly against company policy. But i think they're being short-sighted.

I love reading a series because I invest something in the characters and hate it when a book ends. I want to know 'what happens next'. I don't think I'm the only one.

It'll be interesting to see what shakes out. I'll have some editing to do if they buy the books (nothing earth-shaking, but more than I normally do, I suspect) and if they don't, I'll have to start polishing up my query letters. Either way...

it will be interesting.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A great review can make my day

Just got a great review for Homicide, Hostages, and Hot Rod Restoration, my latest book. The review isn't posted yet, I just got the advance notice. The thing that tickled me about this one was that the reviewer really GOT what I'm doing:

More and more I find I need a little believable romance between very realistic seeming characters that are middle aged! JL Wilson is a master at bringing realistic middle class and middle aged characters to life on the page and producing a marvelous story.

No matter how long I'm in this business, I'll always be happy for a good review. And this was a great one.