Category Archives: Writing

Thoughts From a Writer’s Brain, #46

Subconscious: Heya.

Me: Hi.

SC: Sooooo … you’ve been getting kinda whiny on social media about your book sales. You know, nobody likes to be guilted into buying stuff.

Me: *sigh* Yes, I know. I won’t do that anymore. And I wasn’t trying to guilt people. I was just trying to get some word of mouth going.

SC: Really?

Me: Oh, bite me. I already feel bad about it. I’m just going to shut up and write more books. If I can.

SC: Melodramatic cliffhanger much?

Me: God, you’re a bitch.

SC: You should know. Okay, fine, why “if I can?”

Me: Because my damn laptop is over eight years old and my desktop is over nine years old. Both of them are failing, and I really need to buy new ones before they completely die on me.

SC: Tell me you’re backing up.

Me: Religiously and onto multiple devices. But backups aren’t going to be of any use if I don’t have hardware to run them on.

SC: So why didn’t you just say that your computers are crapping out and you need to buy new ones?

Me: Well, hell, Chuck Wendig just did something like that for his vet bills and people jumped all over his ass. And I’m no Chuck Wendig.

SC: Verily, that is true.

Me: Also, it didn’t occur to me.

SC: Jesus. You’re telling me that saying, “Hey, folks, my antique computers are on the verge of joining the choir eternal so please buy my books so that I can get new ones and keep writing” didn’t occur to you, but “Oh, jeez, my books aren’t selling, woe is me” did?

Me: Fuck you.

SC: Not anatomically possible but an amusing suggestion nonetheless. Why are you in such a bad mood, anyway?

Me: Because I’m cleaning. I hate cleaning. I always wind up drenched in sweat and covered in cat hair. But it has to be done.

SC: You could be writing–

Me: YES I KNOW THAT BUT WE LIVE WITH FIVE CATS AND RANDY TREES OUTSIDE AND I HAVE TO VACUUM IF I WANT TO CONTINUE BREATHING, OKAY?

SC: Yeesh. Okay. But you’re going to be taking breaks, right?

Me: Duh.

SC: Okay, then. You can work on one of your WIPs during your breaks. See? That was easy.

Me: I–you– *incoherent with rage*

SC: Do you want a new laptop and desktop?

Me: *grinds teeth and goes back to dusting*

Trundling along on Tuesday

My, it’s only Tuesday and already I’m having a productive week. On the minus side, I got turned down by an agent and BookBub (whomp whomp). It happens, no biggie, and I’ll just keep trying until one or both work out.

On the plus side, I’m thisclose to getting Most Malicious Murder off to the betas, and I now have a frigging GREAT idea for Pacifica Rising 2 that I will start outlining tomorrow (today is already taken up with crits for my writing group, the last bit of the tax paperwork, and mailing out bills). Also, a print copy of Degree of Resistance will soon be in the hands of the lovely and talented man who helped to inspire it, which … well, frankly, is giving me the heebie-jeebies. Writing a romance story  complete with sex scenes is just part of the job to me by now, so I sometimes forget that what I see as normal and no big deal might not come across that way to other people. Especially if they know that they helped inspire a story that includes some fairly explicit love scenes.

I did add a cover letter that explained the contents and said it would be totally fine with me if he just smiled at the egoboo and stuck it on a shelf somewhere, and actually reading it was not required. If he does read it … well, let’s just hope I don’t get a DM starting off with, “What the HELL, Nic…”

Bogged Down in Tax Prep

It’s that time of year again when I haul out all the receipts I’ve compulsively saved and start wading through them to find the numbers necessary for the accountant (yes, we have an accountant, first because Ramón was a 1099 contractor and I wanted a pro to help us with deductions, and now because I have the multiple income streams of a creative worker and I need a pro to make sense of them to the IRS). I know this would all be much faster and easier if I regularly entered everything in spreadsheets, but I find going through the receipts to be oddly soothing.

Prepping Ramón’s numbers is pretty straightforward — he works from home so I have to go through and tot up all the utilities for the house so that the accountant can work out the deduction for the dedicated home office. Then it’s my turn. Turns out I didn’t sell that much jewelry last year (not surprising), but I did spend a hellacious fortune on business expenses, mainly travel (also unsurprising, seeing as I attended Wild Wicked Weekend, RT in Vegas, Evernight’s writer retreat in Ontario, and did a research trip to the Atlantic coast of Florida). At least now I know where all the money from Empress of Storms went. And my accountant will be happy because I have all of these legitimate expenses backed up with paper.

That being said, I’m going to seriously rein in the travel this year, mainly because both my laptop and my desktop are on the way out and I need to replace them ASAP with what I make from royalties. So no RT for me this year, and I probably won’t do RWA either which is a bit disappointing but oh, well. On the other hand, if I write my ass off and put out another Two Thrones and two more Pacifica Rising books this year, plus the standalones that are patiently waiting for me to finish them, I should be able to buy the computer equipment I need this year, and go to RT and RWA next year.

Speaking of that, once I get all the papers off to the accountant on Monday I will be spending most of next week outlining Pacifica Rising 2 and Two Thrones 3 (try saying that three times fast). I still don’t have a really solid idea about PR2 apart from the fact that the main romantic focus will remain on Evie and Ben while a rogue bodyguard from the Denali Protectorate shows up and makes Rob’s life difficult, but TT3 is going to feature a Hellan tournament to celebrate Danaë’s pregnancy (thank you, Medieval Times, for giving me the idea) during which an unexpected rival from Matthias’s past resurfaces and complicates things. Oh, and we’ll get to meet the Grand High Magister Aeris, Epilonious, who has decided to take young Luna under his wing and drive her grandfather and step-grandmother absolutely batty in the process. Fun times!

Wednesday musings on writing

It occurred to me earlier today that I’ve been working professionally in the writing dodge (and by professionally I mean people have given me money in exchange for my words) for about twenty-two years, now. My writing career can legally drink, if not rent a car. Which is probably for the best, if you think about it.

So while I may bitch and moan about sales at times, in retrospect I’m actually pretty happy with where I’ve gotten to at this point. Between my SF and romance names (by the way, you all DO know that I write science fiction and urban fantasy as Melanie Fletcher, right?) I have seven full-length novels, three novellas, two novelettes, and twenty-six short stories to my credit. That’s not bad at all, especially since I’ll be bringing out at least another three novels this year as well as more novellas and short stories.

And not only have I been publishing, but I’ve been gifted with a fiercely devoted band of readers (you know who you are, and you are all in the will), plus I’ve been getting critical attention for my work. Night Owl Reviews just did an interview with me, and the lovely and talented Cynthia Sax will also have an interview on Degree of Resistance up on her website soon. So, yeah, I’ve actually done pretty well in my career so far (take that, Imposter Syndrome!).

Fabulous, I hear you say, but why are you babbling at us about this? Well, 1) because I can, and 2) it helps to work out what I’m going to do next. This year I’ve decided to concentrate on leveling up to the next professional step; namely, increasing my readership, shooting for a USA Today bestseller list slot, and maybe even winning an award or two (although I’m reminded of the fact that Sir Terry Pratchett, he of the insanely successful and brilliant Discworld series, never won anything until late in his career. People rarely take humor with the seriousness it deserves. But I digress). And the best way to do all that is to keep writing, keep publishing, and keep entertaining folks, which, yeah, just twist my arm already.

Did I mention that you’re all cruel but beautiful, and I love you oodles for reading my stuff? Because I do.

So, yeah, I’m nervous

degreeofresistancecoverDegree of Resistance will be available at midnight tonight, which means everyone who pre-ordered a copy (*MWAH* I love you so much), you’ll immediately be able to jump into Evie and Ben’s story.

And I’m nervous. I know that sounds sort of ridiculous — this is my seventh novel, why am I nervous? I have no idea, I just am. I’m really pleased with it, and I kinda fell in love with these two so I want their story to do well. And since the sales for Palace of Scoundrels have been meh, I may be kind of worried that the success I had with Empress of Storms was a fluke and this one might tank as well. It’s a legitimate fear, after all.

Of course, when I mention this to various people they whap me around the head and tell me to stop being ridiculous, it’s a solid story that’s hitting in the middle of the android/cyborg/AI romance wave and people will like it (and if it sucked these folks would have sat me down for a come-to-Jesus talk). And I feel better for awhile.

And then, because my brain is paranoid and hates me, I think, “Well, shit, what if I offend Latinx with my portrayal of Evie? I grew up on the south side of Chicago with Mexican-American friends and neighbors, but that was decades ago. Eve and her family are on the West Coast — maybe I got language use wrong. Or cultural elements. And what about Song and her family? What did I screw up?

To which my betas have pointed out that 1) this story takes place 31 years in the future, in a different country that’s only loosely based on the West Coast as it is now, and a lot of cultural stuff will have changed, plus none of the characters are cardboard cutouts put in simply to tick an ethnic box. Which is nice, but doesn’t mean that I didn’t foul up somewhere. I will say now that if I got something wrong, for the love of Kage Baker tell me so that I can learn from my mistakes and fix them in the next book.

So, yeah, Nic is perhaps a tad overwrought at the moment. This too shall pass and I’m sure I’ll feel much better in the morning, but for now don’t be surprised if you find me in a corner somewhere gibbering quietly to myself.

16730638_894224527347625_7851914522375932870_n

On the plus side, the DoR print books arrived this afternoon. Damn, CreateSpace, do you hire the Flash to deliver your stuff or what? So I am totally set for Wild Wicked Weekend.

Lord, it’s Sunday night already

NotEnoughCaffeineI honestly don’t know where this weekend went to. Well, no, I do — it went into sending out copies of Degree of Resistance to my beta readers, finalizing the cover for DoR, setting up pre-sales at Amazon (available here if you’re of a mind to pick it up for 99¢ before it goes up to $3.99 on release day), cleaning my utter sty of an office (whereupon I discovered that one of my furry darlings peed in my office closet, which required me to move everything off the floor so that I could attend the stain with the portable rug cleaner and some Nature’s Miracle, whee…), doing laundry, attending a meeting at the local Democrats office, having coffee with one of my beta readers who reassured me that she was enjoying the story so far (and she will tell me if I’m screwing up), adding DoR here to the Bookshelf, creating ads and doing promo on social media, and formatting the DoR ebook. I’m going to hold off on doing the print version until I have all of the other edits done, but in the meantime I can get the print version of Palace of Scoundrels finally done and published, which would be nice seeing as it was released in, oh, late October.

Yeah, well, we were kind of busy around that time.

Anyhoo, yeah, the weekend kinda got away from me and I still need to put all the laundry away, pay bills, and finish cleaning the office (aren’t you envious of my glamorous life?). But by God I’m going to hit the ground running tomorrow, especially since I don’t have to start Round Three of edits on DoR until Wednesday (I swear to God I actually have a schedule this time), and that means I can continue to edit the alternate history mystery starring Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Carroll that’s been languishing on my hard drive for the last three years and get it ready for release on 2/28.

Two books released in one month. Yeah, I like the sound of that.

State of the Writer

melwritingHeya. You haven’t seen hide nor hair from me for the last week or so because I’ve been editing TBFKAI. I’m currently working on the last chapter, after which it goes off to the betas for critique and review and I pour myself a large Angry Orchard and enjoy some season 5 Longmire. Here’s my schedule between now and 2/21, which will be the release date:

  • Send MS off to beta readers and editor
  • Finalize cover for ebook and print
  • Set up pre-sales in Amazon
  • Start doing teasers on FB, Twitter, and Google+
  • Send out teasers, cover to newsletter subscribers
  • Set up a release day party
  • Get crits back from beta readers and editor
  • Incorporate comments/corrections into MS
  • Do a third editing pass
  • Do a spelling/grammar editing pass
  • Do a weasel word editing pass
  • Do a polishing pass
  • Format .mobi version, upload to Amazon three days before release date
  • Format .epub version, upload to Smashwords for distribution to B&N, Kobo, iTunes, et al
  • Format print version, upload to CreateSpace
  • Release book on 2/21 with FB party and wild shenanigans

After which I may sleep for a day. But only for a day because after that I have to finish Behind the Iron Cross and start the whole thing over again. Plus there’s the alternate history mystery I’d like to finish editing and publish. *rubs face* It shall get done somehow, selah.

Juggling writing and other stuff

melwritingAs you know, Bob, writing tends to be a rather concentration-intensive thing. We have to focus on a screen and create worlds, people them with interesting characters, and then send the characters off on adventures that a reader wants to follow. All of which takes, yeah, concentration and time if you want to do a good job and produce quality work.

Thing is, very few writers have a staff of servants who can take care of everything so that all the writer has to do is focus on writing. Learning how to juggle writing with the other demands of everyday life is sorta kinda vital if you want to do this professionally. For example, I’m currently sitting perched on the edge of my seat while Jessica (the dilute grey tabby) is trying to snuggle in behind me because Jasmine (the charcoal tabby) is sitting on the back of the chair, which offends Jessica because she considers that spot her personal sitting space (even though she shares it with her brother Jeremy). The doorbell just rang with the pest control people who come around once a quarter to clear away any hornets’ nests and hit the foundation with pesticide. Oh, and I just got back from the store with food for dinner tonight and breakfast/lunch for the next three days as well as Ramón’s required Diet Coke. Before all that I filled all the food bowls, refreshed all the kitty water, scooped three litter boxes, swept up all stray litter and unloaded the dishwasher, making sure to put the clean recyclables in the recycling bin. Tonight I’ll make dinner (putting used pots into the dishwasher as I go to speed up Ramón’s cleaning the kitchen afterwards), then finish dusting the bookshelves here and vacuuming the floor all through the front rooms in preparation for putting up Christmas decorations tomorrow. That doesn’t include any laundry that needs to be done, any piles of unexpected cat vomit that need to be wiped up, or spot-cleaning.

And my life is pretty easy compared to someone who’s a parent and holds down a job at the same time. I could say “screw it” and completely give up on housecleaning while I work (and I have done), but I truly hate living in a dirty house and it distracts me from writing. So I juggle. I feed the cats, clean the litter boxes, and sweep up litter, then I answer email. I go to the store and I think about the next scene I want to write while I’m picking up carrots and green beans. I tell the Moxie guys to go ahead with the pest stuff, then I put on headphones and write while they’re bustling outside. I check social media, find one of my favorite photographers asking what people are working on so that she can schedule useful shoots, and tell her what kinds of covers I’ll need. While I cook tonight I’ll work out dialogue in my head (Ramón says he can always tell when I’m doing that because I make faces to go along with the dialogue), and put it down afterwards while R loads the dishwasher.

Would I rather have staff to handle all that while I work? Oh, hell yes. But I don’t, so I have to find ways to make everything that needs to happen, happen. And even with all this juggling, it’s still the best damned job in the world and I wouldn’t give it up unless I had to.

But Santa, if you could make that twice-monthly cleaning service happen next year, I for one would be deeply grateful.

The multiple stages of editing

Editing is a very different beast from writing. It’s when you have to ditch your drunken slut of a muse and put on the green celluloid visor to become a cross between a dominatrix, an old-school English teacher and the bitchiest, most persnickety of proofreaders. And because I’m waiting on the last beta edit, I’m going to entertain you with an explanation of Nic’s Personal Editing Process.

With a self-pubbed book like Palace of Scoundrels, it all starts the first draft (which shouldn’t be shown to anyone because Jesus, Allah, and Zoroaster, it’s SOOOOO bad. We’re talking word vomit on the page, all kinds of weasel words, and not nearly enough physical description because my subconscious thinks I’m a screenwriter). Then I laboriously hack and slash my way through the worst of the wordy underbrush and carve out a draft that is tolerable for my beta readers.

That gets sent off, and I go back and do what I call the mechanical edit, which means turning on every grammar and spelling option in Scrivener and going line by line to make sure all spelling/grammar/punctuation is correct, all tenses agree with each other, and I don’t have doubled words (I do that a lot, I don’t know why).

After the mechanical edit comes the weasel word edit. Basically, I use the Find function to locate these 43 words you should never use in your writing and evaluate each case to see if I can get rid of the word entirely, modify the sentence so that it has the same meaning without using the word, or occasionally leave the word in because it’s needed. This is OMG tedious (POS took half of yesterday and all of today to get this done, with much cursing on my part) but it’s also an absolutely necessary and vital part of editing a book, and it always, ALWAYS makes the book better.

By this point I usually start getting beta comments back and can add in their corrections and suggestions. I use at least three beta readers per book, as well as a kick-ass editor who has the sharpest eye I have ever been blessed to have my work under. Once all those edits have been added, I’ll do a final once-over as a polish, then it’s ready to be uploaded to Amazon, Smashwords, and All Romance eBooks. It’s long, tedious process that requires a hella amount of attention, but if you do it right you wind up with a killer book.

My current status on, well, everything

pos91516So, yeah, it has been brought to my attention that I’ve been maintaining radio silence while working on Palace of Scoundrels, so sorry about that. I’ve been focusing on finishing the damn book so much that I kinda forgot, “Uh, you have a blog? And people might like to know how things are going?”

So yeah, we are now officially into the home stretch, as seen at left. I strongly doubt this will be the final word count — I have at least two major scenes to insert while doing the rewrite, and I’m guessing it’ll top out more around 73K. But that’s still a chunky little piece of high fantasy erotic romance, so for all of you who are looking for fixes to your GOT jones just hang on for another week.

(I am still absolutely boggled that I’m writing high fantasy erotic romance. But damn it, this world is just so much fun.)

kennytbgAlso, while we’re on the topic of GOT, if you’re a fellow fan of that delightfully tall drink of Scottish water Rory McCann (Sandor “The Hound” Clegane), might I suggest that you track down a British comedy TV series called The Book Group on Hulu? It’s from 2002 and stars Anne Dudek, who played House fellow applicant/Wilson’s girlfriend Amber on House, and is the story of a rather neurotic American named Clare who moves to Glasgow and starts a book group to meet people. The other members of the group include three footballers’ wives (one of whom is played by the goddess Michelle Gomez, also known as Missy/The Master on Doctor Who), a rather sweetly clueless guy named Rab who is secretly having an affair with Michelle’s footballer husband, an obnoxious hipster played by James Lance, and McCann’s character Kenny, who is a kindly lifeguard at a local leisure center. Kenny’s also in a wheelchair after what we presume is a climbing accident, and the writers do a great job of not turning him into the Magical Paraplegic or giving him Very Special Episode moments. He’s got a couple of issues, not to mention crap taste in girlfriends, but he’s still one of the better-adjusted people in the group along with Rab, and his low level flirtation with Clare goes everywhere from exasperation to genuine friendship.

Also, it’s really nice to hear McCann using his own accent–he’s got this amazing young Sean Connery thing going on. Pity he was depilating his chest at the time, but one can’t have everything, I suppose.