CoSchedule: The Way to a Website Snob’s Heart

Here’s the latest post from my Maximum Author Impact blog:

CoSchedule: The Way to a Website Snob’s Heart


Interview by Gudrun Frerichs

I had the privilege of being interviewed on the subject of writing in general and Second Death in specific by Gudrun Frerichs. Here’s the audio:


Guest post: 5 Signs You’ve Outgrown

Please visit  my guest blog on Gina Akao’s site: 5 Signs You’ve Outgrown

Tagged! Responding at Last

I’m sorry to say I’m just getting around to responding to Cari’s post in which she tagged me. Herewith are 10–nay, 12–random things about me.

Ten Random Things About Me

  1. I was born in Huntsville, Alabama, known as the “Rocket City.” Growing up, I heard rockets being tested nearly every day.
  2. I sang alto for years, until I took voice lessons. Now I’m a mezzosoprano.
  3. When I was 3 years old, I amazed my pediatrician by telling him about igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. My mom thought all kids did that.
  4. At about age 8, I cataloged any book around the house I could get my hands on, making check-out cards for them in little pockets in the back and labels on the spine. (Remember: olden days, before computerized libraries.) Yeah, becoming a catalog librarian was kinda inevitable.
  5. I was a charter member of the Star Trek club (“ASTRA”–Area Star Trek Readers Association) organized in my high school. Um, yeah, I had a command uniform with the little skirt, made for me by my grandmother from the official pattern. Dang difficult to make, too! And I wrote a script for a Star Trek movie, with me as the Vulcan captain. Not sure if we filmed any of it.
  6. I own two real swords (a hand-and-a-half longsword and a basket-hilt rapier) and one decorative one. I would own more if they weren’t so expensive. I adore medieval weaponry, and would have an archery range in my backyard if my husband and friends didn’t insist I’d put someone’s eye out.
  7. I got accepted into the creative writing class in high school with a truly awful murder mystery short story that hinged on verde being Spanish for green. I’m not sure I wrote much worthwhile in that class, except for a poem called Solitaire that my brother set to music and peformed on guitar.
  8. One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Look it up, it’s way awesome, and heavily influenced other horror TV, notably X-Files. Darren McGavin was more than just the (marvelous) dad in A Christmas Story.
  9. My favorite outdoor activity is visiting cemeteries, the older, the better.
  10. I’ve played the following pen-and-paper roleplaying games, roughly in order, during two periods of my life: 1977-1986: Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition & Advanced), Metamorphosis: Alpha, Gamma World, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu (still my favorite), Middle Earth Roleplaying Game (MERP), Rolemaster, Gangbusters, Empire of the Petal Throne, Pendragon; 2002-present: Dungeons & Dragons (3rd edition, 3.5, 4th edition), d20 Modern, Space:1889, GURPS, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mutants & Masterminds, Unknown Armies, Pendragon, d20 Call of Cthulhu, Conan the RPG, Pathfinder. I’m pretty sure I forgot some.
  11. I have a comics pull list at a comic book store in Cahaba Heights.
  12. My first computer was a Kaypro II. I paid about $1500 for it in 1984.

Well, I think my geek cred is pretty well established by that list. I did go a little over, but those last two seemed to round it out nicely.

Thanks for doing this, Cari!

Five Challenges Indie Writers Face (and How to Overcome Them)

Independent publishing is not easy. Oh, it may seem that way at first. Kindle and Smashwords make the process quick, but quick and easy aren’t the same. I know I’m appreciative for any advice on self-publishing I find; maybe you’re the same. I offer these challenges and some ways to deal with them.

Challenge 1. The Donna Syndrome (aka IWIAIWIN)

I’m known among my family and friends for developing obsessions about particular consumer goods and wanting instant gratification of said obsessions. I saw a cool netbook last year. No, I couldn’t wait for Christmas. “I want it and I want it now.” I don’t really say those words, although my husband ascribes them to me, but the effect is much the same. Let’s just call it the “Donna Syndrome” for short.

How does the Donna Syndrome affect indie authors? I upload a manuscript to Smashwords. Why is it taking so long? Now I wait for it to go into the Premium Catalog. Why is it taking so long? I WANT IT AND I WANT IT NOW. Smashwords is an amazingly fast system of publishing, given what it does. Think about the number of formats the “Meatgrinder” produces your work in. How much the system has improved just in the past five months I’ve been using them. The responsive customer service. But I see complaints all the time about how slow it is, or indirect complaints about how it “finally” is ready.

How to deal with the Donna Syndrome? Be patient. Spend the time while you’re waiting working on your marketing plan, so that by the time your manuscript is ready for sale, you’ll know exactly what your next steps are.

Challenge 2. Marketing

And speaking of  your marketing plan, do you have one? I read recently the wise observation that the skills required of a marketer are not generally those of a writer. Marketing doesn’t come naturally to most writers. Even traditionally published authors have to market their own works these days. Marketing your book is an overwhelming prospect, and there’s no shortage of advice online.

How to deal with marketing? Create a plan. Make a list of all the “chores” you see in various blogs and e-publications that seem reasonable to you: Blog about your book, blog about a related topic, guest blog, promote another author on your blog (see Challenge 4). Assign a frequency to them, then arrange them into a schedule. That way you stay on track and hold yourself accountable. This idea isn’t original with me. Tony Eldridge wrote about it in an excellent blog post.

Challenge 3. Exclusionary Thinking

E-publishing opened up the world to people who wouldn’t have had the chance in the past. Traditional publishers are casting about, often aimlessly, trying to figure out what the future holds for them. Don’t fall into the trap of exclusionary thinking, though. By that I mean the idea that “E-publishing is only THIS,” or “You can’t do both e-publishing and traditional publishing,” or “Anyone who accepts a traditional contract after e-publishing is selling out.” Thinking this way limits your options, and reduces your mindset to an unhelpful “us versus them” mentality.

How to deal with exclusionary thinking? Remember that each author comes to publishing in her (or his) own way. Your path isn’t the only one. Gather up great ideas from both worlds.

Challenge 4. Isolation

Writing is usually a solitary activity. Even with a co-author, you put your own words down in pixels or ink. The problem with isolation is you miss out on other opinions and perspectives. Relying only on  yourself skews  your perspective as much as challenge 3 does.

How to deal with isolation? Join a group, in person or online. Read blogs about writing. Improve your craft at every opportunity. The Indie Book Collective has some great tutorials on publishing and marketing. Promote other authors on your blog to develop collaborative relationships.

Challenge 5. Good Enough

By “good enough,” I mean the temptation to publish your manuscript whether it’s really ready or not. You fall prey to the Donna Syndrome (see Challenge 1). Publishing is so quick that you may “want it and want it now.” I’ve read many comments lately about e-publishing to effect that “readers don’t care about editing, they just want a good story.” E-publishing suffers criticism because of this attitude. Careful editing and grammatical sentence structure enhance the reading experience.

How to deal with good enough? As I said in Challenge 1, be patient. Edit your manuscript, then have someone else edit it who knows editing. Spend the time and effort to make it the best it can be. I talked about that in another post.

All of these challenges are about your mental state. Improving your craft, approaching it as a professional, seeking the camaraderie and advice of others: these activities don’t just improve you and your writing. They contribute to a strong and vibrant independent writing community.

Please let me hear from you in the comments. What challenges that you face have I left out?