Thursday, February 27, 2014

Row80 Weds check-in: The birds are back!

Tuesday, I stepped outside my apartment to be greeted by a chorus of robins. I think they came back too early as we still have a half foot of snow on the ground, but it's heartening to hear them talking to each other, tree to tree. So in addition to the red-winged blackbirds, we now have the robins, sweet harbingers of spring.

I think my writing goals for the week have downsized to something very simple. Write 750 words a day. No matter what. So here's my one-day-late check-in for ROW80:

WRITING. Yes, every day so far, I'm working on micro-scenes and research for Rivers of Stone, but I still haven't touched Years of Stone for that final read-through and taking notes. I sent it off to a generous beta reader (she who shall be nameless but a generous ROW80 writer). Got a good draft for that article on quilting that's due tomorrow. On posting for my writing and travel blogs? Nada! On posting a snippet for Wednesday's WIPpet? Not yet.

READING/COMMUNITY: Best laid plans . . . Finished Freud's mistress and posted a review on GoodReads. I think the Boston Globe got it right by calling this a "bleak historical romance."

The real story in Freud's Mistress for me was not that Freud had a mistress or was vulnerable to a succession of people who admired and accepted his work in those early controversial days, but that the choices Minna Bernays had -- to marry OR work as a governess or paid companion -- were so restricted. This tale of trust and betrayal (forbidden love, guilt, the relationship between the two sisters) is bleak. Also, I was a little shocked to learn that giving laudanum (opium) to children so they could sleep at night was relatively common, as was the recreational use of "coca". But an interesting read.

Couldn't attend this week's writers' group because of doctor appointments, so still need to write comments on one sub from that group. Did complete another crit for NOVELS-L on the Internet Writers Workshop (that was fun). A little more active on Google+ groups. Still planning to attend two writers' groups that meet face-to-face in March.

MARKETING:  Some real progress here. Finally called my favorite indie bookstore. They'll carry Standing Stones on consignment (because it's self-published), and I'm scheduled for an April book signing. They were so nice that I now wonder why making that call was so difficult. Also, I'll be featured on Deborah McKnight's Self-Published Sunday blog on March 16, and I've ordered bookmarks (here's the should: I should have ordered bookmarks LAST month).

I feel encouraged that some people have gone out of their way to tell me they liked reading Standing Stones. Reviews are coming in slowly, but repeat sales are steady. That's heartening!

OTHER STUFF: Did Yoga once (what an amazing difference). Back to regular exercise 3x a week. No reason not to go off to exercise. The snow is simply another challenge. Came up with a great tofu scrambler recipe. Quilting that king-sized wedding quilt? Had a crisis of confidence until my daughter said she loved the colors and design, so I shall persevere. Last night, Allen's computer went down -- all files disappeared (though I found them in a secret folder), so I shut everything down and we watched that delightful romantic comedy Moonstruck instead.

Biggest challenge for the week ahead: I'm always amazed when other ROW80 writers balance more than one project. Maybe I can be schizophrenic and work on two major projects at the same time OR maybe I'll just plough ahead with micro-scenes for Rivers of Stone and set it aside when I tackle the read-through for Years of Stone (leaning to this second option).  It's far too easy to fall back on the comforting routine of editing -- rather than the sheer adrenaline-fueled challenge of drafting. Why is it our minds pull us to the easier task?

Do you work well on two major writing projects?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Just an amazing writing week . . .

The week started off with a bang . . . bumped through Wednesday with a thud, and now, back on track!

Monday was truly amazing with my launch party. Not only was the two-hour launch at my favorite local coffee shop really fun, but between 30-35 people came out, and the event cost me nothing (unless I count all the hours to write the book!). Read my tips here, and I hope you have a wonderful party whether you self-publish as I did or go with an indie publisher.

Tuesday, the new computer arrived. Here comes the thud. One computer guru said get Windows 8.1. The other said to stick with Windows 7. I opted for the new and wonderful. Got the system up and running and within 5 minutes (count each precious one), our entire wireless system shut down.

Of course, since Dell and Windows have both gone paperless, all the documentation is on line. Now began the service call marathon. Dell said it was the router. Contact your internet provider. Microsoft had shut down its call lines. I could chat online, though. Hehehe. The call to Comcast had us talking to Idaho and Arizona. We were wireless once again! Until I turned on the new system. Boom! All down once again. Within 5 minutes. The next three hours passed very slowly as we worked with Comcast again and again to restore internet.

Wednesday, Comcast sent a service tech out. After an hour and a half with this kind service tech doing strange and wondrous things to my new Dell, internet AND the new system worked fine. For the next hour and a half.

Thursday, the new Dell went back to the factory by UPS, and we ordered a new Dell with Windows 7. They did offer me $80 to keep the Dell with Windows 8.1, but how could I keep a computer that took down my wireless network every time I turned it on? To say I'm not a fan of Windows 8.1 is a serious understatement.

So, did I get any writing done at all? Here's my ROW80 check-in:

WRITING: I'm using to plunk away on Rivers of Stone. This week saw a real breakthrough as I moved from research to writing scenes (4,000 words this week so far). One supporting character did not feel real at all, so I used Noah Lukeman's The Plot Thickens to explore the character and then write micro-scenes. I'm not sure I've gotten the restless teenager down, but I'm closer. When I think about this character, he feels real to me now.
For the coming week:
---Read Years of Stone and map out editing goals (publish April). No progress last week.
---Research and write micro-scenes for Rivers of Stone. Good progress here. Continue, but I'm wondering if I can really work on two major writing projects at the same time. Can I separate writing from critical reading? Maybe . . .
---Post at least once on writing and travel blogs. Done and continue! My travel blog features favorite pictures from the Africa trip.
---Post ROW80 on Weds this week and include Wednesday WIPpets! Thank you for your encouragement, Eden.

READING/COMMUNITY: Slow progress here. I jump to junk reading under stress and finished something that could be called Holly Takes a Holiday (I really don't like to confess my sins). So I'm still reading Freud's Mistress (a little kinky, but fascinating) and Olivia, Mourning (just fascinating).
---Post reviews for both books I'm reading on GoodReads. Participate in GoodReads' forums.
---Attend writers' group to try to set some guidelines for more productive readings. Crit the sub sent to me that I missed.
---Rejoined The Internet Writing Workshop and critted one sub. Crit another this week. Maybe send a sub from Rivers of Stone.

MARKETING:  Does it count that I held the book launch and wrote it up?
---Meet with event coordinator at Barnes & Noble (have called several times . . . persevere).
---Update Amazon's Author Central. Please!
---Follow up on pending book club visit and contact one more local book club.

OTHER: I'm trying to make a commitment to doing yoga at least once or twice a week. Swimming kicks in fine at 3 x a week, and we're walking 3-4 x a week, but dear hubby is on a diet and doing very well. I can't have him weigh less than I do. Secret so far: vegetarian most of the time, smaller portions, and salad at night for a snack.

May the week go well for you. 

Here's today's meme.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday check-in: Still snowing, still writing . . .

I'm working on a new quilt, all shades of blue and sage, and it's rather like writing. Plan, cut, sew, arrange, sometimes rip and sew again, piece by piece, block by block, until the final quilt emerges. Out of daily commitment, sometimes my work is beautiful. Isn't that what keeps us writing (and quilting)?

I suppose every week is intense in its own way. We're watching some of the Olympics at night, and I marvel at the concentration and sheer physical effort that these athletes show, for all their training culminates in one moment of failure or success in a very public arena.

This week, I missed the Weds check-in. I went to a face-to-face writing group instead. What could have been a two-hour commitment turned in to three hours, and feeling guilty, I left before the last reader read. The group was comprised of 11 writers at every level, and we moved slowly through those who had something to read -- everyone commented.

I was exhausted by the end of the session. In one sense, we didn't have enough time to properly critique each person. I wasn't as interested in correcting someone's punctuation as I was in digging deeper into the story, but comments needed to be tempered by how much that writer needed encouragement and where his or her skills were. So if you are in a face-to-face writers' group that really works for you, feel blessed. For me, I rejoined the NOVELS_L list on The Internet Writing Workshop.

Progress this week on ROW80 goals -- and the week to come:

WRITING. Another 5,000 words this week, pushing ahead on writing scenes around research for Rivers of Stone. I should give up on WIPpet Weds, though I love the idea and enjoy seeing what others have written. So here, perhaps I'll just post a snippet when I can. For the first time in weeks, I posted on my travel and writing blogs. That's a celebration!
For the coming week:
--Read Years of Stone and map out editing goals. Overall goal to publish by April.
--Research and write 750 words a day on Rivers of Stone. Block out scenes.
--Post at least once on travel and writing blog this week.

COMMUNITY/READING. I'm reading two books at once (does anyone else do that?). Freud's Mistress (Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman) is told strictly from Freud's sister-in-law's pov and shows clearly what it must have been like to live as a reasonably intelligent and unmarried woman, dependent in that half-life of unsuccessful middle class occupations of governess or companion. But the print is slow, so the reading is glacial. Olivia, Mourning, by indie writer Yael Politis, is a sheer delight, and on my Kindle so I can adjust the font. Set in the 1840s, the story tackles the issues of racism and follows a young woman's attempt to make a new life for herself. Last week, I did post a new meme on my writing blog. That was fun.
For the coming week:
---Post reviews on GoodReads for both books I'm reading.
---Meet with writer for more review of her work (she's from the writers' group above).
---Celebrate the launch of Standing Stones with friends at coffee shop on Monday. I have no idea how this will turn out, but folks have said they will come.
---Meet with event coordinator at Barnes & Noble to set up reading/signing. Contact one other local bookstore.

MARKETING. Not so much this week, other than at least 2x Twitter and Facebook (on author page). Just one goal: Update Amazon's Author Central. And maybe update the marketing plan by month.

The hardest marketing strategy for me still is to request those neat testimonials from established writers that appear on the back of your book. I've read here and there that you simply ask. Have you successfully negotiated such advance reviews. Did you simply ask?

SNIPPET for today is from Rivers of Stone. Catriona, disguised as a boy, and Dougal have arrived by ship at York Factory on Hudson's Bay. It's August, 1843. Dougal is immediately assigned to go west to Fort Vancouver with the fur brigade, but Cat has been assigned as an apprentice clerk to the Company store. They have under two weeks together before they say goodbye:

"I know you'll come back," said Cat. "But just in case you don't, how long do I wait?"

Dougal straightened the cap she wore. "I'll be back before winter. If I'm not, then come west next spring. I canna promise more."

"It's enough." She punched his arm like any little brother would and threw herself into his arms for a last hug. "I'll stay here 'til then."

York Factory, 1853 (Lithograph, Wikipedia)

This is a blog hop for ROW80. Read what others are doing this week here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday check-in: The further I go, the farther I fall . . .

Snowing lightly out there still. Just a few snowflakes swirling in the morning light. But that fits right in my writing this week, as a flotilla of York boats is making its way down the Hayes River in the wilds of Manitoba. Enough to make me shiver and remember the first time I went whitewater river-rafting in a tiny boat. Some of the rapids have huge eddies called 'keepers' for if the boat goes down, the bodies don't pop up until spring melt.

ROW80 Progress this week:

WRITING: Thank goodness for for it helped me structure my writing every day this week. I'm now back to truly writing with over 5,000 words for the week on Rivers of Stone, thus breaking my intense preoccupation with proofreading and formatting that self-publishing entails. I did finish the Smashwords' author interview and updated layout for both blogs.
For the coming week:
--Write 750 words a day on Rivers of Stone
--Participate in WIPpet Wednesday this coming week!
--Post at least once on travel and writing blog this week.

COMMUNITY/READING: Went to the library and found four books that I must read. Keeping up with ROW80 check-ins and reading what others have posted. Updated GoodReads. Will post reviews as I finish each one (Freud's Mistress, The Daughters of Mars, and The Ambitions of Jane Franklin). And I have twittered this week (a friend tells me 1-2x a week is not enough, but I'm just not sure I can go over 2x).
For the coming week:
--Attend Weds writers group with writing excerpt.
--Post at least ONE review on GoodReads this week.
--Post a new meme on my author page on Facebook.
--Check out the writing groups on FB.

MARKETING. Is that mantra "Just one 'marketing' thing every day" working? Yes! And the first review for Standing Stones has been posted on Amazon -- a 5 star review (makin' me so happy).I have posted requests for reviews on GoodReads twice now (no takers -- yet). Will try FB. I've been invited to visit one local book club so that packet is ready to drop off on Monday. The biggie: Posted a giveaway on GoodReads (with excerpt) that will run Feb 10-Feb 28.
--Schedule celebration party for end of February and send invites. (Violinist said yes!)
--Contact local bookstores x2 with press release.
--Send press release to local newspapers.
--Post info re Standing Stones on FB writers' groups.
--Update Amazon Author Central page.

Quilting is taking second place to the writing this week . . . but I did finish the top to the charity quilt. Five women made squares from scraps; I have enough for two twin-bed sized quilts!. I love these bright colors and 'wonky' design. Perfect with a turquoise flannel backing for someone who has to spend time in a hospital.

Can't wait to see what everyone's doing.

Morgan Dragonwillow is starting a writing project to gather words of wisdom (poetry, essays, fiction) from 50 women over 50. Interested?

I hope you are all warm (no power outages), your computers are working, and your fingers are flying over that keyboard! Have a great week!

Any words of wisdom on marketing to share? What works best for you?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Weds ROW80 Check-In . . . At last!

Already January has flown by. I refuse to be daunted by the weather, despite my lack of experience in driving on icy streets in 7-degree weather. This morning, I went swimming, felt virtuous, and after class was over, threw my wet suit in the back of the car. Got home to find that swimsuit frozen!

But I'm still pretty happy. Got my computer back virus-free late last night. Just in time for the Weds check-in for ROW80. I didn't really realize how much I used my computer until I went without -- for five days! Here's my update:

WRITING: My biggest goal for this Round of ROW80 was to self-publish Standing Stones. Oh, my! This involved formatting my mss for CreateSpace, Kindle, and Smashwords. Amazingly, after three years of work, the book is now "out there", awaiting readers.

I've started seriously reading research and drafting micro-scenes for Rivers of Stone this week while waiting for copies of just-published Standing Stones. Identified two beta readers for Years of Stone (thank you, Carol and Angela , with one more prospect pending).

I didn't write anything at all on my blogs this week and fell behind on being a 'good' ROW80 sponsor (only read 3 other posts). But I did make a lovely video trailer (my first), and I'm writing 750 words a day. Goal for the coming week:
--Continue 750 words a day.
--Order cover for Years of Stone from pro_ebookcovers (fiverr).
--Update Amazon's author page and finish Smashwords author interview.
--Write posts for travel blog and writing blog by Sunday.
--Draft a guest post re process of either self-publishing or writing Standing Stones this week.
--Participate in WIPpet Wednesday each week. Starting next week!

COMMUNITY/READING. My goal to be more active in local writing and reading communities has fallen behind, partly due to the weather (see cowardly driving habits above), but I did set up an author Facebook page (with memes), and at the kind invitation of another writer, joined the Google group Historical Fiction. My quilting group is making wonderful progress. Our first charity quilt top is finished, second one started.
--Participate in Twitter and GoodReads 2x this week.
--Currently reading Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones at a glacial pace.
--Reading Paul Kane's Great Nor-West by Diane Eaton and Sheila Urbanek. Note: no reviews for this wonderful book online, so I'll post one this week.

MARKETING. Making progress here since Standing Stones went live without a single review! My shyness in asking for advance blurbs is biting me, but I have posted requests for reviews on GoodReads and FB. My goal to continue writing reviews for indie authors is more specific. I'm starting to feel a little better organized about marketing in general. I set up a notebook, organized into sections (marketing plan, readings, media kit, reviews/guest posts, sales, e-publishing). And I'm following that mantra: "Just one (marketing) thing each day. . ." So far, I'm in the middle of scheduling one reading, one bookclub visit, and one book signing.
--Write 1 review each week.
--Contact 1 additional book club this week.
--Contact 1 additional book store this week.
--Set up celebration party for book launch with music.

And that's all, folks. I'm wondering what you're up to, so will dive back into ROW80 posts.

Visit and encourage other ROW80 writers here.

Check out Standing Stones online at amazon here.