Witch Doctors, Jesus Christ, and the Harlem Globetrotters

Hile, you lovely people! With no more preamble than what you’re reading RIGHT THIS INSTANT, here’s a quick run-down of Courtney’s Recent Life:

  • Writing advice site UnstressedSyllables.com published my recent article on how to choose a target audience for your novel. Click that link to read and go ooh-ahh.
  • Speaking of ooh-aahs, I’ve been singing a lot of “Witch Doctor” to the baby. She finds it entertaining.
  • I’VE BEEN PAINTING. I know. I KNOW. That’s a pretty big one. I hope none of you fainted. If you did, and if you’ve since revived to read the rest of this bullet point, I’ll tell you that I’ve actually got TWO paintings in the works:
    1. an illustration of Revelation: a post-Second-Coming Christ, the church in the form of a house, and a New Jerusalem coming down out of the heavens — you know, iconic epic-type stuff
    2. an image that’s been knocking around in my head for almost two years: landscape with crimson sky and purple hills in the background, and a mysterious dark Something in the foreground. The Something might be a structure. Or it might be a person (possibly a female version of this). I’m not sure yet. But it will be black.
  • I’ve been editing Josh‘s latest: Hell-Bent for Leather, a Weird Western in which supernaturally gifted Chet Leather must rescue the soul of his friend, Dan, from the clutches of a Duke of Hell. It’s an incredibly entertaining romp with plenty of action, deviltry, tongue-in-cheekiness, and heart. Though I’m slow due to time constraints, I’m enjoying it immensely. In other news, Josh has been very patient with me.
  • In further news, Elevator People progresses apace. Our Hero is about five paragraphs and a few lines of dialogue away from his final encounter with The Villain, Carrigan Bell. I’m glad of it, because I’m ready for this story to be in editing and pre-publishing stage, and I also want Carrigan Bell over and done with. He’s a particularly nasty sort, and I always feel like I need a shower after I’ve been in his head for a while.
  • This isn’t part of Recent Life, but it’s a Recent Development pertaining to Life, so I’ll share it: I get to see the Harlem Globetrotters in April, and my brother-in-law will be on the opposing team. BAM.

For now, that is all. I’m going to bed. See ya later, dahlings! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

But if you do, take pictures.* ; )

*I picked that one up from my Grandpa. WHAT.

But I’m a Novelist — Why Write Short Stories?

Short stories? Really?

G’day, inklings! It’s a beautiful day in the Oklahoma City neighborhood! Remember that horrid heat dome thing I recently vented about? IT’S GONE. As I type this, it’s 11:29 a.m. and 72ºF. My windows are open, and my a/c is off. CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH?!?

But I’m not here to talk about the weather, much as I am in it rejoicing. Today, my lovelies, we’re back to short stories. My recent post Get Shorty elicited the following comment from reader Heather:

I am still terribly confused about the purpose of a short story. Why on earth would we want our stories to be short (unless, of course, they are children’s bedtime stories and then they cannot seem to be short enough for my tastes!).

As I pondered Heather’s question and posted my reply, I realized that others might have the same question and that it was worthy of its own blog post. Why write short stories? What’s the point of creating a world and then only spending a few pages in it? And as I pondered, I also realized that I’ve done a 180 on the subject since last I gave it thought. Oy vey!

So, in case you missed it, here are my thoughts on:

Why Short Stories?

1. I’ve always enjoyed long fiction far more than short. If I’m going to make an emotional commitment to a piece of fiction, I want a full return on my investment! It always seemed like short fiction couldn’t compensate me enough.

But since I’ve started writing my own short stories and reading others’ and reading what others have to say about short fiction, I’ve discovered that some readers feel the exact opposite about short stories. They want the short fiction, because it lets them know if they’re going to like a particular author or not. They can commit a short amount of time to a short piece. If they like it, they’ll invest more time in a longer work. But if they don’t like it, they haven’t lost a lot of time, and they can move on to something else.

In this article, Charlie Jane Anders writes,

You start every story with a certain amount of capital, and that capital is your readers’ attention span. You need to spend that capital wisely.

This rule of thumb applies well to short stories. Short story readers donate only a certain amount of capital. But if we spend it wisely, we can get them to donate more — and it’ll be enough to buy an entire novel.

2. Writing short stories hones our craft. I’ve only recently started realizing this. In a short story, I’ve got a very limited amount of word-space in which to establish character, develop character, develop plot, and transition from scene to sequel to climax to denouement. Since I can’t take my good ol’ easy time about it, I’m more focused on choosing the right words and on cutting unnecessary material.

It’s kind of like blogging vs. Twittering. On my blog, I can expound at length. On Twitter, I’ve got 140 characters with which to say something meaningful. Each tweet must be lean and to the point. The same, I find, applies to short stories: They’re lean and to the point, because they can’t afford not to be.

So, as I learn to fine-tune my short stories, I’m also fine-tuning my skills as a novelist.

3. ________________________________________.

Readers and writers, this one’s for you! Fill in the blank: What benefit do you see in writing short stories?

Or, if you disagree with me on the merits of penning short fiction, you can use #3 to hold forth on that, as well. ; )

Indie Author Freaks Out: Details at 11

In her Twenty Things NOT To Say To A Writer: A Handy Safety Guide, Laura Resnick tells us that a career of writing books “…is insanely competitive, disastrously unstable, and skull-crushingly difficult to do.”

My experience as a published author now encompasses exactly 13 days. So far, I have learned three very important things about this skull-crushingly difficult business, and I am going to tell you about them now.

3 Newbie Lessons from Getting Published

1. When promoting your book, start off strong — but pace yourself.
Thus far, Twitter, Kindleboards, Facebook, and blogging have been my greatest allies in promoting Colors of Deception. I’m tweeting and posting — and to my delight, followers and friends are retweeting and reposting. (Thanks, everybody! You guys are cramazing.)

The result of all this networking isn’t just book sales, though — it’s connections all over the place. It’s encouragements coming in from all sides. And it’s tweets and messages that deserve a personal response.

Right now, I’m happily responding, and I’m making the social media work for me. But I’m also thinking ahead to when I start my next writing project — soon. And when I start it, the networking must take a backseat. I might even have to lock the networking in the trunk.

Because if I’m networking all the time, I’m not writing. If I’m not writing, I’m not me. If I’m not writing, there won’t be any books to network about. So as I’m thinking ahead to the next big project, I’m reminding myself that when it comes to book/blog promotion,

I am a writer first and a business second.

Maybe third.

2. Not everyone will support you. And that’s okay.
I wrote a little about this last week, when I mentioned my tweet about others’ silence. Sometimes, that silence is a worse rejection than an in-your-face confrontation. When you publish a book, you want every single person you know to shower you with congrats. Not that you want heaps and oodles of attention*, but an acknowledgement would be nice, right?

Well, not everyone is going to acknowledge your accomplishment — and that’s okay. Do you acknowledge every single accomplishment of every single person you know? If the answer to that is yes, you can color, paint, and doodle me impressed. Me, I have to answer that question with no. And the reasons behind my negation are legion and would make a whole series of blog posts.

But it all boils down to this: Frankly, I can’t keep up with everybody.

And I can’t expect everybody to keep up with me, either. ; )

Here’s the deal, though: We don’t need everyone in our lives to acknowledge our authorial accomplishments. I think about it this way: When I lose tweetlings (aka followers) on Twitter, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed; it means I’m refining my audience. If people stop following me, it means they weren’t my audience in the first place.

The same applies to my books: If someone doesn’t acknowledge my publishing success, it just means that person isn’t my audience. Maybe they don’t read novels. Maybe they don’t read my genre.

Whatever the reason for their silence, it’s not the end of my world. It’s just the refining of my audience.

3. Book Launch Parties freak out my subconscious.
The Book Launch Party is tonight, and I’ll be posting about it on Thursday. Vintage timeless Coffee is hosting the shebang, and I know it’s going to be fantastic.

That knowledge, however, didn’t prevent the weird dream I had two nights ago of driving my dad to the book launch and heading the wrong way up multiple one-way streets. I tried making a U-turn in front of a lady in a red Dodge Charger, and she almost took the front of my car off.

Fortunately, I understand what’s going on here. I’m an introvert. There will be people at this party whom I don’t know. I’m an introvert. They’re going to want me to say something in front of everyone. I’m an introvert. There’s a reason I chose writing over a career in public speaking. ; )

In spite of my subconscious’s quiet little freak-out, here’s what I know:

I’m surrounded by a kaboodle of supportive friends and family.

Nothing bad is going to happen.

I’m going to have an incredible time.

___________________________
Are you an indie or self-published author?

Do you find this business “insanely competitive, disastrously unstable, and skull-crushingly difficult?” Why or why not?

What are your words of wisdom for the indies and self-pubbed?

What are your sub-/conscious fears about publishing, and how do you deal with them?

___________________________

* Let’s admit it: We writers do like the attention. 😉

The One Where I’m Not An Impotent Bachelor

Soft Watch at the Moment of First Explosion by Salvador Dali

Fishing For Love in All the Wrong Places

So, Gmail has this fantastic little gadget called a spam filter. I don’t pretend to know how it works — I just know that my inbox never sees a shred of spam.

The filter is like that little guy in the office down the hall, doing his job in such a quiet, unassuming way that you never really notice he’s there. But if he didn’t show up one day, an apocalyptic avalanche of junk would come crashing down on your head.

I rely on that little guy, and maybe I even take him for granted. But I do check in on him every so often. And when I do, I get a good look at the trash the poor guy has to wade through every day!

Apparently, my spammers think I’m a customer, and they think I’m a customer who’s simply jonesing for their products. They offer me all sorts of peculiarities. They shake their wares beneath my nose and assume that the pleasing aroma of a great deal is just too delicious for me to resist. They think they know me, and they think they know exactly what I want.

The problem is, my spammers have pegged me wrong in three areas:

1. I am female.
2. I use my smartphone to tell time.
3. I’m married.

You see, ladies and gentlehobbits, my spammers are completely convinced that I’m an impotent man looking for good watches and a Russian bride.

These poor, misguided people just don’t get it. Like fishermen casting out lures, they send me all these emails, hoping I’ll bite. What they don’t understand is that they’re casting into a pond that has no fish in it.

Fishing For The Right Readers

When I finished the second draft of my YA paranormal novel Colors of Deception, I gave it to my mom for proofing. My mother happens to be my foremost beta reader, and she makes better every piece of writing I share with her. She also taught English and Literature to teenagers for 25 years.

After reading and marking-up, she handed back the copy of Colors and said, “You can’t write for teenagers like this.”

All I can remember now is that somewhere in the manuscript, I used the word “elucidate.”

Not that I think teens won’t know the meaning of “elucidate.” But that’s not the only adult vocabulary I wrote into the novel. Throughout the story, my style betrayed the fact that I was used to writing to adults. What did I know about writing to teens? I was casting my lures in vain, because the fish I was looking for were in a different pond.

I had to find different ways of expressing myself without losing the flow and feel of the story. Some re-writing was in order. So I did it.

Whether or not I succeeded in hieing myself to the right fishing spot has yet to be proven. Currently, my editor(s) is (are) putting the manuscript through its first paces toward publication, and I’m sure they’ll have some feedback for me on this score. (And, no doubt, on several other scores, too! These are generous but exacting people.)**

But the point is that I’ve tried to narrow my focus to my target audience. Too bad my poor, deluded spammers can’t learn the same lesson.

Yours Truly,

A Female, Married Heterosexual Who Quit Wearing Watches A Long Time Ago

** Since this post went live, Colors of Deception has been published! The genre is listed as “Christian fantasy,” as both my editor and my publisher deemed it adult instead of YA. Click the link to get your paperback copy for $12.99 or your Kindle edition for $2.99!