My Books (in one handy graphic)

I get asked fairly frequently, “What do you write?” To which there is no short answer. If I wrote all in one genre, I could say, “I write [insert genre here].” But I write a lot of different stuff. Also, I have an irritating habit of going blank when asked what I write. So I created a handy graphic to remind myself what I’ve written (I lose count) and also show others:

These are all on my Books page, too, of course. Or you could just hit up Amazon. But I’m a visual person in a lot of ways, so seeing it all in one place helps.

Of all these, only two are available in paperback: The K-Pro and Manifesting Destiny. The rest are ebooks (and audiobooks where indicated). Faebourne will also be in paperback, though! Not that paperbacks sell all that well, but I like to have something to bring to events and show at tables.

So there is my bibliography in one quick look. Do you find things like this helpful?

TBR

As you see from the picture, my TBR (“to be read”) pile is relatively small. However, due to other obligations, I don’t read many books or very quickly any more. After all, I have to balance reading time with writing time, and that has to in turn be balanced against chores, errands, appointments, and family time. I used to read 50+ books per year. Now I set a goal of about 24—two per month—because that’s more realistic for me.

Of course, my TBR pile does not reflect my wish list of books that I still want to read but don’t currently have copies of. That’s a much larger stack, even if it is virtual.

Currently I’m reading The Dream Thieves by Stiefvater and Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. Both are really good. Do you read more than one book at a time? I usually top out at about three.

How big are your TBR piles? What about your wish lists? What do you do if you pick up a book and decide you don’t like it or aren’t in the mood for it?

Covers & Blurbs

I was reading this article, in which six authors answered questions about covers and blurbs, and I thought, Why don’t I answer those questions too? Because, you know, it might be interesting to do so.

How important are covers in terms of selling a book?

Very, I think. My Regency romance Brynnde has sold very well, and it has also won a cover art award. I don’t think the two are unrelated. That said, I love the cover to The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller, but that didn’t sell as well. I think it’s important that a cover convey the story, and maybe that one was a little too artsy for readers to understand what’s inside the book. I’ve always said a cover is a promise made to the reader, and readers are angry if they feel lied to. So a cover is really important, not only in getting someone to pick up the book—though that is the chief function of the cover, to act as an advertisement—but in accurately reflecting the contents.

Have your publishers asked you for your opinion or “input” on your covers, and to what extent do you think they listened? Did you ever meet with the designer? How important was “marketing” in making decisions about the cover of your book(s)?

I’ve had two publishers thus far; the rest of my work is self-published. One publisher used the cover I’d already had designed. The other had a designer do the cover, but she was in contact with me about it, running things by me. I don’t think we talked about “marketing” at all. Again, it was more about making sure the cover matched the story.

Did you ever receive a cover that made you unhappy and if so, what did you do about it? Did you ultimately end up with a cover that made you happier?

Will probably do a new cover for this one at some point.

My early covers for my self-published work weren’t terrible, but they weren’t great either. I can’t say I was “unhappy” about them, though. I did a new cover for one, and I’m planning to do a new cover for another one at some point.

How important are blurbs, particularly for a first-time author?

Probably very important! Alas, I’ve never received any, at least not pre-publication. I do manage to get many good pull quotes from reviews after the fact, though, and I do believe they help in continuing to sell the books.

How did you go about getting your blurbs? Did your agent or editor help, or did you rely more on personal connections?

As per above, I don’t really go hunting for blurbs. I probably should, but I wouldn’t even know where to start! Advice, anyone?

Have you ever offered someone else a blurb?

I’ve never been asked. I’d be flattered if someone did ask. Then again, I’m so busy. It might be difficult to find the time to read a book and blurb it. Maybe if the author gave me very early notice.

Not Set In Stone

This morning on an online writing group someone asked for advice. He was halfway through writing his first chapter and wanted to make a change to his protagonist without having to go back and rewrite anything.

Oh, sweetie. I have some terrible news for you.

Most writing—good writing, anyway—is rewriting. Just because you wrote it or typed it doesn’t make it sacrosanct. If anything, having written it down is exactly what makes it malleable. Which is as it should be.

We’re a world of instant gratification. Rapid technology makes us increasingly impatient. We want to write the thing and be done. You can do that. You can write it and publish it and never look at it again. That’s the dubious wonder of self-publishing. But if you want to write the best possible book, you’re going to need to 1. take your time, and 2. rewrite, get feedback, revise, hire an editor . . . Basically, you need to work the book like you would work dough, pulling and pushing and folding and rolling until it’s right for baking. (There’s a reason some rushed books are called “half-baked” yeah?)

If I were writing something and realized halfway through the first chapter that I needed to tweak, well, I’d be ecstatic. I’d be so glad that I hadn’t gotten too far in before needing to rewrite that bit to pull it through the rest of the story. Better now, at the start, than to get halfway through writing your book before realizing you want to make a major change. Not that you can’t do that. I’ve dismantled and rewritten big chunks of books. I rewrote the entire first half of The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller and the entire back ends of Manifesting Destiny and Brynnde. They are all better books now than they were.

In short, you have to be willing to do the work. You have to be willing to expend the effort and the energy.

You have to be willing to rewrite.

Your words are not written in stone. Not yet. If you want them to be lasting and have impact, you must make your story the best it can be. And your first draft should never be your final draft.

Conferences & Conventions

CC0 Public Domain courtesy of Dreamstime

I’ve been to a number of writing events of various kinds, and every year I find myself having to decide which one(s), if any, I want to attend—either return to, or try new. I’m on a number of email lists, and I’m constantly realizing: “Oh, yeah, that one. I want to go to there.” For my own sake, I’ve decided to create a list. Conferences I’ve attended in previous years are in blue.

San Francisco Writers Conference
Writer’s Digest Conference
Digital Book World
Grub Street (The Muse and the Marketplace)
BookExpo/BookCon
DFW Conference
InD’Scribe
Santa Barbara Writers Conference
20Books
Willamette Writers Conference
London Book Fair
San Miguel Writers’ Conference
Historical Romance Retreat
Independent Authors Conference
Austin Film Festival

I also attended the Bay Area Book Fair one year but didn’t find it to my liking. Maybe I’ll try it again some time; at least it’s local and relatively inexpensive. Also local, the biennial Tri-Valley Writers Conference, which I may attend again when it comes back next year.

I’ve been to SFWC three times, but next year they’re changing venue, so I have to admit being pretty curious about that. Still, it’s one of the most expensive conferences, so I may try something new instead. Then again, I’d love to go back to DFW Con, too. Santa Barbara looks amazing, but it’s a week, and I don’t know if I can get away for that long. Maybe if they put me on a panel . . . 😉

I’m sure there are many more wonderful options than just these, but these are the ones that keep appearing in my email inbox. If you know of a great conference or convention, I’d love to hear about it!

IWSG: Spring Fever

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

Still hammering away at Faebourne! Looking down the barrel at that August 7th pub date . . . Also nervous but excited to have started doing Facebook videos. So if you have any questions you’d like answered, ask away and I’ll answer in my next video!

Question of the Month: It’s spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

Spring lights a fire under me in terms of writing because I realize that the kids will be out of school soon and my chances to write will become smaller. At the same time, I find myself wanting to be out in the warm weather (when we have it). Why not write outside? For whatever reason I find that nearly impossible. The glare on my screen or off the paper in particular makes it difficult for me. And I have to sit in the sun; for me, that’s the point of being outside to begin with. So writing in spring usually ends up being a kind of internal tug-of-war. A real need to sit down and get some work done versus a restlessness and desire to be out and about.

Book Covers?

I wanted to start a new Pinterest board of great book covers, but . . . For whatever reason, I wasn’t finding any I liked enough to pin. Maybe I’m in the wrong frame of mind, or maybe I’m just jaded. Or maybe my tastes run contrary to trends. I tried looking up “best book covers” but those that were pictured just didn’t do it for me.

Looking at my bookshelves now, it occurs to me I do really like the Peter Grant series covers . . . And the Shades of Magic covers are nice, too . . . But nothing is igniting my soul at the moment.

So now I’m asking you to show me your favorite book covers. Tell me what you like about them, too! I know I’ve seen gorgeous covers, so where have they gone and why am I not finding them now?