2015 in review

My friend and colleague Allie Drennan wrote up a post like this, and it got me to thinking. A lot of people have been talking about the year 2015 in qualitative ways, and for me… well, 2015 was nothing if not full of extremes.

The beginning of the year was grim, with me missing out on our family’s vacation in Whistler, BC. Being home alone for a week offered me a chance to write, but it also left me bumping around a house that had no laughing child and no smiling husband. The only good thing was my story “The Gaijin & The Butterfly” was published by Oriental Excess.

Later, in March, I got to go to Norwescon and take the panels seriously. Three fourths of my writers group were there with me, and we were organized. One of my writers group, James, even introduced me to an excellent writing opportunity. I was flying high and feeling invincible.

So, when I lost my job in April, you can imagine my surprise. I wandered in the weeds as I tried to find a job, only to be roundly neglected by everyone I applied with. Finally, it came down to a harsh truth. I had capped out on what I could do on paper, and if I ever wanted to get out of call centers, I was going to have to go back to school.

I published my book Bento Box in all of this excitement, and tried to learn more about the marketing side of writing. I wrote a short story, “Bits & Pieces,” and it was published by Luna Station.

I then took my planned trip to Wyoming. When I came back home, it was a matter of days before both Toby and I went to school.

School hit me like a load of bricks. I was a good student, but I wasn’t anticipating the amount of work it would be to do school. I fell behind in my classes a little and struggled to catch up. The last time I was in school, I didn’t have as many responsibilities as I have now. I still managed to churn out thirteen short stories over the course of the year. One is submitted to a contest, one is submitted to an anthology, and the rest are in stages of doneness before I figure out where to submit them.

A little ray of sunshine hit after I registered for winter quarter. Turns out, I had more credits from going to college as a high school senior than I thought I did. It was a bright spot in a month full of flooding and replacing our floors.

I passed my classes, which is probably better than I deserved after floundering as hard as I did. I learned a lot though, some directly from my classes and more indirectly.

The most important thing that I learned from 2015 is that I got comfortable. I stopped striving. I didn’t push my body; I didn’t push my mind. I just accepted that life was going to be as it was, and I was okay with that. As soon as I got to that point of acceptance, life turned a huge corner and my life shook down to its foundations. Now that I am striving for something again, things are going in the right direction, and while it’s hard, it’s good.

I also learned that if you have a small, dedicated group of people on your side, working towards similar goals and willing to trade help for help, you can get so much farther in life than trying to go it on your own. Support is vital to success, and the more support you have, the better off you are.

I learned a hard lesson this year. I also had Allie, who has been with me through this whole rough year, cheering me on and keeping me focused on the prize. We’ve been friends for over a decade but our friendship was strengthened this year quite a bit. We have plans to publish more stories, and to get our names out there. It’s good to have a shared dream; no one motivates you more than the person who is just as invested as you in the goal.

And now, on to 2016, and the challenges that await.

Closer to the Finish Line

I finished my second book, or at least, mostly finished. It’s out getting dry cleaned and pressed; in other words, getting some line editing done, to make sure it’s grammatically correct and all the spelling errors are caught. You might think that these small functions could easily be done by the author, but allow me to assure you they aren’t. Even today I’m still getting feedback for The Corsican’s follies. I learned from my mistake. Self-editing is a necessity, but I’ll never publish without another pair of eyes again.

I’m experiencing a lot of peaks – excitement, terror, panic – and valleys, which are mostly the adrenaline crash and attempts at calming self-talk. A friend of mine mentioned to me during a conversation, saying that she figured since I was a published author that this would be old hat. I reminded her that I’ve only ever done this once before. One does not simply walk into Mordor; and one does not simply write a book.

I’m terrified. I feel like so much is riding on this book. It’s hard to feel like your entire career hangs on a book, but when you only finish one once every two and a half years or so, it’s important that your book is well received. There are so many books in this world, and I’m adding to the pile. I put my heart into this story, which is exciting and weird and awkward and fun. I am putting myself out there to be read, and judged, but this is what I want to do. This has been my dream since forever. I love to hear what people think of my story, I love knowing that I’ve entertained someone. My favorite is to make people laugh, or to surprise them.

I’m still figuring things out. There are signposts on my particular career path, but it has taken me years to make sense of them. I’m really happy with the book that I’ve made. I just hope that it makes everyone who reads it happy too.

Confessions of an Author

A month ago today, my day job let me go.

The shock was utter and complete; I had no idea that I was in trouble until my supervisor asked to speak with me in the conference room. My stomach sank when I saw the HR guy was already there. I sat in confusion and disbelief as they broke up with me. Breaking up is what it felt like, anyway. I wanted to argue with them. My pride demanded I try to show them they were wrong. Defeat descended quickly, however, and then I couldn’t get away fast enough. Stripping down my cubicle to the bare beige and gray was terrible.

They let me go near the end of my shift. I went home, stunned for the entire evening, worrying about the logistics of what to do next.

Rather than stay at home and stew in an anxiety ridden turmoil, the next day I went to a coffee shop with my laptop. I worked on my novel. I’ve been working on this novel for two and a half years. The bulk of the day was spent doing what I loved.

I am of course looking for work, but finding a job in my town is a demanding art form all its own. I’m also looking to get back in school. I have a few hours a day that aren’t spoken for, in that time  I work on finishing up Bento Box.

The first time I was laid off, it was in 2009, when the housing bubble burst and all the jobs stopped. During that time, I wrote two novels. I didn’t know what to do then either, but writing at that time seemed just like something to wile away the hours until I landed my next job.

This time, I don’t feel like I lost a job. I’ve been practicing at this writing business for almost three years now. I’m not lost for things to do, I’m desperate to get everything done in a day. I’ve worked harder in this last month than I feel like I have in a really long time. The only difference now is that I enjoy the work so much more.

This has been a time of unexpected ups and downs for me. The one thing I have going for me is the amount of support I have. So many of my friends have told me, “This is a blessing in disguise,” “This is an opportunity,” or my favorite, “The universe really hit you with a two by four, didn’t it?”

I’m terrified, but I’m going for it. In this situation, what else can I do?

Spring is a verb and a noun

The irony of a blog is, when you have lots to say, you’re too busy to write it up, and when you’re slow, you don’t know what to write. That said, I’m busy, but I’m not able to work on my novel so I thought a blog post is in order.

I have a second short story called “Bits & Pieces” that will be published by Luna Quarterly in June. I’ll have more about that later, right now I’m still signing paperwork. It’s lovely to have been chosen.

Another thing coming up is that I may be featured in a podcast, but until I get something a little more concrete I won’t post any details yet. I am so excited about the possibility!

In the lineup, I’m also going out with my developer editor; this time not to talk about my book, but to talk about ALL THE BOOKS. I want to discuss the best path to learn how to be an editor myself. I think it will help me develop my craft, but also will help me to help others who are learning how hard it is to sit and write something good.

My friends are growing right alongside me. We have a great core writer’s group and an extended writer’s group who are proving to be just as on point as our original trio. To see everyone’s feedback improve stories that are already great. It takes time but it’s like watching a garden in spring. One day the ground is bare; the next its green.

There’s been a lot of personal growth coming in to play with this challenge, which was a bonus round I wasn’t expecting. It’s harder to encapsulate personal growth in a blog post without sounding like an after school special or a crystal lovin’ sun worshiper, so those are things I hope to show in my work instead.

My next challenge is Norwescon, which will be when four author panelists will read my draft and give me pointers. I’m both excited and terrified. I figure as long as I remember to breathe, I’ll be fine. After all, if I’m going to be a writer, I need strangers to read my work all the time!

The Saga of the Editor Search, Part 2

…continued from previous post

Unexpected Turn

When I sent my inquiry letter to my referral of a referral of a referral of a referral, I knew things were getting out of hand. I had solid leads. An editor from Seattle asked for 2 chapters. I had a ballpark estimate from Tammy. Then, I got another suggestion. Leigh came in towards the end of my search, recommended by a fellow writer IIRC. She was local, and in a fun turn of events, had taught a class I’d attended a couple of years prior… an editing class, as it were. I remember thinking that I’d be excited to have her as an editor. I didn’t want to let that be the reason I decided to do it, though. I sent her an inquiry letter, like everyone else.

She got back to me relatively quickly, and wanted to meet by the end of the week. I thought, that was a good argument for a local editor. You can have face-to-face meetings when it mattered. We met and exchanged pleasantries. Then we got down to cases. She was professional. She was focused. She edited speculative fiction. Her rates are per hour, and she said it wouldn’t exceed 30 hours to do what I was asking. At it’s most expensive, she came in about $100 more for the project than Tammy, but what that $100 gets me is face to face meetings, an opportunity to ask questions after her report, and a speculative fiction editor.

When I asked Tammy if she edited speculative fiction, she answered, “Not often.. but isn’t that better, that I can ask questions that a genre editor wouldn’t even consider?”

My personal answer to that question is no. It is the voice of experience; it was purchased at the expense of $400 and a trunk novel that will probably not see the light of day.

When I went out to coffee with Leigh, I had a vibe that I could work with her, that she would be tough on me but only to improve my novel.

 

Conclusions

I believe I summed up my experience to a fellow writer nicely when I said, “I can’t believe I’m going to pay this woman a grand to tell me how much my novel sucks.”

Yes, I do struggle with feeling like I am throwing good money after bad. Despite the fact that I learned a lot and seriously improved my writing with my initial experience with a professional editor, because that novel isn’t online, bringing in revenue, it feels… well, like a failure. Doubtless there are several optimists out there who would argue that it’s not a failure if it got me to publish my third novel. When my third novel is up online, perhaps I will feel differently.

I’m also paying *more* than the first time… but developmental editing is expensive. Having price shopped around, I would definitely say what I’m paying is industry average. Not long after signing with Leigh, I found an article that talked about “What does it cost to self-publish?” Four authors were asked, and the only one who paid a significant amount on editing is the only one I’d heard of.

When I asked my husband what he thought of paying this much for editing my book, his answer was, “Well, do you want to be a writer, or do you need to be a writer?”

Lastly, I’ll just say that there are other ways to do this – other ways to get editing, other ways to get your book published. I’m just sharing what I went through because I had to make sense of my experience anyway, may as well share it too.

Full Disclosure – The Saga of the Editor Search

Writing a book is hard. First you slug through a rough draft, then you give it to beta readers, and see what they say. Then you (hopefully) find a writer’s group, and give your New And Improved draft a roll. But now who do you give it to? You’ve reached the end of your resources. And you know the book isn’t the best it can be.

Chances are, if you’re avid about your manuscript becoming a book, you’ve read about editors. You know that you need one, but you’re not sure why. What do editors do? How do they do it? The rest seems shrouded in mystery.

I jumped into the pool, head first, looking penetrate the mystery surrounding editors. I found out that there are multiple kinds of editing, generally from the broad demands of the developmental editor, to the fine detail work of a proofreader. For my purposes, I felt that a full blown developmental edit was what I needed. I’m going to share with you what I experienced.

 

The Backstory

I worked with an editor for Best Served Cold, my first ‘trunk’ novel. I met her through her husband, who was my co-worker. She taught me a lot about how to improve my writing, and we enjoyed a good relationship during the course of the project. However, her specialty for editing was memoirs, which I didn’t think to ask and she didn’t think to mention. She did a great job editing my urban fantasy, but there were things she absolutely did not understand because she wasn’t a fan of the genre. When it came time for me to decide what to do for a developmental editor the next time, I decided I would shop around and find someone who was better suited towards my stories.

 

The Search

My previous editor essentially fell in my lap. I didn’t expect lightning to strike twice, so I had to go out and hunt. Where to look? Lots of people have websites, but that’s definitely a needle in a haystack mentality. My search started with LinkedIn, unexpectedly. I received an email from them about something unrelated, but I thought to myself, “Of course!”

I emailed a developmental editor from San Francisco. Tammy had it all. A website, a great LinkedIn profile, I was excited. I emailed two more editors as well.

Nothing.

Crickets.

I went to another website, the Pacific Northwest Editors Guild. (Which, is a great resource, by the way.) I emailed three people off of that.

Nothing.

I went to a website called Thumbtack, and put in a request. (I do not recommend Thumbtack, and you’ll find out why in a minute.)

And then, Tammy wrote me back! She was professional and well spoken and I liked her immediately. I started talking to her about my book. Which lead to…

The Money and the Manuscript

Tammy and I had a long conversation over email. She wanted to know what I was looking for, and then she dropped the hammer. Edits would cost $3,000!

My heart sank. I think I may have even felt dizzy. I certainly felt overwhelmed. How did other indie authors do it?

I sent Tammy my first chapter. She saw that my book wasn’t in too bad of shape, and worked with me to reduce the cost of her estimate. She was planning to do my book soup-to-nuts, from developmental edit through proofreads. She scaled way back, and kindly offered to do my job for $1000. It was twice as much as I budgeted, but a third of her original offer. I thought we could work a deal.

Meanwhile, I was suddenly inundated with replies! Jordan emailed me back, to tell me his schedule was full until July, and he would charge $1400. Another editor emailed me back to introduce herself and ask for a sample chapter. I discovered the Thumbtack website had offers, all of which routed to an email address I forgot to check. I had five offers from Thumbtack, and the first one began with, “Dear Tona,” which helped me determine the quality of the website. The rates for the editors were posted hourly and $10 cheaper than the other editors I had talked to, but there were obvious reasons why. Another editor said that he sent writers to Hollywood. It was snake oil and smoke. I was not sorry to abandon that attempt.

I asked my ex-editor if she had any references. She told me to try the college. I emailed the college, and Samantha emailed me in response. She told me she edited books for $500, but she was not a genre fiction editor. Privately I had a good cry, but I soldiered on.

..to be continued…

Where’d the microfiction go?

Currently, I’m working on several projects. Projects are lovely, because they allow you to be creative in many ways at once. They are also soul-sucking, energy-draining anxiety machines, and the worst part is you know that accepting them was your idea.

Here’s my current project list –

Whatcom Writes – I am writing a short story of approx. 5000 words for a book that will celebrate local authors. All proceeds will go to Northwest Youth, a charity dedicated to helping at risk youth. The piece I’m writing is called “Nitpix,” and it’s an urban fantasy about three teenagers on their way to a huge summer concert and getting into a car accident in the middle of nowhere.

Tokyo Yakuza – This project is a Kickstarter project, and I’m a contributing author. The year is 2020, Tokyo is hosting the Olympics, and in an alternate history, the Yakuza are an authority to themselves. My piece is called “The Gaijin and the Butterfly,” and is about a half-Japanese, half white soldier whose daughter has been kidnapped by the Yakuza, and he intends to get her back.

Bento Box – A novel about identity that brings gender confusion to a whole new height. Set in Seattle in the year 2291, a young con artist is forced to use her skills at identity theft to bring in a vigilante who has targeted her boss. She never expected that she’d have to take the vigilante’s place!

I’m still working on the synopsis, but I’m still working on the story so they’re both in development. I’m editing my work, and I have an editor that I will pass the story off to, with luck in January. Writing a book is slow work since I have a full time day job, but I’m enjoying the hell out of this story and can’t wait to share it with people!

Bastions of Earth – A working title for a story still in pre-production. It’s written in the same universe as Bento, but this is the story of a colony world learning how to manage with old prejudices and new soil.

The Adventures of Locke Kiger – a serial adventure set in the same world as The Corsican. This will consist of swashbucklin’ adventures in space.

The Guide to a Happier LifeWherein Tina tries her hand at editing a novel. Probably not before January 2015.

 

So, if anyone’s been wondering where I got off to or why I don’t post little microfictions anymore, it’s due to my prodigious workload. I’m not going anywhere, I just haven’t had the chance to show my blog any love lately.