About two weeks ago, I participated in a career day for local sixth graders. I spoke about being published and what it was like to have a book signing. I did a fun speed writing exercise which then turned into a lesson about ghostwriting, complete with money exchanging hands and someone else getting credit for the work. And we talked about what an editor does to help a story become the best it can be.
When I taught, I adored this age: old enough to have fresh ideas about the world, young enough to still be this side of sass. Today, “the feels” came in a manilla envelope, packed full of handwritten thank you notes. Each and every one is special, but here are some fun quotes I wanted to share with my peeps:
“The paper I wrote was actually chapter 9 of my up-coming novel. And I’m so glad you came to teach me about things I didn’t know yet.” – LR
“P.S. I’ll never forget, keep writing um..um..um. LOL” – Caitlin
“I didn’t even know ghostwriting was a thing! You have stood out from the others on this career day!” -Maya
“You were fun. I liked the little activity we did and I think your career is cool. “Ghostwriter.” I hope you have a great writers life even though they [the books] might not have your name on it.” (with additional sad face) – Natalya
“At first I didn’t want to be a writter, but you got me a little interested in writing for a living. I probably would be a ghostwriter because it would be easier on me.” – Kaitlyn
“You have inspired me to go the extra mile in my writing. Also, I enjoyed the writing activity very much! I will definately be using that if I have writer’s block.” – FM
“I really enjoyed what you said about ghostwriters. I love writing and ever since you talked to me about ghostwriting, I’m really interested in being a ghostwriter someday.” -Savannah
“I, myself, have considered being a writer and you allowed me to venture into the possibilities of being maybe a ghostwriter. You also inspired me when you told us to “Just write.” That may be my new favorite motto!” -Ellie
“Thank you for being here today. It was a great honor. You expire me to be a writer.” -Catherine
“You have encouraged me to start to write some more in my free time.” – Jessica
“Wright on!” -JB
“I am the bruised bannana. I hope you like my story.” – John
So the day has come when several things have happened: (1) my site is updated to reflect my freelancing and my writing, (2) my blog is co-located now, (3) the red phone booth is gone. This last item turned out to be a source of sadness for one reader who bought me this only a few months back:
Adorable, no? It’s supposed to house…well, something…but I’m not sure what. No doubt it will become a chocolate receptacle. All I know is it makes me tremendously happy to have it near me when I write. Thank you, dear reader!
So why is the red phone booth gone? Well, I needed something of my own that didn’t borrow a brand from anyone or anything else. I think you get my meaning. The time had come for a change and since freelancing is such a huge part of my writing life now, I had to find the intersection where business met with Vortex fun. I hope you find it’s still a GPS location you might want to visit from time to time.
Now that this site is crossed off my to-do list, I’m happy to usher in the fall season with a gift I haven’t given myself in quite a while – permission to work on my career. As a freelancer, it’s hard to turn away a paying client. I can make money doing what I adore, or I can live in my head for free. As with all things in life, a balance, I’m learning, is best.
The last, biggest change to happen this weekend is that I must say goodbye to my laptop. It has been languishing in computer ICU for a month now. First the screen went (and no, it wasn’t my fault – this Dell has been treated with the respect and honor of David Hasselhoff’s speedo at a nude community pool in Munich), thus the external monitor. Then the fuse for the back light blew when the new screen went in. The fuse is on the motherboard, necessitating a new motherboard. I’ll spare you the rest of the story.
My sparkly new one now sits on my kitchen table. It has no crumbs or white cat hair poking out from under its keys. It’s Windows 8 icons wink at me from across the room, beckoning me closer, but the sadness I feel over replacing my old laptop is profound. Crazy, I know. But as a writer, it is as much of an extension of myself as just about anything I can think of. On it, I wrote six novels, three novellas, countless articles and posts, the eulogy to my grandmother’s funeral, tens of synopses and a hundred queries. It made me forget the mind-to-hand connection in my creativity (not necessarily a good thing). Its keys have absorbed tears and spit-takes of laughter and the satisfying, heart-pounding rhythm of intense action scenes. And when I sat in the coffee shop and words would not come, I blurred myself into thought rubbing away fingerprints from its glossy edges.
Someday, my new laptop will sport similar wear and memories. For now, it feels like I’m pulling life support on an old friend.
I hope you’ll take some time to browse around. Readers and followers from my Vortex days at Blogger will find comfort in many of the same things in the author section of the site. Potential clients will find better access to information regarding my freelancing services. Everyone who visits will find me more accessible via social media.
To celebrate this new era, I’m offering a free download of “The Lost Highway,” a paranormal romantic short first published in the Wild Rose Press Anthology, Love, Texas Style. Send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how you liked it.
A few Vortex faithful may remember a book experiment I started in August 2009 called A Novel’s Migration. I wanted to harness the power of lending books, track the book’s journey through the eyes of the readers who picked it up and start a dialogue about how the shared story impacted us.
To my knowledge, only one Vortexer returned to make a comment on its thread (Thanks, Todd!). It had been so long, I didn’t even remember the book’s title. However, I hadn’t watched this entire movie trailer before I knew it was the story I adored so much 2009. I can’t say if the movie will do the book justice, but have a looksee.
So much time has passed since my last blog post. It’s amazing how all-encompassing it can be to write a novel. As it should be, really. For a novelist, no amount of social media activity or blogging should ever take precedence over the quest to capture written words that are part of something larger and more enduring. My clients deserve nothing less than my best.
When last we spoke, I was one-third into the first draft of the YA fantasy I’m ghostwriting. A summer passed, autumn came and 100,000 words later, the novel is a fully-formed, if imperfect, work. The messy chore has begun: cutting, adding, hating one moment and loving the next. In January, it will be complete, and I will move on to two other waiting projects, neither of them mine. It will be a time of reflection and renewal. I will do well to remember that advancing my stories and my career counts for something, too.
In the new year, I’m looking to barter a revamped, basic website for freelance work, either ghostwriting or editing. If you know anyone who might be interested, let me know.
One cost of ghostwriting is, of course, being a ghost. I would love to share my successes and sales, but they are not mine to share. The stories are no longer my babies. I want to tweet bits of awesome reviews and share emails my client receives from readers. The validation is heady but veiled. I’m so proud to deliver products that encourage my clients to return for more.
For those blogging friends who question the continued viability of blogging, I have a case. A potential client landed upon Writing in a Vortex and spent the better part of an entire evening reading through old posts. It was a huge factor in his decision to hire me for his project. When asked, he said it wasn’t necessarily the writing of the posts, but the person he came to know behind them. It seems, despite my objective to keep topics largely to writing and the use of a pseudonym, little bits of me leaked through the words. Blogs give potential readers so much more than a Facebook or Twitter snapshot. They give readers unprecedented access to us. I’m coming to believe that access is half the battle in sales. Readers want lagniappe, that little something more, to push them to action.
Take care of yourselves. And each other. Email me anytime: email@example.com.
I’m thirty-thousand words into my ghostwriting project-which is awesome. And I’m not entirely certain what my next thirty-thousand will be-which is downright terrifying and not-so-awesome for a plotter-girl like me. So I turned to my paperwork: conference worksheets, notes from a thousand Saturdays ago when I had an epiphany at a chapter meeting, online workshop materials, initial brainstorm lists, secondary brainstorm lists, brainstorm lists about the brainstorm lists (I wish I was kidding about this, but I’m not). In this archaeological dig through my writing archives, I discovered four small slips of paper, each with the letterhead from the Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee. From the first writing conference I attended eleven years ago, each contains something I thought important enough to commit to paper. Promise me you won’t laugh. Promise.
Peabody Nugget Number One:
Smoke from the steam engine encircled her as if she were an apparition emerging from a fog. She glanced from at each passerby with a renewed energy that would quickly wane in the disappointment from the lines of her eyes. Until one man emerged who stoked the fire and kept the russet flecks in her eyes ignited.
Wow. I don’t even know where to start. This chick is obviously in close proximity to a live train, but the point of view is schizophrenic at best. My metal-filled molars are screaming at the prospect of biting down on this hunk of foil. I’m pretty sure I loaded up at the romance buffet line that morning, with heaping piles of hotcakes and I-can’t-believe-Fabio-isn’t-here butter and purged it that evening all over this poor, unsuspecting note pad.
Peabody Nugget Number Two:
He’d never have noticed her, so ordinary was she, had the woman not drawn attention to herself by stumbling down the passenger car steps, creating a domino effect of passengers lying in a heap among luggage and stray accessories. She flipped her bonnet away from her forehead and glared back at the steps as if they’d awakened for her the sole purpose of her embarrassment and grabbed her a foot.
So I had trains on the brain for this conference. Sue me. The only redeeming thing here is that the heroine took a major digger off the platform. And that the hero was there to witness it and find amusement. Tripping is funny, people. Any way you slice it.
Peabody Nugget Number Three:
“A dramatic moment calls for an economy of words.” -LaVyrle Spencer
Now this is a nugget worth remembering. Well worth the sacrificial pulp and ink. That it is attributed to one of my favorite romance authors is even better.
Peabody Nugget Number Four:
The worst blizzard Betty had seen in 3 decades slammed into the valley, ushering smothering the vally w/ a lacy white blanket of snow.
Betty lit a solitary candle. The flame dancinged in response to her heavy sigh, mirroring the pre-dawn dreariness just beyond the window. She glanced at the lifeless phone, then the light switch before her eyelids dropped with heaviness.
Poor Betty. No really. She’s trapped in a cliché-storm where the earth’s gravitational pull is conspiring against her and she has a telekinetic gift of which she is, apparently, unaware.
Why do I share these, you ask? Life has a way of sending messages when we most need to hear them. I needed to see these today to remind myself how far I have come as a writer. A gift of perspective not everyone gets.
I wish I could say I remember writing these Peabody nuggets. I don’t. I remember the duck parade with more clarity. Yesterday, I reread chapter one from my current project. I don’t remember writing much of that, either. Writing is a strange beast. It hijacks the mind and turns the body into a conduit for truth. Somewhere in this hijacked landscape waits a klutz, a house-bound frau, and a siren with red-flecked eyes who is sure to become someone’s desire. Maybe one of them will step forward in my next thirty-thousand. Maybe not. For today I am thankful for the reminder.
What message did life send you today?
If some of you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll notice I’m walking the Nik Wallenda tightrope of being a curious writer and a window stalker, ala Rear Window. See, I’ve never been a fan girl of our backdoor neighbor. While I can gag out some respect for his culture’s view on women, he doesn’t respect mine on gender. Regarding our fence replacement, he spoke through me, around me and over me instead of to me, despite me being the most informed person in our impromptu lawn meeting last fall. Armed with three estimates and all the necessary paperwork from our HOA, I might as well have been in a beaded bra occupying a harem. His dismissive demeanor in favor of the other men present who didn’t know a post hole from their own hole was off-putting to say the least.
So when I moved writing operations upstairs (minty new A/C-yeah!), to a window overlooking said neighbor’s house-both front and back because of his placement on a court-I had no idea the challenge that awaited my focus. Having lived in this court for over a decade, I’m sure he is used to having certain…freedoms. I’m sure long about five years into our geographical proximity, he figured those blinds in my upper window have been and always will be closed, because in the two weeks I’ve camped up there, dawn to noon, he hasn’t once looked up. But I’ve looked down. Sometimes to the immediate eye burn of discomfort and the
frantic lowering of blinds. I ask you the following:
What man weed-whacks his lawn in his underwear? In his FRONT YARD, no less.
What man has such a case of OCD that he picks up every wayward leaf, SEPARATELY, and slam-dunks them into the trashcan like a middle-aged LeBron in loafers?
What man prunes his trees at six am in his underwear?
What man fires up his lawnmower for two zips across his lawn and quits?
What man has a permanent Joker-like smile in the sun’s early morning glare that could send children running to hide their faces in their mother’s skirts.
And all those bags he removes from his truck? And the toilet he moves around his garage like his favorite chair? Don’t get me started on those.
I saw his wife at our community pool yesterday. She was reading one of those Greek tycoon Harlequins. I get you, sister. You get all up into that fantasy. I would, too, in your shoes.
The man is like watching an ant try to take on every job in his colony. In his underwear. He’s a distraction of epic proportions, so I plan to do what any self-respecting writer would.
He’s going in the book.
May I just take this opportunity to say, if you are planning to self-publish:
Hire. An. Editor.
It doesn’t have to be me, though if you check out the client testimonial tab at the top of this blog, you’ll see my mounting collection of stellar reviews. All make me feel like I’ve just sipped hot cider on a snowy day.
I beg of you, hire someone.
Remember my side gig as a paid ebook reviewer? As of this post, I’ve reviewed twenty-seven books, all self-published. Guess how many of them had errors. Ga-head. Guess.
Yep. All twenty-seven. And that’s forgiving the formatting errors.
I’m reading these novels for free and the errors tick me off. Imagine the consumers who parted with their favorite Starbucks frap for a day or sacrificed their weekly washing quarters to make the purchase.
Some of the editing needs were Herculean. I barely coughed out two stars on my reviews. Shame on them. Just because Nana’s bridge club thinks your book is delightful doesn’t mean it’s ready. Have some respect for your readers’ time and money. Put the manuscript down and step away from the self-publishing manuals.
Some of the editing needs were a transposed word or a tiny continuity issue. Little errors are speedbumps to the reader’s full immersion in the story. It doesn’t happen in traditional publishing, and if you want to make money in this industry, it shouldn’t happen with your self-published book.
Chuck Sambuchino has great advice for finding the perfect editor and some FAQs on the topic over at the Writer Unboxed blog. I always offer test edit pages, free of charge, to potential clients. Two of my clients purchased first chapter edits from multiple editors (one of them ten!) before ultimately selecting me as their editor. This gives me a chance to showcase my skills and gives the client the confidence that I’m the best fit for his/her project.
I’m starting a YA fantasy ghostwriting project next week that will carry me well into autumn. I would love to hear from you if you are interested in editing or ghostwriting. Drop me a line anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m booked until November, so be sure to plan ahead. Even if you’re not looking to hire, I’m happy to answer questions and point you in the right direction. Meanwhile, I have two paranormal romance ghost projects set for release in the next few weeks. Be sure you’re signed up for my newsletter to get the latest scoop.
So many things about my writing life are different today than six years ago when I started this blog. I was one of the first in my peer group to launch a blog dedicated to new content multiple times each week (and stick with it). I had the luxury of focusing on my own writing on my road to that first publication credit. And, let’s face it, people read blogs back then. Now? Not so much.
I am so blessed to have a crazy-thriving freelance business that has gone from that first should I or shouldn’t I? to a rapidly-growing clientele that books me two months in advance. When they select me as their ghostwriter or editor, I make a promise to them that they’ll receive 110% of my mental agility, my creativity and my focus. It’s an immersive endeavor each and every time-as it should be.
Many of my writer friends have cut back on blogging, using it only as a way to disseminate information when they have something significant to pass along. This works when there is a dedicated go-to, catch-all for RSS feeds. But the upcoming demise of Google Reader in July is just one more death blow to the blogosphere. Sure, there are others set to take its place, but Feedly (the most touted of the replacements) isn’t supported by Internet Explorer. Last I checked, IE accounted for 60-70% of my traffic. Most people will refuse to let an online reader bully them into swapping a browser they cuddle like Linus’s blanket. Without a mainstay that has a convenient interface and doesn’t require blog followers to jump through hoops, I fear the blogger-reader relationship will grow even more distant.
I suspect this theory is more related to a professional identity crisis for me. Do I want my identity as a writer to evolve into a freelance business exclusively, thus necessitating a reboot of my online presence? Do I want to hoard my blog and online momentum (such that it is) for my writing and my career? Can I juggle two separate baskets when all I really, really want to do is stay off the internet and write?
This year is my crossroads year. The software I used to create my website will soon no longer be supported by my host. Necessity will become the mother of my online reboot. I just need to figure out what that reboot is.
I have two fiction projects in the final stages of pre-release. I’m so proud of both. They are the best writing I have done to date. Remember, if you want to be able to find my ghost projects, subscribe to my newsletter. With client permission, I’ll be sure to post all the blurbs and buy links in there once they’re released.
And loyal Vortexers? Have no fear. You are parked safe at Feedly for me. I value the connection we have made over all these blogging years most of all. Be well.
This is how cowpokes in Texas get your money.
You feature an exhibit in some high-falutin’ museum near the Stock Show and Rodeo and offer up some real cheap tickets, like. Then make those fancy-pants educated-types pay extra to get through a roped-off area to park their glossy cars and pay again to have the privilege to walk twenty yards to get into the lobby of that high-falutin’ museum that’s normally free to approach. By the time they accomplished what they came down to the wrong-side of town to accomplish, they’re out more cash than a rustler at a cat house.
Enjoy your exhibit, suckers.
All that to say: Oh. My. God. I would have sunk all my nanna’s fake jewels in that Atlantic to have the opportunity to see the Titanic Artifact exhibit. It’s that good.
Vortex faithful know how much of a buff I am about the Titanic, but even if I wasn’t, it would have been educational and emotional. As my luck typically goes, I was given the identity of a woman in third class: Mrs. Claus Peter Hanson listed as Jennie L. Howard from Racine, Wisconsin. This is akin to being given a window seat on the Hindenburg. The entire one-hundred year journey though the exhibit–and I do mean journey, from conception and design of the ship to recovery efforts led by non-profit organizations to the crass consumerism of the gift shop afterward (Who wouldn’t want a coffee-mug reminder that you just vicariously died aboard the Titanic?) is mesmerizing. I went alone. It was an artist’s date of the highest caliber.
Even if the cowboy outside the museum was stroking his moustache in the ticket booth as I left.