Category Archives: my writing

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When the word count quota feels like a chore . . .

I’m still at it with the Clarion West writeathon! I have lost track of exactly how many words I’ve done, but this week I wrote T, W, TH, F, and will need to write Saturday. (I’m measuring the weeks Sun through Sat.) Today, however, I felt pretty darned unmotivated. I spent yesterday sitting at Chuck E Cheese revising a paper copy of my work-in-progress, and I don’t want to write any more until I have those revisions entered. I started a flash fiction earlier this week, but I don’t want to work on that either. So, for your reading amusement, here is what happens when a writer gets stuck but has to write anyway

***

            “You’re getting ahead of the story,” I said to myself. “It is opening up to manifold possibilities and one story should not have quite so many. It should not be a multiverse.”

            “However,” I replied sensibly, “I have a word quote for the Clarion West writeathon. I have to get to 250 words every day, five days a week, for two more days and two more weeks. Then I will have met my goal.”

            “That’s all well and good but Phoenix and Raven just want you to stop a minute and let them catch their breaths and gather their identities. Why don’t you work on something else in the meantime?”

            I scratched my head. “Well, there is the washing machine story, but I have to admit, I’m a little stuck. Have you got any ideas for what a washing machine could do that would upset a household exactly as much as a thief stealing their stuff?”

            “Weren’t we going with a laundry avalanche, or something like that? Sort of a Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage out?”

            I made a derogatory noise at myself. “That’s been done.”

            “Well, Chrome is making a lot of noises and she could be rocking the foundation of the house. It could cause a collapse of their closet. In fact, the entire closet could fall through the floor into the basement.”

            “But that’s silly!”

            “So is the concept of a sentient washing machine. Fiction can be silly. You can do whatever you can with it.”

            “Never mind. I’ve hit 250 words already.”

            “Let’s call it a day, then.”

            “Whatever.”

– Kristin

The writeathon — charging on ahead!

Two weeks into the Clarion West writeathon, and I’ve met my goal so far! Here are the daily counts:

  • Day One: 403 words
  • Day Two: 305 words
  • Day Three: 388 words
  • Day Four: 383 words
  • Day Five: 288 words
  • Day Six: 403 words
  • Day Seven: 346 words
  • Day Eight: 435 words
  • Day Nine: 480 words
  • Day Ten: 295 words

It doesn’t take long to get these words out. But it’s hard as anything! I’m always so certain that what I’m writing will never amount to much, that it will never be a story. Then, as I write, story emerges. Sentences come out of my fingers and surprise me. But self-doubt haunts me the whole way. Sure, things are happening, but there’s no way I can get to the ending! Once I do — sure, it’s a full story, but it’s bound to be no good!

So the writeathon is helping enormously. To be the writer I want to be, I have to write, and I have to do it daily and consistently. That’s the advice that’s always given to writers, and few of them actually manage it. For me it’s fear. There’s only a little bit of fear and anxiety, but it’s just enough to make me say, “Well, of course I’ll do it, but later.”

Well, with the writeathon, later is now.

– Kristin

By dotmatchbox at flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0] , via Wikimedia Commons

By dotmatchbox at flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0] , via Wikimedia Commons

How is the write-a-thon coming along?

Day One: 403 words. A nameless narrator explains how she met the mysterious Phoenix. He’s mysterious to me, too.

Day Two: 305 words. Phoenix went up in flames. I guess that was to be expected.  Also, lots of procrastinating by playing with the GIMP image distortion features.

Day Three: 388 words. Our unnamed narrator receives a message from Phoenix, from before he went up in flames.

manipulation3smaller

Sponsor me for the Clarion West Writeathon!

I love to take baths. The warm water feels so good on my skin, and after I’ve cleaned myself off I sit and sit until the water goes cold. But somehow, I never want to get into the bathtub. I find the transition difficult.

In the same way, I love to write stories — but it’s hard to get started. I write on the computer downstairs in my office, but somehow, whenever I get there, I end up on Facebook. It’s a matter of training my brain to expect to get to work, of establishing a habit. And that takes a while — somewhere between 18 and 254 days, apparently.

So I’m setting a goal for myself: 250 words per week for six weeks. If I can set a habit of writing 250 words per day, and keep it, then as a writer I will be set! Sadly, I don’t take myself seriously as a taskmaster. That’s why I’m asking you, dear friends and readers, to help guilt me into writing!

How? Through the Clarion West Write-a-thon! It supports scholarships for fledgling authors taking part in a six-week intensive writing program called Clarion West. There, they learn the trade of science fiction / fantasy / speculative fiction. They learn the craft, and they make connections. Maybe five, ten years later, some book of theirs shows up on the shelves of your local bookstore, and you pick it up and stay awake all weekend reading it.

I didn’t take part in the Clarion West workshop (I got an MFA instead) but Clarion West supports me as a writer in many other ways. The Richard Hugo House now has day-long Clarion workshops, and a con called Potlatch as a small workshop called “Taste of Clarion.”

So if you sponsor me for the Clarion West Write-a-thon, you’ll be doing two great things at once – you’ll be helping guilt me into writing, and you’ll be helping train the award-winning speculative fiction authors of tomorrow. Pledge whatever you’re comfortable with — even a $5 pledge helps! For every $10 pledge, I’ll put a 50-word excerpt up on this blog.

Here’s my official write-a-thon page, with all the details! While you’re there, be sure to check out the other fabulous writers who are taking part in this write-a-thon!

P. S. Check back on my blog — I’ll be keeping a log of how many words I wrote.

Allons-y!

What I learned about working with bookstores

One of the things I learned by self-publishing my book is that I am now not only an author, but a publisher. And that I would do well to behave as one, and to learn the ins and outs of the trade. So when I found out about a local book publishing organization that includes self-published authors among its members, I called them up and found out about the speaker event “Working with PNBA and NW Bookstores,” and then I went. It was well worth my time!

The speaker, Tegan Tigani, is a woman with many hats: board president, bookseller, children’s book buyer, book editor, blog editor, freelance writer, and children’s enrichment tutor. How she finds the time to do all that, and then come do a speaking engagement, I have no idea!

She was there speaking partly about the upcoming fall trade show for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and partly about how to respectfully work with bookstores. Sounds like the trade show has educational book tabling opportunities for authors. There is also an annual award competition, which she encouraged people to submit to. The cost of submitting would be the cost of mailing the book to the committee members.

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association has a relationship with Book Publishers Northwest. Book Publishers Northwest always has a booth at the trade show, and members can make use of it. They can leave copies of their books for trade show members (including booksellers and librarians) to read through, and then any display books left over afterward are donated to rural libraries. (Massively cool!)

As for working with local bookstores, Ms. Tigani referred us to a post by author Mark Holtzen, “Advice for self-published authors.” She suggested reaching out with an email first, because some booksellers might want to see the book and some might want a sheet with talking points instead. If you provide a sample, don’t ask for it back . . . because apparently bookseller’s offices are really cluttered up with books. And to be respectful, don’t mention that your book is available on Amazon, because Amazon’s business practices are problematic for brick-and-mortar bookstores and publishers. 

Some bookstores will work on consignment, but some, like Queen Anne Books, don’t like to do that, because it’s so much easier to deal with invoices and returns for one distributor than a bazillion authors. It’s easiest if a book is available through a distributor like Ingram, Partners West, or Baker & Taylor. I asked about CreateSpace, since that’s where I had my book printed, and it turns out that yes, it is possible to make a book printed through CreateSpace available through Ingram. (And when I went home, I found out that yes, it was!) If it’s available through Ingram, many independent bookstores will carry it.

As for asking a bookstore to host an event, Ms. Tigani pointed out that authors have to do most of their own promotion. From my experience reading at Weller Book Works and Third Place Books, I’d say that’s spot on! She suggested pitching an event as a pair or a trio, because each author then brings a fan base, so more people attend the reading. Good plan.

She mentioned that ebooks published on the Kobo platform will work on all newer e-readers, including the Kindle Fire, and someone else mentioned that a good way to get it onto the Kobo platform, as well as other platforms, is through BookBaby or Smashwords. I looked into that, and found out two cool things: one, Smashwords will provide an ISBN for free; and two, Smashwords will make books available to libraries — at way more reasonable terms than publishers currently offer.

 I think I have my work cut out for me now . . .

Misfits now available through Third Place Books and Indy Bound

My collection Misfits from the Beehive State is on the shelves now in Seattle at Third Place Books — both Ravenna Third Place Books and Third Place Lake Forest Park.

It’s also now available through Indy Bound. What’s that? A way to support independent bookstores, which are a really important part of our communities! Just enter your zip code, and you get a list of local independent bookstores that can sell it to you. Then click on the name of a bookstore and you’ll get its address. Or, if it’s an independent bookstore that offers books for sale online, it can ship it to you just as fast as Amazon, and for the same price. For instance, you can buy it online from Queen Anne Books.

Why support independent bookstores? Here are some great reasons (excerpted from the Indy Bound FAQ):

  • Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community–where they belong.
  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

My local independent bookstore has been a lifeline for me as an author, reader, and mom. When my kids were little, I was lonesome and a bit stir-crazy. But I could always pack up the kids in their double stroller and head over there for a cup of coffee and to browse Brain, Child and Hip Mama Magazine. Oh, and the Reality Mom zine that Corbin Lewars put out — somebody else on the same wavelength! When I was researching Sumer for the story “Mystery of the Missing Mothers,” which appeared in Missing Links and Secret Histories, I found a bunch of used books on Sumer by Samuel Kramer. Most recently, they saved my son from boredom by recommending the Nicholas Flamel series.

Anyway, indy bookstores are great. Support them!

Upcoming reading in Salt Lake City: Weller Book Works

I’ll be in Salt Lake City on April 17th (6pm) to read & sign Misfits from the Beehive State at Weller Book Works.

Here’s the URL:

http://www.wellerbookworks.com/events/

So little time, so much to do

Now that I’ve published Misfits from the Beehive State, I’m ready to get going on other projects. So I took a peek at everything I’ve left undone over the last seven years. I have stories that got published in magazines but really would like to live in a book, stories that I finished and set aside because I wasn’t sure if they were good, and stories I sent away, again and again, and never got published anywhere. I also have new stories, which I submitted to my writing group and incorporated feedback, but not yet sent off for publication. And I have unfinished stories, waiting for me to get to them.

All told, I’ve got 12+ stories that fit into one or another of those categories. And every time I look at them, I get anxious. Fiction is like that for me. I write nonfiction easily and (obviously) send it out shamelessly to the world in my blog. But fiction scares me. I’m scared to write it, send it for critique, look at the critiques, incorporate the critiques, and send it off. Now that this collection is done, I’m scared to ask people for reviews, to ask bookstores to buy my books, and to ask about setting up readings.

I do it all anyway, because, well, I’m brave. But now that I’ve got my list in front of me, I’m feeling especially queasy. And I have a new problem:  Where do I start???

So much to do, so little time.

Tunnels of Time

By fdecomite (Tunnels of Time) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Image

Concept art that didn’t make it, presented for your viewing amusement

Concept art that didn't make it, presented for your viewing amusement

Here is the concept art that ultimately didn’t make it onto my book cover. They were all fun to make, but none of them had the right personality. (One day, though, I hope to write a story that will live up to the flamingo cover.)

I learned a lot along the process. First, don’t use copyrighted works even for private concept art, because you might fall in love with something you can’t ultimately use. Second, it’s not easy, but you can search wikimedia commons for art that falls under “CC-BY-3.0” a common license that can be used for book covers. Third, there are a lot of stock photography sites that charge a small fee for the kind of print runs an indy author would have. Fourth, it’s way easier to have a graphic designer do your cover than to do it yourself. Fifth, I learned how to use the free image manipulation program GIMP. WIN!

Here is some more detailed information about the art in this picture. I did my best, but if this is your art and I’ve attributed it incorrectly please let me know.

Flamingo cover
Moab by DR04, found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:05242008_Moab50.JPG
Flamingoes by Christian Mehlführ, found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_Flamingos_MC.jpg

Floating doll cover
Sealing Room: author unknown, found at http://thetrumpetstone.blogspot.com/2011/02/unique-sealing-rooms.html
Doll by Kristin King, photographed from antique at Lagoon amusement park

Tree of Utah cover
Tree of Utah by Karl Momen, found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaphor:_The_Tree_of_Utah
Doll by Kristin King, photographed from antique at Lagoon amusement park
Smoking woman by Nuria Garay Del Barrio, found at 123rf.com

White house cover
Elizabeth Cady Stanton House, found at http://www.nps.gov/ner/photosmultimedia/photogallery.htm?id=1B0E50FF-155D-451F-678AB4570B671E4D
Smoking woman by Nuria Garay Del Barrio, found at 123rf.com

Man on roof cover
Steep Roof, author unknown, found at http://www.wienerberger.com/brands-products/koramic-clay-roof-tiles/projects-and-references/steep-roofs-on-scattered-buildings-make-modern-village.html?lpi=1120659566515
Brother Sharp, found at http://www.china.org.cn/photos/2010-03/03/content_19511630_8.htm

Arches National Park cover
Three Gossips by Sanjay Acharya/ Wikimedia Commons, found at

Woman smoking – Moulin Rouge, by Elen Moulin Rouge(?), found at http://all-free-download.com/free-vector/vector-people/moulin_rouge_40997.html

Why am I self-publishing?

I own a license plate frame that says, “A Woman’s Place Is My Bookstore.” Come to think of it, I ought to put it on my car. It’s not just a lovely sentiment — it’s also advertising for a bookstore that used to exist in the early 1990s, before chains like Barnes and Noble put a lot of independent bookstores out of business. A Woman’s Place. That bookstore supported me as a fledgling writer. I gave a reading there, and I took a workshop with Pam Houston there that led to a wonderful writing group. But now it’s gone, as is the Red and Black Bookstore in Seattle — quite a loss.

At the same time as bookstores were consolidating, publishing houses were also consolidating. It became harder and harder to publish midlist books (books that make money but aren’t bestsellers). And books that were published went quickly to the remainder table, because they were profitable, but not profitable enough.

At the same time, the growth of MFA programs put out more and more and more accomplished writers, all of whom were submitting stories to literary magazines and book publishers.

What did all this mean? As my writing became better and better, the likelihood of publishing a collection of short stories with a traditional publisher moved farther and farther away. The rules had changed. And my strategy for getting published ought also have changed.

Here was the strategy in the early 1990s: you submit stories to literary magazines. Once you have enough, you seek out an agent or an editor and attempt to get your collection published. But by the beginning of this century, when I finally had a publishable-quality collection of short stories, that strategy was ultimately doomed.

So to me, the question is not, “Should I self-publish?” The question is now, “Why did I wait so frickin long?”

I re-evaluated everything when I sent my collection to an agent and she said, “Yes, it’s good enough to publish. But I can’t sell it until you’ve sold a story to either the New Yorker, Harpers, or the Atlantic Quarterly.” And then I sent a story to the New Yorker, and I got a note back saying that despite its evident merit, it wasn’t the kind of thing they published. Earlier in my writing career, I would have been ecstatic, because a handwritten rejection note from the New Yorker meant that you were getting somewhere! But I realized then that I simply wouldn’t get anywhere with the kind of writing I did.

And then the publishing industry changed again. Publishing houses started paying authors less and less, and Amazon made it possible for people to make money self-publishing, and now, many respected authors are self-publishing on Amazon. So I went for it.

Thank you, Ariel Gore and your book How to Be a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead!!!!

I realized a couple important things when I made the decision to self-publish. I changed my book title, my “pitch,” and even the kind of stories that were in the collection. I was no longer trying to please a publisher; I was trying to please a reader. And I know what a reader is like — after all, I am one! All I had to do was make a book that someone like me would be interested in reading.

What if nobody likes it? What if nobody buys it? That’s where my friend Brandon came in. “I want to read it,” he said. “I’ll buy it.”

One reader. Just one reader. It’s worth doing.