you

Double the C, Double the S...

...and you'll always have "success". It's a strange little mnemonic that I remember from an episode of Full House. (Seriously, I can barely remember what I had for breakfast an hour ago, but Danny Tanner's wisdom has imprinted on my psyche forever more. What the hell, synapses?) Anyway...today I want to talk about success. The simple definition is, "to reach a goal," but this word carries so much baggage. It means something else to every person and can vary from project to project. Culturally, though, we have this sick and twisted definition of success, and that definition usually involves lots of money and fame. The pinnacle of your profession is a bag of cash and your name in lights.

While I think this is utter bullshit, I think we have a bigger problem with our cultural ideals. It is best summed up in this meme that's been making the rounds. Mr. Grohl...please take the floor...

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I think Grohl is right. There's something going on, a shift that is saying success comes from a spark of luck on a single attempt. Sure, there's luck involved in success. Being in the right place at the right time...finding the sound that speaks to a generation...finding a vein in your work that resonates with popular culture. Luck will strike the match, but it's being talented at what you do that will enable you to fan the spark of and turn it into a Die Hard-esque explosion. (Support is how you ride it like McClane, bitch. But that's another post.)

But now...there's something else happening.

"Luck" isn't. "Luck" is actually a group of producers and marketing people looking to sell an idea are the ones behind votes. They are the judges you have to impress. Shit like American Idol is diluting the process, I think. Rather than hone a craft with shitty instruments, or writing notebook after notebook of lousy poetry until you find your voice...it seems that the quick flash in the pan is being highlighted as the road to success.

There's this sickening trend that we're making people famous for bullshit. Paris Hilton? Snooki? The Kardashians? What's the point? Why do we glorify these people? Seeing them get their own "reality" shows (spoiler: it's bullshit) has led to this twisted idea that if you do something ridiculous you, too, can be elevated to celebrity status. (Which we've been told since we were kids is the end-all-be-all of human accomplishment, right?) Pop out 8 kids, shave your head after a stint on the Disney channel, give your 7 year old pageant-queen daughter a cocktail of Mt. Dew and Red Bull, or sing the best karaoke for 10 weeks and you are successful. Or maybe you can post something random on YouTube and hope it catches fire and goes viral like gonorrhea.

Where's the work? Where's the ethic of honing a craft and climbing to the top? Shooting for the moon? What the hell happened to the idea that you are the captain of your destiny and YOU make your own success?

And I'm not just talking about the music industry. There's a slackening work ethic among up-and-coming authors. (Not all, mind you, but it's something that's out there.) Writers who decide they will try NaNoWriMo and self-publish their work on December 1. Then they wonder why they aren't Hugh Howey or Amanda Hocking and nailing a six-figure contract on December 2.

It's like we're in the process of forgetting to keep working. We're not doubling the c or the s, if you will. And that just leads to a half-assed product.

I'm not talking about EVERY musician or every writer. But if this becomes the norm, then what will our creatives look like in a generation? Will success be hinged on a false ideal of "luck" and ratings rather than elbow grease and talent?

I dunno. Maybe I'm just rambling here.

What about you? What defines your success?

 

ETA: Don't forget to RSVP for tomorrow's event at Bitten By Books. Cat, Marius and Flynn will be answering all of your questions. We'll be giving away a copy of WILD CARD and 3 limited edition poker chips. Also, there are just 7 days left to back the UNVEILED Kickstarter. <3 j.

Announcement: My Shingle Is Out

grammar policeHappy Friday! If you've been paying attention this week, you've seen me teasing an announcement for today. Well, wait no more. As of today, I'm officially working as a freelance editor. That's right, you can hire me to critique and edit your manuscript. Allow me to address some concerns or questions you may have:

But, Jamie, does this mean you're going to stop writing and I'll never know what happens with Cat, Marius, Flynn and all those other awesome characters I love?? 

Fear not, my dove. I'm still writing, albeit at a slower (ie not breakneck) pace than previously. I've been working on C# at a blistering rate for the past two years and need to cool down a bit. And yes, I'm still writing for anthologies and working on a new project, but without a rush on it. But rest assured, you will read the entirety of Cat Sharp's story one way or another.

Come on, everyone knows that editors are just writers who suck. "those who can't do..." and all that.

Fuck that noise. Next?

Will you give my manuscript to your agent/editor/publisher? 

In short, no. Working with me does not guarantee you audience with any publishing professional other than me, myself and I.

Are you just doing this to steal my idea? 

*snort* No. I bribed your NSA agent for that.

Why should I hire you and not some other editor? In fact, why should I hire an editor at all?

Short answer: You need one. Everyone with hopes of putting their words out in the world needs one. No one can be 100% objective with their own work. At some point, you will need another pair of eyes on your manuscript. Why me specifically? Because I'm good at what I do. I've been beta reading and critiquing for a while now and, if I may take a moment to speak highly of myself, I am an excellent sounding board. I can help you massage your words and draw out the potential. The best part is that I come at every project with the mind of an author, a reader and an editor. We can talk about craft in no uncertain terms, terms your average beta reader might not be able to articulate. We can sand off the rough edges and polish your prose until it has a mirror shine. All while maintaining your authentic voice.  My strongest suit is critique and developmental edit. I'm also good at proofing final manuscripts.

 

For full details of what I offer, you can go to the new page on this site devoted to my editorial leanings.

ALSO... (yes, I have more news to share with you), I have the honor of being included in an upcoming anthology called Freaks and Weeping Children. Along with other talents such as Kristin Sullivan, Delilah S. Dawson, Karina Cooper and DB Starler, we are all hoping to bring you creeptastic cross-genre fiction. And we're asking you--yes YOU--to help us make this anthology become even more awesome. There's a Kickstarter page where you can donate and get your paws on some exclusive material. Also, if you donate at the $80 level, you can be a character in the anthology. That's right. Immortality is on sale for $80.  Please take a look and share the link with friends.

phxcc14And finally today, I'm pleased to tell you that I'm officially one of the cool kids attending Phoenix Comic Con. We knew that already, but yesterday I got my very own announcement picture and everything. *beams* And I'm on the main site! Under Phil Plait, even!!! DUDE!

So yeah, that's what's going on. I know some of you were *really* hoping for some news on Book 2 and when you can read the next installment of Cat Sharp's story. Believe me, no one wants to know the answer to that question more than I do. Still waiting and when I can tell you I will shout it from the sky.

Thanks to everyone who came out and played over at the Bitten By Books event this week. We had a good time and I hope to do something like that again soon. There's still time to enter the contest for an Amazon Gift Card and some poker chips. If, for some reason, you don't want to try for the free poker chips you can buy them directly from me here.

You guys are all rock awesome. Thanks for sticking with me and supporting everything I do. 2014 is going to be a busy, hella fun year.

J.

Think, Geek.

outer_space_astronauts_christmas_monkeys_thinkgeek_m38856Happy Friday, dolls and dear hearts! It's been a rocking week. Tuesday I hung out with the Functional Nerds and talked about music, writing and other geekery. You can listen to that podcast here. (It was a good time. Also, I didn't realize my cackle was that...well...cackle-like.) It's been mentioned a few times--on Twitter, in passing and on the posts along the blog tour--but I wanted to make sure I gave you all a heads up about something. I'm giving away a $25 Think Geek gift card and 3 custom poker chips to match those featured in WILD CARD**. The poker chips are black clay "dice" pattern with Eris's golden apple hot stamped on the front. Because these are promotional items, my website is stamped on the back. Scroll down and use the widget thingy to enter. Make with the clickety clickety, kids.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book mark (front/back) by Su Kopil.

So yeah... come on, I know y'all are down for the Think Geek swag. One of the other authors is giving away a chocolate basket. And there are like double the amount of people vying for that thing. Hell, I'll even throw in a WILD CARD bookmark made by Su Kopil at Earthly Charms. If you want, I'll  sign them.   Let me hear some geek love in the way of contest entries. The giveaway ends on December 22. You won't be able to use it on Christmas shopping, but you can definitely hit the after-Christmas sale and pick up the things Santa forgot.

If you don't win this time, don't fret. I plan on having a couple of giveaways of my own where in the not too distant future. I will definitely give out more of the poker chips. Eventually I will have them for sale here on the site, as well as with me at the conventions I attend. So if you don't win this time and still really want the chips, you will be able to get them another time.

Oh! And I wanted to say thank you to those of you who've already purchased, read and reviewed WILD CARD. You are wonder twins, and the reviews have made me feel very loved. Just a reminder that if you read and enjoy WILD CARD, I would greatly appreciate it if you a) tell your friends and b) leave a review/rating on Goodreads, Amazon or your choice of site. Reviews are a huge help and might play a role in getting the sequels out in the world.

Thank you so much for all the love these past few weeks. It's been crazy as balls around here and I worry that I've gotten a little spammy on the social media. Thank you for putting up with it and backing me. You are all rock stars.

**Please note that I am providing these things, not the bloggers or other people promoting this contest. Also, my publisher is handling the actual contest itself and I have absolutely NO say in who is chosen. I am not affiliated with Think Geek nor are they aware of this contest. I just fucking love to shop on their site and think it's more appropriate a prize than an Amazon card or something considering that the characters in WILD CARD are total dorks. 

Quit Hitting Yourself!

Okay, I know that the title is super hypocritical of me considering that I am a Queen Bitch Master level initiate in the ways of self-deprecation.  It's on my business card. Seriously. 1010131511

So when I--the queen of kicking herself in the head to make you laugh--says you need to quit with the self-bashing, you might be inclined to make a pot/kettle reference. Believe me, I get it. As I write this I'm wondering when I'll make a joke at my own expense.

But seriously, something I've learned recently is too important for me not to share. Now, as I make my case I'll be addressing authors, but really this applies to everyone. Artists, singers, dancers, mothers, fathers, children of all ages...everyone.

I don't know how much you know about what happens between Book Contract and Publication Date. For the sake of brevity, I'm just going to say editing. Lots and lots of editing. And it might be different with other publishers, but my limited experience has seen me doing 5 rounds of editing since July 22, 2013.

Developmental edits (deep plot, structure, story changes) took a few weeks of work and multiple reads through the manuscript. Line edits (word choice, sentence flow etc) were another week or two and two more passes through the book-to-be. QA edits (quality assurance from the publisher), copy edits (proof-reading and continuity type stuff) and galley proofs (the final big proofread that also examines formatting) were all separate ventures of one (or two) passes within 2 or 3 days.

What that means is that I've read this book--at minimum--8 times since July 22.  And keep in mind that the draft I submitted to my AGENT in 2011 was draft #9. The one we sent to publishers was #11. This puts me at approximately Draft #20 (I may have lost count somewhere or blacked out during an editing binge)...about half of the revisions taking place in a very condensed period of time.

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Don't get me wrong. I love this book.  It's fun, it's fabulous. I love the characters and cannot wait for that glorious November day when you can all read it. But right now, in October of 2013 when the book is 2 years old and on draft #20... I'm sick of hearing myself tell this story. I'm sick of my own voice. I'm so tired of listening to myself I would rather listen to Barry Manilow and William Shatner sing Les Miserables. (My husband says this isn't self-deprecation, it's self-flagellation. To-may-toe, to-mah-toe.)

While doing my galley proofs I was convinced that my publisher had been smoking something rockin' and that I would be shredded once they came to their senses. My feelings of inadequacy only deepened when I picked up the CARNIEPUNK anthology (finally!) and sunk my circus-loving eyeballs into it. Now...I won't go into any specifics, but I will say that there may or may not be multiple authors in this anthology who have graciously offered to blurb my book. Reading their work and knowing that they will be reading mine in return? My stomach is aquiver with a thousand carnivorous butterflies. Because they are truly talented--and because I'm annoyed with my own voice--their stories gleam and glisten like the sequins on a tightrope walker's belt.

go-home-weeping-angelAnd this--this, dear reader--is where I come to my point. Don't you dare kick yourself and compare yourself to other authors when you are in a vulnerable state. Don't compare your rough drafts to someone's highlight reel. Don't smack yourself around when you're weary of your stories simply because it's all you've read in months. Go home, author, you're drunk. You're drunk on self-loathing at this point. You've just spent months--perhaps years!--ripping apart your own work to make it the best it could be. You've been immersing yourself in the acidic brine of criticism and editing. You're on draft #20. OF COURSE YOU ONLY SEE FLAWS! OF COURSE EVERYONE ELSE LOOKS BETTER THAN YOU! (And they might be, but this isn't actually about them. It's about you and your perceptions.) You're wearing the world's worst set of beer goggles.

At times like this, do yourself a favor and stuff a ballgag in the mouth of your inner critic. Go read other books and do your damndest to enjoy them. Watch movies. Immerse yourself in other people's stories to cleanse your palate. Slough off the self-loathing and be content that you've finished a good story. A great story. A story people will love.

But, Jamie, you say, this is when other people are reading it and what if they hate it and omg *head asplodes*! 

As I said, the book has started going out to other authors and soon review copies will hit the world. People I don't know will be reading this. And I'm scared and excited and terrified and bouncy and and and. Thing is, even those emotions can't be trusted. Because I'm coming from a place of annoyance, I'm somewhat convinced that my blurbers--gracious, beautiful, talented people they are--will hate me and my book. I've snowed my beta readers, my agent, several editors...but now surely they, these other professionals, will see me for the talentless hack I am. 

Shut up, whiny head voice. You're full of shit.

tumblr_lxzb7ldRYf1qkssn2o1_500It's true that Author McShinypants may not like my book. That's valid. You can't please everyone. But here's the thing. I know this story inside and out. I know all the twists, the turns and surprises like the back of my hand. I know the backstory. I know the future of the story.  That affects my thinking. And it will yours, too. See, you know your story so intimately (or at least you should) that you forget what it's like to read it afresh, with virgin eyes. These authors, these editors...they get to see the show for the first time. Your book is a performer all dressed up in make-up and costume. The set pieces are finished and in place. The blocking is done and the orchestra has rehearsed. It's time for previews, baby. And your blurberators are in the front row. It all gets to play out for them for the first time. This is where you get to shine.

Basically what all this rambling comes down to is this: When you're down on yourself, step back. You're too close. Get out of the echo chamber that is your own head and regain your wonder. 

And enjoy your work. Other people will not love your story if you don't first. It starts with you.

Edited to Add: As if to prove my point... as I was writing this blog post, my publicist emailed me her thoughts on some of the excerpts I sent her. She loves them. With exclamation points.

 

Measuring Up

tumblr_lfzvoaeeot1qcftw3o1_500 So, as followers will know, I was at CopperCon this weekend working my authorly self. One of the panels I gave--with the awesome Michelle M. Welch--was about resources for authors in this digital age. Well, due to some time discrepancies between the pocket schedule and the actual program, our panel got mostly ignored. There were a few people, though, so our panel turned into more of a cozy conversation. During this discussion, a man came in, sat down and started asking off-topic questions. I figured he was just uncertain of what we were talking about and possibly a little strung out from the long day. However, a friend of mine who was there said this guy was obviously drunk. Considering said friend was downwind, I'll buy it.

He asked interesting questions, this drunk. Not in the philosophical sense, but interesting in a sociological kinda way. Like, if I were Jane Goodall I would've been cataloging his movements and tracking him through his habitat to know more about his strange breed of drunken con attendee. As I'm not Jane Goodall, I blog.

facepalm

Michelle and I dodged the, "What do you think of TWILIGHT," bullet. He asked if writers should aim their books at teen girls. (I offered that if you're going to write to an audience at all, go for the mothers of teen girls. Direct income, and if you judge by Twilight, twice as crazy for the material.)

Among his awkward questions like, "What's your most famous book?"* and "Have you written any time travel books?"**, this guy said that he'd heard that writers should write their books, "like movies". He said the wisdom behind this gem of advice lies in this: if someone wants to make a movie of your book, it's already laid out like a movie and it won't get chopped up from page to screen.

I didn't dive into a dissertation about the Hollywood Formula. We didn't go into the fact that no book will ever be perfectly translated from book to box office. Michelle and I did agree, though, that this is not sound advice.

"Write a good book," I said. "Before you can get a movie deal, you have to have a good book."

He seemed confused and said, "But, isn't that what every author wants? To get a movie deal?" Our guest rambled a bit about how the movie deal is the Holy Grail. Disagreeing, I shook my head and said, "Not for everyone. It depends on how you measure success."

He lifted his hand and slid his fingers over his thumb in the international symbol for "cold hard cash".  I sighed because this is one of those conversations that can make me go from perky to cynical-and-jaded faster than you can say Twilight.  So, I'm going to tell you what I told him...and go into a little more detail, because this is my blog and I can.

I don't know about you, but I'm a little weird. I do not measure success in dollars and cents. I know that this is a business and businesses are supposed to make money. And I'm not about to go into the, "I'm an artist and I do it for the love." No, bullshit. I might love what I do--and I do very much--but if I was just writing stories for myself, I wouldn't try to get published. I wouldn't have spent all this time, effort and sanity working toward my goals just for warm fuzzy unicorn kisses. But, to be honest, I do not judge the success of my career with something so liquid and arbitrary as money.

scrooge-mcduck

Don't get me wrong, fiscal growth is not a bad yardstick to have. Whatever rocks your boat and keeps you going. However, this view that we should all be striving for the shining movie deal is misled. Not only does it put the cart before the horse, but it paints a very narrow view of success. (And breeds mediocrity. But that's another topic all together.)

Your mileage may vary, of course, but you need to decide how you measure success. What are your goals? Why are you writing? Why do you want to be published? Do you want to be published at all? What is it you want to get out of this?

For me? Well...

tumblr_mkfls6BMgZ1s7y8efo1_500I have several goals.  First and foremost among them is, "Write a book that people love." I want my characters to worm into readers' hearts and souls and make little homes there. I want you to leave my book laughing and telling people about the shit that satyr said. I want you to want more. (Because I've got more for you.) I want you to love this book.

To do that....well, there are a few things I'm going to need. Above all else, I need to write a book, and that book needs to be good. Fantastic story, real characters, gripping narrative, command of the English language. All the trimmings. That takes work on my part. Years of honing my craft, writing shit, failing, letting other people read it, editing it, writing more stuff, letting people read that, over and over.

Then, as a writer, I need to revisit those goals of mine. Do I want to write as a hobby? Do I want to have people who aren't friends read it? Do I want to make money? Do I want to be a published author? Personally, I decided that I wanted to reach more people. I wanted to be an author with a career in writing (always have, actually), rather than a hobbyist.

This leads to more questions. Okay, so if I want to be published, what does that mean? Self-published? Traditionally? What will I need beyond the book to meet those benchmarks? Well, if I want to get a rabid audience of fans and reach lots of people...I'm going to need distribution. This, at the moment, is going to be best met by traditional publishers rather than self-publishing options. I'm going to need a publisher with some weight behind them. To get the publisher, I'm going to need an agent. To do that...more work. Research. Writing queries, synopses and proposals. Rejection. Edits. More queries. More rejections.

And the process goes on like that. Over and over. Redefining the short term goals to see what needs to be done to meet the bigger ones.

The journey is different for everyone. The inebriated audience member was focused on the destination. I am constantly looking at the path that takes me there.

And sure, I totally have fantasies of getting a panel in Hall H at San Diego Comic Con some day, and I'd love it if Tom Hiddleston had a role in the movie version of my series. But that's not what I'm working toward. That's not the endgame for me. That's icing on the cake. That's fluff. Gravy.

tumblr_lozfztGYh61qaky2jo3_500I can't judge success by getting a movie deal. (Not only because it's so rare, but because even if you get a deal, you don't always get a movie. Development hell or other studio issues can often can a movie before it has the chance to have a script. And then, there's no guarantee it's going to be a good film, a blockbuster or critically acclaimed.) That's like saying a high school basketball player is only good if he's won an NBA championship. There are too many other ways to succeed, too many other goals to have that mean something.

When I told him that I don't see the movie deal as the Holy Grail, he just kinda stared at me, slackjawed.

I know I'm a hippie chick who hates that money drives society, so that's part of it. And I know that sales are how publishers and professionals judge the success of a book. But, I also know what I want. My bottom line. I know that working toward my goals and not a sales number is how I'm going to be able to sleep at night. And if, somehow, somewhen along the way I end up in Hall H with 3000 screaming fans of my series, so be it.

The drunk thanked Michelle and I for our panel. He then told us to let him know when we'd written something with time travel. Then he'd buy that.

Dude, drunk or not, had a very narrow view of the world.

Poor guy.

Anyway, what about you? What are some of your goals? How do you define success for you and your career? Leave some comments.

Until next time kids. Nerdmaste.

* - In answer to his questions, "What is your most famous book?"  None, yet. My debut novel TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES comes out in November from Entangled Edge. My short story "The Clever One" will appear in the anthology WHEN THE HERO COMES HOME 2 (Dragon Moon Press) next month. Michelle's would be  CONFIDENCE GAME. /pimpery  ** "have you written a book about time travel?" - Not yet. I have a story in my head that involves some level of time travel, but I won't be working on it for at least another 3 months. 

By the way....

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