Fighting the Good Fight for the Metaphor of It All

The Covenant is complete! Book 3 in A Covenant of Thorns, ROGUE’S PARADISE, is now out in the wild, walking its wild ways. Thanks to all for supporting this re-release of my very first dark fantasy romance trilogy. It’s beyond wonderful to see these books finding a new audience after all these years.

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re talking about copyeditors and the arguments we have with them. We all have grammatical hills we’ll die on – wisely or not – and we want to know what yours is! On what point will you refuse to give way, regardless of how the copyeditor might argue?

(I feel I should note at this point that the author/editor/copyeditor relationship is a symbiotic one. Even in traditional publishing – all rumor to the contrary of authors being “forced” to do x, y, z – seldom will anyone INSIST on a change. Almost always the author has final say, because it is their book, and they also bear final responsibility. It’s in the contract. If an author commits slander or other blunders, the ultimate responsibility – financial, legal, and moral – rests with them.)

I, like most authors, have a love/hate relationship with copyeditors. On the one hand, they catch potentially horrifying errors. In fact, in the book above, the copyeditor corrected a character “peeing at her face” to “peering at her face” – something my editor and I had both missed and were hysterically relieved to have fixed.

We love them. We need them. As with all love/hate relationships, copyeditors drive us crazy.

I won’t fight about commas, as a rule. I really even don’t care about the Oxford comma. I know people like to make jokes showing how important that Oxford comma is, but in most cases the context makes it clear. I don’t get why copyeditors hate m-dashes so much, but I’ll concede in many cases. I personally find semi-colons archaic and not all that useful, but whatever.

You know what gets me, what I’ll really fight for?

Metaphorical language.

That’s what kills me (yes, LITERALLY KILLS ME) about many copyeditors is that they can be so freaking literal. Some examples.

“His eyes can’t really crawl over her. Imagine eyeballs rolling over her. Gross.”

“Can a cloud really look sad?”

“I don’t think this is a word.”

I could go on. The thing is, as writers, we’re often expanding the use of language. Dictionary definitions often include citations of first usage of a “new” word or expression. That’s because language is our medium and we are the ones shaping it. Copyeditors are on the side of enforcing the status quo. So a writer ends up walking the line between bending to the regulatory insistence of correctness as the rules currently stand and being the iconoclast who breaks those rules to open up new worlds.

Guess which side I’m on?

Yeah, copyeditors hate me right back.

But, I believe this push-pull is a part of our jobs, on both sides. We all want to produce the best book possible. We all love language and what it can do. I will say, however, to all the writers out there: believe in yourself and defend your words, because you are the fount of change.

The Drive to Develop a Writing Practice

Look for the cover reveal for SHADOW WIZARD, book one in Renegades of Magic, the new trilogy continuing the Bonds of Magic epic tale! I’m getting the preorders set up today and plan to do the cover reveal on Instagram tomorrow, August 11, 2022. Members of my private Facebook group, Jeffe’s Closet, may get a sneak peek ūüėČ

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re asking: how has your writing practice changed over time?

It’s interesting because the topic-suggester framed it as “Plus √ßa change, plus c’est la m√™me chose” – my college French demanded I get the saying correct – which is a French saying that acknowledges that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In other words, that surface details may alter over time, but the essence of the thing, the recognizable cycle of events, is fundamentally inalterable. Often it’s applied to history. So this suggests that our writing practice may change over time, but it also stays the same. Is this this case?

I’m saying no, at least for me. My writing practice has changed considerably since my newbie days. I was reflecting recently that, as a teen and young woman, I didn’t really know how to apply myself to improving at a task. This largely came from the fact that, in school all the way through high school, I could get by without really trying. I had a good auditory and visual memory, and I tested well, so I didn’t need to work hard to get A’s. (Except in math, which I thought I wasn’t good at, even though they put me in accelerated math classes. Turns out I likely wasn’t good at it because I didn’t like math, so I didn’t listen in class. Oops.) In college and grad school, a number of professors began riding me to apply myself, to study and do the practice problems. I kind of tried to – especially when I had to retake Immunology for my biology major and really didn’t want to have to retake second semester of organic chemistry – but there was a major problem: I didn’t know how to study.

I remember thinking I needed to learn how to study, but I was mostly flailing about. It was only when I had novel deadlines to meet that I got very good at refining my ability to work in concentrated ways, incrementally, day after day. I don’t often think of messages I’d like to give to my younger self, but I now wish I could advise that college student, that graduate student, to develop the habit of working for a couple of hours every morning. This is my best brain time. If I had done that in school, if I had spent just that much time working practice problems and reviewing the material, I likely would have done much better.

Of course, then I might have ended up as a research scientist after all, when I’m so happy as a novelist. Maybe it took working on something I truly cared about to inspire me to develop the practice to do it. Que sera, sera!

 

 

LONEN’S WAR Now in Audio!

On my mind this week is the audiobook release of LONEN’S WAR!
A little while back, I sold the audio rights for this self-published series, Sorcerous Moons, to Scribd. Megan Frampton is my editor there and she’s been great to work with. Many thanks to Agent Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency for negotiating the deal. I feel like I should give Sarah a special shout-out because it’s really great to have an agent who supports the indie side of my career, too. She invested a lot of time and energy into getting me the best possible contract with Scribd. Another plus: Scribd gave me a free subscription for a year! This is pretty amazing since other audiobook publishers of my books have refused to provide me with copies of my audiobooks. If I want to listen to my own freaking book on audio, I have to buy it.
Grr.
Not so with Scribd! I’ve been super pleased with the process of working with them. There was a SNAFU in the original recording and they fixed it by re-recording the first three books. It set the production schedule back but they did it without complaint and I was impressed by their professionalism.
The ensuing five books will be out on the following (tentative) schedule:

#2 ORIA’S GAMBIT August 16

#3 THE TIDES OF BARA September 13
#4 THE FORESTS OF DRU September 27
#5 ORIA’S ENCHANTMENT October 11
#6 LONEN’S REIGN October 25
Also, LONEN’S WAR is now wide and should be available on all retailer platforms. Print is coming any day now and just wait to see how super cool the set is together with the new covers!
Very exciting to see this rejuvenation of my first entirely self-pubbed series.
In other news…
Look for the cover reveal and preorder link for SHADOW WIZARD, Book #1 in Renegades of Magic, the trilogy that picks up after Bonds of Magic! Look for SHADOW WIZARD coming September 29, 20222! Here’s a sneak peek of the cover:

 

The Hybrid Life for Me!

ROGUE’S POSSESSION is now out!!¬†

This release dovetails nicely with this week’s topic. We’re asking,¬†Traditional publishing, self-publishing or a fusion of the two. What works best for you?

This particular book is the second book in the Covenant of Thorns trilogy, which were originally traditionally published ten years ago! Those were my first fantasy romances and I was elated that Carina Press took a chance on my cross-genre novels. I went on to publish ten books in total with them. I’ve also done three traditionally published series with Kensington and one with St. Martin’s Press.
I like trad publishing. Having a team working on my books is a great feeling, as is not having to front the money.
However…
As soon as I could get the rights back on these books, I did, and now I’m self-publishing them. The major reason? I’ll make a lot more money selling them myself.
A secondary reason: by controlling the series, I have more options to discount book one, a potent marketing technique trad-pubbing doesn’t allow.
A third, but super validating reason? At last I can give these books the covers they deserve!! I love these covers, designed by the incredibly talented Ravven, so much!
So, as you may have concluded, I’m falling in the “fusion of the two” category. Being a hybrid author gives me the best of both worlds. I aim to continue doing it that way.

Jeffe’s Top Three Resources for Names

ROGUE’S POSSESSION, Book #2 in my Covenant of Thorns Dark Fantasy Romance trilogy, is out in a week! It’s been so fun to see readers rediscover this first series of mine.
This week at the SFF Seven, we’re talking Naming Resources: Your top 3 sources for choosing names of characters, places, etc. Here are mine:
1. Jeffe’s Big List of Names
 
I keep a list. A spreadsheet (of course! for those who know me) that I add to any time I encounter a name I really like. I save them for important characters. One #protip: there are few disappointments greater than discovering you squandered a really good name on a throwaway secondary character. Save those names for someday!
 
2. Behind the Name
BehindtheName.com is a great resource that lets you search for names in all sorts of ways. There’s also a surname version, for those tricksy family names.
3. Relevant Dictionaries
I also use archaic language dictionaries for whatever language family I’m using for a given world or realm within a world. These are easy to search for online, then look up word meanings and cobble together names from there.
Names are always important in my books – it’s one of my themes – so I’m almost always choosing them for their underlying meaning. Something to look for!

MYOB – How Much Do You Know About Author Finances?

ROGUE’S PAWN is out now! This first book in my original Covenant of Thorns trilogy has been re-released with gorgeous new covers. Look for book 2 coming July 26 and book 3 releasing August 16.

***

This week at the SFF Seven we’re MYOB – Minding your own business!

Seriously, we’re taking a long look at how we manage the financial side of being an author. There tends to be a wide range of strategies for managing author finances. As all authors are primarily creatives (with the small exception of the widget-makers who hire ghost writers to write for them, which is another kettle of stinky fish), not all possess the inclination to crunch numbers and balance accounts.

In truth, while I think all authors should have a thorough understanding of what they should be earning, not everyone needs to be a financial guru of their own writing career. In truth, the most comfortable place for an author – or perhaps any creative – to be is independent of the need to make money doing it. This, of course, requires either family money (marrying money counts) or a spouse with a great salary and benefits. In these cases, writing money is all “gravy” and I know many authors in this position who don’t really track that income.

The major downside of this model is it means traditional publishing has favored those with this privilege and also takes shameless advantage of these authors. There can be a lot of funky tickling of the financials, both from publishing houses and literary agencies. Believe me: I’ve seen it.

Learn to read your royalty statements and hold those who handle your earnings accountable.

The flip side is if you’re like me – someone who is supporting their household with writing income. This is the other extreme, where ALL finances are author finances. I track everything scrupulously, to the point of using mathematical models to predict my future income. That’s the thing about writing income: it’s super unpredictable. Sales wax and wane, often due to reasons beyond anyone’s control. Traditional publishing pays quarterly if you’re lucky and semi-annually otherwise. There’s almost no way to predict what those checks will look like, so I end up behaving like the privileged writer as above – I treat my trad income as gravy.

Self-publishing income is what allows me to pay the bills with writing. That money comes in monthly and, because I can access my sales dashboards in real time, I can reasonably predict how much money will come in. The downside of self-publishing is that the author fronts the investment. KAK covered a lot of the nitty-gritty of self-publishing costs yesterday. Most self-publishing authors can implement the simple math of outflow vs. inflow. That is, what you pay to produce and market the book should be less than the money you make from it. Where it gets into higher math is managing that income so that you can cover the costs of being alive.

With a salaried job, or even hourly income, the basic budgeting model is to figure your monthly income, subtract your expenses, and the rest is “disposable,” meaning you can spend it on stuff you want vs. the stuff you need. But with a fluctuating monthly income, this simply isn’t possible.

So, my basic model is to try to keep enough money in savings to pay for two months of expenses should I have zero income in any given month. (Which hopefully will never happen, knock on wood. My backlist is substantial at this point, so the baseline backlist income is relatively steady.) Once I have that in place, I can pay for some of the things that make us happy. This is VERY important. It’s tempting to confine oneself only to needs and funnel any “extra” money back into growing the business. This works okay for a while, but it gets soul-crushing over time. We work hard; we must also play hard. Anything else is unsustainable.

As a creative, maintaining your joy in the work is key!

From my initial announcement, you’ll see I’m also republishing some of my trad-pubbed books. I did ten books with Carina Press and now have the rights back to all of them. Those royalties came in quarterly, so I’m eager to see how my income on those books changes for me. So far I only have ROGUE’S PAWN up again. Republishing meant paying for covers and formatting, so a bit of investment on my part. Hopefully it will pay off.

As with all businesses, writing for a living requires a lot of hoping for that pay off. Being smart about crunching those numbers provides the reality. A balance of both is best.

When You’re Caught in Author Drama: 3 Steps for Extracting Yourself

Monsoon rains in New Mexico bring green green green!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week concerns Author Drama. We’re asking specifically if we think it’s idiocy or a PR campaign.

So far the opinions this week have run to proclaiming it unwise at best and idiocy at the baseline. I don’t disagree. I’m not much for drama in any aspect of my life, so I go to lengths to avoid it. Those of you who’ve followed me for a long time know I’m all about balance, that – as a practicing Taoist – I’m forever seeking the middle path and a place of equanimity.

That said, sometimes the drama finds you.

As with all of life, we are walking a fine line with author promotion. We put our books out there, and we put our SELVES out there, because the author is the brand that readers follow. When we post photos of our lives, our likes, our pithy observations, and so forth, we are doing it because we WANT attention, right? If nothing else, we’ve been trained by social media to court those clicks and likes and followers, in the hopes that they translate to book sales and readers.

But we only want positive attention! you might say. Well, yes. Still, there’s always the chance that a bid for attention can go too far and tip over into negative attention. These things aren’t always controllable. When I see the latest kerfuffle and readers lining up on sides, it’s easy for me to sit back and feel smug that they’re not yelling about ME. I also have to be honest about myself and realize that they’re not talking about me either. It’s easy to declaim drama when you’re not noticed at all.

What’ most important to remember is: most authors who find themselves mid-drama did not intend to incite that level of reaction. What’s happened is they handled it badly. They don’t have the professionalism, the emotional maturity, the support network, the sheer ability to control themselves, to back away.

That’s what it takes. The common wisdom holds, should you find yourself propelled into drama:

1) Step away

No matter what anyone says, you are not required to respond immediately. It’s almost always better if you don’t¬† respond until things have cooled. This includes not looking at what people are saying.

2) Apologize

Don’t entrench. Don’t argue. Don’t try to convince everyone that you really are a¬†Good Person‚ĄĘ. If you don’t know how to craft a good apology (which admits being wrong, makes no excuses, and includes real resolve to change), get help with it.

3) Don’t fan the flames

Resist the urge to respond further. Stick to your statement and apology. Don’t succumb to the lure of attention by stoking it just a little more. Actually do the work to correct what you did to upset people.

What happens with some Author Drama cases is that the person in question becomes so enticed by the attention that it all feels good. In extreme cases, it becomes their brand. It’s a choice, but not always one that serves the books and the storytelling.

Putting Food on the Table‚ĄĘ and Other Wise Advice for Aspiring Novelists

This week at the SFF Seven we’re discussing what we were supposed to be – the vocational advice young writers get because writing doesn’t put food on the table‚ĄĘ

I really loved KAK’s epic tale from yesterday (for some reason Google has decided I’m not allowed to comment anymore), in part because I am also not the author who Always Wanted to Be a Writer.

Not because I didn’t love reading and writing – I always, always did! – and I even won a poetry contest when I was eleven or twelve and I wrote poetry (really bad poetry) all through high school. I contributed them to the high school literary magazine, anonymously because I was a weenie. I took AP English and my teachers praised my stories and other writings.

But, dear reader, never did one person suggest that I become a writer. Nobody ever thinks that a career as a writer will¬†put food on the table‚ĄĘ. To be fair, it generally doesn’t, and it takes a long time to get there, unless you hit the literary equivalent of the lottery. Like all the pretty aspiring actors from the Midwest arriving in Hollywood on the bus, very few of us become superstars. Most of us get really good at waiting tables

Sometimes, though, I wish someone had suggested that as a career for me. Instead, like KAK, when I was told I could be or do anything, those suggestions shaded toward other careers. Science! Medicine! Biology! While I greatly appreciate that so many adults in my life recognized my strengths in the STEM areas and encouraged me to apply myself, I regret that I didn’t direct some of that application to writing.

See, when I was headed to college, there was a scholarship offered for someone in English/Literature. You had to write an essay and the winner got… I don’t even remember. Free ride? Fame? Glory? I can’t even remember, but I wanted it. I had this idea of surprising everyone with my sudden literary talent. So, even though I was enrolled as a pre-med student, I wrote an essay for this scholarship in the lit department.

Now, my mom and I had this back and forth then, where she HATED that I put off schoolwork until the night before. I was a terrible procrastinator – something I had to change about myself in becoming a novelist – and I’d gotten pretty good at gliding by on last-minute efforts. That’s what I did on this essay, whipping it out in a frenzy and I still thought it was brilliant.

And someone else – let’s call her Brienne Merritt – won the scholarship. You can Google her. She’s beautiful, blonde, athletic, intelligent, talented, and she won MY scholarship making her the ideal nemesis for a young me. I’m not tagging her because we aren’t friends and never were, though we have a lot of mutuals. I kind of doubt she even knows I exist. I was that gal at the party in Say Anything that comes up to Ione Skye and babbles on about how their competition made her work harder and Ione finally says, “me too!” just to be polite.

(I notice that Brienne is now a nurse, which makes for a funny reversal.)

Anyway, the advice I did get, that was the best vocational advice I received, came at the end of college from my Comparative Religious Studies advisor, Professor Hadas. I was trying to decide between many post-college paths and interests – medical school, it turns out, was not one of them – and he told me to stick with science.

I know, right? Basically the same as everyone had been telling me all along, but he had wise advice along with it. He advised me to pick a career (and post-graduate education) that would put food on the table‚ĄĘ. He told me I was fortunate to have strengths in areas that people would pay me to work on. And that having that income security would give me a foundation to continue to learn and grow, to follow my more esoteric interests.

It was truly good advice.

The One Thing an Author Must Do to Expand their Platform

  

GREY MAGIC is out in audiobook! All three Bonds of Magic books are now live on Audible for your glomming pleasure!

This week at the SFF Seven, we’re offering tips for expanding your author platform.

“Platform” is one of those words I’m not terribly fond of, seeing as how it comes from the world of sales and legal wrangling. If you do a bit of digging (but please don’t go down that rabbit hole!) you’ll find that the term arose in the early 90s, along with the advent and burgeoning of the internet, and originally applied to nonfiction works and proposals.¬†(Jane Friedman has a great write-up on it here.)¬†Nowadays it seems like the term gets thrown about by all sorts of agent, editor, and marketing types in seeking the ideal author for them to make money off of.
(Note: there’s nothing wrong with trad-publishing folks making money off of authors. That’s the business model and it can work for everyone involved. I just feel that the ‘must have a great platform’ folks are more interested in the generating moolah side of things than, you know, books.)
Anyway, as Jane succinctly defines it, an author platform is an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.
So… not all of us, right? Most authors of fiction sell books because of our voice and the stories we write, not who we are. However! What we write is what reaches people, so who we can reach is within reasonable grasp for a writer of fiction.
Are you ready for this? The great secret??

Write more books!

Or short stories. Or create games or draw comics. Whatever medium is floating your creative boat at the moment, do more of that!
I know, I know – the answer is always the same. But that’s because this is the very best advice out there. The most effective marketing for any author is to create more. The more stuff you have out there, the more people you can reach.
Seriously, over the years I’ve seen SO MANY AUTHORS get sucked into focusing on flogging a single work or series to the exclusion of all other efforts. Sure, it can be easy to get focused on wanting a particular work to succeed, and yes, marketing can feel like a clearer path, with lots of¬†vultures¬†vendors¬†out there waiting to take your money with glowing promises of high sales. Writing more stuff is hard.
But creating stuff is why you got into the gig in the first place, yes? So go do it, my friend.

Converting the Reluctant Reader

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our favorite reader interaction.

Once we get past the fact that ANY AND ALL positive reader interactions are a balm to every writer, then we come to the inevitable truth that the more recent ones spring to mind first. I am so blessed to have each and every one of you out there sending me happy messages about my books. I treasure each and every one, I really do.

But I’m going to pick a recent one that really thrilled me because of the unusual source. You’ll see what I mean when you read it, but I can preface by saying this was from a new friend, a guy my age(ish), who bought DARK WIZARD to be nice. He was in town visiting and bought a hard copy to support me and my local indie bookstore. I seriously never expected him to read it.

Then I got this email:

I, at last, had time to read “Dark Wizard” over the weekend and I was so impressed!

It’s totally not my sub-genre, and would never consider reading the book if someone gave me a plot summary, but it is so well executed and such a page-turner – I was really sucked in. And, despite myself, I want to read the rest of the trilogy. What really amazes me, is that you have such an extensive bibliography – you must be writing very fast – but the quality is so high – no idea how you do it.

Is there anything better than converting a reluctant reader? Not in my book! (lol)