Making Marketing Decisions

An oft-lamented part of being a writer is the promotions end.

Some writers are good at it, but for the most part, the majority of us are writers because we don’t like to sell stuff. Otherwise we’d have fabulous careers doing that. But we know that’s part of the gig. Even the big, traditionally published authors have to self-promote. And there’s this huge array of options for doing it.

Too huge, really.

Part of the problem is, there are a lot of scavengers out there wanting a bite of the writer’s kill. They see us as having this lovely, juicy carcass and they want some. This is part of being a primary producer – we have something to sell, so lots of secondary processors are willing to step up and get their percentage by helping us sell it. That sounds kind of bad and I don’t mean it that way – though it is the syndrome that’s driving more authors to self-publishing, to eliminate at least some of those middlemen and women.

Knowing that writers must invest in self-promotion, there are many venues out there offering to help. Now, not all are making money off of it. Chapters that host conferences are happy to take promotional materials for the goody bags or baskets of goodies for auctions. Blogs love to have guest posters, book bloggers like to do interviews and book giveaways. Then there’s the ads in magazines or on websites. The conferences and appearances.

I get these offers in my email, often sent by wonderful friends – here’s an opportunity for you! I look at it and try to decide if it’s worth the investment of my time and money.

Making decisions is an interesting thing. The “cide” in decide means to cut. As in incisive and excise and incisor. So when we make a decision, we cut away the other possibilities. And each decision alters our life path. Maybe in a minute way, but because I decided to do this, I am not doing that. So, each decision takes a commitment of energy. A bit of oomph behind the direction to create a vector.

Sometimes, I feel like I just don’t have the energy to decide just then.

So, I save these opportunity emails. And they pile up in my In-Box, a logjam of indecision. Like all log-jams, it’s much worse then, to deal with that huge, roiling mass of decisions than if I’d just handled them one by one.


I’m happy to report my In-Box is empty now. All decisions made.

My criteria? I went back to Choosing the Happy. If it sounded fun and happy-making, I said yes. If for any reason it didn’t, I said no.

Hey – at least the river is running clear now!

Cats and Character Arcs

I posted this pic on Twitter and Facebook yesterday, so apologies if it’s a repeat for you.

It’s a good example, though, of what I let Isabel get away with. No, of course I can’t work very well like this – but do I scoot her off my desk? No no no. One sleepy stretch and contented purr and I’m putty in her so-fuzzy paws.

Part of this is because Isabel has never been a lap cat. In fact, we’ve taken to calling her Nearby Cat. She likes to be close by – e.g., where my keyboard should be – but rarely actually on us. Another favorite position of hers is to lie on the back of the chair or couch and put one paw on whoever is sitting there. Nearby cat.

But Isabel is changing as she gets older – a personality evolution that’s fascinating to observe. She turned six recently and is now a fully adult cat. Maine coon cats are different than many breeds in that they don’t get their full growth until about five years. Isabel is the baby of the family, too, and we still call her the Kitten. She came into our lives at a very dark time. We were in the middle of winter, our five-year old cat had just died of cancer and we’d also had to put down our ancient border collie. Isabel the Kitten brought much-needed light and life for all of us. So, though she’s adult now, compared to our 11 year-old border collie and 16 year-old senior cat, she’s a baby.


See, this is the interesting part. You’ve seen those videos where the kitty-cat chases the bear away? (Here’s one, if you haven’t.) Well, since we moved to Santa Fe, to this rural setting where coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions are part of the landscape she’s moved into a new phase of herself: Guard Cat.

She, the smallest family member, is the self- appointed protector of the entire household. She prowls the property lines. She watches out the windows. When she spots a coyote, she comes to tell us, tail-lashing with indignation.

Then, yesterday, senior-cat Teddy came to lie under my office chair while I was working. I didn’t know she was there. And I have a chair with wheels and a brick floor. Yes – I ran over Teddy’s tail AND caught some of the fur up in the bearings. If you’ve ever stepped on a cat’s tail, you can now hear the caterwauling that ensued. Before I’d managed to do more than stand, Isabel had bolted into the room, quivering, eyes dilated, ready to defend Teddy. By then Teddy was fine, but Isabel had to sniff her over and then prowl my entire office, checking security.

I have never had a cat like this.

More, Isabel never used to be like this. I wonder where it comes from, since she’s not learning it from the other animals. It’s something in her, some dormant instinct, perhaps, welling up to meet the challenges of her life. Along with this change has come the increased affection. She seeks me out for this together time and I find myself unable to deny her.

I’ve been thinking about long character arcs. I’m mulling over the next books in A Covenant of Thorns and thinking about the long-term journeys of the characters. More than just solve the immediate problem (run off that coyote) but how that changes the person over a lifetime (greater vigilance, protectiveness, affection).

After all, if a cat can change so much, how might a human grow?

Of course, it could be just that Isabel is an unusual heroine.

A Sliver of Something Special

I had a naked incubus in my bedroom. With a frying pan of half-cooked bacon and a hard-on. And a unicorn bite on his ass. Christ, this was turning out to be a weird morning.

~~ A Brush of Darkness, Allison Pang

Allison Pang and I have been friends and critique partners for, wow, over four years now? I know that’s not a huge span of time, but my how it has flown by. I remember when she sent me the first chapter of her A Brush of Darkness draft – and how gracefully she took it when I ripped it apart. The line above was part of the book even then and I remember her hesitating over whether to use it in querying. Oh she absolutely should. She did and now it’s hard to imagine it any other way.

So I’m delighted to host Allison for the release tomorrow of the sequel: A Sliver of Shadow. In honor of the occasion, Allison has arranged for you all to have a chance to win a special gift.

** I forgot to say — the contest runs through midnight eastern time on Wednesday, 2/29. **

I’m going to string balloons and streamers while she tells you about it.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about writing is not only putting the words on the page, but also envisioning certain scenes in my head.  What’s even more fun is getting a chance to see someone else’s vision of those same scenes.

Over the past year I’ve had the pleasure of receiving both gifts and commissions from several talented artists who have brought my characters to life in a way I never could, in the form of sketch cards  and trading cards and just lovely pieces of art.

I give away the trading cards on a regular basis, but to celebrate the release of A Sliver of Shadow, I wanted to offer up a custom one-of-a-kind sketch card as a prize to one lucky winner.  The art will be created by Aimo, who has done a number of pieces for me, and who will be collaborating with me on a graphic novel that will go live in the spring. (You can find out more about it over at Sad Sausage Dogs.)

The winner will receive a 2 x 3 inch sketch card, drawn, inked and colored with traditional media by Aimo. The scene can be anything from A Brush of Darkness or A Sliver of Shadow – winner’s choice, as long as it stays within the bounds of Aimo’s requirements (i.e. nothing overly explicit, etc.).

Leave a comment for a chance to win! (If you’d like to share your favorite scene, that would be great too.)

Ducking the Spanking

One of the things I love about this house is how the sunset fills every window. I don’t often take photos from inside the house, but I thought I’d try. Can’t get all the windows very well, though.

Hmm. Maybe I need a panorama card for my camera!

Writers tend to have funny conversations. If overheard, they might sound quite alarming. Discussions of how best to kill people, how to dispose of the bodies, argument over what kind of childhood trauma is the most scarring. For writers of the smexy, it can get particularly interesting. Especially when you’ve worked with the same critique partners (CP) long enough to have shorthand references.

The other day, I told one of my CPs that she was ducking the spanking again. No, not like when we were kids and hoped mom and dad would forget about the promised punishment. This referred back to a story she wrote, with BDSM elements, where the prospect of a spanking was held out for most of the story and, when the moment arrived, she glossed it.

Voodoo Bride knows about this. There’s nothing worse (for readers like us, anyway) to be promised a sexually intense situation that never materializes or is glossed over. The whole point of something like a spanking scene is that it’s intense and difficult and puts the characters into an extreme situation. It’s a very human and polite tendency to back away from tremendously fraught situations like that.

However: this is the story gold.

So when I read my CP’s story and felt like she’d created a very tense, difficult scenario and then defused it by making it not so bad after all, I could tell her she was ducking the spanking and she understood right away.

Now, I’m not saying you have to include a spanking scene, metaphorically or literally. If you don’t want to go there, don’t. But, if you include something like that, then follow where it leads, into all the dark, twisty, intense shadows.

If you’re going to have a spanking, make it a good one.

Aaaandd on that note – you all have a great weekend!

Video Chatting about Erotica

I’m doing a video chat tonight!

This is kind of a new deal, from Shindig Events. They’re still Beta testing, but I did a dry run last night and it seemed really cool. You need a webcam and a microphone, but you can hang out in the audience, talk to other people, participate in Q&A and have one-on-one or small group conversations.

So I’ll probably start out with a few thoughts on writing and reading erotica, but then I’d love for everyone to join in the conversation. Partly because we don’t often get to hang out together and talk about these things. But also I’ll be interested to see how the video chat works. This could be a really fun venue for reader events. Or writing workshops.

The party is today, Wednesday, February 22 at 3:30 pacific time/4:30 mountain time/5:30 central time/6:30 eastern time. Those of you in other zones have to do your own math. (Is that really midnight in The Netherlands??) If you can’t be there at the start, don’t worry, drop by whenever.

The link is:

They tell me the video chat works best if you use Google Chrome (of course – grr) and if you close your other windows and online feeds. I noticed mine ran much better once I signed out of Yahoo IM.

Come on by and try it out!

Mardis Gras Memories

Happy Mardis Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!!

Mardis Gras always feels like a happy day today. It’s nostalgia-making for me, too, since I’m rarely in a place where people know much about Mardis Gras. Back when I used to hang decorative flags on my house, nobody in Wyoming understood why I had a crawdad with a purple, green and gold parasol dancing – or the purple glittery wreath on the door. (I don’t put this stuff out at all in Santa Fe because with the adobe-style architecture it just looks wrong, wrong, wrong.)

Everything about Mardis Gras appeals to my magpie heart. It’s shiny. And sparkly. People dress up in crazy outfits and dance and shake all their stuff. I love the licentiousness of the party day. The Carnival, with all the celebrations of the flesh that it implies.

I have memories of parades in New Orleans and balls in Memphis. There’s nothing like drinking from Foster’s Oil Can in a brown paper bag, cheering at luridly lit floats and toying with the idea of flashing your tits to strangers, just this once, though you never do. And going for turtle soup and steamed shrimp and potatoes afterwards, weighed down in beads and trying not to get too much butter in them.

So, though it’s a gorgeous, clear day in Santa Fe, my heart is in New Orleans today.

If you want to be a voyeur, you can watch here:

Begging for Blurbs

I’ve started hitting up some of my author friends for blurbs for Rogue’s Pawn. It’s really kind of an odd place to be.

To clarify right off the bat: a blurb is absolutely not objective. It’s advertising, pure and simple. I mention this because I sometimes see blurbs referred to as reviews. An example of this would be Jessica Andersen’s first book in her Final Prophecy series, which carries a blurb from J.R.Ward. If you can read that, it says: “An astounding paranormal world…I swear ancient Mayan gods and demons walk the modern earth!”

I mention this particular example because I bought this book back in 2008 when it came out, entirely because of the blurb. At the time I was completely addicted to J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and I was willing to read anything connected to her. Turns out the two of them are good friends and critique partners, so of course J.R. did this favor for her writing friend and for a book she wanted to support.

But this is how a blurb is not a review. Blurbs are absolutely biased support and people argue all the time about whether they’re effective.

See, the other way people get blurbs is through their agents or publishers. An agent might ask one client to blurb for another. The publishers ask star authors to blurb debut authors. Theoretically the authors always read the book first. They’re allowed to decline also. There are some famous stories out there of authors who not only declined to positively blurb a book, but tried to dissuade the publisher from going ahead with publication. Neil Gaiman has a story like this. It also happened to a friend of mine recently with her debut book. Seriously, the publisher asked this big, famous author whose name you would totally recognize to blurb this book and the author wrote back this awful letter on how much she hated the book and that the publisher should cancel it.

Don’t try this at home people.

At any rate, being the requestor is a funny place to be, because you’re essentially begging your friends and acquaintances for the favor of not only reading your book, but saying something nice about it. Or at least compelling. It’s kind of a fun game to read blurbs and discern when the blurber was just trying to think of something positive and interesting to say when “I loved this book!” is simply not a possibility.

Back when Wyoming Trucks, True Love and the Weather Channel came out, I was much bolder about asking. I asked writing teachers and famous authors both. Barbara Kingsolver’s agent wrote me a really lovely message in reply. Mary Karr didn’t bother to answer.

For some reason, I’ve lost some of that brashness now. Maybe I understand better what the big authors’ lives are really like. Marcella was egging me on last night to ask Robin McKinley and I was abashed at even the thought of asking her. I’d feel like a puppy peeing on her shoes.

Actually, given how much attention she lavishes on her Hellhounds, that might be an effective approach.

So, for now I’m hitting up my friends – especially the ones who’ve already read the thing and made nice noises about it. As I screw up the chutzpah, I might see if some others want to read, with an eye towards blurbing.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be good enough to ask someone like Robin.