Meet the Pets!

Check out the awesome cover for the fourth Sorcerous Moons book!! It releases Tuesday, January 24, but you can preorder at a few retailers. The blurb: 

An Enemy Land

Once Princess Oria spun wicked daydreams from the legends of sorceresses kidnapped by the barbarian Destrye. Now, though she’s come willingly, she finds herself in a mirror of the old tales: the king’s foreign trophy of war, starved of magic, surrounded by snowy forest and hostile strangers. But this place has secrets, too—and Oria must learn them quickly if she is to survive.

A Treacherous Court

Instead of the refuge he sought, King Lonen finds his homeland desperate and angry, simmering with distrust of his wife. With open challenge to his rule, he knows he and Oria—the warrior wounded and weak, the sorceress wrung dry of power—must somehow make a display of might. And despite the desire that threatens to undo them both, he still cannot so much as brush her skin.

A Fight for the Future

With war looming and nowhere left to run, Lonen and Oria must use every intrigue and instinct they can devise: to plumb Dru’s mysteries, to protect their people—and to hold fast to each other. Because they know better than any what terrifying trial awaits…

************

This week on the blog, we’re featuring the pets of the SFF Seven. Come on over to see my pretties

Getting More Facebook Likes

001This pic didn’t come out as well as I would have wished, because Jackson was moving so fast. But he’s perched on the back of a chair next to my treadmill desk, methodically swiping things to the floor so I’ll pay attention to him. Funny cat.

Before I forget, I’m teaching an online writing workshop starting next week, on October 18: Defying Gravity: Writing Cross-Genre and Succeeding Anyway. This is for my longtime online home chapter, the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Special Interest Chapter of RWA (FFP).

Genre definitions have a profound influence on writers’ careers. From the first queries where we must specify the book’s genre to long-term decisions about pursuing or giving up on a “dead” genre, dealing with what feels like a false construct is a necessary skill. However, following our hearts and inspiration often means tossing aside these considerations.

Or chopping them to pieces in a murderous rage.

But shedding conventions can be what sets a book apart. That’s what takes a writer’s career from midlist to break-out. So… how do you know? More—how do we find the courage to embrace a bold move?

In Wicked, the heroine Elphaba is faced with that crucial decision, of whether to choose the safe path or to risk flying on her own. This workshop will explore genre definitions and how Jeffe Kennedy went from being a “Crack Ho” – being told that her work fell in the cracks between genres – to receiving a nomination for Book of the Year and an RT Seal of Excellence for the one title each month that stands out from all the rest by an innovative twist on a familiar story or pushing genre boundaries. Participants will discuss their experiences with genre—both coloring inside the lines and stepping across them—and will leave inspired to take risks and follow their hearts.

Everyone deserves a chance to fly!

I’m teaching this by special request, so it should be big fun. 🙂

While that workshop is about breaking away from market considerations, I want to talk a bit about promoting books on social media. This is something authors are forced to think about, whether they want to or not. Accordingly, there’s tons of advice out there on the topic, Rule #1 of which tends to be along the lines of “Get More Followers!”

Recently one of my published author email loops went bananas with people offering to trade Facebook likes – as in, you like my page and I’ll like yours. They did the same with following on Twitter.

I think this is a really bad idea.

Sure, the numbers go up, which apparently satisfies Rule #1. But it’s not real. Worse, it creates a false idea of your social media reach.

Let me caveat before I go on that I’m friends with and following/followed by LOTS of authors. Hell, I’m writing this blog post for authors. Nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, networking with other authors can be important for building community and career opportunities.

However – creating a trade system with other authors to like one another’s pages does three things: It skews our lists to the wrong people, possibly diminishes our reach to real readers and skews our own perceptions.

Skewing our lists to the wrong people

We all know Facebook is a mystical bog of smoke and mirrors. They really want us to pay money to get followers to see our posts, so they mess with our reach. We try to game the system. They game it right back. It’s an eternal battle to be seen, on top of the usual discoverability battle. This may be growing more true of Twitter also. The only thing we can be sure of is that only a portion of our followers will see a given post. If all of our followers are people who are there because they’re interested in our books, at least that portion who sees a post will be them! If a portion of our followers are from reciprocal author trades … guess what?

Diminishing our reach to real readers

Yes, yes, yes – people will always argue that writers are readers, too. Of course we are! And, sure, I’ll like the pages of authors I want to keep track of. But that’s entirely because I want to, not through a trade. A trade isn’t organic. See above. We want people to follow and like us because they are ACTUALLY INTERESTED in our books. This might be more difficult, but they’ll be real followers. See below.

Skewing our own perceptions

As nice as it may be to look at our profiles and see hundreds or thousands of followers, as lovely an ego stroke as that may be, if a whole bunch of those are from author reciprocal trades, then it means nothing. Worse, it allows us to kid ourselves that we’re doing well in expanding our reach when we’re not. It’s a pleasant little fantasy and there’s no room for that in running a business. On the other hand, gaining *real* followers is a good measure of success – and one to be proud of.

Let’s get those real followers, people! Oh, and my Facebook author page is here.

What??? I *had* to give that a go. 😉

Cats and Oklahoma Weather

005I’m so happy that (new) cat Jackson and (old) cat Isabel get along so well. It doesn’t always work out that way and is so lovely when it does.

This evening I pick up my boss/colleague Laurie and we’re driving over to Oklahoma City for some meetings tomorrow. Then we’ll drive back tomorrow night and she’ll spend a couple of days here in New Mexico. Should be quite the whirlwind!

Otherwise, I’m over at the Contemporary Romance Cafe tomorrow (May 1), talking about where I write. Which, of course, involves treadmill desks. 🙂 If you’re a regular reader here, it won’t be anything new to you. Except to say that I figured out I’ve walked over 150 miles in April and have logged over 61,000 words. It’s been a busy, productive month for me.

Which is good, because Ursula’s book is being kind of wrenching to write. It’s due June 1, so I anticipate May will be another 60K+ month.

Think No-Tornado Thoughts for me!

Let’s Talk About Goodreads

Bl_PEN8CQAEkHBdI posted this to the feeds yesterday, but had to share here, too. Jackson loves to play in the bathroom with me in the morning while I get ready. It’s all part of his joyful lead-up to breakfast, his equivalent of the Snoopy supper dance. The game evolves daily, usually involving stalker me from behind the shower curtain, bunching up the throw rug and mutilating Q-tips. Sometimes he hides behind the curtain, snags the Q-tips with a sneaky paw, and drags them to their doom.

Their doom being to be soggily swept down the drain when I shower.

Lately he’s figured out that he can jump up on the towel and bring it down on top of him, making an impromptu blanket fort, from which to stalk me and the Q-tips.

I imagine you can detect the theme here.

Yesterday, the towel-jumping morphed into a full leap onto the towel rack. It’s a narrow bar, mind you, but he managed to drape himself there nevertheless. The best part, I think, is that the picture above and to the right of him is a tuxedo cat, too. Okay, it’s an anthropomorphic tuxedo cat, getting off the trolley in New Orleans with a bag of Krauss Donuts. A Streetcat Named Desire is the title.

Stella!!!

I may be a bit giddily full of Friday today…

So, Goodreads has been morphing a bit lately. No surprise there with their acquisition by Amazon. Thus far it’s been fairly gentle (since the wholesale removal of some reviewers, that is). Recently Goodreads has started nudging me as an author – mostly via these monthly emailed “author newsletters.” Overall I like the tone and the suggestions seem reasonable. After all, I like Goodreads. I enjoy tracking my books there and seeing what other people are reading. Goodreads readers and reviewers have embraced my books and done a great deal to chat them up. Much more so than on, say, Amazon.

One thing that I hear people like on Goodreads is book giveaways. I’ve even entered them myself – and gotten the books! In fact, I recently discovered (no one told me, alas) that my publisher set up a giveaway for THE MARK OF THE TALA, which goes through April 30. When I looked just now to grab the link, 359 people had signed up! Pretty cool, I think.

And food for thought.

Yesterday I got the cover concept for GOING UNDER, the first book in FALLING UNDER, my new series of full-length erotic romances. And Goodreads, in the March Author Newsletter, had suggested ideas for cover reveals on their site. I spent a bit of time reading up, followed their instructions and set up my Cover Reveal Event.

Then I balked.

Because the next step is to invite people. The newsletter even suggested that I add a bribe (they didn’t call it that – I think they used the word “incentive”) that the first 100 people to add it to their “To Read” shelf will get a special excerpt or some such.

Now, I receive Goodreads invites pretty regularly. Usually from people I don’t know and don’t care about. Sometimes people I’m not even friends with, which I can’t figure out. I delete them all. In fact, I kind of hate getting those invites. And now they want me to send them? Ugh!

I asked this question on Twitter and Facebook, how people feel about getting these invites. The writers say they get a lot and auto-delete – my tribe, clearly – but other folks suggested that maybe readers like it better.

So, I’m torn. What do you all think?

Enforced Peace

003A bit of found art – or found cuteness. This is a neckwarmer bunny that I’d set aside. When I walked past later, it struck me just how serendipitously it had fallen, making a very peaceful tableau.

More peace is always good.

In the mornings, when I feed the kitties, I stay to watch them eat. If I don’t, Jackson – younger, faster, and more ravenous – will finish his and head over to Isabel’s bowl. He’ll nudge her out of the way and, remarkably, she’ll let him. I keep thinking this will change as he’s no longer a kitten, but he’s at a year and a half now and she still cuts him that baby slack. So I stay and watch, keeping him away until she’s done.

She’s a delicate eater, precise and unhurried. It can take a while for her to finish. I make my coffee, take my vitamins, but then I have to simply wait. Isabel is also our guard cat and she hates any disturbance while she eats. Kitchen chores like unloading the dishwasher or doing dishes are simply out of the question. Once clank of a plate and she’s out of there. One turn of my back, Jackson will dive in and she won’t come back.

Once I tried bringing my laptop in, so I could begin dealing with email for the day, but it diverted my attention too much and Jackson stole the moment.

Thus, I’m forced to be quiet and still. Sometimes I look out the kitchen window to the back garden – a view I rarely take in, because any other time I’m in the kitchen I’m on task. Though I begrudged the time to begin with, it’s become one of my few “doing nothing” moments of the day.

Something I probably need more of.

 

Bucking Along with the Mouse and Twitter Rodeos

009We haven’t had a Jackson pic on the blog for a bit. Here he is, being writer’s block. He’s very good at it. When he wants to be on my lap, I *must* move the laptop computer and give him access. Note the expression, also – which is one hair before head-butting me for more petting.

This morning when I logged onto Twitter, I saw this article about a hacker getting into a slew of Twitter accounts. I read this bit:

Active Twitter users should immediately revoke all third-party apps tied to their account. To do so, visit Twitter’s application page and click “revoke access” for each app listed. You can then go through the connection process again for the apps you still want to use.

Cleaning house like this is a good practice in general — you may be surprised about how many third-party providers you granted access to your account since signing up.

And decided it was probably good advice. They were right – I *was* surprised. I bet I’d granted access to something like 40 3rd party apps. I revoked them all, feeling all the virtue of the spring cleaning effort. After all, I could just go through the connection process again for the ones I wanted to keep! Tra lay, tra lay.

Not so much.

The first thing I did was re-open TweetDeck. Now, I did a post on Word Whores on Sunday, smugly explaining how I manage the Twitter Avalanche of Input by using lists. Many, many lists in carefully ordered columns. Well, when I revoked access, TweetDeck dumped all of my columns. I had to re-add and re-order them all.

It was probably good, because I discovered I hadn’t updated some of my lists recently and one was public that I’d meant to be private. Alas. Still it sucked up time I hadn’t planned on and now I feel like I’m running behind.

This all came after I got online, which was also delayed by an extended mouse rodeo.

See, we have the kitty litter boxes out in the garage and a cat door for the kitties to go from the house to the garage. This works out great and we’ve done this in all three houses we’ve owned, although it was the basement area in the previous two. Keeps the litter box odor and detritus from the living space. However, in this house, mice can penetrate the garage. They worm their way in, especially this time of year, stockpiling food supplies for winter. Fortunately, our cats are good hunters and catch the mice. Unfortunately, they mostly enjoy the capture part – and they want to share the joy of their prizes. So they bring the mice into the house.

Usually in the middle of the night.

We can pretty much ignore the tell-tale sounds of the hapless mouse being chased from cubby hole to hiding spot while we sleep. Thus, in the morning, we’ll rise to the kitties holding vigil in front of the couch or armchair, where the mouse will have taken final refuge. David will get his work gloves and we’ll tip up the heavy furniture. Working like a pride of lions, David and the kitties will round up the mouse and David takes it outside.

I know, I know – where it likely learns no lesson at all. Sometimes I wonder if these are the same mice, over and over. But we’re a catch and release household.

This morning, however, was not a seamless operation. We blame Jackson.

Jackson is really bad about loving to play with the mice. So bad that, given the least opportunity, he’ll snag the mouse and run off with it, depositing it in yet another part of the house. Today it was my office. The bookshelf was bad enough – requiring the removal of many books – but then the mouse got into the motor compartment of my treadmill. This meant getting out the screwdriver and removing the cover to the compartment. I said, oh well, the maintenance instructions said to remove the cover every six months and vacuum it out. I’d been meaning to do that. David got the tools. I got the handheld vacuum cleaner. Jackson got locked out this time.

So, plus side, the compartment WAS full of dust and cat hair, so it needed to be done. On the down side, the mouse was a PITA to get out from under the motor. We finally chased him out of there and he ran under the printer stand. More dust and dust bunnies. David finally captured the feisty bugger and he’s has rejoined his kin with a fine story to tell. I set to vacuuming, feeling the virtue of the spring cleaning effort.

All told, this took about an hour out of our morning, putting me behind. Which was further exacerbated by the Twitter thing.

Funny how some days are like that.

One Cure for Writer’s Block

Jackson 7_7_13Jackson will take treats from my hand like this. He puts his paws on me to steady himself, then plucks the shrimp, or ham, or turkey, or salmon, or beef, or really any kind of meat at all, with his teeth. I’ve never had a cat that would do like this before.

David says I was talking in my sleep a lot last night. That should come as no surprise, since I’m getting heavily back into drafting this novel. The big fantasy novels seem to do it to me much more than the shorter, erotic romance works. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe because it’s more complex storytelling. Maybe because I’m constructing an entire world along with the story itself.

At any rate, it makes me aware of how much my mind works on this kind of thing. I also find I begrudge distractions more. It’s like I already have so many conversations going on in my head that I can’t bear to listen to any new ones. At times like this I understand the writers who lock themselves away in a cabin for a few weeks or a month, to focus only on the book. I try to keep my life as normal as possible, evenly moving along, but sometimes I envy that model.

Quiet is just so crucial.

A few weeks ago, I flew to Ohio to meet up with some CPs and go to a conference. It was a fairly long flight there – about 3 hours – and I happily found a window seat to ensconce myself in. I exchanged hello’s with the gal on the aisle and set about staging my supplies for the flight. I knew the week ahead would be busy enough that I wouldn’t get tons of writing work done and I hoped for some solid writing time during the flight. As the plane filled, another gal took the middle seat. She and the woman on the aisle kept going after the initial greetings. And going. And going.

I even tweeted, before they shut the plane doors, that I really hoped they wouldn’t talk the entire flight.

They did.

Non-stop.

Some helpful Tweeters predicted this and suggested I go for ear buds early. Fortunately I could. I plugged in the music, opened my laptop and worked away. Every now and again – like when I removed my ear buds to talk to the flight attendant about what lovely drink she could bring me – I became aware that the conversation continued apace.

No, I have no idea what they found to talk about for that long.

But they had gone from total strangers to BFFs within minutes. At the end of the flight, once they stood, they reverted to strangers, as airline passengers do. We all wait, sitting, standing, half-stooped because the overhead bins are in the way, not making eye contact, pretending we aren’t Hugely Impatient to get off the stinking plane already. They went their separate ways without another word.

The new found connection was apparently just to pass the time.

I notice that, the deeper into creating I am, the less I want to talk. It’s like I have energy for the one thing or the other. I think that’s worth exploring. I rarely have good advice when people ask me about solving writer’s block or increasing productivity or enhancing creativity, but there’s something.

Try talking less.

It might feel weird at first. Maybe lonely. Maybe TOO quiet. But I do believe that, once you create that silence in your mind, other things will come to fill it.

Ideas.

Images.

Stories and characters and worlds.

Shh…

Hear that?