Saturday, September 16, 2017

Why writing is more than writing...

I had a bad day yesterday on the business-front.  Actually, it was the culmination of several bad days over the past few weeks.  Last night's disappointment was the final straw that put me over the edge, leaving me to wonder for the katrillionth time why I've willingly chosen this business.  It wasn't a life-long ambition of mine to become an author; in fact, it's fairly recent.  But I love creating stories, and I bought in to the theory that if you love what you do, the rest will come.  Yeah, right!

It's not about the writing.  For a change, my writing is going extremely well.  I LOVE my current WIP, and I'm eager to start on the (currently) six other titles waiting in the wings.  No, this is about the other stuff; the stuff indie authors have to deal with.  Yes, yes; I know.  I'm the one always saying that authors are authors and we shouldn't differentiate.  I wholeheartedly believe that's true - when it comes to our books.  But there is a difference on the business side, and that's where I'm struggling.

Now, this isn't a bitch session about the indie scene (though a few choice words crossed my lips last night).  And as mentioned above, I chose to become indie.  I could do what thousands of other authors have done and submit my works to publishing houses on the hopes they'll like my work enough to represent me.  I understand that's an option.  To be honest, I like the autonomy of being indie.  I like choosing my own deadlines - which I rarely meet - and picking the title, and designing the covers.  Plus, having representation from a publisher doesn't guarantee best-sellerdom.  There are hundreds (if not more) of talented authors out there, backed by publishing houses, who've never seen a best-seller's list.

No, this is about the stuff I'm not good at, and I'm brave enough to say I'm not good at it.  Making smart decisions.  Oh, okay, maybe that's an exaggeration, but it's how I feel in the moment.  I look around at my peers (I'm not comparing myself to them.  Honest!) and I take note of what they're accomplishing, and, more importantly, how they're accomplishing it, and I try the same tactic.  And it fails.  So that leaves me wondering, is it me?  Am I the common denominator?  Am I just not cut out for this? Or is it the aged-old adage - one I've quoted myself from time to time - that we all walk different paths and their journey isn't mine?

Trouble is, even when I change paths, they converge to the same one I've been traveling my entire life.  The path of not knowing what the hell I'm doing.  Of making the wrong choices.  Of losing faith in my decisions.  I thought growing older meant growing wiser.  Maybe it means being wise enough to know when to quit.

Okay, this is turning into a pity party post, and that's not what I'm about.  I'll find a way - somehow - though the specifics escape me at the moment.  Nothing worthwhile is easy, right?

If there's one thing I don't doubt, it's the support of my fellow indies.  We all face these why-in-the-hell-am-I-putting-myself-through-this moments and it's the faith and encouragement from those who have been there that gets us through.  And, for that, I'm eternally grateful.  No one gets this like other indies!!

So, where now?  I wish I knew.  As my husband tells me, "keep writing".  And I will.  I love it too much to quit.  I guess I'll figure the rest out as I go along, and maybe, just maybe, one of these days the sky will open up in front of me and I'll see I'm where I was meant to be all along.

Or maybe not...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Looking back...and forward...

Four years ago today, I made a decision that changed my life. I sat down at my computer and began writing Here to Stay. I knew nothing about being an author - some days, I feel like I still don't - but I had a story to tell and decided the time had come to tell it. Encouraged 1000% by my husband - no, that's not a typo; I'm overwhelmed by how much he believes in what I'm doing - I published it, and started on the next, then the next, and the next.

Four years later, I've published eleven books (twelve, if you count the story that's currently in an anthology) and I have no desire to slow down. There are so many stories occupying my brain that I wonder if I'll ever have time to write them all. Probably not; for as one is born on the page, three others take its place in my mind. And that's okay. It gives me a reason to push on when I doubt myself, when I think I'm wasting my time, when I think I'll never be further along than I am in this moment.

Do I seek fame and fortune? Yeah; maybe a little. It'd be cool to have hundreds of thousands of readers eagerly anticipating the release of the next Kristine Raymond book. It would be fabulous to rake in enough royalties so that I could support our household and offer my husband the chance to pursue his dreams. But is that all I seek? No. Not even close.

Mostly, what I want is to make someone smile when they read a funny line in one of my stories, to touch them emotionally, to offer them an invitation into another world. I think Toni Morrison said it best - “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” That's what I do. I write the books I'd want to read. They may not be what's trending, but they're mine, and I do believe, when the time is right, they'll find their audience.

In the meantime, I keep writing; doing what I started four years ago, and will continue to do as long as I'm able. While I can't honestly say that each moment of the process is pure joy, I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

Much love,


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The end of a series…

A few months ago, I published the final book in the Hidden Springs series, three and a half years after I published the first. To say that the town and its inhabitants have been part of my life for that long is no exaggeration. Some of the characters existed in my mind long before I knew I wanted to write about them - nagging at me over the years to bring them to life on the page; others appeared in the moment - springing to life when I needed them most.

I breathed, ate, slept, and dreamed of Hidden Springs, immersing myself in that fictional town as completely as if it were my own reality. I laughed and cried; celebrated new life and wept for those lost. I seethed with anger at a friend’s betrayal and swooned under a lover’s caress. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was over. The last word was written; the final chapter recorded.

I could have continued with the series. There are always more stories to tell. New generations are born, friendships develop into something more, loved ones pass away and the living carry on. Yes; there are plenty of stories to be told about Hidden Springs, but just as life changed for my fictional characters, my own did as well. Different voices began shouting at me, clamoring to be heard. They have stories, too, after all; stories only I can tell. And it’s my duty to tell them.

So, while I miss my friends in Hidden Springs – Kate, Sam, Jack, Landry, Carly, and so many others – it was time to say goodbye and journey down a different path. I may return one day, if the spirit moves me; begin a new chapter in the lives of the characters who started it all. I owe them a lot; a new career, and even more than that, new real-life relationships I’ve forged along the way. For that, I say, thank you my friends. Thank you.

You can find all eight books in the Hidden Springs series on your favorite platform beginning with the first one (it’s free). While the books don’t need to be read in order, I recommend it, as the characters’ personalities develop with each book as their stories intertwine.

In order –

Here to Stay

Hearts on Fire

Abby’s Heart

A Chance on Love

A Will of Her Own

Dancing in the Dark

Worth the Gamble

Coming Home

Wondering what other series are coming down the pike? Look for Reservations for Two, the second in the Celebration series, sometime in September. (If you haven't read the first book in the series yet, it's called By Dawn's Early Light. You can find it here.) And the first book in the Seasons of Love series, Dogwoods in Springtime, is available now as part of the Lucky in Love anthology, proceeds of which benefit the March of Dimes.

That's all for now - my characters are calling...

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why the distinction?

A photographer take pictures, builds a portfolio, and opens a studio.

An artist paints day and night, assembles a collection, and hosts a showing at a local gallery.

A musician rehearses for months in his band mate's garage, records an album, and releases it under his own label.

An author writes for hours, agonizing over every word, edits and polishes the manuscript, then self-publishes and... wait.  What?  They self-publish??  Shock and horror abound.

When I tell people I'm an author, the first question I'm almost always asked is "Who's your publisher?"  Why does that matter?  I'm asking; in the general scheme of things, why does the name of the publisher I list on my creation matter any more than the name you put on yours?  Why is what I create deemed inferior because it lacks the stamp of approval from a recognizable publishing house?

Your picture is slightly out of focus.  There's a smear on the right hand corner of your canvas.  That last chord was off-key.  You adjust, you fix your mistakes, and your next project is better than the last.  Humans learn by doing; by pushing themselves to evolve, to master new techniques, to perfect their masterpiece. 

Authors are no different; self-published or not.  We make mistakes, and we fix them.  We hone our skill and write a better story.  Being self-published does not make us less than.  Rather, it takes an immense amount of courage to release our creations to the world, to have them studied and critiqued and, oftentimes, ridiculed.  We're no different than any other artist out there, yet self-published authors are looked down upon, even by those in the same circles. 

So, I ask again; why the distinction?

Yes, the process for publishing a book has become, for lack of a better word, easy.  Anyone can do it; and it doesn't necessarily have to cost money, depending on the product the author is comfortable selling.  But artists sell their paintings on Etsy and musicians sell their music on CD Baby.  What's the difference?  Outlets for creative work are available for a reason; because real talent was going unrecognized by those guarding the gates.

Are my books all that?  I leave it to my readers to decide.  Will I, one day, be able to add the title of best-selling author to my books?  Time will tell.  It would be nice, don't get me wrong, but that's not the reason I self-publish.  I discovered a hidden well of creativity inside me, a true enjoyment for writing, and, truth be told, I like just letting the words flow.  More importantly, I like writing them my way, without someone standing over me critiquing this or deleting that.  I had enough of that during my school years. 

I believe creativity is subjective.  Different is good.  Writing a story shouldn't be like fixing a carburetor.  It's not the formulaic process many believe.  It's an art form; words are the medium rather than film or paint or notes. 

So, do me a favor.  Please stop equating self-publishing with less than.  Please stop undervaluing the time and effort I put into my art.  Will what I release ten years from now be better than what I released last month?  I sure as hell hope so.  I have no desire to churn out the same thing over and over.  I want to learn new techniques, apply them to my work, craft something beautiful and worthy of awe.  What artist doesn't?

Good or bad, I'm shaping my own future, and the responsibility as such lies squarely on my shoulders.  You know what?  I can live with that.

Now, go create something beautiful ...  

Monday, July 24, 2017

It took me 50 years...

On the eve of my fiftieth birthday, I've come to the conclusion that it's time for me to stop living life how I perceive I'm supposed to and start living life how I want to.  Having reached middle age - yes, I'd like to live to be one hundred - I appreciate how quickly time goes by and recognize how wasteful I've been with it over the years.

Let me explain...

My mom is a great cook.  During my childhood, family meals were prepared from scratch.  I remember many summers snapping bushels of green beans or shucking ears of corn as Mom whipped up delicious meals; our freezers (yes, plural) and pantry stocked full.  It was a huge treat to eat Kraft mac and cheese, and I used to trade homemade cookies for Oreos at school because that was the only way to get them.  To this day, Mom is happier in the kitchen than anywhere else.

I didn't inherit the cooking gene (although I do love to bake).  It's not that I wasn't taught.  Many a fond memory is of spending time with Mom as she chopped and stirred and baked.  The thing is, I have simple tastes, have since I was a kid, and since becoming a vegetarian they're even simpler.  I can (and have) eaten the same meal prepared over and over for weeks on end.  And my hubs likes different foods than I do, so we rarely end up eating the same thing.

Despite my inadequacy preparing haute cuisine, I've spent decades attempting to follow in my mother's footsteps, stocking my pantry full of ingredients that anyone other than me could whip up into a delicious meal with their eyes closed.  I've wasted countless amounts of money dumping those same ingredients into the garbage years after I bought them, having never touched them from the moment I placed them on the pantry shelf. 

Enter Amy's Kitchen.  Delicious, vegetarian meals straight from my grocer's freezer.  Yup, you read that right - they're frozen.  And they're microwavable. And they're delicious!  Did I mention that already?  Plus, low in fat, sugar, and calories, and high in flavor!!  Best of all, they're convenient!  And I've come to the point in my life where I value convenience over spending time doing something I don't want to do - cooking!

So, mealtime is now Amy's Kitchen time in the Raymond household.  There are tons of varieties to choose from (including vegan and gluten-free) so both the hubs and I are happy.  I haven't tried a single thing yet that I haven't enjoyed.  And not spending hours in the kitchen has freed me up to spend time doing what I do like.  Writing, hanging with the hubs, playing with the fur babies, experimenting with Photoshop. 

Do I feel guilty?  Nope.  Not anymore.  A week ago I would've given you a different answer, but as I turn the page on a new year I'm leaving that particular emotion behind.  Life's too short to waste time and energy trying to be someone I'm not.  And I'm not a cook.  Sorry, Mom.

Wherever you are in your life, be true to yourself.  If I've learned anything in fifty years, it's that.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

When setting goals isn't enough...

One of my favorite books is "Write It Down, Make It Happen" by Henriette Anne Klauser, and a year ago I did just that.  I took colored marker to whiteboard and recorded three (lofty) goals that I wanted to achieve before my next birthday (which is in nine days); all of them, to quote a colleague of mine, 'doable'.

Only I didn't.

I didn't meet a single one of the goals I jotted down; missed them by a mile, in fact.  Make that ten miles, and the reason is quite simple.  While I wrote my aspirations down in intricate detail, I didn't incorporate any strategy to reach them.  Duh!  Just knowing what I want isn't enough; I have to know how to get there.

Let's use this as an example - if I want to be in California, I can't just wish myself there.  I have to map out a course, navigate obstacles, increase or decrease my speed based on external conditions.  It's common sense.  Hell, if I want to go to the grocery store, I have to choose a route and follow it.  I may have several options, but I still need to pick one in order to move forward.  That's the crucial step I forgot when I wrote down my objectives.

So, here I am, a year later, no closer to the goals I set, but at least I realize why I didn't meet them.  Do I view it as a year lost?  Not at all.  For while I didn't hit those particular targets, several others were bulls-eyes.  I completed the Hidden Springs series, something I set out to do three-and-a-half years ago.  I hosted a successful book signing (Pages in the Caves) and am in the midst of planning a second one (Pages in the Caves 2.0).  I made new friends, interacted more with my readers thanks to my new and improved newsletter, wrote a new story for a yet-to-be-disclosed boxed set, and am halfway to completing the second book in the Celebration series.  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

What's next, you ask?

Well, the first thing is to make new goals for the next year - or maybe recycle the old ones - and include the steps I need to take to get me there, because without planning, it's all for naught.  Whatever I decide to do, I'll keep moving forward; meeting new challenges, side-stepping obstacles in my path when I can, and plowing through those that block my way. 

One of my favorite quotes is -  

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it.  The time will pass anyway.   ~ Earl Nightingale 

And it does pass.  Quickly.  Oh, so quickly.  So make a plan, write it down, walk your path no matter how long it takes, because one day you'll look up and find that you've arrived at your destination, and THAT will be a day worth celebrating!

Now, where did I put my dry-erase markers?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A thought to ponder...

When does the cost of a service outweigh the time and effort spent looking for, setting up, and using a less expensive one?

Here's what I'm talking about.  I use MailChimp as my email marketing provider.  I like their products, I know my way around their website, and I create pretty cool newsletters, in my humble opinion.  I'm also balancing on the precipice of needing to upgrade to a paid plan.  Yay!

Now, their pricing plan is good, but there are other email marketing providers whose pricing plans are better.  And, like many indie authors, I have to watch my pennies.  Literally.  I stack them up into little towers of shiny copper and...oh, sorry, got distracted there for a minute.  Back to what I was saying.

There are other providers out there that charge less than MailChimp.  I've looked at their plans, perused the websites, chatted with other authors who use those providers, even set up an account at one.  And while $15 or $20 a month may not be a fortune to some, the difference in cost between these service plans adds up, eating into an already meager marketing budget.

Which brings me back to my question.  At what point does the cost of paying an extra $15 a month to send my newsletter outweigh the time and effort it'll take me to learn how to create a new template, transfer my subscribers, change all of the 'sign up for my newsletter' links floating around (including in the back of my books, which I'll have to have updated), and learn how to analyze the data?

I guess the simple answer is, when I don't have the money to pay the difference.  Yeah, I get that.  But here's what it comes down to.  I like MailChimp.  I know how to use MailChimp.  I make pretty newsletters with MailChimp.  And I HATE learning how to use new products.  There!  I said it!! 

While I recognize that change is inevitable (the fact that I can no longer buy Bare Elegance body wash attests to that), I despise it.  I like what I like and I want to use what I like for the rest of my life.  I'm not a new-and-improved kind of gal.  (Do you hear me, Facebook?)  I'm the person who orders four pair of the same exact shoes so that when one pair wears out, I'll have a replacement.  Why not find a different pair of shoes, you ask?  Oh, the horror!!

So the thought of switching marketing providers in order to save some cash gives me cold sweats, especially when I'm perfectly satisfied with MailChimp.  Yeah, I know, I'm weird.  But I doubt I'm alone.  I think (hope) there are others like me out there somewhere who will gladly shell out a few extra bucks for the convenience of keeping the service they like.  What's that saying?  "If it ain't broke, don't fix it?"

I'm sure there's a tipping point, when the cost of service will be more than I can manage, but for right now I think I'll stay where I'm at and pay the difference.  I'll call it a 'cost of convenience' charge.  And hopefully, MailChimp won't get any bright ideas to change what already works because, honestly, I don't want an additional reason to leave them.

Now, back to my pennies...