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2017 Year-End Reflection AND 10 Reasons Why I Plan on 2018 Being Even Better!

Soon, the year 2018 will roll on in. Looking back to all that I’ve accomplished, in spite of the struggle and medical hardships (yup, maybe I’ll share that someday), I can finally admit that I’m amazed and proud of myself.

Before I sat down to type this post, I had to think back on every single thing I did in order to own this feeling and not dismiss it. My mother and father raised me to always strive to be better. So, I blame them. Thank you, Mommy and Daddy. Thank you ever so much. Lol.

For most of you that know me on a more personal level, you know it’s hard for me to express such affirmations and truly, TRULY own them.

So, without further adieu, here are 10 Accomplishments in 2017 I’m MOST PROUD OF:

1. Attended various local author events at bookstores, libraries, and conventions.

2. Republished Forbidden as an e-book (now if only I can finish it up as a paperback)!

3. Independently published my first middle grade book (Waking Dream Series). Due to the fact that I struggle with marketing books like other Indie authors, I’ve decided that WHEN (not if) I become traditionally published, I’ll still put 100% into social media and marketing, but I hope that I’ll have more time to dedicate to writing. Being an Indie author is HARD! And yes, the stigma of independently publishing books is slowly disappearing it isn’t completely extinct!

indies what we are

Read more about Being an Indie Author here.

4. Celebrated my sons’ birthdays (17, 5, and 2).

5. Wedding Anniversary – 🙂

6. Submitted several manuscripts to agents and publishers! Sure, I received rejections! But if you don’t try, you won’t succeed!

7. Applied for artists grants.

8. Sold my FIRST PAID short story, “Bondye Bon” to FIYAH Literary Magazine. Learn more so you can purchase your copy in January here!

9. Created YouTube Channel that’s in need of some serious, serious attention! 😉

10. Connected with more bloggers, readers, writers, and friends all over the world!

With you and your stimulating social interactions, I’ve become a better writer!

Thank-you-word-cloud

 

 

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What Do Recurring Themes Say About You as a Writer?

recurring dreams

According to HowStuffWorks.com,

Many people have the same or a similar dream many times, over either a short period of time or their lifetime. Recurring dreams usually mean there is something in your life you’ve not acknowledged that is causing stress of some sort. … In this case, the dreams tend to lessen with time.

I’ve had recurring dreams, but the main point of this post is to discuss recurring themes in writing. I think that the themes we express creatively, like dreams, often reveal a lot about us.

A little while ago, I needed to go back and look at some work I did over a decade ago. I ended up pulling out floppy disks (yup), flash drives, and paper copies of work.

floppy neckchain

Ahhh. Floppy disks — as retro as Flavor Flav.

flavor flav

You see, there’s a grant that I’m really interested in winning (finalists won’t be announced for quite some time) and when I attended the workshop to learn more, the facilitator shared that applying artist were encouraged to reflect upon past work (none could be older than 15 years) and analyze it critically in order to improve the work.

I found short stories, novellas, poems, flash fiction from when I was a teenager. I also noticed a trend in writing themes I’ve maintained over a decade late. Here’s a taste:

Death

Family — blessing or curse

Love Conquerors All

Immortality

Oppression of women

Words have power

Evils of racism

All those years ago, I didn’t know that these stories fell into the speculative fiction category. Heck, I didn’t even know that I was genre writing. I just wrote because it made me feel better. I wrote in order to channel my passions and sometimes despair in an artistic manner. The themes I write about often transcend what’s happening in our current world. In other words, the settings I create don’t exist based on the world as we know it now. At times, it’s comforting to speculate. And at times, it’s downright terrifying too.

Speculative Fiction Diagram_Annie Neugebauer

This diagram (thanks to Annie Neugebauer) for this great visual of how far-reaching speculative fiction is. And the possibilities seem endless. 

I’m actively looking for an agent that will help me to reach my next goal: a home with a traditional publishing house. Some of my friends and families say, “Hey, just write a memoir. Or write in a hot niche category that will get you published quickly. Once you get your foot in the door, then, you can write whatever you want.”

I considered this route. Sucked on it like candy, before spitting it out. I realized if I write something I don’t love, or something that isn’t a part of me, I’m not being true to who I am.

It’d be like one of those cringe-worthy romance-comedy (less on the comedy part) movies where The Girl (me) changes who she is so the School Hunk (publisher/agent) notices her and takes her to the prom (publishing contract). And heck, maybe a year or so later they’ll get married and have a bunch of kids (royalty check + sequels and New York Times Bestseller List).

Reaching my goal as a successful Indie author has been hard. I’m a face-to-face kind of gal. I sometimes kiss with my eyes wide open, break out into random songs, or dance in the rain, and marketing from behind a keyboard isn’t my idea of a “good time”.

So, back to the recurring themes . . .

My first PAID short story, “Bondye Bon” will be published in Fiyah Lit Magazine’s Ahistorical Blackness (January Edition). I remained who I am. The story includes themes such as death, family, oppression of women, the evils of racism, and so much more.

Writers, what themes often appear in your writing? What do you think they say about you and your craft? Readers, what kind of themes do you especially enjoy appearing in the stories you read? Please share in the comments!

 

How Million Yen Women Inspired My Revised Author Wish List!

wish-list

On Twitter, I discovered this hashtag: #MSWL. For those of you who don’t know, it stands for Manuscript Wish List. There’s even a website dedicated to this where agents and editors can share with writers what kind of manuscripts they specifically want in their inboxes!

Groovy, baby. Just groovy.

As a writer, I’ve always had a wish list of my own and it was simple:

  1. Find an agent or publisher
  2. Get published
  3. Sell books
  4. Quit day job
  5. Write for pay all day, every day! 🙂

Unfortunately, my journey toward becoming a best-selling writer hasn’t been simple to achieve. In between going to college to have a career to support my oldest son (almost two decades ago it was just the two of us); working full-time as a teacher; writing a book or two while pregnant, vomiting, nursing, crying, and living “the dream” (fake it until you make it) I didn’t think it would EVER happen. Sure, I independently published a book and had my first novel published (unfortunately, the publisher went out of business shortly after), but it wasn’t enough to quit teaching. Heck, it wasn’t even enough to make a car payment. Or a cell phone payment. Or even enough to buy a box of Tic Tacs (ha, ha — okay, I exaggerate it was enough to buy 12 packs of Tic Tacs!)

So, lately I’ve been submitting short stories, picture book manuscripts, and trying to complete another novel in order to return to that above wish list. And as time marches on, I get anxious, depressed (I may share more on that at another time), and feel hopeless that my dream to work as a full-time author will never come true.

And after watching “Million Yen Women” (it’s based on the manga series, “100 man yen no Onna tachi” by Shunju Aonoon) on Netflix, I have a new wish list. 🙂

I won’t spoil the series for you because I hope that you take advantage of the fresh satisfaction of watching it soon. Oh, so very soon.

I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Especially to other writers because even though Japan possesses different cultural views in comparison to those in the United States of America, both countries share a similar perspective when it comes to the publishing industry and marketing.

The main character, Shin Michima, is considered a poor novelist, but one day that begins to change when he’s visited by five beautiful women who live with him. Each women has a role to play, but their purpose for being there is shrouded in mystery. Oh, and he’s not allowed to ask them ANY questions or enter their rooms. Now, why would Shin want to allow five, strange women into his home? Well, they pay him a million yen for every month they live there! As the story unfolds, you learn a lot about what it often takes for a writer (even one who is considered a failure, like Shin) to become a hot, best-selling superstar!

My (Revised) Author Wish List

  1. An Ally with Connections, like Hitomi. She’s the daughter of a deceased, famous novelist.

    Hitomi Tsukamoto

    Hitomi Tsukamoto

  2. A Dedicated Following (even one person would suffice — not including my husband –I love you, bae, but you can’t count!)

    Dedicated Following

    Nanaka Hiraki – pop singer and actress

  3. A Ride or Die Editor like Mr. Sakurai. He’ll guarantee a bidding war for your book. He’ll push to have the right amount of copies sold! Sakurai san

  4. A Manga-styled Harem (if I wasn’t married, of course — heh heh). So, we’ll go with someone to kick my behind whenever I fall into self-pity. Every writer needs a Minami Shirakawa in their inner circle. She’s loyal, she won’t settle for anything but your best, and she’ll give you her all. She’s my favorite character in the entire series! 🙂

    Minami Shirakawa

    Minami Shirakawa: my fictitious BFF

    A Fan Club that Hosts and/or Attends all of My Events!you need a fanclub

Have an author wish list? Share yours in the comments!

 

 

Had I But Known . . . Or, You Wrote it, Now Sell It!

circular stair

According to Mr. Wikipedia, “‘Had I but known’ is a form of foreshadowing that hints at some looming disaster in which the main character laments his or her course of action that came before some other series of unfortunate events or actions and classically, the narrator never makes explicit the nature of the mistake until both the narrator and the reader have realized the consequence of the error. If done well, this literary device can add suspense or dramatic irony; if overdone, it invites comparison of the story to Victorian melodrama and sub-standard popular fiction.”

And if I had but known that Indie publishing that would lead me on a roller coaster ride of euphoria, despair, anxiety, and relief (in no particular order) I most likely wouldn’t have bothered.

Most likely and yet here I am! 🙂

Dark Night of the Soul

The phrase, “dark night of the soul” has evolved into meaning the difficulties of life. And writers often use it to describe the hard time they’re having writing. And Indie authors like myself use it to reflect the struggle we experience trying to be recognized on the same plane as traditionally published writers.

Indie Publishing isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t for the hobbyists that dabbles in writing and doesn’t care about gaining readers and making money off of their literary works. And that’s fine. But I’m a believer that doing what you love for a living is the best of both worlds.

As I research ways of becoming noticeable and gaining more clout, I noticed that financially successful authors provide lots of gimmicks that have worked for them and share these tips with less prosperous writers (sometimes for a price):

Free book giveaways

$0.99 Book deals

Blog Reviews

Dedication and Drive

And so many more bits of advice. To someone new to Indie publishing, like me, it is overwhelming. Especially when you have to juggle important factors — family, a spouse, and a full-time job — to name a few.

But even after implementing these strategies, some authors still can’t sell a single book. Or even break even with how much money they had invested in their work. For example, I’ve invested close to $2,000 in my career as an Indie author. The dollar amount includes:

  • Book covers (custom designed)
  • Editing and proofreading
  • Marketing (business cards, flyers, promotions)
  • Author website (hosting)
  • Paperback copies of book

Self-publishing isn’t free and it most certainly isn’t cheap.

Which brings me to an interesting statistic. As of 2016, close to 40 authors on Amazon  have sold over 1,000,000 ebooks. Yes, you read that correctly. FORTY!

crying

“NOOOO! It’s too horrible! Damn lies and statistics! Lies!”

40 self-published authors “make money”, all the others, and they number in the hundreds of thousands, don’t. This interesting statistic, recently revealed in a New York Times article, applies to the Kindle Store, but since Amazon is in fact the largest digital publishing platform in the world, it is a safe bet that self-published authors are not doing much better anywhere else. (from https://claudenougat.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/only-40-self-published-authors-are-a-success-says-amazon/)

With statistics like this, one could just throw up their hands and give up. Statistics like this are demoralizing.

On the other hand, when you read articles like this, the future of Indie publishing looks more promising than ever. According to the linked article, almost a decade ago, writers who self-published were viewed as failures. Fast-forward to present day and now many of these Indie authors are making a fortune. Whether these authors have earned a quarter of a million dollars or even $10,000 they’re making more money doing it alone than relying on gate-keeping publishers and their contracts.

$10,000! Wow, I’d be happy if I made even $1,000. So, I shall carry on.

For Art or Money? Or Both?

Let’s revisit the argument on why writers write. Is it less noble to expect payment as starving artist believe? I write for pleasure. I write to vent. I write because I’m compelled to. If I don’t write, I don’t feel right.

Likewise, once I’ve published a book – one of my literary creations – and place it for sale, I expect to get something in return. I expect recognition in some way, shape, or form for all of the time I invested into that book. Money, for example, is a primary indicator of success in many societies. So, my motivation is a little bit of both – art and money. Nothing wrong with that.

Cave of Obscurity

caves

Amazon is like a vast rain forest filled with merchandise that consumers go spelunking for. As an Indie author, braving the cyberspace landscape, (most likely on Amazon.com) you want exploring customers (potential readers) to discover YOU and quit clicking for something else. Unfortunately, rain forests, (like the actual geographical Amazonian rain forest) also possess caves where explorers can get lost. And on Amazon.com, you’re competing with other books that have more marketing clout and exposure than you do.

It doesn’t take long to realize that due to the residual stigma of self-publishing, most Indie authors are at a disadvantage.

Giant_Competition

David and Goliath? Little dude, use your briefcase!

Forget the so-called gatekeepers of publishing. Flesh-eating trolls who stalk the many cave tunnels are a much bigger threat.

And each year, the amount of titles increases, thus raising the likelihood that your precious literary baby will end up in the cave of obscurity – a place where no one will find it. Ever.

Heck, all the hours of writing, researching, building a platform, etc. don’t mean much if readers can’t find the culminating product of your effort, and read it, then share it.

As of 2016, over 4 million titles are available compared with 600,000 (amount of titles six years ago). The market is overly saturated with books. Notice I didn’t say “good books”, but books in general. Not all books are created equal. So, in order for readers to discover your book, you have to stand out in the crowd! For example, I published my first middle-grade fiction book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I wanted to have it available with as many distributors I could gain. I plan to add more distributors and vendors in the months to come. To test Barnes & Nobles’ search engines, I typed in the key words I had laboriously chosen so readers could find my book.

Not one of the words worked.

Even when I typed in my author name with the title, I couldn’t find the book. 😦

And even when I typed in the title of the book, the subtitle, and my author name: nothing! I learned from other authors who published with B&N that the search engine is setup “like that” and I wondered why. I contacted B&N and asked for an explanation. I was given a sprawling response that went in a hundred different directions, but not an answer to my question.

Perhaps, B&N wants to keep Indie authors like me in the cave of obscurity.

descent crawler

Wow. Just wow. You’r really gonna do me like that?

There’s a good argument for that conclusion. I had planned on doing a book signing at the B&N close to my home and now I’m not so sure I want to commit to that. Why? Because after speaking with the manager of an actual brick-and-mortar store, I learned that as an Indie author, you have to sell your books on consignment. In other words, you purchase the paperback copies, bring them to the store and then have B&N customers purchase the book with a cashier at the front of the store. And this is the part that pisses me off. It can take up to six months for B&N to pay you the 40% that they OWE YOU. Sometimes longer.

Time will tell whether or not I will work with them. Will I recommend publishing books to other authors with Barnes & Noble? At this time, based on what happened . . . most likely not.

You Gotta Be . . .

On another note, I recently read a book on free promotion after seeing it on Facebook. And when I learned the author was an Indie author like myself, I felt even more indebted to help the said author out! However, when I read the first page, disappointment seized me and I had to set the book aside. For the past two weeks, I return to the book occasionally to remind myself of what not to do. The book was published in 2011 and has not a single review. I feel bad for the writer because I think he/she (I won’t specify the gender) thinks the book was publishable. Even though, there were hundreds of grammar and spelling errors. Even sadder, I think he or she was so excited to even have a book published that he/she threw caution to the wind and clicked the published button as soon as possible. I’ve been there! Done that! But, due to the amount of competition, readers will pass your book by and move onto one they deem better and worth an investment of their time.

Number of Book Sales doesn’t = Talent

The amount of book sales doesn’t reflect how talented an author is. If book sales were an indicator then the strange phenomena of crappy books selling millions of copies wouldn’t occur or wonderful books only selling few or none.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Yet.

Writing is a poor man’s job where only a minority of writers are able to pursue their craft full-time and make a living from it. I laugh when my students ask me, “So, are you rich now?” after they learned I’ve published two books. The first book I had to republish because I lost my publisher when they went out of business. My students assume that every writer can be J.K. Rowling, a rags-to-riches single mother who created a $15 million dollar brand and has a net worth estimated to be less than $1 billion.

rollingrowling

I can only aspire to reach that status.

reach for the moon

I love writing and will most likely continue to do so. However, “had I but known” that the art of writing would change, I would have focused more on creating manga and graphic novels. So, I may have to change venues and write for television series, video games, Netflix, et cetera. You know, societies latest panacea for their social ills.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my day job and work, write, work, write, work.

Get some motivation by listening to the talented and beautiful, Des’ree’s song “You Gotta Be“.