Category Archives: Personal

Stuff about me, my process, or my writing.

The Casual Cyclist’s Guide to @RAGBRAI_IOWA Training Terms

Are you training for Ragbrai? I am! Taking time out from writing every day is something of a hardship for my publication schedule, but I’m doing it anyway. And hey, we all need a little more exercise in the spring. Or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, these are some important terms relating to cycling that you may not have heard before in this context.

Rain (n.): The thing that happens every time I get on my bike between September and July; What causes copious spots on my glasses, thus making cycling more exciting.

Gear Denial (n.): That moment when you could shift to a lower gear, but really just don’t wanna; laziness.

Iowa Flat (adj.): Any cycling route that’s 20-25% flat. Compare to Texas Flat (90-95%) or Cascadia Flat (0.5%).

Hill (n.): Any segment of road that requires you to shift to an easier gear; uphill.

Mountain (n.): Any segment of road that requires you to step off your bike and walk; A section of road for which your training goal is total domination and/or subjugation.

Downhill rest (n.): The precious few moments for breathing you hope will come after the hill.

Water bottle (n.): The thing you forgot to slip into the cage on your bike frame, thus necessitating you cut your ride short to avoid dehydration; the thing you dropped in the middle of the hill which turns said hill into a mountain.

Helmet (n.): The thing you damned well better turn around and go put on as soon as you notice you forgot it, dumbass.

Car (n.): Artillery round; The enemy.

Tired (adj.): How you feel when you could go five more miles, but you’d rather stop and check your email on your phone until you stop panting and/or sweating so much.

Exhausted (adj.): How you feel when five more miles will probably kill you, but you do it anyway because that’s how far you are from home; A sign you’re not ready for Ragbrai yet.

Happy cycling!

Working the Table: Getting Started as an #Indie at Conventions

Someone asked me recently how much money it really costs to get ready to work your first convention. What’s a good level of investment to plan on fielding for that first show? They asked me because I do this a fair amount, and have even co-authored a book on the subject.

Shameless self-promotion works! Sometimes.

I gave an off-the-cuff estimate of $200-300, then started thinking about the real answer. What’s the minimum needed to work a table, and what’s the minimum needed to be successful working a table?

The minimum expenses:

  1. Books. It’s challenging to sell books that you don’t have on hand.
  2. The table fee.
  3. Transportation costs–gas, parking, airfare, etc.
  4. Food.
  5. At least one pen–for signing your books.
  6. Something to hold cash and some bills to make change with.

These six things are the absolute minimum. At many shows, you’ll be given a table with skirting and sign attached to the front with your name in block letters. You can get by with this if you’re on a tight budget. New vendors manage with this all the time. This minimalist option lets you squeak by on little more than the cost of your books. Your setup and teardown time will be short, and you’ll have little to transport.

To really succeed, you’ll need to invest a bit more:

  1. Some sort of promotional handout–bookmarks and business cards are always winners. An informal poll of other authors reveals these two are the best bang for the buck in promotion. This type of thing is cheaper per piece when you buy in bulk, so get as many as you can afford at once.
  2. A way to accept credit cards–I use and recommend Square, which requires either a data connection or internet on the device you attach it to.
  3. A reseller permit, which requires a business license in your state. This allows you to buy copies of your own books without having to pay sales tax for that transaction. (Obviously, if your state doesn’t assess sales tax, you don’t need this, but you’ll still need the business license).
  4. Some sort of large promotional graphic thing with your name and/or your series name. Many authors and artists get a retractable banner to put behind their chair and a second banner for the front of the table. Other options include a table banner of 1.5-3 feet in height, a backdrop with a frame, a custom printed table cloth, and a banner with a stand. You can find a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
  5. A trade show tablecloth like this one. This isn’t necessary, but it makes your display look more professional.
  6. Book stands like these or these. I highly recommend these two types as cheap, reliable, inconspicuous, stable, and easy to both use and store.
  7. Some method of transporting your stuff between the table and your vehicle. I use one of these, but it’s overkill if you only have a few titles. A foldup handcart like this one or this one is a good starting option, depending on how you store your books.
  8. A plastic bin or similar container to hold pens, bookmarks/cards, book stands, and other whatnot.

Keep in mind that the more you add to your display, the longer setup and teardown will take. At most shows, I have a complex display with ~40 titles that takes 45-60 minutes for both setup and teardown, and it takes me, on average, three trips to my car. By contrast, the minimalist with 1-3 titles needs 5-10 minutes, and an average indie with 3-5 titles will need about half an hour.

In total, aside from the table fee and transportation, a good, solid start needs about $400 for books, banners, bookmarks, and odds & ends. If you can catch sales for banners and similar items, you can keep the costs lower. The good news is that many of these items won’t need to be repurchased for every show, so your costs come down to books, table fees, bookmark/card replacement, and transportation for subsequent shows.

Good luck, and don’t forget to order your books well in advance!

Single on VDay #BikerChicks #Romance #MC

…And happy about it.

Valentine’s Day has always been a day I’ve looked at with the intent to do something nice for someone else. In my youth, I thought that meant buying a card and signing it. Later, I thought it meant spending extra time to prepare a special meal. Now, I’m pretty sure it means to get my mom some flowers while she still copes with the loss of my dad.

Do I care in the slightest that I haven’t got a special someone of some sort? Nope. Not a jot. Am I happy for you if you do? Yep. Does it bother me to see pictures of engagement rings, elaborate romantic gestures, or remembrances about how many years other people have been together? Nope. It does bother me a smidge when I see people gushing over romantic movies that I don’t think actually are. A bit. A trifle. But taste is what it is, and I’m not chuffed that other folks like stuff I don’t.

Am I kind of a hippie? Maybe.

I would like to take a moment of your time to pimp a charity anthology a friend of mine cares deeply about. It’s erotica romance, something I read from time to time when the story interests me. So if that’s not your bag or you happen to be a minor, I hope you have a pleasant day and find a way to spread a little love and/or happiness today. And stay tuned for an announcement about Ghost Is the New Normal next week!

Biker Chicks 3 is the third in a series of anthologies for which the profits go to BACA–Bikers Against Child Abuse. I’m happy to provide support to that notable group.

BIKER CHICKS is full of sexy stories about women who ride, whether they be lone wolves or part of a gang. Some of the best authors in MC romance along with some new names and faces to the genre tell us how these strong women find the sexual satisfaction and romance we all long for, for one of the best causes.

Authors in this Anthology include…

Susan Child
MariaLisa deMora
A.J. Downey
Emma Lee
Vera Quinn
K. Renee
Bibi Rizer
G.M. Scherbert
Erin Trejo

#Christmas In London

When my dad began chemo, he asked me one important question.

“Is there anything you haven’t done that you’d really like to?”

I had plenty of smartass answers, but I blurted out the real one anyway. For a long time, I’ve wanted to go to England and see a real castle. He chose to make that a reality for me, so here I am, spending my Christmas holiday in London. It’s been somewhat surreal. I’ve had proper tea, eaten in a dozen types of restaurant, and seen Stonehenge (I understand that last one is required by law of all tourists, or something like that). Still have a few things on my list, and a few days left to do it all.

This all started, of course, with a disaster. December 17th at Early o’clock, I took my kids to the airport to discover our flight had been cancelled (notice issued while we were already in the car). Southwest couldn’t get us onto another flight until Monday, which would not do. I had a flight Sunday morning to London. I dragged my kids, one crying and the other cranky huffing, across the airport and found another flight to Washington, DC.

Naturally, this didn’t go smoothly. We wound up in Detroit for way too long as our flight got delayed, and then delayed again. Half past midnight, we landed in DC. The kids went with their dad and I hunkered down in Dulles to not sleep for a few hours until my flight to London that morning.

But wait. It gets better. 6am, waiting for a Delta flight to JFK to get to the cross-Atlantic flight, the agent at the gate pointed out that the flight to JFK arrived at the departure time for the London flight, which clearly wouldn’t work. Apparently, the JFK flight had been schedule changed at some point, making the connection impossible. She rebooked me onto the later London flight direct from DC to London.

For fun, because Dad was footing the bill and it’s a long flight, I’d gotten first class on Virgin America. In case anyone is curious, they have a lounge at Dulles for first class passengers. The later flight required an 8 hour or so wait, most of which got spent napping and nibbling in that lounge. Thank goodness for that lounge. Over the course of about 30 hours, I’d gotten maybe 3 hours of sleep in 30-45 minute bursts. In that lounge, I napped again. On the flight, I practically passed out, but only for 4 hours.

Oh, and they have a lounge on the other end too. With showers. Which came in handy since I arrived at 8am and the hotel had a 3pm check-in time. And then, finding food and crashing for much sleep.

An adventure, to be sure.

For the record, The Virgin and Delta employees I interacted with were extremely nice and helpful. I’ve been a Southwest customer for a while, because cheap. I’m rethinking that now. Cheap != best.

Happy holidays. May yours be less exhausting than mine. Unless you like exhausting holidays. Some people are like that. More power to ya.

Year-End Wrapup #amwriting

Because I’ll be traveling from now until January, and 2016 has been the worst year ever, I thought now might be a good time to talk about some of the really good things that happened this year.

I’m thinking.

Hm. This is a tougher topic than I thought.

I jest. Here is a full list of everything I released or was published in this year, in order. That’s a good start. You can find all these listed on my Amazon profile page.

Dragons In Chains audiobook
Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions
Dragons In Flight audiobook
SK 2: Backyard Dragons
SK 3: Ethereal Entanglements
Merely This And Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk
Unnatural Dragons
TGS 4: Illusive Echoes
Superheroes In Denim
Missing Pieces VII
Darkside Seattle: Street Doc
Girls Can’t Be Knights audiobook
Artifact (mistakenly credited as Emily French)
Backyard Dragons audiobook

The work for the Ethereal Entanglements audiobook is almost done, and it’ll be released in January. And at the moment, I have a handful of stories waiting for publication, another handful waiting for revision, a few half-finished draft 1-1.5s, and a couple of outlines waiting in the queue. Don’t expect me to slow down in 2017.

These are all the conventions my books appeared at for sale (in some cases without me). This list doesn’t include 11 non-convention-type events, and it’s possible I forgot something.

OrcaCon
Rustycon
MythicWorlds
Radcon
Portland Spring Home & Garden Show
Norwescon
The Brass Screw Confederacy
Westercon
CapitalIndieBookCon
GenCon
MaLCon
MidAmericon II (WorldCon)
Rose City Comic Con
Steamposium
GeekGirlCon
Portland Fall Home & Garden Show
Central City Comic Con
Renton City Comic Con
Jet City Comic Show
Eucon
OryCon

Put those two lists together, and it’s fair to say I did a lot of stuff this year. Sometimes it was exhausting, sometimes it was frustrating, and sometimes it was boring as hell. But most of the time, it was awesome. In 2017, this list will be shorter. Because it was a tough schedule to keep, and I would like to spend more time on the writing part than the selling part.

Oh, and then there’s this one other, little thing. Trifling, really. Minor. Not a big deal.

I lied. IT’S TOTALLY A BIG DEAL. SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, is sort of like the union for professional F/SF writers (of the American variety). It’s been around since before I was born, and has always been, to me, a kind of pie-in-the-sky thing to belong to. Real F/SF authors belong to that. Last week, my inbox included a message opening with this:sfwaapprove

This couldn’t have happened without two very important people. First, you. Anyone who bought a copy of Girls Can’t Be Knights or read it on KU is responsible for this. Thank you, you’re awesome! Please consider writing a review if you haven’t and also reading book 2 and 3 (*bright smile*). Second, Cat Rambo, whose rise to the position of President of SFWA made it possible for indies like me to join the organization without a traditional book contract. Also, Cat is a wonderful, supportive person and amazing writer. Read Beasts of Tabat if you haven’t yet.

Hopefully, despite all the horrible crap that’s happened this year, you also have some bright spots and accomplishments to look back on and bask in. As we plunge into the deepest, darkest part of the year, hold onto those and take a day to enjoy whatever you can with whomever you consider family. 2017 is looking like it might also be a bumpy ride.

Let It Snow. Not.

Some readers may be aware I lived in Worcester, MA for several years before moving to Olympia, WA a little over two years ago. In Worcester, we routinely had snow by Christmas. Over the course of any given winter, we got between five to seven feet of the stuff, averaging around six feet.

One of the big draws of Olympia was the lack of snow. In an average winter, Olympia gets between one and two feet. These past two winters, the weather managed to produce a few mornings with a bit of ice on the road, and several with frost on the plants. About which I cheered, because I have had enough of snow shoveling to last me forever, thanks.

SNOW

The view out my front door in Worcester during a blizzard in 2014. This was daytime. We wound up with about 2 feet of snow from that event, if memory serves. It took most of a day to dig out that 40 feet of driveway.

I understand the lack of snow here has been abnormal, and that’s fine. I’ve enjoyed it, though. My son has enjoyed it less, because he liked the days off school and sledding. My autistic daughter is perfectly fine with no snow. She hates wearing her coat and likes going to school. So, 2/3 of us win.

It snowed here in Olympia. In this case, I use the word “snowed” loosely.

20161205_0850501

I had to search to find the newspaper because it wound up on the grass and got covered with snow. The horror!

I looked outside in the darkness of early morning and saw snow falling in the glow of a streetlamp. Great, fluffy, fat flakes hit the pavement and promptly melted. All the glory of snow, no shoveling and no snow days.

This is the best place ever.

By the way, the audiobook for Backyard Dragons releases today. Just mentioning it. And if you’re interested, I can confirm that at least two short stories from the Spirit Knights series will be published in anthologies this year. Another anthology will contain an Ilauris short!

#NaNoWinner2016 Finally

On the 23rd, I finally finished my ninth NaNo this year. That’s the longest it’s ever taken me, and more than twice as long as my previous longest (10 days). But I still finished.

And here’s why it took so long. I’ve already discussed the beginning of the month. Now, the end.

On November 17th, at about 2am, my father passed away in our home from complications of prostate cancer. He spent about four weeks in hospice care. As you might imagine, this impacted my ability to write. I needed two days to recover from just the loss of sleep that night.

2016 NaNoWriMo Wordcount Stats. Conveniently with a minimal number of numbers.

Thank goodness I don’t make productivity bar graphs all the time.

To finish NaNo, I had to set aside Spirit Knights 4 in favor of some short stories I plan to submit to various places. For some reason, a series of books about death are hard to work on right now. Go figure. My wordcount also sputtered after I crossed the magical 50k line, as it often does.

If you’re still reaching for the finish line, keep on truckin’. You have two more days. If you’re nowhere near finishing, keep on truckin’. You have the rest of your life. If you’re already finished, keep on truckin’. When one story ends, another begins.

For my Spirit Knights fans, I still anticipate releasing book 4 in time for Norwescon (mid-April). As far as I’m concerned, four months is plenty of time to write and release a book, and it’s half done already. And while you’re waiting, audiobooks for this series are a thing! Girls Can’t Be Knights released earlier this month, Backyard Dragons releases in early December, and Ethereal Entanglements is on schedule for an early January release. With luck, book 4 will release simultaneously with its audiobook.

For my The Greatest Sin fans, we’re expecting to get book 5 out by June. We’re also working on audiobooks for the first four, and hope to begin releasing those in 2017. We’ll probably catch up to release both print and audio at the same time with book 6. If you’ve read and loved them, please take a minute to leave a review.

For my Maze Beset fans, stay tuned for short story news! And if you want a fresh short story from me, regardless of the ‘verse it resides in, I’ve been published in a few anthologies this year: Into the Woods, Merely This and Nothing MoreUnnatural Dragons, and Artifact.