Finding the time to write

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeHello! Welcome to yet another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post ūüôā Today’s topic is “How do you find the time to write in your busy day?” Visit the Main Page and hop around to all the other great posts on this topic! And if you are an insecure writer yourself, join the hop! It’s fun and very supportive.

I have to admit to not writing much lately. Part of it has been due to busy days. Summer vacation for my kids means no real breaks for me. Not that I’m complaining, really. I spent my summer camping, going to the beach, and doing all kinds of fun stuff with my two favorite people in the world: my babies ‚̧

But another reason for my not finding time to write has just been lack of drive to do so. I’ve found myself wondering why I even do it. Why create things not many people are interested in reading? No matter how much I love my work, and no matter how much I try to “write for myself,” I have to admit it often feels pointless.

My most “successful” story so far is¬†Bound, a m/m Romance about a man in a wheelchair and his return to mild BDSM. It’s a free story, which is why I put the quotes around successful. I still consider it a success, because people have enjoyed it and I’m proud of it, but it’s not a money maker. It wasn’t written to be a money maker, though, it was written as part of a free anthology. So there is no disappointment in its lack of earnings, only pride in its popularity.¬†If I could re-create that feeling with my other books‚ÄĒthat distance from the “commercial” market‚ÄĒthen maybe I could regain some of the joy in writing. If anyone knows the trick to this, please, please tell me! In the meantime, I’m fighting the worry that what I write is not marketable (because it usually isn’t) and that has been a real hindrance to my desire to make time for writing.

I’m hoping to start a new job soon, though, only part time but I hope it might give some structure to my days and maybe that will get me writing again. The kids are back in school ūüė¶ and the summer is nearly over, so the beach is less of a distraction, too. I’m confident I can make some time for writing again.

What about you? Have you managed to make a writing schedule? Or do you write in small bits, whenever you can spare a moment? Do you struggle to find time to write, or do you make it a priority? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below¬†(click on the title of this post if you’re on my main page & comments are not visible) and tell me about your writing.

What was your first writing?

Hello! Welcome to another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post ūüôā It seems these are all I post, lately… Sorry about that. I will try to get more active in posting to this blog.Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

This week’s IWSG question is: “What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?”

My first piece of writing was an erotic short story I called “guilty pleasures.” It was pretty awful. I kept thinking about it, though, and I couldn’t stop writing it. The weird thing was that even though it was a very smutty piece of writing, I didn’t really feel very aroused about it. (Sorry if that is TMI.) It just came to me as a powerful little story and so I wrote it down. I’d never written any fiction, at least not seriously, before.¬†But this story I did feel kind of serious about, and I published it myself on Amazon, because I could. ūüôā

I never told anyone about it, although I had to tell my husband. I had to explain what I was doing on the computer so much! LOL!¬†When I sold my first copy, I was sure he had bought it. I confronted him, and he reminded me that he didn’t even know my pen name. That feeling of knowing that a complete stranger was reading the crazy (and embarrassing) words I’d written was probably the weirdest emotion I’d ever experienced.¬†casual man acting as a fortune teller

I went on to write two follow-up novellas, and one of them was essentially a m/m romance. That one (honest desires) sold quite a bit, and that success led me to focus more on m/m stuff. But my heart still beats strongest for menage stories. ‚̧

I unpublished¬†Guilty Pleasures¬†a while later. (Though I did leave it out there for much too long. If you bought the first version: I’m so, so sorry.) Last year I revised it and re-published it under my “new” erotica name, AC Bishop. So if you want to read it, you can now find it here. No one ever buys it anymore. It is a very dirty fairy-tale type story, m/m/f menage,¬†a little on the kinky side. I probably should be way more embarrassed than I am about it!

Anyway, what about you? What was the first thing you ever “seriously” wrote? What happened to it? I’d love to hear! ūüôā

The best reviews

Hi! This is a post for the insecure writer’s support group. Join us! Visit the main page here to browse the other postings and sign up.¬†Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

Today’s question is:¬†“What is the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?”¬†

What an awesome thing to consider. ūüôā I don’t often think about the positive responses my writing garners, and I really should.

The things I treasure most are the e-mails readers have sent me. Mainly because they are unsolicited (as opposed to a review on a book blog or an ARC review, which I’ve outright asked for) and so I feel much more strongly about those little encouraging notes, even if they are short or vague, because I know they represent a genuine appreciation for my work. Those are probably the best things anyone has ever said about my writing, really. If you are a reader who has written me, or another author, thank you. ‚̧ You are fantastic.

The best line from a review I ever received publicly was this one:

 It’s hard to say why I gave it five stars, other than I just really enjoyed it completely in a way I rarely do.

I know that doesn’t seem the most glowing recommendation, and indeed I have better lines (even from that review there are more positive lines) but this one little sentence was the most flattering thing to me. Maybe because this person is a reviewer who reads a lot of books in my genre, maybe because it was unsolicited, maybe because this line is just so honest and simple and real. I don’t know. But when I need to feel better about myself, I pull up this review, and that¬†one line always¬†makes me feel best.

How about you? What is the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your work? I’d love to hear from you ūüôā

This month’s insecurity: Am I annoying???

I probably am. Ugh, yes, I am definitely annoying.

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThis is an insecure writer’s support group post, please join us if you are an insecure writer! Visit the main page here to sign up or read the other participant’s posts. This is a blog hop ūüôā

So I’ve been thinking lately about all the people in my life who’ve gotten to know me, and then bailed out. All the failed or faded friendships. All the internet “blocks” and de-friendings. I know I should not dwell on that, I should instead focus on those wonderful, patient, and kind souls who actually like me and have stuck around, but I can’t help it!

I obsess over what I did to make them dislike me so, what wrong things I said. Was it one thing? Or just my personality in general? I wish I knew, so I could improve myself, or even just apologize. Maybe their reasons are dumb, and I won’t feel so bad! I don’t know.

If I AM annoying, how could I tell? Is there like a maximum number of enemies you can have and still be a decent person? How many de-friendings is normal?

It does have a negative impact on my writing, because I start to wonder if my poor social skills are translating into my character’s interactions. Are my characters just as dorky as I am? Is my dialogue obnoxious?

I’d love to hear if anyone else worries about this stuff. Also if anyone has tips or advice about limiting this particular kind of social anxiety. Comment below! (You might have to click the blog title to open this post again & comment)

#IDAHOT

May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, & Biphobia: A worldwide celebration of gender and sexual diversities¬†(Also known as “IHAHOT”)¬†Thank you for visiting my blog on this day! ūüôā This post is a contribution to the Hop For Visibility, Awareness, & Equality. Visit the hop’s main page and read the many great posts! Learn more about IDAHOT here.

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This year’s IDAHOT theme is “Mental Health and Well-Being.” Many studies have found a correlation between social stigma (or discrimination) and mental health problems. It seems like we’d hardly need a study to tell us that, though. If you feel your community is against you, it’s going to have an impact on your emotional well-being and self-image eventually. And if you live in a society where you are bombarded with the message that you are abnormal/wrong/other, you are likely to internalize that as well.

One of the reasons I enjoy writing what I do is I get to glorify and celebrate a more ideal¬†reality: where families don’t kick their kids out for being gay, where LGBT people find love and acceptance, where there’s always¬†a happy-ever-after. I know that not everyone lives in that kind of world, though. Although we have come a long way, there is still a lot of hate.

One thing this recent election and the hub-bub about the “bathroom bills” has done is revealed just how commonplace hate is. No matter who wins this election, the damage has been done. Hate speech is not only acceptable now, it’s televised. Racists and bigots have been validated and now feel free to speak their secret hate, to wear it on their sleeves, to even be proud of it.

When I drive around my town and I see the Trump signs in neighbors’ yards, the “make America great again” bumper stickers, I feel sick, and more than a little scared. I am a cis woman, married to a cis man. How must those signs feel to a trans person? Or a person in a same-gender marriage? How does that impact their mental health and well-being?

Recently a conservative “watchdog” took it upon herself to harass a 15 year old trans girl at my local high school, all in the name of “protecting” children. It was horrifying, but the end result was…kind of okay. The local newspaper ran a story about the issue, calling out the self-appointed watchdog on her bullying. Hundreds of people spoke up on behalf of the trans teen and a petition¬†quickly formed to have the page removed. The local paper gave the teen her own article, to state her side of things. In it she spoke about all the support she’s received and said she feels safe at school, and always has.

Seems a happy ending. But I can’t stop thinking about it. Those names spewing hate on that Facebook page? Those are parents in my community. People whose kids will be going to school with my kids. People who might themselves be interacting with my kids, and the other children I know and love. The school in question? That’s the high school my kids will attend in only a few years. So while the end result was positive, and the principal, superintendent, mayor, and many, many residents all spoke up for tolerance and love, the whole incident was still unsettling.¬†Mostly, it hurt to see familiar names, local people, speaking such hate.

I’m wondering how I deal with the aftermath of it all. How do I interact with these people, now that I know their bigoted views? How do I forget the ugly¬†comments I saw? Should I even try to forgive and forget, or should I keep my kids away from these people? Or do I wait until I personally hear them say something, or until they do something to me or mine that warrants a reaction? I¬†suppose in that case the question of whether or not we can coexist would be answered, because¬†I’d speak up and there would likely be an argument, and we’d probably not interact ever again.

What about the LGBT kids in my community? How will this impact them? Will they believe their neighbors think they are gross or dangerous? Will they be afraid to come out? And what about the bigoted kids? Will they think it is okay to be assholes, now? That their hate is justified?

I used to think that changes were happening¬†so fast! I was proud of my generation (gen X!!), and the open-mindedness I thought we possessed.¬†I believed we were so much “better” than our parents, and I thought every generation would become less bigoted, less racist. Now, twenty years later, I know better. Changes are happening, and yes every generation grows more accepting… but it is a much, much slower process than I’d ever imagined. I think social media has helped, and so has television, by bringing things into the public spotlight, offering many different viewpoints, showing people how diverse humanity really is. But it’s still a slow change.

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As I write this the US Justice Department has just filed suit against North Carolina for their “bathroom bill,” the Obama administration has spoken out, and it seems this particular fight for trans rights will end on a positive note. Of course this makes me happy, though I don’t imagine the war is won by any means. I know there will be backlash, and I know the damage simmering hate can do when it goes unchecked and unnoticed. But for now, these issues that made me so uncomfortable about my kids’ future high school community seem to be resolved.

In some ways, this bathroom bill stuff is a good sign. It’s an acknowledgement of the existence of transgender people. It’s getting people talking, too, and showing support. It’s making people think about their prejudices. Change isn’t usually easy or painless: most positive change has been bought with blood, sweat, and tears.¬†I¬†think we all need to be as brave as possible, to speak up whenever we can against hate, and to keep an open mind.

I believe¬†LGBT romantic fiction helps create positive change, too. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans¬†Romances help to “normalize” LGBT people, by offering¬†a glimpse into how beautiful and loving an LGBT relationship can be to those who might not have any personal experience or real-life interaction with LGBT people. And for those who might be struggling, feeling alone or marginalized, representation that is positive, joyful, deep, and respectful is super important. I’d like to think the books in my genre have helped people with their mental health and well-being, if only in small ways.

You know what else is great for your mental health and well-being? Going to the beach. Seriously, studies have been done and I’m not going to argue with them! The beach is good for you. As an incentive for you to go to the beach (or the lake or the pool or just lay out a towel in the sun, play “ocean sounds” on your iPod, and pretend.¬†I’m not judging) I will ship one lucky commenter (chosen at random) a sweet hand-made beach bag and two Amelia Bishop paperbacks to read on the beach! Continental US only, please, I’m poor. Winner will be drawn on May 25. Here are some pictures:

Yes, I made it, and yes, it’s HUGE. It holds a family’s worth of towels, or everything a solo-beach goer might need for a day in the sun. (Really. I tested it, as evidenced in the pics!) And all the sand will sift right out. I washed it and dried it in the sunshine, so it’s ready to go!

Comment below (your thoughts about IDAHOT¬†or¬†this post) for your chance to win ūüôā

Visit the other hop participants, too:¬†B. A. Brock¬†¬†Jamie Fessenden¬†¬†Rory Ni Coileain¬†Erica Pike¬†¬†Andrew Jericho¬†¬†Tempeste O’Riley¬†¬†The Macaronis¬†¬†Elin Gregory¬†¬†Alexa MIlne¬†Nic Starr¬†¬†Evelise Archer¬†¬†Sue Brown¬†¬†Elizabeth Varlet¬†Raven J. Spencer¬†Sharing Links and Wisdom¬†¬†Lisa Horan¬†¬†Archer Kay Leah¬†¬†Alexis Duran¬†¬†Jules Dixon¬†¬†R.M. Olivia¬†¬†Heloise West¬†¬†Angel Martinez¬†¬†Moonbeams over Atlanta – Eloreen Moon¬†¬†Helena Stone¬†¬†AM Leibowitz¬†¬†L.D. Blakeley¬†¬†Lila Leigh Hunter¬†¬†Sharon Bidwell¬†¬†Nicole Dennis¬†¬†Lexi Ander¬†¬†Barbara G.Tarn¬†¬†Kaje Harper¬†¬†JMS Books LLC¬† ¬†JM Snyder¬†¬†Dean Pace-Frech¬†¬†Kimber Vale¬†¬†Jacintha Topaz¬†¬†Prism Book Alliance¬ģ¬†¬†Eva Lefoy¬† ¬†Lou Sylvre¬†¬†Anne Barwell¬†¬†Viki Lyn¬†¬†Sean Michael¬†¬†Remmy Duchene¬†¬†Sharita Lira writing as BLMorticia¬†¬†Barbara Winkes¬†¬†Bronwyn Heeley¬†¬†L. J. LaBarthe¬†¬†VJ Summers¬†¬†Nikka Michaels¬†¬†Caraway Carter¬†¬†L M Somerton¬†¬†Taylor Law¬†¬†Anastasia Vitsky¬†¬†Draven St. James¬†¬†A.V. Sanders¬†¬†Lynley Wayne¬†¬†DP Denman¬†¬†M.A. Church¬†¬†Andrew J. Peters¬†¬†Dianne Hartsock¬†¬†M. LeAnne Phoenix¬†¬†Cherie Noel¬†Chris McHart

What is my work worth?

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeHi! This is a post for the insecure Writer’s Support Group, we post the first Wednesday of each month to air our writerly insecurities. Join us! Or just hop around and read our posts, and feel less alone in your own insecurities. ‚̧

Usually I try to keep my IWSG posts fairly short (I think it is a group rule actually) but this one will be a little longer. Sorry! I haven’t posted to this blog in almost a month, and I’ve got a few extra¬†words to say.

So let me start at the beginning… My favorite genre, the genre I read and write in most, is Gay Romance, or m/m Romance. And in m/m, the drama level is generally higher than normal for some reason. I’ve learned to deal. It does suck me in sometimes, though! The latest drama storm has a few centers.¬†One is about the way readers will “read and return” e-books to amazon, or pirate our work, or just demand lower prices. Overall, this sucks. But let me break down the layers of suckage:

Layer¬†1: Amazon lets people return a digital book, no questions asked, within 7 days of purchase. In some ways, this practice is good for me as an author. It means buying my books is a zero-risk decision. Don’t like my book? Send it back. So people can feel free to click that “buy” button without worry. The trouble is, it is SUPER easy to keep on reading for free by returning. Even if Amazon catches on and cuts you off, you can just make a new account and keep on scamming. I have very few returns, so I don’t personally have a big problem with this Amazon policy, but it does hurt some authors, and I will¬†back them up before I back up Amazon.

Layer¬†2: Pirates. There always will be thieves, we can’t stop that. But book thieves are an odd breed, who somehow think they are doing us authors a favor when they¬†steal our books. As if we get some kind of power or boost just by being read. Uh, no. I’m not Lord Voldemort, and simply saying my name (or reading my words) does not pay my mortgage. Pirates don’t help authors. That is a lie they tell themselves because they know damn well they are doing something wrong. It might help them sleep better, but it is still a lie. Yet I can’t stop pirates, I am powerless against them, so I guess I should not waste my energy worrying about them.

Layer¬†3: Readers want lower prices, would prefer all books be free or .99. And oh yes also they’d like¬†books to all be¬†over 200 pages, please, otherwise it’s not really “worth it.” I will admit I have a lot of sympathy for the price issues. As a reader I also balk at books over $5. Romance readers are THE BEST readers, and I’m not just saying that because I am one (okay maybe that’s why) but because we read a lot. Most of us can happily tear through a novel¬†a night. And at $5 or more per book, well, that means we can easily spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars each year on¬†our reading habits. That’s…nuts. So we constantly search the current free lists, subscribe to bookbub, and whine about “overpriced” books. I get it. I’m with you. BUT: I also write and self-publish, which takes a lot of time and money, and when people tell me that my art isn’t worth as much as a cup of coffee, it hurts. And it also means I have to write less, because if writing isn’t paying the bills, then more¬†of my time has to get diverted to a job that brings in real money.

So all that is one part of the drama. Another¬†is about an author who is really a group of authors. I guess someone noticed that an author was popping books out at a crazy pace, and those books were all making rank, and they got suspicious. It might sound distrustful or mean but I do understand their worry. With the abundance of plagiarists and scammers out there, especially (it seems) in m/m Romance, their suspicions were reasonable. (And how sad is that? ūüė¶ ) The author responded by admitting they are actually a group of authors working together to produce books quickly, and that explained that.¬†But it left me with an odd feeling. I don’t begrudge this author-group their success, still¬†I don’t like what it means: that a single author’s chances of “making it” are slim. Amazon’s algorithms reward new releases and readers reward quantity.¬†But even the most prolific of us can rarely get more than three books out in a year. How can we compete with “authors”¬†who can put out one or two a month?

All these things devalue writing. Treating books¬†as less valuable than almost anything else you can buy sucks. (Seriously what can you buy for $3 nowadays besides an e-book??? And how many of those things will entertain you for hours? Make you laugh, cry, think, feel??? Let me know when you think of something.) ¬†Expecting¬†authors to be like¬†machines, who need to pump out product at impossible rates while still interacting with readers and posting blogs and tweeting and instagramming and whatever else also sucks. These expectations, combined with Amazon’s algorithms and policies which shower¬†the top earners with more exposure while keeping the unknowns unknown, make it a minor miracle anyone can earn even a hobby income from publishing these days.

It all leaves me wondering: what is my work worth?

Is it only worth what people will pay for it (so, basically, nothing)? Or is it priceless, as art, with an intangible value beyond dollars and cents? Is it worth your time? Is it worth mine? Is it worth less if people don’t like it, and more if my star-rating average is higher? I have no idea.

What I will say is a giant THANK YOU to those who buy, read, and review books. Not just my books, all books. You are keeping authors in business, literally. You are awesome! I love you.

I also love my fellow authors who constantly try to produce great books, who share their tips and tricks, who dive in to author/reader communities even though it can sometimes be a crazy jungle of feelings and opinions, filled with innumerable dangers. You also are awesome! Thank you for being part of my community.

I want to keep producing quality, carefully crafted books. I want to earn some money by doing that. I also want readers (and society at large) to appreciate the diverse beauty and multi-faceted¬†influence of fiction. I wish I knew how to help these things happen. Any ideas? I’m listening.

camp NaNoWriMo!

This is a post for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Join us! We blog the first Wednesday of every month. Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

It’s April 6. Camp NaNoWriMo is not going well for me, as per usual. I don’t really mind. I never actually “win” but I do usually have at least three quarters of a workable draft, and it’s still very possible I’ll have that at the end of this month, if I can get on track.

Well, looking outside my window it sure doesn’t seem like April! There is currently a thick (5+inches!!) cover of snow, and it’s barely 25 degrees. Maybe my writing mojo is as confused as mother nature? LOL

But no, I know what is going on. I have this story that I’ve been planning in my head for a very long time. It’s a series, which is a step outside my comfort zone as I’ve¬†pretty much¬†always written stand-alones. But it’s paranormal, which should be good for me (that’s my favorite!) Still,¬†I’m faltering.

If you follow this blog you might remember that a few months ago I did a survey of reader preferences (male/male, male/female, or menage) in Romance. I’m so thankful to everyone who responded! But I’m still as unsure as ever.

Here’s why: I LOVE writing male/male pairings. I don’t think I¬†could actually write an entire romance without some male/male Romance. But I feel lately as if I have been striking out with my m/m readership. So I’m thinking maybe it would be better to start fresh? Maybe a new pen name, and a new genre/niche would bring more readers to my work?¬†Or (here’s the insecure part) maybe it isn’t the type¬†of romantic pairing that keeps people from enjoying my stories. Maybe it is just my writing style which is unpopular. ūüė¶ ¬†You see the self-doubt spiral which has interfered with my happy writing time?!

It’s the same old question, isn’t it? Do I write for pleasure, or profit? Do I write for myself, or do I¬†seek validation from others?¬†Someone said once that we should “write the most marketable stories of your¬†heart” and I think that is fantastic advice. If only I knew what marketable was… ūüėČ I really have no idea what will sell or why. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent studying the Amazon sales charts and Goodreads reviews, trying to crack the code of why people buy certain things and why they don’t buy other things. Needless to say, I¬†still know nothing.

Well, not nothing. I know a good deal of an author’s success comes down to marketing. Pouring money on something, assuming it is a decent story, is a good tactic. Another thing I do know is that certain tropes and styles are always popular (“bad boys,” shifters, millionaires, etc.) Lots of authors have made names for themselves by hitting those sweet spots hard. I think luck (or great timing) has an impact, too. Being friends with “big name” authors in your genre is another sure-fire route to sales. But how to twist the stories of my heart into something marketable? No clue.

So now I’m about a week into NaNo, where I had hoped and planned to produce a solid draft of “book one” in my new series, and I’m only like 5000 words in. Boo. ūüė¶ Can’t do much more¬†without nailing down my lead couples, though. World-building only¬†goes so far (about 5000 words, apparently. LOL)

Do I just make it a m/m Romance, and take the chance I am wasting my time on something very few people will buy? Do I write a m/f story in the hopes that it will sell better? Do I go back to my erotica/ménage roots and write something fun and sexy and at least enjoy myself while writing? One thing I did learn from my survey and from the time I have spent online in reader groups is that many m/m readers do not want any lady-bits in their m/m romances. So it is sort of an either/or proposition, and that is what is messing with my planning.

Any advice? Have you ever dealt with a similar situation? Any and all feedback appreciated!